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Archive for March, 2010

Ukraine’s Democracy in Danger: Viktor Yanukovych’s misrule is courting a second ‘Orange Revolution.’ [Article]

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

A political science professor from Rutgers University writes in today’s Wall Street Journal about the grim future ahead for Ukraine with Yanukovych as President:

Mr. Yanukovych has committed a series of mistakes that could doom his presidency, scare off foreign investors, and thwart the country’s modernization.

Mr. Yanukovych’s first mistake was to violate the constitution by changing the rules according to which ruling parliamentary coalitions are formed, making it possible for his party to take the lead in partnership with several others, including the Communists.

His second mistake was to appoint as prime minister his crony Mykola Azarov, a tough bureaucrat whose name is synonymous with government corruption, ruinous taxation rates, and hostility to small business

(About a larger cabinet) That the cabinet contained not one woman—Mr. Azarov claimed that reform was not women’s work—only reinforced the image of the cabinet as a dysfunctional boys’ club.

His fourth mistake was to appoint two nonentities… to head the ministries of economy and finance… The size of the committee guarantees that it will be a talk shop, while the incompetence of the two ministers means that whatever genuinely positive ideas the Committee develops will remain on paper.

His fifth mistake was to appoint the controversial Dmytro Tabachnik as minister of education. Mr. Tabachnik has expressed chauvinist views that democratically inclined Ukrainians regard as deeply offensive to their national dignity, such as the belief that west Ukrainians are not real Ukrainians; endorsing the sanitized view of Soviet history propagated by the Kremlin; and claiming that Ukrainian language and culture flourished in Soviet times. Unsurprisingly, many Ukrainians have reacted in the same way that African Americans would react to KKK head David Duke’s appointment to such a position—with countrywide student strikes, petitions, and demonstrations directed as much at Mr. Yanukovych as at Mr. Tabachnik.

Several other key dismissals and appointments have only reinforced this view. The director of the Security Service archives—a conscientious scholar who permitted unrestricted public access to documentation revealing Soviet crimes—has been fired. The National Television and Radio Company has been placed in the hands of a lightweight entertainer expected to toe the line. Most disturbing perhaps, several of Mr. Yanukovych’s anti-democratically inclined party allies have been placed in charge of provincial ministries of internal affairs—positions that give them broad scope to clamp down on the liberties of ordinary citizens.

Indeed, if Mr. Yanukovych keeps on making anti-democratic mistakes, he could very well provoke a second Orange Revolution. But this time the demonstrators would consist of democrats, students, and workers. The prospect of growing instability will do little to attract foreign investors, while declining legitimacy, growing incompetence, and tub thumping will fail to modernize Ukraine’s industry, agriculture, and education. Mr. Yanukovych could very well be an even greater failure as president than Mr. Yushchenko.

Read the rest of the article

A very grim future indeed if Yanukovych continues down this path. Lots of events are transpiring in the country as a result of this new power shift:

Ukraine’s new governing coalition in parliament says it will pass a law preventing the country from joining any military alliances, including NATO…Russia, keen to restore its Soviet-era influence over Ukraine and other former Soviet states, is fiercely averse to NATO’s eastward expansion. [Associated Press]

Russian nationalists in Crimea have burned Ukrainian history textbooks to protest what they say are distortions of the past by the administration of former President Viktor Yushchenko.  The recent transfer of power in Kyiv has raised hope among Russian nationalists and fear among Ukrainians.

Among the participants was Sevastopol city councilman Yevgeniy Dubovik, a member of the pro-Russian and far left Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine.  He agrees with the warning of 19th century German writer Heinrich Heine who wrote, “Where they burn books, they will in the end burn people.”

Nonetheless, Dubovik told VOA that Monday’s burning of Ukrainian history books was justified. [Voice of America]

President Viktor Yanukovych has said he supports a project on the construction of the Kerch (Crimea, southern Ukraine) – Caucasus (Russia) bridge, the head of state said Thursday when visiting the Autonomous Republic of Crimea [BSANNA News]

Meanwhile, many Ukrainians, particularly in the western part of the country, fear controversial new Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk will promote pro-Russian policies.  Tabachnyk has raised eyebrows with statements that suggest western and eastern Ukraine should be separated, or should never have been united in the first place.

In a protest against him on Monday in the city of Lviv, Ukraine’s Congress of Young Nationalists collected old Soviet history books to turn them into pulp. [Voice of America]

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Ukrainian city to erect Stalin monument [Article]

March 25th, 2010 1 comment

From RIA Novosti:

A monument to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin will be put up in the southeast Ukrainian city of Zaporozhie ahead of May 9 Victory Day celebrations, the head of the city’s Communist Party said on Thursday.

“A monument to Joseph Stalin…whose leadership led to the great victory over the Nazi invaders, will be put up in Zaporozhie at the request of World War II veterans,” Oleksandr Zubchevskyi said.

The statue will be guarded day and night to prevent attacks on it, he added.

He also said that a statue to Stalin would soon be erected in the capital, Kiev. He did not give further details.

The news comes after plans to decorate Moscow with billboards explaining Stalin’s role in World War Two ahead of Victory Day celebrations caused controversy in Russia.

However, a source in the organizing committee led by President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that there would be no images of Stalin during the celebrations.

….

During Stalin’s reign, millions of people across the U.S.S.R. were executed on false charges of espionage, sabotage and anti-Soviet propaganda or died of starvation, disease or exposure in labor camps.

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I rarely quote this or other Russian state-owned news sources for their obvious Russo-centric bias, but this was the first news publication to break the story after receiving the news from Ukrainiana’s tweet.

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10,000 Ukrainians protest ‘pro-Russian’ minister [Article]

March 24th, 2010 2 comments

From the Calgary Herald:

LVIV, Ukraine – About 10,000 protesters formed a human chain in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Tuesday to demonstrate against a new education minister accused of being pro-Russian.

The mostly student protesters formed a human chain around four kilometres long in central Lviv, a city in western Ukraine considered a stronghold of Ukrainian nationalism, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

“Down with Tabachnik!” protesters shouted, referring to Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnik, who was appointed earlier this month by Ukraine’s new President Viktor Yanukovych.

Protesters held signs with slogans such as “We will not dance to music from Moscow” and “Tabachnik is harmful for Ukraine.”

The rally, which temporarily blocked traffic, came after a similar demonstration in Lviv last week that drew 5,000 people.

Tabachnik, a historian with a reputation as a Russophile, has angered nationalists by saying Russian should become an official state language alongside Ukrainian.

I found “Tabachnik is harmful for Ukraine” a particularly amusing slogan because Tabachnik literally translates to ‘Tobacco seller’ in English.

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A Flock Grows Right at Home for a Priest in Ukraine [Article]

March 23rd, 2010 1 comment

From the New York Times:

RUDNO, Ukraine — Let the rest of Europe be convulsed by debatesover whether the celibacy of Roman Catholic priests is causing sex abuse scandals like the one now unfolding in Germany. Here in western Ukraine, many Catholic priests are married, fruitful and multiplying — with the Vatican’s blessing.

The many feet scampering around the Volovetskiy home are testament to that.

The family’s six children range from Pavlina, 21, to Taras, 9. In the middle is Roman, 16, who wants to be a Catholic priest when he grows up. Just like his father.

Dad is the Rev. Yuriy Volovetskiy, who leads a small parish here and whose wife, Vera, teaches religious school. The Volovetskiys serve in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which believes that celibate priests are not necessarily better priests.

Ukrainian Greek Catholics represent a branch of Catholicism that is distinct from the far more prevalent Roman Catholic one. The Ukrainian church is loyal to the pope in Rome, and its leader is a cardinal and major archbishop.

But it conducts services that resemble those in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In religious terms, it follows the Eastern Rite, not the Latin one that is customary in Roman Catholicism.

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A necessary memorial: Canadians should be exposed to the full panoply of communist atrocities [Article]

March 18th, 2010 No comments

From the National Post:

Nine million Canadians — that’s almost a third of us according to the 2006 census — came to these shores from communist-ruled countries. Many are now dead or very old. Their descendants deserve to see their sacrifices acknowledged and Canadians exposed to the full panoply of communist atrocities.

Prospects for educating Canadians about the human toll exacted by communism through their stories will brighten when a long-sought Ottawa Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism is completed, a project singled out for endorsement in the recent Throne Speech.

The exhaustively researched Holocaust is in no danger of being forgotten. The highest term of opprobrium in Western culture, whether from leftists or rightists (rightly or wrongly) is “Nazi,” not “communist.” That’s not because Nazis and communists have been compared and Nazis found to be worse. It’s because people don’t know how bad communism was and is.

In 2006 the Swedish Ministry of Education initiated programs teaching the crimes of communism because a poll had revealed only 10% of Swedish youth could identify the Gulag. Canadian youth would not fare better. All educated Canadians associate the word “Auschwitz” with “genocide.” The equally horrific “Holodomor” is more likely to draw a blank stare.

Why has communism escaped the moral condemnation Naziism attracts in such exuberant degree? In recent years several scholars have addressed the question and provided a litany of reasons, amongst them:

-Stalin was a war ally and therefore escaped the postwar censure he deserved;

-There was no Nuremburg, no Truth and Reconciliation moment for communism as there was for other genocidal regimes;

-Communist propaganda machines are extremely efficient at positive branding (Trudeau bought in; his fawning patronage of Fidel Castro was beyond contemptible).

But all reasons pale beside the glaring failure of left-wing intellectuals to admit — and to teach — that communism isn’t simply an unfortunate contingency of socialist passion but an ideology as immoral and implacably ruthless and dramatically consequential as Naziism.

The word “memorial” is somewhat misleading, though, suggesting that communism is a closed historical chapter. The fall of the Berlin Wall notwithstanding, communism in one guise or another still determines the fate of millions of hapless people around the globe. Victims in communist regimes are still starved, imprisoned, tortured and denied the most basic of human rights.

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Sadly it’s been almost a year since we first reported on the memorial with little progress. Last Fall the Canadian memorial had to compromise on its tribute to victims of only totalitarian communism (as if there is really any other kind) to not take the risk of offending communists!

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