“Distorted moral guidelines”

It is they that brought Ukraine to war, even if you disregard this for another 10 years

The group “December the First” held a conference last Thursday, where it made demands and proposals about stabilizing the situation in this country. “When our common boat capsizes, the blame will lie with everybody,” they said in an address to the government, the opposition, and the people. In particular, lawyer Yevhen Zakharov, dissident Yosyf Zisels, and writer Volodymyr Panchenko tried to recall the sad experience of Ukrainian elites’ failures. What is more, this event occurred on the day of an anniversary of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky’s renunciation of power in 1918. The participants’ joint statement says: “The danger of losing statehood gives us a moral right to call on all those involved in the current battle without rules: stop, take a step back, before it is too late! The civilized world prefers compromise to arm-twisting, when, as a result of difficult negotiations, all the participants remain a little dissatisfied, but there is progress.”


“The moral condition of society in the contest of political struggle is really very unstable,” Volodymyr HORBACH, a political analyst at the Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, comments to The Day. “We are living at a time, when politicians and the leadership cannot rule by way of positives. Public confidence in them is very low and vague. We have no authority figures in power. The negative exceeds all limits in the information space, and the threshold of its perception has changed. Accordingly, pieces of negative news eclipse one another, confusing people more and more. This makes them unable to draw in-depth conclusions, and they become indifferent to many important things.”

“I regard the leadership as a derivative of society,” Yosyf ZISELS, dissident, member of the group “December the First,” says to The Day. “In other words, society must be responsible to itself instead of putting the blame on the leadership only, which is its own mirror reflection. Indeed, our society is totally demoralized because Ukrainians are not only a post-genocidal, but also a postcolonial nation. Sociologist Yevhen Holovakha described very well the demoralization of Ukrainian society. It is like a withdrawal syndrome in a drug addict who has got used to taking a certain dose of drugs and then suddenly ‘goes cold turkey.’ We were under the terror and propaganda of communism for 70 years. People got accustomed and adjusted to these conditions, to lies, and to their inability to influence anything. Therefore, it is, of course, easy to manipulate them.”


Indeed, the latest events in Kyiv prove that political battles can trigger totally unpredictable processes. The grassroots are so far aware that the external enemy can take advantage of this ferment and aggressiveness. But we must not shut our eyes to the brewing and fomentation of protest. Is Ukrainian society capable of making demands that correspond to historical and current realities? In other words, has it not been led astray? Philosopher Serhii Datsiuk used recently a witty phrase in his blog. He thinks that Ukrainian society has “distorted moral guidelines.” Yes. But when and why did this happen?

There are many examples of following the “distorted guidelines.” Take, for instance, the attitude of some experts and journalists to Ukraine’s course towards NATO. It is no secret that Soviet and Russian propaganda has been describing the Alliance for decades as the abode of evil. Playing with a multi-vector approach, Ukraine ended up in a situation when there was nobody to defend us in a crucial moment. The former chairman of the National Union of Ukrainian Journalists, Yurii Lukanov, writes on his Facebook page that, despite all of Leonid Kuchma’s faults, Ukraine opted for a course towards NATO during his rule. Later, after the “Kuchmagate” scandal, the then president was forced to give in to Moscow’s blackmail and reverse this course. “Kuchma, the father of the current corrupt system, tilted to the West. Ukraine announced the intention to join NATO,” Lukanov says. “But the corrupt Kuchma began to face problems after this. Nobody in the world wanted to shake his hand. Ukraine did not join NATO. We signed the Association Agreement with the EU very recently. And you remember what stood behind this – an FSB special operation that was legitimized in the shape of Major Melnychenko’s notorious tapes.”

This shows an illustrious example of “distorted guidelines.” Lukanov justly calls Kuchma “father of the current corrupt system,” and the latter really became “non-handshakable” in the world, when it became known that the president of Ukraine might as well order his people “to set the Georgian straight.” But did the Kremlin force Kuchma to issue certain orders and turn this country into an “oligarchic khaganate”? In reality, Moscow does not necessarily need to resort to some special operations when power was taken by the one who focused on the frantic enrichment of a bunch of people. It is enough to take advantage of the existing situation. Back in 1994, Kuchma came to power on pro-Russian slogans. Later, in 1999, he won the presidential elections on a Russian pattern. It will be recalled that in Russia Boris Yeltsin, who had almost a zero rating, managed to defeat the communist Gennady Ziuganov. Yeltsin in fact got the second term in office against the backdrop of a hyped-up “red menace.” When Kuchma was running for the second presidency, the communist Petro Symonenko played the role of Ziuganov. In this context, the image of a pro-European politician temporarily suited Kuchma. His slogans about bilingual status of the Donbas and a multi-vectored approach were forgotten. When Kuchma became president for the second time, the then Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Yevhen Marchuk, did his best to materialize the statements about a European course and NATO membership. Interestingly, taking into account the current situation in the Donbas, the then NATO Secretary General George Robertson and Marchuk visited Donetsk at the time.


What happened afterwards? There was a meeting of Kuchma with Putin, the dismissal of Marchuk, and, as a result, the exclusion of the formula about Ukraine’s strategic course towards NATO from the military doctrine. Kuchma began to say again in the customary phrases and tone that Ukraine did not need a NATO course and association with the EU. In reality, nobody substituted Kuchma. He remained in the orbit of Russian schemes. He encouraged the so-called gas schemes which enriched oligarchs. The Kuchma era saw an abrupt tilt to Russia under the guise of a multi-vectored approach.

“Distorted moral guidelines are, of course, a very correct diagnosis, for if there is no ethical frame of references, the individual turns into a boat with a sail but without a helm,” lawyer Hennadii DRUZENKO says to The Day. “It is carried away by the winds of manipulations – from jingoism to pessimism and the desire to leave the country. And, unfortunately, journalists are playing one of the leading roles in the change of these guidelines because the media are instrumental in shaping mass awareness. Social media are also joining this process. For me, the distortion of moral guidelines began on the black Tuesday of 1995, when, under the early Kuchma, the just-appointed Interior Minister Kravchenko, who acted on the orders of Tabachnyk, broke up the funeral procession of Patriarch Volodymyr Romaniuk. For me, it was the first signal that the state was on the wrong track. The next thing that showed me that something was wrong in our ‘kingdom,’ was the ‘Melnychenko tapes scandal,’ when we came to know the hidden truth about the goings-on in the presidential palace. I can remember very well that when I was listening to the tapes, I felt my hair standing on end. As punishment in the former and the latter case was only confined to perpetrators, such as Pukach, it became clear that there was no end to this.”

“The impression after the Orange Revolution was that we had drawn a line under moral nihilism,” Druzenko continues. “In the first few months after the victory of that revolution, businesspeople and the grassroots were ready to live a new life, so to speak. And here we should recall Viktor Yushchenko, one of the ‘chicks from Kuchma’s nest.’ It became clear that he was not in fact going to break the system. From then on, the ‘ascension’ of criminal Yanukovych to the ‘throne’ was a foregone conclusion. For want of moral guidelines, it was possible that the ‘twice non-convicted’ Yanukovych became this country’s president. During the perestroika and when a new independent state emerged, there was a hope and, hence, true moral guidelines were forming. We starved but believed that certain things must not be overstepped. Unfortunately, those guidelines began to be flouted in the mid-1990s. Kuchma and his successors ruined them. The blame also lies with the courts that refused to condemn this. Ukraine did have a remedy for this, including the December the First Initiative. Among the media, Den/The Day occupies a special place, for it had always been warning about dangers and emphasizing the basic values of state-formation. But these voices were drowned by absolutely disoriented cacophony. As a result, Poroshenko only repeated the destiny of his predecessors who had done nothing at least to send a challenge to the Kuchma system.”

So you can be a vociferous patriot, play a game offered by concrete clans, say ostensibly right things and, at the same time, shape these things in a way suitable for a certain interpretation. You can also disregard it for another ten years, but it is the “distorted moral guidelines” that brought Ukraine to war.

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