There are a lot of arguments for the fact that Ukrainian nation does not exist, all Ukrainians are Russians brainwashed to hate their nation, Ukrainian history is fake, etc. Mostly, these arguments are put forth by people who do not understand the difference between “nation” and “ethnicity”.
The idea of a “nation” really originated in the age of gunpowder, when mass armies and industrialization brought the need for countries to be united by something greater than a common language, feudal overlord and religion, and this idea was spread via mass literacy and education*.
“Nation” is not the same as ethnic or language group – there are plenty of nations that unite multiple ethnicities or languages, and plenty of ethnic/language groups split across several nations.
A “nation” is a powerful idea – similar to an ideology or even a religion.
In fact, when it comes to nation-building, the lines between nationalism, ideology and religion blur. Was there a “Soviet” nation? Many would say that there was.
Western invaders of today trying to bring the light of “democracy” to the unwashed savages – how different is their blind belief that their way is the best way, from that of medieval religious crusaders? The results are certainly much the same.
And idea can not be “fake” as long as some people believe in it. The Mormon or Scientologist religions aren’t “fake” simply because the man that made their fanciful claims happened to live more recently than other “prophets”. Nor is it necessary for an idea to perfectly match reality. Sure, Ukrainian national myth is quite far from historical facts. So what? After all, Americans and Russians still believe they brought “freedom / equality” around the world despite millions of innocent people that perished in their imperial escapades, but that doesn’t make these nations “fake”.
However, an idea can be bad. Virtually all religions and ideologies constantly need to be updated and the parts carried over from cruel times of old thrown out.
Some religions and political ideologies are bad enough to where people call them “cults”, “nazis” and such, and ban em. National ideas are no different – they are constantly changing, and may have bad parts.
For example, national superiority, “natural white supremacy”, Aryan race, all that.
Sure, these days it has PC names like “American exceptionalism”, but the essence is the same: Americans know ~four and a half thousand US soldiers died in Iraq, but have the arrogance to not count or care how many brown people needlessly died as a result of their invasion (estimates range from 100 thousand to millions).
And Ukrainian national idea certainly has its share of problems.
For starters, it has indeed been co-opted by various foreign powers literally for centuries, and its message bent to their will to be used as a weapon against Russia and Russians. And that’s a problem because Russians and Ukrainians are very close, as much as, say, Americans and Texans**.
Yes, Texans. A Russian would have an easier time understanding a Ukrainian than a Yankee would have with a rural Texan, and Ukraine has been part of Russia twice longer than Texas was part of US. Tack on a couple centuries of foreign funding, and a large dose of subversive actions by powerful agencies, some quality NGO work – you’ll have “Texan language” and America-hating “Texan nation” on your hands in no time. And the fact that the Dust Bowl wasn’t an American plot to starve the Texas farmers into submission won’t matter – as I said, even if an idea isn’t true, as long as people believe it, it has power.
Heck, a weakening of the federal government and some Soros funds is probably all it would take for “Texan nation” or “Cascadian nation” to emerge:
“A September 2014 Reuters/Ipsos poll found over 34% of people in the southwest favored their state seceding from the United States”. There are a number of similar polls showing that result is broadly correct.
This is similar to Ukraine in spring 1991 – on a referendum, 28% of people voted to split from USSR, while 70% voted to stay … But the same referendum in after just a few months of propaganda yielded 92% vote for secession .
These facts aren’t good or bad by themselves. That’s just how reality is – nations are ideas, new ones can be formed, and they aren’t necessarily any less “legitimate” or “good” than the previous ones.
In some cases, a “national idea” is composed well and can bring greater social unity and better, local self-government. In some cases, nationalists can use the wrong tools, divide society and ruin the country… And with that, we’re back to Ukraine.
As I’ve said, Russians and Ukrainians are extremely close; so much so that “Russian” and “Ukrainian” in modern Ukraine are more self-chosen ideological labels than clearly separate ethnic/cultural groups***.
That is the root cause of “Judeo-Banderite” meme* and the fact that many “Ukrainian nationalists” grew up as “Russians” and do not, in fact, speak Ukrainian. By the same token, there are plenty of people that grew up speaking Ukrainian and yet believe that Ukraine should be one country with Russia.
Also, “Russia” and “Ukraine” are closely intertwined not just in the minds of the local population, but economically – ~350 years of economic ties makes for an extremely close cooperation .
So, what do you think would happen in Texas if “Texan nationalists” forbid anyone who doesn’t speak “proper, rural Texan” from holding government positions, banned “American” symbols as “legacy of oppression”, declared Timothy McVeigh their national hero, etc. etc.? There you have it – Ukrainian civil war explained.
What do you think would happen if “Texan nation” cut ties with America and instead tried to join Mexico (who, though initially interested, would soon realize it wants nothing to do with the nationalist maniacs)? There you have it – the economic ruin brought about by Ukraine’s EuroIntegration summed up.
However, just because the current “Banderite” brand of Ukrainian nationalism is tainted by Nazi collaboration, fratricide, falsification of history, serving foreign interests above their own people, etc. etc. does not mean that any and all ideas that envision Ukraine as a separate state are bad.
Buzina was a Ukrainian nationalist, and so were most Bolsheviks, for example – they preferred a strong and vibrant Ukrainian autonomy with the Soviet “federation” rather than an anti-Russian “European Ukraine”, but the fact that “Ukrainian national idea” re-emerged after being suppressed by the Tzars is largely due to Bolshevik efforts .
Then there are people like Tatiana Montyan – with their own “Ukrainian national ideas” that aren’t like that of Buzina or the Bolsheviks, but aren’t like that of “Banderites” either.
So, the options for a “Ukrainian national ideology” aren’t limited to worshiping the butchers of Volyn and selling anything that isn’t nailed down to foreign masters.
What conclusions can we make to sum this article up?
– Ukrainian national idea is definitely real and powerful, no less real than many other national ideas.
– From the start, it has been used, and by 2014 got wholly subverted by, the sort of people who would kill their neighbors for the sake of foreign money and seizing power.
– In this “Banderized” state, it is bad for literally everyone (in Ukraine, Russia, Europe) including even the poor rank-and-file “banderites” themselves. The only ones who benefit are the leaders of the banderites, some oligarchs, and certain foreign interest groups controlling them.
– Whether the ideology of a “Ukrainian nation” can be healed to unite and strengthen the nation, or whether the nation would continue fracturing and collapsing under the weight of hate and lie-based “Banderizm”, remains to be seen.
Of course, the answer doesn’t depend purely on ideology – political, economical, and even purely military events may shift the balance towards one or the other outcome. For example, another likely, if sad, scenario is that ideological debates will become pointless in a few decades if the sharp decline of the local population continues – Ukrainian nation, language, and history will simply go the way of the dinosaurs.
Which scenario will come to pass, if Ukrainian national idea can be re-built without the destructive parts, and whether the country of Ukraine will exist in the future – is ultimately up to Ukrainians.
Such cases (c)
* This article by a Ukrainian nationalist (not translated) expands the idea is greater depth. While he does not share my bleak view of the current situation, his view of the nature of “national idea” and his arguments for the existence of “Ukrainian nation” are much the same. Worth reading.
**Jews following the Banderite brand of Ukrainian nationalism – which is weird, because original, WWII Banderites considered Jews their enemies and helped Nazis exterminate them . But as I said, historical facts matter little – modern Ukrainian “history” tends to whitewash these crimes.
*** Not that there are not real “Russian” and “Ukrainian” ethnicities or sub-cultures – but without the nationalism, the distinction would have as much importance as say Minnesotan / Floridian differences.