Competing Nationalisms in Ukraine

Kevin MacDonald


In “Which Way White Man?,” Tom Sunic discusses the downside of European nationalism:

The Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik has had significant success in its PR overtures in the mainstream media in Europe and it deserves to be commended. Yet, few White American nationalists can comprehend their irrational call of the soil and blood and why Hungarian nationalists are not only concerned with Gypsy crime or with their government sell-out of the national treasure to foreign sharks, but also with the fact that one third of Hungary’s historical land still belongs to neighboring Romania and Slovakia. It must be amusing to observe from the American watchtower how White nationalists in Europe endlessly quarrel about which state in their vicinity should be in charge of a small creek in Transylvania or swaths of former German lands in today’s Silesia. For Europe’s White nationalists, however, these territorial, cultural, or linguistic disputes are a matter of life and death.

The list goes on and on all over Europe. The case study is a traumatic Croatian nationalism, which expresses itself, as a rule, in rigid papist ultra-Catholicism and which establishes its negative legitimacy in the endless name-calling of Christian Orthodox Serbs. A question: Can one be a good White nationalist without excluding the Other White nationalist?

We are certainly seeing some of that now in Ukraine. Ukraine is a textbook case of the costs of multiculturalism, a story of competing nationalisms. Around 17% of the population, mainly in the in the East and South of Ukraine, is ethnically Russian and favors strong ties with Russia.

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Now government buildings in the Crimea have been seized by Russian sympathizers:

Masked men with guns seized government buildings in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region on Thursday, barricading themselves inside and raising the Russian flag after mysterious overnight raids that appeared to be the work of militant Russian nationalists who want this volatile Black Sea region ruled from Moscow.

Police officers sealed off access to the buildings but said that they had no idea who was behind the assault, which sharply escalated tensions in a region that serves as home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and also to a number of radical pro-Russia groups that have appealed to Moscow to protect them from the new interim government in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

… In Crimea … a heavily ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking population mostly views the Ukrainian government installed after the ouster last weekend of Mr. Yanukovych as the illegitimate result of a fascist coup. …

Outside the occupied legislature building, columns of several hundred pro-Russia protesters forced their way through police lines chanting “Rossiya, Rossiya” — “Russia, Russia” — and waving Russian flags. The leader of a group called the Russian Movement for Crimea read out Mr. Yanukovych’s reported statement declaring himself to be the legitimate president. “We agree, we agree,” the crowd shouted. One man shouted through a bullhorn: “We are not separatists. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are one country.”

Lending more ethnic complexity to the situation, the Tatar population in the Crimea is opposed to strong ties with Russia and opposes Crimea splitting off from Ukraine:

Refat Chubarov, a member of the assembly and a leader of Crimea’s ethnic Tatar minority, … warned that any vote to separate Crimea from Ukraine would be “very dangerous.” Asserting that Russian armored vehicles were waiting outside the city, he called for calm but also urged Tatar residents to form “self-defense” units to protect their interests.

He blamed pro-Russia forces for the overnight seizure of government buildings, describing the action as “a direct interference in the affairs of Crimea and of Ukraine.”

The overnight raids left Simferopol [capital of Crimea] residents stunned and took place just hours after thousands of Crimean Tatars, the region’s minority indigenous Turkic population, and a separate throng of ethnic Russians staged dueling rallies Thursday outside Crimea’s regional legislature. The rallies, which ended in a chaotic melee and left several people injured, disrupted a session of the regional Parliament that hard-line pro-Russia groups had hoped would declare Crimea’s secession from Ukraine.

“This is the first step toward civil war,” said Igor Baklanov, a computer expert who joined a group of anxious residents gathered in a cold drizzle at a police line near the seized regional legislature. Rumors swirled of Russian troops on the way from Sevastopol, the headquarters of Russia’s fleet, of Russian nationalists arriving in force to reinforce the blockaded government buildings and of negotiations between the local authorities and the unidentified gunmen. …

Eight hundred miles away, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered a surprise military exercise of ground and air forces on Ukraine’s doorstep on Wednesday, adding to the tensions with Europe and the United States and underscoring his intention to keep Ukraine in Moscow’s orbit. …

While few analysts expected a Russian military intervention in Ukraine, most said that Mr. Putin was likely to respond in some fashion to such a stinging geopolitical defeat.

Israel Shamir in Counterpunch provides some details to the role of Ukrainian nationalists in the coup:

The US and the EU won this round, and pushed Russia back eastwards, just as they intended. It remains to be seen whether the neo-Nazi thugs who won the battle will agree to surrender the sweet fruits of victory to politicians, who are, God knows, nasty enough. (“The Brown Revolution in Ukraine“)

Congruent with a variety of sources, Shamir sees the anti-Yanukovych forces as an alliance between liberals and Ukrainian nationalists. However, the ultimate fate of the nationalist element within the next government is uncertain at best.

Within the nationalist element, there are two main groups, the Right Sector,  motivated by hostility toward Russia and tracing their origins to the pro-German Ukrainians in WWII, and Svoboda, a nationalist political party that opposes teaching of the Russian language in schools and won 10.44% of the popular vote in the 2012 elections. Wikipedia notes that “Svoboda has been described as an anti-Semitic and sometimes a Neo-Nazi party by international newspapers, organizations that monitor hate speech, Jewish organizations, and political opponents.

The Right Sector is described in a Globe and Mail (Toronto) article (“Have Ukraine’s protests been taken over by this ultra-right-wing group?“) as an

ultra-right-wing movement, described by some as fascist, whose hundreds of soldiers (they call themselves an army) have become the sharp edge of the two-month-old protest movement that has upturned the politics of Ukraine, cost several lives and forced President Viktor Yanukovych to dismiss the government and promise to reform the constitution. … the people in the largest and most aggressive group, who generally refuse to speak to journalists, are members of Pravy Sektor, an umbrella group of fascist, nationalist, football-hooligan and right-wing extremist gangs – some with neo-Nazi histories – which is generally considered to the right of Svoboda and which tends to be very secretive. It has not, to this point, been a political party.

(See also Paul Craig Roberts on the critical role of the Right Sector in the coup.)


Shamir describes some of that history:

In the Western Ukraine, the serpent eggs hatched: children of Nazi collaborators who had imbibed hatred towards the Russians with their mothers’ milk. Their fathers had formed a network under Reinhard Gehlen, the German spymaster. In 1945, as Germany was defeated, Gehlen swore allegiance to the US and delivered his networks to the CIA. They continued their guerrilla war against the Soviets until 1956. Their cruelty was legendary, for they aimed to terrify the population into full compliance to their command. Notoriously, they strangulated the Ukrainians suspected of being friendly to Russians with their bare hands.

A horrifying confession of a participant tells of their activities in Volyn: “One night, we strangulated 84 men. We strangulated adults, as for little kids, we held their legs, swung and broke their heads at a doorpost. …Two nice kids, Stepa and Olya, 12 and 14 years old… we tore the younger one into two parts, and there was no need to strangulate her mother Julia, she died of a heart attack” and so on and so on. They slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Poles and Jews; even the dreadful Baby Yar [sic] massacre was done by them, with German connivance, somewhat similar to Israeli connivance in the Sabra and Chatila massacres of Palestinians by the Lebanese fascists of the Phalange.

The children of these Bandera murderers were brought up to hate Communism,  Soviets and Russians, and in adoration of their fathers’ deeds. They formed the spearhead of the pro-US anti-government rebels in the Ukraine, the Right Sector led by out-and-out fascist Dmytro Yarosh. They were ready to fight, to die and kill. Such units attract potential rebels of differing backgrounds: their spokesman is young Russian -turned -Ukrainian -nationalist Artem Skoropadsky, a journalist with the mainstream oligarch-owned Kommersant-UA daily. There are similar young Russians who join Salafi networks and become suicide-bombers in the Caucasus mountains – young people whose desire for action and sacrifice could not be satisfied in the consumer society. This is a Slav al-Qaeda — real neo-Nazi storm troopers, a natural ally of the US.

And they did not fight only for association with EC and against joining a Russia-led TC. Their enemies were also the Russians in the Ukraine, and Russian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians. The difference between the twain is moot. Before independence in 1991, some three quarters of the population preferred to speak Russian. Since then, successive governments have tried to force people to use Ukrainian. For the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, anyone who speaks Russian is an enemy.

The other nationalist group is affiliated with Svoboda:

Behind the spearhead of the Right Sector, with its fervent anti-communist and anti-Russian fighters, a larger organisation could be counted on: the neo-Nazi Freedom (Svoboda), of Tyagnibok. Some years ago Tyagnibok called for a fight against Russians and Jews, now he has become more cautious regarding the Jews. He is still as anti-Russian as John Foster Dulles.

So we have the specter of dueling nationalisms, plus a strong dose of liberals among the anti-Yanukovych forces, all aided by a large dose of U.S. intervention. Shamir:

[The West was] extremely active: the US State Department representative Victoria “Fuck EC’’ Nuland [who has impeccable neocon credentials]  had spent days and weeks in Kiev, feeding the insurgents with cookies, delivering millions of smuggled greenbacks to them, meeting with their leaders, planning and plotting the coup. Kiev is awash with the newest US dollars fresh from its mint (of a kind yet unseen in Moscow, I’ve been told by Russian friends). The US embassy spread money around like a tipsy Texan in a night club. Every able-bodied young man willing to fight received five hundred dollar a week, a qualified fighter – up to a thousand, a platoon commander had two thousand dollars – good money by Ukrainian standards.

The U.S. and the neocons favor the liberal contingent among the protestors and I assume that they will do what they can to push the nationalists aside in the new government despite their very prominent role in the coup. Obviously, the U.S., spearheaded by the neocons, favors a strong Ukrainian connection to the EU, to the detriment of Russia. But some very powerful forces have been unleashed by all this, and the end game is not predictable.

What is clear is that Ukraine is another example of age-old competing European nationalisms, for time being forced to co-exist side-by-side in a multicultural, multiethnic state.

The EU solution to all of this is to obliterate all borders, at least within Europe—a solution that is diametrically opposed to what nationalists of all stripes want. (Ever on the lookout for White people with strong ethnic/racial identities, Richard Cohen of the Washhington Post wants the U.S. to use its power to oppose all these rising European nationalisms [in Catalonia, Scotland, Belgium, the Northern League in Italy, etc.; he has no problem with Israeli and non-European nationalisms].) The worst part is that the EU combines its freedom of movement within Europe policy with massive non-European immigration, resulting in the same sorts of tensions within European societies that competing nationalisms engender —ethnic and religious strife.

Indeed, the EU solution to the nationalism problem is the worst of all possible worlds, resulting not only in high levels of tension and strife that we already see within European societies, but in the long run in the obliteration of all traditional European national cultures. This is because EU policy favors highly fertile and aggressive, unassimilable religious and ethnic groups that will eventually make native Europeans a relatively powerless minority in areas they have controlled for thousands of years.

It is very difficult to see how a Ukrainian nationalist could be optimistic about the long-term effects of allying Ukraine with the EU. The very clear signs of discontent with the EU precisely because of the obliteration of national cultures should be a clear sign to the anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists that the EU is not the answer.

A better solution would be to break up states like Ukraine with large ethnic divisions into ethnically homogeneous societies, but to also develop a consensus that the territorial wars fueled by nationalism should be a thing of the European past. Europeans must find unity in the face of the massive invasions of non-Europeans that have occurred throughout the West. That may be a tall order, but the way of the EU with its present policies is suicide for all European peoples.

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