KYIV – Crimean Tatar R&B/soul-style singer Jamala succeeded in drawing the world’s attention to the Russian government’s persecution of her people by winning the annual Eurovision Song Contest with her song “1944” about Stalin’s mass deportations and genocide. Jamala finished second among public voting and in second place among juries during the contest’s final round on May 14, placing her ahead of the flashy yet standard fare of pop music presented by runner up Dami Im of Australia and third-place finisher Sergey Lazarev of Russia. Given the contest’s prohibition against political songs and gestures, Jamala consistently said she was singing only about history leading up to the event, enabling her to participate. Yet on the contest’s eve, she confirmed what was widely suspected that “1944” was just as much about the present. “Of course, it’s about 2014 as well,” she said in an interview published on May 13 on the guardian.com news site.
UCCA statement on Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance of Victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide, issued on May 18 by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. Every 18th of May, communities across the world pause to reflect on the mass murder of over 100,000 Crimean Tatars, a genocide conceived of and perpetrated by Joseph Stalin, in the course of the Soviets physically removing all indigenous people from the Crimean peninsula in 1944. Approximately 238,000 deportees, 113,000 of whom were children, 93,000 women, were rounded up in the early morning hours, placed on cattle cars, and sent away to far-off Soviet farm collectives and forced labor camps. This Sürgün, or “violent expulsion,” remains hidden in the annals of 20th century atrocities, just as the brutal colonization of Crimea in 1783 by tsarist Russia, which saw tens of thousands of indigenous Crimean Tatars drowned for the amusement of their captors. This May 18, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the representative organization of over 1 million Americans of Ukrainian descent, joins the Ukrainian World Congress, the international assembly of Ukrainian organizations representing over 25 million people worldwide, and the government of Ukraine not only to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of one of the most tragic pages in the history of the Crimean Tatar people, but in calling on the United States, the United Nations and European Union member states to recognize the mass expulsion of Crimean Tatars, organized by the Soviet Union in 1944, as an ethnic genocide of the Crimean Tatar people.
Following is a comment on the anniversary of the Soviet deportation of Crimean Tatars that was released on May 18 by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. It is attributed to U.S. Embassy spokesperson Jonathan Lalley.
We join the Crimean Tatars and all the people of Ukraine in commemorating the solemn anniversary of the forcible deportation of more than 230,000 Tatars from their Crimean homeland in 1944. Today, Crimean Tatars continue to face repression and discrimination under Russian occupation in Crimea. Almost 10,000 Crimean Tatars have been forced to flee the peninsula since the Russian occupation began in 2014. Those who remain have been subjected to abuses, including abusive interrogations, beatings, arbitrary detentions, and police raids on their homes and mosques.
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on May 18 announced his nomination of Marie L. Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine, replacing Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt, whom he nominated to serve as envoy to Greece. Ms. Yovanovitch, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of minister-counselor, currently serves as dean of the School of Language Studies at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, a position she has held since 2014. Ms. Yovanovitch was deputy commandant at the Eisenhower School at the National Defense University from 2013 to 2014. She served in the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs as principal deputy assistant secretary from 2012 to 2013 and as deputy assistant secretary from 2011 to 2012. Prior to that, she served as U.S. ambassador to Armenia from 2008 to 2011 and as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan from 2005 to 2008.
Vladimir Putin’s regime clearly has a bad case of Savchenkophobia. It’s true. The Kremlin is absolutely terrified of its hostage. The Kremlin is terrified of Nadiya Savchenko in captivity, where she is a potent symbol of the Putin regime’s petty and cruel brutality and of Ukraine’s resistance. But the Kremlin is even more terrified of what Savchenko would become if she were freed.
KYIV – Ukraine on May 18 commemorated the victims of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s mass deportation of Tatars from Crimea in 1944. A minute of silence was observed across the country at noon – except in Crimea, where Russia-backed authorities have banned annual commemorations of the deportation after Moscow illegally annexed the peninsula in March 2014. “On this important day, as always, we stand together with our brotherly Crimean Tatar people, share our common pain, and bow our heads to commemorate the victims,” Ukrainian President Petro Poro-shenko wrote on Facebook. In November 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament approved the bill recognizing May 18 as the Day of Remembrance of Victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide. Starting on May 18, 1944, some 200,000 Crimean Tatars were put on trains – most of them in the space of just two days – and sent to Central Asia.
The joint statement from the meeting of U.S. President Barack Obama and the prime ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden underscores their shared strong condemnation of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The ceremony of opening the U.S. missile defense base in Deveselu, Romania, on May 12 was greeted by a barrage of condemnation and criticism from Russian officials (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, May 12). The next day, President Vladimir Putin turned these denouncements into state policy by defining this deployment of a radar station and SM-3 missile interceptors as a direct threat to Russia and promising to “curtail” it (Kremlin.ru, May 13). The completion of the “Aegis Ashore” project (started in 2013) as well as the beginning of the work on the second base in Poland came as no surprise, because Russia was kept informed of its progress and Moscow duly registered its objections every step of the way (Politcom.ru, May 12). In fact, Mr. Putin held a series of meetings last week with his Security Council and various defense industry chieftains, who were airlifted – along with samples of their products – to his palace near Sochi (Kommersant, May 12).
Ukrainian hackers have leaked the names and contact details of 4,508 journalists and other media representatives who’ve worked over the past year and a half in areas under the control of pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. It was unclear whether the move was an effort to shame individuals for having somehow cooperated for access with the separatists who have been fighting against national authorities since early 2014, with considerable support from Moscow, according to NATO. The Excel document published by the website Myrotvorets, or Peacemaker in Ukrainian, contains names, phone numbers, and e-mails. The list includes journalists, cameramen and producers, as well as stringers, translators and even drivers. Many are affiliated with separatist, Russian or Ukrainian media organizations.
NATO has a new supreme commander, whose job is to strengthen it as a defense force after years of reductions of U.S. troops in Europe. “We face a resurgent Russia and its aggressive behavior that challenges international norms,” U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti said upon taking command of U.S. forces in Europe. He added that the Atlantic alliance’s forces must be “ready to fight should deterrence fail.”
Gen. Scaparrotti became supreme allied commander Europe at a May 4 ceremony at NATO’s military headquarters near Mons, in southern Belgium. His appointment comes at a time when the alliance regards Moscow as a threat to stability over its actions in Ukraine and has largely given up on military or civilian cooperation with Russia. Gen. Scaparrotti has said he will press Washington to station a third permanent brigade of U.S. troops in Europe to bolster the two brigades presently deployed in Germany and Italy.
CLEVELAND – Michael (Mykhailo) Pap passed away on April 1 at the age of 95. He was a university professor and scholar at John Carroll University, a civic activist and political leader both in the Ukrainian diaspora and the city of Cleveland. Mykhailo Pap was born July 24, 1920, in the village of Sirma in the Vynohradivsky region of today’s Zakarpatia Oblast in western Ukraine. He received his early education in the village school and later at the commercial academy in nearby Mukachevo. In the wake of World War II, he left his native Ukraine for Bratislava in today’s Slovakia, where he attended university before moving on to Vienna, just ahead of the Red Army. There he worked at Siemen’s Corp. while attending university. He subsequently moved to Heidelberg, Germany, where he also attended the university, earning a doctorate in International Law and History. In 1949, he immigrated to the U.S. and, after briefly working at an auto plant in Detroit where he learned English, received an academic position at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught and published several articles.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Spurred to action by events in Ukraine and their participation in the Ukrainian National information Service’s Ukrainian Days advocacy efforts in Washington, a group of Philadelphia-area Ukrainian American students have organized the Young Ukrainian Americans’ Civics and Public Policy Club. They immediately set upon organizing a program of study and events. The Club is a program of the Ukrainian Heritage School based at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in Jenkintown, Pa. At the invitations of Pennsylvania State Sens.
For the second time, Ukraine has won the Eurovision Song Contest, with this year’s entry, Jamala (Susana Jamaladinova), a Crimean Tatar performing her song, “1944” about the Soviet deportation of the Tatars from Crimea. Known by the Crimean Tatars as Sürgün, the deportation of the Crimean Tatars is another genocide committed by Stalin on the territory of Ukraine. It was commemorated globally on May 18, just days after Jamala won the Eurovision Song Contest on May 14 in Stockholm, Sweden. Previously, Ruslana Lyzychko’s “Wild Dances” won the contest in 2004 for Ukraine. Ms. Lyzhychko offered words of support for Ukraine’s entry after Jamala’s semi-final performance.
Twenty years ago, on May 26, 1996, The Ukrainian Weekly ran an analysis by Volodymyr Zviglyanich about Russia’s plans to resurrect the Soviet Union, based on a draft document released by the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, titled “Will the (Soviet) Union Revive by 2005?”
Mr. Zviglyanich explained that these theoretical exercises had resulted in the signing of treaties between Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the Treaty on Creating a Union of Sovereign Republics that was signed by Russia and Belarus. There were several factors cited in the document that could impede the revival of the USSR. The document also highlighted factors that would accelerate the restoration of the Soviet empire, including: the lasting effects of Russification and Russian as a language of business, the threat of disintegration of the new independent states, as well as the problem of unnatural borders and disputed territories (Crimea, Transdnistria, eastern Ukraine, the Black Sea Fleet, Kaliningrad). It also noted that NATO expansion via Poland would force Belarus as a Russian protectorate. By the year 2000, the document purported, a new federation would emerge, with the likely participation of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and possibly of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, and even less likely that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan would join. The chances of Moldova and Azerbaijan joining were remote. “…And the fate of these states, respectively, will depend on Ukraine and the situation in the Caucasus,” Mr. Zviglyanich said.
The Russian media, which had predicted the victory of the Russian competitor in this year’s Eurovision song competition – something that would have given Moscow a boost and the right to host next year’s competition – have fallen to the level of an old Soviet anecdote now that Crimean Tatar Jamala has won for her people and Ukraine. In Soviet times, the story was widely told that when Nikita Khrushchev met with John F. Kennedy at Vienna for a summit, the two decided on a footrace. Not surprisingly, the young American president defeated the older and significantly more out of shape Soviet premier, putting the Moscow media in a difficult position. Moscow newspapers and television could hardly report the facts of the case because that would boost the Americans and represent a slap in the face to Khrushchev. As a result, they came up with a strategy that characterized much Soviet reporting about things – and one that has now re-emerged in the age of Vladimir Putin.
Moscow’s illegal occupation of Crimea is an even greater threat to the world and to Russia itself than many imagine because, as political commentator Sergey Stelmakh points out, the Kremlin has been using the Ukrainian peninsula as a laboratory for repressive measures it then employs elsewhere. In Radio Liberty’s Krymr.com portal, which Crimean authorities have declared “extremist” and sought to block, Mr. Stelmakh says that this trend has become so obvious that one cannot fail to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller about what happens when one doesn’t oppose illegal actions against others (ru.krymr.com/content/article/27733212.html). “In present-day Crimea,” he writes, “the events of the 1930s are being repeated with shocking exactitude,” something that must be of concern not only to those who care about Crimea and Ukraine but also to those who care about Russia or anywhere else the power of Vladimir Putin is projected. One of the reasons for that disturbing conclusion, Mr. Stelmakh suggests, is that the repressions in Crimea are being carried out, as was the case in Nazi Germany, not just by state organs but by the lumpen the state has put in play; and as history shows, “there is no worse an oppressor than a former slave.”
Moreover, the recent dramatic increase in the number of searches and arrests in Crimea coincided with the arrival in the Ukrainian peninsula of Tatyana Moskalkova, the Russian human rights ombudsman, a “coincidence” that represents the latest “spitting in the face” of any notions of legality and justice. Many who now support Mr. Putin assume that they will escape any oppression because they are on the side of the oppressors, Mr. Stelmakh says.