No Turning Back on Decommunization, Historian Says

Volodymyr Viatrovych. Photo: Marco Levytsky

NP-UN Western Bureau.

Decommunization is proceeding at a rapid pace in Ukraine and there will be no turning back, says a Ukrainian historian specializing on researching the Ukrainian independence movement.

Volodymyr Viatrovych, Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, was speaking at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton, at a meeting organized jointly by the local branches of the League of Ukrainians Canadians, the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, the Ukrainian National Federation and the Ukrainian Women’s Organization.

In his address, which he delivered in Ukrainian, Viatyrovych outlined the four laws concerning Decommunization in Ukraine that were approved by President Petro Poroshenko in May, 2015.

These include:

  • The law “On immortalizing the victory over Nazism in the Second World War of 1939-1945” which returns the real memory of the years of the war to the people and gets rid of the Soviet clichés;
  • The law “On the legal status and honouring the memory of participants of the struggle for Ukraine’s freedom in the 20th century” which honours the fighters for Ukraine’s freedom and repays the moral debt;
  • The law “On access to the archives of repressive bodies of the communist totalitarian regime from 1917-1991”, which opens the archives related to crimes and mass violations of human rights under the communist regime to the public, and;
  • The law “On condemning the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes and prohibiting the use of their symbols”.

Since then 987 settlements and 25 districts bearing Soviet-era names and honouring communist leaders have been renamed, 51,493 Soviet era street names were changed, and 1,320 Lenin monuments dismantled.

The only areas of Ukraine where Lenin monuments still stand are in Russian-controlled Donbas and Crimea.

One of the biggest benefactors of Decommunization have been the Ukrainian Armed Forces. There the changes have been “colossal” and the army Ukraine has now is nowhere near the Soviet model one it had before 2014.

“I am personally convinced that in this war with the Russian aggressor the post-Soviet army that we used to have would not be victorious, only a Ukrainian army can be victorious. A Ukrainian army that is based upon Ukrainian traditions,” Viatrovych said.
But, he added, Ukrainians have to get used to a long war because Russia cannot exist as an empire without Ukraine.

He said Ukraine’s situation can be compared to that of Israel which is in a constant state of conflict.

Viatrovych also sharply criticized the new government of Poland which earlier this year passed a bill under which critics of the inter-war Polish regime or defenders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists can be prosecuted.

“What is happening in Poland is a very good example of how easy it is to destroy Ukrainian-Polish relations,” said.

Answering a question regarding Ukrainization, Viatrovych said both Decommunization and Ukrainization go hand in hand. Law have been passed promoting, like the one requiring a quota of Ukrainian music on the radio and Ukrainization is progressively going forward.