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[The Political Analysis of Postcommunism. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1995, pp. 301-320.]

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Geopolitical Implications of Ethnopolitics

James MACE.



To understand the ethnopolitical situation in the current postcommunist world, it is useful to divide it into four regions:

Russia proper, with its particular ethnopolitical problems;

The former non-Russian Union republics which were parts of the USSR before 1939 and lived through the full force of Stalin's "deconstruction" of the non-Russian nations in the 1930s;

The territories annexed by the USSR after the MolotovRibbentrop Pact of 1939;

The former so-called "people's democracies" which lost their independence de facto but not de jure (except for former Yugoslavia).






1. Ethnopolitics as a Geopolitical Factor in the Postcommunist World


In the classical sense, ethnopolitics in a nation-state means the political relationship of the titular nation with other ethnic groups as well as the interrelations of various nations and ethnic groups among themselves. It also means the state's regulation of these interethnic relations and the pursuit by ethnic groups of their interests and programs (including control of or influence on the state). However, in the countries that emerged from the collapse of the USSR, general trends in ethnopolitics are governed more by external than internal factors. For this reason the problems of /302/ ethnopolitics are currently closely connected with issues of foreign policy.

It is common knowledge that nowhere in the world do the geographical boundaries of nations neatly coincide with state borders. Ethnic groups, which are the titular nation in one state, are often ethnic minorities in another. And, quite naturally, any state considers its co-nationals living in other states as an object of its legitimate concern, interest, and not seldom as a lever of political influence. Ethnopolitical violations of human rights or discrimination against an ethnic minority on the state level may often detonate an explosive response in the state where the group discriminated against is the titular nation. This, in turn, places on the agenda the question of border revisions, and this is extremely hazardous, for the inviolability of borders is crucial to international stability.

The history of practically every country is marked by border disputes. Redrawing borders can be an interminable process, and it is precisely here that interstate, international, and interethnic conflicts may erupt. Especially thorny are border questions in the postcommunist world, for the domination of the Russocentric Soviet empire merely submerged and did not solve age-old interethnic and international conflicts. This is one of several causes of tension between postcommunist states, which are capable of erupting into armed confrontations.






2. The Historical Roots of Interethnic Conflicts


A group's feeling of sharing a common heritage and historical fate is an important component of what makes a nation. This is why difficulties, which at present may seem incomprehensible, irrational, or even insane, can be understood and explained by delving into the past. The war in Nagorno-Karabakh originates in the massacre of the Armenians by Ottoman Turkey in 1915. In the eyes of Armenians, Azeri Turks personify their old, hated enemy and carry collective guilt for an old and terrible crime. The mutual hatred of Serbs and Croats, which is the basic motive /303/ force of war in former Yugoslavia, is nourished by Croatian memories of their subjugation by Serbs in the interwar Kingdom and Serbian memories of the genocidal wartime Croatian Ustasha regime. Old seeds of ethnic hatred can take root and burst out into murderous blossoming in any corner of the world. The recent genocide in Rwanda can be explained by historically accumulated anger at the pre-colonial arrogance of the Hutu minority over the Tutsi majority. Not so long ago Argentina declared war upon Great Britain in order to recover islands taken by the latter a century and a half ago. But in the nations of the postcommunist world interethnic problems, long frozen by the Soviet empire, can explode and assume acute and extremely dangerous forms. Such conflicts are difficult to settle by the international community because they are essentially emotionally, i.e., irrationally based and inclined to escalate.

Radical nationalist political movements in most countries seek to break the vicious cycle of interethnic competition by establishing a monoethnic state. In modern history, various Western states have attempted to do this but ultimately failed. The policy of expelling minorities from a territory where they had long resided has often led to economic catastrophes, social upheavals, and armed conflict. After 1918, in the wake of the creation of the Second Polish Republic and the disintegration of the Habsburg empire, the independent nation-state became the dominant principle of territorial-political organization in Europe. Alongside the creation of nation-states, the problem of ethnic minorities emerged and loomed large. In order to ameliorate this problem and prevent conflicts between the new states and their minorities (among whom Ukrainians were the largest in Europe), the victorious Allies imposed on the new states a series of minorities treaties, which proved singularly ineffective. All the newly created states, with the possible exception of Czechoslovakia, fell prey to one or another form of nationalist authoritarianism along with discrimination against and subjugation. of their minorities. Adolf Hitler went to great lengths to make use of the distress and frustration of Germans outside the Third Reich (Volksdeutsche) /304/ in being transformed from a Herrenvolk into an ethnic minority. By exploiting the real and imagined violations of the rights of the Volksdeutsche, Hitler was able to destabilize the postwar Versailles European order and unleash World War II, which began, of course, with a fourth partition of Poland carried out in concert with the Soviet Union. In the interwar period, historical rivalries between Rumanians and Hungarians, Poles and Lithuanians, Bulgarians and Turks, etc., fostered a general trend away from democratic pluralism toward extremes of nationalist authoritarianism and ethnic discrimination.






3. The "Russian Problem" as a Destabilizing Factor


Tsarist Russia entered the twentieth century encumbered by a host of ethnic problems. For centuries Russian culture failed to cultivate a particular Russian national idea beyond the simple expansion of borders which might explain its otherness toward Europe and rationalize Russian domination over neighboring nations. The seeds of the so-called "Russian idea" which ultimately did emerge, run back to the period when Muscovy, the cradle of Russia, was alienated (as were the Balkans) from Christian Europe at a formative stage of its historical development. After its liberation from Tatar domination, Muscovy continued to view Europe as something alien. Russia, which, in Stalin's words, was always beaten for its backwardness, looked at Europe with profound feelings of inferiority. In the nineteenth century, representatives of two competing trends in Russian intellectual thought attempted to face this backwardness. The Westernizers sought to adopt Western models and saw Russia's future as being a part of Europe. Slavophiles, who constituted the more deeply-rooted and powerful trend in Russian intellectual history, embraced a sort of megalomania as compensation for their national inferiority complex. They renounced the West's "materialism" and sought in materially poor Russia, the spiritual wealth of a "Third Rome" destined to create and lead a new, more spiritual, nonEuropean, pan-Slavic civilization. And they simply could /305/ not understand those Slavs who did not want to take part in such a seemingly glorious crusade. Representatives of this movement, which generally enriched Russian culture, could never get used to the idea that other, less numerous, especially East Slavic, peoples did not (and do not) want to play the role of younger brothers to the Great-Russian nation.

Russian expansionism in the tsarist period produced a deeply ingrained idea of Russian messianism in everyday life. Russians have never considered themselves a nation constrained by any state borders and have never taken into consideration the national aspirations of other peoples inhabiting Russia as "resident aliens" (inorodtsy). Panslavism might be called the focal point of Russian political culture. Even the most democratic representatives of the Russian intelligentsia have never understood Ukrainian aspirations for national self-affirmation and self-determination. A vivid example was Sergei Bulgakov, who called Ukrainians "a nation which just thought itself up." In various guises this rather less than unbiased view has been echoed in allegations that the Germans invented Ukraine or that Lenin invented Ukraine (as Dmitri Volkogonov would have it).

Drinking deep from the well of their national myth, "the Russian idea" or "Moscow, the Third Rome," many Russians have dreamed of Russian domination over Eastern Christendom and lost themselves in reveries over Constantinople. It is a cliche" of Russian historiography that Kyiv is "the mother of Russian cities," where Russian history has its beginning. If Kyiv is a Ukrainian city, that is, not Russian at all, then Russian history loses its beginning, and the Russian idea has to be essentially modified and transformed. Obviously, this can become for many Russians an intellectual and political catastrophe of far-reaching implications.

Of course, every nation has its national myth. But Russians have never developed a national identity allowing them to separate themselves from other Slavs. Hannah Arendt pointed out the difference between ordinary nationalism and tribal "Pan-movements," Panslavism, Pangermanism, and so forth. In her opinion, the difference lies in the /306/ ahistoricity of tribal nationalism, which depends on a holy task, a spiritual mission, and is unrestrained in its political, cultural, and military will to power.18

Leninism was essentially a particular mutation of the Russian idea on the basis of nineteenth century nihilism, an outgrowth of one of the dark undercurrents of Russian history for which Western Marxism proved to be only an external ideological cloak. Lenin himself was in no sense an adherent of traditional Russian messianism. He combined the Russian radical tradition with the classical Marxist formula: that the proletariat has no fatherland; and that for the proletariat, the nation, its culture and language, are without value. Lenin believed that nationalism was a manifestation of the bourgeois false consciousness produced by capitalism i and that socialism would witness the coming together and amalgamation (sblizhenie i sliyanie) of nations. That is, that under socialism non-Russian nations would themselves understand {i.e., would have to understand) the progressive nature of their assimilation by the more highly developed Russian language and culture. Thus, Leninism constituted the first Russian national communism which, as a result of the inertia of Russian history, almost inevitably evolved into the open Panslavism of Stalin, who used this "Russian idea" as political glue to paste together a totalitarian regime on the basis of Russocentrism.






4. Ukraine's Main Ethnopolitical Problem


In the interbellum period, especially in the 1920s, the system had to demonstrate its toleration of the interests and aspirations of other nations which found themselves in the newly reconstituted, now Soviet, empire. In order to stabilize and consolidate Soviet rule in the non-Russian "borderlands" (okrainy) of the USSR, in 1923 the Communist Party proclaimed a policy of indigenization (korenizatsiia), which in Ukraine was called "Ukrainization." Ukrainization provided Ukraine's nationally-inclined cultural and political forces an opening and allowed them to demonstrate forcefully that Ukraine was capable if allowed to do so, even /307/ without the fraternal assistance of Moscow of solving complex problems directly concerning its statehood and nation-building. The year 1929 became a turning point in the process of Ukrainization. Ukraine witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of cultural and educational institutions representing the culture and scholarship not only of Ukrainians but also of other ethnic groups in Ukraine. There were Jewish, Polish, and other theaters; children of Moldovans, Greeks, Germans, Jews, Poles, etc., had access to education in their mother tongues. Ukrainization was actively carried out in the Kuban, Don, Armavir, Tver, Maikop, Selsk, Stavropol, and other regions of compact Ukrainian settlement in the Russian Federation. There were Ukrainian reading rooms, clubs, classes for adult illiterates, high schools, and courses for workers (rabfaki). A Ukrainian teachers college was opened in Kursk. In Ukraine, enrollment in national minority language schools exceeded that of Russian language schools. Along with the creation on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR of an Autonomous Moldavian SSR (which under the name Transdnistria is currently occupied by the Fourteenth Russian Army), there were 25 national minority districts (8 Russian, 7 German, 3 Jewish, 3 Greek, 3 Bulgarian, and one Polish). There were hundreds of village Soviets for various ethnic groups, and in Ukraine's schools could be heard the Armenian, Assyrian, Tatar, Jewish, German, Polish, and other languages.19 Culture and literature witnessed a period of development unprecedented in Ukraine's history.

Ukrainization was halted in the 1930s. This is why the cultural revival of that period is now referred to as the "the revival that faced the firing squad" (rozstriliane vidrodzhennia). The terrible man-made famine in 1932-33 was in one sense a war against the peasantry, a war upon which Stalin and his henchmen consciously embarked. But at the same time, campaigns were orchestrated to exterminate the clergy, scholars, artists, literati whole social strata which were the backbone of the Ukrainian nation and other ethnic groups in Ukraine. The Russian national pattern was sown in place of the Ukrainian. All this constitut-/308/ed a tragedy of apocalyptic scope. And it is the legacy of this period from which many, if not most, of Ukraine's current misfortunes flow.

The real ethnopolitical problem in Ukraine is not about Crimean Tatars, Germans, Greeks, Jews, or other national minorities. The main ethnopolitical problem in present-day Ukraine is the Russian question, but not and this must be emphasized the problem of Ukraine's ethnic Russians, who, despite propaganda to the contrary, do not experience any oppression or violations of their rights. In most of Ukraine it still is easier to find for one's children a good Russian school than a Ukrainian one, most books are published in Russian, and on television one hears a great deal of Russian. In the big cities, except for Western Ukraine, Russian is still the preponderant language of everyday life. Russian newspapers have never been in short supply. And so on and so forth. This is the primary reason that in Ukraine there is no social basis for creating such extremist Russian organizations as the Interfronts of the Baltic states or Russia's openly anti-Semitic Pamyat which seek to bring the newly independent states back to the bosom of Mother Russia. To be sure, in Ukraine as well one can also occasionally hear such things from certain politicians or political groupings in Ukraine, but they are not voiced on a large scale and certainly do not threaten Ukraine's independence.

The Russian question in Ukraine is really the problem of the northern neighbor, the problem of relationships with Russia as a power whose politicians are wont to make territorial, political, and other claims. Given the imperial ("integrationist") bent of Russian foreign policy, the destabilization of interethnic relations on Ukraine's territory is obviously in Russia's interests. Russia does not want to have ethnic Russians coming back to their homeland, as was demonstrated when Russian refugees from Chechnia sought refuge and asylum in Ukraine, Belarus, and the Caucasian republics, while Russia itself was very reluctant to give them shelter. Russia's political line in this sphere leads one to suggest that ethnic Russians in Ukraine are designed to play the part of a fifth column which can be taken advan-/309/tage of in order undermine Ukrainian independence. Whether the Russian minority in Ukraine will agree to play this role will probably be determined more by the state of Ukraine's economy rather than by culture or politics. A rise in living standards would automatically lead to a decline in separatist sentiments among the Russian-speaking population of the Donets Basin and Luhansk and would eliminate any social basis for propaganda among Ukraine's Russians in favor of reconstituting the empire.

Thus far Ukraine has had to take into consideration the rather widely held notion that anything Russian is by definition superior. This is certainly not a specifically Ukrainian problem. In the state once called the USSR, there was no national enclave where after 1930 the slightest manifestation of national self-assertion did not call forth accusations of "bourgeois nationalism" (then considered equivalent to high treason) and a consequent blood bath. In a world where the least hint of disloyalty to the regime carried with it the threat of death sentence or repression, the Russian language (along with active vigilance in exposing any display of socalled "bourgeois nationalism") was an outward display of political loyalty and orthodoxy. The supremacy of everything Russian, cloaked by the high-sounding phrase, "proletarian internationalism," created an ethnopolitical situation in which everything Russian was always superior, better, more fashionable, and more progressive.






5. Belarus: Two Paths to the Future


The bloodless revolution of 1991 brought statehood to peoples long accustomed to thinking of themselves as second-rate. Under such circumstances, the feeling of some that there was something artificial and not quite serious about this new statehood was simply inevitable. This was especially the case in Belarus whose capital still lacks a single school with Belarusian as the language of instruction. Belarus, like Ukraine, faced two alternatives: resort to large-scale privatization and the de-statization of society in order to stimulate the formation of a society capable of de-/310/mocratic self-government, a society where the habit ot respecting human and minority rights would become ingrained, and in so doing to actually join the world family of nations; or to enter the family of nations only through the mediation and fraternal aid of Russia, that is, to give up a considerable measure of its independence in the hope that its stronger neighbor would unravel for it a whole knot of complex social and economic problems.

It is obvious today that Belarus has opted for the second alternative. The Belarus leadership agrees to change its borders, to the free transit of Russian goods and citizens through its territory to the West, and permanent Russian military bases on its territory. Belarus was the only country which openly supported the Russian invasion of Chechnia and announced suspension of its dismantling of military equipment, thereby calling into question the validity of the Treaty on Reduction of Conventional Forces in Europe, which is, of course, precisely what Moscow wants. The President of Belarus has sponsored holding referendum virtually renouncing Belarus's very independence and allowing its de facto incorporation into a neighboring state. But the greatest gift was presented by Belarus' President to imperial-minded Russian politicians when he publicly announced that the Belarusian language was inferior. This escapade of the Belarusian leader, even given the obvious weakness of the Belarus national movement, is extremely dangerous for Belarus itself, for it may dramatically destabilize the country's ethnic equilibrium. In the final analysis, this, in turn, would mean inviting greater Russian pressure not only upon Belarusians themselves but also on the country's ethnic minorities who, given Russia's record on the issue, cannot assume that their ethnic and cultural needs would be satisfied. In addition to its overwhelmingly Belarusian majority and insignificant Russian minority, Belarus is also populated by Poles, Ukrainians, Jews, and others who are very unlikely to obtain real rather than declared national cultural autonomy in a situation where the titular nation of its own accord renounces its own language and culture. Moreover, it is unlikely that the Belarusians themselves would agree to such a /311/ policy without any resistance or protests. According to the 1979 population census, 74.2% of all inhabitants of Belarus and 83.5% of ethnic Belarusians in Belarus declared Belarusian their mother tongue.20 Powerful assimilatory processes have taken place in recent years, primarily in urban areas, but, obviously, Belarusian can never be rooted out from everyday, family, and cultural communication. The Belarus spiritual and cultural organism will inevitably come to the point where the question will arise of outright resistance to the policy of Russification rather than cooperation and interaction.

As far as economic advantages of this policy are concerned, very telling is the fact that Russian financiers and bankers are currently quite willing to cooperate with Ukrainian financial and commercial structures, explaining that the Ukrainian karbovanets is at present the hardest "soft" currency in the CIS, and the former are very reluctant to have anything to do with the Belarusian ruble. There is also the conspicuous fact that, while highly praising the policy of the Belarusian President in public, Russian etatists have as yet neglected to write off Belarus's debts for Russian fuel and other power resources.






6. Risks of Future Tragedies


At present Russian politicians are also pleased with the policies of Kazakhstan, which is steadily and unswervingly moving toward integration with Russia. Until the 1930s, the Kazakhs were a nation of nomads, but their society was quite structured. They had their own religious and cultural elites along with a nobility. It was easier to exterminate national leaders in Kazakhstan, because of remnants of the feudal-tribal social system there, and it was not difficult to label someone who owned a big flock of sheep as a bay (rich landowner in Central Asia) or parasite. Moreover, a third of all Kazakhs perished in the early 1930s during famines and there was a massive Slavic colonization of the Kazakh steppe.21 As a result, Kazakhstan became a country where the indigenous population became an ethnic minority, less /312/ educated and influential in solving crucial political and economic problems. But with time the "Kazakh question" may well become aggravated and loom large. Among Kazakhs in a country, where they do not have a decisive voice, there will always be the possibility of forming nationalist movements whose leaders may resort to extremist methods of struggle against the privileges of the Russian-speaking population. And the fact that the indigenous or indigenous language-speaking population is an ethnic minority in its native land does not necessarily imply that there will always be stability and accord ensured by "big brother." The experience of Northern Ireland shows that one small group, which never enjoyed substantial support even among Catholics, could intimidate and terrorize not only Ulster but the whole of Great Britain for decades on end. In Northern Ireland, the imperial policy of the powerful neighbor provided every opportunity for the painless absorption of this small country. Assimilatory policies resulted in the fact that English became the predominant language and even few Irish speak Gaelic. But a feeling of historical injustice remained there when immigrant Scottish Protestants decided the fate of their region by remaining part of the United Kingdom and discriminating against the local Catholic minority. This resulted in the emergence of the clandestine extremist provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army which resorted to terrorism in the struggle against the British (and local Protestant) authorities.

Failure to renounce the privileges of the so-called "Russian-speaking population" may well lead to similar results, even if this policy proves as successful as the British policy of founding Protestant colonies on the lands of Irish rebels in the seventeenth century. For the success of an imperial power may only persuade the indigenous population that their situation is hopeless and unless they resort to terrorism. Such "success" can only sow the seeds of future

tragedy.

Events in Chechnia have also shown that imperial claims on territories annexed by tsarist Russia and reconquered by the Soviets cannot be maintained without assum-/313/ing the role of a gendarme nation. Fearing Russian expansion, those Moslem states of the CIS, which were able to extricate their peoples from the Soviet melting pot, are noticeably turning toward the Moslem world. Active negotiations are underway with Turkey, the Arab countries, and anti-Russian feelings are on the rise.

One need not be a prophet to see what complications are in store for those Russians who have to live in a foreign language environment which they find culturally alien. Psychologically, transition from the status of Herrenvolk to that of a national minority which finds itself in a linguistically alien environment, can be neither simple or easy. Here much depends on national and ethnic policies adopted by the new Moslem states, and these policies are significantly influenced by Russia's policy toward the Moslem CIS states.

The Karabakh impasse is marked by Russia's permanent presence in the region, which is why geopolitically the Karabakh conflict, like the problems of the Transdnistrian Moldovan Republic and the Georgian-Ossetian confrontation, is in the interests of a Russia which continues to retain its political and military bases as potential levers for pressuring "rebellious" governments and states, while simultaneously demonstrating to the West its indispensable role as guarantor of order in the region. Ukrainian analysts have repeatedly noted that the West will never get tough with Moscow on behalf of former Soviet republics. Even the events in Chechnia have not led to a dramatic worsening of the US-Russian relationship, only to a slight cooling of the West's relations with Russia and a lower profile for Russia in the eyes of Western politicians.

In general, nowadays the West is guided in its actions by the principle "Let it be as bad as it is, if only it will not get worse." The playing of the "Zhirinovsky card" by the Russian mass media and politicians has produced the requisite and, very likely, well-designed and calculated effect. The West is ready to give up much in order not to lose all. Fearful of the threat that fascists might come to power in Russia capable of unleashing World War III, the West demonstrates very sluggishly and reluctantly its anger at the /314/massacres in Chechnia, confining itself to slightly curtailing its economic cooperation with Russia. The West's fears of the possible collapse of economic and political reform in Russia are not groundless. There are forces in Russia itself which consider Western assistance and aid as Western attempts at economic and financial expansion. A reflection of these fears is an opinion that all foreign political analysts and scientists are employed by the CIA and that mythical Jewish secret centers are plotting to buy up wholesale "beloved mother Russia" and to cause something terrible to happen to it. This fear of the West is but the flip side of the same old Russian idea, and those analysts are likely to be right who prognosticate that, in case Russian reforms end in fiasco, Russia's imperial policy in its traditional sphere of influence will dramatically intensify. That Russia is beginning to recompense itself for its humiliation in Chechnia at the expense of its neighbors is already being seen, and rather vividly at that.






7. Political Double Standards


However, Western politicians who anxiously anticipate a quick settlement in the Chechen conflict are naive. In \ Chechnia, Russia confronts not just a small people trying to gain independence: it is a political conflict between pro-imperial and anti-imperial forces on the territory of the former USSR. It is no accident that at the height of the Chechen massacre Russian government officials intensified their efforts to push through the issue of dual citizenship in Ukraine and that in Kyiv itself a congress of the Communist Party convened under slogans calling for the restoration of the Soviet Union, while in the Crimea a rally gathered under the slogan of Ukraine's integration with Russia, and a new series of pro-Russian political provocations concerning the division of the Black Sea Fleet began. In the Crimea, when Russian chauvinist forces step up their activities, Russia has not only political support but also a military forepost which could be used as the ultimate argument in any dispute with an unyielding Ukraine. Generally, provid-/315/ed the interethnic situation in Ukraine is stable, the Crimea may evidently be the only point of real threat which Russia is capable of manipulating and using as a lever to support a policy of intimidation and hegemony.

Ukraine's "Crimean problem" tends to become ever more complicated and aggravated. By giving up the information market to Russian chauvinists, Ukrainian officials lack the opportunity to directly communicate with the peninsula's inhabitants in order to win their support. Extremely important in this situation is continual explanation to the Crimea's inhabitants the real nature of the economic, ecological, and social problems of the peninsula, which, given Crimea's dependence on Ukraine for water, food, electrical energy, and such, should the Crimea break away from Ukraine, could lead to real catastrophe and mass migration from the area. This is the real threat the Crimea must face, not the mounting pressure of mainland Ukraine on the Crimea, the President's brandishing his mace or Parliament's threats. There is only one civilized way of settling the Crimean issue to recover the lost information theater. There is only one kind of war to be waged in the Crimea a war for "hearts and minds" of its people.

Incidentally, Russia's policy toward the Crimea itself shows how it employs a double standard respecting its own and somebody else's problems. Moscow actively supported Crimean ex-President Yuri Meshkov and conducted an undisguised anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign in the Crimea at the same time it declared President Dudaev in Chechnia a criminal and invaded his country. But both Meshkov and Dudaev were elected Presidents by the local population in virtually identical constitutional or, rather, unconstitutional situations and under very similar legislative circumstances. One recalls Orwell's Animal Farm: "All pigs are equal but some are more equal than others." Moscow's interference in Ukraine's internal affairs under the pretext of "protecting the Russian-speaking population in countries of the near abroad" cannot but sooner or later lead to a further aggravation of Russian-Ukrainian relations at the state level, because Ukrainians, making up 25% of the Crimea's /316/ population and lacking their own schools, theaters, newspapers, radio stations, etc., may create precedents contrary to the interests of ethnic Russians in the Crimea. Meanwhile, the indigenous population whose expulsion helped make room for all those Russians, the Crimean Tatars, on failing to tolerate the central authorities' helplessness in solving their problems, might ultimately opt for radical methods in the struggle for their rights. All this could in turn lead to a test of Ukraine's tolerance to violations of its laws on territory which is juridically part of Ukraine. The problem of the relationship of any Ukrainian government with the Crimea will inevitably put on the agenda the issue of limiting or even abrogating the Crimea's autonomy, because any autonomy is always constrained by the legislation of the country of which it remains a part.

Valeriya Novodvorskaya, a deputy in the Russian State Duma, writes: "National passionarias represent a floral culture which is grown in abundance in Russian patriotic hothouses and, therefore, is readily supplied to markets in the CIS, the Baltic states, the Kuril islands and to the 'political stock markets' of the civilized world by way of a little humanitarian blackmail: 'If you don't feed us and let us come to your discotheques, we'll give you away to Zhirinovsky'."22

After the events in Chechnia, this "little humanitarian blackmail" has already led to the fact that former so-called "people's democracies" are actively intensifying their efforts to gain admission to NATO. Polish President Lech Walesa has said, "We will try for join NATO and not ask any permission from Russia." East Central European and Baltic politicians are actively turning toward Europe. For them, Europe is an alternative to what may happen after the Chechen crisis in their own countries and a guarantee of their security.






8. Democracy as an Instrument of Geopolitics


Within this context, Ukraine has found itself in an extremely complex situation. Its dependence on Russian fuel /317/ and other power sources and Russia's economy in general makes it impossible for it to turn away from its northern neighbor without suffering major economic and financial losses. Any possible destabilization of its relationship with Russia would also be unlikely to find support among the considerable segment of Ukraine's population having family ties in Russia. On the other hand, Western officials have become accustomed to having a relationship with Moscow and many of them do not even know where Ukraine is, traditionally perceiving its independence, in the words of Russian spokesmen, as a "very temporary phenomenon." The West fears Russia's self-isolation and the disappointment of hopes for Russia to reform and evolve into a democratic nation; that is why it is so difficult and troublesome for it to take Ukraine seriously. This is not a mere blunder it is a political blind alley for which the West may have to pay dearly in the future. A strong, independent Ukraine is a guarantor of not only its own stability but also that of Russia itself and of Europe as a whole. There will be no new Russocentric empire without Ukraine. Without it Russia will have to till its own soil and put its own house in order rather than to count on solving Russian problems by "swallowing up" other peoples along with their lands. There is only one way to quell the expansionist instinct and cure the age-old disease of imperialism: for the West to pay serious attention to the problems of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and of the newly independent states in general. Psychologically, this is difficult and expensive for the West to do, for it is also seeking simple solutions to secure its well-being. But under the present circumstances, there can be no simple solutions. Totalitarianism is a deadly disease which is characterized by the constant threat of relapse and of infecting others. The German people, dissatisfied with the democratic order in the Weimar Republic, the weakness of the central government, and rising street violence chose a path which led to the deaths of millions of Germans and others. Democracy has its limitations and weaknesses, but it provides a historical perspective which is obscure or entirely absent under despotic, authoritarian, or totalitarian systems. /318/ Democracy in Ukraine means, to a considerable measure, democracy in Russia and constitutes a historical perspective for the West itself.

Beyond the boundaries of the CIS, where there is practically no Russian population, the ethnopolitical scene is fundamentally different. First, the forced population exchanges after World War II removed such complicated problems of the past as the ethnic German minority in Czechoslovakia, which was unceremoniously shipped off to Germany. The voluntary separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia has given powerful impulse to their prospective rapprochement and ultimate merger on a voluntary and equal basis. Czechs and Slovaks may take pride in the civilized solution of their complex ethnopolitical problem, and this is the kind of political capital which in the future will amply compensate for the economic and political losses flowing from the disintegration of Czechoslovakia.

The experience of the armed conflict on the territory of former Yugoslavia vividly shows how the dark undercurrents of history may suddenly surface and with what danger they are fraught. Four hundred years of Ottoman rule left a bitter legacy of hatred toward Turks and Moslems in general, as shown the discrimination against Turks in Bulgaria and that euphemism for genocide, "ethnic cleansing," in Bosnia. Historical claims of Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia on Macedonia are also fraught with the threat of possible conflicts. Serbia's aggressive attitude toward other parts of what once was Yugoslavia is a product of its return to the traditions of the interwar kingdom which was under Serbian domination and serves as an example of a dangerous tendency of Russia's relapsing to similar traditions. Since in the wake of World War II Poland almost completely lost its hitherto numerous ethnic minorities and Rumania's territorial claims on several districts of Ukraine's Odesa region are not of such proportion as to mortally damage bilateral relations, the only other potentially destabilizing ethnopolitical problem in Eastern and Central Europe is the "Hungarian question," for after World War I the Treaties of Trianon and St. Germain left one third of all ethnic Hungarians out-/319/side Hungary, mainly in Rumania (Transylvania), former Yugoslavia (Vojevodina), southern Slovakia, and Ukraine (Transcarpathia). Hungary has no territorial claims against its neighbors but, at the same time, it has a permanent and legitimate interest in the fate of ethnic Hungarians, especially in those countries where discrimination against them is probable. Even in the days of the Warsaw Pact, Bucharest's attitudes toward Rumania's Hungarian minorities often complicated its relationship with Hungary. Today, when the countries are becoming more democratic and local agreements on bilingualism has been reached in Transylvania, this potentially acute problem seems on the road to alleviation.

The ideal model for protecting ethnic minorities might well be the Law on National Minorities in Ukraine which guarantees all citizens of Ukraine, irrespective of their ethnic origin, equal political, social, economic, and cultural rights and freedoms along with state financial assistance in the development of their national and ethnic identity and self-expression. However great Ukraine's shortcomings and mistakes in other spheres may be, this can serve as an exemplary (de facto and de jure) model for other newly independent states interested in stability, the inviolability of borders, internal consensus, and harmonious cooperation in order to preclude a restoration of the former Soviet empire.

Of course, interethnic relations in Ukraine should not be idealized, but both at the time of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic and in the period of Soviet Ukraine's relative autonomy (1923-33) and in its new status of an independent nation, Ukraine has demonstrated that it is capable of effectively solving its ethnic minorities problems on its own, without outside pressure or guidance. Ethnic tolerance and respect for other nations are essential components of the Ukrainian national mentality, and one can argue rather convincingly that radical political trends of various political orientations will not find any broad support here, provided to emphasize once more the country's economic situation stabilizes.

To be sure, one cannot ignore the various problems and differences in political and party orientations among /320/ Ukraine's regions. A great step forward would be made if the problem of the balance of regional rights and obligations were solved, regional autonomy in economic and cultural matters were extended, and bilateral relationships between regions were expanded obviously, provided that not only a waitress in Drohobych (Western Ukraine) could give an answer in Russian when spoken to in Russian but also that an official in presently Russian-speaking Kryvyi Rih could speak Ukrainian.

Ethnopolitical relations in the postcommunist world are complex and far from uniform. The newly independent states strive for equality with the leading nations of the world; nationalities and ethnic groups strive for their national and ethnic self-determination and self-expression. Today not only Europe but the whole world faces basic choices concerning its future development and progress. For there is a real threat of its being trapped in the endless murderous ethnic strife which could shatter mankind's hopes for a better and more civilized future. But there is a chance, perhaps the final one, to realize the age-old dream of democracy, independence, and justice.




18. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, 1973), pp. 222-266.

19. B. V. Chirko, "Stalinism and the Fate of National Minorities in Ukraine," Pamiataty zarady zhyttya (Kyiv, 1993), p.92 (in Russian).

20. V. I. Kozlov, Natsional'nosti v SSSR: Etnodemograficheskii obzor (Moscow, 1982), pp. 241242 (in Russian).

21. See: Martha Brill Olcott, "The Collectivization Drive in Kazakhstan," Russian Review, 1981, No 2, pp. 136-137.

22. Valeriya Novodvorskaya, "Zkovta Gvardia, Synii Baron," Toloka, 1994, No. 1, p. 43 (in Ukrainian).





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