Ukraine and Russia: when decommunization means decolonization

Author : Serhiy Hrabovsky

17:30, 31 August 2016

Ukraine and Russia: when decommunization means decolonization

Author : Serhiy Hrabovsky

Kremlin has mixed communist ideas,​​ traditional Russian-imperial values, and orthodoxy, so current de-communization is also decolonization of Ukrainian national self-expression

17:30, 31 August 2016

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Lenin monument Kyiv

Amid lush parade in honor of Independence Day and the anniversary of Ilovaisk tragedy, an important date: 25th anniversary of the start of the "first decommunization." August 26, 1991 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet has approved a decree "On the suspension of the Communist Party of Ukraine", and August 30 it has issued a Resolution "On the prohibition of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU)." The party property was nationalized, the buildings of district and city committees became administrative buildings and foreign embassies, the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party became the seat of the presidential administration, the October Revolution square in Kyiv was renamed into Independence Square, and pompous monument topped with granite Lenin, was destroyed during September.

In other words, decommunization was launched at the national level.

Related: Duda signes law on decommunisation in Poland

Western Ukraine was most successful region in terms of decommunization; the first steps were made in 1990, after the election of democratic local and regional councils. Decommunization processes has affected the education system, and not only humanitarian disciplines, but also the natural sciences, have been subjected to changes. The Soviet textbooks of mathematics or physics were replaced with more perfect ones. The army was transformed. Finally, toponymy of the capital and several other major cities of Central Ukraine was also changed: communist symbols - the names of the most notorious figures of the Soviet regime began to disappear.

Not only recent Soviet communists, who took a nationalistic lure, and numerous Ukrainian liberals and national democrats urged not to be that quick in conducting discommunization. This should be a gradual process, not a radical change. In other words, they were trying to reconcile the irreconcilable: national independence, political democracy, market economy, and legacy of communism.

Lessons from the "first decommunization"

One of the main flaws of the "first decommunization" was that in early 1992, the parliamentary elections on party list were not held. These elections should secure the release of the communist heritage at the legislature. So did all the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. Although nominally the communist faction ("Group of 239") dissolved itself, in fact it had a majority. Moreover, some the members of the democratic camp were “recent communists,” and they did not forget the party propaganda and Soviet stereotypes.

Related: Contradictions in Ukraine’s decommunization reform

The so-called "red directors," who ran the state extremely economically inefficient firms, took an advantage of this. Threatening workers' riots, these directors have repeatedly demanded "debt forgiveness," and the Parliament regularly did it, running the inflation flywheel. "Red Directors" sought to renew the Communist Party, which would speculated on social issues, calling for a return to the "bright past," and it distracted attention from the real culprits of people's disasters. Semi-criminal business circles also had an interest in renewing of the CPU. For them the main thing was to keep a "Soviet person," accustomed to obey the "boss" and incapable to defend her own interests. Thus, under the premiership of Kuchma, May 14, 1993 Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution that Prosecutor General's Office found not criminal offenses in the actions of the leadership of the Communist Party. 10 June, 1993 in Donetsk, Ukraine’s Communist Party was officially reestablished.

Stopping decommunisation means the path to death

Criminal oligarchic regime of Yanukovych has not only preserved, but also multiplied the communist symbols and traditions of the past. It was about how to stop the formation of modern Ukrainian nation and to fix the inviolability of Yanukovych’s power at the level of symbols, rooted in Soviet times (as the Bolsheviks formally considered criminals "socially close elements"). December 8, 2013 the fall of Lenin’s monument in the very heart of Kyiv symbolized the collapse of the regime and the irreversibility of the revolution.

Related: 137 newspapers and magazines to be decommunizated

Inconsistent de-communization of 1992-94 was resulted into intensive reanimation of the Communist Party in Ukraine and establishing a clan-oligarchic regime, based on the former "red directors" and semi-criminal executives.

Stop of the decommunization in the early 2000s almost led to the actual Russia’s absorption of Ukraine - before the Orange Revolution and during Yanukovych’s regime.

Today, the Kremlin has mixed "in one bottle" communist (Stalinist) ideas, traditional Russian-imperial values, orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationality. So current de-communization is also decolonization of Ukrainian national self-expression. Currently, the success of the decommunization depends not only on the symbolic dimension, but also on the socio-economic level.

Related: De-communization: 182 Soviet-era monuments to be toppled in northeastern Ukraine

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