Ukrainian news round-up while I’ve been away

I’m back from vacation, and boy have I missed a lot of news. While I can’t recap it all, I will try and highlight some of the more notable stories that have been published in July:

Obama: Russia must respect borders of Georgia and Ukraine

From the Telegraph:

Mr Obama struck a conciliatory tone for much of his wide-ranging and televised speech to students at the New Economic School.

But he pointedly mentioned Georgia and Ukraine by name.

"State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order," said Mr Obama.

"Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies.

"Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy. That is why this principle must apply to all nations – including Georgia and Ukraine."

Ukrainiana points out this was a much different tune than the more NATO friendly speeches Obama was giving on Ukraine during his election campaign.

Holodomor denial back like it’s in style

From the History News Network, economics professor Cormac Ó Gráda:

People born in countries with relatively recent histories of famine—such as Ireland or Ukraine—sometimes like to see themselves as vicarious victims, but many of the ‘victims’ must also be—and this is the part that is difficult to accept—vicarious child abandoners, thieves, land-grabbers, black marketeers, and worse.

Demographers nowadays reckon the Soviet famines of 1931-33 to have cost up to six million lives in total, including one million in Kazakhstan.  Yet a joint statement adopted by sixty-five UN member-states in 2003 refers to "the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), which took from seven million to ten million innocent lives and became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people."  It must be said that no serious historian, even in Ukraine, accepts this propagandistic toll, which incidentally exceeds the six million usually associated with the Jewish holocaust.

You can barely find Communist apologetics still denying the Holodomor these days (now they just claim it’s not genocide). Only one (sympathetic) comment was ever published on the website which makes me wonder why the author of ‘Jewish Ireland’ is so quick to denounce any catastrophe other than the ‘Jewish Holocaust’.

Monument to Lenin is damaged in Kyiv

From BBC Ukrainian:

The recent damage caused to Lenin’s monument in Kiev has provoked a debate about the future of the capital’s only public monument to the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Ukrainian Nationalist Congress party is proud to proclaim that it smashed the statue’s nose and left hand.

Kiev police have arrested a number of men suspected of causing the damage.

After 19 years of Ukrainian independence, statues of Lenin are still quite common, particularly in the eastern part of the country.

And despite earlier calls for its removal, the Kiev Lenin, which is situated at the top of the city’s Shevchenko’s Boulevard has somehow managed to survive intact until now, partially on account of it being the work of a renowned Soviet era sculptor, Sergey Merkurov.

Some see the forthcoming removal of Lenin from his pedestal for repairs as an opportunity to rid the city of what they see as a symbol of the Soviet occupation of Ukraine.

"A continuing presence of Lenin’s monuments in our country is humiliating to any Ukrainian with a national conscience," says one middle-aged man.

A Kiev architect, Heorhiy Duchovichnyi, warns against removing the monument on political grounds, but also questions its artistic merits, stressing that it was put up in haste when it was realised in 1946 that unlike all the other Soviet republic’s capitals, Kiev had mysteriously remained Lenin-free.

"They took an existing Lenin statue made for an exhibition in New York of Soviet achievements. And the pedestal was found in the Zhytomir region. It was originally meant for some heroic Soviet figure who had unfortunately become a victim of Stalin purges," he says.

CBC thinks Yanukovych rally more notable than Orange Revolution

CBC has a slideshow for A history of notable protests which featured the Kent state anti-Vietnam rally, the Iranian revolution and Tiananmen Square. Ukraine even made the list (slide #11) but not for its Orange Revolution, but rather some recent Yanukovych anti-Orange rally. Really makes you wonder who selected these.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square in April 2009, calling for a change in power. Supporters of the Party of Regions Leader Viktor Yanukovich called on the current president, Viktor Yuschenko, to step down for failing to adequately deal with the economic crisis. (Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters)

Other stories I didn’t get time to write about

Keeping it Ukrainian – The perfect embroidery, delicious foods and high-spirited dance of Ukrainian culture still thrives in Prince Albert

Catering to minorities puts pressure on foreign policy – The federal government is frequently supported by opposition MPs in some of the decisions, such as the Canadian government’s recognition of alleged genocides committed against Ukrainians by the old Soviet Union, and against Armenians by Turkey.

One of the most curious inclusions was Ukraine, the only European country identified and a country ranked a relatively healthy 78th out of 177 countries measured by the 2005 United Nations human development index, which assesses factors such as life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy and income.

But Canadians of Ukrainian heritage number more than 1.2 million, according to Statistics Canada, and are a politically important constituency particularly in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario.

“We’re only beginning to fully grasp the situation,” Carment said in an interview. “Diaspora politics is the number-one issue that Canada will have to confront in the 21st century.”

One Ukrainian-Canadian said his community, and others originally from eastern Europe and the Baltic region, enjoy hearing Harper bash Moscow.

“The Ukrainian community is supportive of such statements; they are concerned about Russian reviving its imperial past,” said Marco Levytsky, publisher of the Edmonton-based Ukrainian News.

“I’m sure the Balts (Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians) and Poles feel the same way as do the Ukrainians and everyone that suffered under Russian imperialism and Soviet imperialism.”

He said the Harper Conservatives “are quite aware of how the Ukrainian community feels about the Russian threat, so no doubt they are doing this for political reasons. But it’s part of their philosophy too.”

Jewish group’s bid to oust former SS guard rejected – The Federal Court of Canada has rejected a Jewish group’s attempt to revoke the citizenship of a former Nazi guard, saying the decision to allow the man to stay in Canada was reasonable and in keeping with the Charter of Rights.

B’nai Brith Canada wanted the court to overrule a federal cabinet decision not to revoke the citizenship of Ukrainian-born Wasyl Odynsky.

Odynsky served as a perimeter guard at a forced-labour camp in Trawniki, where German SS wiped out most of the Jewish captives on Nov. 3 or 4, 1943.

Federal Court Judge Andrew MacKay ruled in 2001 that Odynsky was confined to his barracks at the time of the massacre. The judge said he had no doubt Odynsky served involuntarily throughout the war and had never been a Nazi.  – yet they still call him one in the article!

At age 88, Mich. man forced to deal with war past – Poland is investigating war crimes during World War II, and it wants information from an 88-year-old suburban Detroit man who served in a Nazi-controlled police force. John Kalymon of Troy lost his U.S. citizenship in 2007 after the government said he shot Jews. He admits serving in the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police but says he didn’t shoot or kill anyone.

Kalymon is under scrutiny again because the Justice Department has agreed to question him on Poland’s behalf. Poland says it’s gathering information on what happened to Jews in 1942 in a town called L’viv.

Russian, Ukrainian Tug of War Over History – But Ukrainians say the Hetman was forced to side with Sweden, because Russian ruler Peter the Great failed to honor a 1654 treaty to protect their land against Polish attacks. But until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia considered the same treaty to have been an agreement by Ukraine for an everlasting union with its northern neighbor. 
Ukrainians also consider Mazepa to have been a great reformer, who built schools and publishing houses, expanded higher learning, and supported the arts, including a distinctly Ukrainian style of church architecture that dominates the modern skyline of Kyiv.

Benefit for ex-KGB agent falls far short of goal – The organizer of a Saturday night benefit concert for former KGB member Mikhail Lennikov hoped to raise $30,000. Instead, less than $1,000 was made. Still, Errol Povah and his wife, Tamina Gurd, say they did what they could.

Was there anything I forgot? Please leave me a comment.

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