So what exactly does Viktor Fyodorovych hope to accomplish? In 50 short days he’s managed to roll back nearly all the advances made in desovietization in the five years following the Orange Revolution. In 2004 Yanukovych saw the presidency slip from his grasp... he obviously took the charges of election rigging very personally. But the indications so far are that 2004 isn’t far back enough for Yanukovych. It looks like he wants to roll Ukraine all the way back to the USSR of the 1930s.
Eighty years ago, the Ukraine we know today was split among Poland and the Soviet Union. Today, Yanukovych’s words and actions are dividing the country along similar lines. He couldn’t care less for the western oblasts. His appointments to the “governor” posts in the western part of Ukraine are jokes. Yanukovych and his handlers knew full well the reaction Dmytro Tabachnyk’s ministerial appointment would elicit in the western regions. (Tabachnyk has repeatedly claimed that “galicians” are not even Ukrainian.) He is just one example. In terms of a range of humanitarian issues from language to history to media access, the big bully Yanukovych is repeatedly slapping western Ukrainian faces. And like the true coward a bully really is, he’s doing do so from afar. He has yet to visit the western part of Ukraine since his election. He has been to Russia twice.
Yanukovych was not elected president by a clear majority of Ukraine’s 36 million voters last February. He beat Yulia Tymoshenko by fewer than a million votes. Yet he is ruling in complete disregard to the regions of the country that did not support him. He has failed to become president of the entire country.
It seems that Yanukovych is borrowing a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook on Ukraine. Recall Putin’s words to George Bush when the two were presidents: “You don't understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.” Yanukovych’s presidential policies in his first 50 days suggest that he subscribes to Putin’s view of Ukraine that corresponds to the way Ukraine was divided by the Soviets and Poles in the 1930s. Heck, Yanukovych thinks the idea of building a Stalin monument should be put to a referendum!
The 1920’s saw a period of ukrainization and economic boom in the Soviet half of the country while the Poles persecuted Ukrainians in the West. Lenin’s nationality and economic policies initially allowed Ukraine to flourish until Stalin took the helm to take his “great leap forward.” By the 1930s, Ukrainians were dying by design and non-Ukrainians were “resettled” from Russia and Belarus to populate the depopulated areas with more pliable ethnographic material.
Of course the likes of Yanukovych – the son of immigrants from Belarus and Russia – will deny that Holodomor was genocide! Otherwise, they would be admitting that their ancestors came to Ukraine as a result of Stalin’s evil plan. It causes them psychological discomfort to acknowledge that the Soviet Union did anything wrong.
In the 1930s the mass murder of Ukrainians was accompanied by the killing of the country’s “spirit” in its priesthood and “mind” in its intelligentsia. That defined the “Soviet genocide in Ukraine” according to Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide and the father of the United Nations’ convention on genocide.
In 2010, Yanukovych only supports and enjoys the support of the Kremlin-loyal Russian Orthodox Church while snubbing the Ukrainian churches. In terms of the pro-Ukrainian intelligentsia, Yanukovych won’t let them anywhere near the reigns of political power. The intelligentsia writes open letters of protest that fall on deaf ears... its members might as well be dead.
Yanukovych is doing everything possible to appease the Kremlin in its efforts to recreate the USSR, but he is only creating instability in Ukraine. With Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the Soviet dream has been dying a slow death for nearly two decades. It’s taking that long because change was doled out in evolutionary, peaceful doses. Yanukovych’s presidency is a frantic final stab at making the Soviet dream a reality. "If he is stopped now, Sovdepiya will die in a couple of years!"
Instability in Ukraine can result in protracted chaos or swift regime change. The worst-case scenario would make the break-up of the former Yugoslavia look like a schoolyard spat. God forbid. A bad-case scenario would see the Ukraine reorganize itself into a federation (another one of Tabachnyk’s dreams), with its constituent parts in the east and Crimea legally joining Moscow’s orbit (via Russia’s 2001 law on accepting new member states – or parts thereof - into the Russian Federation*). The best case scenario would be the quick and painless toppling of the Yanukovych regime before things get out of hand. And, like Orange in 2004, may it be more Gandhi than Guevara.
But those with an ear to the ground are hearing different songs in response to Yanukovych’s rendition of the Beatles’ “Back to the USSR” and it isn’t “Give peace a chance” any longer. This time around the prelude is the distinct chords of The Who’s “We won’t get fooled again”...
* ФЕДЕРАЛЬНЫЙ КОНСТИТУЦИОННЫЙ ЗАКОН “О ПОРЯДКЕ ПРИНЯТИЯ В РОССИЙСКУЮ ФЕДЕРАЦИЮ И ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ В ЕЕ СОСТАВЕ НОВОГО СУБЪЕКТА РОССИЙСКОЙ ФЕДЕРАЦИИ” (Одобрен Советом Федерации 5 декабря 2001 года)