Challenging myths about post-Maidan Ukraine


During the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, many observers have commented on strains of nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism in the country, notes Taras Kuzio, author of “Ukraine. Democratization, Corruption and the New Russian Imperialism” (2015).

But unfortunately, these comments have often missed the mark. How identity and prejudice shape Ukrainian politics is far more complicated than is commonly depicted, he writes for The Washington Post:

Rather than focus on Svoboda and its kindred, politicians and scholars must also understand the pro-Soviet, Pan-Slavic and Russian nationalists that are especially prevalent in the Crimea, Odessa and Donbas. For example, although Anton Shekhovtsov keeps track of these disparate Russian nationalist, fascist and neo-Nazi groups fighting for the separatist cause, we know relatively little about how these groups impact Ukrainian politics.

And these forces have been anti-Maidan, occasionally separatist and always Ukrainophobic. They strongly oppose European integration, believe Ukraine is a natural part of the Russian world and feel strongly that Ukrainians and Russians are, as Putin has repeatedly said, “odyn narod” (one people).

These forces are clearly important not only to Ukrainian politics, but to how Western countries, and a newly elected American president, must approach the region, adds Kuzio, a senior research fellow at the Canadian Institute of Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta.

On July 20, investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet was assassinated in Kyiv, adds the Atlantic Council’s Melinda Haring, a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy:

Sheremet hosted a morning show at Radio Vesti and was a top reporter at Ukrainska Pravda. A crusading journalist and native of Minsk, Belarus, he had already been expelled from both Belarus and Russia. He was killed by a car bomb. It would be easy to dismiss Sheremet’s murder as an outlier. Unfortunately, it’s anything but. His death is merely the most drastic example of the steady deterioration of press freedom in Ukraine in recent months.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email