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At present, the history of Eastern European Jewry in particular is a popular field of scientific studies. Our correspondent has had an interview with an expert in this field Oleg Kozerod, Doctor

of Historical Sciences, member of the European Association for Jewish Studies (Oxford).


From the sidelines, historians have always better ways to see what is happening in the today’s world. As the Ukrainian history expert, how would you assess the current situation with international relations in this country?

An experienced historian always assesses political processes against other times. Moreover, he always compares concurrent processes taking places in different countries. The present-day world is strongly diversified, and this has to be taken into account. The only unquestionable achievement by the current leaders of Ukraine, and I would like to stress the word “unquestionable”, is that one can hardly hear the voices of anti-Semites and racists. Authors and editors of anti-Semite articles are not put into prison yet, as distinct from Russia, however, at least the leaders have managed to establish a relevant silence. Remember what happed at the time of Yushchenko. Dozens of officially registered racist editions issued offensive articles on representatives of other nationalities on the daily basis; they revived the Beilis case and called for reprisal based on the nationality. A simple denial of the Holocaust was just a baby talk compared to the contents of these articles. At the same time, representatives of the Ukrainian intellectuals, professors, litterateurs…were taken to courts for trying to criticize this emergence.

And what is more... the courts decided in favour of the anti-Semites, and the elites did not want to deal with all this. I will tell you what saved Ukraine from the world scandal in the “orange” period: at the time, nobody could bring the observed situation to the world community’s knowledge. There was a couple of such cases, and the Ukrainian reporter, the author of one article published, as I remember, in the Jerusalem Post, was brutally beaten in the entrance hall, and thereafter other people no longer wanted to “raise the tide” on the issue in the West.


Yes, now it is clear why neither Ukrainian politics, nor representatives of the Jewish community preferably raise this issue in the West …

Certainly, they do not know who will come to power in the nearest 2-3 years (laughing). I have to review reports on anti-Semitism development in Ukraine and can admit there was no argument from Goebbels propaganda luggage that was missing in the Ukrainian mass media of 2000es. I will put it baldly: in the nearest future, we may be strongly nostalgic about Yanukovych regime. Every day of his ruling may be recalled as a light period of life in terms of international relations. At the same time, nobody cherishes illusions about present democratic processes in Ukraine, everyone knows about the list of “Die Zeit” stating a circle of dictators who may be overthrown in 2013 and later on.


However, is it possible that the United Opposition stands for the international piece, and only some representatives of radical organizations “muddy the waters”?

For a country pretending to be a civilized state, it makes no difference who “muddies the waters”, as you say. If these occurrences take place, and people have a relevant courage and this life philosophy, nevertheless, nobody prevents the Opposition from making one page statement where it distances from these points of view. What do we have today? Svoboda leaders have been included in the list of leading anti-Semites, and no Opposition leaders are making any statements. What stops the present opposition leader from writing a couple of sentences even if she is imprisoned? Not to mention the Holocaust lessons for this country. Where is the European understanding of tolerance, where is the Christian Zionism, care of the Bible nation, after all? I would stress that nobody may call himself a normal Christian if he is hostile to the Jewish people. The chief ideologist of Svoboda, whom Tyahnybok is proud of, Law Professor at Kiev National University Mr. Alexander Shevchenko, has recently given an interview to Nothing less than the Law History expert…he accused the Jewish nation of deception traditions. As Mr. Shevchenko admitted, “values of hucksters are not typical for Ukrainians; they are closer to traditions of the Jewish people”. I would like to cite one passage: “It’s only a traditional Jewish law stipulated that one may deceive a person while paying or making an agreement, but one has to warn that person: “Recount” or “Think it over”. If that person does not notice any deception, one has the right to appropriate his money. However, it is a unique case. Neither the Ukrainian law, nor traditional laws of other states have ever had a similar rule”.

In my opinion, if Professor, particularly the chief ideologist of 'Svoboda' Party wants to know more about traditions of Jewish people, I would advise him to contact the Jewish community rather than throw mud at the whole nation. Everyone in the United Opposition knows about the position of 'Svoboda' Party Constitution author. However, everyone keeps mum.


What can change this situation and give a shake to the community that would say, “Enough, you cannot behave like this anymore”?

You see, I am afraid, hardly anything can. Let’s recall the experience of Euro-2012. Before the championship, the BBC reporters had the imprudence to come to Kharkiv city, and during the outside broadcast on readiness of the Ukrainian stadiums reporters noticed an egregious incident – a crowd of racists was beating Asian students. To the reporters’ horror, the police did not interfere, and moreover, it let everyone go after the match. As a result, the BBC issued a movie on racism horrors, and the complete Western society was terrified with this situation. What is next? Do you think the Ukrainian government issued a reasonable explanation of the incident in Kharkiv and punished those people in fault? Nothing of the sort! As a result, there were many articles published by the global mass media, and the championship was attended by ten times less sport fans who are mainly considered rioters in Europe. Do you think this money loss has taught Ukraine anyhow? By no means. Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs still believe it was a “cabal”, I don’t know if it was initiated by the Kremlin or Zionists - it makes no odds. Therefore, if nobody was taught by the loss of millions of Euros, what may happen today?


Yes, but Ukraine is not an exception, and the current situation with anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe has been rather hard for many years …


Yes, in this respect, Ukraine does not differ much from Poland, Hungary, and Romania, and everyone understands that elimination of racist and anti-Semite imprints is a long process. It is quite hurtful that Ukraine created in the territory of the USSR was a part of a country that beat fascism. Apart from Romanians, Hungarians and other nations, Ukrainians did not have to regret about their past, the Holocaust, and collaboration with Fascists. Nobody in the USSR made Ukrainians repent the Polizei participation in executions in Babi Yar and thousands of other denes across the country. Today it is dangerous since somebody thinks that participants of those executions were acting reasonably and “just responded to the Jewish and Bolshevist supremacy in the country”. It is doubly wrongful that Ukraine is crossing the same barrier that the nations defeated in the World War II had to overcome and forgot over 60 years ago. I do not understand the sense for today’s rising generation to be carried away by the fascist ideas. Nevertheless, nothing can be done. Perhaps, the only way out of the situation is to invite the most avid racists to Germany or Austria for demonstrative lections and put them into prison right after their completion, as it sometimes happens in compliance with the European laws (laughing).

Yes, everyone in Ukraine and other members of the CIS would like to live according to the European laws, with the European courts. It is proved by the amount of applications submitted to the European Court of Human Rights. In your opinion, what is the forecast for the future? When will the international relations, in particular the Ukrainian-Jewish relations, improve in Ukraine after all?

I believe the situation that has established as of today is mainly unfair. The relations between Ukrainians and Jews could be better. Not only their cultures, philosophies of nations who have lived for so many years together, but also their destinies are alike. Starting with the Liberation War under Bohdan Khmelnitsky’s leadership, the Ukrainian people have been going to their freedom for over 400 years while establishing within different countries. To a day, exactly for 400 years the Jewish people have been in slavery. These are two uniquely alike nations in the global history, and it is a great pity that relations between them are not the best. At least it is proved by the sociology and a shallow analysis of mass media publications.

Thank you for the interview!

Thank you!


More information: 

Oleg Kozerod is a political scientist and history researcher. Kozerod was born in Ukraine, and has become a political scientist and history researcher. For many years he worked as a European reporter for several news agencies, including the World Jewish News Agency. Kozerod graduated from Kharkiv University in 1993, M.A. (Hist) and Dnipropetrovsk University in 1996, Ph.D. Since 2000, he is a D.Litt. candidate and member at the Institute of Political and Ethno-national Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Since 2002 - publisher and editor-in-chief of Achievements Russian newspaper. Since 2001, he is a visiting Fellow and Scholar at the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and Academic Visitor at the European Humanities Research Center (Oxford University). Since 2003 - Fellow of Kuras Institute of Political and Ethno-national Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Since 2009 - Research Fellow of Centre for European Democracy Studies (CEDS).