Ukrainian Unrest and Jewish Question

By Slava Tsukerman

As the Ukrainian protest movement grows, spreading from Kiev Maidan to more and more cities and areas, Russian state controlled media increases anti Maidan propaganda.

Here is the list of terms used by Russian TV to define Ukrainian protesters: Extremists, radicals, extremist militants, the ultra groups, gangs, raiders, rioters, storm troopers, nationalists, neo-Nazis, fascists.

This is a rare case when many people do trust Russian propaganda. There is a reason for it. It’s widely believed that Ukrainian nationalism, the desire to break dependence from Russia and become accepted part of Europe, are originated in Western Ukraine. Western Ukraine was occupied by Stalin in 1939, as a result of division of Poland between USSR and Germany according to Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Western Ukrainian nationalists, under the leadership of Stepan Bandera for many years after WWII, fought partisan war for independence from the Soviet Union. Soviet propaganda, which always tried to equalize any nationalism with Nazism, routinely called all the Bandera followers “Nazis”, blaming them for anti-Semitism and pogroms of Jews.

In fact the situation was very complicated. Most of the time Bandera fought against Germans as well as against Russians and he was even imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Besides there were Jews among his close associates.

There were among his followers anti-Semites also, as they were in any Ukrainian social group.

Today is the same:  you can see in the streets of Kiev scenes like this one.

The poster is in Russian: “God Almighty, give us a leader who will free us from Jews!”

If this man is a Ukrainian nationalist, why does he speaks with God in Russian, not in Ukrainian?

Even President Yanukovich, supported by Russia in his fight against Maidan, sometimes uses traditional Ukrainian anti–Semitism for his own purposes. One can learn from Russian Internet information that the Yanukovich government sends flyers to their police forces, saying that all the Maidan rebels are Jews and Jew sympathizers, thus enemies of Ukraine.

This information is never even mentioned by Russian State TV, but all their programs are full of statements about pro–Nazi anti-Semitic character of Maidan movement. And many Russians and Russian Jews and even some American Jews believe it, as they have grown up listening to propaganda about pro–Nazism and anti-Semitism of all followers of Bandera.

Russian state controlled TV channels don’t show the real Maidan. They show government organized demonstrations with the comments like “In the Eastern and other regions of the country hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians go to support the current government.”

Here is such demonstration in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk. Demonstrators carry slogans: “Lugansk region is against neo–Nazis”, “Europe wants Ukraine to be Nazi”.

Pro–government demonstrators typically look like this:

I want to present you with some quotes from the statement of Alexander Roitburd, a Jew, who is an internationally popular Ukrainian artist:

“I do not have any specific Jewish feelings about Maidan. I certainly feel that I’m a Jew when I am in Maidan. But I feel like a Jew being on a Hawaiian beach, and in the Red Square and in the Metropolitan Museum, and in the Odessa market. Being in Maidan I do not feel any surplus threat because of my Jewishness. Some “professional” Jews, of course, are trying to expand in the world’s media campaign about anti-Semitism in Maidan.

“My expert assessment is that there is no special anti-Semitism in Maidan. Certainly there are anti-Semites over there. But there are anti-Semites not only in Maidan. They are everywhere:  on the Hawaiian beach, and in the Red Square and in the Metropolitan Museum, and in Odessa market…

“There are hundreds and thousands of testimonies of Jews standing in Maidan, an atmosphere of unity and brotherhood prevails over there.

“…When there is a war between good and evil, I’m on the side of good. My Jewish ethics requires me to do so. Incidentally, this is why most Ukrainian Jews today are on the same side, and no propaganda raid will change this fact.”

Here is a comment to this statement made by one Ukrainian Internet user: “Thanks to Maidan, even just for the fact that this statement was provoked by it, I ‘m not talking about the rest … Just for the sake of this realization we needed to come to Maidan!”

Updated: February 10, 2014 — 8:45 pm © 2016