Ukrainian Jewish Heritage – Message to the Leaders of the Maidan

Vitaly Nachmanovych is a historian and ethnopolitologist specializing in Jewish Ukrainian history. His accomplishments are numerous. Among other things he is:

  • a leading researcher at the Museum of History in Kyiv, with a special focus on the atrocity of Babyn Yar,
  • the author of numerous articles and the editor of numerous publications dealing with the Holocaust, WWII, Judaism, and ethno-national problems in modern Ukraine,
  • a Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
  • a Lecturer on Judaica at the Kyiv-Mohyla National University,
  • and a member of the working groups drafting Ukrainian legislation on ethnic policy.

Recently Mr. Nachmanovych wrote an open letter … not to the leaders of the discredited and despised government of Victor Yanukhovych … but to the leaders of the Maidan, those who would lead a new and modern Ukrainian state.

Volodya Valkov, of the Jewish Heritage Museum in Lviv, narrates his message.



Open Statement to the Leaders of Maidan

One can expect from a human being only that which he or she is capable of. You were the leaders of the parliamentary opposition and each of you would, probably, make a better president than the scared creature that is today trying by all means to hold on to power.

But the situation is such that we have to lead the civil resistance.

Unfortunately, members of parliament usually do not make good revolutionaries.

There are a lot of factors that can cause a revolution, but there are only two specifically subjective ones. Revolution takes place in a country, whose leader is inadequate for his position. This can be a miserly head of garage, an enlightened French king, or a well-mannered Russian emperor.  The main point is that such a leader does not solve critical problems, but goes hunting crows or bears, offering his subjects to have a cookies or cabbage.

But the revolution also happens in a country whose political elite is unable to remove an inadequate leader from power in a peaceful and, more or less, legitimate way. And it happens when the opposition gets the power but is unable to solve the backlog of problems. In such a case the “real” revolutionaries come to power, such as the Jacobins in France or the Bolsheviks in Russia.

Unfortunately, the “real” revolutionaries make bad parliamentarians. They don’t, in general, turn into anything that’s good, but rather become warriors and executioners.

How to take power away from the resident of Mezhyhirya [i.e., Yanukhovych] in a peaceful and legitimate way you can learn from lawyers and political technologists. But, as a person who comes to Maidan again and again, following your call or the call of my own conscience, I feel obligated, as a historian, to deliver a few points:

  1. Today we have one main problem and one main threat. This is not Yanukovych, not his courts and his “Berkut”. All of this, ultimately, we can take care of. The threat comes from this new strategic ally, who has proven his readiness to go ahead with direct intervention in order to achieve geo-political dreams. The problem lies with the East and South of our country, where the majority of the people still sincerely support the resident of Mezhyhirya.
  2. We can’t do anything about Putin. His relies on the experience of the “policemen of Europe” from Nicolas I to Leonid Brezhnev. And he also has tens of millions of his subjects, who sincerely believe Ukraine to be a part of Russia, Ukrainians a part of the Russian people, and Ukrainian language a dialect of the Russian language.
  3. We can’t hope for Europe to help us. Almost all of the past 100 years of its history following the end of the First World War – is an example of surrender. Munich in 1938, Yalta in 1945 and Helsinki in 1975 – the milestones of their glorious path. Europe’s last “victorious march” on the East was possible exclusively thanks to Gorbachov, because Europe itself is incapable of liberating or protecting anyone.
  4. The United States has been the savior of the West and democracy three times in the past century. Unfortunately, the current leader of the White House is unlike Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan. However I still think he will not be able to ignore the international commitments given to Ukraine by his predecessor. If it’s not too late.
  5. Even Putin does not have the guts to intervene into a neighboring state. For this he needs an invitation from the “legal” president of Ukraine, or at least from a newly created “state” such as the South Osettia. He has to be sure that the local population will welcome his warriors.
  6. In order for the residents of Kharkov and Donetsk not to support the new Anschluss, they have to transform into the supporters of the independent democratic Ukraine. It is very important because these people are not just “fools”, “unconscious” or “uneducated”. They are  – different. They have a psychology of the “welfare people”, their culture is that of “little Russians”, their historical memory is that of Soviet people. This means that they require minimal, but reliable social guarantees, free existence of Russian culture and preservation of Soviet monuments and holidays. We have to give them all of this.
  7.  The only way toward this is budgetary and cultural decentralization. If Donbas “feeds” the entire country, let them limit themselves to providing decent salaries to their own residents. If Odesa considers itself a Russian city, let them talk and study in Russian. If in Kharkiv people want to see monuments of Lenin, let us take all the Lenin monuments in Ukraine and put them there.
  8. And one more thing. Under our current officials there can be no budget that could feed any one else besides them. Therefore, we have to, finally, create a financial basis for the civil society – the European legal standards for charitable activity. Let churches and communities, local philanthropists and private foundations support everyone, who needs help, let them finance schools, hospitals, museums and libraries.

We cannot quickly transform our countrymen, but we can create conditions for them to live in a modern European multi-cultural state. We have to understand: they can live in “our” country, but we cannot live in “theirs”.

– Vitaly Nachanovych, historian

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