Ukraine’s vote proves Putin wrong and puts anti-Semitic past behind

October 31, 2014

Local resident listens before receiving a ballot during a parliamentary election inside her house in the village of Havronshchyna near Kiev

One of the themes that Russian President Vladimir Putin tried out to besmirch the Ukrainian revolt against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich earlier this year was that fascists and anti-Semites were behind the uprising. The protesters, he proclaimed, were revolting in both senses of the word: They had chased out an elected president (true) and their actions had allowed “anti-Semitic forces [to go] on a rampage” (not true).

We now have facts on the ground that Putin’s conspiracy theory is vicious nonsense. More than 40 percent of the vote in this past weekend’s parliamentary elections in Ukraine went to two liberal, pro- European parties, one headed by President Petro Poroshenko, the other by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. A third party, the Lviv-based Samopomich (Self-Help) Party, also strongly pro-European, polled more than 10 percent.

Only one party that could be accurately labelled far right, the Radical Party, exceeded the 5 percent threshold necessary to gain parliamentary seats. The most radically right party, Svoboda (Freedom), didn’t make the cut. The Opposition Bloc, which had been a major part of the coalition that supported Yanukovich, attracted about 10 percent of the votes.

There are caveats to this picture. Voters in the heavily populated Donbass region in eastern Ukraine didn’t go to the polls, and a referendum on the region’s self-rule is set for Nov. 2, which could lead it to secede from Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Russia would “of course” recognize the results.

In addition, Ukraine, like many shaky democratic states, doesn’t have a settled party structure; political parties are more like support groups for leading politicians than membership organizations with roots in society. The one party with such roots, the Communists, didn’t get into parliament – for the first time since the country’s independence. So new parties can garner a flashflood of votes, and just as quickly lose them.

Nevertheless, Ukrainians’ choice of the European Union over Russia is clear enough. But if the EU can’t be more proactive in providing economic and other assistance to their deeply wounded country, that may change.

Ukraine also seems to have put something else behind it – its longstanding reputation as a killing ground for Jews. That centuries-old miasma of slaughter is exactly what Putin called to mind with his conspiracy comments. It is so powerful, because it has been so awful.

The Nazi invasion, from June 1941 on, was an efficiently organized murder spree. At Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, more than 33,000 Jews were killed in just two days in September of that year. All told, nearly 1 million Ukrainian Jews were murdered in the Nazi period. But the matter doesn’t end there. Thousands of Ukrainians enrolled in the auxiliary police, or Schutzmannschaft Battalions, to assist the Nazis in finding and killing Jews. Some 300 took part in the massacres at Babi Yar.

There is more darkness in Ukrainian history. In the 17th century, the famed Cossack leader Bohdan Khlemnytsky roused the peasants against their Polish landlords and overseers. The Jews, who often worked as estate managers and tax collectors and who were seen as allied with the Poles, were slaughtered by the tens of thousands. Later on, with the formation of the Pale of Settlement in the latter part of the 19th century, which included most of Ukraine, murderous rampages against Jews and the burning of their towns were commonplace. And after the collapse of Russian imperial power in 1917, Symon Petliura, who led a brief and doomed nationalist uprising against both the Reds (the Bolsheviks) and the Whites (the anti-Bolsheviks), was accused of presiding over pogroms.

Jews have left Ukraine in large numbers in two periods: between 1971 and 1985, when the Soviet authorities granted Jews, Germans and Armenians the right to emigrate, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. There were an estimated 485,000 Jews in Ukraine in 1990; today around 100,000 live there.

But a report out this week, one based on solid research and including many interviews, paints a picture of Jewish life and institutions in Ukraine far different from the historical one. The authors found 288 Jewish national organizations, 297 Jewish congregations and 100 Jewish charitable organizations and foundations. To be sure, a minority of Jews are regular, active attenders, perhaps only 15 percent of the population. But that number beats attendance in churches and voluntary organizations in most Western societies.

Anti-Semitism remains, the report says. A lavishly endowed university, the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, created in 1989 and supported by a number of Middle Eastern states, pumped out a steady diet of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic material. But it was ultimately disowned by Ukraine’s political leadership, including Yanukovich. And there was a splurge of anti-Jewish rhetoric on the far right this year and last. But the general trend of anti-Semitism is receding, according to the report, and candidates who used anti-Semitic rhetoric received few votes in the parliamentary elections.

But is the old prejudice only dormant, waiting to be stroked into life once more? It’s possible. But the direction the Ukrainians and their most popular political leaders are now taking tells a story against relapse. It’s another sign – a large one, given Ukraine’s past – that this battered nation may be preparing itself for real independence, real responsibility – willing to confront and shake off the demonic fantasies that so distorted its past.


PHOTO: A local resident listens before receiving a ballot during a parliamentary election inside her house in the village of Havronshchyna near Kiev, October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich


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what is really sad is the events that unfolded and still is unfolding because of these false statements about Nazis from Putin and Russian medias.

To many lives have been lost on both sides for this false reason, most of the people in Kiev just wanted to get rid of the endless corruption and open more up towards the west – they have the dream and can realize it, if EU will help them.

Posted by PeaceUkraine | Report as abusive

False reasons you say? What about this sort of info: p/10/azov-far-right-fighters-ukraine-neo -nazis mes-committed-ukrainian-nationalist-volu nteers-grows-269604 -crisis/german-tv-shows-nazi-symbols-hel mets-ukraine-soldiers-n198961 s/europe/ukraine/11025137/Ukraine-crisis -the-neo-Nazi-brigade-fighting-pro-Russi an-separatists.html 8329329 217108-ukrainian-soldiers-seen-wearing-g ear-displaying-nazi-symbols

Posted by BobBill | Report as abusive

Why oh why must we be subjected to this again. Can we not stick to the truth and the facts. A democratically elected government with 49% of the popular vote was brought down in a coup funded by the US. Reasons are to be able to place sanctions on Russia to bring NATO to Russia’s borders and control the energy reserves in Ukraine (hence the son of a US senator is now a director of the Ukraine energy company)The last UK government was elected with only 31% of the popular vote and that after forming a coalition with a discredited party. The SNP were only beaten in Scotland by a 10% margin. In both these examples we did not see an orchestrated coup to bring down the government. Reporters and governments believe people cannot see the truth, we can we are just unable to force a change, as per this reporters comment that the previous Ukrainian government was corrupt so to are all western governments. Its called democracy !!!!

Posted by Moties001 | Report as abusive

Isn’t what Stalin did to the Ukraine of historical importance? Starving millions of people to death by the Russians and their leader, Stalin, does nothing for today’s credibility of the Russian state or its quicksand mentality.

Posted by Art16 | Report as abusive

The real tragedy is that thousands of people are dead, displaced, missing, injured and without a fare chance for a good future, just because the western block needed outrageous excuses to maintain a white elephant military branch which is outdated, too expensive and politically hypocrital. This civil war started like all black ops start, since the beginnings of the last century, promoting civil anrest funding radical internal and hiring external agents. All to end up with a politically driven confiseur that popped up out of the blue, and the son of a vice president as the chairman of the country’s main gas supplier, all too convinient for some people, don’t you think? but no convinience for an entire nation.

Posted by VoyagerProject | Report as abusive

What we need to ask ourselves is, why are there prejudices, what did these groups do that made people hate them? They’re never innocent, prejudice is there for a reason, it’s not, as liberals like to say, “just because they’re different.”

Posted by Factoidz | Report as abusive

Stalin was Georginan by nationality, his full name is Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili. Other most prominent Soviet leaders, Khruschev and Brezhnev, were both Ukranians. So Russia, being a part of Soviet Union, were governed by non-Russians most of the time. Please read some Wikipedia in your spare time, it’s never too late.

Posted by Mr.Obvious | Report as abusive

Antisemitism is akin corruption – it’s pretty much everywhere where people are, including the USA of course. The questions is what a society as a whole does about it, and the answer serves as a good litmus test of its level of civility.

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

“.. Ukrainians’ choice of the European Union over Russia is clear ..”

Yet these folks together with EU, are lined up at Putin’s doorstep begging for gas.

Can’t feel so proud yet.

Posted by Mott | Report as abusive

“The one party with such roots, the Communists, didn’t get into parliament – for the first time since the country’s independence.”

The communist party was banned. A party which garnered the votes of millions prior to that was simply dismissed and its voters forced to choose a new path. Extremely democratic. The voter turnout zoomed 10% in the final hour, which looks extremely suspicious, and prior to that was a dismal 41% or so.

There’s a world of difference between “did not get in” and “were not allowed to stand”, and the latter somewhat presupposes the former.

Andrei Biletsky was elected as a Deputy to the Rada. Biletsky is commander of Azov Battalion and leader of a neo-Nazi party called “Social-Nationalist Party” of Ukraine. Another is Sergey Melnichuk, commander of Aidar Battalion.

Posted by Mark793 | Report as abusive

If I’m not mistaken I think the Eastern provinces weren’t allowed to participate in the vote. Even if they were it’s notoriously hard to vote when your city has been destroyed and you are being shelled on your way to and from your refugee camp. Kind of sad really. I am old enough to remember when a Reuters Communique actually meant something other than a rehash of the latest propaganda. This story has about as much value as an 1859 headline saying the United States votes to abolish slavery. Technically that might have been true but which United States. The North or the South? Only in Ukraine it’s East and West.

Posted by PaulBogdanich | Report as abusive

PArty of Yatsenyuk is full of nazi
and using direct vote many of nazi leader are into parliament

Posted by porkoshenko | Report as abusive

I personally do not care whether Putin is right or wrong, and, frankly, do not care what Mr. Putin thinks. I wish Mr. Lloyd could do the same. That is, form an opinion of his own without looking up to Putin, or smbd else for that matter.

As to rebirth of the Nazi apologism in Ukraine, it is absolutely clear.

Posted by BraveNewWrld | Report as abusive

Frankly, I don’t care whether is Putin right, or wrong, and, frankly, do not care much of what is Mr. Putin’s opinion on this, or other matter. I wish Mr Lloyd could do the same, and formulate opinion of his own without looking up to what Putin thinks.

As to the rebirth of the Nazi apologism in Ukraine, it is a clear-cut observation, no matter what Putin or Obama or Biden think. More than fifteen monuments to Bandera, the head of the criminal Nazi organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which are guilty not only of killing jews that Mr Lloyd writes about, but also of a genocide of up to 100,000 poles in Volhynia and Galicia in 1943 – ordinary civilians, women and children, these monuments speak for themselves. And, of course, it was under tha large portrait of the same Bandera that Kiev’s maidan revolutionaries spent their nights in the occupied cit hall. That portrait was the first and the most important decoration they put there.

Yes, indeed, for now the xenofobic anger andd the focus of hate of those Ukrainian nationalists who spearheaded the uprising had shifted towards russins, as opposed to jews and poles in the past. Is that good, Mr. Lloyd?

Posted by BraveNewWrld | Report as abusive

“We now have facts on the ground that Putin’s conspiracy theory is vicious nonsense.”

You provide zero support for that statement. 40% of the vote was for the EU supporting parties. What about the other 60% which is half again the size of your 40%? But, of course, those numbers only account for western Ukraine which leaned toward Europe all along. Eastern Ukraine wasn’t in that vote. What’s actually pretty obvious is that western Ukraine wants to be a part of western Europe and Eastern Ukraine wants to be part of mother Russia. What’s equally obvious is that the US and the EU are still fighting the cold war.

Posted by majkmushrm | Report as abusive

Oh yass is all difference now in EUkrainia! No more nazi, no more not likink zhid. All goods boy and geerl. Want to go EU and make manys hyrvnia for bring home to buy bluray deeeks player.

Buyt first needs to kill hatingest russkiporko and mak EUkrainia pur off kommunistics. Slav’EUkrainia.

Posted by Charlesequine | Report as abusive

The article omits discussion of the cruel treatment of the Rusyn and Hungarian minorities in the Ukraine. Dislike of the Jews may be camouflaged now, but will likely emerge as soon as the danger of a Russian invasion is eliminated: neither party has forgotten their common and highly unpleasant history. In fact, the undemocratic rule of the current oligarchs may well be replaced by an even more nationalistic regime that will need to be eliminated by a joint US/European/Russian military intervention.

Posted by Interpolator | Report as abusive

“and underestimate the number of Christians, 56 percent to 78 percent”

Actually – this may be different for some. There are many fundamentalist “Christians” who do not consider other christian religions (Catholics in particular) to be truly Christian. Therefore – they believe that “true Christians” comprise 56% – the “majority of real Americans” But they are wrong here as well as I do not believe the fundamentalists have that large a proportion.

Posted by jmmx | Report as abusive

Imagine Russian population remaining on the Ukrainian side of the divided country trying to express their opinion or aspiration for their culture, language or economic union with Russia. Their political leaders have been regularly abused, beaten up. Protesters in Odessa were burnt in mass murder while officials looked idly by arguably radicalized by the war with rebels. The recent Ukrainian 40% vote is meaningless in these conditions. Russian folks are probably looking longingly towards Donetsk region where fellow Russians are gaining right to their language and having a free election. Then Putin’s remarks on nazism may not be that far off the mark, in retrospect at least.

Posted by Alex3764 | Report as abusive

So, Mr. Lloyd chooses to ignore such facts on the ground as 15+ monuments to the leader of the Nazi criminal organization of Ukrainian nationalists, the very one guilty of murdering Jews, and massacring up to 100,000 Poles? Monuments that have been erected within the last decade, and are being erected as we speak? Street names changed to honor this guy and his henchmen? I wonder, whether the descendants of those Jews and Poles that these guys had murdered would forgive You, Mr. Lloyd.

Posted by BraveNewWrld | Report as abusive

This article is propaganda the soviets would be proud of. People’s front is a nationalist party. They topped the vote. Radical party 7.5%, right sector 2%, Svoboda 4.5%. That is almost 40% of the votes to the far right. A further 5% to the communists. Expect a new civil war. This time with nothing to do with Russia or the pro-Russians.

Posted by Chris122 | Report as abusive

Only time will tell… Shall we say a couple of centuries?

Posted by tgw123 | Report as abusive

Also worth reminding ourselves that Soviet Russia was responsible for the deaths of millions, including many Jews. In one year alone in the early 1930s 7 million Ukrainians were starved to death quite deliberately as harvested crops were sold to the West for revenue for the USSR, and a cordon put around the growing fields of the Ukraine so that nobody could escape. Those who in desperation ventured into the fields were shot.
Look up the documentary called The Soviet Story on YouTube. There are a number of versions, partial and whole, which tell the story of the old USSR which many on the hard Left have preferred to forget or hide.

Posted by tgw123 | Report as abusive

Speaking as someone with two Jewish grandparents from the Ukraine (different families), who often spoke of their childhoods, it is inconceivable to me what any Jews would still be doing there. Anti-semitism runs deep, deep, deep in that part of the world. All the remaining Jews should leave and allow the Ukraine to follow in the path of Germany by creating museums in honor of the now-extinct “Jewish cultural heritage” in their country. Just the way we do with the American Indians in our country.

By the way, anyone who hasn’t read the great (originally banned) novel “Babi Yar” is in no position to even talk about Ukraine. In fairness to these people, no nation — not even the Jews — can claim to have suffered more at the hands of its tormentors, or to have lost more of its population in the first half of the 20th century, between Stalin’s genocide and the Nazi occupation.

Posted by From_California | Report as abusive