It is awful when you have to say about a close friend whose loss has left lifelong pain, “It is a good thing that he left this world without seeing this.”
That is what I told myself on Nov. 28, 2006, after the Verkhovna Rada passed the law on the Holodomor. Yes, they passed the law but in a way that stigmatized both individual MPs and the entire nation.
Mace departed from this life without witnessing this disgrace. He died before Ukraine’s ruling political force acknowledged itself-through its de facto refusal to vote-as the legal successor to the authors of the Great Terror, the culprits who tried to destroy Ukraine.
The voting clarified Mace’s idea that Ukrainian society is post-genocidal. What did he mean by this designation? He had in mind precisely a post-genocidal society rather than a post-colonial one, as some researchers maintain. After all, post-colonial societies typically had civilized colonizers. Post-colonial India has embarked on a democratic course and is turning into an economic colossus. Even the Republic of South Africa, despite the former system of apartheid, is freeing itself from the shackles of colonialism and gaining economic weight. Civilized parent states had the courage to relinquish their colonies at an opportune time and treat them as equals.
However, this is not the case with Ukraine. Unlike civilized parent states, Ukraine’s colonizer never thought of relinquishing its conquered territories. On the contrary, the more it agonizes, the deeper it digs its claws into countries, regions, and entire geopolitical areas. The claws being “fraternal,” this kind of colonialism is not likely soon to become post-colonialism.
Perhaps this is why the visible colonial heritage in Ukraine is “diffused” in the post-genocidal heritage, often invisible but nevertheless constantly present, and not only in society’s psychology but also in the stimuli, complexes, and nightmares of its psyche.
Mace left us a tragic thought that will take us a long time to reflect on. For years to come, its purport will remain a painful and hidden nerve of our history.
The paradigmatic approach requires that the Holodomor be considered together with two other cases of 20th-century genocide within the span of Christian civilization-the Armenian and Jewish genocides. In addition to the countless political and economic causes of these two genocides, there were also cultural factors. It was not simply a matter of one nation destroying another. Rather, these were different ways of destroying Christian civilization. In the case of the Armenian genocide, Muslim fundamentalism was the destructive mechanism. In the case of the Holocaust, an atheistic monster that had renounced God destroyed a nation that was the historical and cultural cradle of Christian civilization and on whose territory the Christian God was born.
The Holodomor was similar in this respect: the anti-Christian world destroyed the world of Christianity. The newly-created political Moloch fought against God. Ruining and profaning temples, it destroyed a civilization that was the last Christian stronghold on the already immeasurable expanse of nihilistic Bolshevik barbarism.
Until this day the wound inflicted by the Armenian and Jewish genocides on these nations remains incurable. These tragedies became the new starting point for their history.
It is generally accepted that the Holocaust as genocide cannot be compared to any other genocide. Is this correct? I don’t know. I say frankly: I don’t know. Perhaps those who insist on the Holocaust’s uniqueness have a point. But equally unique is the Holodomor, even though this genocide was also conducted in the same eschatological vein of Endlosung, or Final Solution. The only difference was that the Holocaust was an act by killers with unconcealed intentions. Germans were true to their meticulousness even here-they had developed both theoretical and practical foundations for this genocide.
In contrast to this, the Holodomor was more of a hallucinatory project accompanied by rhetoric about the friendship of fraternal nations and other cliches produced by the ideological schizophrenia of Russian communism. In the former case it was all about the Aryan race; in the latter, about the Soviet people as the final product of this criminal social engineering. In fact, there is no difference here: in both cases all those who did not conform to the corresponding paradigm were destroyed.
These two national catastrophes are clearly unique but from two different perspectives. To the Jewish people the tragedy of the Holocaust became the unifying energy needed for self-understanding, strengthening their identity, and for a new perception of their place and significance in the world. The Holocaust also became an overwhelming moral shakeup for the whole world and, above all, for Europe. In the postwar period, Europe developed the concept of genocide and posed the question of its own collective responsibility for this crime. For the first time a crime against one people was interpreted as a crime against the entire human race.
This idea became the foundation of a new ethos for both people and 20th-century historical science. The scope of the problem is not restricted to Hitler and Nazism, which became the epitome of extreme inhumanity. This conversion of the human being into a beast was condoned by all those who connived at what was taking place and abetted the crime by means of their consent, cooperation, and silence. The world was forced to admit that one nation’s tragedy should not be restricted to its own history. Rather, only humanity’s collective memory of the tragedy can guarantee that it will never again be repeated.
This is the origin of Europe’s atonement for wronging the Jewish people-moral atonement that has spanned decades. Germany’s path to a democratic state began with the recognition of the crime it had committed, its detailed recording, and constant, incessant, and dramatic atonement, both individual and collective. This is the kind of atonement that pervades every day and every minute- German television channels regularly air programs on the history and analysis of the Holocaust. Europe is also atoning financially. Jews were finally given an opportunity to have their own state. For decades Germany has been paying astronomical sums to the descendants of the six million murdered Jews.
Of course, awareness of the Holocaust was an indicator that postwar Europe had reached democratic maturity. But this understanding was achieved because the Jewish community was able to organize and structure its protest, self-protection, and, finally, its demand for atonement.
This is what happens when a nation has self-respect. This nation’s drama becomes the moral standard for the conscience of the entire human race.
For the Jews the tragedy of the Holocaust became a protective wall of their memory and a symbol of courage, endurance, indestructibility, and immortality. I remember the November 2005 demonstration in Rome in protest against the threats of Iran’s president to destroy Israel. After all the official speeches in front of Iran’s embassy, in the glow of streetlights and the rustle of plane trees, an orchestra began playing Jewish tunes. A pair of young Jewish sweethearts suddenly began dancing to the tune of “Hava Nagila.” Among the spellbound people and in front of journalists’ cameras, they danced with such passion and obliviousness that it was clear: they were a thousand years old- and this was just the beginning.
In Europe awareness of the Holocaust became a moral standard of democracy and a mandatory pass to the civilized world. At a Ukrainian studies conference held in Italy, a well-known Slavist from Israel said that the attitude of post-Soviet Ukraine to Jews will be its passport to the circle of civilized countries.
It is hard to disagree with this statement. But then an interesting question arises: to what world can Ukrainians’ attitude to their own nation and tragedies be a passport? It is probably a passport to the anti-world or, in simple terms, to that part of the jungle where no passports are needed and where history begins in the morning and ends in the evening. This is why it is simply redundant.
This jungle is not as distant as one may think-government palaces are thick with jungles. If the huge numbers of published (finally!) and reprinted documentary evidence cannot help our MPs, or “people’s deputies” as they are called, to recognize the deaths of millions of our compatriots as genocide (and thus, a crime against humanity), then they do not consider Ukrainian society, which includes their own electorate, part of humanity.
Unlike the Holocaust, the Holodomor was one of the main factors that led to Ukraine’s loss of identity and rendered society’s consolidation impossible. Postwar Europe wrote the history of its catastrophes. Once again the postwar USSR falsified history. The Holodomor was one of the top- secret topics in this history. Therefore, having lost its past for the umpteenth time, Ukraine turned out to be incapable of implementing its design for the future.
Hitler sought to wipe out the Jews precisely as a nation because they were scattered all over Europe, without a state or territory of their own. Stalin also wanted to annihilate Ukrainians as a nation but this nation had its own country and land. Hitler wanted to destroy the Jewish culture, but the Biblical people had a culture that was spread all over the world and knew how to preserve it. In contrast to this, both past and contemporary Ukrainian culture was contained in Ukraine. Therefore, parallel to the Holodomor, Stalin destroyed the temples and books of the past as well as Ukraine’s cultural, artistic, and scholarly elite of the time.
The main idea of the Holodomor was to turn Ukraine into a non-Ukrainian republic, and with time-into an anti-Ukrainian entity. As we can see, Stalin’s project succeeded. Accomplished only halfway, it nonetheless succeeded. Stalin changed the genetic code of our nation. It was not by accident that Ukraine was the arena of these events-Ukraine was the second most rebellious part of the Russian empire (surpassed only by Poland) and the most recalcitrant one in the Soviet empire. The Moloch of the Stalinist empire suppressed this resistance in an unprecedented sadistic and cynical way.
It did not kill directly, as was the case during the Holocaust, when a person was at least able to oppose the killers or die with dignity. Russia killed Ukraine by turning people into vegetative beings, reducing them to an animal-like existence, and making them incapable of resistance, opposition, and moral choice. Vassily Grossman’s novel Forever Flowing describes the wailing of people in Ukrainian villages. People could not walk; they were only able to crawl to the nearest train station, where this was possible, hoping for some merciful hand to throw a piece of bread to them. The windows in Odesa-Kyiv trains were then boarded up.
In keeping with the law “on five ears of grain,” women and mothers were shot right in the fields if they were caught picking a few ears of grain for their dying children. And all this took place in the “breadbasket of Europe.”
It was the Holodomor that exposed the Russian world’s total contempt for the human being as such, for fundamental human feelings, and for any moral dimension of human existence. Also uncovered was its pathological hatred of so-called fraternal Ukraine.
Together with people’s lives, the Holodomor took away the feeling of home and the sense and culture of work. But above all, it destroyed love for the land that was transformed from a life-giving resource into a boundless grave devouring both the dead and the living, stirred by their groans, and devouring new lives over and over again.
Instead of human feelings, society was overcome with fear-total, abject fear of being oneself, speaking one’s mother tongue, and remembering one’s dead.
It was the fear of existing. Since Stalinist times Ukrainian society has been paralyzed by the fear of existin .
This led to the abyss of non-presence, non-work, and non-morals. This also caused the greediness of some and the willingness for a half- starved existence and constant poverty of others. As long as they leave us alone, as long as they don’t torment us. What freedom? What democracy? “ We will endure.” Having endured the Holocaust, we can endure anything in this world.
This is also where the rejection of our own culture stems from. It has remained in our genome: the sentence for being part of this culture is death.
Fear is the only and total legacy that the System left to Ukrainian society. This humiliating heritage is being passed down from generation to generation. It erodes language, dignity, and memory in people. It erodes the human being in people.
This type of society is easy to rule. This society can get only one kind of government for itself-the government of thieves, cynics, and plain criminals.
The Holodomor destroyed not only a century-long supply of the country’s demographic and economic resources but also the Ukrainian rural cosmos in its cultural, linguistic, and philosophical continuity and, most importantly, its thousand-year-long ethos of Ukraine’s relationship with the earth. The Ukrainian peasant would not put a loaf of bread on the table upside down-you were not allowed to offend bread because it was given by God. The one who managed to wipe from the face of the earth this rural world that tended its God-given land was then able to lay waste to this land with the help of Chornobyl and bury it under tons of radioactive waste.
Midas, the king of death: whatever he touches turns into death.
Who else besides the descendants of this collective Barbarian would be able to loot the country the way they have done today? Who would be able to force millions of people abroad in search of some humiliating way to earn some money for the same piece of bread that was confiscated in the 1930s? Who would be able to let grain rot in ports and then throw it into the Black Sea? Who would be able to yield to Russia the security and independence of the country-piece by piece, on a regular basis? Who would laugh in the face of his own electorate? One state official was recently quoted by The Ukrainian Truth on Feb. 9, 2007, as saying in his garbled mixture of Russian and Ukrainian, “Why don’t I hear applause, I wonder?...Somehow I don’t see joy... on your faces.”
Today we see this post-genocidal anti-Ukraine on every corner, once again mainly in the ruling circles. This anti-Ukraine is robbing the state in broad daylight. It is humiliating society, trampling on its graves, and continuing the policy of Russification. It calls intelligentsia a “narrow stratum” — a glaring Freudian slip, an acknowledgement of one’s own post- Soviet descent: where were intellectuals a stratum doomed to destruction if not during the orgy of the lumpenproletariat called the USSR? This anti- Ukraine will do its utmost to prevent the state from taking a single step toward Europe and keep it in the gray zone of geopolitical non-existence- the only way to have a few more years for its final despoilment.
Here is a picture of post-genocidal society in one isolated region- Kharkiv oblast. When all of two MPs from the Party of Regions voted for the Law on the Holodomor, Yevhen Kushnariov, one of the party’s leaders, in an interview with Radio Liberty magnanimously promised that the party would not discipline the MPs. “For now this will have no consequences,” he said (Dec. 9, 2006, www.pravda.com.ua).
In November 2006 in Kharkiv oblast, which was happy about Russian obtaining the status of “regional” language, not one local government official attended the official ceremony to commemorate the Holodomor victims. The proceedings took place at the Ukrainian-Polish Memorial and near the Cross to the Holodomor Victims. But 30,000 people came to Kushnariov’s funeral.
Fact file: during three months of 1933, over 600,000 people died in Kharkiv oblast. The total mortality count reached 2,000,000-one-third of all peasants in the region. As can be seen from archival photographs, peasants died on the city’s central street. Every morning their bodies were dumped into suburban ravines. Every evening the streets were covered with new corpses.
Kharkiv was then the capital of the Ukrainian SSR, so historians call the city in that period “the capital of despair.”
These things occurred during the Postyshev terror. Some streets in Kharkiv are still named after the bosses of the Communist Party of Ukraine, who carried out the genocide. Naturally, the city has a Postyshev Prospekt.
It was in Kharkiv, in 1933, that Mykola Khvylovy shot himself. He understood that he was doomed and that Ukraine was destined for this bloody massacre. At the cost of his own life Khvylovy sent a warning. By this one pistol shot he put a period on the final page of the brilliant and tragic Executed Renaissance.
I can add one more thing: it is good that Mace did not live to see the day when a member of the Communist cadre was appointed director of Ukraine’s historical archives. He would feel hurt. As a person who loved Ukraine so much, he would feel ashamed of the country.
However, as a scholar he would receive full satisfaction: his uncanny thesis about our post-genocidal society has found complete confirmation.
To be a post-genocidal society means to have no memory. It means to have one’s memory in the off position. A society that has been destroyed this way is a lobotomized society. The part of society that managed to withstand the lobotomy does not possess sufficient psychological power and physical strength to push aside this necrotic mass of stifled brain that is pressing down and choking the living brain with its dead weight.
Mace was a scholar. He worked with facts and figures. He gave them rational explanations. But I have always had the feeling that he came to this culture because he had been called by the dead. Probably because they still have not been buried-for they have not been mourned, and because they have been forgotten.
He heard their voices. He heard them from afar, from a distant country and a different continent. He learned their language. While despicable servants of the System, barely able to stick a few insincere Ukrainian words into their defective mixture of Russian and Ukrainian, were sneering at his accent, Jim rolled his American “r” in the language of the dead who had called him, and he talked with them freely.
Mace was opposed to any form of contempt for man. This was the algorithm of his intellectual opposition to any manifestations of totalitarianism. In this he was a true son of the finest democratic America that is built on the spiritual heritage of Washington and Lincoln. He had such an acute and passionate sense of justice and honesty that it seemed to have burned him from the inside. It was this feeling that brought him to Ukraine-a country that became, possibly like no other country in the world, a victim of permanent injustice and unfair treatment.
In many countries, involvement in the Holocaust entails criminal responsibility. France is planning to make denial of the Armenian genocide a crime. One of the categorical conditions for Turkey’s accession to the EU is its acknowledgement of this genocide.
What we hear from the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine even now is “the so-called genocide” and “Mace, the Holodomor dreamer.”
Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine are choked by a noose of streets bearing the names of its persecutors. Monuments to persecutors stand in all Ukrainian cities.
Therefore, it is difficult to hope that a country like this will be reckoned with in the world. Russia understands only the language of force-contemporary official Ukraine can only speak to Russia from the position of weakness and meekness. Europe understands the language of self-respect. For today’s official Ukraine this is a profoundly foreign word that it does not know how to translate into its political doublespeak.
Official Ukraine, as it is today, i.e., lobotomized, will hardly find money in the state budget for a Holodomor Memorial or for the Institute of National Memory. It is erecting monuments to falsifiers of the elections rather than to scholars who are restoring its history from the abyss of oblivion.
This kind of Ukraine finds millions of dollars for idiotic pre-election advertising and none for the publication of Mace’s works. This is all the more deplorable when we recall that Mace did not write exclusively about the Holodomor-he researched the history of 20th-century Ukraine. To publish his works means to make public a whole array of skeletons in the Russian-Ukrainian political closet. In 1983 Mace published a book in the US on the destruction of national communism in Ukraine. He wrote merciless articles on the political nature of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Some of his results appear prophetic today. For example, Mace wrote about the drama of Ukrainian socialism. “For better or worse, in 20th-century Ukraine socialism was the most influential ideology.” This is the opening statement in a chapter of his book entitled Ukrainian Statehood in the 20th Century (published in 1996). Whereas the beginnings of Ukrainian socialism are associated with such prominent figures as Mykhailo Drahomanov and Mykhailo Hrushevsky, in its present stage it features names one feels ashamed even to pronounce in this series. One can only say, “Jim, unfortunately, the most influential ideology in Ukraine was indeed socialism!” The idealistic socialism of its first adherent was a significant obstacle in the construction of the Ukrainian state. Further degeneration of this socialism and its fall from the level of the European tradition to negotiations in the flea market of post-Soviet politics have proved the political and moral fiasco of this ideology in the history of Ukrainian statehood.
Mace’s paper at the Kharkiv congress of the International Association of Ukrainian Studies in 1996 was entitled “The Sociogenetic Legacy of the Genocide and Totalitarianism in Ukraine and Ways to Overcome It.” Mace was fully aware that the genocide-produced pathological deviations in Ukraine were proportional to the eschatological dimensions of the genocide itself. They are difficult to eradicate because genocide derives its name from its undermining effect on the foundation of a nation’s gene pool.
Mace opened up before Ukrainian society the book of its Apocalypse and read this Black Book aloud. But society did not really hear him because the areas of its collective brain that are responsible for self- preservation, self — protection, and survival had been neutralized and lobotomized.
On Nov. 26, as you light a candle to commemorate the tens of millions of Ukrainians who were killed only because they had grown crops from time immemorial, just look out of your window. You will see candles lit here and there. Otherwise-the shimmer of TV screens blasting local or Russian pop music.
It is difficult to say whether society will remain in this vegetative state. Together with his fellow Ukrainian historians, Mace did everything possible to revive the nerve tissue of the Ukrainian nation’s brain-in order to make it send signals, to make memory work, and to help society restore its will to live.
Whether the national brain will indeed start working is not under Mace’s control. It is up to Ukrainian society-and Russian society, for that matter. Russia became the self-appointed heir of the gold and diamond funds of the USSR. It will become a civilized state only when it has recognized that it is also the heir of the bloody fund of the USSR.
Many offensive remarks about Mace have been voiced from the rostrum of the post-Soviet Verkhovna Rada. Looking at parliament we mostly see crowds of vicious political corpses with glassy eyes.
Jim, however, is strangely alive. Perhaps he was privy to some kind of mysticism, as were his ancient Indian ancestors. Maybe he knew the mystery of overcoming death because everything that he occupied himself with was tragedy. But he was rarely seen without a smile. Even when he was resentful, with good reason, he exuded a powerful energy of good will and inexplicable optimism that he alone possessed. Jim seemed to believe, despite all indications to the contrary, that common sense would prevail and man would overcome human-generated absurdities and phantoms.
I believe that all of us who in some way collaborated with Jim will always measure our history by his work, his love for Ukraine, and his intellectual integrity. Most importantly, we will refer to his deep conviction that Ukraine is a nation of astonishing vitality and that one day it will get over its post-genocidal legacy and become a conscious, noble, and orderly European country-a country respected in the world, in particular because it has self-respect.
After all, the Orange Revolution proved that this European Ukraine is already nascent. Despite hardships, it is coming into being or, more exactly, beginning to revive.
When I asked Jim to meet one of my Italian doctoral students, who was researching Khvylovy, he said, “Oh, sure thing! A friend of Khvylovy is a friend of mine!” — as if Khvylovy had not shot himself in 1933 but lived somewhere near Jim, across the street, and from time to time they would get together for a cup of coffee.
Now Jim is definitely drinking coffee with Khvylovy.
Some day we may be able to see Mace carved in stone on a Kyiv street. Lively and passionate as he was, he would take it in good stride because he does not need a monument. What was more important to him was a monument that he himself worked on-a monument to millions of innocent Ukrainians who were tortured to death.
Perhaps a monument to Mace is necessary above all for Ukraine. It would be an important landmark indicating that the country is starting to awaken from its post-genocidal state, which means that it is beginning to distinguish destroyers from those whose love for Ukraine cost them their lives.
For our country this would be a small step but one that would bring it closer to Europe. And this step would be taken thanks to the American, James E. Mace.