Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timothy Snyder on the destabilization of Europe and fall of democracy

Image result for BloodlandsOn March 3, Timothy Snyder, historian and author of books on Stalinist Russia and tyranny, has delivered a disturbing but very insightful lecture about Russia's role in destabilization of Europe. His conclusions are important for anyone analyzing what is happening across Europe today and how we got here.

In his remarks delivered during a  conference entitled “Ukraine, Russia and the EU: Europe, a Year After Crimea Annexation” held in Berlin on March 2, 2015, Snyder examines the tactics used in Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine -- annexing Crimea and starting a war along Russia’s border -- against the backdrop of European history.  He specifically examines the history and memory of World War II. He also looks at how Russia is trying to alter the memory of the aspects of the history that are most disturbing.

Image result for on TyrannyThere is a report of his talk here.  He posits that Ukraine is but a small part of the Russian strategy to destabilize the European Union. In fact, he says that Europe has proven to be an easier target than Ukraine. Ukrainians know they have to resist. They resist Putin's attempt to rewrite history -- no Ukraine has not always been a part of Russia. Yes, Ukraine has been subjugated by Russia. No they are not culturally the same.

Snyder's new book, On Tyranny, looks at Trump's interest in undermining democracy in general. He suggests that the time to act is now because pretty soon, democracy will fall -- in the US and in Europe.  I can only pray he is wrong and do my small but not insignificant part in #TheResistance.

Ukraine Is But One Aspect of a Much Larger Strategy That Threatens European Order

Friday, March 10, 2017

Eurovision coming to Ukraine in May 2017

Jamala at Eurovision 2016

As the deadline for entry looming on March 13, the world is wondering if Russia will show this year. With Eurovision set to be staged in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, in May, the political statement from last year's defeat might be an insurmountable hurdle for moscow, where lawmakers and a leading pop star are calling for Russia to boycott the competition. The Kremlin has said it believes there could be security problems for Russians in Ukraine. Following Ukraine's victory at the 2016 contest in Stockholm with the song "1944", written and performed by Jamala, which was thought to be a thinly veiled protest against Russia's annexation of Crimea, a coup of sorts showing European support of Ukraine in the conflict has caused Russia some consternation.

Susana Alimivna Jamaladinova (Crimean Tatar: Susana Alimivna Camaladinova; Ukrainian: Сусана Алімівна Джамаладінова; Russian: Суса́нна Алимовна Джамалади́нова), is better known by her stage name Jamala.  Jamala is a Ukrainian singer, actress and songwriter of Crimean Tatar descent.

Susanna was born in Osh, Kirghiz SSR, to a Crimean Tatar father and an Armenian mother. Her Crimean Tatar ancestors were forcefully resettled from Crimea to the central Asian republic under Joseph Stalin during World War II. In 1989 her family returned to Crimea. During this Soviet era, authorities did not allow ethnic Tatars, like Jamala's father, to purchase property in Crimea. Her parents divorced for four years so that her mother could purchase a house in Crimea for the family under her maiden name. 

Jamala speaks Russian as her mother tongue, and she is also fluent in Ukrainian. She is not fluent in Crimean Tatar. Although her song was titled 1944 and was about her ancestry, it was clearly relevant to 2014 and the Russian annexation of Crimea. Will the Russians hold a grudge and do a no show?  As of today, they have not yet declared an act. 

Even more interesting is that Ukraine has announced that Torvald will represent Ukraine in 2017 with an alternative heavy metal number in English called "Time." This I cannot wait to see. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Happy Birthday, Taras Shevchenko

On the 9th of March in 1814, Taras Shevchenko was born in Moryntsi but his family moved back to the ancestral village of Kyrylivka (now village of Shevchenkove, Zvenigorodsky region, Ukraine). His ancestors were Cossacks involved in the uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries. He was an accomplished artist and an even greater writer. His Kobzar collection of poetry is the most famous book in Ukrainian. My tattered childhood copy remains with me in my library in Ireland today. In honour of Taras, I will read a poem today. RIP.

Taras and pals. Taras in the hat. 1859.

Ancestral home drawn by Taras Shevchenko. 

Тарас Шевченко. Повне зібрання творів в десяти томах. — К., 1961. — Т. 7: Живопис, графіка 1830-1847. — Кн. 1-2., Public Domain,

"Gypsy Fortune-Teller", by Taras Shevchenko, a watercolor composition of 1841 was awarded a silver medal by the Council of the Academy of Arts.
Т. Шевченко. Цыганка-ворожея. 1841. Национальный музей Т. Шевченко

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hallelujah in Ukrainian

Beautiful. Great to hear Алелуя not Hallelujah! Lovely iconostas and vyshyvka in the background.  Leonard Cohen's masterpiece sounds lovely in Ukrainian. Nice choir arrangement, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bitter Harvest: New Movie About Holodomor

Holodomor is the genocide committed by Stalin in the 1930s in which 10,000,000 Ukrainians were starved to death. Stalin forced collectivization of their lands,shipped the food to Russia, then took away their identification papers; not only were they starving, they couldn't leave. I'll have to see the film, but the reviews are pretty awful.

Article in the Huffington Post

Review in the Irish Times

A review from the UK

Winter on Fire

In the run up to this year's Academy Awards, if you have not seen Winter on Fire yet, it is worth viewing on Netflix. Evgeny Afineevsky's documentary is about the unrest in Ukraine in 2013-2014 during which time they ousted the Russian-backed President Yanukovich. What became known as the Euromaidan, with student demonstrations supporting European integration, grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. It was nominated for an Oscar last year. The BBC reviewed it favorably.

Academy Awards, USA 2016

Best Documentary, Feature
Evgeny Afineevsky
Den Tolmor 

Toronto International Film Festival 2015

People's Choice Award
Evgeny Afineevsky 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tryzub - yet another link with Ireland

Wikimedia Commons

In researching the connection between Ireland and Ukraine, I found yet another link. Not only does Ireland share the heritage of Celts and Norwegians intermixing, so does Ukraine. Even the national symbol of Ukraine, the Tryzub or Trident, may have its roots in Scandinavian falconry, shared with that of a Viking King of Dublin. 

From Wikipedia:
"Most historians agree that the medieval symbol was not intended as depicting a trident, but most likely a stylized falcon. Depictions of a flying falcon with a cross above its head have been found in Old Ladoga, the first seat of the Kievan Rurik dynasty[2] of Scandinavian lineage.[3] Such a falcon, along with a cross are also featured on the coins of Olaf Guthfrithsson, a Viking king of Dublin and Northumbria.[2] Falconry for centuries has been a royal sport in Europe. The gyrfalcon (known also as Norwegian falcon) was considered a royal bird and is mentioned (ukr.: кречет) in one of the earliest epics of Ruthenia, the 12th century poem The Tale of Ihor's Campaign."