The Russian World
Serhiy Wynnyk is an attorney in Omsk, Russia. He is of Ukrainian origin. By many unofficial demographic calculations there are some 15 million residents of the Russian Federation who are of Ukrainian origin. However, the last two censuses have calculated Ukrainians at a little over 4 and and 2 million respectively. While it is not particularly useful or conducive to a more prosperous or influential existence to be of Ukrainian origin in Russia, the census takers have managed to further limit the Ukrainian numbers by asking such questions as what language do you speak at home and if the answer is Russian then you are deemed to be Russian.
There are no Ukrainian language schools in Russia. There was at one time a library of Ukrainian literature but that was shut down several years back and the head librarian prosecuted for permitting Ukrainian nationalistic books. Thus there is no purpose in studying, pursuing or using the Ukrainian language as no career path in Russia would be enhanced.
The Omsk region which is home to Serhiy is not unique. It is lower Siberia so the winters are very cold and the summers are humid. Still the land is rich in resources. Entire villages in the region are comprised of Ukrainians dating back to the XVII century when the Russian czar gave away land in order to populate vast territorial acquisitions. The Ukrainian people currently living there do not speak Ukrainian, but they do sing and dance as Ukrainians and are very much aware that they are not Russians. Nevertheless the censuses count them as Russians.
Serhiy has been in the Russian news recently. In addition to his full time profession as an attorney, he also chaired the regional Siberian Center of Ukrainian culture named "Siryj Klyn" (Grey Maple) and today publishes an inter regional periodical newspaper. Serhiy is the lead representative (vice president) of the Ukrainian community in Russia to the Ukrainian World Congress, a global structure based in the West consisting of Ukrainian organizations across the globe except in Ukraine itself, euphemistically referred to as the Ukrainian diaspora. By many calculations some 20 million Ukrainians reside outside of Ukraine. Serhiy as an attorney represented the UWC is their recent litigation against the Russian General Procurator and Justice Ministry which had declared that the UWC was an unwelcome organization and banned its activities within Russia.
On or about August 13, 2020 Serhiy's regional cultural center was formally announced for liquidation by the Russian government. The scheduled court date is August 28th, but judging by Russian judicial processes the ruling will be pro forma. Naturally there will be an appeal but there is no independent judicial system to speak of in Russia. Unfortunately, this is the beginning of the end - the liquidation of regional and local Ukrainian cultural organizations which should bring to an end any Ukrainian activity in Russia.
Upon taking office first as prime minister and then as president having received the torch from Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin was busy dealing with Chechnya and other issues, including the economy and his own oligarchs who were not quite certain who was in charge. By the end of the first decade of the XXI century he began to take on territorial pursuits. He took on Georgia in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008 as a trial run ending the process with a frozen conflict which continues to date.
By February 2010 he was able to install his own surrogate in Ukraine through an election marred by irregularities. As this surrogate ruled in Ukraine, from 2010-2012 Putin proceeded to liquidate the two central Ukrainian national structures in the Russian Federation which had sprouted since the demise of the USSR. Under the Soviet system there had not been any organized Ukrainian life in Russia. The surrogate Viktor Yanukovich and his cohort Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador in Moscow did not oppose Russia's move. When the surrogate was deposed by the Ukrainian people in 2014 Putin attacked Ukraine itself, annexed the Crimean Peninsula and started a war in Eastern Ukraine. His aims were much greater but Ukraine's Russified regions like Odessa, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk to his surprise defied Putin.
In the midst of the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, Putin felt emboldened to continue the process of liquidating the Ukrainian communities in Russia. The methodology was to attack the global UWC with a network that included Ukrainians in Russia despite the lack of a central structure. First the UWC was placed on a list of organizations inimical to Russia. By July 2019 the UWC was banned from Russia by Russia's Procurator General and its Justice Ministry.
And now the first regional and local organization to fall is Omsk. Symbolically, Russia will use the person of Serhiy Wynnyk and the Omsk structure as the fall guy.
The “Russian World” is a concept introduced by Vladimir Putin at the end of the first decade of the XXI century. While that term may mean many things for the global community or be entirely misinterpreted or not understood at all, for Ukrainians it means only one thing: the destruction of everything Ukrainian and its full immersion into Russia. Putin has often denigrated Ukrainians verbally publicly, insisting that Ukrainians are not a nation.
Ukraine and Ukrainians are very important to Russia. They represent three hundred or more years of history, the cradle of Russian Christian Orthodoxy in the city of Kyiv. Additionally, while Ukraine has been dominated by Russia for centuries, Ukrainians have been Russia's fiercest opponents. Without Ukraine and Ukrainians Russia has free reign in Eastern Europe.
Perhaps, few in the West even those who are politically astute can grasp the thrust of this mission or even the thought process because of its magnitude and depravity, the annihilation of another nation, essentially a genocide. Ukrainians have persevered through other attempts even of a physical genocide, the Holodomor of 1932-1933. But Putin and other Russians like him are hellbent on accomplishing their goal - the “Russian World” - a world where the fictional Russian empire dating back to the IX century and including the ancient City of Kyiv when there was no Moscow or Russia is free to roam and ravage. Ukraine and Ukrainians are impediments to this goal.
August 15, 2020
Askold S. Lozynskyj
225 East 11 Street
New York, NY 10003
The writer is an attorney at law, and former president of the Ukrainian World Congress 1998-2008