If it weren’t for the war, perhaps Ukrainians would have had to wait a long, long time for the Verkhovna Rada to adopt laws condemning communism alongside nazism. To recognize the long series of usurpers, from Lenin to Andropov, Chernenko and Shcherbytskiy as ghouls and their symbols—the pentagram together with the hammer and sickle (pardon me, the star on its own is above suspicion)—as the mark of Cain should have been done long ago, as it was in other post-communist countries. This would not only have cleared the air but would also have restored the political landscape to good health by preventing the moral heirs of the criminal regime from participating in various opportunistic pairings with their material heirs. Recall how the nominally opposition Communist Party of Ukraine obediently supported the policy of robbing the country and betraying its interests to Ukraine’s aggressive neighbor. The very anti-Ukrainian disturbances in the East of the country, which made Russia’s invasion so much easier, would have been very much more complicated if not made impossible.
Yet any ban in today’s politically correct world is perceived as the weapon of the weak and there were plenty of opponents of the new law. Critics specifically point to the fact that it was poorly drafted and that Europe will not support any attempts to stifle freedom of convictions, freedom of expression of opinion, and other achievements of democracy. Ukraine will have to simply remind everybody that in “Old” Europe itself, they are very good at defending their principles when the smell of singeing arises. As one brilliant example: less than a month ago, France sentenced to two months in jail, albeit suspended, a television host who had expressed doubts about the purpose of all the protests over the acts of terror at the Charlie Hebdo editorial offices and a Jewish store... on his private page in a social network. It seems that a mature state is quite capable of determining the level of social risk behind one or another “free expression of opinion.”
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On the other hand, in terms of a specific Ukraine and its ignorant practice of human rights, any reasonable endeavor can be reduced to the point of absurdity. Perhaps not to the point of the Russian Federation, I hope, where people are taken to court for selling collections of soldiers with swastikas but the state turns a blind eye on gatherings of real nazis. To defend against excesses by literally declaring war on every manifestation of idiocy is simply not within the power of Ukrainian society today. It’s understandable—and written into the new law—that museum-quality monuments do not come under the ban.
Unfortunately, all too many red stains from the past have woven their way into our daily lives and will not be rid of so easily. In fact, the interior of the legislature is decorated with lively frescoes using red flags and other such attributes. Symbols are extremely significant, but they are not the root of all evil.
What’s important for us to understand is that real “de-communization” is a long and winding road, and new laws are not the destination but the starting point. We need serious and not always easy or comfortable work in our entire society, work aimed at becoming aware of certain fundamental truths.
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—That whenever a doctrine promising some kind of bright and just future requires that all “bourgeois, kurkuls, priests, rotten intellectuals and opposition fellow-travelers” be killed, that future isn’t worth a broken brass penny, especially since the only ones that will survive to see it are the party nomenklatura in unfashionable suits, chekists with their “honest eyes” and a confused lumpen proletariat.
– That people who are nostalgic for law and order, 100% employment and cheap kovbasa (sausage), exhibit classic Freudian symptoms, longing to “return to their mother’s womb”—such was the literal statement of some not-too-bright fans of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The fact that this ideal place exists, not even in an undefined past, but in an imaginary one, makes the diagnosis even more obvious.
–That evil is a hundredfold more dangerous when it is covered by good. Communism is one of the greatest truly satanic temptations, if we consider how such peerless intellectuals and artists were taken by it at various times: H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser and Lion Feuchtwanger, Anatole France and Pablo Picasso, André Malraux and Frédéric Joliot-Curie. They did not recognize that to seek refuge in the seeming simplicity of the myth of communism meant inevitably to reject the freedom of living in a real but complex world.
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–That nearly all European countries “caught” communism, like a childhood case of measles, and we were no exception. It would obviously be a lot more pleasant and convenient to declare that the ideas of the left were imported artificially by some interlopers and we Ukrainians, white and fluffy as the driven snow, did everything in our power to resist it all along. All we have to do is pretend that there were no leftists among the founding fathers of the Ukrainian National Republic, and no completely loyal red activists in the Assassinated Renaissance, and that the genius poet Pavlo Tychyna never wrote, “The Party leads.” This would simply be the latest self-deception. Right now the last thing Ukrainians need is sedatives. We need tonics. Not to stop, but to start, or rather never cease, thinking.