Twenty-six years ago, on August 31, 1991, the musical group Hrono from Ukraine, with frontman Taras Petrynenko, entertained more than 2,000 people at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center during the Labor Day weekend festivities. It was the first time the band had performed since Ukraine declared independence, just a few days earlier on August 24. “I don’t know whose soul will be tapped by what I do, but my people are awakening from a deep slumber and I must help them in some way,” Mr. Petrynenko said. “I’m not sure if Ukrainians here, the Ukrainian American youth understand all my lyrics, but the music speaks to them. Music is somehow intertwined with our people, with our history, with our future.”
The stage show, complete with fireworks, smoke and a light show, featured songs written by Mr. Petrynenko, including “The Chornobyl Zone,” “The Popular Movement,” “Left Bank, Right Bank,” and the memorable hit “Ukraino,” which became a veritable anthem.
Russia’s leading human rights groups say that ethnic Russians are now actively discriminating against ethnic Ukrainians, even though Vladimir Putin invariably insists that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, and also persecuting Crimean Tatars, Roma, North Caucasians and numerically small peoples of the North. Yekaterina Trifonova of Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on August 14 that earlier this month the Russian government gave an upbeat report about the state of ethnic and racial discrimination in Russia to a United Nations commission examining the state of ethnic relations and human rights in Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian events (ng.ru/politics/2017-08-14/3_7050_oon.html). Now, a group of leading Russian human rights groups, including Memorial, Crimea SOS, the SOVA center and the Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has presented an alternative report that says the official report “minimizes” the number of violations of human rights in the Russian Federation and in the occupied territories. In a joint statement, the rights groups pointed to “forced disappearances, illegal deprivation of freedom…, limits on the use and study of native languages and on religious and cultural practices,” as well as “the application of torture even to children.” And they noted Russian officials have repeatedly failed to keep promises to the groups and to international bodies like the U.N.
Among the most persecuted groups are the Roma, people from the North Caucasus and Central Asia. Even when they have Russian citizenship, such people can’t rent apartments, get decent work, gain access to education and health care, or serve in the ranks of the Russian army on the basis of ethnicity alone.
To no one’s surprise, Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine has alienated Ukrainians politically from the former imperial center. What is more important but less noticed is that it is increasingly leading them to turn away from Russia culturally – a development with far-reaching consequences that it may be impossible to reverse. In an essay for Radio Liberty, Elena Matusova says that researchers in a wide variety of areas have confirmed that “Ukraine is coming out from under the cultural influence of Russia” and thus is “becoming independent not only in a political and government sense, but in a cultural one as well” (ru.krymr.com/a/28669547.html). The journalist rightly points out that “Russia has been losing influence on the culture of Ukraine” since 1991 when Ukraine achieved its independence, but the process accelerated following the collapse of the pro-Moscow regime of Viktor Yanukovych and Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing war in the Donbas. Viktor Mironenko, the director of the Center for Ukrainian Research at Moscow’s Institute of Europe agrees.
The following statement from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was released on August 18. Twenty-six years ago, Ukrainians around the world celebrated the long-awaited declaration of Ukraine’s renewed independence. As they watched with jubilation, centuries of foreign domination by the evil empire – the Soviet Union and, before that, imperialist Russia – came to an end without a massive land war or the firing of nuclear missiles. Instead, the Parliament of Ukraine overwhelmingly approved the Act of Declaration of Independence on August 24, 1991, a brave step of civic defiance that was upheld by over 90 percent of Ukraine’s citizens in a nationwide referendum in December of that same year. Yet amid the celebrations, a sense of unease lingered: would our former oppressor truly respect the establishment of an independent, sovereign and democratic state of Ukraine?
WASHINGTON – This August, The Jamestown Foundation sponsored two Ukrainian midshipmen’s participation in a naval exchange with the U.S. Navy. Jamestown closely monitors issues related to Black Sea regional security, and this partnership opportunity was identified during a recent trip by Jamestown President Glen Howard to Ukraine. Working with the U.S. Department of State and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Jamestown provided the additional support necessary to make this exchange possible. Cadet Dmytro Gromov and Cadet Stanislav Voropai, from Ochakiv and Crimea, respectively, are entering their penultimate year at Ukraine’s National University of Odessa Maritime Academy, the country’s top naval college. Jamestown’s sponsorship supported their participation in the Foreign Exchange Training of Midshipmen (FOREXTRAMID) 2017, a program in which midshipmen from foreign navies are invited by the U.S. chief of naval operations to participate in summer cruises.
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” – Psalms 90: 10 My parents, two brothers and I moved to Cleveland on my seventh birthday, September 5, 1954, just before Labor Day. I started the second grade two days later. We left Frackville in Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region, our father driving a green ’52 Chevy on the newly constructed Pennsylvania Turnpike. That evening, we arrived at the house on Roanoke in a working class neighborhood that would be the family home for the next 30-plus years. It was a 10-minute walk for me to school and a short drive to the industrial valley where our father got a job, having networked with Cleveland’s Ukrainian American community: “new immigrants” with relationships from the “old country” going back to childhood; and “old immigrants” with roots in America established a generation before.
In 1867 a new country, the Dominion of Canada, was formed out of a number of separate North American British colonies. Extensive celebrations of the event are being held this year to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary. In the United States, Canada has the reputation of being one of the most liberal and progressive countries of the modern post-industrial world. Not only does it have a universal health care system (which works fairly well) fully supported by the tax systems, both federal and provincial (the equivalent of Washington and the states in the U.S.), but its relatively open-door immigration system, its friendly acceptance of new immigrants, and their promotion in public life even as far as the federal Cabinet (which at present contains two ministers of immigrant Muslim background, including a relatively young Afghan woman) are the envy of cosmopolitan and liberal-minded people everywhere. In fact, the general concept of “multiculturalism” for which the country is famous, is even mentioned in the Canadian Constitution.
MINSK – The new U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kurt Volker, has met with a Kremlin aide in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. The Belarusian Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Twitter that Ambassador Volker and Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s point man for the conflict in eastern Ukraine, met behind closed doors. The U.S. State Department announced on August 18 that Ambassador Volker and the Russian representative would discuss “Russian-Ukrainian relations.” After the meeting, Mr. Surkov said his discussion with Ambassador Volker was “useful and constructive,” Russian news agencies reported. There was no immediate comment from Ambassador Volker. The U.S. envoy’s talks with Mr. Surkov kicked off three days of U.S. diplomacy on the war between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Anatoly Antonov, a veteran diplomat who is under European Union sanctions for his role in Moscow’s interference in Ukraine, as ambassador to the United States. The appointment of Mr. Antonov, who has served in both the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Defense Ministry of Russia, was announced on the Kremlin’s website on August 21. Mr. Antonov, 62, has been a staunch public advocate of Russia’s assertive foreign policy in recent years and is seen as a tough negotiator on issues, including arms control. In February 2015, the EU added Mr. Antonov to a list of Russians targeted by sanctions over Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and backing for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The EU said he was “involved in supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine.”
Canada and Ukraine have also imposed sanctions on Mr. Antonov, who was a deputy defense minister from February 2011 to December 2016.
WASHINGTON – The year 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington public-affairs bureau of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). This year, UNIS has already sponsored two Ukrainian Day advocacy events – the first in March, following the commencement of a new Congress and the inauguration of President Donald Trump, and the most recent in mid-June, when dozens of participants came to Washington to meet with government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in formulating and monitoring U.S. policy toward Ukraine. The goal of these advocacy events is to interact with members of Congress to discuss the community’s concerns regarding continued Russia sanctions and desperately needed economic and military assistance to Ukraine. In the autumn, UNIS will once again sponsor a Ukrainian Day on Wednesday, October 11. This endeavor is especially critical considering Russia’s ongoing illegal occupation of Crimea and the war being waged in eastern Ukraine against the foreign-borne Russian-supplied terrorists.