By James MACE, Ph.D
Professor of Political Science
Kyiv-Mohyla Academy National University
The Day Weekly Digest
Ukrainian News in English
September 3, 2002
The V International Congress of Ukrainian Studies was held on August
26-29, 2002, organized by the International Association of Ukrainian
Studies, Ukrainian National Academy, and Fedkovich University of
Chernivtsi, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science
and Ministry of Culture and the Arts.
The congress was attended by 230 scholars from abroad and more than
500 domestic counterparts from 37 Ukrainian cities. The program included
meetings of sections embracing practically every aspect of the Ukrainian
studies (language, literature, culture, history, political science,
philosophy, and much more), also round tables dealing with a range of
issues from surzhyk [a crude mix of illiterate Ukrainian and Russian],
being considered as a lingual and social phenomenon, to Ukrainian
national security; conferences and exhibits.
In addition, the congress elected a new association president, Professor
Mark von Hagen of Columbia University (New York).
The Editors are happy to offer excerpts from the speech, delivered during
the closing plenary session, by Prof. James Mace of the Kyiv-Mohyla
Academy National University and consultant to The Day:
- Prof. James Mace: Despite its officially proclaimed "European choice,"
Ukraine is greeting EU and NATO expansion somewhere from the
sidelines. The European Union even gave Ukraine a consolation prize,
EU neighbor status, simultaneously with such renowned champions in
the European integration process as Belarus and Moldova.
This shows that the West currently sees all three countries as being on the
same level. Clearly, the train of expanding Euro-Atlantic has already left
the station, with Ukraine standing on the platform holding a bouquet of
aromatic words like "special relationship" and "partnership," without any
Consider Poland, which in 1991 had an economy about the same size
as that of Ukraine, yet the Poles confirm their European choice with deeds,
while Ukraine still waffles between Europe and Eurasia. All who wish
Ukraine well cannot help but watch the process without regret.
The problem is not at all bad leaders making the wrong decisions. Anyone
who has ever had even minimal contact with the political process in any
country will confirm that a politician is not at all a free man. He has only
limited freedom of maneuver within the context of those forces capable
of blocking, restricting, or forcing that politician's decisions.
The recent Internet discussion on the Famine of 1933 - did it take place
in the context of essentially Ukrainian or overall Soviet history? - was
really only an attempt at self-defense primarily by former opponents of
the so-called totalitarian model as Cold War ideology, those who once
expended great effort to prove that the horrors of Stalin's terror and
repression were exaggerated, those then prepared to write anything to
get their visas and access to Soviet archives.
At present, these archives are controlled by other authorities willing to
hear about the Russian people being the legal successor to all those great
attainments of the Soviet Union, but this Russian people assumes no
historical responsibility for the crimes of the Stalin regime and suffered
"just like the rest," that is, as part of the "all-Soviet people." Is this
not trying to have one's cake and eat it too?
To better understand the current problems faced by the post-Soviet
states, one ought to discard the patterns and approaches of the old
"history of the USSR" once taught everybody here and admit that, even
within the Soviet empire, different peoples and republics continued to
have their own distinct, albeit interconnected, histories, which gave rise
to the different problems currently inherent to the various post-Soviet
states and peoples.
Much effort has and will be made to study the purges and ruinous
essence of Stalinism in Ukraine. Yet, if we want to bring into focus this
country's current problems, let us attempt to analyze the consequences
of Stalinism, identify what structures and processes have ensued from it,
and how they are evolving in today's Ukraine. This could well serve as
the starting point...
I propose this thesis: the main reason for Ukraine's limited success in
meeting the challenges of our age is that it has suffered far greater
damage, and in a different way, under the Soviets than anyone could have
understood ten years ago. Until now there has been no large-scale and
effective discussion about the nature of these obstacles and inevitably long
road to overcoming them.
Stalin's policy in Ukraine was an act of genocide in the sense formulated
by Rafael Lemkin when he coined the term in 1944. The Holodomor
Manmade Famine clearly falls under the UN Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Still, terms are not the main
The point is that Stalinism created a fundamental break in the development
of a more or less typical national movement, so that now it seems most
useful to start on the history of the modern Ukrainian state by referring
not to 1917 or 1991, but, paradoxically, to the 1950s. That is precisely
why today's Ukraine is essentially distinct from the typical European
nation-state arising out of such a national movement.
In Ukraine, as elsewhere in the Soviet Union at the time, Stalinism
destroyed or assumed such strict control over the slightest manifestation
of independent action in the social, economic, cultural, scholarly, and
other domains, that it often made little sense to speak, for example,
about agriculture and culture as separate spheres, for they were only
components of a single Party-state Leviathan.
Stalin tried to control literally everything, and, with the aid of terror,
he was temporarily successful.
In 1991 we all made a fundamental if unconscious mistake when we
thought we were witnessing the appearance of a new independent state.
Now it is clear that it was actually the gaining of independence of a
pre-existent but less than independent state. In reality, the same people
continued doing same things, and further development went on from there.
Today, postcommunist Ukraine is no longer simply the independent former
Ukrainian SSR, but in a subjective sense - where citizens share common
national values, a common understanding of who they are - there is still no
truly Ukrainian Ukraine in the sense that Poland is Polish and the Czech
Republic is Czech.
The fundamental political issues are clear: European competence vs. the
surviving Soviet mentality; transparency vs. opacity; business - especially
small business - vs. traditional enterprises; private farming against the
collective farms; being Ukrainian as a manifestation of being European vs.
Eurasianism, civil society vs. an easily manipulated mass of atomized
individuals; national identity within European models as a separate
component of the universal treasure-trove human civilization vs.
Ukraine cannot forever live like Hamlet, it must address fundamental
The recipes are all known. In April 2000, Leszek Balcerowicz said in
an interview with Krytyka that, after a decade of Polish experience,
any even more or less competent economist could tell what Ukraine
needed to secure economic growth: maximum freedom of economic
activity, and that is possible only by reducing state regulation and
structures to the minimum.
Obviously, Ukraine's problems are not only economic. We hear voices
calling for returning to oneself. Recall the interesting book, Ukraine:
Return to Itself, written by Oleksandr Suhoniako, president of the
Ukrainian Association of Banks. Yet it is difficult to return somewhere
you have never been.
Only when the people of Ukraine become fully conscious of all the
wealth of the heritage of their past, their culture and history, that there
is such a state as Ukraine and such a people as Ukrainians, only then
will Ukraine become capable of stepping onto the path from which it
was taken by repressions, manmade famines, ruthless economic,
political, and cultural barbarism, analogies to which it is difficult to
find in the annals of human civilization the terrible name of which is
Only then will Ukraine be what its heroes fought for: a state of, by, and
for its own people.
By Prof. James Mace, Professor of Political Science
Kyiv-Mohyla Academy National University, Kyiv, Ukraine
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, September 03 2002