Staunton, November 9 – Ukrainians have suffered so much over the last century as a result of the crimes of others that they have often presented themselves to others and even to themselves as victims, Anatoly Podolsky and Gulnara Bekirova say; but now they are proud to present themselves to others and to see themselves as victors, not just victims.
Bekirova, a specialist on the history of the Crimean Tatars, tells Denis Timoshenko of Radio Liberty that she “doesn’t like the term ‘victim-people.’” Rather there are peoples who have suffered genocide, deportation, mass murder and other crimes. Those things are important parts of a nation’s history (radiosvoboda.org/a/28842978.html).
But so too, she continues, is the heroism of the people who resisted these things and achieved others. “For example, many representatives of the Crimean Tatars do not view themselves as victims. Today, they are in an unprecedented fashion resisting an occupation.” That is the work of heroes, not victims.
Podolsky, director of the Ukrainian Center for the Study of the History of the Holocaust, agrees. History of tragedies is important to the extent that it is incorporated in how people see themselves and behave now. That many were victims is something everyone must talk about but that a nation consists only of victims is wrong.
History is more complicated than many imagine or want to believe, the center director continues. One of the complexities is that more different peoples are involved in Ukrainian history than many Ukrainians think, and Ukrainians were to be found on more than one side of any of the tragedies of the past, Podolsky says, even if many don’t want to acknowledge that.
Bekirova agrees and says that it is terribly important to create “a common history of Ukraine,” especially given that “before the annexation of Crimea few succeeded in including the history of the Crimean Tatars in general historiographic discourse.” Now that has changed; but textbooks need to be rewritten to reflect this change.
She adds that “when we speak about the victim syndrome, we must remember its opposite side – the heroic behavior of people.” And Podolsky says bluntly: “Today Ukrainians are not a victim people. They have showed themselves and the world that we do not want to remain a colony on the post-Soviet space.”
“The generation of my son, of young people from 25 to 35 and even closer do not feel themselves to be victims,” and they do not see their nation as a victim and nothing else.