By Victor Rud, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Ukrainian American Bar Association
Reviewed by Norvell DeAtkine
The author begins with a recitation of statements such as “Ukraine and Russia share deep historical and cultural roots,” “Ukraine is part of Russia,” and an assortment of others implying that Ukraine and Russia were inseparable entities. Listing a series of statements about the two countries, he challenges the reader to ascertain which were made by Russian officials and which by Western academics and politicians.
Rud then reveals that there is no distinction between those made by Western officials and intellectuals and those made by Russians. Many of the speeches and articles emanating from the West are in conformance with those of Russian officials. His point being that a considerable segment of the Western political and academic community is busily creating an image of Crimea’s seizure as a rather insignificant event—a correction of an artificial creation (Ukraine), incompatible with historical facts.
Writing from an admittedly a pro-Ukrainian slant, Rud presents a forceful counter to Western soft-pedaling of recent Russian actions. He equates this with a historical mythology that seems to have become imbedded in academic circles. The author goes into a long exposition of Ukrainian history designed to paint a picture of a Ukrainian nation that existed before a Russian one. According to Rud, for some 500 years following the Mongol conquest of Russia, Ukraine and Russia “existed in separate religious, cultural, and political worlds.”
Ukraine was reborn as an independent nation after WWI but this independence was quickly extinguished by the communist conquest, which incorporated it into the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. What followed were many years of premeditated depopulation measures and exploitation of the land and people to feed other parts of the Communist empire. This exploitation was renewed after WWII with a long and bloody counter-insurgency to destroy the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Ever more draconian measures were instituted against Ukrainians to punish them for the largely welcoming reception they gave to invading Germans in WWII.
The graphic terms used by the author to describe the depredations of the Soviets could be dismissed as highly exaggerated, but in William Taubman’s excellent biography of Nikita Khrushchev, the core truths of the Soviet occupation are depicted and verified by Khrushchev in his memoirs. Khrushchev describes his initial trepidation in being assigned as the Ukrainian viceroy by Stalin, realizing how much the Ukrainians disliked the Russians. For example, he described the unrealistic grain quotas by which the USSR starved the Ukrainians, leading to cases of cannibalism.
Rud’s description of Western academic views is eerily reminiscent of the half-century in which many Western intellectuals exercised denial or willful obfuscation of the truth about the Soviet Union.