In Their ‘Russian World’, There Is No Room for Ukrainians

US-UA Working Group Dinner II

In Their ‘Russian World’, There Is No Room for Ukrainians…

Mykhailo Ratushny
Askold Lozynskyj

Featured remarks by First Deputy Head of the UA World Coordinating Council Mykhailo Ratushny, elaborated upon by Former WCU President Askold Lozynskyj at the 2nd Annual US-UA Working Group Dinner, held in Washington DC on July 19, 2011.

“In their ‘Russian world’ there is neither place for a Ukrainian
school nor for Ukrainians themselves” – I heard this bitter remark at
the end of last year from a Ukrainian resident of the Voronezh region
of Russia, during my visit as part of a delegation from the Ukrainian
World Coordination Council.

In Voronezh, according to official Russian statistics, a third of the
population are ethnic Ukrainians – we, the members of the delegation,
were unable to find a single Ukrainian Sunday school, even though the
Azeri, the Armenian and the Jewish communities all have their schools

A very similar situation exists in Saint-Petersburg, where since 2003
there is no longer a Ukrainian school.

Throughout the Russian Federation, with minor exceptions for a distant
Bashkitorstan village and Krasnodar region, where, in one of the
secondary schools, Ukrainian is taught as an elective “Kubanski
dialect” – you will neither find a Ukrainian school, church, TV
channel, radio station nor even a Ukrainian newspaper. Local sporadic
leaflets can not be deemed as newspapers.

The largest Ukrainian diaspora

One should note that the largest Ukrainian diaspora lives not in
Canada, USA, Brazil, or EU – but in the Russian Federation.

Throughout the centuries sometimes by force or in need of money,
Ukrainians resettled in the boundless territory of the Russian and
Soviet Empires. To be objective, one has to concede that much from
what the current day Russia has, and had in the past, for the most
part of it was achieved by efforts from ethnic Ukrainians, not only
territory wise, but intellectually, militarily, culturally and
spiritually, etc.

Theofan Prokopovich, Mykola Hohol, Ivan Hudovych, Serhiy Korolyov…
to name a few from a list of millions of ethnic Ukrainians, known and

Today Ukrainians residing in Russia form a significant, highly
educated ethnic group, dispersed along the vast territories of Russian
Federation. However, this group is deprived of the opportunity to
satisfy its linguistic, cultural, and religious needs.

What does International law say?

Quoting the response of the UUR to a statement made by an official of
the Russian Foreign Ministry in connection with the educational needs
of Ukrainians: “if we – Ukrainians and Russians are really close
nations, then Ukrainian culture and education presented in the
Ukrainian language should have been recognised in Russia as an
enrichment of the Slavic world <…> “and not as a subversive plot”
aimed at the weakening of Russia. This is exactly the understanding
that rules the minds of some Russian officials, who consciously and
intentionally impede the development of Ukrainian culture and
education in the Russian Federation which, in fact, is a real obstacle
on the path of mutual understanding between our nations”.

The cleansing of the Ukrainian national minority’s space in Russia is
not a new phenomenon and continues to be carried out methodically and

According to the last census that took place in the Russian Federation
in 2010 there has been a decrease in the past 10 years of the number
of Russian citizens, who identify themselves as ethnic Ukrainians from
millions to hundreds of thousands. Ukrainians in Russia are
uncomfortably awaiting the announcement of the census results, where
such decreased figures must be officially “blessed”. However, despite
the migration and the assimilation of Ukrainians in Russia, this
decrease looks artificial.

It is becoming dangerous to be a Ukrainian in Russia

On the 19th of November 2002 in the city of Teikovo of Ivanivsky
region, Volodymyr Poburinny, the deputy chairman of the Ukrainian
cultural organisation “Mriya”, a businessman, philanthropist and the
director of the company “Zapovit”, was murdered in front of his own

In November 2003, a religious community of the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate was registered in the city of
Vladivostok. On the 1st of April 2004, Anatoliy Kryl, one of the
co-founders of the religious community and the conductor of the
Ukrainian choir, was severely beaten on his way home from a rehearsal.
On the 3rd of April, Anatoliy Kryl died in hospital from his injuries.

On the 19th of July 2006 Natalya Kovaliova (Medvediuk), a deputy
chairman of the Tula city branch of the UUR, was severely beaten. By
a miracle and with the help of her husband, Volodymyr Senishyn,
Natalya was saved. After the incident with his wife, Volodymyr
Senishyn continued with her activities in the Ukrainian community of
Tula. He demanded that the appropriate Russian authorities commence a
proper criminal investigation into the attack on his wife and updated
the Ukrainian communities around the world of the outcome of his
efforts. On the 26th of December, Volodymyr Senishyn was brutally
murdered in front of numerous eyewitnesses by two unknown assailants
near the offices of “Kobza” company.

These are only the few of the many hideous incidents that have
occurred recently to activists of the Ukrainian community in the
Russian Federation. To date not one has been solved.

Currently in the Russian Federation public Ukrainian regional
organisations, with long-standing history, real membership, and
respectable, highly-competent and pro-active leaders are being
inhibited from carrying their day-to-day activities. However, new
organisations that support the idea of the “United and Inseparable
Russia” are being created. The main ideology of these newly created
organisations regarding Ukraine and Ukrainians is – “one nation – two

While traditional Ukrainian public organisations are being hindered,
these newly created organisations receive large donations and operate
unimpeded. One begs to question whether the ideology of the “Great
Russia” is fueling this.

A concrete task is being set by the Russians: instead of having the
URR, the idea is to create some kind of Russian federal organisation
of Ukrainians along with new “properly” created regional structures
based on communities of immigrants from different regions of Ukraine.
These communities would not then require Ukrainian schools, the
Ukrainian language, or conditions to preserve any Ukrainian identity.

This organisation could be headed by a representative of the
pro-Russian Donetsk community in Moscow – Joseph Kobzon (a signer
known for performing old Soviet patriotic songs), who could then come
to Ukraine and say, or sing, that all the problems of Ukrainians in
Russia are finally and forever solved…

And what does the government of Ukraine think about this?
Unfortunately, the situation of Ukrainians in Russia, does not create
an adequate reaction of the powers that be in Kyiv. On the contrary,
if one listens to Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, the Ukrainian Foreign
Minister, he one would probably think that the Ukrainian Minister is
more concerned with the interests of the Russian Federation, rather
than protecting the interests and needs of Ukrainians diaspora in

However, what could we expect from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Ukraine, when its President, Mr. Yanukovich, during his countless
meetings with President Medvedev, 13 of them face to face, has not
once raised the issue facing the Ukrainian diaspora in a “friendly”
Russia? Is there a reason for this? No, for the past year there were
more than enough of them…

We see no desire by Kyiv to address these issues. We talk here not
about a desire to tease or irritate Russia, but to draw attention to
the Russian government to its own obligations or at least to the
promises that it has made to its own citizens.

The Ukrainian government has no sense of duty to abide by its
Constitution, whereby Art. 12 clearly states: “Ukraine must provide
for the national, cultural, and linguistic needs of Ukrainians
residing beyond its borders”. Furthermore there is no will to abide by
the Law of Ukraine “On the legal status of Ukrainians abroad”, whereby
part 1 of Art. 11 provides that the government of Ukraine, when
entering into international agreements, shall “secure the rights of
Ukrainian minorities abroad”.

On the contrary, the Russian government, when negotiating with
Ukraine, either about gas or lard, does not forget to remind its
Ukrainian counterpart about the necessity to provide necessary
protection of not only ethnic Russians, but also tend to the needs of
the “Russian speaking” citizens of Ukraine. However, there is no
legal document that either provides for the definition of who”Russian
speaking people” are, or determines their status.

So what is there left to do?

So what can one do, when the Ukrainian government is so indifferent
and passive in defending the legal rights of Ukrainian diaspora in the
Russian Federation?

The inability to close the Ukrainian library in Moscow, due to clear
protests in Russia and Ukraine, the forced speech of Hryshchenko in
Parliament, petitions sent by public and state officials in Ukraine to
PACE, OSCE as well as to other international human rights
institutions, shows that the Ukrainian community is capable and must,
if not to stop, then to at least impede Ukrainian ethnic cleansing in

We, with our active approach and powerful solidarity, have to persuade
the government of Ukraine to protect the legal rights of Ukrainians
abroad. Foremost – in Russia.

It is not acceptable that in the 21st century, there is an uncovered
linguistic, cultural, educational and religious ethnocide is taking
place against Ukrainians in Russia.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mykhailo Ratushniy is a former member of Ukraine´s
parliament and current Vice Chairman of the Ukrainian World
Coordination Council based in Kyiv which serves as a liason between
NGOs in Ukraine and Ukrainian NGOs abroad.

Askold Lozynskyj/Former President of the World Congress of Ukrainians.