Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
A campaign initiated by Ukrainian Americans urging Amazon to stop selling T-shirts and other apparel carrying Soviet symbols and glorifying the former USSR has now been taken up by Ukrainian Canadians. That campaign was first initiated by the League of Ukrainian Canadians (LUC) and since then emails have been circulated.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has promoted clothing with symbols repugnant to Ukrainians and other victims of Soviet and Russian crimes against humanity. In November 2018 Ukraine’s then-Health Minister, Dr. Ulana Suprun initiated a campaign to remove items carrying the emblem of the Russian terrorist proxy Donetsk People’s Republic.
“Amazon profits from promoting terrorism,” Dr. Suprun charged in a bilingual Facebook post alongside images of the products being offered. She called for “a flash mob on social networks” and via e-mail to demand that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “take the products off of Amazon’s site.”
Some of the items advertised at that time included:
- “2018 pants Beach Towel New Donetsk Peoples Republic Flag 80” X 130” Soft Lightweight Absorbent for Bath Swimming Pool Yoga Pilates Picnic Blanket Towels”;
- “Donetsk Peoples Republic Flag Sleeve Raglan Baseball Jerseys”;
- “New Donetsk Peoples Republic Flag Pen Pencil Bag Pouch Pencil Case Storage Organizer Multifunctional School Supplies With Zipper Unisex”;
- “New Donetsk Peoples Republic Flag Baby Girl Boy Clothes Cartoon Baby Clothes”;
- and “Soviet Army veteran badge-Worn by WW1, WW2, Afghan, cold war, DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic), LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic), Russian, and other veterans.
Apparently, that worked because when I searched for them on Amazon.com (U.S. site) and Amazon.ca (the Canadian one), they were gone.
Other instances where Amazon decided to remove certain items from sale included products that featured Nazi or white-nationalist symbolism on its platform.
So how come Nazi symbolism is unacceptable but Soviet symbolism not only is deemed acceptable, but proliferates extensively on both Amazon.com and Amazon.ca? Just key in the words “hammer and sickle” and see how many items pop up.
What we are dealing with here is the fact that most of the world has not yet come to grips with the reality of Soviet crimes against humanity (as well as those of other Communist regimes, China, in particular) in the same way as it has come to grips with Nazi horrors. Maybe it’s because the USSR was never defeated militarily the way Nazi Germany was. Maybe it’s also because while Germany went through a vigorous process of de-Nazification, no such similar process took place in the Russian Federation. Quite the opposite. Under Vladimir Putin, not only is the USSR glorified, but so is that regime’s most brutal mass murderer – Joseph Stalin.
Estimates of the number of people murdered by the Soviet regime from 1917 to 1991 run from 20 million to 60 million, the number of Nazi victims somewhere between 15 and 20 million. And that does not include victims of war. However, it is worthy to note that both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia bear responsibility for the outbreak of World War II. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 24, 1939 paved the way for the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed by the Soviet invasion of Western Ukraine and Belarus (then under Polish rule) on September 17, 1939.
Among Soviet atrocities, the most heinous was the Holodomor, an act of genocide directed at the people of Ukraine during 1932-33. Estimates of the dead range anywhere from 4 to 10 million. Much as modern day demographers try to grapple with the numbers, our contention is that it is only possible to come up with estimates as the Soviets invalidated the 1937 census which showed the true extent of population loss, then destroyed the evidence and created a new census in 1939 with falsified numbers.
Other crimes against humanity (and these are just a few that are attributed to the Soviet regime) include:
- The murder of anywhere from 1.6 million to 6 million in Soviet concentration camps (the Gulag);
- The Great Purge which killed anywhere from 690,000 to 1.2 million people;
- The deportation of 2 million so-called “kulaks” from 1930 to 1932;
- The deportations of Poles, Ukrainians, Moldovans and people from the Baltic states from 1939 to 1941 and from 1944 to 1945;
- The deportation of the Volga Germans in 1941;
- The deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1943;
- Operation Lentil and deportation of the Ingush in 1944.
Although we mention these examples for the record, we should not fall into the trap of comparing numbers to see who are the greatest mass murderers in history as if there is some contest for that despicable title. The fact is that both regimes were inherently evil. They were totalitarian states which used genocide and other crimes against humanity as a matter of public policy. That is the crux of the matter and one cannot attempt to distinguish between the two by banning the symbolism of one, but promoting the symbolism of the other. That kind of approach smacks of gross hypocrisy.
The emails circulated by LUC call upon concerned citizens to write Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos at: email@example.com; call the company headquarters at (206) 266-1000; or tweet to @amazon. You may go to the website: www.ukrainegenocide.com to find a sample letter. Please note though that it was written last year and refers to the commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor having taken place a year ago. It is now two years. Better still, write your own letter using some of the information provided above.
But to be truly effective, we would appreciate any interventions on the part of our elected officials in Canada. That’s how the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council got the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to remove “Hammer + Sickle” vodka from its shelves two years ago. For those elected officials who are reading this, we can say that any support you can give us in this initiative will be greatly appreciated by our community. As for our readers, let your representatives know how you feel. Send them a link to this editorial. Ask them for their support. If you are reading this in our print edition you can go to www.newpathway.ca and find the link by typing the headline into the Search button.
Amazon has pulled offensive products off its platform in the past when enough people protested. If we all act now in a concerted manner, they may do so again.