Ukraine is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country of 47 million people whose political freedoms have historically been subject to outside interference both in peaceful times and during political upheaval. Yet Ukraine is not merely a relic from World War II, nor the Cold War.
Having declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has deep roots and its own history. The recent protest movement included huge numbers of middle class people and professionals. An evolution of the 2005 Orange Revolution, the Euromaidan protests helped successfully overthrow the corrupt government that was elected in 2010. This recent news included the massacre of peaceful protesters.
Despite these costs, the success of Ukraine’s Euromaidan and its peaceful, multi-cultural values should continue to be celebrated by the world. Ukraine’s aspirations for clean government and even its sovereignty are now threatened by Russia. Russia’s deep, pathological cynicism, going as far as calling Ukraine’s new government “Nazis,” is a dangerous and reprehensible exaggeration of expressions of nationalism.
Both Ukraine and Russia must come to terms with their pasts, something not easy to do. But the continued political subjugation of Ukraine by Russia must stop.
Russian media and government are playing a grave game with cultural memory, evoking images of World War II around the current crisis. Ukraine was the “Eastern Front” battleground. Many atrocities occurred, and millions perished. That cannot and should not be forgotten.
But today, the people of Ukraine have shown overwhelming spirit in the face of corrupt government. They spoke truth to power. Their spirit is alive in the face of great odds and overwhelmingly intolerant conditions. As the only country in the world to have willingly given up nuclear weapons in the 1990s, Ukraine wants to engage the world in a dialogue about peace, not war. Ukraine has the willingness and wants the tools to succeed as a leader among free nations.
The United States and all free people should stand with Ukraine.
Andrew Oleksiuk is a computer professional and artist who lives in Chicago.