Back To The Stalinist Future

FRANKFURT, Germany -- The clocks run backwards in Ukraine: hardly six months have elapsed since the last elections and nearly nothing remains of the “Democratic Awakening” that rocked the nation in 2004.

Independent, yes, but free? During celebrations of the nineteenth anniversary of Ukraine's independence, Kiev, 24 August 2010.

Writer Yuri Andrukhovych depicts the “internal occupation” of his country and implores Europe to watch closely what’s happening there.

It’s high time I got a grip on my subconscious. I don’t like my dreams at all. They’ve been troubling me for several months now. More or less ever since Ukrainian reality began to resemble the dream. It will take at least 10 years, announce the optimists. In other words at least two terms of office for the incumbent president.

A cloak-and-dagger vote

You could use present-day Ukraine to teach a whole course on “The fragility of democracy or How we’re being driving back into dictatorship”. The man who was gnawed by the “insult of 2004” [when he was beaten by Viktor Yushchenko in the presidential election] is relishing his revenge.

Viktor Yanukovych is the first “minority president” in our history: in the second round of the elections [February 2010], he won less than 49 per cent of the vote. So it looked as though he’d be even less effective than his predecessor. But that’s only how it looked to those of us na├»ve enough to believe the country’s constitution was inviolable.

By mid-March the new president had already seized power with amazing dexterity. He now has a parliamentary majority under his thumb that is incapable of doing anything but carrying out his orders and ignoring the opposition.

The latest case in point was the cloak-and-dagger vote held at night on the law on foreign policy principles. Of the 420 amendments proposed by the opposition, not a single one was admitted.

Bring the middle class to heel, bleed the opposition dry

The cabinet is run by Mykola Azarov, an avowed enemy of small and medium-sized businesses – and the president’s staunch ally. His favourite pastime: crushing his adversaries.

The tax legislation he has proposed, for example, allows tax inspectors to enter people’s homes to search the place. The object is clear: to bring the middle class to heel, bleed the opposition dry by administrative means, so his own henchmen can enrich themselves.

I can’t remember the last time a Ukrainian court found for the opposition. But they can’t possibly be in the wrong every time! No sooner has parliament passed a new law on public assembly than the judges feel it is their utmost duty to proscribe protest actions.

Meanwhile, the militia have shown they’re quite capable of quelling protest even without a court order.

Stalin monuments popping up again

Once upon a time there was a country that wasn’t so bad at all, a country brimming with hope and knocking on Europe’s door. Where did it go? We’re hearing about more and more so-called “preventive interviews” with journalists and representatives of the public sphere, about efforts to recruit new names for the “loyalty lists”, and about files being kept on opposition activists.

The country is morphing back into a police state again. “Back” is the key word here: we’ve gone back to the past. The 1970s perhaps?

Yanukovych’s “Party of Regions” is bound to win by a landslide (target proclaimed: 70%) in the local government elections this autumn. The point of the “reforms” is to create a “Russia 2” of sorts – albeit more feeble, more backwards.

And the right social order to achieve that end is a brand of neo-Stalinism of a feudal oligarchic cast. Not for nothing are Stalin monuments popping up again in the Ukraine.

What does the Yanukovych regime need Europe for?

Only one thing remains a mystery though: What does the Yanukovych regime need Europe for? What’s the point of all this playing at integration and the unchanged Euro-rhetoric? Is it only for the banking connections?

Or to facilitate holidaymaking in Sardinia? Never before have we had a state power that was so far removed from European values. Sometimes we can’t help yearning for Kuchma’s return [Leonid Kuchma, president forced to resign in 2005].

Hence my plea to the European Community: “Watch, more closely than ever before, what this Ukrainian government is doing! God only knows why, but they still care what you think. And don’t let them play you with their twaddle about ‘order’!”

Actually, all I really want is to dream my dream to the end. Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined that our vision would suffer such a shattering defeat in the year 2010. No battle fought, and the war is already lost.

The upshot is occupation. In Ukraine we have a special term for that: “internal occupation” ­– by means of presidential elections and parliamentary machinations. But it simply cannot be that such an anachronistic system, an outgrowth of Stalin’s legacy, should win out in the historical scheme of things.

That questionable conviction is what I pin all my hopes on today. Or rather what’s left of them.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung