Ultima Thule

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

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Russification as official Soviet policy to subdue a restless Ukrainian nation.

By Aussiegirl

For all of those out there who say it does not matter which language you speak -- Russian -- or Ukrainian -- learn your history. Understand that the elimination of the Ukrainian language was always a prime objective and tool used by the Soviet authorities as a means of subjugating Ukrainian identity and will for freedom. Why do you now voluntarily speak the language of your oppressors -- the language that as recently as 25 years ago was forced upon an unwilling population by threats, indoctrination and imprisonment under stringent laws?

This article appeared in the Ukrainian Weekly in 1983. In addition to a mind-numbing list of sentences and persecutions meted out to scores of intellectuals and dissidents whose only crime was to speak or write their free opinion or to desire to practice their religion in peace, the following paragraphs having to do with language seized my attention. (Note -- Samvydav means self-published -- pamphlets and other material written, copied and circulated secretly among dissidents of the time. Samvydav -- or Samizdat as it was known in Russia -- was the equivalent of the pamphleteering of Thomas Paine and somewhat like the present day blogging phenomenon, but had far more dangerous consequences.)

Samvydav sources also published secret Soviet documents which indicated Moscow's plans to expand its Russification policies in Ukraine, particularly in education.

The documents included minutes from a June 29 meeting of the Collegium of Education of the Ukrainian SSR, which detailed measures to improve Russian-language studies in Ukraine in accordance with a May 26 resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The resolution called for the upgrading of Russian-language instruction in all union republics.

A correspondent resolution was adopted on June 10 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukrainian SSR and the Council of Ministers.

Among the recommendations were raising the level of Russian-language teaching in schools with Ukrainian or other languages of instructions; teaching Russian to non-Russian children in pre-school institutions and preparatory classes; making Russian a "compulsory subject" in curricula for students of non-language departments of pedagogical institutions; and introducing an entrance exam in Russian language and literature for persons beginning post-graduate study, as well as a final examination in this subject as a requirement for a candidate's degree.

The measures, which will affect virtually all educational institutions in Ukraine, were seen as an attempt to Russify the villages, long considered strongholds of Ukrainian culture, while at the same time preventing any Ukrainian backlash in the cities, where the Russian language, though dominant, may not be as dominant as Soviet officials would like.

Now read what writers and doctors and poets had to endure under the Soviets as recently as 1983 -- Dick Durbin take note -- similar events were taking place in your mother's homeland of Lithuania:

1983 was yet another woeful year for dissidents and religious activists in Ukraine. The mantle of power in the Soviet Union had earlier been passed on to Yuri Andropov, the former KGB chief who was the scourge of the dissident movement during the truculent years of the Brezhnev era. The year saw an intensification of repression against human-rights and religious activists, new executions of former members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the adoption of new criminal statutes aimed at curbing dissent.

One such statute, instituted on October 1, allowed authorities to impose additional labor-camp terms of up to five years for prisoners who were punished for opposing labor camp administrators. The law dealing with "parasitism" was also amended, making it easier for authorities to prosecute both dissidents who cannot find work (usually because they are effectively barred from employment) and religious activists not engaged in what the law terms "socially useful labor."

Some dissidents were released in 1983. Perhaps the most dramatic case involved two Pentecostal families - the Vashchenkos (who are Ukrainian) and the Chmykhalovs - who were granted permission to emigrate in June after spending five years in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. They had sought refuge there in 1978 after Soviet authorities continued to refuse them permission to leave the Soviet Union.

In January, Ivan Svitlychny was released from exile. In 1972, the well-known literary critic and poet was sentenced to seven years in a labor camp and five years' internal exile for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda." Now 54, Mr. Svitlychny is partially paralyzed and otherwise disabled as a result of a stroke and brain hemorrhage he suffered in 1981 while imprisoned.

Two other dissidents released in 1983 were Vasyl Barladianu, a 42-year-old art historian, and Taras Melnychuk, 51. Mr. Barladianu completed a three-year term for "slandering the Soviet state;" while Mr. Melnychuk, a veteran of the Ukrainian national movement, finished a four-year stretch for "hooliganism."

But for most dissidents, the year was marked by persecution, violence and repression.

In January, dissident sources reported the arrest of Zorian Popadiuk, a 29-year-old activist who was in the second year of a five-year exile term following a seven-year labor-camp sentence. In August it was learned that Mr. Popadiuk was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda."

In February, reports from Ukraine revealed that Ukrainian economist Zinoviy Antoniuk, 50, was sentenced to one year in a strict-regimen camp for "parasitism." He had been released in 1981 after completing 10-year labor-camp and exile term for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda."

Also arrested was well-known Ukrainian Catholic Church activist Yosyp Terelia, who had already spent nearly 14 of his 40 years in various camps, prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Mr. Terelia, perhaps best known in the West for his book, "Notes from a Madhouse," a detailed report of his life in a Soviet mental institution, was arrested in the early part of the year after announcing the formation of an Initiative Group for the Defense of the Rights of Believers and the Church. The group called for official recognition of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was outlawed in 1946.

Earlier in the year, reports reaching the West revealed the death of Mr. Terelia's brother, Borys, who was killed in a shootout with KGB and police forces in June 1982. There were also reports that Yosyp Terelia's wife had been harassed prior to her husband's arrest.

Another prominent dissident to be re-arrested in 1983 was Olha Heyko, a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and wife of imprisoned Helsinki monitor Mykola Matusevych. Ms. Heyko, 29, was arrested one month prior to her scheduled release from a labor camp, where she was completing a three-year term for "anti-Soviet slander."
Also arrested was Ukrainian human-rights activist Valery Marchenko, a 36-year-old writer-translator and former political prisoner. He was taken into custody in Kiev on October 20. He was previously imprisoned from 1973 to 1981 for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda."

1983 also marked the intensification of the regime's campaign against former members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. In March, the Soviet paper Visti z Ukrainy reported that three former OUN members - M. Ohorodnychyk, P. Shpachuk and V. Stasiv - were sentenced to be shot for being members of, as the paper put it, "bands of Ukrainian bourgeoise nationalists." The date of the executions was not disclosed.

In addition, it was revealed that former UPA member Myroslav Symchych, who was due to complete his second 15-year labor camp term in October 1982, was re-arrested and sentenced in January to an additional two and a half years' imprisonment. The 60-year-old nationalist had served terms from 1948 to 1963 and 1968 to 1982.

Also on the dissident front, Petro Ruban began serving a three-year exile term after completing a six-year labor-camp sentence for activities with the Ukrainian national movement. The 43-year-old wood-carver had previously served two terms, the last being from 1965 to 1973.

It was also reported that two Ukrainian political prisoners, Yuriy Badzio and Vasyl Striltsiv, staged one-day hunger strikes in late 1982 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the formation of the Soviet Union. Mr. Badzio, a 48-year-old socialist theorist, is currently serving a 12-year labor-camp and exile term which began in 1980, while Mr. Striltsiv, a 54-year-old member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, was sentenced in 1981 while imprisoned to a six-year labor-camp term.

The year also saw incidents of violence against dissidents and their families, as well as reports that at least one dissident's wife had been attacked in the Soviet press.

In January, the wife of Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Dashkevych was hospitalized after she was brutally beaten by men while on her way to work in Lviv. It marked the second time that Liudmyla Dashkevych, who is active in Lviv cultural circles, had been assaulted. A similar incident occurred in 1979.

There was also a report that a young Ukrainian Catholic nun was beaten to death by a gang of youths in Lviv late in 1982. According to sources in Ukraine, Maria Shwed, a 29-year-old member of the outlawed Ukrainian Catholic Church, was attacked and murdered by members of a Komsomol vigilante group known as "druzhynnyky."

In February, Svitliana Kyrychenko, wife of Yuriy Badzio, was the subject of a sardonic article in Vechirnyi Kiev, a Soviet paper, which accused her of "egoism" and getting material support from persons in the West. The lengthy article, headlined "A lady with ambition," charged that Ms. Kyrychenko sought to exploit her husband's imprisonment and the attention it has received in the West for personal gain.

Two other developments that did not bode well for the Ukrainian nation were the stepped-up persecution of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and an increase in the government's Russification campaign.

The regime's efforts against the Church included the sentencing in late 1982 of two Ukrainian Catholic priests, Vasyl Kavaciv, 49, and Roman Esip, 32, both of whom received eight-year labor-camp and exile terms. There were also persistent reports of KGB harassment of Ukrainian Catholic believers and the sacking of several churches. But despite the repression, which included the suppression of Mr. Terelia's Initiative Group for the Defense of Believers and the Church, several samvydav sources reported a widespread resurgence in the Church's popularity.

. . . The nucleus of the Ukrainian human-rights movement - the members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group - remain, for the most part, either in labor camps or exile. Many were re-arrested while still serving their terms. Religious activists, particularly Ukrainian Baptists and Pentecostals, faced intense persecution, as did members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Sadly, 1984 promises more of the same.


At 4:48 PM, Blogger Billy D said...

Aussie - Listen, I'm glad you post on these type topics. I still fear Russia, I do not believe they are our "friends", and I think they still have an eye on rebuilding the Soviet Union, at whatever cost. I do believe they'd do as soon as the US was in a position to do nothing militarily about it.
The forced foresaking of the culture is something the English (and Canadiens) did to the native Americans way back when. And believe me, they still hold that grudge to this day.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous One Eyed Cat said...

Ukrainian should be spoken by all Ukrainians at all times in public. It is sad to see those who do not learn from history. Such people have no future.


At 4:15 AM, Anonymous Gannonball-2 said...

Yeah I agree too. I think we should nuke Ukraine as a precaution. Maybe the manly hero Sam Johnson - God bless him and his curly nosehair - could grab an F-15 put two nukes on 'em and then we won't have to worry about Ukraine no more.

Russia too would be warned no to do any of that funny stuff anymore.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Gannonball - whoa there - step away from the F-15 - Ukraine is now a democracy and doesn't do this stuff anymore. It was the Soviets who did this. Putin, however, is sadly taking Russia back to the Soviet days - so you might want to keep your F-15 handy for him :)


Post a Comment

<< Home