Wednesday 31 August 2022
Openness and Reconstruction?
Had he lived a few more days, then Mikhail Gorbachev would have been subject to the blanket ban on Russian travellers. Even though, like many leading Soviet figures, he was largely Ukrainian.
Khrushchev came of age in Ukraine, and he continued to identify with it so strongly that he gave it Crimea as a drunken birthday present to himself. Brezhnev was Ukrainian without complication. Chernenko's name was immediately recognisable as Ukrainian, for such was his father. Gorbachev's mother was an ethnic Ukrainian. And so on. Populous and industrialised, it was hardly surprising that a land of coal and steel should have provided so many leading figures in the Communist Party, in an order than ended only one generation ago.
As the largest country entirely in Europe, and being more populous than any of its neighbours apart from Russia, Ukraine seeks a global role that befits a nation of more than 40 million, strategically located, abundant in natural resources, the heir of the Kievan Rus' and of the Kingdom of Ruthenia, and the homeland, one way or another, of much of the Soviet elite.
As in most wars, there are no goodies here. Each side is a ragbag of shady characters who wish to rule the whole of the area of the former Soviet Union. The likes of Mikheil Saakashvili and David Sakvarelidze have washed up in Ukraine, there to engage Nazi muscle. Everyone knows about the Wagner Group and so forth, but none of that makes any of this less true. The influence, if any, of Aleksandr Dugin does not negate the influence of Andriy Biletsky, to whom, "The mission of Ukraine is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival against the Semite-led Untermenschen."
It is no wonder that, for all his many, many, many faults and failings, Gorbachev, like Margaret Thatcher and George Bush, opposed the dissolution of the Union itself, as was indeed emphatically rejected in the referendum of 1991. Of course, it is too late now. But they have undeniably been proved right.
The internal boundaries of the Soviet Union were never designed to be international borders, indeed they were specifically designed to make impossible independence in those forms, and they were never going to last more than one generation as frontiers. Whether we like it or not, and we have no particular reason to care either way, Crimea has gone back to Russia. The parts of the Ukraine that the largely Ukrainian Soviet elite had put into the Ukrainian SSR in order to make its independence impossible are going to become Russian satellite states, although they are economically and culturally too Soviet for today's Russian Federation. Expect a lot more of this kind of thing.