By Michael Averko
Katherine and Viktor Yushchenko
I've been holding on to a piece of history which was forwarded to me by an informed and trusted source. It's an August 23, 1983 Washington Times letter by Katherine Chumachenko, who is now married to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Since it is not archived on the internet, Chumachenko's letter was submitted to me in the form of a transposed email attachment. I see no reason to second guess its authenticity. Should anyone prove differently (doubtful), then please inform me and I will issue an immediate retraction.
LETTERS Washington Times, August 23, 1983
Russia, captor nation, not captive nation
In his Aug. 17 letter, "Russia, captive of the USSR," Alexis Bogolubov urges the revision of the "Captive Nations Week Resolution" of July 17, 1959 to include Russia as another "captive nation."
At the time of the enactment to the resolution, other anti-Communist leaders in this country assailed this historical document for the omission of Russia. They were justly refuted by legislators, government officials, and academics with the following facts:
Although millions of Russians suffered and continue to suffer from Communist oppression, the overall direction of the Soviet Russian empire, employing aggressive foreign and domestic policies, is overwhelmingly in Russian hands. The Russians provide the blood and sinews of the Soviet regime. They dominate the KGB, the Soviet armed forces and the scientific, technical, and economic institutions; they are incessantly endeavoring to Russify the conquered non-Russian nations and to create a "Soviet man" a euphemism for a converted Russian. The anti-Communist Russian democratic forces under the Russian provincial government in 1917 never considered Bolshevism an alien force, but a Russian political phenomenon.
Therefore, there was no attempt on the part of the anti-Communist Russians to establish a Russian government-in-exile.
In contrast, after the re-conquest in 1920 by Communist Russia of all the non-Russian nations of the former Russian empire (excluding Finland and Poland) their legitimate governments withdrew to the West and continued to function as governments-in-exile in waging their struggle for the liberation of their home countries. Today the governments-in-exile of Ukraine, Byelorussia. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia continue to struggle for their countries' liberation. In 1940, when the USSR brutally invaded and annexed the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, representatives of these nations also formed governments in exile.
The anti-Communist Russians were the only major political emigration to fail to establish an anti-Communist government-in-exile, because they believed Bolshevism to be at worst a Russian internal phenomenon which, sooner or later, would either fade away or be defused by the "moral" Russian people.
We will be marking the 25th commemoration of Public Law 86-90. It would be a great disservice to have any attempt made to revise the law. This would be a disservice to the Congress and to our president, who is especially sympathetic and supportive of Captive Nations Week. It would also be a devastating blow to the ideals of freedom everywhere in the world. Great comfort would be given to the en-slavers in Moscow should any attempt be made to revise or amend Public Law 86-90.
Katherine C. Chumachenko
Acting Chairman and Executive Secretary
National Captive NationsCommittee Inc.
Mrs. Yushchenko giving the V for Victory sign
At the time of this letter's appearance, Chumachenko headed the neo-Nazi Captive Nations Committee. In my view, the term neo-Nazi is inclusive of fomenting hatred against Russia and Russians. My last Russia Blog article A Primer on Yulia Tymoshenko briefly touched on the Captive Nations Committee and why I loathe it as a Russian-American. It's disconcerting for me to see how many otherwise well-meaning Americans overlook the CNC's history of anti-Russian bigotry.
As I mentioned in my Russia Blog article On Being Russian, I come from a multi-ethnic background, with Russian Orthodox Christian being 1/4 of my heritage. Without a doubt, it's this side which has received the most discrimination in American mass media, academia and body politic.
Yulia Tymoshenko at left, with the Yushchenko family
During Ukraine's so called "Orange Revolution," (which was more like a conflict between two different factions of oligarchs) three articles dealing with Chumachenko stuck out to me as intellectual eyesores. Bruce Bartlett wrote about her as a partisan friend. Moscow Times journalist and Ekho Moskvy radio talk show host Yulia Latynina flippantly claimed that the Kremlin didn't trust Yushchenko because Chumachenko is American-born. Like Bartlett, the American mass media preferred Latynina (whose views often clash with the majority of Russians) and didn't pick up on why Putin and a good many Russians don't hold a favorable view Chumachenko. Jake Rudnitsky of the Moscow-based English language web magazine eXile took a different approach. In one of his articles, the wife of Yushchenko's political opponent (Viktor Yanukovych) is briefly mentioned in an uncomplimentary piece about the Russocentric east Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which is the political home base of the Ukrainian Blue candidate. Another eXile article by Rudnitsky confirms his pro-Orange bias, which is open to considerable debate. I don't see how Donetsk is more "fascist" than the west Ukrainian Orange stronghold of Lviv. I can't imagine Yanukovych's wife being anymore off the wall than Yushchenko's.
Yushchenko in politically happier times
Under Communism, the Russian Orthodox Christian part of my family suffered tremendous hardships at the hands of a good many non-Russian and Russian Soviets alike. Enter the Cold War and along comes the Galician Ukrainian-dominated Captive Nations Committee, falsely claiming that the USSR benefited Russians at the expense of other Soviet nationalities. Through passionate lobbying, the CNC persuaded Congress to approve an official holiday (Captive Nations Week), recognizing every Communist country as being captive -- with the exception of Russia. Adding insult to this oversight, the CNC resolution recognized such Nazi World War II creations as "Cossackia" -- divide and conquer puppet states that had never existed before 1941. In the CNC's literature, Russians of any stripe are portrayed as an inherent threat to the West. I have the organization's guiding book, "The Captive Nations" authored by Bernadine Bailey. Out of respect for Russia Blog's younger and sensitive readers, I can't print what I think of that book's contents at this venue.
My family-influenced politics are pro-Russian/anti-Communist, as opposed to the anti-Russian/anti-Communist stance of the CNC. I'm well aware that some present day Russians think it's cool to fly the Soviet flag. The anti-Russian/anti-Communist crowd disingenuously downplays the number of former Soviet non-Russians who feel the same way. They demagogically note that Russians were the largest ethnic group in the CPSU without noting how Russians were also the largest ethnic group in the USSR, and that per capita, non-Russians were well represented in the Communist Party apparatus. Fortunately, extreme Soviet nostalgia is limited among present day Russian and non-Russian former Soviet citizens.
Chumachenko's Washington Times letter blatantly downplays the anti-Soviet Russian opposition, relative to some other non-Russian/anti-Soviet movements. The Russian Civil War era Whites, Vlasov Army of World War II and Cold War dissident activities of people like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov confirm a prolonged Russian opposition to the Soviet dictatorship (like other anti-Communist nationals, some of the mentioned Russians had fault lines).
I love (not) how Chumachenko overlooks the number of Ukrainian Communists, while never acknowledging that the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet communicated in Ukrainian. For that matter, there was an attempt to linguistically Ukrainianize the Russian speaking Donbas region in the late 1920s (this no doubt enhanced the popularity of the Russo-Ukrainian dialect known as Surzhyk).
The bottom line is that the USSR couldn't have succeeded to the degree it did without the willing assistance of a number of non-Russian Communists. Contrary to Chumachenko's claim, The New Soviet Man wasn't a euphemism "for a converted Russian." I recall how Soviet propaganda would periodically feature all of the Soviet ethnic groups in their respective native costumes. Russians on the other hand would be shown wearing modern day "global" (if you may) business attire. This is just one of many examples showing how Russian cultural identity was suppressed under Communism.
Chumachenko suggests that Russian-Americans didn't petition to have Russia listed as a captive nation. Yet, her letter was written in reply to a Russian-American desiring such. She's very wrong to suggest that anti-Communist Russian organizations didn't exist during the Cold War. How effective they were (and remain) at Capitol Hill lobbying is another matter. Russians at home and abroad aren't a monolithic group. In fact, it's not uncommon to have similarly minded Russians arguing over what outsiders might consider to be as moot points.
Proud Russian-Americans (a greater number than some believe) don't want to to be affiliated with an organization promoting a hatred of Russia and Russians. In this sense, Chumachenko is correct.
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst whose commentary has appeared in Eurasian Home, Johnson's Russia List, Intelligent.Ru, The Moscow Times, New York Times and Newsday.