January 5, 2014

Last year, on January 5, 2014, more than 10,000 people gathered on Kyiv’s Independence Square in the first major opposition protest rally for the year, part of the Euro-Maidan movement. Opposition leaders urged supporters to continue the protests after Christmas according to the Julian calendar. The number of protesters had declined following a gas deal between Presidents Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin on December 17, 2013, that reduced the price Ukraine was paying for Russian gas imports by one-third. Many of the protesters had camped out since late November 2013 on Independence Square, where they had erected makeshift baracades. The Yanukovych administration threatened the protesters with prosecution for blocking administrative buildings and automobile traffic, and causing damage to property.

The light of Christ’s birth shines upon all of us once again

Nativity Epistle of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine. To the venerable clergy, monastics and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church beyond the borders of Ukraine and to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine:

Christ is born! Let us glorify Him! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
goodwill toward men!” – St. Luke 2:14

This is the proclamation of the angel to the shepherds with the joyous news of Christ’s birth.

The military koliady

My father began singing about young Vasylko getting on his beautiful horse, taking off his hat and bowing low to say good-bye, riding off into battle with his spear and sword, and meeting a beautiful “kniazivna” (princess). It was after supper on “Sviat Vechir” – Ukrainian Christmas Eve, and I was around 7 or 8 years old. My father said that this was one of the “koliadky” he sang as a young man back home in Strilbychi, Staryi Sambir, in western Ukraine. I remember thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with the birth of ‘Isusyk’ (Baby Jesus)?”

When I wrote this as the beginning of the preface for my book “First Star I See Tonight: Ukrainian Christmas Traditions,” I did not have a specific koliada (carol) text – this was just what I remembered from long ago. Since then, I have found a few koliady that come close to what may have been my Tato’s song.

Putin says West supports Ukraine to block supposed restoration of USSR

In an interview for a documentary film on Moscow’s Russia I channel, Vladimir Putin said that Western support for Ukraine “is connected not with the defense of the interests of Ukraine but with efforts to interfere with the restoration of the Soviet Union, and no one wants to believe us that we do not have a goal of restoring the Soviet Union.”

Moreover, the Kremlin leader commented, “no one in the international arena wants to speak as equal with international groupings promoted by the Kremlin.” For some reason, Mr. Putin continues, the West thinks that “it is possible to create a European Union but not a Eurasian one” (nr2.com.ua/News/Ukraine_and_Europe/Putin-Zapad-meshaet-vossozdat-SSSR- 113701.html). Given Mr. Putin’s track record of saying one thing and doing another, his declaration that the demise of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical tragedy” of the 20th century and his treatment of former Soviet republics, he should not be surprised that many do not believe his protestations on this point. But that undoubtedly is not the most important aspect of this latest Putin declaration. That is his argument that the West is supporting Ukraine not because it is interested in supporting Ukraine for its own sake but only as a derivative of its desire not to see any steps toward the restoration of the Soviet Union. From Mr. Putin’s point of view, such an argument plays to two audiences he is invariably concerned about.

The shrinking Russian world in the post-Soviet space

 Even as Vladimir Putin continues to talk about the Russian world and the importance of reuniting it after the demise of the Soviet Union, the number and share of ethnic Russians in all former Soviet republics and occupied Baltic countries have declined, in many cases precipitously, and with no sign that those trends are going to change. On the Svobodnaya Pressa portal, Moscow journalist Sergey Ryazanov provides a quick survey of this decline and some explanations for why it has been happening and why in many places Russian ethnic identity is now a much less important category than that of “Russian speakers” (svpressa.ru/politic/article/138693/). Central Asia

• Kazakhstan – In 1989, there were 6 million ethnic Russians who formed 37.4 percent of the population. Now, there are 3.6 million ethnic Russians who form 21 percent of the total. • Kyrgyzstan – In 1989, there were 916,600 ethnic Russians who formed 21.5 percent of the population.

The Kremlin’s dangerous new threat in Ukraine

 Fighting continues to gradually intensify in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin-backed militants are now using heavy weapons, including tanks, artillery and ferocious Grad rocket systems, sporadically. Moscow’s rationale behind this latest escalation is to achieve a frozen conflict by gradually sabotaging the execution of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement. Russian President Vladimir Putin likely realizes that his offensive in the Donbas has essentially stalled and that for now he cannot take more Ukrainian territory, not without sustaining heavy casualties among his regular military forces and triggering additional Western sanctions. And so it seems that, in order to achieve its long-term strategic goals, the Kremlin’s leadership is emphasizing alternative aspects of hybrid warfare.

Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt speaks with Myroslava Gongadze of VOA

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on December 12 released a transcript of Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt’s interview with Myroslava Gongadze of Voice of America. The interview took place on November 13 in Kyiv and it aired on the program “Prime Time.” Following are excerpts of their discussion about the beginning of the Euro-Maidan. The interview also discusses Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Obama administration’s response to Russian aggression, the state of affairs in Ukraine today and what lies ahead. (A video of the full interview is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNH0ZRZeGGw.)

…when you came [to Ukraine], you were probably not expecting big turmoil. But you came, and it did [happen].

Scholarly papers from conference on Ukrainian Famine studies

“Contextualizing the Holodomor: The Impact of Thirty Years of Ukrainian Famine Studies,” edited by Andrij Makuch and Frank E. Sysyn. Edmonton-Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2015. 126 pp. ISBN: 978-1-894865-33-2. $22.95

In 2013, the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies(CIUS) partnered with several institutions to organize a conference to examine what 30 years of scholarly work on the Holodomor, the Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933, has added to the understanding of Ukrainian history, Soviet history, communism and genocide studies.

“Black Earth” examines history and warnings of the Holocaust

“Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning,” by Timothy Snyder, New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2015. 462 pp. ISBN: 978-1-101-90345-2. $30 (hardcover) $16.99 (paperback). Prof. Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University, this year released his ninth book – “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.”

Based on new archival sources from Eastern Europe, Prof. Snyder examines the Holocaust in vast detail, describing Hitler’s worldview of the Jews and their planned extermination by the Nazis that began in the territories of the Soviet Union.