Investigative and analytical journalists who take on historical issues venture into delicate territory and often leave open the possibility of historical inaccuracy, thus weakening their conclusions. As the saying goes, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Linda Kinstler in “Politico” recently presented a primer on the pitfalls of not doing your homework.
Ms. Kinstler smeared many individuals. Most were deserving. Certainly, few if any were to volunteer to clear the reputations of criminals such as Putin and Yanukovych, notorious historical tyrants such as Czarina Catherine, Stalin or living oligarchs such as Medvedchuk and Akhmetov, many of whom are to blame or who can defend themselves. However, deceased heroes revered by the great majority of the people they fought for, deserve advocates and have millions of them within the Ukrainian nation. I include myself within those millions.
If Bohdan Khmelnytsky led a “bandit army,” as Ms. Kinstler states, then so did General George Washington who led the Continental Army. I would assume that Ms. Kinstler did not much consider the use of the term. Slurs against groups in general are not helpful in making a historical point, gratuitous slurs even less so. For Khmelnytsky, the Pereyaslav Agreement was a temporary military alliance necessitated by the war against the Poles. The Russians had other plans. Sure it was a mistake in hindsight. It would have been more productive had Ms. Kinstler used Pereyaslav as an example to show that Russian disregard for international agreements dates back to at least the 17th century. That would partly explain Russia’s lack of respect and adherence to Helsinki of 1975, Budapest of 1994, the Ukraine-Russia Friendship of 1997 and so many other accords, agreements and treaties to which Russia was a signatory.
On the subject of Stepan Bandera, Ms. Kinstler was even less informed. The word “terrorism” is a popular attention getter, particularly after 9/11, but most widely is misunderstood. Highjacking planes and flying them into buildings occupied by innocent civilians is terrorism. Using drones on foreign soil which often–but not intentionally–results in the killing of innocent civilians as well as the intended target is a form of foreign warfare with collateral damage. Killing those Polish regime representatives, responsible for the occupation of your homeland on your own land, was a liberation struggle. Furthermore, if Bandera had any ideas about collaborating with the Nazis he did not do a very good job or give the option much time. The Nazis invaded Ukraine on June 22, 1941. By the following day Bandera delivered to the Nazis a memorandum, in which he severely warned Hitler that only an independent Ukraine suited Ukrainians and that if this was not in Hitler’s plans then Germany would find Ukrainians to be its worst enemy. In fact the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was formed not as Ms. Kinstler states “to help create an ethnically pure Ukraine, free of Jews, Poles, Russians and other minorities,” but to fight the Germans first. Besides Ukrainians, the UPA included many Jews and some Russians. Bandera himself was interred in a German concentration camp. Two of his brothers were interred in Auschwitz where they were murdered by Polish guards.
Prime minister Yatsenyuk and former prime minister and political prisoner Yulia Tymoshenko can defend themselves. But the attacks against the anti-Communist and anti-Nazi laws recently signed by Ukraine’s President Poroshenko should be refuted. Ukraine certainly has a right to condemn the past, which was more often than not the result of foreign occupation. Furthermore, Ukraine certainly has not only the right but the duty to rehabilitate and honor its veterans, those who fought for its independence. At the time of signing the four laws, President Poroshenko, sensitive to concerns, assured everyone including the international community that he would submit a democratic draft law regarding consequences for violations of the subject legislation, which would eliminate any conflicts or infringements upon the rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals and citizens, particularly in the areas of scientific study and discourse, as well as international relations and dialogue.
There are plenty to blame for Ukraine’s current ruin. However, Khmelnytsky, Bandera, Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk certainly do not belong on that list. If Ms. Kinstler were sincere in her concern for Ukraine’s problems she would stop trying to blame the victims and go after the perpetrators. However, do so with due diligence, serious research, study and analysis. Without that process, you are not really helping Ukraine.