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Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich
Ukraine is at the top of the news again, and the Western media has once again taken up the old clichÃ© about the pro-Russian Yanukovich vs the pro-Western Yushchenko. This nonsense is repeated so often -- practically each time the subject of Ukraine comes up -- that it has become sort of axiomatic, as in Euclid: not needing any proof or even inquiry. There is the bad guy Yanukovich and the good guy Yushchenko. This is a nice black-and-white arrangement - four legs good, two legs bad.
It is about as axiomatic as the received wisdom that the Kremlin has killed another of those wretched Ukrainians, by the name of Litvinenko. Those Kremlin idiots went to the extraordinary expense of $60 million to buy enough Polonium-210 to lay a scintillating trail leading directly back to FSB headquarters. Silly asses. We regularly hear of contract killers in Russia and Ukraine doing length-of-pipe jobs for around ten thousand dollars, plus expenses, and no one is ever the wiser -- but what would the media sink their teeth into then, doughnuts? The press is a tender plant, and must be fed juicy fertilizer. Enough for a good stink.
OK, let's forget about that ex-prison guard and Berezovsky stooge with a Ukrainian name. There is nothing to connect the Litvinenko case with the current Ukrainian crisis except my fury at the inanity of propaganda clichÃ©s -- and perhaps Mr. Berezovsky poking his nose into both of these events. Let's concentrate on Yanukovich's credentials as a pro-Russian politician. There are some eye-openers here -- for those, of course, who are capable of keeping their eyes open against the hard light of facts.
The 2004 electoral map of Ukraine (Source: GlobalSecurity.org)
Sure, Yanukovich is pro-Russian in the sense that he is against NATO expanding to incorporate Ukraine. However, he is more pro-Ukrainian than pro-Russian in this instance: according to all polls heretofore conducted, 60 percent of Ukrainians are firmly against Ukraine's entry into NATO, and only 15-17 percent support it. That is why Yushchenko, as long as he remains president, will fight a referendum on the matter to the hilt. But Yushchenko's is a special case: he is fighting a losing battle for political survival, and he knows it -- hence his frenetic moves, like the dissolution of the Rada (Ukrainian Parliament). Unlike Yushchenko, Yanukovich does not have an American wife and is less inclined to commit political suicide and live happily thereafter in the United States.
It was in this spirit of following the wishes of the majority of Ukrainians, or rather the citizens of Ukraine, of whom nearly 20 million are Russians and nothing but Russians, that Yanukovich had chosen the second plank of his election campaign: apart from his anti-NATO stance, there was the promise to make Russian the second state language.
Now, have there been any moves in that direction since Yanukovich came to power? None. Nor will there be, that is quite certain -- for that would be against the general political line of the Ukrainian top leadership of whatever hue, orange, red or blue-and-white. The crux of that policy is "Ukrainianization" -- which is mostly seen as suppressing the Russian language and culture and nurturing Ukrainian nationalism in its most ugly and often comic forms.
In a country whose entire population speaks, reads or at least understands Russian, only 6.5 percent of schools use Russian as the main language, and each year their numbers drop by 100 to 150, so that in some 10 to 15 years Russian-language schools will disappear entirely. Higher education in Russian is forbidden by a decision of the Constitutional Court, and the same goes for kindergartens. Ukrainian textbooks are full of imbecilities like the statements that "the Ukrainian people have existed for 140,000 years," and that "Ukrainians were oppressed for hundreds of years in the Russian empire" -- as if their lot was worse (or for that matter better) than that of Russians, Belarussians, and a hundred other ethnic groups.
The list of measures of the Ukrainian leadership and elite in general have taken against the Russian part of Ukraine's population is practically endless. It is, like I said, a consistent policy aimed at shaping a "Homo Ukrainius," which envisions Russians and Russian speakers as mere ethnic material that has to be "processed" through a variety of measures.
Konstantin Shurov, chairman of the Russian Community of Ukraine public organization, has told Literaturnaya Gazeta that there is no hope at all of Yanukovich changing this policy of suppressing all things Russian as long as he keeps in his entourage people who have made the implementation of that policy their main purpose in life.
Number one among these people is Yanukovich's immediate subordinate, Vice Premier Dmitry Tabachnik. Mr. Tabachnik served as former President Leonid Kuchma's chief of staff, and is primarily famous, or rather infamous, for his bill "On Languages," which forbade the use of any language but Ukrainian anywhere except in your own toilet, perhaps. Offenders who spoke other languages would be prosecuted. Under Kuchma, he ardently implemented every Ukrainianization measure he could think of, and it is very doubtful that he is going to pursue a more fair policy towards Ukraine's Russians and Russian speakers now or in the future.
Number two is Education Minister Stanislav Nikolaenko, a Socialist who enjoys a reputation in the media as the most scandalous of all Ukrainian ministers. A prominent "Orangist," last year he closed down 15 subsidiaries of Russian higher educational establishments in the Crimea -- and that's just one example of his anti-Russian activities.
Number three is Culture Minister Yuri Bogutsky, who recently promised that soon 100 percent of Russian films shown in Ukraine would be dubbed into Ukrainian. Apparently no effort or useless financial outlay is to be spared in the attempt to expunge the memory of Russian from the minds of the populace -- which stubbornly continues to read almost entirely in Russian, as bookstalls anywhere in Ukraine will show.
With these people in Yanukovich's immediate entourage, his credentials as a pro-Russian politician can be seriously accepted only by Western statesmen who tell the media what to write and then swallow their own propaganda.
The real tragedy of the Russian and pro-Russian eastern and southern Ukraine is that their happy-go-lucky or apathetic attitude is no match for the rabid nationalism of western Ukrainians, a minority of whom cherish the memory of their Nazi and SS-serving fathers. The best that the Russian parts of Ukraine, the industrial backbone of the whole country, have been able to put forward is a character like Victor Yanukovich, a man with two shabby criminal convictions in his turbulent youth and an obvious indifference to anything but power as a means of grabbing the largest share of the country's assets.
That is all that the current crisis is about -- fighting among the most powerful financial-industrial clans over Ukraine's assets. The poor bamboozled masses on both sides, Orange and blue-and-white, anti-Russian, pro-Russian and plain Russian, will only realize that they have been bamboozled when it is too late. If the "pro-Russian" Yanukovich wins, he will go on making sheep's eyes at Russian politicians, in hopes of cheaper gas -- and let his cohorts stamp out Russian in his fiefdom.
Pro-Russian Yanukovich, forsooth...