Sunday, December 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Maidan Highlights ‘De-Sovietization of Ukrainian Mass Consciousness,’ Shiropayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 29 – The Maidan in Kyiv is a product of “the de-Sovietization of Ukrainian mass consciousness” and of the concomitant rise of a genuine and positive nationalism which seeks its realization as part of Europe, two developments which set Ukraine apart from Russia and make a Russian Maidan unlikely anytime soon, according to Aleksey Shiropayev.

            The differences between Ukraine and the Russian Federation and even more between the Ukrainian people and the Russian people can be immediately felt in the Maidan, the Russian regionalist argues. There, it is clear that Ukraine is a nation state of the Ukrainians and not something else (

            Stalin and “the entire power of the empire” were thrown against Ukrainian national resistance during and after World War II, but Moscow has clearly failed.  Ukrainians have retained their nationalism, and they have achieved soething else: a much higher level of “de-sovietization” of their consciousness than the Russians who remain soviet in many ways

            The key reality, Shiropayev says, is that “a large number of Ukrainians conceive the Euro-Maidan and Euro-Revolution as a continuation and even apotheosis of their struggle.” Indeed, for many, “Euro-integration has become a synonym for the independence of Ukraine, for the struggle forits identity.”

            “If you are for Europe, that means you are for Ukraine, and vice versa,” Shiropayev continues.  “Europeanand Ukrainian identity are not mied together but united in the consciousness of Ukrainians,” a logical situation given that “Ukraine always positioned itself as part of Europe ... which for a certain time had been a colony of the eastern empire.”

            It is only superficially paradoxical that Ukrainian nationalism is behind the push for Ukrainian integration into Europe, he says.  “For Ukrainian society, European integration is equivalent to overcoming the colonial past,” much as was the case for Eastern Europe, “including Poland and the Baltic countries,” in the early 1990s.

            Its people recognize that “Ukraine can survive as a country and asa uniue nation only within the European community.” Thus choosing to join Europe is “a civilizational choice of positively understood nationalism,” a choice not to become part of Putin’s custos union, “the latest historical edition of the Horde.”

            But it is also true that “Europe needs Ukraine.” The Maidan has within it the intense idealism that many Europeans have lost.  Shiropayev says he “believs that Ukraine will become a breath of fresh air for Europe, the source of new creative forces, and a stimulus for the revitalization of the European spirit.”

            But the Euro-Maidan also has important, even fateful consequences for the Russian Federation and its people, Shiropayev says.  It is a challenge to Russian nationalism which remains mired in imperialism symbolically and ideologically. In fact, “Russian self-identification as a rule is officiously imperial ... and in it there is nothing [truly ethnic] Russian.”

            Thus the challenge that the Maidan poses: “Will [Russians] recognize in Ukraine the genuine and initial Rus and thus critically evaluate [their] own non-Rus, [their] entire ‘horde’ state mythology?” To date, the answer is no, and consequently, “Russian nationalism unlike Ukrainian has not become a factor of modernization.”

            Putin and the Kremlin are very much afraid that Russians will learn from the Ukrainians, that Russians will see the Ukrainian choice as the only possible one for themselves, that they will recognize the following fact: Russian culture is “European,” and only the Russian state is “Asiatic.”

            If Ukraine succeeds in rejoining Europe, Russia will have to deal with “a successful European Slavic country located right next to Russia.”  That is the Kremlin’s “nightmare” because it will be an inspiration to Russians, and “even the ‘great’ Putin will not have the power” to prevent the consequences of that.

            Russians “sooner or later” are going to have to decide “who is closer” to them: Vitaly Klichko or Kadyrov, the Slavic people on the Maidan or Central Asia” and who they want to be part of us and thus be.  “One can say,” Shiropayev concludes bluntly, “this is a question of life or death.”

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