When arrogant thugs start talking the language of compromise and reason, you know they’re getting desperate. Look at the Soviet Communists. When they felt on top of the world, they insisted they’d “bury” the West. When they knew the jig was up, they discovered the pleasures of détente. Some fifteen years ago, when I visited Cuba as part of a cultural-educational group, our guide Ernesto insisted that the embarrassingly visible prostitution and black-marketeering we encountered on all of Havana’s streets were part of human nature. When he said, “We’re just like you,” I knew that Cuban communism was kaput. Most recently, North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un stated: “An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the north and the south.” There goes another socialist paradise.

Some of Ukraine’s Regionnaires have also begun speaking like human beings—a sign that they, too, are desperate. First, there’s the notorious Ukrainophobe from Donetsk, Nikolai Levchenko, a local politico who gained notoriety a few years ago by ridiculing Ukrainian language and culture and claiming to have read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace seven times. He was subsequently immortalized as a corrupt Stalinist popinjay in Jakob Preuss’s brilliant documentary film, The Other Chelsea. After being elected to the parliament in one of Donetsk’s majoritarian districts on October 28th, Levchenko recently gave a remarkable interview to the UNIAN news agency, in which he repeatedly apologized for his insensitivity and stupidity:

I remain a Russian-speaking citizen of Ukraine. I love Russian culture—Esenin and Pushkin—more than Lesya Ukrainka and Taras Shevchenko. But not because they are worse. I just happen to love them … I want to express my apologies for what I once said. I apologize to those I insulted. I never thought about it. It’s only now that I’ve considered: how would I have reacted if someone had said the same about the Russian language? I would have been insulted. Perhaps I’ve matured. But I understand how I could have insulted people who love all things Ukrainian just as I love the Russian language. I respect the Ukrainian language and definitely love it more than someone living in Vorkuta or Semipalatinsk. I sincerely request forgiveness, and not just with words, but with my heart, from those people I insulted … My apologies are not political. They are exclusively human.

Yeah, right. After years of gross insensitivity, the timing of Levchenko’s sudden conversion to decency—right on the heels of getting a job as a deputy in Kyiv—just isn’t persuasive. Far more likely, his Regionnaire bosses ordered the young whippersnapper to cool it. The party couldn’t even manage to cheat its way to a majority, Viktor Yanukovych is despised, the country is going down the toilet—and Russian supremacism may not go over quite as well in the anti-Regionnaire capital as in the Donbas.

And then there’s the notoriously Ukrainophobic blogger and analyst Oles Buzyna, who likes to engage in fisticuffs on television talk shows. Here’s what he had to say on the eve of the New Year:

The authorities and the opposition are quite worthy of each other. I hope that our citizens will finally begin to appreciate half-tones and stop idealizing and demonizing the two sides. Both the Party of Regions and Svoboda are not as terrible as they’re being depicted. And the other parties are not as clean as one would want. Consider Natalya Korolevska’s ability to adapt. Just recently she stood side by side with Yulia Tymoshenko, and now she’s a minister in the government of the anti-Tymoshenko Azarov. Good for her! She knows that there is no substantive ideological difference between them. And we too shouldn’t be dividing things. You like Mazepa? I prefer Bohdan Khmelnytsky. But that’s no reason for people living in Ukraine to hate one another. There’s enough room here for everyone—both on the Earth and among monuments.

What’s this? A tough-guy Regionnaire suggesting his party isn’t all that different from the right-wing Svobodites? A hard-line, fist-swinging, extremist ideologue arguing for reconciliation and love? Yikes! The Regionnaires must believe they’re in even more serious trouble than even their harshest critics suggest.

Notwithstanding my skepticism, Ukraine’s democrats should take the likes of Levchenko and Buzyna at their word. After all, what have they to lose? And besides, it’s not every day that the Regionnaires rise to the moral level of Kim Jong-un.

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

Ukrayinska Dumka


Great Britain The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has many branches throughout the country. Select a branch below to find out more information.