Anyone looking to get a better understanding of the origins of the radical ethnic nationalism and openly neo-Nazi views of elements of Ukraine’s youth need look no further than a Ukrainian language textbook for grade school students from 2011.
The state-approved textbook, entitled ‘Ukrainian Language’, and oriented toward grade 11 students studying the Ukrainian language, has recently been rediscovered by Russian and Ukrainian social media users over its radical, hateful language. It is worth quoting here in full:
“We are all the children of Ukraine. Ukraine is our mother. One cannot choose one’s mother, honest people at least. But the Little Russians, having been born Ukrainians, have rejected their own mother; they pledge allegiance to their stepmother [meaning Russia] and serve her like a mother. There are people among us born this way, people among us living this way, and demanding respect unto themselves. Such ‘children of Ukraine’ do not skip a beat when they betray their mother –Ukraine. They have no sense of shame for such heinous behavior; they do not have the moral quality of responsibility to their ancestors or their descendants; they do not feel remorse for their disgraceful behavior before the whole Ukrainian nation.
Only in form do these creatures belong to the human community, but in their essence they are degenerates and sub-humans (even if they have a higher education, academic degrees and titles). Ukrainian prisons long for many of them, long and cannot wait to welcome them. But do not worry jails; wait, and your time will come. You will yet open your doors and see the Ukrainophobes, and while hold them, not as guests, but to shut them in forever. And then Ukrainian society will be cleansed from this garbage, this unbearable filth and shame.”
Attributed to an Ivan Belebeha, this example of poisonous hate speech is hidden away in an a seemingly innocuous subsection of the text entitled ‘The Development of Coherent Speech: Transforming Text In Accordance With the Circumstances’.
With a spattering of Ukrainian and Russian commentators slamming the text back when it first came out in 2011, its recent rediscovery has the potential for even more resonance than before, given the events of the past year and the open, unchecked rise of radical nationalism, intolerance and neo-Nazi rhetoric in post-Maidan Ukraine.
Bringing attention to the text for English-language social media users community is Valentina Lisitsa, a popular Ukrainian-born American classical pianist who has faced criticism and censure over her opposition to the post-Maidan Ukrainian government.
Presenting a variant of the text in English for her Twitter followers, Lisitsa asks them to simply read the text and to ask themselves “if this could happen in YOUR country?”
— NedoUkraïnka (@ValLisitsa) May 6, 2015
Lisitsa’s followers have begun their response:
[Streicher was a top Nazi wartime propagandist.]
Hate Speech Once Extraordinary Now the Norm
Anyone who has been following the conflict in Ukraine at even the most rudimentary level understands that the kind of language used in this ‘educational material’, once considered radical, has turned into something not at all out of the mainstream amid Ukraine’s radicalized and divided social and political environment, going up all the way to the country’s top politicians. Last summer, in a commemoration to soldiers killed in the Ukrainian military’s operations against anti-Maidan militia in the southeast of the country, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated that the soldiers died at the hands of “invaders and sponsored by sub-humans. First, we will commemorate the heroes by wiping out those who killed them and then by cleaning our land from the evil.” A few months later, President Petro Poroshenko continued this divisive and dehumanizing line of thought, stating that while “our children go to schools [and] kindergartens,” Donbass’s children will “sit in cellars.”
Top politicians’ inflamatory commentary and word choice aside, the lower levels of power, from oligarchs allied to Kiev to radical MPs and volunteer battalion commanders, have been even more brazen in their statements and actions through the entire course of the Ukraine crisis. For instance, Maidan coup leaders relied heavily on the assistance of volunteer nationalist parties and militia groups such as the Right Sector, which have since mushroomed into territorial battalions stretching the entire country, threatening violence upon anyone perceived to be an enemy of the new Ukraine. From crushing protest movements in central and eastern Ukraine, to fighting and committing war crimes in the southeast, groups like Right Sector have been integrated into the country’s National Guard, its leaders given cushy jobs in the defense ministry and in security services. Such groups’ ranks consist mostly of youth ‘educated’ by the type of poisonous nationalism passing for patriotism displayed above.