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Ukraine: Are we also at fault?


By Peter Emerson

Mariupol is yet one more metropolis which humankind has first created… after which destroyed, flattened, like Guernica and Warsaw.  And Russia now does to others, what it too has suffered, as in Leningrad and by its personal hand, in Grozny.

Mariupol just isn’t a Russian phrase; if it have been Russian or Slavic, it will be ‘Mariugrad’ or ‘Mariusky’.  However the suffix ‘pol’, as in Sevastopol and Simferopol, is Greek, and it goes again 2,000 years or so, when the Greeks have been on this Black Sea littoral, lengthy earlier than Russia was concocted.  What’s extra, Russia just isn’t a Slav nation: the Federation consists of Samis in Lapland, Maris and Tartars close to the Urals, Chechens and Dagestanis within the Northern Caucasus, and over 50 completely different ethnic teams in Siberia, just like the Buryats close to Lake Baikal and the Chukchis on the Pacific coast.  In the meantime, different nations or areas like Slovakia, Slovenia and Slavonia (in Jap Croatia) are Slav, as is Poland, for instance, and in the primary, Ukraine.

BeIfast’s third raIIy in opposition to the warfare in Ukraine. Photograph: Kateryna Zaichyk


In 2004, I used to be an OSCE election observer in Kharkiv, an election fought within the ultimate spherical between simply two candidates – Yushchenko and Yanukovich – so every thing was very binary and divisive.  Yushchenko was pro-EU, Yanukovich pro-Russia.  The previous most popular the Ukrainian language, the latter Russian… however these two languages are very comparable.  Western Ukraine is extra Catholic or Uniate, the jap ‘half’ opts for the Orthodox Church, … however these two denominations are each Christian.  (And, as in Northern Eire, little variations can all too simply divide and antagonise.)   For sure, within the election, each candidates had their events, and observers.  Two of them have been sitting subsequent to one another within the depend, and I requested them, what was it prefer to compete in opposition to one another.  “Oh immediately, we’re opponents, sure; но завтра будем друзьями – however tomorrow, we’ll be pals once more.”

How harmful it was, we could say if solely looking back, to make use of such a divisive voting process.


So what can we do, right here in Eire, to assist our fellow people in Ukraine?  Inter alia, we shouldn’t be utilizing, thereby selling and even justifying ‘false flags’, provocations, excuses for violence.  I refer particularly to binary referendums.

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In 1920, when Eire opted out of the UK, Northern Eire opted out of opting out and opted again in once more, (albeit with out referendums).  In like method, when Bosnia opted out of Yugoslavia, Republika Srpska tried to decide out of Bosnia.  And when Georgia opted out of the USSR, South Ossetia tried to decide out of Georgia.  Each the Balkans and the Caucasus have been inundated with referendums; they nonetheless are.

An analogous destiny befell Kiev: Ukraine opted out of USSR in 1991, and each ‘county’, oblast, voted for independence, together with Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.  However, in 2014, these three tried to decide out of Ukraine.  There once more, referendum selections can certainly be reversed: it’s catered for within the Belfast Settlement, and it’s what some in Scotland now wish to do.  Certainly, you’ll bear in mind, Scotland additionally had a referendum in 2014, and it’s sobering to recall that the phrase Shotlandiya, Scotland, was utilized by Russian separatists in Luhansk; (I used to be there).  In the meantime, like Northern Eire, part of Donetsk referred to as Dobropillia and Krasnoarmiisk, tried to decide out of opting out and to decide again into Ukraine.  On this final referendum, 69%, i.e., some two million folks voted to return into Ukraine.  Alas, as within the Balkans, so too in Ukraine, the powers that be – the West within the Balkans, Putin within the Donbas – recognise solely these referendums the outcomes of which they approve.

It’s all a bit like these well-known Russian dolls, the matryoshki – ‘matryoshka nationalism’ the Russians referred to as it – or used to, earlier than .  Inside each doll, there’s one other infant.  Together with each majority, there’s all the time one other minority.  However worldwide legislation – the fitting of self-determination – created havoc in Yugoslavia, the place “all of the wars… began with a referendum,” (Oslobodjenje, 7.2.1999), and in Ukraine. 

The whole lot is related.  “Всё связано,” to cite Vladimir Vernadsky, the founding father of Ukraine’s Academy of Sciences.  Binary referendums might be false flags.  In Bosnia, Milorad Dodik in Republika Srpska is rattling his sabres and poll packing containers, and so too in Georgia was Anatoly Bibilov in South Ossetia, the President till he misplaced the current election.  And now Zaporizhzhia needs one as nicely, voting and preventing over a nuclear energy station!  That is simply so damned harmful.

Accordingly, right here in Eire (and Scotland), if just for the sake of peace in Ukraine and elsewhere, we shouldn’t be attempting to resolve our personal constitutional questions with (‘false-flag’) binary referendums. 

As a substitute, allow us to observe pluralism: the world’s first multi-option referendum was in New Zealand in 1894; the most effective in Guam, in 1982, had six/seven choices.  And in stark distinction to binary balloting, a multi-option poll has by no means provoked a warfare.

Peter Emerson is the director of The de Borda Institute, a Northern Eire-based NGO, which goals to advertise the usage of inclusive voting procedures on all contentious questions of social alternative. He was an Irish Support OSCE election observer in six elections in Ukraine, 2004-14; and a member of the EUMM in Georgia for South Ossetia, 2008-09.

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