Ukraine Tears Down Soviet Symbols, Winks At Nazi Ones

Selective approach to history, destroying some monuments and keeping some others:

Both Soviet and Nazi symbols are now forbidden in Ukraine by law. But it’s the Soviet icons, once dumped on the country in industrial quantities, which now are disappearing in record numbers.

Since December 2013, Ukrainians knocked down 500 out of over 1,200 Lenin statues, a trend known as “Lenin-fall,” which in Ukrainian sounds like snowfall. Recently, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law that formally charged the state with removing Soviet-era monuments, so now Kiev’s municipal services are responsible for destroying statues.

…In April, 40 historians asked President Poroshenko not to sign the law recognizing a number of World War II nationalist organizations, including the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), as mere independence fighters. In a letter addressed to Ukrainian authorities the critics questioned the legitimacy of an organization “that slaughtered tens of thousands of Poles in one of the most heinous acts of ethnic cleansing in the history of Ukraine.”

Western historians pointed out that Ukraine should not be praising as heroes organizations that collaborated with Nazi Germany. The UPA “also took part in anti-Jewish pogroms in Ukraine and, in the case of the Melnyk faction, remained allied with the [Nazi] occupation regime throughout the war,” their letter said.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has expressed concerns about Ukraine’s radical treatment of its history: “As Ukraine advances on the difficult road to full democracy, we strongly urge the nation’s government to refrain from any measure that preempts or censors discussion or politicizes the study of history.”

George Orwell put the fundamental problem rather more elegantly in an essay he wrote toward the end of World War II, when he argued that history is written by the winners. “The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits ‘atrocities’ but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.” And that tradition is one Ukraine is still trying to shake off.

Vyatrovych conceded, for instance, that some UPA activists were involved in Jewish pogroms, “since Jews were blamed for helping Bolsheviks,” but he rejected the idea that the whole of the UPA was at fault. “There were many Ukrainian nationalists who saved Jews, too, during the war,” he told The Daily Beast. “Besides, who could not be blamed for atrocities during that war? Americans bombed Dresden,” said Vyatrovych, whose title is director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.

Ukraine Tears Down Soviet Symbols, Winks At Nazi Ones – The Daily Beast.