WORLD AFFAIRS.  Few things were worse in the Communist catalog of sins than “splittism” — or the promotion of splits within the “united front” of the proletariat. Splittists were “deviationists” who preached unity while abandoning the Party “line” and going off in their own, invariably destructive directions.

Thanks no doubt to the mysterious workings of the Marxist dialectic, the ranks of the splittists have recently acquired a new member: Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych who, in typically splittist fashion, preaches unity while promoting discord.

Here’s an excerpt from his January 21st speech commemorating Ukraine’s Unity Day:

I strongly condemn any attempts to jeopardize the unity of Ukraine and the unity of our nation, as well as any efforts to set a part of our citizens against another. I advocate us searching for something that is common for people, regardless of whether they live in the west or the east of Ukraine.

Nice words, but how can one reconcile them with Yanukovych’s actions?

A genuine unifier would never have appointed a Russian supremacist as minister of education. Dmytro Tabachnik makes about as much sense in that position as Oleh Tyahnybok, a Ukrainian extremist. After all, you don’t promote racial unity in the United States by placing a Ku Klux Klansman or a Black Panther in charge of the Department of Education.

Nor would a genuine unifier promote the hegemony of one of Ukraine’s three Orthodox churches — the one affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate — and thereby encourage in the other two legitimate fears of persecution and liquidation. Indeed, a genuine unifier would, like every one of Ukraine’s past presidents, be tolerant and ecumenical, maintaining a dialogue with all of Ukraine’s many faiths, and not just the one that gets him Brownie points with the Kremlin. (By the way, that service has not gone unappreciated by the Russian Orthodox Church: on January 21, Yanukovych received the $50,000 Patriarch Aleksei II Prize for “strengthening the unity of Orthodox peoples.”)

Nor, finally, would a genuine unifier promote only his Donetsk cronies to positions of authority and let them feed at the trough, while charging his centrist political opponents with corruption and looking the other way as his supporters fund Tyahnybok in the hope of creating a regionally strong, though nationally unelectable, bogeyman.   

Why is Yanukovych pursuing splittism? He may have a hidden unificationist agenda — of attaching Ukraine or, at least its eastern provinces, to Russia. Or he may be trying to turn eastern Ukrainians against western Ukrainians on the divide et impera rationale. Or, just as plausibly, he may, as a deeply provincial politico, not understand that a complex and diverse country cannot be run like his Donbas fiefdom. 

Whatever the reason, Yanukovych had better keep his eyes open, as his splittism could lead to civil conflict and possibly even destroy Ukraine. Some of his Regionnaire pals wouldn’t mind that outcome, but Yanukovych should — especially if he wants to keep having photo-ops in Brussels, Paris, and Washington. At the very least, Yanukovych should realize that his splittism could lead to a split between him and the rest of the country. His base in the east still tolerates him (though just barely) as their native son, but much of the rest of the country regards him with distrust at best and disdain at worst. And now that he’s insulted Ukrainian women in Davos, where he encouraged investors to come to Kyiv in the spring and watch them disrobe, Yanukovych may be widening the gender gap as well.

More immediately worrisome for Ukraine’s president is that his splittism is already generating splits in his outwardly solid, though inwardly decrepit, regime. The latest indication of growing cracks is an article by Lieutenant-General Oleksandr Skipalsky, the former deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). Here’s what Skipalsky had to say about the Yanukovych regime:

The people who have now come to power in our State are those for whom Ukraine is a foreign concept. These people believe that Ukraine should become their private property. Their goal is to privatize Ukraine completely. And persistently, step by step, they are heading toward that goal. The people are mired in poverty, but they are swimming in luxury. While pensioners are counting their pennies, they are buying up yachts, planes, villas, and banks. They regard the Ukrainian force structures, the Ukrainian courts, and the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine as their private property. They look upon the Security Service of Ukraine as a security service for their clans. They are not only destroying our language and our history, they are destroying public morale. They are destroying the future of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They represent not so much a different ideology as a different civilization.

Pretty strong stuff, but the important thing is that Skipalsky (and former SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, who is also a determined opponent of Yanukovych) must have many high-ranking supporters within the secret police. As Skipalsky says, “We do not want our age-old hopes betrayed. We desire the achievement of our goals. That is why my comrades in arms and I — those members of the force structures who have not lost sight of honesty and honor — will not be changing our profession for a long time to come.”

As Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak could tell Ukraine’s president, no illegitimate regime can survive for long without the support of the army and secret police. Ukraine’s army is decrepit, so Yanukovych can’t count on it. The SBU has retained some of its elan, but if Skipalsky’s views are commonplace in its ranks, then Yanukovych can’t count on it either.

So who’s left? Tabachnik and his band of Regionnaire supremacists? Unfortunately for Ukraine’s splittist president, when the going gets rough, as it surely will in 2011–2012, Tabachnik and the thugs will be the first to split.

Alexander J Motyl

Ukrayinska Dumka


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