Ukraine Remembers While Russia Forgets

In an essay posted on Maidan, a Ukrainian civic action site, Ivan Ampilogov contrasts The Power of Memory in Russia and Ukraine.

We can say that the anti-empire tradition of Soviet dissidents has suffered defeat in the mass consciousness of contemporary Russian, while in Ukraine it can take on new meaning.

In Solzhenitsyn’s novel “The First Circle”, the author writes about camp prisoners, their future and at the same time about the future of the whole country. “Years will pass, and all these people, now oppressed, indignant, despairing and choking with rage will go to their graves, others will become weak, flabby, while a third group will forget it all, renounce it, with relief burying their prison past and a fourth will be turned around, and they’ll even say that it was all reasonable, and not ruthless – and maybe none of them will get around to reminding today’s executioners what they did to the human heart!” In contemporary Russia the idea that the terror was “reasonable” or “required” is gaining ever greater influence, most often they prefer not to remember it at all….

Over recent years many Ukrainians have become convinced that their country is freer than Russia, that their democratic institutions are much more developed and that at the end of the day, the Ukrainian state is more humane or, more accurately, less inhuman than Putin’s regime. The level of freedom both of Ukrainian, and of Russian society can be measured by the weakening or strengthening of the enforcement structures of the state – against its citizens. A Ukrainian feels that living without an omnipresent and all-powerful secret police is possible and very comfortable, whereas Russians loudly declare their attachment to unlimited power of the state and their readiness to endure its police, both secret and open. Modern Ukrainians do not face any dilemma of whether to forget the fate of their grandfathers who were left to rot in labour camps, or the fate of their parents frightened to talk with foreigners – and to forget who made their life like that – or to feel redundant in that colony of fervent patriots which Russia is once again becoming.

In contemporary Ukraine, at least two general groups are implacable opponents of the re-emerging Russian imperial spirit, being able to speak about themselves as victims of Soviet Russia – the descendents of Ukrainian nationalists and the Crimean Tatars. The link between the Crimean Tatar dissidents and the Ukrainian nationalists was strong back in the times of their common struggle with the Soviet regime.

via A Step at a Time

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