The Embassy of Ukraine in the Russian Federation recently welcomed the International Holodomor Remembrance Flame, which is traveling throughout the world in commemoration of the victims of the 1932-1933 Holodomor. Despite the fact that preliminary consent had been given to hold the ceremony of welcoming the flame to Moscow, the Russian authorities did not allow the Remembrance Flame on Russian territory.
So the participants of the Moscow leg of this international action gathered on the territory of Ukraine, in our embassy in the Russian capital. Some of them talked to The Day and explained why Moscow rejects Kyiv’s arguments about honoring the famine victims.
Stanislav KULCHYTSKY, Holodomor researcher and deputy director of the Institute of Ukrainian History at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine:
“This event was held at our embassy; in other words, on the territory of Ukraine. Among those present were the embassy staff and representatives of the Ukrainian community in Moscow. There were quite a few people. Comparing this event to the way it was held in the United States (Washington, New York, Philadelphia) I must say that everything looked different in the US. There were no Americans present, but it was not, in fact, intended for Americans but for Ukrainians who live in that country. The Ukrainian Americans came dressed in national costumes: for them, it was a solemn ceremony, and some of them had not seen each other in years. It was very moving.
“Since the Russian government has a different view of the Holodomor, here in Russia we were forbidden to hold a public event, although during the negotiations we emphasized that there is nothing anti-Russian about the Holodomor Remembrance Flame.
“In the final analysis, we have done much to research the Holodomor. There can be no claims against modern Russia. The Russian people were not responsible for the Holodomor because it was engineered by Stalin’s people to enable Stalin to retain power. I said this to the Russian side, and my statement was accepted with understanding, but the Russian government still banned this action on its territory. So we held it at the Ukrainian embassy, where Russia could not interfere.
“Nothing is going to change in Russia in the nearest future. Perhaps, to some extent, we are to blame for this. Some Ukrainians often say, ‘Look what the Muscovites did to us!’ No responsible political figures in Ukraine, no matter to which camp they belong, should make such extremist declarations. There is a serious political conflict in Ukraine, but the Holodomor problem has nothing to do with this.
“When he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York, President Yushchenko said that we have no claims against Russia. Nevertheless, the situation remains the same. This is why other countries take Russia’s position into account. I do not think that this year we will succeed in persuading the UN to classify the Holodomor as genocide. But we should not interrupt our work, and it is academics that will have the last word. One way or another, we should publicize this subject and prove with documents what happened in reality.”
Oleh VOLOSHYN, spokesman of the Ukrainian Embassy in the Russian Federation:
“The Ukrainian Embassy in Russia hosted the Moscow stage of the International Holodomor Remembrance Flame, a global action that has taken place in dozens of countries. We invited representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in Moscow and various cultural associations. There were also some ethnic Ukrainians, who holding high positions in Russia’s Council of the Federation and other public administration bodies. They came to honor the victims of the 1932-1933 Holodomor.
“Also present at the ceremony were Kostiantyn Hryshchenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in the Russian Federation, and Yurii Kostenko, Acting First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was on a working visit in Moscow. Both Hryshchenko and Kostenko delivered speeches, which were followed by a minute of silence and a symbolic rite of remembrance.
Everyone in the embassy drank a symbolic 100 grams of vodka to the memory of those who perished in that most terrible famine by far. The Holodomor Remembrance Flame is now going on to St. Petersburg.
“Naturally, this was an extremely important event for us, although we wish that it could have been held in the desired format, more openly and publicly. Many civic organizations in Russia had submitted a number of initiatives.
“Unfortunately, Moscow is not prepared to take serious steps toward compromise. Its vision of the problem differs from ours, although the Ukrainian side keeps saying that nobody is trying to put the blame for the Holodomor on today’s Russia. On the contrary, we admit that the Russians were by far the main victims of the Stalinist repressions. We hope that the Russian Federation, as a country that positions itself as a democracy, finally understands the Ukrainian standpoint.
“In general, the Moscow action was a day to honor the memory of the five to six million people who perished during the famine, although historians are still arguing over this figure. This day is a signal to humankind to prevent the emergence of regimes that place people’s lives below state interests.”