Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We knew it all along -- Ukraine's History Being Reclaimed by Ukraine


For Ukrainians, at least those outside of Ukraine, this is old news. For Ukrainians in many parts of Ukraine who grew up under the heel of tsarist and Soviet russification, this is new news. Finally the powers that be are getting off their knees, and beginning to hold their heads high.

The Russians will be spitting mad. How dare these Ukrainians say this? The fact that it's true, and that the Russians and their scholars have been deforming history, well.... empires die hard. Now to get around to fixing all the Western academic books on the archaeology of "southern Russia," the relations of Byzantium and "Russia," early Rus' history, and so many other aspects of scholarly disinformation.

This is an enormous undertaking, because not only does the information have to get out into the academic and popular world, it first needs to reach Ukrainian historians and other scholars. So many of the older generation have been spouting the party line history for so long, they think it's true. The Ukrainian academies, esp. the Akademiia Nauk (Academy of Sciences) needs to get new blood, not thinking along Soviet pro-Russian anti-Ukrainian lines. Amazing that some Ukrainians who studied under that system still do not look objectively at the sources and at the Russian manipulation of history over the centuries, and feel inferior to the Russian imperial mindset. The documents and material are out there. We just need to reclaim them and put them out there for the world.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Kosovo and Canada

from the CBC:
"...Aurel Braun, of the international relations program at the University of Toronto, said the Canadian government wants to ensure the province is a democratic entity that respects the rule of law and human rights.
He told CBC News that Canada is also worried about separatism, although there are significant differences between the situation in Kosovo and Canada.
"While I'm sure Canada will be recognizing Kosovo, I would be skeptical if Canada would be the first or one of the very first countries. It may be prudent to wait a little bit, but I don't think Canada will be too far along in recognizing Kosovo."
On Sunday, the Parti Québócois sent congratulations to the people of Kosovo...."

There should be no comparisons between events in Europe, Asia, and Africa and the countries of the Western Hemisphere, and Australia. The latter two -- apart from the aboriginal populations -- were colonized, settled by outsiders. So the newcomers 500-year-old or so history really doesn't count for much. In the former continents, after the migrations settled down, the people remained (for the most part) where they had been since first settlement millennia ago.

Neither the Quebequois nor even the rest of the Canadian population are nations in the true sense, the way European ones (for example) are. The latter are autochtonous -- indigenous, native, formed or originating in the place where found. Since prehistoric or early historic times, they have always been there. For Europeans -- at least until the former colonials began to immigrate to the lands of their former imperialists -- their land was theirs, no need to explain, to ponder over roots and origins.

In Canada and the U.S., what is Canadian and what is American still has not been decided nor defined. It can't be, because these are former colonies, on land they had invaded and colonized (ok, stolen) from the inhabitants. Even the Asian and Caucasus portions of the Russian Federation are similar, because they had been invaded by tsarist forces a few centuries ago. No wonder Putin is opposed to Kosovo. He has too many places in his own supposed federation that still have not accepted Russian rule (Chechnya, anyone?).

So while the PQ think they have a parallel in Kosovo, it just ain't so.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What a difference a place of birth makes

From CTV.CA:

"... Seifert, who was dubbed by some as the Beast of Bolzano, was an ethnic German born in Ukraine when it was a republic in the Soviet Union. He was born in Landau, a German-speaking town near Odessa. He moved to Canada in 1951..."

From CNN:

"...Seifert, a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian origin, has acknowledged being a guard at the SS-run camp but denies being involved in atrocities..."

Does being born in a particular place make you what you are, or does being born into a particular family do that? Seifert was no more Ukrainian than I am a German -- and I was born in Germany. But other than my birth certificate (which did not make me a German citizen), there is no other connection for me to that country. True, I did live the first four years of my life there, but it was in a DP (displaced persons) camp, a refugee place, waiting for some country to take us.

Citizenship and nationality and ethnic origin are all very intertwined, are not always the same, and some, not all, make the person. You can be a Schwab, born in Rumania or Hungary, but you will always know that you are German. You can be an Armenian born in Turkey, but that certainly will not make you a Turk! Your citizenship papers and passport may give place of birth, but your cultural and ethnic heritage -- and family -- make you what you are.

How much clearer it would be if the media identified someone as "born in Ukraine to Jewish parents," or "born in England to Ukrainian parents," and on and on. The family influence is there much more than the surroundings of where you grew up. Of course the latter does have an impact on your life, but not to the extent that family does.

Those of us who started out as immigrants and refugees certainly do appreciate the countries that welcomed us (sometimes not that eagerly, it seems) and whose naturalized citizens we are. And we are fiercely patriotic about our new homelands. But the patriotism of the ancestral land is also strong, in a different way. Sometimes there are interesting variations, where you can distinguish between Canadian Ukrainians and American Ukrainians -- so place does have an influence.

Back to the media -- interesting how, since 1991, Ukrainians became more visible in the news, especially when it came to something negative. If it was a positive story, the person was still Russian- or Soviet-born, but if it was negative, all of a sudden, the person was Ukrainian-born, even if his/her ethnic identity was not Ukrainian and if, at the time, as during WWII, Ukraine as an entity did not exist de jure.

Will time change and heal this? We shall see.