Monday, June 25, 2007

Muesum of Soviet Occupation of Ukraine

The initiative to open a museum of Soviet occupation of Ukraine came from the Ukrainian president Viktor Yuschenko, after he saw a similar show of historic distortion in Georgia (where the museum of Soviet occupation of Georgia is located). Yet to avoid a backlash from a strong opposition, the Ukrainian museum is sponsored by an NGO, the "Memorial" group.

The museum had always been there, but its original title "Museum of totalitarianism" did not attract much visitors, its renaming into the "Museum of Soviet occupation" attracted a landslide of protesters, and later actual visitors. The American ambassador together with NATO representatives have been among the visitors. As the reporter of Russia's daily Izvestia strolled through the outskirts of the museum, she observed the following:

"Ukraine under Hitler was much better off than during the Soviet Union", - the museum tries to show. President Yuschenko leaves the issue without comment. "Hitler's troops promoted the Ukrainian theater. They temporarily halted Stalin's repressions. The Soviets destroyed the Ukrainian republic, founded in 1918", - say the museum members. (The Ukrainian republic was shortlived and in the early 1920-s was incorporated into the young Soviet Union, the Western part was "occupied" by Poland - blog author)

The founder of the museum battles Soviet totalitarianism by hunting for archives in Russia. He is helped by the Moscow and St. Petersburg branches of the "Memorial" group. We send our delegates with "Kiev" cakes and Ukrainian "gorilka" (Ukrainian home-made vodka - blog author) to their archives. In return we get documented materials, of which we could not have dreamed of.

Now the museum knows all about three Ukrainian golodomor's (labeled in Ukraine as intentional starvation campaigns - blog author), about the slave-like existence of peasants who were denied internal passports, and how the Russians systematically ate all of Ukraine's produce.

When the Izvestia correspondent asked why the perpetrator behind all the "evil crimes" against the Ukrainian people was labeled as "Moscow" and not the "Communist party", the museum members claimed that that was the way the archives explained it. Perhaps, also the Ukrainian museum fails to show that millions of Russians died of starvation during the golodomor, something that was acknowledged by Ukrainian president Yuschenko. This makes the whole event unlikely to be a planned act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

The same goes for repressions against the kulaks (wealthy landowners), which hit the fertile lands of Russia as much as Ukraine. The majority of repressions against the party apparatus hit Moscow more than any other city in Russia. The founders of the museum also forget the multitude of benefits their nation received under the so-called "Soviet occupation". The Crimean peninsula given to Ukraine as a gift, an unthinkable act in world practice also does not appear in the museum as an exhibit.

There is nothing wrong in portraying the enormous amount of wrongdoings of the Soviet regime. No one denies them. Yet, it is very different to portray the wrongdoings of the Soviet regime as intentional "crimes" initiated by Russians against Ukrainians, Georgians, and anyone else. Forgetting Nazi Germany's acts of genocide on Ukrainian territory, which together with Belarus saw perhaps the greatest amount of SS activity, including executions, village burning, slave labor, than most Soviet regions at the time, is close to being a crime by itself. Total civilian losses in Ukraine during three years of Nazi occupation are estimated at 5-8 million.

In an online survey hosted by Izvesita, 57% of respondents jokingly said that it is Ukraine who occupied Russia, because the Russia of the ninth and tenth centuries had its capital in Kiev, now the capital of an independent Ukraine.

7 comments:

artquest1 said...

Hello,
I just returned from a three week visit to Russia, essentially the Northwest, and while I heard many comments from native Russians concerning their displeasure (and occasional anger) at Ukraine and the "loss" of the Crimea, to my "Western" ears, most sounded like Nationalist chatter, as few people were able to offer a rationalization for their negative feelings. I was very appreciative of your essay, as I felt it supplied not only vital background information, but also provided much information that will cause me to think anew about these issues.
I am curious, what is your background, and do you write from Russia or from the west?
Bob Souvorin bobsouvorin@mindspring.com

pantxo petate said...

Today a read this coment on the russian site
http://quotes.dirty.ru/

dl2kq: Поляки хотят пересмотреть результаты Второй Мировой Войны? Можно им перепоказать.

nikolay i. said...

I am curious, what is your background, and do you write from Russia or from the west?

Bob,

Thank you for the comment. Hope you enjoyed Russia. Russia's relations with its neighbors is so complicated that it would take 50 historians to fully grasp the issue.

I write from the "west", as there is no need for me to state my opinion in Russia, it is very common, at least in the key points.

I am not a an expert on Russia, nor a journalist. Maybe a casual observer would be a good way to describe it. But I have enough knowledge to understand the multitude of misconceptions and biases against Russia in western coverage. Hence the reason for blogging.

nikolay i. said...

Можно им перепоказать

As the Russians say "Руки чешутся!"
Although I think Germany would now too gladly participate in this showing after all of Poland's bickering.

Vlad said...

Yes Russians did dies during Stallins repressions, so as Belurussian, Georgians, Latvians, Estonians and a lot of others.
The only problem with you point is that Moscow did not trie to wipe those nations from the face of the planet, but he did try to do that to Ukraine and anyone who spoke Ukrainian language. One book that describes it the best is called;
"The Harvest of Sorrow" horiffic stuff.
Please see this short film:
http://www.holodomorthemovie.com

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