Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

No longer the little brother?

By Aussiegirl

Bill Gleason, writing in the June 12, 2005 edition of the newsletter, The Ukraine Action Report, has some encouraging news to report from his recent two week visit to Kyiv, where he delivered a number of lectures at the Diplomatic Academy.

In answer to questions raised by recent criticisms that the Yushchenko government is not moving swiftly enough to implement economic reforms, and the reported rifts between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, he has these observations about the natural aftermath of a popular revolution.

The most heartening development according to him concerns the sudden emergence among the Ukrainian intelligentsia of a newfound pride in their own culture and heritage -- and the loss of the sense of cultural inferiority to big brother Russia, which has so long permeated and poisoned the Ukrainian psyche.

This is an absolutely essential ingredient for the success of any country. Citizens must fundamentally believe in themselves and their nation and their cultural heritage. Ukraine has much in its history to harken back to with pride. The earliest European Constitution, written in 1710 by Pylyp Orlyk and predating any other similar document by at least 70 years, belongs to Ukraine, and is but one example.

Perhaps one of the most important ingredients in such a belief is to know one's history -- and let it not be forgotten -- to speak and write in one's own language. In that Ukrainians are no different than Americans, or citizens of any other country.

FIRST of all, the Revolution is just beginning, and like all Revolutions, popular expectations can and often do exceed reality or the capacity of the leadership to deliver the goods, so to speak. This is particularly true in this instance, I think, because, as de Tocqueville argued long ago, Yushchenko and his ministers are up against a very bad -- as in criminally corrupt -- regime that was dug in for years.

Two points here. First, the first ten years of the American Republic (the 1780s) was characterized by drift bordering on chaos and a near breakdown of the government machinery, a breakdown that compelled American leaders to convene a constitution convention in 1787. Why then do we forget our own history and apply seemingly utopian labels to Ukraine, one Mohyla political scientist asked? Revolutions are by nature messy things, no matter the seeming ease of the initial transition or transformation.

. . .Yet, despite this generational obstacle that would change only with the passage of time, a couple major developments had taken root, I discovered in my talks along the way. For ONE thing, a sea change had occurred within the community of Ukrainian intelligentsia, a change having to do with self-perception rooted in centuries of subservience to Moscow.

"It was incredible," my friend (a philosopher from the Academy of Sciences and in the Institute of Philosophy) said on the final day in Kyiv, "but we will never again view ourselves as inferior in any way to Russia and Russian intellectual culture."

And, I thought, that is a shift of epochal proportions with permanent implications for Ukraine for the simply reason that the intelligentsia still play a role in society all out or proportion to their numbers. If, in other words, the Ukrainian intellectual elite no longer "see" Russia as the Big Brother (however subconsciously or half-heartedly), then history has been made and will not be undone. And for that the Orange Revolution can take credit.

Dr. William Gleason is Chair of the Advanced Ukrainian Studies and Coordinator, Eurasian Studies, Foreign Service Institute U.S. Department of State, gleasonb1@aol.com. The article above represents his personal comments regarding his recent trip to Ukraine written at the request of The Action Ukraine Report - AUR.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger Billy D said...

Excellent! One big key of an emerging country is establishment of a personal identity. This will incoporate patriotism and pride in country, and will determine people to protect it.


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