Ukrainian-Jewish Relations: Mythology Substituting For Reality
In the hierarchy of problems worrying citizens of Ukraine, inter-nationality problems occupy 8th-10th place, following after other pressing social problems such as the standard of living, unemployment, unpaid salaries and pensions, anxiety caused by an increase in crime, etc. In their turn, Ukrainian-Jewish relations are also not first in the hierarchy of inter-nationality relations and nationality problems of the country. There are the problems of the Crimean Tatars, strictly Ukrainian ethnic problems, and a series of others. Nevertheless, this topic, burdened by history, does not leave the pages of mass media and constantly attracts the attention of politicians, historians, and publicists.
Well-known culturologist Hassan Husseinov has formulated the problem in this way: “The `image of the other' affects the most important layers of public self-consciousness. In the crisis moments of history, when the cultural tradition conceived of by the people is undermined (as is occurring today in post-Soviet countries), images of 'alien' cultures – consciously or not – acquire specific meaning and weight during the experience of the crisis and the subsequent reappraisal of national and cultural identity”.
Ukrainian-Jewish relations as a subject of research consist of:
- inter-nationality relations, built up over centuries on the territory of Rus-Ukraine;
- interstate relations between Ukraine and Israel;
- the relations between the larger Jewish and Ukrainian diasporic communities-particularly in the USA, Canada, Germany, Latin America, Australia, Poland, and a number of other countries.
While the relations between the diasporas and interstate contacts are events of recent history, the experience of living together on the territory of Rus-Ukraine goes back about 1000 years.
For various objective and subjective reasons, these relations have rarely become a subject of professional academic study. One of the few researchers of the topic, Ukrainian professor J. Dashkevich describes the situation in the following way:
“For Ukrainian Soviet historiography the problem simply didn't exist... A heavy if not oppressive impression is created by the texts of the Ukrainian diaspora in this field”. (On my own behalf, I would add, that perhaps the only exceptions are the works of the Ukrainian historian from Canada Ivan Lysiak-Rudnitsky). Furthermore: “Jewish Soviet historiography in eastern Ukraine ceased its existence at the beginning of the 1930s with the liquidation (partly physical) of the Jewish historical-archaeological commission of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. In western Ukraine, the Jewish historical sciences ceased in 1939. In modern
Israeli and Jewish diasporic historiography, themes connected with the death, extermination, and persecution of Jews prevail”. According to the calculations of Dashkevich, this period lasted 4 years, while for more than 350 years, Jews and Ukrainians shared more or less normal relations.
Today there is not even one serious historical work on the history of Ukrainian Jews, written after the classical books of Dubnov and Hessen at the beginning of the century.
With the history of Ukraine, the situation is a bit easier. The first academic monographies which were not engaged politically began to appear in the 1990s.
However, the necessity of comprehending Ukrainian-Jewish relations is so great, that it cannot be put aside for decades and centuries. Historians and philosophers, sociologists and publicists offer their own models for understanding these relations. One of the more deserving of attention is the model suggested by well-known Ukrainian philosopher and publicist Miroslav Marinovich. “The Jewish and Ukrainian peoples have differing models of survival”, he wrote in 1991. “Both models... are incommensurable: Jews survive dispersrf among alien nations; Ukrainians – in their own land... Life among alien and often hostile to one other ethnic substrata has placed a heavy imperative in front of Jews: to determine without any mistake who is strongest. A mistake could have tragic consequences. The orientation to the interests of the strongest side guaranteed Jewish survival within the terms set by the strongest. As Ukrainians, throughout their history, more often than not have appeared on the weaker side, it is understandable that in the people's consciousness a stereotype emerged in which Jews were perceived as hostile to Ukrainian national interests. . . To demand from Jews that they switch their loyalty to the weaker side means to demand from them the impossible, i.e. to deprive them of the basic conditions of survival”. And further: “The best way to be on friendly terms with Jews is to become strong. And in a strong Ukraine, Jews will find their place harmoniously...” We will come back later to a discussion of the reality of the suggested model.
Here we again cite a series of characteristics relating to Ukrainian-Jewish relations.
In the history textbooks of schools in the USSR, on which several generations of Soviet people over a span of 50 years were raised, there was no data on the 1000 year history of the Jewish communities, or on the role of Jews in the history of Rus-Russia-Ukraine. The one and only textbook for institutions of higher education in Soviet period, in which the Jewish community was still present in the history, was a textbook published in 1939-40. These textbooks did not even comment on the catastrophe of European Jewry. There was absolutely no mention of Jewish history or culture either in “The Philosophical Encyclopaedia”, or in the encyclopaedia of “The Art of Countries and Peoples of the World”, or in the three-volume history of Kiev, or in any other authoritative publication of the Soviet period. Ukrainian history in this same period was not much more enlightened. The canonised Soviet textbooks shamelessly falsified this history: including the absolutely antiscientific “theory” of the descent of Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians from one single nation and the total silence concerning the hunger of 1932-33, and the falsification of the history of World War II (not a word neither about the Ukrainian rebel army nor about the millions of captive Ukrainians)...
It is very easy to continue this list. The following story is a good illustration: In 1926, the trial of a group of Jewish public figures on charges of Zionism ended with the verdict “exile to Palestine”. However, already in 1946, when there remained neither Zionists nor autonomists nor Jewish teachers nor even KGBists (who had obliterated the others), the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine received an inquiry from the KGB (from the new personnel): “What is 'Zionism'?”
From the cited data, it is completely obvious: Ukrainian-Jewish relations for a long period of time (the lifetime of several generations) were outside the framework of the social and humanitarian sciences, outside the framework of serious interpretation. are these not the best conditions for the generation and spread of myths?
At the Ukrainian-Jewish conference in 1991 in Kiev, Yevgen Swerstyuk, a well-known human rights lawyer and now president of the “Pen-club” of Ukraine, said: “Perhaps, it is the first time in our history that the sons of Ukraine and the sons of Israel have met together to clean out the Aegean stables. They have not been cleaned for centuries. Thus, they have accumulated many tales about what was and what wasn't, legends about enmity and terrible brutality, about the Jew with the keys to the church and the Cossack-lyncher. In the place of the horse-shoe on the doors of the stable hang stereotypes of the Jew-exploiter and the Ukrainian-pogromist. The main point is that in the stable there is not even one of the thousand facts of normal human cooperation between Ukrainians and Jews...” And further: “In the Soviet period, an almost total plebeianization of culture occurred: Who today knows the parables of Solomon or the Commandments of Moses? But everyone knows well the anecdotes about Abram and Moisha...”
But what should we clean in these stables, i.e. what kind of stereotypes have accumulated over centuries? Can we change these stereotypes? Let us focus in greater detail. I shall concentrate more on the mythology of perceptions of Jewry, accenting the negative points.
Stereotypes in the perceptions of Jews (they are often not specifically Ukrainian; the majority of them are common stereotypes of the eastern-European world):
* treason and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ;
* the idea of the chosen people – the first idea of the superiority of one nation over others in world history;
* Jews as accomplices of all the enemies of the Ukrainian nation (Poles, Russians, etc.);
* Jewish domination in the world (capital, mass media, etc.);
* economic exploitation of non-Jews by Jews;
* Jewish blame for the creation of communist ideology and for the innumerable victims of communist regimes;
* the Holocaust as a Zionist trick, a Zionist historical myth;
* Jewish blame for the economic pillage of the country during the period of capitalisation on the one hand and for the slow pace of capitalisation (socialism) on the other hand;
* USA as an Israeli colony ruled by the World Jewish Congress. Every one of the above-listed stereotypes in the perception of Jews is variously appearing intense and hundreds of publications of radical (often “rightist”, but not so rarely “leftist”) mass media, distributed in books (for the most part printed in Russia, but dispersed throughout Ukraine as well)...
The selection of quotations of the columnist-Judophobe (anti-Semite) from the newspaper “Çà Â³ëüíó Óêðà¿íó”” begins in the following way: “Hajim Srulievich Goldman – i.e. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, zoologically hated “goyem”. As soon as he became the absolute dictator of the
“Country of Fools”, this deeply conspiring, blood-thirsty Jewish Zionist with piety began a massive extermination of people by means of class terror, civil war, the organisation of famine...” “The most frightening example of these relations,” wrote Hitler-Schicklgruber in “Mein Kampf” about Ulianov-Lenin and his followers (bolsheviks) in order to worm his way into the confidence of the German masses, “is Russia, where Yids in their fanatic wildness exterminated 30 million people (in 1923), having pitilessly slaughtered some and having left the others to the inhumane tortures of famine, – and all this only to provide the dictatorship with a small gang of Yidish literary men and exchange bandits”. (Chapter XI).
At the end of the article, 16 questions are given. The author requests for readers to send him answers, having promised to publish them.
1. Why in the Islamic and Buddhist worlds are Jews not allowed to rule, but in the Christian world, wherever you look, Yids are everywhere? ...
2. Why in Ukraine did the Ukrainian Constitution take in form, content, and spirit that of Yid-Masonry, in which not one word states that Ukraine is a Christian state ...
11. Why in Israel is there only one synagogue, but in only the Lvovskii region more then 50 religious confessions are registrated?..
12. Why in Israel are there no Ukrainian bankers but in Ukraine there are none as well? ...
14. Why don't they trust Ukrainian Yids, but send them a rabbi from abroad? ...
15. Why were some Yids removed in mass from western Ukraine to the eastern regions of Russia before World War II, while others remained?”
The anti-Ukrainian myth of the nation-pogromist is based on both factual and falsified history of the national liberation struggle: World War II with its collaborators-“politsais”, the pogroms of the civil war, the pogroms of Koliyivshina and Khmelnichina. Anti-Ukrainian mythology adds to the list pre-revolutionary pogroms, the “Stolypin” pogrom of the 1840s-50s, the interest-bearing rates of Khrushchev, and the anti-Semitic politics of Brezhnev.
“Behind all contemporary myths is hidden one fundamental national trauma from the time of Bogdan Khmelnitsky”, wrote Leonid Plushch. “After it, arose the heresy of eastern-European Jews, i.e. sabbathianism, which nearly led Judaism to a schism. This namely turned Khmelnichchina into an omen of mystical punishment, apocalyptic evil... Khmelnichchina entered into the religious subconscious of contemporary Judaism. Koliyivshina lay upon this religious collective trauma and also brought about a religious answer in the form of Hasidism. Every event that followed built upon this deeply layered trauma”.
Both the Christ-killing Jew and the Ukrainian-pogromist have exited out into the world and into religious consciousness, folklore, colloquial language, and the meta-languages of Ukrainian and Jewish culture.
Anti-Ukrainian texts, spreading the corresponding stereotypes, are going outside the borders of Ukraine. Their quantity and their measure of influence on the Jewish communities of other countries may become an object of study of academics from Israel, USA, Canada. For the time being, as far as we know, they have not.
Attempts to change the stereotypes of historical distrust of one another, Jews and Ukrainians, have been and are being undertaken by intellectuals of both nations.
Vladimir (Zeyev) Zhabotinsky – one of a few Jewish leaders, knowing well Ukrainian national problems, has published a number of brilliant articles about Ukrainian spiritual leaders and about the inequality and oppression of the Ukrainian nation.
Simon Petlura – Ukrainian leader during the period of the Ukrainian People's Republic. He initiated the publication of a series of Judophilic texts and attempted, through his role as commander of the army, to stop the Jewish pogroms.
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptitsky – eminent Ukrainian spiritual leader of the first half of the XXth century, one of a few higher hierarchies of the church, who called for the rescue of Jews during World War II. He and his companions-in-arms hid hundreds of Jewish children in the monasteries of Galicia. It was he who saved the Chief Rabbi of Lvov Meyer Kahane.
Samuel Michoels – ingenious Jewish actor and well-known public figure. It was he who invited to work in the State Jewish Theatre the well-known Ukrainian producer Les Kurbas, exiled from Ukraine.
Ivan Dzuba and Victor Nekrasov – well-known literary men, who publically condemned the silence about the tragedy of Babi Yar and the anti-Semitism of the Soviet era.
Actions of solidarity of the Ukrainian and Jewish societies in the 1980s-90s are also attempts to shatter the myths of anti-Semitism and Ukrainophobia. I have in mind both the Appeal of RUKH against the rumours dispersed by the KGB about possible pogroms and the Conference of Ukrainian-Jewish solidarity in 1991...
But what is the influence of these people, of these and many other actions, directed at overcoming the distrust, malevolence, and hostility in the mass consciousness? Let us turn to sociologists for an answer.
Enmity of the Jews and of Jewry, based on negative stereotypes and myths, is focused on in the studies of sociologists. First of all, I should refer to my colleagues, the leading Ukrainian sociologists N.Panina and H.Golovakha.
In table 5, we are given data reflecting the attitudes of the inhabitants of Ukraine towards the representatives of different nationalities. The first seven columns from the left reveal the percentage of respondents agreeing to tolerate a representative of each given nationality at a corresponding social distance. The last (8th) column displays the mean arithmetic, according to the full line, i.e. the index of intolerance towards a corresponding nationality.
Table 1 THE ATTITUDE OF THE IHABITANTS OF UKRAINE TOWARDS DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES (data of 1992)
Agreement to accept representatives of a given nationality as ...
The toleration of Jews is high, however. . .
Analogous data of the following years allows us to make conclusions about the growth of intolerance in attitudes towards Jews and the growth of tolerance towards Poles. Even more illustrative in the context of our topic are other data collected by the same authors: 7% of respondents of our inhabitants of Ukraine agree with the claim that there is a “world Zionist conspiracy directed at the domination of Jews over other nations” (25% don't agree with the claim, 68% found it difficult to reply), 10% consider that “Jews are burdened with guilt before other nations” (47% don't agree), 18% lay blame on the Jews for all calamities that have brought revolution and mass repression (47% don't agree), 20% find that Jews have a repulsive appearance, and more than one third (38%) think that money and profits are more important for Jews then human relations.
Below are the results of a special survey of citizens and regional leaders about their attitudes toward the national revival of Russians, Jews, and Crimean Tatars.
Table 2 THE ATTITUDE OF REGIONAL LEADERS TOWARD THE DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL SELF-GOVERNMENT OF RUSSIANS, JEWS AND CRIMEAN TATARS IN UKRAINE (N450), %
Table 3 THE ATTITUDE OF INHABITANTS OF UKRAINE TOWARDS JEWISH ORGANISATIONS
The briefest commentary:
The measure of intolerance in the attitude towards Jews is sufficiently high.
Characteristic of this attitude are the events linked with the name of the former acting premier Yefim Zviagilsky (1995-96). He (like a number of other public figures of Ukrainian independence) was accused of corruption. Leaving to the courts the necessity to answer to what extent the charges were substantiated, I focus attention on the readiness of the society to accept the given stereotype:
A Jew wittingly cannot be a patriot of Ukraine, “he strives for profits in spite of the interests of the Ukrainian people”. Certainly such was the pathos of the majority of publications. And if in the liberal press they were with an anti-Semitic taste, then in the nationalistic newspapers an extensive anti-Semitic campaign was expanded.
What are the conclusions?
Those who enter here don't have hope.(“Abandon all hopes, those who enter!”).
All the logic of the social being, all the dimensions of public consciousness, seem to attest to the triumph of myth over reality.
Does it follow from this that nothing can be done? Absolutely not! Something can be done. Something must be done.
However, if we want to remain realists, we must analyse well the myth having accumulated a great history, having entered into the stereotypes of behaviour, into the structure of speech, into the dogma of religion, and the world-views and rational attitudes of intellectuals. Where can one find a more fragile construction of human civilisation?