Ukraines ethnic minorities between politics and reality


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Ukraines ethnic minorities between politics and reality

  1. 1. UKRAINES ETHNIC MINORITIES: BETWEEN POLITICS AND REALITY The designation of Ukraine as "a country with a multiethnic population" in myopinion, is altogether an objective one. It realistically reflects the ethnic structure ofUkrainian society, which is composed of the Ukrainian nation and ethnic minoritiesrepresenting more than 120 ethnic groups (ethnos). Inasmuch as the nation is one ofthe forms in which an ethnic group1 exists, it follows that all the structural elementsof ethnic hierarchy (ethnic group–ethnic minority–nation–ethnos) are one-dimensional in the sense of how they function as human communities existing inconcrete social-historical conditions. In order to determine the real condition ofUkraines ethnic minorities and the principles of state policy, it is important to bear inmind the basic parameters and characteristics of the concept ethnic minority": 1. An ethnic minority is a sui generis variant of a human community which is based on common descent, and whose members share common linguistic and cultural features, psychological orientations and an awareness of belonging to that community; 2. The primary condition of the functioning of an ethnic minority as a coherent structure is its interaction with other ethnic groups living in the same country, and it is in the process of this interaction that the formula "we–they" acquires concrete expression; 3. The functions of an ethnic minority as a coherent structural unit in a polyethnic society (in particular, the reconstruction of a specific ethno-cultural milieu and the creation of conditions for a comfortable coexistence and interaction with the dominant ethnic group) are performed by groups, organizations, and associations, educational and cultural institutions, mass media, etc.; 4. The vitality of an ethnic group and its prospects for development depend on two groups of factors–internal (the size of the group, the existence of a certain social structure, an adequate level of institutional completeness) and external (the states policy toward ethnic minorities, the limits of possible ties with the1 S. A. Arutiunov, Narody i kultury. Razvitie i vzaimodeistvie kultur (Moskva, 1989), 21-24. (S. A. Arutiunov, Peoplesand cultures. The development and the interaction of the cultures (Moscow, 1989), 21-24).
  2. 2. corps of the respective ethnos, the state of interethnic relations in the country of residence). Certain intimations of the formulation of the model of the Ukrainian policy onminorities may be discovered in the socio-political life of our country in recent years.First, one should mention Ukraines National Minorities Law, which creates the legalbasis for meeting the concerns of minorities and which also establishes the principlesof the states relations with ethnic minorities. In this context Articles 1 and 6 areparticularly important: Article 1. Ukraine guarantees to the citizens of the Republic, irrespective of theirethnic origin, equal political, social, economic and cultural rights and freedoms, and itsupports the development of national self-awareness and self-expression. All citizensof Ukraine enjoy the protection of the state on an equal basis. Article 6. The state guarantees to all national minorities the right to national andcultural autonomy: the use of and education in their native language or the study ofthe ethnic language in state educational institutions or through national culturalsocieties; the development of national cultural traditions, the use of national symbols,the celebration of national holidays, the practice of religion, the pursuit of culturalendeavors (literature, art, the mass media), the establishment of national cultural andeducational institutions, and any other activity which does not contradict existinglegislation...."2 Among the other legal documents forming the basis of the Ukrainian states policyon ethnic minorities, it is worth mentioning the Ukrainian laws "On Languages in theUkrainian SSR" and "Principles of Ukraines Legislation on Culture." These laws demonstrate that a legislative basis for official ethnopolitics is beingdeveloped in Ukraine, which undoubtedly is stimulating the vitalization of the ethno-cultural life of ethnic minorities. This is specifically expressed by: (a) the activity ofnational cultural societies (in early 1995 there were 237 such groups, including 16operating throughout Ukraine); (b) the organization of cultural festivals by variousminorities (there have already been festivals of Jewish, Georgian, Crimean Tatar andother cultures); (c) the operation of schools in which a minority language is the lan-2 "On National Minorities in Ukraine," Holos Ukrayiny, July 16, 1992.
  3. 3. guage of instruction. In 1994 the numbers were as follows: 2973 Russian schools(2,945,924 students); 11 Moldovan (7087students); 97 Romanian (26,096 students);60 Hungarian (19,629 students); 3 Polish (871 students); 1 Crimean Tatar (946students); (d) the existence of television and radio programs (in Bulgarian, German,Greek, Hungarian, Romanian, Jewish, Polish, Crimean Tatar, Armenian, andGagauz)3. No laws and no state ethnic policy, however ideal, will solve the problems ofethnic minorities if they do not mobilize their inherent resources. In this context itshould be mentioned that an ethnic minority will function as a coherent structuralelement of a polyethnic society, especially in a project of self-renewal, only if thesize of that group is adequate and there also exists an adequate structure ofsettlement, demographic situation, and desire to preserve ethnic distinctiveness, i.e.,those features that are not always determined by official policy, which in foreignethnosociology have been termed "institutional completeness of the structure of anethnic minority."4 From this point of view practically all of Ukraines ethnic minorities are now at thestage where they are establishing their structures and deciding their content. This is aresult of objective circumstances: (a) the policies of the centralized Soviet statewhose main focus was the formation of a new community, a "single Soviet people";(b) an ethnopolitical renaissance in Ukraine, characteristic of both the Ukrainianethnos and the ethnic minorities. (For the latter the renaissance itself served as thestimulus for structuralization.) At present, different ethnic minorities find themselvesat different stages of their structuralization, a fact which, in my opinion, may help toexplain the force of a minoritys ethnic field in its relations with other minorities.Upon analysis of the indices of structuralization, it becomes apparent that the force ofthe ethnic field is not always connected to a minoritys size. When one takes intoaccount such an indicator as ethnic organization, the following picture emerges: theethnic Jewish minority has 38 organizations (according to the 1989 census there were486,000 Jews in Ukraine), the Germans–33 organizations (population: 38,000),3 The Ministry of Ukraine for Nationality Affairs, Migration and Religion, Information Bulletin, no. 1 (1995), 31-32.4 R. Breton, "Institutional Completeness of Ethnic Communities and the Personal Relations of Immigrants," AmericanJournal of Sociology, vol. 70, no. 2 (1964).
  4. 4. Russians–24 (11.3 million), Greek–22 (98,000), Polish–22 (219,000), Armenian–13(54,000), Bulgarian-8 (234,000), Azerbaijan–7 (37,000), other minorities (22) havefrom one to six organizations. Admittedly, there are minorities that have aninsignificant number of organizations but which may be considered to be fairlystructured–in particular the Hungarian minority, which has six organizations(population 163,000) and the Crimean Tatars, who have three (population of 240,000in 1995).5 The fact is that these minorities live in dense settlements–inTranscarpathia and Crimea–and a large number of community members are includedin the activities of a small number of ethnic organizations. Thus, we see that only a small number of ethnic minorities in Ukraine availthemselves of the opportunities for ethnocultural development being provided by theethnic policies of the Ukrainian state. It is worth mentioning that until now theofficial policy has not considered all aspects of Ukraines ethnonational development.In my opinion, it ought to consider the fact that the ethnic renaissance typical ofmembers of Ukraines various ethnic groups is characterized by two features: theemergence of independent states in which the main part of the respective ethnosresides. As it seeks to satisfy the needs which have arisen owing to this renaissance,the Ukrainian state must coordinate its efforts in this sphere with the ethnic policiesof those states for which Ukraines ethnic minorities constitute a diaspora. Above all,there is a need to create conditions for a free exchange of persons and informationbetween ethnic groups and their ethnic homelands. Through the optimal coordination of the efforts of the Ukrainian state in both theinternal and external aspects of minority politics, that is, by stimulating ethnoculturaldevelopment in Ukraine and opening new channels of contact with ethnic homelands,it may be possible to overcome the fear of what Peter Zager, former vice president ofthe Council of Europe, has called the "coercion for integration."6 In such conditionsintegration into a Ukrainian context can take place without conflict and a policydirected toward the creation of such conditions will attest to the high level ofdemocratic values in the state and its society.5 The Ministry of Ukraine for Nationality Affairs, Migration and Religion, Information Bulletin, no. 1 (1995), 39-40.6 Peter Zager, „Natsionalizm—novaia opasnost’. O prichinakh usileniia separatistskikh tendentsii v stranakh Evropy‖. –Druzhba narodov, no. 7 (1992), 212. (Peter Zager, „Nationalizm – the new danger. About the reasons of the separatistictendencies’ strengthening in the countries of Europe‖. – Druzhba narodov, no. 7 (1992), 212).
  5. 5. Admittedly, at present one still cannot see the results of this integration. In myopinion, this state of affairs can be explained by several causes: (a) during the courseof ethnic revival a certain isolation takes place, inasmuch as primary attention isfocused on internal problems; (b) a lack of clear state guidelines (i.e., ethnopoliticalmeasures) for the integration of an ethnic group into the main current (theUkrainians) which determines the nature of the state-building processes; (c) theseparatist tendencies among a certain segment of ethnic minorities. (By separatism Ihave in mind not so much isolation as a broader sense–the differentiation from a mul-tiethnic conglomerate with subsequent claims to exclusiveness.) In this context it is worth remembering the fact that an ethnic renaissance can giverise to or strengthen "ethnic nationalism," whose leaders quite often raise the issue ofcreating autonomous territorial units and sometimes even advocate separation. Suchideas are held by certain political powers in Crimea, Transcarpathia and in somesouthern regions of Ukraine. For example, in Crimea such ideas were very sharplyvoiced in the spring of 1995 when the central power in Kyiv was forced to resort to afirm conceptual regulation of relations between Ukraine and Crimea. Presidentialdecrees and resolutions by the Supreme Rada of Ukraine brought the course of eventsin Crimea back into the legal framework of Ukraine.7 Ukraine took these steps inaccordance with international legal norms on the grounds of preserving the integrityof Ukrainian state territory. The clear statement made by official Kyiv concerningtheir position on the separatist sentiments of the leaders of the present-day Rusynmovement in Transcarpathia (sentiments that were made particularly clear in thesummer of 1995 during the events marking the fiftieth anniversary of the transfer ofTranscarpathian Ukraine to Soviet Ukraine) will also certainly contribute to the con-solidation of integrationist processes in Ukrainian society. If the Ukrainian statemaintains a balanced ethnic policy, this may deter groundless claims toexclusiveness, because in Ukraine there are no relatively large communities living ina compact settlement within a single region. Incidentally, specialists who study ethniccommunities and ways to satisfy their problems have recently drawn attention to the7 In particular, "Zakon pro Avtonomnu Respubliku Krym," and "Zakon pro skasuvannia Konstytutsiyi i deiakykhzakoniv Avtonomnoyi Respubliky Krym," etc. (In particular, ―The Law on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea‖ and―The Law on cancelling the Constitution and some laws of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea‖, etc.)
  6. 6. principle of national-personal autonomy as the most productive means of satisfyingthe needs of citizens of non-Ukrainian origin, especially those needs that aredetermined by their origin. The search for opportunities for an effective ethnoculturaldevelopment beyond the territorial principle (which at one time was consideredvirtually the only means) is, for example, characteristic of such a distinguishedauthority as Georg Brunner.8 From this point of view, the idea of a federal structure for Ukraine is unlikely to bevery productive. It is precisely here that one must not allow the desire to winconditions for a comprehensive ethnocultural development to be identified with thelaunching of a political campaign aimed at separatism. The actions of Austria, whichvery closely monitors the implementation of the rights of ethnic minorities, show thatthe state organs of that country do everything possible to prevent the transformationof ethnocultural demands into territorial claims. At the same time, much is beingdone in Austria to satisfy the needs of ethnic groups, thereby precluding the need toraise the question of territorial autonomy.9 The multiethnic character of all regions ofUkraine provides grounds for choosing between the two ways possible of satisfyingthe needs of ethnic groups–according to territorial or personal principles: for Ukraine,national-personal (or better, ethno-personal) autonomy and not territorial autonomy ispreferable.Center for Ethnosociological and Ethnopolitical Studies,KyivTranslated by Mary Ann Szporluk8 Georg Brunner, Nationalitätenprobleme und Minderheitenkonflikte in Osteuropa (Gütersloh, 1993), 75-108.9 See Grundlagenbericht der Bundesregierung über die Lage der Volksgruppen in Oesterreich (Vienna, 1991).