Monday, December 20, 2004

I've unearthed a book that my Iowa City neighbor found at some garage sale and gave to me sometime in 1996. Maybe it wasn't a garage sale, maybe someone just disposed of it at the end of a semester, I don't really remember. (Oops, I've just looked at the very first page and there's a red-ink stamp there: DISCARDED from Iowa City Public Library!)

The book is called Dear Comrade Editor: Readers' Letters to the Soviet Press Under Perestroika (translated and edited by Jim Riordan and Sue Bridger). I opened a chapter on Nationalism and here's what I found about Ukraine:

Ten Political Parties to Choose from in the Ukraine
Sobesednik, #30, July 1990

Let me tell you a fact: I don't know anyone who does not belong to a party. Each of them now has the choice of at least ten parties:
  • Ukrainian Republican Party
  • Social Democratic Party of the Ukraine
  • Ukrainian National Democratic Party
  • Peasant Democratic Party
  • Democratic Platform within the Ukrainian Communist Party
  • Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists
  • Ukrainian Communist Party
  • The Greens
  • Liberal Democrats
  • Left Socialists of the Ukraine
So it's not boring. Some parties are now going through a period when all they can do is meet - owing to the lack of photocopiers, which sometimes have to be brought in sacks from neighboring republics. The rank-and-file of the ruling party, the CPSU, are feeling the pinch, especially when people suggest they answer for the situation that has developed in the Republic, or why there is a crisis of power in the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet where 80 percent of the deputies are Party members.

For the authorities, 11 July 1990 was a fateful day. First there was the surprise when the Supreme Soviet Chair had to resign. Then there was the miners' strike in Donetsk and spontaneous protest meetings and strikes at the Ukraine's largest enterprises. This led to the people besieging the Supreme Soviet, chanting "Down with the Communist Party!" The session was saved by the behavior of the opposition - the National Rada - which managed to calm the chanting crowds.

Then suddenly a funeral procession with wreaths walked around the parliament building, bidding a permanent farewell to the Chair (Comrade Ivashko). They even appealed to the reorganized Ministry for Water to change the flow of the Dnepr so as to make the wreaths flow up the river to Moscow.

For the second time the session had to choose a Chair, but two events forced the vote to be postponed: the adoption of a Declaration on the state sovereignty of the Ukraine and the voluntary retirement of the first Chair. Chairpersons come and go, but the homeland remains.

Olga Musafirova

It's so amusing and so sad to read this now, 14 years later. It definitely wasn't boring then and it's not boring now; our political sense of humor is still very much there; the miners of Donetsk still live in shit; and, in addition to the Communist Party, we are now trying to get rid of Kuchma and his guys. Yes, and the homeland remains, thank God.

A few pages later, there a bit from Vadim K., from Khmelnitsky, West Ukraine:

I hate socialism in the form it's presented to us. I'd go to any lengths to get rid of that socialism.

Oleksandr Moroz, today's Socialist Party leader, is our ally this time. I have a very vague idea about the kind of socialism he stands for - actually, I've no idea. All I know is that he's a very smart politician, very calculating. I doubt his kind of socialism is what they have in Sweden: I wouldn't want to pay huge taxes in this country if he came to power - because I know that this money would end up in somebody else's pocket, or a Swiss bank account, and wouldn't go towards creating a "safety net" or whatever you call it.

I probably sound like such a Soviet now, with all my negativism and stuff. But I can't help it, not right now. Maybe I'll feel more optimistic tomorrow.


  1. Veronica -

    I wish I could comment more often, but the truth of the matter is that I've very little of value to say in context.

    You're providing news that is hard (if not impossible) to come by easily in the States, and putting it across personally - something a journalist would never be allowed to do.

    I'm grateful for your effort (to say the least).

    For me, there's something personal to it. The surname I carry is Anglicized Austrian German, with its roots in Bukovina; my grandfather's father and maternal grandmother were emigrants from provinces of the old Austrian Empire. In short, they got out while the getting was good...

    My own features mark that heritage beyond any mistake. As I've spent a great deal of my adult life living in college towns, I've been asked plenty of times by exchange students (always the ones from Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland, from cities that are part of places the world used to call Bukovina and Galicia) if I've encountered them before - the answer is always "no", because I've only crossed the Mississippi River three times in my life. It would seem I have a face that makes people homesick.

    At any rate, my legacy and life experience lead me to an interest in the outcome of this mess.

    Thank you for doing as much as you have to satisfy that interest.

  2. Party of the state neutrality of Ukraine