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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“This is Moscow’s arrogance…”

Experts of The Day comment on Pozner’s interview
27 March, 2013 - 18:27

On March 23 a Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner in Ukraine was named the “Man of the Year-2012” for “an unprecedented contribution to international journalism and faithful service to the ideals of the profession.” We would not question the professionalism of Vladimir Pozner – for many he really is an authority. However, it is hard to understand in what ways is this Russian journalist related to the Ukrainian informational space, because, as he himself admitted, he knows very little about Ukrainian people (!). Of course, it is unnecessary to debate on the decisions of the Supreme Council of the Academic Award – in 16 years it made many worthy choices.

It is possible that this awarding ceremony would have passed unnoticed if not for the press conference, which Pozner gave Ukrainian journalists after the event. His answers to the questions of his Ukrainian colleagues were unexpectedly scandalous and odious.

During the press conference Pozner repeated several times that he knows absolutely nothing about Ukraine except for the fact that Ukrainian people sing beautifully and cook delicious borshch. But in general he knows nothing about the history and culture of the neighboring country, which his own country so ardently wishes to see as its partner in the Customs Union. Even if one pretends to be an absolute simpleton, people would be surprised with banal lack of journalistic curiosity in such answers of authoritative Russian journalist. If you go to some country to receive an award you can at least read some general information about it in Wikipedia. Not to mention the fact that it is simply impolite to talk about your absolute ignorance of its culture.

However, clearly not everything is that simple. It is difficult to imagine that an experienced international journalist is not versed in history and modern politics of the neighboring country which is also a strategic partner. Then how do you explain Pozner’s answers? Is it “noble” rudeness? Or is it because he, like most of his fellow countrymen, does not consider Ukraine a full state and its culture worthy of his attention?

However, the alleged “ignorance” did not stop Pozner, among other things, to say that he knows for sure that in Stalin’s camps there were many Ukrainians among supervisors. Given the authority of the journalist and his generally adequate answers to questions dealing with journalism, this criticism is not more important in terms of defamation that the famous video about Taras Shevchenko-fascist. Why statements of alleged Russian liberal and intellectual are put in one row with clearly ordered news reports made by Russian media workers?

By the way, Ukrainian dissidents and political prisoners repeatedly told that even behind the barbed wire, while fighting together against inhuman system for their own dignity and rights, they found themselves on different sides of the barricades with Russian fellow prisoners over the national issue. However, Pozner knows nothing about this struggle, he does not know about Norilsk and Vorkuta, where Ukrainian led the rise of prisoners of all nationalities against the camp authorities and misanthropic system…

Judging from his responses, the national question as such is only a creature of Bolsheviks for the Russian journalist because “in Russian Empire administrative division was performed according to an absolutely different principle.” If it was not Pozner, but some other journalist, that answered journalists’ questions that night he could be suspected of banal ignorance. But these remarks made by Pozner receive an entirely different meaning.

Another question to journalists – why none of the journalists present at the press conference asked Pozner some appropriate clarifying questions? Why his interview published in the media that claim to be balanced and experienced is not followed by appropriate comment?

The Day offers its readers opinion of its experts on the statements made by Moscow guest.

By Viktoria SKUBA, The Day


Yevhen SVERSTIUK, Soviet-era dissident, civic activist, journalist:

“Ukrainians were well-represented in all services, arms and departments. The authorities posted them, as well as draftees of other ethnicities, far and wide. Russia acted in this way as a matter of policy. Generally, labor camp guard’s is a low job, if not the lowest of all. Very often, the enlisted man learns of his posting only on receiving his orders. I do not know how Pozner learned to tell Ukrainians from non-Ukrainians. Firstly, it is very difficult to do it correctly looking at surnames only, as there is more to the ethnicity than just characteristic surnames. More importantly, there is no point in doing it at all, because camp guards are tightly controlled by their superiors and bound to serve as required by them. However, Ukrainian camp guards were outnumbered by Ukrainian prisoners, making up half of the prisoners’ total in labor camps both under Stalin and in the post-Stalin era. They always were special, for example, organizing uprisings, including one in Norilsk. The authorities told one of our imprisoned compatriots: ‘Hold your tongue! You know, every tie of the local railway has two khokhols [A Russian slur for Ukrainians. – Ed.] buried underneath. Do you really want to make it three underneath some tie with your own body?’”


Mykola KNIAZHYTSKY, people’s deputy:

“In my view, the issue goes beyond common rudeness, as it is xenophobia that we face in this case. If we condemn xenophobic attitudes towards various ethnic groups in Ukraine and throughout the world, then we must not tolerate the anti-Ukrainian xenophobia all the more so. For when one says that the Ukrainians guarded and oversaw the Stalinist camps, it is just a slap in the face of the thousands of Ukrainians who were dissidents, who suffered in the Stalinist camps, and the millions who were executed under Stalin and starved to death during the Great Famine of 1932-33. Obviously, we must not tolerate this kind of insults. We cannot turn a blind eye to it. At the very least, we should decry it as a disgusting lie. I have, actually, done it already on my Facebook page and my pages elsewhere on the Internet.”


Olha HERASYMIUK, journalist:

“I have seen responses to Pozner’s words already. Perhaps Larysa Ivshyna was right when she commented that the ongoing response to the ‘Illustrious Journalist’s’ statements, consisting mostly of disapproval for his political incorrectness, I would even say his aggressive ignorance, this response is a positive thing. It means that our society disapproves such behavior strongly. I know Pozner and am upset at his faux pas. Obviously, he did not understand where he arrived and why. Maybe, a little look through a history textbook would have helped. I cannot comprehend his statement that the Ukrainians guarded the Stalinist camps. It contradicts Pozner’s image as a well-read intellectual. I understand that Pozner has been in favor with every Russian political regime. Meanwhile, many principled journalists have disappeared from the Russian TV screens. As Pozner has retained his job, he, probably, has to earn the government’s goodwill. I do not think that his statement was a new opening in the bilateral relations, but it definitely was more than just politically incorrect, looking outright brutal. We should respond to it with our assessment of this person.”