Posts Tagged ‘communism’


August 22, 2017

Library in Kropyvnytskyi-UkraineIsn’t the building beautiful! In 1965 I came here to join Krups’ka Library that was housed in it. For a high school student, which I was at that time, it was a special honor to be allowed to borrow books from there: Krups’ka Library was the best in the city and only “for adults.” Later, it moved from here into a new building – a few blocks away, up the main street, and this building became the Library for Junior Readers. Surprisingly, it didn’t go by any name until recently. The Library for Junior Readers is now named after Yevhen Malaniuk, an outstanding Ukrainian poet who was from these parts and who fought for independent Ukraine after the WWI and then was forced to emigrate to the U.S.A. (died in 1968 in New York). Incidentally, Nadezhda Krups’ka (Krupskaya), Lenin’s wife, was a Communist activist and an authority in the field of Soviet education. Now “her” Library is re-named to Chyzhevsky Library (the prominent Ukrainian philosopher Dmytro Chyzhevsky was born in this region too; he was also a refugee who fled bolshevism; he died in West Germany in 1977). Another noteworthy library in the city of my boyhood and youth is Children’s Library: before it was named after Arkadiy Gaidar, a Soviet writer; now it is Taras Shevchenko Library. Interestingly, all the three libraries are within 5-minute walk from each other. A powerful concentration! The only problem now is to take young people to these wells of intellect and to make them absorb the wisdom contained.

THE BOTTOM LINE: in 1965 there were Krupskaya Library, Junior Readers’ Library and Gaidar Library in the city of Kirovograd. In 2017 there are Dmytro Chyzhevsky Library, Yevhen Malaniuk Library for Junior Readers and Taras Shevchenko Children’s Library in the city of Kropyvnytsky. They are the same libraries in the same city. Different are the names, the times and the spirit of the times.



January 21, 2016

** FILE ** Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, lays embalmed in his tomb in Moscow's Red Square, Wednesday, April 16, 1997, six days before his 127th April 22 birthday. An influential Russian governor seen as close to President Vladimir Putin called Monday for Vladimir Lenin's body to be removed from its Red Square mausoleum and buried, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.  (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin)

January 21 was always observed in the Soviet Union as Lenin’s Memorial Day. He died on this day in 1924. I have found no mention of Vladimir Lenin in the media today. In a way, it’s good. However, in the Ukrainian language there is a word combination “zla pamyat”, which I would translate as “unforgiving memory.” I strongly believe that we should keep in our memory the date the communists commemorated – for us not to forgive their horrible experiment and its results: the idea of the “world-wide revolution,” the artificial famine, the gulag archipelago, WWII (unleashed by Hitler + Stalin), millions of indoctrinated (read: crippled) minds, turning the country into a concentration camp, murders of their opponents by their secret police all over the world, their meanness, their cruelty, their duplicity. “Morality is everything that is in the interests of the working class.” Let’s not forget that he who said these ominous words has been lying unburied in the very center of Russia’s capital for the last 92 years and keeps irradiating his satanic ideas disguised now as the “Russian world”. ..Let’s not forget…



January 14, 2016

In the village where I was raised as a child, my grandmother Hanna was esteemed by all our neighbours for her skill to transform dates of the Julian calendar to the respective dates of the new, Gregorian, calendar. The thing is that when the New Style was introduced in Soviet Russia in 1918, the Orthodox Church didn’t accept it and continued observing church holidays according to the Julian calendar (it keeps doing so until this moment). However, every village home had already New Style calendars that were published by the government. I remember that kind of calendar in our house. It was pad-like and took pride of place on the wall of a big room. Every day we tore one leaf off it and read some brief propaganda-type information on the back page.

DSC_0115Since most old people in the village were both religious and illiterate, they found it hard to connect the dates they heard in church from the priest with the “Soviet” dates they saw on their tear-off calendars. When they addressed my grandmother, she – with her perfect knowledge of religious holidays – added 13 to the date of the holiday (the Georgian calendar is 13 days ahead of the Julian one) and told our visitors which day they should accordingly mark in their “new” calendars as a church holiday. The people treated the “old style” with a special respect. I think another reason for it was their silent opposition to the “godless” communists who professed atheism, dispossessed them of their property and tried to destroy their spiritual values.

DSC_0205Today marks the “”old new year” in Ukraine. The holiday is not official (it’s a workday) and is hardly mentioned in the media. But there are more people than usual in food shops and in the metro tonight, there’s much music in downtown Kyiv and a concert is thundering in the central square near the “main” Christmas tree. Yesterday my wife cooked a festive dinner. With our children being far away from Ukraine, both of us sat in the kitchen talking about them, and also about our parents and about my grandmother Hanna, for whom this day had never been January 14, but, always, the First of January, New Year’s Day


June 30, 2015

“An avatar” is an in-word today. Besides possessing a more frequent meaning “an image by which a person represents himself on a communications network or in a virtual community”, it also conveys the idea of embodiment or manifestation of some quality or concept. Actually, this second meaning goes back to the usage of the word in Sanskrit: “descent”, or, by extension, “an incarnation of a Hindu deity in human or animal form.”

1-2015-06-28kirovohradWe visit our city from time to time. Long ago I finished high school here, graduated from the pedagogical institute (now a pedagogical university), had my compulsory military service in this city, and then, worked at the above-named institute for twenty years. A good part of my life – boyhood, youth and my most productive mature years – had passed in Kirovohrad. For me the city is like a living being, and each time I arrive in it the city starts throbbing with what I call “avatars” — memories of my distant past and present-day realities.

10-DSC05096The first thing that caught my eye this time when I got off the train at the local railway station two weeks ago were soldiers. Quite a number of them. Definitely, they were reservists: they looked noticeably older than those regular conscript who are usually called up at the age of 18 or 20. Their uniform was also different. They wore camouflage gear, which made you think they were ready to be in combat right the next day. I don’t know the official figures, but the impression I had got from reading the Internet media was that more young men from this city had died in the current war than they had died from any other region of Ukraine. Later I saw a few boards in the streets on which the fallen citizens were portrayed.

The war is going on within the city too. The war is bloodless, it’s the war of words and characters, but it’s no less stubborn. The imperial (read: Soviet, Russian) and the national (Ukrainian, pro-European) elements are poised against each other. Last April the Parliament in Kyiv approved de-communization laws that ban communist and Soviet symbols. By the end of the six-month period all communist monuments will be pulled down and more than 20 cities bearing communist-related names will be renamed. The imperial 8-DSC04816camp, considering the turn of the 20th century to be the golden9-DSC04817 age of the city development, tries to restore the atmosphere of those days by fixing “tsarist avatars” – including emphasis on historical events, names of streets and the name of the city itself. Monuments and sights of the communist era are defended by them for the same reason 5-2015-06-29Ленін у Кіровоградіtoo: the Soviet communism is a cousin of the tsarist absolutism as far as the preservation of the Russian empire goes. The purpose of both is to abolish the Ukrainian identity. That is why in the city center you may see the blue-and-yellow bridge across the river (Ukrainian colors) and over it – a banner advertising the hotel Gosudar (The Tsar). The monument to Lenin was splashed over with paint and the words “Down with the killer” were written on it. After a few days the monument was duly cleaned waiting now for November 21, the deadline for its removal. To all intents and purposes, the pro-Russian party defends its cultural and ideological base laid down by the tsarina Elisabeth in 1754 when the city was founded as a fortress – an outpost to fight the Ukrainian and the Tartar steppe. The-21st -century admirers of the Elisabethian times, having no ideology of their own, are clinging to communist values, like the Great Victory (i.e. 7-DSC05079Never Again.svgthe victory in WWII, which they call – in the Russian way — the Great Patriotic War). The Ukrainian side stresses the tragedy of the war, rather than the victory in it. Hence, the war of billboards in the city.

Being a resident of another city, I cannot jump on the Ukrainian bandwagon here, even though I’m Ukrainian through and through. Besides, the generational 02-DSC0507204-DSC05045factor plays its role too. What remains for me is mainly to observe and blog about what I see. Always, when I come to Kirovohrad I marvel at mighty catalpa trees that bloom right in front 05-DSC05049of my windows on the fourth floor, jog in the park across the road (I think, one of the most beautiful parks in Ukraine) and walk the lanes I walked fifty years ago. Yesterday I took my camera and strolled round the neighborhood – to the school my wife and I had gone to together as teenagers, and to her parents’ former household, which we had sold soon after her parents had died. This time I picked a handful of cherries from a cherry-tree at their house. In point of fact, that was the cherry-tree at which the girl who years later became my wife, and I used to stand – in a classical way –for hours before I usually said good-bye to go home before midnight.

DSC05112When I returned from my stroll, I washed the cherries, put them on a saucer and moved the saucer across the table to my wife. “Guess what kind of cherries they are,” I said. Lyuda tasted the cherries, squinted her eyes at me and shook her head. “Dunno,” she said. “Aren’t they too sour?” I said where the fruit came from. We laughed – understandingly and happily.


The avatars of our city… Both sad and sweet…


May 4, 2015

Bild027This past Friday, when I was jogging along the embankment, I received a call on my mobile. I looked at the display, read the name of the caller and shouted “Hello, Mykola” measuring my shout to the rhythm of the run. The first words I heard this time from Mykola, my long-standing friend, were a German rhyme: Rote Fahnen, freue Leute, // Blasorchester geht vorbei. // Unser Feiertag ist heute, // Heute ist der erste Mai.   (Red flags, joyful people, a brass band is going by, today is our feast day, today is the first of May).

 My friend is appealingly odd. He never ceases to think out of the box, and is an interesting person to talk with. In 1956 we started going to school together. After seven years my parents moved to another place (“moved to town”, as we used to say, because we were living in the country at that time), but Mykola and I kept being in touch and are now proud that we have known each other longer than any other people have known us, including our spouses and children.  In those days Mykola was a passionate learner of foreign languages, which was an exceptional thing in a rural school. Later he even tried to enter the Foreign Languages Department at Kyiv University but failed. A plough-jogger couldn’t compete with city applicants trained by private teachers.  Afterwards Mykola was admitted to an agricultural school and nowadays he is a moderately successful farmer. However, Mykola never misses an opportunity to speak German or English with me, and this time he remembered a verse we, as schoolchildren, had been made to learn long ago. Incidentally, after our family had moved to town I began learning English instead, and there was less of ideological brainwashing in class, since all English-speaking countries were “bourgeois” countries, but German teaching in a village school was based on the political realities of the “Deutsche Demokratische Republik “ and it exploited communist mottoes of that country. In those days German learners in the USSR knew Ernst Thälmann’s biography better than their own parents’ life histories.

Bild026Having exchanged a few words with Mykola, I jogged on thinking about the transformations May Day has suffered.  A traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures, it had been preserving roughly that status all the way till the end of the 19th century when May Day was chosen by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the shooting of workers by the Chicagoan police in May, 1886. As a young man, I used to march in civil parades past the podium where local party functionaries were standing, and I chanted, together with my fellow-students or colleagues, something like “Long live the first of May, the day of international solidarity of all workers.”  After the disintegration of the USSR and the number of the world proletarians dwindling due to the technological revolution, the ideological charge of the holiday worked itself out. Even in Russia, the former citadel of communism, the day is officially named as Day of Spring and Labor.

Bild023In Ukraine, with its “multi-vector” course of development, May 1 is still the Day of International Solidarity of Workers (there’ a hope that things will start changing after the recent anti-communist law was adopted last month, and the day will be renamed). When local communists celebrate it, they hardly think of any “solidarity” or international workers’ movement. Being Putin’s fifth column, they keep crying for the Russian moon and choke with rage when Ukrainian independence is mentioned.

This year the communist-style May Day was banned in Ukraine, and after a short unofficial rally held near the museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kyiv the first secretary of the Ukrainian communist party Petro Symonenko (a rather affluent person, by the way) had to flee through the bushes from angry pro-Ukrainian activists. As I was watching the video of his escape, I thought that all those party functionaries on the podium in Brezhnev times would have hardly believed that such things could happen if they had been told about how the communist May Day -2015 would be celebrated in Ukraine.

Bild029After jogging I took several pictures of the Dnipro and the fishermen, and the beautiful panorama. A gorgeous morning in May… If I were to give a name for this day, I would probably name it the Day of Jogging along the Embankment with the Dnipro and Heavens Embracing Each Other. A sort of longish name, but exact.


April 12, 2015

All the major news media reported about the anti-communist laws adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament last Thursday. The bill is still to be signed by President, but there is little doubt that it will be signed. According to the bill, propaganda and symbols of the “totalitarian Communist and Nazi regimes” in the former Soviet republic are banned. The list of prohibited items includes street names, flags and monuments commemorating Communist leaders. Items prohibited under the bill include the Soviet flag and hymn as well as monuments and historical plaques commemorating Communist leaders.

In my opinion, these laws are far more important than they look or sound. The parliamentary voting cannot be overestimated: the change of ideological memes in Ukraine, which are widely understood as cultural analogues of the human organism’s genetic structure, results in a Ukrainian turned from Homo Sovieticus (“Soviet man) into Homo Dignus (“man of dignity”). In the future the process may spread to other post-USSR republics including Russia. In fact, that’s why the Russian propaganda machine is at the moment so hysterical in its unacceptance of the new Ukrainian legislation: they were able to keep Ukraine in the Russian orbit only by sticking to the Communist dogma of the Soviet people as a “new historical community” solidified by the common historical past and by what had been achieved under the “(Communist) Party leadership.”

Interestingly, it looks like the Russian leadership is afraid that the events of the Ukrainian “revolution of dignity” can replicate in their country just as genes or memes replicate.  From April 2 till April 9 the Russian Interior troops (40,000 police out of the total number 170,000) were trained in a drill named “Shield-2015.” The training was arranged in the whole of the European part of Russia – and also in the annexed Crimea – in the light of what had happened “in one of the neighbouring countries”, as the authorities put it (of course, Ukraine was meant). To create the situation close to reality all the attributes of “those events” were used – down to burning tyres and stones and Molotov cocktails being thrown at the police. And all that was done despite Vladimir Putin’s rating of approval reaching 85 per cent, despite the media in Russia being under total control, despite a disheartened opposition and the hysteria of patriotism sweeping the country. How insecure the regime must feel!

As I said in the beginning, the Ukrainian Parliament voted on the anti-communist laws last Thursday. The Thursday before Easter Sunday is called “Clean Thursday” in Ukraine, which corresponds to “Maundy Thursday”, or “Shear/Sheer Thursday” in Western religious terminology. Hopefully, the day will also become a spiritual meme symbolising that the country started shearing itself of its shameful past.

Happy Easter!


November 24, 2014

Chicago's_AmericanLast Saturday the Ukrainians were honoring the memory of the victims who perished in the Great Famine of 1933. The politically-motivated famine in which millions of people died (5m? 7m? 10m? – the estimated “number of millions” depends on the political affiliation of evaluators) was arranged by the communist regime. Stalin’s government had imposed immoderate quotas of grain on peasants as tax to be delivered to the state, which the peasants simply couldn’t make. As a result, the peasants’ grain and other food were confiscated from them. Moreover, they were forbidden to depart from the affected areas. There were cordons of the armed militia who saw to it that the people stayed where they were – in their own villages. The weakest – children and old people – were the first to die in those days.

At nightfall I burnt a memory candle and placed it on the window-sill, just as I do every year. From the height of the sixteenth floor I saw more and more candle flames starting glimmering in the windows of other blocks of flats.

This time I also thought that the communist regime had committed another crime – no less heavy than the murder of the millions: it antagonized the nation. Those who went  from house to house to  deprive the villagers of their last crumb of bread or who blocked roads not to let any peasants away were no foreigners. They were mostly people from the same village – communist “activists”, komsomols (Young Communists), teachers and other representatives of the local “intelligentsia.” They had enough to eat. Some households also managed to hide away a sack or two of grain by burying it elsewhere on their garden plots. That way they were able to last through the winter of 1933-1934 grinding the grain at nights and feeding their children sparingly. But they would NEVER share what little food they had with starving families who were dying one after another. Many were just afraid that they would be reported, or that the news about their having some non-confiscated victuals and sharing them with the “saboteurs” would leak some other way and they would be jailed.  Another reason could be that they were aware that there wasn’t enough food to share if they wanted their own children to stay alive.

I thought about all that the day before yesterday when, while surfing the Internet, I ran into the news about a four-year-old Ethan Van Leuven from the American town of West Jordan (Utah). Ethan was terminally ill with leukemia and the doctors said he had from a few days to a few weeks to live. The community decided that Ethan’s last days should be his happiest. They crammed Halloween, Ethan’s birthday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day into one week. So, one day Ethan was given Halloween treats and he himself was trick-or-treating. Then, knowing that Ethan loved red fire trucks, the firefighters lent their truck for Santa Claus to take Christmas gifts to Ethan and then to pick Ethan up to celebrate what would be Ethan’s last Christmas with his family. The local radio station played Christmas music in the evenings, the neighbors lit Christmas lights on the trees next to their houses, and the children from the nearby school performed nativity scenes in front of Ethan’s windows…ethan3

Ethan died a few days later, on October 28 at 10:20 a.m.

Dictatorship and freedom… How differently they mould us…


October 13, 2014

2014-10-13hA few Ukrainian artists have launched a project “Warming up Ukraine” in the Kyiv Art Gallery. They say they did it in view of the coming winter and the fears that the Kyivans may be having a rough time without the supplies of the Russian gas. Visitors of the exhibition, which is being held from October 4 till October 26, can learn how to get warm standing next to a cast-iron “burzhuika” (a potbelly stove) painted in blue and yellow colors. They should just take a few books by Vladimir Lenin from the 60-volume edition of his works (available right here) and burn them in the stove. This action is termed “performance.” The term “performance” was not translated into Ukrainian – it was only transliterated, so in Ukrainian it actually sounds as a “long and learned” word, arousing a kind of self-importance in the hearts of the learners who “perform.” Another term which I came to know was “instaliatsia” (“installation”). There were a few “instalatsias” in the Art Gallery. One of them was a bath-tub filled with water and there were a few portable heaters immersed in it. The caption that accompanied the installation ran: “If you wish to turn cold water into hot water, you must heat it.” The quotation was from the speech of Vitaliy Klychko, the world boxing champion turned mayor of Kyiv, who in this way had been explaining to the Kyivans the absence of hot water in the pipes.

I also liked a huge stock of chopped wood in the hall. When piled up in our Aunt Manya’s shed, it was “just wood.” On the premises of the art gallery it becomes an object of art.

2014-10-13broken chairVisitors are encouraged to come to the Gallery with their own firewood and more works of communist classics. Living on the 16th floor of an apartment block I don’t have much of wood except for the remains of a chair that collapsed last summer under my weight. I have also got the selected works by Marx, Engels and Lenin. However, I prefer keeping their works in my possession and reading them as a utopian fiction or historical belles-lettres – while sitting next to an electric heater (which I bought in view of the coming winter) and looking up the iPad for economic and political terms specific for the bygone times.DSC04760-B


December 21, 2013

2013-12-20Those who are crying over the toppled monument to Vladimir Lenin in Kyiv may be comforted by the knowledge that every day flowers are brought to the empty pedestal and money is being collected for building a new monument to the leader of the world proletariat.  At some point in the future Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin may also be sitting together on bench in a park peacefully discussing the perspectives of the world revolution (the sculptural ensemble which was imprinted in my memory when I was a child). The re-built statues of the Russian czars Nicholas and Alexander as well as of the hangman Stolypin will also mushroom. Seemingly antagonistic, all these personages are united by being anti-Ukrainians. Their return has become very likely after Putin’s poodle came back from Moscow waiving a promissory note issued by the Kremlin boss. The Prime Minister Azarov says the note has saved Ukraine from bankruptcy. Only a few days before Azarov  was insisting that the Ukrainian economy was very stable.

After a couple of weeks there will be no Maidan. It looks like its leaders are at a loss about what to do next. The President and the government, for whom peaceful protests are no protests at all, simply ignore the Maidan, and, not without reason, rely on General Cold, the New Year celebrations and the protesters’ fatigue for the Maidan’s self-dispersal. Soon after the opposition leaders (if not yet imprisoned by that time) will be put on trial for an “attempt to seize power.”  Later Russian Language will become a required course at schools. First it will be introduced as a “brotherly foreign language”, but after it is made the second official language in Ukraine, the attribute “foreign” will be removed. The word itself (“foreigners”) will acquire a negative meaning , and the worst foreigners will be the Americans. The most popular means of earning money will be participating in paid demonstrations (probably against the same American imperialism), and the most popular civil profession will be “titushki-done job” –dispersing anti-government demonstrations by  athletic young men specially hired for this purpose.  The military equivalent of that profession will be a riot police officer.

As it is planned by Mother Russia, the Eurasian Union with Ukraine as its member, will have been formed by the year 2015. Today it was announced that the Ukrainian president is again going to Moscow next week for respective instructions. I assume that the day when Ukraine will officially join Eurasia will be declared an annual national holiday. Another holiday hysterically celebrated will be Victory Day – with the Great Patriotic War veterans increasing from year to year. The 2015 presidential election in Ukraine will demonstrate the unity between the Party and the people, and the President will be elected by 99% of the voters.  I’ve been through it… A disgusting, sickening feeling…

I might not be so much concerned about monuments to dictators remaining where they are, if their boots weren’t so ill-omened.


December 10, 2013

The protesters, who are now in the Maidan, were surveyed for their beliefs and motives, as well as for their profile (age, educational background, etc.) 70% of them said they went to the Maidan because they were indignant over the cruelty of the riot police that had beaten the protesting students a week before. 53% were here because the President stopped the process of euro-integration. Half of the protesters said they considered their action to be a way of changing life in the country.

The participants are rather determined as regards their goals: 74% said they would leave the Maidan only after all their demands are met (signing the Association Agreement with the EU, resignation of the President and the Cabinet of Ministers, setting free the protesters who have been imprisoned, stopping the reprisals). The others said they would be satisfied even if only major demands were fulfilled. Half of the participants are Kyivans, the other half came from other regions of  Ukraine. 92% of those who arrived in Kyiv to protest say that they came at their own expense. The average age of the participants is 36 years old. 38% are younger than 30, and 13% are older than 55.

More than half of the Maidan participants (64%) graduated from universities. 12% are students, 7% are workers.

More than 50% use Ukrainian in their families, 27% communicate in Russian. The other part speak both Ukrainian and Russian in their households.

2013-12-10Splitting off souvenirsHere’s a sketch from the place where the monument to Vladimir Lenin was standing only a couple of days age. On the pedestal the red-and-black flag of the Ukrainian Rebellion Army and the blue flag of the European Union are fluttering. Under them there is a blue- and-yellow sign saying “Ukrainians, you’re the best!” and some red candles that are traditionally used to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor.The beheaded granite body of the communist “Fuhrer” on the asphalt is surrounded by a dozen people. A pensioner with a hammer and chisel in his frozen hands is trying in vain to split a piece from the monument for a souvenir. A young resident of Lviv gives him directions, and then, losing patience, says, “Give the instrument to me. I’ll try – once I worked with stone.” He takes a chisel and after five minutes of hard work (“The chisel is blunt!”) he smiles happily showing a chipped piece of granite.

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