This paper aims to explore
the Ukrainian identity-in-the-making as an important factor of
European both geopolitical
and cultural self-identification. The author argues that, since
19th century, there have always been and still are two different
options for Ukrainian national and territorial elites: to embark
on a 'Central-East European' project of nation-building or to further
benefit from some regional role in a more general project of 'Greater
Russian', or Soviet, or East Slavonic empire-building. The first
option would inevitably mean the full integration of Ukraine into
Euro-Atlantic structures and, probably, a gradual transformation
of neighboring Russia into a 'normal' and basically European nation-state.
The second option would certainly mean the revival of some sort
of 'Eurasian' empire that has always been strongly biased if not
completely hostile against the West. Thus, Ukrainian path and pace
of development would largely determine where the Europe's eastern
border is set and, even more importantly, what kind of a border
it might be.
"Our Western Orientation"
As early as 1918, a prominent Ukrainian
historian Mykhaylo Hrushevsky who happened at the time to head the
short-lived Ukrainian People's Republic, published a cycle of political
pamphlets under the characteristic title: "On the Threshold
of the New Ukraine". There, he tried to outline the basic principles
and parameters for the nascent Ukrainian state to be built upon.
He talked on the army, and culture, and state apparatus, and certainly
on the various aspects of Ukraine's international politics, quintessentially
defined in the title of one of his essays - "Our Western Orientation".
As a professional historian, he
had plenty of facts at hand to prove that, for centuries, "Ukraine
had been living the same life with the West, experiencing the same
ideas and borrowing cultural models and resources for its own culture
building". Yet, he knew also that since the end of the 18th
century Ukrainian contacts with the West "had weakened and
declined under the pressure of forceful Russification of Ukrainian
life; and the whole Ukrainian life and culture had been drawn into
a Russian, Greater Russian, period". As a result,
"the 19th-century Ukraine was
torn off from the West, from Europe, and turned to the North, pushed
forcefully into the deadlock of the Greater Russian [imperial] culture
and life. The entire Ukrainian life was uprooted from its natural
environment, from the historically and geographically determined
way of developement, and thrown away onto the Russian soil, for
destruction and pillage."
"Return to Europe" therefore
was seen by a leading Ukrainian nation-builder as a return to the
norm, a fixing of some historical injustice and perversion, a healing
of certain developmental pathology. Such a romantic approach eventuated
quite naturally from the entire history of the modern Ukrainian
nationalism which, from its very emergence in the first half of
the 19th century, had to emphasize the Ukrainian "otherness"
vis-ŕ-vis Russia. This meant, in particular, that
Ukrainain activists not just praised the alleged Ukrainian "Europeanness"
as opposed to the devilish Russian "Asiaticness"; they
had had to accept the whole set of the Western liberal-democratic
values as presumably "natural" and "organic"
for Ukrainians (yet, of course, absolutely "unnatural"
Characteristically yet, that all
these emphatic statements of Ukrainian "Europeanness"
have been built upon the facts from the early rather than late Ukrainian
"The Kievan State [argued a
leading Ukrainian intellectual Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky] combined a
predominantly Eastern, Greek, Byzantine religious and cultural tradition
with a predominantly Western social and political structure... Political
Byzantinism remained totally alien to Kievan Rus'... In pre-Mongol
Rus, as in the medieval West - and in contrast to Byzantium and
Moscow - political and ecclesiastical authority were not fused,
but remained distinct, with each of the two autonomous in its own
sphere. A social system characterized by contractual relations,
a strong regard for the rights and the dignity of the individual,
limitation of the power of the prince by a council of boyars and
a popular assembly, autonomous communal city life, territorial decentralization
of a quasi-federative nature - all this gave the Kiev polity a distinct
libertarian imprint. And this libertarian, essentially European
spirit also characterizes Ukrainian state organizations of later
epochs. The Galician-Volhynian state of the 13th and 14th centuries
evolved toward a feudal structure, and full-fledged feudalism, including
feudal parliamentarism, may be found in the Lithuanian-Ruthenian
state of the 14th through 16th centuries. The Cossack State of 17th
and 18th centuries possessed a system of estates (Ständestaat).
It was not a coincidence that in the 19th century, during the epoch
when Ukraine was politically assimilated to the Russian Empire,
all-Russian liberalism and constitutionalism found its strongest
support in the Ukrainian provinces of the Empire."
Another Ukrainian intellectual,
a prominent Byzantologist Ihor Sevcenko, in the essay under the
same title ("Ukraine between East and West") has also
argued that "the West's influence on parts of Ukrainian territory
began before 1349, acquired considerable intensity after 1569, and
continued over the vast expanse of the Ukrainian lands until 1793.
When we take into account the impact of Polish elites in the western
Ukrainian lands and on the right bank of the Dnieper, this influence
can be seen to have continued until 1918 or even 1939." He
admitted, however, that "this West was, for the most part,
clad in the Polish kontusz... and its principal cultural message
in the decisive turning point between the 16th and 17th centuries
was carried by the Polish variant of the Counter-Reformation."
Moreover, as a professional Byzantologist he had to differentiate
"the primary influence of the Byzantine 'East' [that] came
to Ukraine from the South, both from the Byzantine capital itself
and through the Byzantinized Balkans," and "the secondary
influence" that "came from the North, to some extent from
Muscovite tsardom, but, mainly later, also from the Russian Empire."
An impartial academic analysis had
led him to a rather unpleasant, for many Ukrainians, conclusion
that as soon as "neo-Byzantinism, the cultural mainstay of
the tsardom of Moscow, lost out [and] the new Russian Empire began
to import its culture from the West on a large scale... it was that
empire that soon provided its Ukrainian dominions with Western values."
In sum, "an important general characteristic of Ukrainian cultural
contacts both with the 'East' and with the West [was] the lack of
direct access to original sources during long stretches of Ukrainian
history. Ukrainians received cultural values from abroad through
intermediaries... The Ukrainian secondarity carried a certain weakness
This was, perhaps, a good explanation
for Hrushevsky's words on the "deadlock of the Great Russian
culture," wherein Ukraine had been arguably pushed since the
18th century. It was not a matter of Russian culture per se, which
had eventually become rather vibrant, attractive and hospitable
for many Ukrainian newcomers. It was a problem of "secondarity"
that, since then, became unavoidable, inescapable fate of the stateless
nation disposed of its upper classes. Since then till present, Ukraine
has been ruled by rather a territorial than the national elite,
and this very fact has largely determined and still determines Ukraine's
In 1918, however, neither Hrushevsky
nor anyone else could predict that the Russian empire, in 10-15
years, would appear for many Ukarinians as a lost paradise, and
the "entire Ukrainian life" would be exposed to further,
much more cruel, destruction and pillage. It was only 1991, when
the independent Ukraine recollected Hrushevsky's idea of the "return
to Europe", and Hrushevsky himself returned into the national
pantheon of the founding fathers of the new-old nation.
Still, the "return to Europe",
although proclaimed officially as Ukraine's major strategic goal,
has not been completed within the decade that followed, nor even
any significant steps into the chosen direction have really been
made. Somebody blames the West for being not interested in Ukraine's
"return"; somebody blames Russia for the effective obstruction
of Ukraine's efforts; somebody blames the Ukrainian leadership for
paying lip-service to the idea and doing virtually nothing to accomplish
it; and somebody blames the Ukrainian people who, by and large,
prove to be not so "European" as many Ukrainian intellectuals
have wishfully suggested.
Each argument is serious enough
to be considered separately, although the national identity of the
people (if broadly understood) seems to be the major factor that
largely determines the various trends of current Ukrainian (under)development.
Since the results of the recent
(December 2001) national census in Ukraine have not yet been published,
we must rely on the data of the last (1989) Soviet census that defined
Ukrainian population as consisting of ethnic Ukrainians (73%), Russians
(22%) and other nationalities (5%). It proved also that 88% of Ukrainians
(i.e., 64% of the entire population) cited Ukrainian as their "native
tongue" while 12% (i.e., 8% of the whole population) cited
their "native tongue" to be Russian. As to the Russians,
nearly 100% of them cited Russian as their "native tongue"
- quite a natural move in the country where the russification policy
Any observer, however, could easily
notice in a great majority of Ukrainian cities that neither "ethnicity"
was really important for many people nor Ukrainian language (which
was qualified as a "native tongue" for two thirds of the
population) could be heard anywhere in streets, stores, and other
public premises. This made sociologists to question the dubious
data and to embark on more elaborated research.
First, in their surveys, they provided
more options for people with dual or situational identity. Thus,
only 56% of the respondents defined their identity as "Ukrainian
only", even less (11%) as "Russian only", while nearly
27% claimed they are both Ukrainian and Russian, including 7.4%
"more Ukrainian than Russian", 14.3% "equally Ukrainian
and Russian", and 4.9% "more Russian than Ukrainian".
Second, the sociologists abandoned
the notion of "native tongue" as emotionally charged and
methodologically incorrect. Instead, they applied the notion of
"language of preference", that is of a language in which
the respondents prefer to communicate. Thus, they found out that
only 40-45% of the ethnic Ukrainians would prefer to communicate
in Ukrainian while 30-33% prefer Russian as the language of convenience.
They also discovered that 60% of Ukrainians were fluent in Russian
and 33% of Russians were fluent in Ukrainian. It means that, in
terms of language fluency, Ukrainian population consists of Ukrainian
monolinguals (20%), Ukrainian bilinguals (52%), Russian bilinguals
(8%), and Russian monolinguals (14%). Furthermore, in terms of language
quality, Ukrainian population proved to speak more or less equally
in standard Ukrainian (40%), and standard Russian (42%), while the
rest (18%) speak the so called "surzhyk" - a weird mixture
of both languages.
Instead of the clear Ukrainian ethnic
majority and Russian minority, sociological surveys revealed two
more or less equal ethno-linguistic groups that could be roughly
defined as Ukrainophones and Russophones. The subsequent attempts
to conceptualize Ukrainian society in rather cultural and linguistic
than ethnic terms proved to be yet unsuccessful because of two reasons.
First, they ignored the third, perhaps the largest "middle"
group of the people who are bilingual (or, in the case of "surzhyk"
- "half-lingual") and who, by and large, have a mixed,
vague, and fluid identity. And second, they seem to have overestimated
the language component in Ukrainian self-identification. In fact,
according to a 1998 nation-wide survey, only 3.9% of the respondents
supported the view that it is the Ukrainian language that makes
someone a Ukrainian. 4.9% pointed out at "consciousness of
Ukraine's separate history", 22.7% - at "Ukrainian ancestors",
17.3% - at "citizenship", and 40.4% - at "consciousness
of oneself as a Ukrainian" (also, 10.7% gave no clear answer).
This does not mean, of course, that only the meager 3.9% of Ukrainians
do care of their language. On the contrary, according to a recent
(2000) survey, 94.7% of Ukrainian respondents and 83.4% of ethnic
Russians agreed that their children/grandchildren should have definitely
learned Ukrainian. It rather means that the majority
of Ukrainians just fully recognize that russification has gone too
far and that the recovery needs much time and care. Therefore they
highlight primarily the Ukrainian self-awareness (not the language)
as the hallmark of national identity but implicitly they mean probably
also some commitment to cultural and linguistic revival.
The same survey revealed that only
22.2% of the respondents fully agree with the view that "Ukraine
should, in the main, be a state of the Ukrainian nation", and
9.3% rather agree; while 30.7% hold the view that "Ukraine
should, in the main, be a state without ethnic designation",
and 9.5% rather agree with this. (Also, 18.4% of the respondents
took a middle ground between the two positions, and 9.8% failed
One may define the first view as "Ukrainophile" while
the other is probably "Rusophile" or, rather, "Sovietophile".
(It should not be confused with commitment to a Western-style "civic"
state since there are no civic traditions in the post-soviet Ukraine
but, rather, a lot of desire to preserve the post-colonial status-quo.
For many people, the "state without ethnic designation"
is little more than a direct, subconscious or conscious, reference
to the Soviet Union).
If such a hypothesis is true, we
would find many striking correlations between the number of "committed
Ukrainians" (22-32%) and the numbers of people who, in March
1991, voted against the Gorbachov's "renewed federation";
who in December of the same year supported not only Ukrainian independence
but also anti-communist, anti-soviet presidential candidates; who
today support Ukrainian accession to NATO (23-25%) and oppose accession
to the Russian-Belorussian union (23-26%);
who are in favor of a multi-party system in Ukraine (25-27%) and who recently, in March
2002, supported national-democratic parties in the parliamentary
elections (23% for Victor Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" block
and 7% for the block of Yulia Tymoshenko). And, inversely, the number
of "committed Soviets" (30-40%), both "hard"
and "soft", roughly coincides with the number of people
who support Ukraine's putative union with Russia and Belarus (40.8%
in 2000) and oppose Ukraine's accession to NATO (33.5%); who deny
the need for a multiparty system (42-43%) and who insist on Russian
language to become the second official language in Ukraine (44%) (in practical terms, as a Belorussian
experience graphically confirms, such a demand means nothing else
but preservation of the post-colonial status-quo, that is further
dominance of Russian and marginalization of Ukrainian).
In a recently published research
on popular attitudes in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova towards
"European" and/or "East Slavonic" integration
of the respective nations, the authors had to recognize that "nationality
as such made little difference... But language use was important
in Ukraine, where the greater the use of Ukrainian at home, the
lower the level of support for a closer association with Russia
and other ex-Soviet republics." They also confirmed that, in
all four countries in question, there is a significant correlation
between a "European choice" and pro-market parties as
well as between a "Slavic choice" and a communist vote. The same correlation exists
in both Ukraine and Moldova and Belarus (but, characteristically,
not in Russia) between a "European choice" and the so
called "nationalists". The authors, however, explain this
phenomenon rather simplistically. The pro-European position, they
argue, "attracted substantial support from nationalists"
because for them, presumably, "admission into the European
Union was the most effective way of distancing themselves from the
limited sovereignty that they had enjoyed within the USSR."
The more complex truth, yet, is that the "nationalists"
and pro-market liberals in all these countries (except Russia) are
largely the same people, called not by chance "national democrats".
Although not for all but for many of them, the "nationalistic"
agenda is just a part of a more general project of political liberation
and democratic reforms.
Again, in Ukraine, the sociological
surveys reveal a strong correlation between the number of "committed
Ukrainians" (that is "nationalists") and supporters
of market reforms, as well as between the number of "committed
Soviets" and ardent opponents of free market. In a 2001 nation-wide
survey, 26% of respondents agreed that the president's main feature
must be commitment to democracy and market reforms; while 35% suggested
he must primarily care of social justice and equality. (22% of respondents
failed to answer, and 15% told that president's "capitalist/socialist"
orientation does not matter, he must be just a strong and bright
personality). Nearly the same number of people
within the same survey agreed that it is better to have an economy
with high consumer prices but no shortages and queues (24%), while
34% stated out the opposite (again, 40% remained undecided).
Even though correlation between
language, identity and social/political attitudes is not absolutely
straight and rigidly predetermined, it is statistically significant
and applicable for all sorts of political prognosis as well as (alas)
manipulations. Apparently, the highest level of national self-awareness
and the strongest commitment to European integration and Western
liberal-democratic values can be discerned in the least Russified
western part of the country, while the lowest level of national
consciousness and strongest Sovietophile, anti-Western attitudes
can be found in the most Russified/Sovietized south-eastern regions.
This creates very strong temptation to conceptualize Ukraine in
a rather simplistic way, by counter-opposing the "nationalistic"
West and "Sovietophile" East in some Manichean mode.
Indeed, anybody who visits extreme
eastern and western Ukraine, for example, Donetsk and Lviv, inevitably
feels the profound differences between the two regions, as if in
reality they belonged to two different countries, two different
worlds, two different civilizations. Architectural dissimilitude
is the most immediately evident. Lviv is a typical Central European
city, having been governed under the Magdeburg Law for centuries.
French classicism and Austrian "moderne-Jugendstil"
eventually supplemented German Gothic, Italian Renaissance and Polish
Baroque. Today the faithful fill the numerous churches on feast-days,
and little cafes have always attracted people wanting to meet and
chat, even during Soviet times.
Beneath the surface, the differences
are no less substantial. Western Ukrainians have never internalized
communism, never perceived the Soviet Union as "their own"
country, and never believed that the Soviet Army had come to liberate
them as it claimed rather than to replace some other occupants.
They defiantly continued to have their children baptized (in the
officially banned, underground Greek Catholic "Uniate"
church), and to transmit the traditional sophisticated culinary
recipes from grandmothers to young ladies. This habit had disappeared
in Eastern Ukraine due to permanent food shortages and the total
pauperization of everyday life. Western Ukrainian peasants who put
on their suits and white shirts and ties and polished shoes every
Sunday for church are rather difficult to imagine in eastern Ukraine.
In a sense, they are the "bourgeois", members of some
bürgerliche Gesellschaft that had long ago been completely
destroyed in the East by the Bolsheviks.
Donetsk represents what was built
instead: the brave new world of victorious revolution and proletarian
internationalism. A typical Soviet city, it is indistinguishable
from myriads of other industrial monsters stretching for thousands
of kilometers from Donbass to Kuzbass and from Norilsk to Karaganda.
Their major attractions remain the towering monuments to Lenin,
the streets and squares and factories bearing his name, and of course
the ugly pseudo-classic buildings in the style popularly referred
to as "Stalin Repressance". Here people speak a different
language, which they think is Russian, attend different churches
(when they attend at all), watch different TV channels and vote
for different political parties. They are "proletarian"
exactly in the same sense in which western Ukrainians tend to be
"bourgeois": too many people here, including the top-level
nomenklatura or the so-called "businessmen", cannot
simply produce a sentence without a dirty word or endure a day without
a bottle of vodka.
Statistical data impartially confirms
the striking social differences between the "two Ukraines"
(a smaller Donbas region of Luhansk rather than Donetsk is taken
here, as more comparable with Lviv in terms of both population and
% of total Lviv region Luhansk
Population 5.5% 5.3%
Divorces 3.9% 6.1%
Children out of wedlock 2.5% 5.2%
Criminals sentenced 3.6% 7.5%
Teen-age criminals 4.2% 7.1%
Alcoholics 3.9% 6.9%
Drug addicts 2.0% 4.4%
Syphilis 2.7% 7.2%
Gonorrhea 2.7% 6.7%
AIDS 0.5% 2.4%
Political differences are no less
striking. Opinion polls clearly show that western Ukrainians are
predominantly anti-communist and anti-soviet; they believe Russia
is Ukraine's main threat while America is its main ally; they favor
private ownership and radical economic reforms, the revival of Ukrainian
language and culture, democratization and, of course, Ukraine's
eventual membership in the EU and NATO. Easterners tend to prefer
the opposite. They want Ukraine to join the Russia/Belarus union,
re-establish a soviet-style economy, give more authoritarian power
to the president and grant Russian language the constitutional status
of "second state language" in Ukraine, which in practical
post-colonial terms means (as the Belarus experience has graphically
confirmed) the status of the only officially functioning language
in the country.
Indeed, this perspective leads many
observers to conclude that, since western and eastern Ukraine are
too different to coexist within the same country, the split between
the two halves is inevitable.
However, the main paradox is that nobody can say where one half
ends and the other begins. Ukraine had been russified (and, later
on, sovietized) very gradually, region by region, over 300 years.
In a sense, the "two Ukraines", "Soviet" and
"European", have overlapped and fused. They permeate each
other so deeply that even in Lviv one may find many remnants of
sovietism, while in Donetsk some signs of "Ukrainianness"
and "Europeanness" may equally be discerned. These two
Ukraines co-exist like two symbols, two options for future development:
"back to the USSR" or "return to Europe" (to
which Ukraine had allegedly always belonged). Lviv and Donetsk indeed
can be considered as the geographical and geopolitical symbols of
these "two Ukraines". Nevertheless, it would be inaccurate
and deceptive to extrapolate the specific ideological implications
of these two symbols onto any other significant part of the country.
Not only are the various Ukrainian
regions between "Lviv" and "Donetsk" highly
heterogeneous, each with its own peculiar combination of "Ukrainianness"
and "Russianness", "Europeanness" and "Sovietism",
but in addition each individual Ukrainian tends to be very ambivalent
in his or her ideological preferences and orientations, thereby
making even the identity of many Ukrainians quite vague and nebulous.
This is another paradox concerning the "two Ukraines"
that considerably prevents any split of the country into "two
halves". In reality, there are many more "Ukraines"
than just "two". Notwithstanding, it is these "two"
which are the most visible and clearly defined, while the immense
space between them remains rather fluid and heterogeneous in geographic,
human and ideological terms.
We may define this space as the
"third Ukraine": for the most part invisible, mute, uncertain,
undecided, ideologically ambivalent and ambiguous. It is more object
than subject of the political struggle, the major battlefield and
the major prize in the protracted contest between the two vociferating
but minor Ukraines, the "Soviet" and the "European".
Ambivalence to Ambiguity
Opinion polls confirm that Ukrainian
society is not just radically divided on virtually every fundamental
issue (with perhaps the one exception of territorial integrity). They also show that both
rival groups, "russophile" and "ukrainophile"
(or, more precisely, pro-Soviet and pro-European) are minorities,
while the real majority is an amorphous group of those who "do
not care", "are not interested", "feel undecided",
and "failed" (or "refused") to respond. Perhaps
the best example of this ambiguity was revealed by the 1996 national
survey when 1,200 respondents were asked to define which political
tendency they supported. It appeared that 13% favored promoters
of capitalism and 20% - of socialism, 25% claimed they did not support
anybody, 22% remained undecided and - nota bene! - 18% stated
they would support both sides, that is, promoters of both socialism
and capitalism, just in order to avoid conflict.
In 1997, at the height of Ukraine's
flirt with NATO, as many as 38% respondents were in favor of Ukraine's
putative membership in the Alliance, while 21% were definitely opposed,
and 42% felt undecided. Two years later, after NATO's bombardment
of Yugoslavia, the number of NATO's supporters and opponents in
Ukraine nearly reversed (25% vs 33%). Ironically yet, the number
of those "undecided" has not changed, staying firm at
41-44% in every consecutive year. Again, in 1997, 14% of Ukrainians
approved the putative admission of East European neighbors into
NATO, 10% disapproved, 30% had no certain opinion, and 46% (!) had
no interest in the issue at all. Again, 25% of the respondents believed
Russia was Ukraine's biggest threat, 23% felt it to be the main
ally, the rest were unsure about either suggestion.
In 1998, a nearly equal number of
respondents agreed with (36%) and denied (37%) the suggestion that
"the referendum should be carried out immediately and the union
of brotherly soviet peoples re-established" (27% remained undecided).
Another question, however, was addressed to the same respondents
within the framework of the same survey: "Do you agree that
Ukraine, all the difficulties notwithstanding, should remain independent?"
61% of respondents agreed, 19% disagreed, 20% remained undecided.
The number of people who want the Union to be re-established (36%)
proved to be almost twice higher than the number of people who oppose
Ukraine's independence (19%). It means that nearly half of them
believe that the renewed Soviet Union and the newly born national
independence can be somehow combined.
Some commentators dubbed this phenomenon
"post-soviet schizophrenia", and some play auto-ironical
jokes at the daunting amorphousness of the nation, "half of
which, according to various sociological polls, have no certain
answer to any question. Do you approve or disapprove? Like or dislike?
Want or don't want? Do you live or simply survive? Do you exist
at all? Remain undecided". Sociologists define this phenomenon
still more accurately as "social ambivalence". They claim
it results from people's commitment to opposite, incompatible views
and values, and typically surfaces during any transition when two
different political cultures, two different models of social behavior
(political, economic and even linguistic) counteract. Ambivalent
consciousness reconciles incompatible values and models in a mythical,
irrational way; it works like a magic device bringing the individual
a kind of psychological comfort in the uncomfortable circumstances
when "the right to choose must be paid for with responsibility,
freedom - with uncertainty, equal opportunities - with critical
Of course, the "ambivalent
consciousness" plays a positive role by protecting society
as a whole and each person in particular from the untenable challenges
of a changing world and its inevitable psychological traumas. Yet
in the long run it becomes an unbearable burden per se, a
collective neurosis that lends itself to skilful manipulation by
the new spin-doctors. Stability turns into nasty stagnation, ambivalence
into ambiguity. People with a fluctuating identity and with only
a vague idea of the country's optimal choices are highly susceptible
to brainwashing, and they quite naturally are targeted by official
propaganda, authoritarian blackmail and political manipulation.
Needless to say, the post-soviet
oligarchy has a vested interest in keeping society highly atomized,
confused and alienated. They do all they can to prevent any civic
democratic development within the country, since it could expose
them to objective (and fair) political competition entailing, ultimately,
the loss of political power and power-based economic privileges.
Therefore in Ukraine we have the emergence of a peculiar ersatz-ideology,
which can be defined in the negative. It is primarily based on the
assumption that things are going badly but could get much worse.
So, the oligarchic media proclaim, would it not be wiser to accept
the status quo, rather than to rock the boat with all kinds of crazy
demands and radical suggestions.
In reality, the regime gets credit
not for what it has done, but for what it hasn't. It did not distort
elections as cynically as Mugabe, did not steal as much as Mobutu
or Marcos, and did not kill in the same proportions as Milosevic
or Putin or Sharon. The social consent, so called "zlahoda",
is officially proclaimed to be the supreme objective and the government's
major achievement, but it has a clearly negative dimension: we don't
do much wrong because we don't do much. A bad peace in Ukraine is
certainly better than a good war, but the "peacekeeping"
efforts of the Ukrainian oligarchy are rather peculiar. Their policy
is aimed not so much against a "good war" which actually
is not a threat in Ukraine, but primarily against a "good peace"
which does constitute a real threat for the ruling regime. The fact
that the latter exists as an alternative to a "bad peace"
is deliberately silenced, while the former is propagandistically
In order to play the role of a "peacekeeper"
in Ukraine, the post-soviet nomenclatura needs to maintain division,
disorientation and intimidation within the state. Had Ukraine not
had a colonial, communist legacy, the authorities would have invented
it. The colonial legacy furnished the nomenklatura with the specific
regions and local identities that could effectively be played against
each other. The totalitarian legacy construed an "uncivil"
and easily manipulable society. The objective of the post-soviet
rulers was to preserve this legacy for as long as possible.
Whereas one might agree with Huntington's
statement that "political leaders cannot through will and skill
create democracy where preconditions are absent" (which is probably just a paraphrase
of the popular wisdom that each nation deserves the government it
has), nobody yet could and should justify the leaders who have neither
skill nor will to promote democracy and who, on the contrary, do
their best to subvert any preconditions for the democratic development.
A perspicacious analysis of such
an activity has been made by a Canadian scholar Taras Kuzio in a
number of recent publications. To his credit, he has paid a particular
attention to a very important and largely underestimated interdependence
between (weak) national self-awareness and (weak) civil society.
Having contended that "all civic states are composed of both
civic and ethnic-cultural factors," and that "political
identity in the modern era is linked to national identity because
political awareness implies a conscious national loyalty,"
he boldly argued that
"The relationship between civil
society and national identity lies at the heart of the transition
process in post-Soviet states such as Ukraine. National identity
is an 'occasional friend' and not an 'eternal foe' of civil society...
[T]he Ukrainian and Belarusian cases are examples of post-communist
states where the main problem negatively affecting their transition
process has been too little - not too much - civic nationalism...
An atomized population, regionally divided, cynically disposed in
their ability to affect change and lacking trust with other citizens
in the same country are unlikely to generate either a vibrant civil
society or societal mobilization towards stated goals. The 'collective
self consciousness' sustains civil society because, 'concern for
one's nation reinforces the concern for the common good'. National
unity and integration therefore play a central role in sustaining
civil society and generating mobilization."
Kuzio's next argument is based on
the fact that Ukrainian post-communist rulers feel a profound distrust
of civil society and quite reasonably suspect that this dangerous
agent might dramatically challenge their authoritarian dominance
over the country. "The state sees civic activism and the mobilization
of citizens as a threat to its capture, and perceived ownership,
of the state... Civil society and citizens are not something to
negotiate with, respect or admit responsibility for one's actions
to. State policies have therefore served to dampen civil society
and reduce feelings of efficacy amongst Ukrainian citizens."
Consequently, if the core of civil
society is the "dominant nation", as Edward Shils puts
it, and "without a nation there can be no civil society," the vested interest of the
post-soviet oligarchy in Ukraine (and elsewhere) must be to atomize
the society and to prevent the emergence of a modern consolidated
civic nation. And Ukrainian rulers have been rather successfully
doing so within the last decade, exploiting the old Soviet-style
"anti-nationalistic" (essentially Ukrainophobic) stereotypes
among the majority of population:
"Divisions were deliberately
fostered between western and eastern Ukrainians. Western Ukrainians
were depicted as bloodthirsty "bourgeois nationalists"
or, even worse, "Banderovtsi" (followers of Stepan Bandera,
leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) on the payroll
of the West. After a decade of independence, very little has changed.
Ukraine's post-Soviet elites have not sought to overcome regional
divisions. As the last elections showed, they deliberately play
them up when threatened by serious opposition forces... [R]egional
divisions allow Ukraine's elites to maintain their self-appointed
role as umpires between the "nationalist west" and the
"pro-Russian east." The former Soviet Ukrainian elites,
who are today's oligarch centrists, promote their "pragmatic"
policies as the only means open to Ukrainian society to maintain
"zlahoda" (accord) between different regions and groups.
A favorite buzzword among the elites, "zlahoda" actually
means support for stability and the policies of paternalistic elites
who pretend to know what is best for the country and its citizens.
Without this ingredient, it is argued, western and eastern Ukraine
would soon be at each other's throats and Ukraine would disintegrate.
The country's ruling elites therefore have no interest in overcoming
regional divisions or promoting reconciliation... Without any domestic
or foreign policies, they instead promote what the Ukrainian sociologist
Yevhen Holovakha calls a "momentocracy". That is, everybody
lives for the moment and short term."
Having no consolidating national
idea, Ukrainian elites pursue the so called "Third Way"
policy that, as many specialists in the field have agreed long ago,
leads nowhere but into the "Third World". In the internal
politics, it means a weird combination of the worst features of
a senile communism and nascent capitalism. This choice, Taras Kuzio
remarks, is understandable as it tries to "reconcile what pain
can be applied economically without causing widespread social instability...
A 'Third Way' option defers any decision from being made as to the
crucial questions of whether to move towards Europe or Eurasia in
the foreign domain, or build capitalism or a mixture of capitalism/socialism
in the domestic field. The proponents of a 'Third Way' want the
best of both worlds [...] because this 'Third Wayism' suits their
In the international politics, the
Ukrainian "Third Wayism" ("momentocracy") results
in a clumsy flirting with both Russia and the West called officially
the "multi-vector policy." In practice it means rather
infantile attempts to play both sides against each other and to
get some dubious gains from the petit blackmail. Such a policy puzzles
western observers and prompts some of them to overtly dub it as
"One moment, the country's
leaders have proclaimed their desire to be included in Western institutions;
the next, they have suggested closer integration with their Eastern
neighbor, Russia. One minute, these leaders have appeared to covet
regional power status; the next, they have shrunk from actions that
would help them reach that goal. To explain these apparent contradictions,
officials in Ukraine have talked of a "dual" and "bipolar"
foreign policy, and suggested that the country's most important
goal should be "creating a safe zone of peace and stability"
around it. Unfortunately, this refusal to choose a clear direction
for its foreign policy meant that the country remained in a type
of limbo, hovering ineffectually between East and West, easily swayed
and manipulated by both sides."
Taras Kuzio comments on this even
more sarcastically: "Although Kuchma is fond of stating that
Ukraine's foreign policy is neither "pro-Western" nor
"pro-Russian" but "pro-Ukrainian," it is in
reality more "pro-Kuchma," in that it almost exclusively
serves to further the interests of the executive and its oligarch
The skepticism about Ukraine's "Western
orientation" has not decremented either after its stated goal
to join EU in some unspecified future or after the recent declaration
on a "close integration with NATO" announced by Ukrainian
president and the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) on
May 23. One of the wittiest Ukrainian publicists Tetiana Korobova
has immediately dubbed it a "Dog's Waltz", referring poignantly
to a primitive melody that can be pretentiously played on the piano
with two hands by virtually everybody, without any knowledge of
music. Her colleague from the opposition newspaper Grani
Iryna Pohorelova suggested that the president's declaration was
a merely propagandistic move aimed at breaking the international
isolation of Kuchma after "Gongadzegate" and calming down
the new scandal that might well blow up after the information emerged
on the alleged Kuchma's involvement in the illegal arms trade with
Whatever the reason for president's
declaration might really be, there have been so many contradictory
and confusing statements, on the Ukrainian side, in the past that
very few experts are prone today to accept the new Ukrainian initiatives
at face value, without a proper reservation. So far, Ukraine's broadly
advertised goal is "joining a security system based on NATO,"
rather than becoming a member of the military alliance as such.
Of course, "Ukraine needs to make further progress on economic
and military reforms in order to line up in the queue" - to
both EU and NATO. It is probably also true that a Ukrainian application
for membership in the alliance "would, at this stage, be dismissed
with a laugh," as Yevhen Marchuk, the head of NSDC, stated
out. But it is also true, that Ukrainian
rulers have little will to carry out any reforms that would have
made Ukraine eligible for EU and NATO membership - just because
the very same reforms would dramatically and inevitably subvert
their authoritarian dominance over the country. And these rulers
have even less will and skill to definitely emancipate their country
from Russia, its murky politics and economy. This is perhaps the
main if not the only reason why Ukraine's European aspirations are
dismissed with laugh, while Bulgarian and Romanian, Albanian and
Turkish are accepted.
It is probably time to put it straightforwardly:
"As long as the country's president
is weakened by scandal and dependent on Russian support, there can
be no true West-oriented policy. Additionally, as long as the country
remains dependent on Russian energy, it will need to remain dependent
on Russian political will. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts,
Ukraine has been unable to wean itself away from the Russian energy
trough. And in the last 10 years, Russia has been very willing to
use its control over its neighbor's energy supply to "convince"
Ukraine to support Russia's policies... For this reason, while the
inclination of many leaders of Ukraine is to lean Westward, pragmatically,
the country must stay engaged to the East... Probably it will be
necessary to wait several more years before the country's foreign
policy can begin to move in one consistent direction. Only a post-Kuchma
country with a more diversified energy supply will be truly able
to choose its own independent path."
The international survey carried
out in 2000 in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Russia revealed, with
a great surprise, that it is Ukrainians and Moldovans who "were
the least likely to 'feel European', although both countries were
entirely European in their geography and had made the most overt
commitment to a 'European choice' at the public and official level.
The question wording was: "Do you think ever of yourself as
a European?", and the answers were distributed as following:
Belarus Moldova Russia Ukraine
Often 16 9 18 8
Sometimes 34 25 34 26
Rarely/never 38 56 47 57
Don't know/no answer 12 10 2 8
It looked strange indeed because,
in the same survey, it was Ukrainians and Moldovans who were the
most positive about the EU activities and their nations' tentative
EU membership (50-57% in Ukraine and 50-69% in Moldova), it was
them who felt the least regret for the collapse of the USSR and
the weakest desire to re-establish some new Russia-led union, and
were the least prone to perceive USA, Germany, and European Union
as an external threat to their countries.
The researches have failed to explain
their paradoxical discovery. They simply admitted that "a European
identity, at least at the level of national publics, had no necessary
connection with the wish to become a member of the European Union
itself. Our Moldova respondents. who were among the least likely
to feel 'European', were the most likely to favor their own country's
admission; conversely, our Russians, who were the most inclined
to identify themselves as 'Europeans', were the least enthusiastic
about the EU and possibility of their own membership."
Meanwhile, the most verisimilar
and perhaps the only reasonable explanation for this phenomenon
is that each nation has its own criteria of "Europeanness."
This notion has probably more general, abstract (if not purely geographic
or civilizational) connotation for Russians and Belorusans who,
by and large, have neither desire nor chances to join EU and NATO.
And it is probably more concrete for Ukrainians and Moldovans who,
by and large, want to institutionalize their "Europeanness"
via the membership in respective Euro-Atlantic organizations. To
put it simply, they evaluate their "Europeannes" through,
so to speak, "Copenhagen criteria" and, of course, having
thus Western view on themselves internalized, they dismiss their
own "European" pretensions "with laugh" (as
Mr. Marchuk may have put it).
Paradoxically yet, such a self-depreciation
gives us a grain of hope. It may grow even stronger if we turn to
the results of another sociological survey, carried out again in
Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia among the both general public and so
called "elites". The number of people with "European"
self-identification among the Ukrainian "elites" (52%)
proved to be twice higher than among the general public (24%). By
the same token, 77% of "elites" supported Ukraine's tentative
membership in the EU and 47% in NATO (versus 51% and 29% of the
general public respectively). Neither in Belarus nor in Russia any
significant difference between the elites and general public was
found: there were 26% and, respectively, 20% of the NATO supporters
in Russia, and 23% and, respectively, 26% in Belarus).
The very big difference between
the elites and masses in certain important issues might represent
a threat for the national unity if the predominant attitudes of
both groups are opposite. In Ukraine, however, the predominant mass
attitude to many issues is uncertainty and lack of opinion. Elites
seem to be more competent and, of course, they are in position to
effectively propagate their views among the less competent and "undecided"
part of the population. The problem however is that Ukrainian elites
are divided within themselves, and it is rather old Soviet nomenklatura
than younger professionals and intellectuals who hold upper hand
over society, keeping it alienated, incompetent and undecided. And
it is them, the largest sociological group of the "undecided",
who are the main object of the protracted struggle between the two
major "parties" in Ukraine that may have different political
names but essentially should be defined as "Ukrainian"
and "Soviet". One may conceptualize this struggle as a
continuation of Gorbachov's perestroika, somebody else may consider
it as an attempt to complete the process of nation-building, launched
in the 19th century but dramatically arrested, delayed and destorted,
afterwards. In fact, there is a fierce competition between the two
projects of nation-building or, from the Ukrainian point view, between
the projects of nation-building and nation-destroying.
Due to peculiar circumstances of
this competition, "Ukrainian" has always tended to mean
"European" and, consequently, "democratic",
while "Soviet" has never meant anything else but "Russian",
"imperial", and "anti-Western". In this view,
I would like the metaphor of "two Ukraines" to have rather
temporal than spatial dimension. Ukraine is really divided between
East and West but much more between the Soviet past and the European
 Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, Khto taki ukrayintsi
i choho vony khochut? (Kyiv:
Znannia, 1991), pp. 142-144.
 I discussed this phenomenon in more detail
in "The Nativist/Westernizer Controversy in Ukraine: The
End or the Beginning?" Journal of Ukrainian Studies,
vol.21, nos.1-2 (Summer-Winter 1996), pp. 27-54.
 Ivan L. Rudnytsky, "Ukraine between
East and West," in his Essays in Modern Ukrainian History
(Edmonton: CIUS, 1987 ), p. 8.
 Ihor Sevcenko, Ukraine between
East and West. Essays on Cultural History to the Early 18th Century
(Edmonton & Toronto: CIUS, 1996), pp. 3-4, 6.
 Andrew Wilson, "Elements of a theory
of Ukrainian ethno-national identities," Nations and Nationalism,
vol. 8, no. 1 (2002), p. 32.
 L.Aza, "Tendentsiyi etnomonoho rozvytku
v Ukkrayini," in V.Vorona and M. Shulha (eds.), Ukrayinske
suspilstvo: desiat rokiv nezalezhnosti (Kyiv: Instytut sotsiolohiyi
NANU, 2001), p. 532.
 O.Reznik, "Zovnishniopolitychni oriyentatsiyi
naselennia," in V.Vorona and M. Shulha (eds.), Ukrayinske
suspilstvo: desiat rokiv nezalezhnosti (Kyiv: Instytut sotsiolohiyi
NANU, 2001), p. 242, 239.
 M.Mykhalchenko, "Desiat rokiv nezalezhnosti:
polityko-sotsiolohichna otsinka politychnykh reform," ibid,
 Aza, p. 529. Accordinng to the same source,
36% of the respondents oppose the official "bilimguism"
and 19% remain undecided.
 Stephen White, Ian McAllister, Margot
Light, and John Loewenhardt, "A European or a Slavic Choice?
Foreign Policy and Public Attitudes in Post-Soviet Europe,"
Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 54, no. 2 (2002), p. 196.
 Vorona & Shulha, op. cit., p. 592.
 Reznik, p. 244. The author proves, in particular, that geopolitical
preferences of both Ukrainians and Russians in Western Ukraine
clearly differes from geopolitical preferences of both Ukrainians
and Russians in the East. It makes him to conclude that "rather
regional than ethnic affiliation determines geopolitical preferences."
Ibid., p. 243.
 Volodymyr Voytenko, "Vechory na khutori
poblyzu Aziyi," Den, 2 March 2002, p. 8.
 These feelings were especially strong
in 1994 when the allegedly "pro-Russian" president-elect
Leonid Kuchma won over the allegedly "nationalistic"
incumbent Leonid Kravchuk. See, e.g., D.Williams and R.J.Smith,
"U.S. Intelligence Sees Economic Flight Leading to Breakup
of Ukraine", Washington Post, 25 January 1994; or
"Ukraine - The Birth and Possible Death of a Country,"
The Economist, 7 May 1994. Respective Russian publications
of the time are comprehensively reviewed by Vera Tolz in "Rethinking
Russian-Ukrainian relations: a new trend in nation-building in
post-communist Russia?" Natioans and Nationlism, vol.
8, no. 2 (2002), pp. 238-240.
 The earlier survey revealed that only
1% of respondents in Lviv and 5% in Donetsk agreed that Ukraine
would be better off if divided into separate countries. See Yaroslav
Hrytsak, "Shifting Identities in Western and Eastern Ukraine,"
New School for Social Research. The East & Central Europe
Program. Bulletin, vol. 5/3, no. 18 February 1995), p. 7.
The recent survey confirms these findings indirectly: 58% of the
young respondents in Lviv and 47% in Donetsk answered positively
to the question whether they would agree, if necessary, to defend
their country with arms. (The national average for the positive
answers was 51%; negative 16% and 33% remained undecided). See
Dzerkalo tyzhnia, 23 September 2001, p. 18.
 Yevgeniy Golovakha, Transformiruyushcheyesia
obshchestvo. Opyt sociologicheskogo monitoringa v Ukraine.
Kiev: Institute of Sociology, 1996, p. 102. Two years earlier,
in another survey, 20% of respondents stated socialism would be
the most desirable economic system for Ukraine, 18% preferred
capitalism, 20% expressed uncertainty, while 42% rejected both
systems and suggested that Ukraine should opt for its own way.
All these results largely correlate with subsequent sociological
findings. A number of surveys carried out in 2000-2001 proved
that there are some 14-17% of respondents who support the communist
ideology, 11-19% who support pro-Western national democrats, there
are also some smaller groups that support other political/ideological
trends, and up to 40% who "don't care". See Den,
24 July 2001, p. 1.
 Politychnyi portret Ukrayiny, no.
18 (Kyiv: Democratic Initiatives Center, 1997), pp. 111-118.
 Den, 16 July 1998, p. 1.
 The Economist, 4 February 1995,
 Yuriy Andrukhovych, Krytyka, vol. 6, no. 6
(June 2002), p. 2.
 Yevhen Holovakha, "Osoblyvosti politychnoyi
svidomosti: ambivalentnist suspilstva ta osobystosti," Politolohichni
chytannia, no. 1 (1992), pp. 24-39.
 Samuel P.Huntington, The Third Wave.
Democracy in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1993), p.108.
 Taras Kuzio, "Between Totalitarianism
and Democracy: Assessing Regime Type in Ukraine," Paper
delivered at the conference Ukraine: Challenges of a Country
in Transition (University of Fribourg, 19-20 April 2002).
 Edward Shils, 'Nation, nationality, nationalism
and civil society', Nations and Nationalism, vol.1, no.1
(March 1995), p.118.
 Taras Kuzio, "Elites not interested
in healing divisions in society," Kyiv Post, 17 May
 Kuzio, "Between Totalitarianism and
 Tammy M. Lynch, "Post-Election Return
to Foreign Policy Status," The NIS Observed: An Analytical
Review, vol. 7, no. 9 (22 May 2002).
 Taras Kuzio, "'Pro-Ukrainian' or
'Pro-Kuchma'? Ukraine's Foreign Policy in Crisis," RFERL
Nesline, 26 April 2002.
 See Grani, no. 20 (27 May 2002);
 "Ukraine Seeks Closer Relations with
NATO as Top Priority," Jamestown Foundation Monitor,
vol. 8, no. 102 (24 May 2002).
 White et al., op cit., p. 189.
 Ibid., pp. 190, 192, 186.
 Transition, no. 14 (1995).
 The former project, as a leading Ukrainian
intellectuals argues, is an embodiment of "Ukraine's new
opportunities," and means "the radical break with Empire
and gradual integration into an essentially non-Russian, European
civilization. The project seems to be very adventurous (I wouldn't
say crazy) under current circumstances. But this makes it even
more challenging and attractive for the new Ukrainian elites,
particularly for the socially engaged youth."
Yuriy Andrukhovych, "Fragment i komentar," Rossijsko-ukrainskiy
bulleten, ‹ 6-7 (Moscow & Kyiv: Central European Information
Agency, 2000), p. 101.