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The Ukrainian Gopak in the Western Media

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Gopak is stereotyped as a genuine Ukrainian dance. In reality it is a farmer 's dance and the elements of it we can find in Bavarian, Check or Slovakian dances and downwards towards Tirole and even Switherland. Recently, the events on my native territory (I was born and lived for 33 years there) had revealed the deeply rooted tendency of the Western media, both liberal and conservative, in Europe and the US to treat the Ukraine and the people there as some kind of Gopakians and explain their behavior accordingly. Myths are flying around like flies, doing more harm than good to anyone. In the below I would make an effort to isolate three of those and reveal the 'awful truth ' as much as I can.

::::::::


1. Ukrainians are a nation and Ukraine is their land where they lived before and live now.

Whatever the definition of the nation is, Ukrainians do not satisfy any of those. Neither is Ukraine 'their ' land. That is not to insult them in any way, just pure fact. Even the name of that territory ' Ukraine ' comes from the Russian ' Okraina ', that is the far province, the outskirts. Current Ukrainian territory administratively was carved by Stalin and Khrushev, the centralists ( Khrushev was from Ukraine, by the way). Originally, in the 1st millennium, the middle part of Ukraine with Kiev (it is about 1500 years old) was the Kiev Rus, the flourishing ancient Russian Princedom, whole first rulers were Scandinavians, the Viking kings. (Hey, media folks, maybe we should claim Ukraine for Sweden now?). After Mongol invasion, 300 years of dark period, those territories were claimed by whoever could claim those, including Hungary, Austrians, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, you name it. The people who lived and farmed there fought the daily fight for survival and adjustment. The new rulers administered them and the name Ukrainians eventually emerged as a definition for the people from that region, whether they still lived there or lived in Hungary, Prague or even Warsaw or Moscow. In fact, millions of the people from that region live in other countries as well as millions of Russians, thousands of Poles, Hungarians and others live there. They developed and maintained their own dialect, the same way the people of Provence did that in France or people from Louisiana did that in the US. They also developed and maintained a subculture the typical way we see that in the already abovementioned Bavaria and Tirole.
At the same time as a matter of survival they adjusted to the religion of the rulers: the majority adhered to the Russian (Greek) Orthodox Church, the original religion of their forefathers and the people under Poland, Austria and Hungary adhered to Catholicism, or rather a mixed Unia ( Greek- Catholic) religion under pressure.
It would be fair to characterize the Ukraine as a subcultural district, similar to many such districts in Europe, but as much a nation as, say, Texas in the US or Quebec in Canada.






2. Ukrainians were colonized by Russia and always wanted independence and to be a part of Europe. At least the Western Ukrainians were that way.

Russia never considered Ukraine as a colony. In fact, Russia never had ones. All the territories the Russian army had taken during the numerous wars as well as by treaties were immediately considered parts of the Empire and people in those were treated exactly the same as all the other people in the Empire. Actually, the Eastern Ukraine with Kiev itself returned to Russia fairly quickly through negotiations with Poland and the people there were considered religious brothers through the same religion. Russian Tsars cared for Ukraine. Kiev was called a sacred city, Mother of all Russian Cities. The people of the West do not know (or maybe do not care) that Kiev is considered a Russian Orthodox religious Center, similar to Mecca. The Lavra cave monastery is a place of annual piligrimage for thousands of people from all over the Orthodox domain. Great Mendeleev was one of the founders of the Kiev Polytechnical Institute (currently the Ukrainian Technical University).
In all fairness we have to admit that being the citizens of Empire was not always that good. Katherine the Second, that enlightened ruler we all like so much here, in fact extended the status of the serfdom over the Ukrainian peasants, thus enslaving them. But at that time all Russian peasants were that way, so colonizing here is out of the question. Rather the western rulers brutally colonized those people. Polish magnates, for instance bought and sold people there all the time. Austrians were actually more civilized, but they considered all the Slavic people as second class citizens anyway.
The correct way to say would be that people of Ukraine wanted always to be left alone, while the rulers and elite around them and inside played there games and spilled their blood.
It was Europe who actually wanted Ukraine, not vice- versa. Swedish King Charles the 12th coerced the Ukrainian military leader Mazepa to treason in the 18th Century, but their troops were defeated under Poltava by Peter the Great.
In 1918 for a short time it was occupied by Germany and then the puppet Independent Nationalist Directoria in Kiev engaged itself to selling the country to the highest bidder and even wanted to petition to become a part of France.
Hitler promised Ukraine to his ' knights of the SS order '. He counted on the destructive and murderous policies of Stalin, who organized the artificial hunger there in 1931-1933, killing millions and quelling all resistance to his collectivization policy. But Stalin oppressed all people of Russia the same way, so Ukrainian sufferings, though tragic and horrible cannot be considered the results of colonization or russification in any way. Germans, who 'liberated ' the Ukrainians from Russia in 1941 and stayed there until 1943 mercilessly destroyed it, killed millions of absolutely innocent civilians, and (what an irony) retained the Stalin 's system of collective farming as useful for Germany. Ukrainian Unia bishops (not all of them) actively supported the Germans in the germanization of the native population. Kiev is the place of Baby Yar, the notorious place of Jewish killing, where only in two days in September 1941 about 50000 people were machine- gunned by Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators. Those people had to walk through the city before they were shot and all others could see them but there were no demonstrations, no vigils, nor even prayers. In Lvov, the center of the Western Ukraine, the 'Nachtigal ' batallion , consisting of vehement Ukrainian nationalists and under German command performed atrocities beyond belief over defenseless Jewish women and children. All of that is very well documented.
Even after the war the Russian government 's policy was far from colonial. It was oppressive the same way as everywhere else, but no more. The country was rebuilt, both Western and Eastern parts of it. Until Chernobyl happened Ukraine was considered the best place to live in the former USSR. It has to be noted that whatever harm was done to the people of Ukraine, that harm was done by their own party elite, mostly native people themselves and whatever happened was not the result of any russification. There was no national oppression.

3. The current events are the logical continuation of the events starting in 1991 when democracy and freedom started in Ukraine and show the power of democracy leading the Ukrainian people to the real prosperity.

In the above phrase every word is a lie. In 1991 the official referendum among the population of the USSR showed that the population did not want the division. Despite the will of the people the nationalist elites (most of them former communist party members) of all those territories practically carved out the domains for themselves. In all those domains the life of the people turned from bad to worse economically. The institutions of socialism were vehemently destroyed (except for the Byellorussia) and nothing was put instead. The elite became rich from stealing the assets of the people. Bloody skirmishes mounted and will continue to mount because nationalism has too bad a legacy. All political dealers we had seen so far from Yushenko to Yanukovich have nothing to do with the people of Ukraine; they are obviously puppets of different forces and do not even bother to hide that. Freedom did not start in Ukraine in 1991 and neither it flourishes now. Freedom cannot suddenly 'start '. What started and is being promoted is actually the process of squeezing out the life and blood of the Slavic people by the predators of all kinds, promotion of hostility against their natural allies with the old goal revived- to make the Ukraine or whatever will be left of it a buffer territory, a No- Zone between Russia and the West. With Chernobyl looming such policy is not just myopic; it is a crime.

I would like to conclude with one stunning observation: both liberal and conservative media in this country and in Europe is incredibly arrogant, mean, incompetent and cruel towards the people of Ukraine. The toll they have paid so far for all those games (and will pay more) is not even discussed. Deep analysis never takes place. There is certainly absolutely no compassion or respect. The perception is that everything coming from the West (even Bush!) is great and everything coming from the East is bad. As if the tragic Yugoslavian events when EU and US provoked the genocide, promoted it, and eventually destroyed the country hadn 't taught anyone. The US and European aircraft bombed Belgrade, not the Russians. I weeped when the heroic Serbian capital was bombed, and now I am scared to witness the NATO bombers over the roofs of Kiev. That can most likely happen again.

 

The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

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