Maidan: Democratic Movement or Nationalist Mobilization?


source: TabletMag

source: Tablet Magazine

It is conventional wisdom in the West to describe the ‘Maidan’ that brought to power the current regime in Kiev as an anti-authoritarian mass movement guided by democratic ‘European’ values [1]. While not denying the presence of such themes in the Maidan, I wish to argue that the Maidan was and is primarily a mobilization on behalf of a specific variant of Ukrainian nationalism. This article approaches from a broader perspective issues that I raised in April 2014 in my essay ‘Ukraine: Popular Uprising or Fascist Coup?’ [2], which had the more specific purpose of assessing the role played by fascist or semi-fascist radical Ukrainian nationalists (mostly associated with the Banderite tradition) in the overthrow of the Yanukovych government.

This article has two secondary purposes. I wish to present evidence that considerable numbers of Western journalists and academic experts have been deliberately misrepresenting the nature of the ‘Maidan’. I also want to comment on recent manipulation of the ‘Jewish question’ by the radical Ukrainian nationalists.

Statement of the 41: Umland attacks Umland

I start with a ‘collective statement’ issued on February 6, 2014 over the signatures of 41 ‘experts on Ukrainian nationalism’ working in Ukraine and various Western countries [3]. The experts appeal to commentators on events in Ukraine not to claim that the Maidan ‘is being infiltrated, driven or taken over by radically ethnocentrist groups’ or that ‘ultra-nationalist actors and ideas are at the core or helm of the Ukrainian protests’ because these claims are false and provide grist for the mill of Russian imperialist propaganda against Ukraine.

The argumentation supposedly proving the falsity of the ‘claims’ is decidedly weak. The ‘proof’ boils down to the point that the Maidan is politically diverse – a point that no one denies. However, diversity is quite consistent with a scenario in which one element in that diversity acquires a preponderant influence. Indeed, Andreas Umland, who not only signed the statement but coordinated the whole initiative, bore witness to precisely that scenario in a report that he posted on the internet exactly one month before the publication of the Statement of the 41 – describing, for instance, how a Banderite slogan became the main motto of the Maidan [4]. By organizing the Statement, Umland was in fact attacking himself (among others).

Of course, Umland like anyone else has a right to change his mind, but he should openly acknowledge that he has changed his mind and provide a clear explanation of what led him to do so, especially on a matter of such importance.

The extreme weakness of the substantive argumentation in the Statement makes me suspect that the main concern of the signatories is not to provide grist for Russian propaganda. They seek not to determine where the truth may lie but rather to deal with the phenomenon of the Ukrainian radical nationalists in such a way as to do the least harm to the cause with which they sympathize. It is understandable that experts, like other people, will have political sympathies and antipathies, but when they speak and write as experts it is their duty to set political commitments aside and strive for the greatest possible objectivity. The signatories of the Statement have betrayed that duty.

The large number of signatories may create a misleading impression of consensus among ‘the experts’. In fact, quite a few experts did not sign the Statement, including well-known writers on contemporary Ukrainian nationalism like Andrew Wilson and Dominique Arel. Finally, about a quarter of the signatories are historians specializing in Ukrainian nationalism before and during World War Two; they are not necessarily well informed on current affairs.

Walking past armed men without seeing them

Descending for a moment into the grubbier world of mass journalism, I checked how the two main British television broadcasters, BBC and ITV, reported – or, rather, avoided reporting – the Right Sector (RS) massacre of anti-Maidan protestors in Odessa on May 2. When the RS burned their tents, the protestors took refuge in the trade union building, which was then set on fire. Some died in the fire, while others were strangled, knifed or otherwise murdered upon escaping from the building. There is video evidence of the RS systematically setting the fire: we see RS girls around a big table in the courtyard preparing Molotov cocktails and passing them to the boys for throwing [5].

The BBC, quoting a source identified only as Serhiy, concludes that Molotov cocktails were thrown by both sides, although it is unclear where those supposedly thrown from inside the building could have come from [6]. Not satisfied with merely obscuring the truth, ITV goes further and blames the victims for their own deaths: ‘pro-Russian activists were killed … as they were setting fire to a building’ [7].

On another occasion, freelance journalist Graham W. Phillips berated ITV’s Europe editor James Mates for his deliberate distortions. On his site he writes: ‘I watched James Mates walk past a mass of masked pro-Ukrainian men at a march, with gloves concealing weapons. He then described it as a peaceful Ukrainian march, before pulling out all the negative terminology for the Russian side.’ On a video we hear Phillips try to argue with Mates, who complains at Phillips ‘having a go at me personally’ and tells him to ‘go away’ [8]. Presumably Mates is following instructions from above and does not feel it fair to call him to account.

Relationship between the radical nationalists and the Orange mainstream

Despite the prominent role played by radical nationalist groups in the change of regime in Kiev, their social base remains narrow and confined to Galicia, so that in the course of time they may return to the margins of Ukrainian political life. However, an analysis of the nature of the Maidan must consider not only the relative size of these forces but also the relationship between them and the mainstream of the movement. What is perhaps most shocking is not the presence of ultra-rightists or even their numbers but the fact that (with few exceptions) they are broadly accepted as a legitimate part of the Maidan. Opinions differ concerning the value of their contribution, but the great majority of Maidanites do not draw a sharp dividing line between themselves and the ultra-rightists, whom they regard as allies in the fight against the Russian and Russia-oriented enemies of the Maidan.

If we assume that the Maidan is an inherently democratic movement, then we are bound to find this very puzzling. However, once we abandon this assumption and view the Maidan primarily as a nationalist mobilization it makes perfect sense. Both ultra-rightists and the Orange mainstream – as represented, in particular, by the All-Ukraine Union ‘Fatherland’ (Batkivshchyna) – are Ukrainian nationalists in the narrow sense of seeking to create a single, culturally uniform, Ukrainian-speaking nation (as distinct from the looser concept of Ukraine as a culturally and linguistically diverse community). Both therefore have more or less intensely negative attitudes toward the Russian-speaking population living in southern and eastern Ukraine [10].

One reason why we cannot draw a clear line separating ‘Banderites’ from mainstream nationalists is the success of the Banderites in gradually infiltrating the Bandera cult into the Orange mainstream. In 2009 a postal stamp was issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bandera’s birth, and in January 2010 President Yushchenko posthumously awarded Bandera the title of Hero of Ukraine [9]. By waging a campaign of defamation against Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, a German historian who has written about the dark side of the history of the Banderite movement, the Svoboda party gave him the reputation of ‘an odious figure’ [11].

A culture of mobilization

One would expect a democratic movement to overflow with substantive debate on a wide range of policy issues, with diverse opinions freely expressed and received with interest and respect. The impression that I have formed of the moral and intellectual atmosphere of the Maidan, on the basis of an admittedly limited exploration of relevant sources (speeches, articles, blogs, videos etc.), is quite different. The dominant values seem to be those of a camp of the ‘forces of absolute good’ mobilized against the ‘forces of absolute evil’ – unity and loyalty to the common cause. Differences (on policy toward the EU, for instance) are glossed over for the sake of unity. The vigorous expression of important differences, when it does occur, easily triggers violence [12].

Anti-Maidanites are often pilloried by their opponents as ‘Sovoks’ or ‘vatniks’ (Soviet-style quilted jackets) – that is, people still influenced by Soviet patterns of thinking. It seems to me that this label can be applied with equal justification to Maidanites. One obvious example is an excessive inclination to explain events as results of conspiracy by enemy secret services (Russian secret services in the case of Maidanite discourse). Another example is the constant repetition of set phrases, as in the old Soviet ‘wooden language’ (langue de bois).

The use made of one of these set phrases – ‘Ukraine’s European choice’ – is reminiscent of the set phrase ‘the socialist choice of the Soviet people’, which Gorbachev used in the late 1980s in his attempt to place limits on perestroika. In both cases the word ‘choice’ is actually used to deny choice. The choice has supposedly already been made and cannot be reconsidered, whatever it may entail. For instance, the ‘European choice’ entails, among other austerity measures, halving the pensions of working pensioners [13].

Manipulation of the ‘Jewish question’

Despite the efforts of helpful ‘experts’ and journalists, the presence of ultra-right forces in the Maidan and in the governing coalition is a serious PR problem for the new regime in Kiev and its Western backers. As these forces can neither be dispensed with (at least for the time being) nor completely hidden from sight, it is desirable that they should change their ideology and behavior in ways that will win them legitimacy and respectability in the eyes of world public opinion. The ultra-right leaders are themselves willing to take steps in this direction.

A fruitful area for this sort of manipulation is the ‘Jewish question’. It seems that both Tiahnybok, leader of the Svoboda party, and Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector, have made a decision to eliminate anti-Semitism from their ideology and practice. Yarosh has promised the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine to do all he can to prevent attacks on Jews and to liaise on a special hotline regarding any incidents that do occur [14]. The RS now pose as protectors of Jews, even helping to clean up anti-Semitic graffiti. The history of World War Two is being rewritten to present Ukrainians and Jews as comrades-in-arms against Nazis and Soviets.

This policy decision has considerable PR potential. Not only does it promise to neutralize the enmity of world Jewish opinion; it also makes the charge of fascism much less credible to the popular mind, which identifies fascism with anti-Semitism.

In fact, this identification is historically and theoretically incorrect. Anti-Semitism is central to National-Socialism (Nazism) but not to fascism in general. In its early period, before the alliance with Hitler, the Mussolini regime was not anti-Semitic to any significant extent: it accepted Jews as members of the Italian fascist party and developed close relations with the Revisionist wing of the Zionist movement (itself semi-fascist in orientation), even establishing a naval academy to train Revisionist youth. Historically anti-Semitism was part of Banderite ideology, but Poles and Russians were viewed as the main enemies; Jews were hated as perceived agents of the Poles and Russians. A radical Ukrainian nationalism in the Banderite tradition that is not anti-Semitic is at least conceivable.

In general, fascism does typically cultivate ideas of racial/ethnic separation, exclusiveness and superiority/inferiority, but the specific groups extolled and targeted vary from case to case. For the semi-fascist Ukrainian radical nationalists the main target of ethnic hatred within the country is Russians – or, more broadly, residents of Ukraine who prefer to speak Russian and are oriented culturally (not necessarily politically) toward Russia. This ‘Russian-speaking population’ includes people of various ethnic origins, including quite a few Ukrainians and also Russian-speaking Jews (who will continue to be persecuted, but as Russian speakers not as Jews). These are the people whom the Banderites compare with insect pests (‘Colorado beetles’ [15]) and seek to ‘Ukrainianize’ – or, should that prove impossible, to imprison, sterilize or kill [16]. The latest proposal of this kind comes from the new defense minister Colonel General Mikhail Koval, who proposes to imprison the citizens of southeastern Ukraine in special ‘filtration camps’ and then forcibly resettle them in other parts of the country [17].


Stephen_ShenfieldStephen D. Shenfield is a British-born specialist on politics and society in Russia and the post-Soviet region. He obtained his Ph.D. in Soviet Studies and Economics at Birmingham University’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies. For several years he worked at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. He is the author of The Nuclear Predicament: Explorations in Soviet Ideology (Routledge and the Royal Institute for International Affairs, 1987) and Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (M.E. Sharpe, 2001). He is currently an independent researcher and translator. He lives in Providence, RI.



[1] Thus, experts Andreas Umland and Anton Shekhovtsov start a recent analysis by defining the Maidan as Ukraine’s ‘third post-Soviet anti-authoritarian movement’ following the ‘Ukraine without Kuchma!’ campaign of 2000-2001 and the Orange Revolution of 2004 (‘Ukrainian Right Radicals, European Integration and the Neo-Fascist Threat’ [in Russian], May 21, 2014 at

[2] This essay first appeared on Johnson’s Russia List on April 4. A slightly different version was published in Issue 26 of The Libertarian Communist. The most recent version is that on my own website at

[3] The statement was published in English and Ukrainian at Twenty-one signatories are based in Ukraine, six in the United States, three in Canada, five in Germany, five in other countries of Western and Central Europe, and one in Israel.

Another critique of the statement is that of Volodymyr Ishchenko: ‘Ukrainian protesters must make a decisive break with the far right,’ The Guardian, February 7, 2014 (

[4] Umland’s report, first published on January 6 on the site of the Kyiv Post, strongly influenced my own view of the situation, and I quoted extensively from it in my earlier essay. Indicative of its content is the heading of the second section: ‘The Ethno-Centrist Slant of Ukraine’s Third Post-Soviet Mass Rebellion.’

For another useful assessment of the conservative nationalist nature of the Maidan, see Viktor Shapinov, ‘A Class Analysis of the Ukrainian Crisis’ at (translated from the Ukrainian website Liva [The Left] by Renfrey Clarke).

[5] This can be viewed on the video (published on May 12) starting at 4.30 minutes. The pattern of events was much more complicated than this, but here I focus on this central sequence.




[9] The award was annulled a year later by President Yanukovych.

[10] A report has just appeared of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk referring to Russians in Eastern Ukraine as ‘subhumans’ (nedocheloveki).

[11] Source: private correspondence.

[12] This is only an impression based on a relatively small sample of sources. It may be exaggerated. I hope that others with more direct personal experience will comment.

[13] Austerity plans of the Ukrainian finance ministry reported in March 2014 (

[14] Anti-Semitic incidents can be expected to continue to occur because some rank-and-file ultra-rightists may not understand or accept the new policy of their leaders. In particular, the Right Sector encompasses not only Banderite groups but also straightforward neo-Nazis such as White Hammer and other neo-Nazi skinhead groups, whose anti-Semitism is more deeply entrenched.

[15] There were reports of some of the murderers in Odessa tweeting about how good it felt to kill ‘Colorado beetles’ (colorados) – a common pejorative term that alludes to the black and orange St. George’s ribbons worn by veterans of World War Two.

Some anti-Maidanites regard the Banderites themselves as insect pests. For example, Sergei Shevchenko, head of the ‘House of Eternal Spring’ organization, recently declared: ‘We shall fight against all Nazism and national radicalism … but let us not burn and destroy our home in order to rid it of cockroaches!’ (

[16] Prominent Svoboda parliamentarian Iryna Farion wants speaking Russian to be made a criminal offense: Russian speakers are ‘degenerates’ and should be imprisoned (Komsomolskaya Pravda, February 25, 2014). In 2010 a pseudonymous contributor to the party’s official forum, alleged to be Tiahnybok himself, wrote: ‘To create a truly Ukrainian Ukraine in the cities of the East and South, … we will need to … physically liquidate all Russian-speaking intellectuals and all Ukrainophobes (shoot them quickly, without trial – they can be registered by any member of Svoboda), execute all members of anti-Ukrainian political parties’ ( A member of Svoboda living in Crimea (before its annexation by Russia) argued that it is impossible to Ukrainianize the residents of the city of Sevastopol; they cannot be killed either, as that might trigger an armed conflict with Russia; he therefore proposes that they be sterilized (

[17] Andrew Korybko, ‘Ethnic and Cultural Cleansing in Ukraine’,, June 18, 2014. The term ‘filtration camp’ was used for the internment camps used by the Russian army in Chechnya.


  • Louis Proyect

    Borotba talking points.

  • Stephen Velychenko

    On Babies and Bathwater and Movements and Leaders
    Do we condemn Christianity because of the Inquisition? Do we condemn Marx because of Stalin and Pol Pot? Do we condemn the US Constitution because of the Indian Removal Act (1830)? Do we condemn Irish Independence because of the assassinations carried out by Michael Collins’ SQUAD? Do we condemn Korean Independence because the new government in 1945 banned Japanese for the next fifty years? Do we condemn the Ukrainian anti-colonialist national-liberation movement because of extreme right leaders?
    Shenfield fails to consider the true complexity of issues that usually offer a choice between lesser evils rather than one between good and bad or black and white. Thus, he avoids what one would imagine would be a key issue for leftists interested in Ukrainian issues. Namely, why has the Ukrainian Right has ended up playing the key role in the current anti-Russian imperialist struggle. A look at history, which unfortunately most all political commentators do not do, would show the Right has ended up leading the national movement because, thanks to Stalin, there is no Ukrainian radical left. The last influential and important Ukrainian radical Marxist party disappeared in 1925.
    Although there was a left-wing in the OUN (the Mitringa faction) it had minimal if any influence.

    Given there is no Ukrainian radical left party to lead Ukrainian citizens of all nationalities in the struggle against Putin’s neo imperialism and his neo-Nazi reincarnations of the old tsarist Black-Hundreds now fighting to remain under Russian imperial rule, should foreign leftists condemn Maidan as Shenfield seems to imply that they should? Or should they regard Maidan as progressive in so far as it is directed against Russian imperialism and colonialism?

    • None of the parallels fit. Obviously Jesus Christ cannot be held responsible for things that were done many centuries later in his name and any connection between Marx and Stalin (let alone Pol Pot) is extremely tenuous. No one disputes the direct connection between the Maidan and the Banderite right. I know that the Ukrainian national movement has a long and complex history and includes humanistic figures like Shevchenko and Hrushevsky. The same is true of the Irish national movement (and the Korean national movement too, I expect, though I don’t know much about it). But I wasn’t writing about the Ukrainian national movement. I was writing about the specific episode of the Maidan.

      Nor was I writing about the Anti-Maidan, which I find very hard to assess on the basis of available sources. Like the Maidan, it seems to be fragmented and diverse, with reactionary elements playing a prominent role. So I am also unable to judge which is the lesser and which the greater evil. But I don’t think the difference can be great enough to justify support for either side. Leftists should maintain a clear independent stance and resist being sucked into fratricidal wars, including civil wars.

      Although empires, including the Russian, British and Japanese empires, have done many terrible things, I don’t think empire as such is necessarily a more objectionable state form than the nation state. For example, I identify with the efforts of the Austro-Marxists to democratize the Austro-Hungarian empire with autonomy for ethnic communities rather than with the ethno-nationalists who wanted to (and did) break it up. In any case, what the world desperately needs now in the face of environmental disaster is global consciousness, and both national and imperial movements are obstacles to that. ‘Anti-imperialism’ may have been progressive in the past, but it ceased to be so long ago.

      • Stephen Velychenko

        Maidan IS the Ukrainian national movement as it exists today in a country that since 1991 has remained a neo-feudal Russian dependency. Whether or not this will remain the case in 2015 remains to be seen.

        Those who think anti-imperialism is no longer progressive should tell that to the Palestinians, the Kurds, Tibet and the Chechens not to mention Latin American nations. Do leftists not take sides here? Does anyone think Lenin or Trotsky would have argued leftists should not support either side in struggles?

        And finally, anyone who proposes to analyze the situation in Ukraine focusing solely on the national right will inevitably end up presenting themselves as Kremlin apologists. It is incumbent for anyone aspiring for a balanced analysis to acquaint themselves with the Russian neo Nazi right in Ukraine that is stronger and more numerous than the Ukrainian right.

        Those who read Russian may peruse the following list and determine for themselves which is the greater threat to Ukrainian democracy and independence, and then ask why the EU left is silent on the Russian Right in Ukraine.

        The list includes Russian parties both in Russia and Ukraine
        Ukrainian parties are only in Ukraine

        RIGHT WING
        1. Российский общенародный союз — РОС
        2. Национально-Демократическая Партия — НДП
        3. Новая Сила
        4. ЭО Русские
        5. Великая Россия — ВР
        6. Национал-демократический альянс — НДА
        7. Народный собор — НС
        8. Русское Имперское Движение — РИД
        9. НСР(Национальный Союз России)
        10. Собор русского народа — СРН
        11. Русское общественное движение — РОД
        12. Национальное русское освободительное движение — НРОД
        13. Партия защиты российской Конституции «Русь» — ПЗРК «Русь»
        14. Национал-патриоты России — НПР
        15. Национал-демократическое движение «Русский Гражданский Союз» — НДД РГС
        16. Нация Свободы — НС
        17. Русское Национал-патриотическое движение
        18. Сопротивление
        19. Национальная Социалистическая Инициатива — НСИ
        20. Конгресс русских общин
        21. Реструкт
        22. ОД “РАССВЕТ”(Общественное Движение “РАССВЕТ”)
        23. Национальная организация русских мусульман

        NEO NAZI
        1. Народное ополчение имени Минина и Пожарского — НОМП
        2. Другая Россия
        3. Русский Фронт Освобождения «Память» — РФО «Память»
        4. ООПД «Русское национальное единство» — „Гвардия Баркашова“
        5. ВОПД «Русское национальное единство» — ВОПД РНЕ
        6. Движение «Александр Баркашов»
        7. Национально-державная партия России — НДПР
        8. Народная национальная партия — ННП
        9. Истинное русское национальное единство — ИРНЕ
        10. Балтийский Авангард Русского Сопротивления — БАРС
        11. Русский объединённый национальный альянс (РОНА)
        12. Гвардия Христа
        13. Национальный союз — НС
        14. Союз православных хоругвеносцев— СПХ
        15. Союз русского народа — СРН
        16. Северное братство — СБ
        17. Чёрная Сотня
        18. Движение Парабеллум
        19. Национал-социалистическая партия Руси — НСПР
        20. Партия Свободы — ПС
        21. Русский Образ
        22. Национал-синдикалистское наступление — НСН

        1. Движение против нелегальной иммиграции — ДПНИ
        2. Национал-социалистическое общество — НСО
        3. Национал-большевистская партия — НБП
        4. Славянский союз — СС
        5. Фронт национал-революционного действия (ФНРД)
        6. Русский общенациональный союз — РОНС
        7. Лига обороны Москвы
        8. Формат 18

        TOTAL UKR :

        1.ВО Свобода
        2. Конгресс украинских националистов
        3. УНА-УНСО
        4. Украинская национальная ассамблея, на базе которой недавно создан Правый Сектор.

        • Not all leftists admire Lenin and Trotsky — only those who belong to the Bolshevik tradition. There are even some who acknowledge no “revolutionary authorities” and think for themselves.

          Movements fighting one empire easily become tools in the hands of a rival empire. The “anti-imperialist” struggle is then absorbed into a broader inter-imperialist struggle. The dependence of the Maidan on EU and US support is a case in point.

          Yesterday’s “anti-imperialists” are often today’s imperialists. The Chinese nationalists (in which category I include the “communists”) who now oppress the Tibetans rose to power fighting Western and Japanese imperialism.

          “Anti-imperialism” leads leftists into alliances with reactionary social forces. For example, the Tibetan nobility, which under the old regime made life a living hell for their serfs.

          We can show solidarity with oppressed peoples without viewing their struggle in terms of national liberation from imperialism. Chechens, Palestinians etc. themselves have diverse perspectives. Thus, more and more Palestinians are now viewing their struggle in terms of a fight for equal rights, genuine democracy and secularism within the existing state rather than for a separate (and inevitably dependent) Palestinian state.

          As for “inevitably ending up as Kremlin apologists,” this is pure assertion. It amounts to saying that if you oppose one side in a conflict you will inevitably end up supporting the other side. Partisans always say this, but it has no logical basis. We know that opposing both sides is possible because it has been done.

          Turning to the lists, are there really only four radical right organizations in Ukraine? Thus, sources on the Right Sector list among its founding organizations Trident (Tryzub), Patriot of Ukraine, Carpathian Sich, and White Hammer, none of which are listed above.

          In any case, numbers of activists cannot be judged from numbers of organizations. For example, in the 1990s Russian National Unity was quite a large organization. Since 2000 it has broken up into splinter groups (four are listed above under “Neo-Nazi”) — a development that weakened the far right in Russia. If number of organizations were a reliable criterion, the left would be a mighty force. But we all know that unfortunately that is not so.

          Even number of activists is an inadequate criterion in judging the strength of a movement. Financial resources, media access, and degree of penetration of the state are among other factors that need to be considered in a proper comparative study.

          I don’t know what conclusion such a study would reach. Perhaps the Russian far right is a bit stronger than the Ukrainian, perhaps vice versa. Should our political stance depend on that? One thing is clear — both movements are a significant threat to democracy and to the left in particular.

        • Dmitry Alexandrov

          Stephen, take a look at the links in Notes section. Pay special attention to this link . That is what authoritative sources of Stephen Shenfield look like.

          Don’t bother arguing with this person.

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  • Nick

    [10] A report has just appeared of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk referring to Russians in Eastern Ukraine as ‘subhumans’ (nedocheloveki).

    This is what happens when you don’t check references yourself. The word that Yatsenyuk used was “neludy” (wicked people, fiends), “nedocheloveki” is what appeared in Russian press later. “Accidental” mistake in translation, I guess.

    • I take your point about checking references, but in this case we have a difference that makes very little if any difference. “Ne-do-cheloveki” = not – up to – people, i.e., beings that are below the level of people. “Ne-liudi” = not-people. Both deny human status. So, arguably, does the English word “fiend,” which has a sinister diabolic connotation absent in “wicked person,” which — like Russian “zlye liudi” — acknowledges human status.

      In any case, the point about denial of human status does not depend on a single word. It is expressed even more clearly when people are called insects (Colorado beetles, cockroaches, etc.).

  • Pavlo Pertak

    This article is just another attempt to rationalize what happened on Ukrainian Maidan using simplistic propaganda labels that were made up by their opponents.
    Dear author, if you genuinely want to understand who is represented by those that triggered changes in Ukraine, I suggest you to start with the analysis of whom they were opposing. Take a look at the previous President of Ukraine, his surrounding and what they did to the country. Take a bit of insight into analysis beyond just statistical numbers to see how bad was the damage to the social fabric and the business climate of Ukraine in recent years and, perhaps, then you may come to better undestanding of the forces that drove peoplle out to the streats in the cold and maybe you’ll get an idea of what their priorities are.
    As Ukrainian, I don’t care if one is nationalist (whatever is meant by this) a gay right activist, a member of anarchist movement or just conservative buisinessman that wants to protect his legitimate business, for as long as we all want to live in the country that is not robbed by shameless liars in power.

    • I hold no brief for Yanukovych. But I think that elevating this bumbling mediocre apparatchik to the pinnacle of evil reveals a lack of proportion and perspective. As a tyrant he was hardly in the same league as Syria’s Assad, Uzbekistan’s Karimov or the Kim dynasts of North Korea (to name a few). And he had already been driven from office once, in the Orange Revolution, by electoral means, backed up by peaceful protest. Within a few months he could have been driven from office again by the same means (and in warmer weather!). Why did Ukrainians take a much more dangerous path to the same goal — one fraught with the risk (now realized) of civil war? I admit that I find it hard to understand.

      All politicians are liars. It is an essential part of their job. Most lie constantly (there are a very few who tell the truth at least occasionally). They are shameless because if they felt shame they couldn’t do their job, it would affect their sleep. Some lie so well, with such fake “sincerity” that they acquire a popular reputation as honest leaders. Others lie so badly that everyone can see they are lying. To which of these two types did Yanukovych belong? Which type is preferable?

      You mention the state of the economy under Yanukovych. You ain’t seen nothing yet! Now you have war devastating the country’s economically most important region. And how much of this year’s harvest will be gathered? Remember that the four horsemen ride together.

      I have some family connection with Ukraine. My father was born in Kharkov — in 1919, in the middle of an earlier civil war. When I was a child his mother (my grandmother) used to tell me stories about those days. How when you woke in the morning you would ask your neighbors: “Who is in power today?” About the ravages of hunger and typhus, which took away her sister. I fear that you will soon be in a position to compare “the damage to the social fabric and business climate” under Yanukovych with the misery that your own short-sightedness and lack of realism is bringing about.

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  • Louis Proyect

    Shenfield: And he had already been driven from office once, in the Orange Revolution, by electoral means, backed up by peaceful protest.

    I don’t think that Shenfield has a good grasp of what is going on Ukraine. There were reports in the NY Times and elsewhere that the Euromaidan protesters had little use for politicians opposed to Yanukovych. Keep in mind that Tymoshenko had spent time in prison for a crooked deal with Gazprom and that despite her remark about “nuking” Russia was Putin’s choice in the most recent election. A while back he said that she was the only Ukrainian politician who had any balls. All of these politicians, including the current president, favor economic ties with Russia. That is one of the reasons Putin became indifferent to the Russian nationalists in Donetsk. He preferred the status quo.

    The only solution to Ukraine’s problems is socialism. I know that this sounds utopian but as long as the current arrangement remains intact, the average worker will continue to suffer. The worst thing about the Donetsk rebellion is that it put nationalism on the front burner. Just as religion divides people in the Middle East, so does nationalism divide Ukrainians. There is a left in the Ukraine that seeks to transcend such differences. I would hope that this website puts more emphasis on reflecting its analysis.