Monday, March 30, 2009

(Note: All but two links in this post will take you to non-English-language content.)

Some noise in the media and on blogs about Yuri Hnatkevych's draft law on the state language and the languages of national minorities of Ukraine - specifically, the section on the media: according to Hnatkevych, all content should be in Ukrainian, regardless of whether media outlets are state-owned or private.

Slightly over a year ago, on May 23, 2008, Hnatkevych, an MP from BYuT, submitted 15 draft amendments to laws on education, media, commerce, tourism, law enforcement, the army, etc. - all of them proposing changes related to language use in the given areas. None of these drafts seem to have been considered by the parliament - most likely due to the negative assessment by the parliamentary scientific expertise department that at least eight of them received. Among the faults found with these drafts were positions that appeared to run counter to the constitution and other laws, as well as some mere technicalities (amazing, but several of the drafts proposed changes to earlier versions of the current laws that were no longer in use). Most important, however, seems to be the expertise department's observation that "the issue of language use has to be regulated by a special law, which is currently the Law of Ukraine "On the Languages in Ukraine" - which requires a substantial update."

And so now it looks like we have that umbrella law proposal. Hard to say whether Hnatkevych will have more luck with it.

Here, for example, is a passage from the expertise department's note on the 2008 draft amendment to the law on education:

[...] What also raises doubts is the proposal to take into account "the percentage of Ukrainians in a locality" and the "specific weight" [питома вага in the original - удельный вес: Hnatkevych taught German at Kyiv Polytechnics prior to becoming a politician - and I guess it shows...] of national minorities residing permanently in the given area when determining the number of seats in [Ukrainian-language and national minority-language schools]. It is impossible to determine "the percentage of Ukrainians in a locality" and the "specific weight" of national minorities, because right now no official document in Ukraine contains data on the the person's ethnicity. [...]

And here's a passage from the new draft, which appears to have been copy-pasted from Hnatkevych's previous, unsuccessful, attempt:

[...] The number of seats in [Ukrainian-language kindergartens and schools] has to correspond to the percentage of Ukrainians who live in this locality. The number of seats for extracurricular teaching of the languages of national minorities may correspond to the specific weight of the national minority or minorities who reside permanently here. [...]

To me it seems like some really sloppy legislative activity, but who knows, maybe Tymoshenko decided to pull Hnatkevych and his draft out of the closet following her bloc's defeat in Ternopil (more on that in an earlier post): the disastrous vote took place on March 15, the draft was submitted on March 17. A somewhat belated decision, but it's perhaps never too late to remind voters that Yulia's got people on her team who care about the Ukrainian language and culture as much as Tyahnybok does. On March 3, by the way, Hnatkevych voted in favor of the cancellation of the Ternopil election - but must have been allowed to abstain from voting foreign minister Volodymyr Ohryzko out.

Yes, and Yulia's team is so diverse.

A month or so ago, when I was in Kyiv, I was watching Savik Shuster's Friday show with my mother. They kept showing us a handsome young man who sat among politician guests, and I thought that perhaps the camera guy was gay, but then I noticed that they were zooming in on a good-looking woman as well, so we decided that the TV guys must have been so fed up with the ugly fat idiots that they had to work with every single weekday that they needed a little diversion.

Anyway, the guy turned out to be the Party of Regions' Mykola Levchenko, an odious politician who once said that Ukraine's sole official state language should be Russian, while Ukrainian should be the language of folklore and jokes (here's a link to an interview with him - he looks like an imbecile on the picture there, which he is, but on Shuster's show he somehow managed to look good).

The woman turned out to be Nataliya Korolevskaya (last name translates as "royal"). A member of BYuT, she's from Lugansk region, where she had (or still has, she or her family) an ice cream production business, among other things. Was rumored to be worth around $250 million (that's before the crisis, I suppose). Supported Yanukovych in 2004, got elected to parliament on Yulia's ticket in 2006 (#79) and in 2007 (#66). Two (rather old) links on her - here and here.

Nataliya Korolevskaya's brother - Konstantin Korolevsky - is the first deputy head of the department of urban construction policy, development and reconstruction of the city of Moscow. During Moscow mayor's infamous visit to Ukraine in late 2004, Korolevskaya was there to meet with him.

Here's an Oct. 2005 quote on Ukraine and Kyiv from Konstantin Korolevsky:

- Last night I returned from Kyiv (can't make myself call Ukraine a foreign country, but de jure it is.) In Kyiv, we have been allotted 10 hectares, and we had a large meeting with the head of the Kyiv City Council and leaders of the city's construction complex, during which we we making plans and setting up terms for developing the plot. Next year, we'll have to finish the first leg of residential construction there, even though the plot is problematic - a large water conduit happens to be in the area of the planned construction, and it'll have to be moved. [...]

And here's one of the most recent mentions of him: a piece on something that United Russia is up to, which I don't quite understand.

How Yulia manages to avoid a civil war within her bloc is beyond me.

But then again, she's someone who can pose for pictures hugging with Margaret Thatcher (ENG) one day and then announce (ENG) that "young people and children would want to become coal miners" in Ukraine, so it's probably not all that surprising.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kyiv Operetta Theater - March 1, 2009:

Skating rink at Maidan - March 1, 2009:

Kyiv, Maidan - March 1, 2009:

Kyiv - March 5, 2009:

Chalk marks made by police after a car crash on Khreshchatyk sidewalk. Wild, isn't it? :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

This blog turned 6 years old a few hours ago - happy birthday, blog!

This is going to be the 2,269th entry here - and I'm not saying even half of it, I guess. The backlog's still there, flourishing.

As I wrote in the very first post, my primary source of blogging inspiration was Salam Pax - who seems to be back in Iraq now and who I follow on Twitter. Thank you, Salam!

And, thanks a lot to everyone who's been reading me and talking to me here over the years.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring in Moscow (March 25):

Taken by Mishah in the morning

Taken by me in the afternoon

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two pics from Darnytsya that I took during my latest trip to Kyiv:

How to say "And I don't give a fuck!" in Ukrainian.

"Pylypyshyn isn't gay, he's a thief!"

This is about one of the guys who ran for Kyiv mayor last year: some jerks working for some other candidate wrote that Pylypyshyn was gay on the walls all over the city - and the fact that many if not all the writings are still there could point to the current mayor as the person who ordered the smear campaign, but there's never a way to be sure of anything here. Anyway, now someone in Darnytsya has finally got it - that it's not a politician's sexual preferences that truly matter but his/her integrity...

Monday, March 23, 2009

There are two things I want to say about Oleh Tyahnybok.

(Two more things, that is. My earlier post on him is here, my tiny GV translation of what other people think of his victory - here, and a misplaced critical remark from a reader from Denver, Colorado - here.)

First, poor Taras Shevchenko. In the post-election Ukrainska Pravda interview (UKR), Tyahnybok says this to justify his preference for the word zhyd (kike):

- But, as it turns out, the word zhyd is part of normal vocabulary for a Svoboda representative, while in Kyiv it's perceived as a sign of anti-Semitism.

- So ban Shevchenko's [Kobzar] in Kyiv! Some people perceive it like this, but I don't! Open Borys Hrynchenko's dictionary - and you'll see there what this word means. It's not a prohibited word! [...]

It's very simple: just like the Soviets before him, Tyahnybok is exploiting Shevchenko.

Here's an annotation from the 1988 Shevchenko's poetry volume that I was reading a few weeks ago - a children's edition, by the way, published by Veselka ("Rainbow") publishing house:

Запродана жидам віра... -

Йдеться про те, що польські магнати прагнули покатоличити українське населення, щоб у такий спосіб мати на нього більший вплив і поступово асимілювати. Нерідко шляхта здавала церкви в аренду євреям, які збирали плату за вхід до церкви, а потім частину одержаних грошей шляхта привласнювала. В "Запорожской старине" І. Срезнєвського розповідається: "Ужасно было в ту годину состояние украинцев. Права их были нарушены; вера попрана; церкви и монастыри, издавна сооруженные, иные запустели, иные запечатаны".


The faith that had been sold out to the [Jews] -

[The passage] is about the Polish magnates' desire to catholicize the Ukrainian population, in order to have more influence on it and to eventually assimilate it. Often, the [szlachta] leased churches to Jews, who were charging money for entering the church, and then part of the money received was taken by the szlachta. In I. Sreznyevsky's "Zaporozhye Antiquity," there is this account: "Horrible was the condition of Ukrainians in that time. Their rights were violated; their faith ravished; churches and monasteries, constructed long ago, some stood empty, others were locked down."

The message of the note, I suppose, was this: Dear children, don't be surprised by the word zhydy - Jews were evil, but they were nowhere near as evil as the Poles and Catholics.

Absolutely amazing, too, is that there were people back in the Soviet times who had the guts to quote someone bemoaning the ruined Ukrainian churches - ruined by, you see, the Poles, not the Soviets.

Here's the next annotation from my Shevchenko book - about Ukraine's Greek Catholics:

Уніати -

прибічники унії. Унія - об'єднання православної церкви України й Білорусії з католицькою церквою, здійснене з ініціативи Ватікану і проголошене церковним собором у Бресті 1596 р. Унія була знаряддям зміцнення політичного панування шляхетської Польщі на Україні та в Білорусії. Шляхта прагнула покатоличити українське й білоруське населення, розірвати його зв'язки з російським народом. Її підтримувала верхівка українських феодалів. Визвольна війна 1648-1654 рр. і возз'єднання України з Росією поклали край унії на Лівобережній Україні. Наприкінці XVIII ст. внаслідок визвольної боротьби українського народу унію ліквідовано на Правобережжі. На Західній Україні уніатська церква існувала до 1946 р., коли церковний собор у Львові проголосив її скасування. На Закарпатті унію ліквідовано 1949 р. Нині уніатська церква продовжує свою реакційну діяльність у США і Канаді.


The Uniates -

supporters of the uniya. Uniya is the union of the Orthodox church of Ukraine and Belarus with the Catholic church, which was carried out at the Vatican's initiative and announced by the church synod in Brest in 1596. Uniya served as a tool of strengthening the power of the Polish szlachta in Ukraine and Belarus. The szlachta aimed at catholicizing the Ukrainian and Belarusian populations and breaking off their ties with the Russian people. It was supported by the high-ranking Ukrainian feudal lords. The 1648-1654 Liberation War and the re-unification of Ukraine with Russia put an end to uniya in the Left Bank Ukraine. At the end of the 18th century, as a result of the Ukrainian people's fight for liberation, uniya was liquidated in the Right Bank region. In Western Ukraine, the Uniate church existed until 1946, when the church synod in Lviv announced its dissolution. In Transcarpathia, uniya was liquidated in 1949. Currently, the Uniate church continues its reactionary activities in the USA and Canada.

Here the message must have been this: Those evil Diaspora folks, children, they are still plotting to break up the union of the two brotherly nations, Russians and Ukrainians - beware!

Both messages are conveniently transmitted with the use of Shevchenko, via his Tarasova Nich ("The Night of Taras") - a poem written circa 1840...

And here's Oleh Tyahnybok some 165 years later, in 2004, looking like a small-town actor, making a passionate speech about zhydva and moskali, feeling safe in Shevchenko's shadow - although this speech later got him kicked out of Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine":


The other thing about Tyahnybok that I wanted to mention is his sovok obsession with pyataya grafa, the fifth line in the Soviet passport that indicated the person's ethnicity - and which Tyahnybok would like to have re-introduced in Ukrainian passports and birth certificates. Here's a quote (UKR) from his 2005 speech, posted on his site:

[...] We all remember very well those old Soviet passports that still had this line. And each one of us was a Ukrainian, a Pole, a Belarusian, a Lithuanian. Very regrettably, after Ukraine gained its independence, this line disappeared from our passports. Basically, our ethnicity was stolen from us. [...]

All in all, this is explained by a simple philosophical saying: what's unnamed does not exist.


According to the latest census, there are over 78 percent of us Ukrainians in Ukraine, but we do not really have a proper identification. Actually, this line and this identification is missing from birth certificates as well as from other documents. The "ethnicity" line in the passports was taken away from us, and no one had asked Ukrainians for permission. It was nothing but a political decision. The return of this line will definitely further preservation and prosperity of the Ukrainian nation.

Basically, if it goes on like this, now that they took away the ethnicity line in the passport, we can expect the victory of globalism. After the "ethnicity" line, they might take away our last names, our first names and patronymics, and we'll only have our identification codes [used for taxation purposes] left to us.

[Dear friends], we are not America to pile everyone together. A Ukrainian should remain a Ukrainian, a Pole should remain a Pole, a Gagauz - a Gagauz, an Uzbek - an Uzbek. The All-Ukrainian Association Svoboda insists on returning the "ethnicity" line to the passport and other documents. And, if necessary, we insist on holding an all-Ukrainian referendum. [...]

Now that we have a country of our own and are all Ukrainian citizens, now is the time, of course, to revert to old Soviet ways and start it all over again. We aren't America, no.

(A good antidote against Tyahnybok's crap is this beautiful essay by Zadie Smith, published in The New York Review of Books on Feb. 26: Speaking in Tongues.)


That's all I have to say about this useless and embarrassing sovok for now - until he wins some other Ukrainian region, the way he has just won Ternopil.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tyahnybok's Svoboda seems to have won the election in Ternopil. Yulya seems to have lost it.




So far.

Would be interesting if in the presidential election next year (if there is one) we'll have to choose between Yanukovych and Tyahnybok.

A few more Podil pictures, including the ones posted earlier - in this set.

Kyiv mayor's favorite pastor Sunday Adelaja (The Embassy of God) in an ad for his TV show aired on the municipal channel. Above Adelaja's ad is an ad for Love in the Big City, a Russian movie.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kyiv, Podil:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kyiv, Podil:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Kyiv, Khreshchatyk, a few days ago, but I'm posting it today because the restaurant on the background is called Kobzar, and the guy on the bike is being such a kozak, and it's Taras Shevchenko's birthday today, and I've been reading him these past few weeks, finding his poetry beautiful, moving and/or depressing, comparing the Soviet perspective on his work expressed in my 1988 edition to some of the contemporary views that I'm aware of, realizing that neither is very close to what I feel when I read Shevchenko... Anyway, here's the picture:

P.S. Don't think what I wrote above is what I actually wanted to say: I'm absolutely allergic to the stuff we were fed in the Soviet times, and there's plenty of it in my 1988 edition of Shevchenko, but now it's sort of interesting to read through it - a good reminder of how much everything has changed in the past 20 years. As for the "contemporary" views, I don't really know much about any of them, except really superficially. And the best way for me to read Shevchenko is by pretending that no past or present perspectives exist and I'm completely on my own with his poetry. It's somewhat hard to accomplish, considering his status, past and present. But I don't even want to say that I'm re-reading him, because if I do, then all those other voices start interfering. Well, this is it, sort of.
Svitlana Loboda will sing for Ukraine at Eurovision this year:

(the 'beaver' ad is on Sagaydachnogo St.)

And here's this year's "Russian" entry - the Ukrainian version of Anastasiya Prykhodko's song:

And the part-Russian, part-Ukrainian version:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Kyiv, Podil:

Kyiv, Podil:

Kyiv, Podil:


Monday, March 02, 2009

A set of 54 gloomy pictures from Kurenivka - here...

Kyiv, Maidan - March 1, 2009: