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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

Ivan Kuras, “It is better to be accused of idealism than of cynicism”

27 January, 2004 - 00:00

Academician Ivan Kuras does needs no introduction to The Day ’s readers. The point is not only in the offices, regalia. and awards he holds (he is vice president of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, director of the Academic Institute of Political and Ethno-National Studies, and a member of the Ukrainian parliament), but also in the fact that practical politicians and experts, i.e., people who “forecast and make the political weather” in Ukraine, have been reckoning with his opinion for many years. Academician Kuras is an individual who carefully weighs each of his words instead of turning glib and catchy phrases. Yet, enormous political and academic experience (suffice it to recall that it is Kuras who headed Leonid Kuchma’s election campaign headquarters in 1999), as well as extensive knowledge of all the nuances of the current situation in Ukraine, make Ivan Fedorovych an interesting person to talk with. As this was Academician Kuras’ first visit to Den/The Day (while many other prominent politicians, economists, historians, and sociologists have already visited our editorial office), it is only natural that the newspaper looked forward to meeting him. Mr. Kuras was accompanied with Doctor of History, Professor Yury Shapoval, a longtime contributor to Den/The Day. Before the interview, Den/The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna presented our welcome guest with Den/The Day library’s books Dvi Rusi and Ukrayina Incognita . In his turn, Academician Kuras presented the newspaper with the No. 1 copy of the first four out of the six already-printed volumes of the unique publication Political History of Twentieth-Century Ukraine . He noted that he subscribes to and attentively reads our newspaper. Exchanging each other’s research achievements, the interlocutors managed to describe the circle of mutually interesting problems.


“Academician Kuras, we would like to speak today on the following topics, first, the analysis of Ukraine’s political history that you have just presented and the main conclusions to be drawn out of it; second, political praxis and your vision of desirable developments; and, third, the general historical background against which Ukrainian reforms are being carried out. Let us find out what our national interest consists in, how we can fit in with the international division of labor, intellectual heritage, and, naturally, how we can add something of our own to it. Working on this six-volume publication, did you systematize any new knowledge and did you feel that you had understood Ukraine’s twentieth-century history to a greater extent?”

Ivan KURAS: “Five or six years ago we decided to produce something like a prospectus. Systematizing the worldwide and our nation’s historiography opened very many hitherto unknown pages of the past. But, oddly enough, we knew the least about the things that stood close to us in time. We know more about Stalin, Khrushchev, or any other of the top officials of the 1920s-30s than about our current leaders.

“After all, learning the historical truth is a difficult and long process. Let me give an interesting example. Under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the US Congress set up a commission in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of manmade famine in Ukraine. The head of the international relations department at the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine invited several persons (including Stanislav Kulchytsky and me) and said we should write a letter to the commission and prove that there had been no famine at all. I said I could not do so because my paternal grandmother and grandfather had died in 1933 in southern Ukraine — all we could do was emphasize that, when genocide is in question, one must mention not only Ukrainians but also residents of all the Soviet Union’s grain- raising regions. We did our best to prove this with the proper conclusions and figures. Some time later I visited the US, including Georgetown University. The latter hosted a soiree in honor of Lina Kostenko and Martha Bohachevska-Chomiak who were awarded the Antonovych Foundation Prize for their book on the feminist movement in Western Ukraine. I was reluctant to go there, but an acquaintance of mine said, ‘I want you to meet someone.’ That was James Mace. He said, ‘I wanted to see whether you were real people or stooges’ (actually, my recollection is a bit different, but it was cordial — Mace) I sad, ‘Yes, all the three are a real thing!’ Hennady Udovenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, stood next to me. I asked him, ‘How should I conduct myself?’ He replied, ‘What can I advise you? Only one thing, don’t lie. For if you are caught lying when trying to stand our ground, there will be no dialog for sure.’ As time went by, 1991 came over. Our institute was hard up. No salaries, no other things... Then the door opens and Dr. Mace came in. We had a cup of tea. I say. ‘Where do you work?’ ‘I’m unemployed now,’ says he. ‘But why?’ ‘Why? I was told the cause you fought for has triumphed in Ukraine. The US Congress has stopped funding the commission. (Actually, the commission had fulfilled it’s mandate and gone out of existence — Mace) I’m looking for a job...’”

“A new historical circumstance...”

I. K.: “But this is life. ‘So where are you going to work?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know yet. Will you take me on?’ ‘With pleasure, but we pay too little,’ said I. ‘Well, I must start somewhere...’ I think that not only we but also such honest people like Dr. Mace went through a certain depression. For all that he wrote about national communism, about the early 1930s in Ukraine, was once considered anticommunist and utterly hostile... About national communism, incidentally. The point is not in subjective assessments but in the essence of this phenomenon. I am convinced now that national communism got the upper hand in Ukraine.”


“Perhaps Ukrainian national communism is a good thing, but is it possible?”

Yury SHAPOVAL: “The Communists themselves are not convinced of this...”

I. K.: “The question is, do we reject the legitimacy of left-wing and communist attitudes, parties, and structures? No. They wield a great deal of clout in Russia, but they are national communists or even national patriots today, not internationalists! Prof. Shapoval knows even better, word has it that Stalin was the one who initiated a departure from orthodox internationalism to national Bolshevism.”

Y. S.: “It was called socialism in one country.”

I. K.: “Ukraine has no analogue.”


I. K.: “Not because the Ukrainian national communist trend has no ideological predecessors, ideological, and political matrixes. They have some. Seriously, the whole pre-1991 period, even by outward slogans (read the historical works), was largely based on the matrixes devised in 1918-1920.”

“In other words, Shcherbytsky was, to some extent, a national communist?”

I. K.: “No, he wasn’t.”

“And which of his top lieutenants could lay claim to this role? Ivashko?”

Y. S.: “Maybe Kravchuk.”

I. K.: “Yes, Kravchuk and all the so-called sovereignty communists. As to Volodymyr Ivashko, I personally knew him quite well since the time he worked in Kharkiv as a Party bureau secretary, not a national leader. Ivashko could have become a sovereignty communist, but he didn’t; maybe they didn’t let him. But all those we once called sovereignty communists are another variety of national communism. For various reasons, things went otherwise, for there were no leaders. Incidentally, the ideologists of classical national communism were intellectuals — men of arts and letters, journalists...”

“Borys Oliynyk is a classic case. He is a national communist.”

I. K.: “One can speak very much about predecessors, for this is not just an abstract thing. This was transformed into political organizations, political parties, and trends, had an impact on literature and journalism. There also were programs and organizational structures, such as the so-called Independent Ukrainian Social Democrats and the Ukrainian Communist Party. I don’t mean the Borotbisty (radical Ukrainian Soc-ialist-Revolutionaries who were merged with the Bolsheviks in 1920 — Ed.), I mean the so-called classical Ukrainian Communist Party (UKP) that existed until 1925 in the conditions of dictatorship (a few hundred intellectuals originating in the left wing of the Ukrainian Social Democrats, who after much harassment by the OGPU and decision of the Communist International joined the official Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine in 1925 - Ed.). There was a time when Ukraine had three legally existing communist parties. The state defrayed those parties’ expenses. Of course, the secret police kept a very watchful eye on them. Those parties were ‘butterflies,’ ‘twinkles of light’ in a dark space, and, naturally, this light attracted others. This continued until April 1925. Then the Comintern Executive Committee resolved (at the request of the ruling Communist Party’s leadership) that these parties disband themselves (the Comintern decision was in December 1924, but the process of absorption was completed in April 1925 — Ed.). Mind that they were not abolished — they disbanded themselves legally and, so to speak, intentionally. Some of their members were co-opted into the Communist Party of Ukraine, others abandoned political activity or continued this activity in what might be called an unorganized way. The 1930s repressions in the communist environment touched, first of all, upon the former members of those parties. I don’t know why so-called sovereignty Communism is not developed in this country. Maybe out of fear? Maybe out of principle? Or for some other reasons?”


“In one of the newspaper Komunist’s articles on James Mace (we published a response to it), our opponents claimed that Den/The Day is an utterly anticommunist newspaper. But if somebody is called anticommunist, this cannot be viewed as either a compliment or a disparaging term. The problem is not even in this. A reader of ours noted very correctly that we reject the old nomenklatura’s tradition of misnaming things; we favor a modern left-wing party, which Ukraine needs to express the leftist social idea. But what is going on in society? After 1991, when there was an upsurge of national patriotic sentiments, national patriotic slogans receded and the parties of this spectrum totally fragmented. And, again, the political arena sees an absolutely non-state oriented communist party.”

I. K.: “Against the background of what is going on in Russia, we naturally look different... The line of sovereignty Marxism can be traced back to 1905 or even 1900 (1900 saw the formation of the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party and 1905 its split and the formation of one wing into the Ukrainian Social Democrats — Ed.) — I am talking about Ukraine as part of the Russian Empire. Similar process also took place in Western Ukraine — with some special features, of course, those processes were simply a bit more profound. Incidentally, in 1981, when I was on the CPU CC staff, I wrote a memo to Volodymyr Shcherbytsky. The point is there were archives of the Russian and Ukrainian emigration in Prague. In 1948 a part of these archives was delivered to Ukraine. We had seen just fragments of those archives and wanted to see all that was there. My argument was that the archives should be brought back to Ukraine, especially original documents and correspondence of well-known Ukrainian figures. Even though they were treated at the time as anti-Communists, as people who held views hostile to the official ideology. UNR and Directory statesmen, first ambassadors of the Ukrainian state to other countries — so many interesting documents! There were also a wealth of documents relating to Ukrainian and Russian cultural figures, such as Marina Tsvetayeva, Pitirim Sorokin, huge archives of Mykyta Shapoval, Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Symon Petliura, and many other prominent figures. This idea was approved, through Moscow, of course. We turned, a bit later, to [USSR Foreign Minister] Andrei Gromyko. As a rule, Moscow trusted Politburo members in such matters and allowed them to solve such problems on the spot. I was sent to Prague for a month. The situation was tense, neighboring Poland was rocked with historic developments, and Prague still kept a vivid memory of 1968. I stayed at an academic guest house, sharing the room with a Leningrad professor. I found in the archive some hand-written copybooks and the Ukrainian Social Democratic Labor Party (USDRP) Central Committee’s minutes from No. 1, 1918, to those dated 1938. The last minutes were written at the time of the Anschluss and the Munich Agreement with Hitler over the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (actually, the Munich accords authorized German annexation of the then predominantly German Sudeten Mountains area and autonomization of the remainder of Czechoslovakia; the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was created by Hitler later, in 1939, and was decisive in turning Western opinion against the Nazis - Ed.). In their documents, these people and these parties gave a clear assessment of Nazism and everything that was occurring in Germany. Exceptional documents! They also include everything that was going on in Ukraine — complete minutes of meetings, authentic papers. Why not publish them? They have not been published to this day! They also mentioned Vynnychenko. It is common knowledge that there can be no political history without the history of political parties. What is political history after all? It is the history of political ideas, movements, and parties, politicians, and, accordingly, of the conflicts of differing political interests which shaped national and international factors. This reveals an inimitable spectrum of a country’s political life at a certain historical stage.”

“And if we take the so-called human dimension of history, who do you think is the most outstanding politician of twentieth-century Ukraine?”

I. K.: “You know this question can be regarded from different perspectives. Is this a practical politician who held some offices or a political theoretician who left a noticeable trace in the life of society, state, party or political thought? From such a perspective, it is Mykhailo Hrushevsky in the twentieth century, despite all the criticism of him as a politician. I do not know of any other practical politician who could combine researching academic history, including the history of culture and literature, and making deep conclusions for practical actions. What he did was in line with those times, was confirmed in real life and moreover preserved for decades to come. Neither Yefremov nor Vynnychenko had the integrity of Hrushevsky.”

“Could you draw any parallels in contemporary independent Ukraine?”

I. K.: “This is difficult to say. Again, the persons who held the offices commensurate with that once held by Hrushevsky could achieve what he did — that’s life. Of course, we should not underrate the role of neither the first nor the second President of Ukraine. Time will set the record straight.”

Y. S.: “We touch upon the present in the last volume only — not because we are afraid but because so-called empiricism has not yet been consigned to archives but continues to work. I mean the current politicians in power who still have a chance to change their image.”

I. K.: “Yes, this is an attempt to systematize and assess things and draw a pattern. One must address this point over and over again, what caused so many failures, what is the significance of the declared documents?.. I want to say seriously, everything that was declared, except for some trifles, was right and well-considered; it was done with due account of the past and present, confirmed by the experience of other states, which had already passed this stage, so the Prague archive documents are still important today. I think this is the groundwork for future generations to rely on and go further. We should not underrate Vyacheslav Chornovil and Right and Left opposition leaders either. It is good that we have an opposition. All I would like to note is that the previous decades’ opposition including one inside the Party was more intellectual than the present-day one.”

Y. S.: “Above all the Trotskyites.”

I.K.: “Trotskyites, Bukharin... And so-called national communism? And Khvyliovyi? They were people with a sound background. It seems to us that what we are living through is the most important thing, which is only natural because we are the witnesses of today’s events. Still, if we compare this with what was before, I think the old opposition was larger in caliber. Perhaps somebody will not like it...


“Totalitarian ideology cannot vanish in a country that gained independence only twelve years ago. What is your attitude toward the statement made, incidentally, at Den/The Day’s roundtable devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of Stalin’s death that it is the Ukrainian SSR that became independent in 1991?”

I. K.: “We have also held a roundtable like this in the Institute of History. There were different viewpoints expressed, including this thesis. Everyone responded in the words of Ivan Bahriany that present-day Komsomol (Young Communist League — Ed.) members will build independent Ukraine...”

Y. S.: “Komsomol members and their still younger colleagues are really building independent Ukraine, but the question is what kind of a country is it and for whom it is being built.”

I. K.: “It is little wonder if you recall the status in which Ukraine was proclaimed independent. For, after all, the declaration on Ukrainian sovereignty was adopted in 1990 — despite Mikhail Gorbachev who, as we remember very well, ridiculed and reviled the ‘parade of sovereignties’ during the Novo-Ogariovo negotiations on the union treaty. Yet, that was a realistic and logical process which embraced not the outskirts of the Soviet Union but its two key constituent republics, Russia and Ukraine. Every event has its own causes, development, culmination, and then the decline... That was culmination of the process that had grown in the bowels of Soviet society during perestroika.”

“But don’t you think that anticommunist transformations had a disastrous effect precisely on the progressive part of the Communist Party?”

I. K.: “This is not a simple question. It is an ambiguous question that requires an ambiguous answer.”

“Yes, but the main thing is that ambiguity should not lead to tearing things apart.”

I. K.: “There is no threat because, fortunately, these problems are solved not only in this sphere. For there are also trends other than those in communism or in the left wing as a whole. I adhere to the formula ‘too much knowledge breeds woe.’ Quite seriously. It is not I who devised it. It is our academy’s revered president Borys Paton, often criticized for so-called sound conservatism. To more exact, this formula existed even before him. When one says that conservatism is bad, I answer, no, it depends on what we ‘conserve.’”

“You see, it is very difficult to give an answer unless you read the whole six-volume Political History of Ukraine... The answer to this question could clarify very much in those tendencies, and say what the Ukrainian SSR actually was, and in what condition its society’s sound-minded forces were. But the conditions for national cohesion in, say, Russia were different, weren’t they?”

I. K.: “In Ukraine, too, it is the new sound-minded forces that formed, to use a modern term, the vector of further political development during perestroika. Moreover, Soviet conservatives had no arguments to offer. Not to confuse the readers, I mean precisely those ‘orthodox figures,’ if you like. I mean the time of a revolutionary war, when there were demonstrations, rallies, heated debates, even a certain tipsiness, if you like. The 1990s resembled the post-February 1917 period, something of the same kind, a certain euphoria, a certain inebriety. I attended rallies, although nobody forced me do so, and I mused, if I climb the rostrum now and begin to speak in defense of official demands or slogans, I will fail. They will turn a deaf ear to me. And it does not matter who you are. I made such an attempt when candidates were nominated for the first time by quotas to the USSR People’s Deputies Congress. I was told to go and try... The place was the design institute on Lesia Ukrayinka Square. The audience consisted of quite well-mannered and educated people who were still paid more or less decent salaries and had not yet been totally marginalized. They wouldn’t listen to me! I tried to say something in line with contemporary slogans but I felt they did not trust me, so I quit that — and, let me stress, not because I was wrong...”


“This is the description of a revolutionary situation...”

I. K.: “This is a general law not only for perestroika Ukraine. All countries, not only those in transition from totalitarianism to democracy but in general those that saw the way of government, political and social formation, change, have gone through this. It is predominantly the new forces that set the pace. They shaped the new face of the times, drew up programs, set criteria, built new images and a new political lifestyle...”

“To what extent ‘new’ were these forces? More often than not, they emerged from the pre-Marxist circles that suffered defeat in the 1920s.”

I. K.: “We tried to adopt the format of all the things of 1917, including names. Yet, we forgot a very important thing. We are now discussing the reform. But what did the 1917 revolution begin with? It began with a parliamentary republic. The same situation existed in Russia, but I am speaking about Ukraine proper, the formation of Central Rada and the General Secretariat, the way they assumed governmental functions, the stages of development, conflicts with Petrograd. All this, strictly speaking, was the establishment of a parliamentary republic which held out for a little more than a year and saw the election of something like president on the last day of its existence. Why did it happen? We want to answer this great question. Then power was taken by a strong hand. For everybody scoffed at the old graybeard professor... They said he would sit editing a new volume of his History of Ukraine-Rus’ during a Central Rada session. OK, but who took over from him? It was not just a presidential republic but that of Hetman [Skoropadsky]. A tough government. And this government managed to implement almost all projects of its predecessor in a short time.”

“But it was too late...”

I. K.: “Why do you think the hetman’s government collapsed? Yes, of course, there was German support, the 1918 November revolution... The anti- hetman uprising erupted the next day after he had signed an agreement on federation with Russia. This was in November 1918. Who did the hetman try to form a federation with? With white Russia, clearly not with Bolshevik Russia. But even this step provoked an uprising and the establishment of the Directory. And what is a Directory? A government of sorts. There were five men at first, then fewer than that because on the day the Directory was formed Symon Petliura withdrew from USDRP (I read the original of his request in the above-mentioned Prague archives). The carefully-worded and quite well-motivated request says that he, as the chief otaman, should not be a party member or belong to a certain political structure and, therefore, resigns as party leader. What was next? Volodymyr Vynnychenko was removed due to some differences of opinion, and Petliura became the supreme otaman, almost a dictator. This Directory convened the Labor Congress in January 1919 in order to form a parliament. This did not happen under the circumstances. What came next is common knowledge. It proved impossible to establish a true union of the UNR and the ZUNR (Western Ukrainian People’s Republic — Ed.). But the most important thing is that this union was proclaimed. The next stage? In our so-called old history, roughly speaking, we tended to date periods as follows, the Directory fell and Soviet power won. I do not think this is the case. And we tried hard to show this in the Political History.


“Now, Academician Kuras, we are approaching the present. If we look at what occurred in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we will see that an aggressive Bolshevik- type party first seized power in the Duma and Soviets and then began, gradually but steadily, to centralize its authority. Even without drawing parallels, one can say that Russia is now ruled by an integrated, authoritarian, and concentrated force. Conversely, Ukraine looks like a modern version of an otaman (warlord —Ed.) state. By all accounts, the prime goal now is to qualitatively improve political governance. Yes, there are enough historians in Verkhovna Rada; moreover, it is chaired by a historian. But do you think they really understand complex political processes?”

I. K.: “We once began and finally finished drawing up the Concept of Reforming the Political System of Ukraine. A group of people, including scholars Mykola Mykhalchenko, Viktor Pohorilko, Oleksiy Onyshchenko, and with me chairman, worked with the president. We offered a concept. There was a workshop on this question in June 2001, the speakers presented a wide range of views, both Left and Right, the president made quite an interesting report. Emphasis was laid on strengthening the presidential, or presidential-parliamentary, form of government. It was explained that the transitional period needed proper instruments. And when, a year later, a parliamentary-presidential republic was announced as a new goal of the reform, I would be dishonest to say that everything was clear to everybody, including me. Even now, some things are not clear to me. Still, one thing is important, the political decision-making center is shifting to parliament, although the president retains some quite strong levers. Finally, this option declares and confirms Ukraine’s European choice.”

“In what way do you think it confirms this?”

I. K.: “By the declaration itself. So far, only the declaration. Yet, I know what my the opponents will say. They will say that half the countries of Europe, e.g., France, are presidential-parliamentary republics, and they are no less democratic than the countries with the opposite forms of government. This is a purely scholastic debate. For, at the same time, half the European countries apply a purely parliamentary or parliamentary-presidential form of government. Some political scientists ask if we want to return thus to Italy of the 1950s. A wise question indeed. It is funny to talk of this because those countries, the whole world, including this country, have made considerable progress. We do not have to return to our own or somebody else’s past. We must go forward. We must make a very serious analysis of the future after the reform.”

“It is very important to assess each parliament. The first parliament achieved the goals Ukraine had set at the time and passed historic resolutions, but the composition of that parliament differed fundamentally from the current one...”

I. K.: “Undoubtedly. But look. We elected the president in 1991. That was a parliamentary-presidential republic because parliament could still wield its power. But there was also the president with a certain range of powers. Then Leonid Kuchma came to power, and this form of government existed until the Constitution was adopted in 1996. As that period came to an end, a presidential-parliamentary republic emerged and still exists. Who has seriously analyzed the pluses and minuses, the pro and contra of our political history’s most recent period?”

“So far, policies are being pursued in the interests of the political class which, at the same time, is an economic class in many respects. If there is no genuine transformation, where will a sizable middle class come from? How can one break this vicious circle in general?”

I. K.: “The government is not yet prepared today to make any effective steps in this direction. All we hear is words. I do not think this is right. It would be worthwhile to hear the people who represent broad interests and are not indifferent. This would be of great use...”

“We have two major forces, representatives of the party of power and of the party that wants to come to power. They hold the so-called blocking package. But they use this blocking package not so much against each other as against a different quality of politics...”

I. K.: “I will agree with one reservation, where can one find today those who can offer a new quality? Do they really exist?”


“Some political forces are preoccupied today over the primary accumulation of capital, others are interested in retaining the rules of the game because they will lose out under different conditions...”

I. K.: “I agree with you, we are at a crossroads today. I have already said we are in a strange situation. There are concepts, laws, etc., for each of our numerous economic sectors — but not for the political sphere. This is unnatural, for nothing is defined in the political sphere. It is the logic of life that brought us this. And this choice is really going to identify a long-term economic vector suitable for our country. And we should not wait for somebody’s instructions. If we are unable today to choose a more or less suitable model of our state’s political setup, we are totally worthless.”

“Academician Kuras, do you see any united national interest in this country?”

I. K.: “No, no united interest. The political class is being torn apart, if I may say so, by narrow interests. This is a tragedy. So the role of the individual is very important here. The role of the individual has always been important. Will anybody be able to reduce this to a common denominator and rein in his own ambitions? This is by far the most important factor today.”

“The transition of politics to a different quality means substituting the competition in gallantry for the struggle of narrow instincts. This one is the best, that one the most active, that one the most brilliant...”

I. K.: “There always is the danger that the political class might depart from the realities of life, from the masses, for it lives by entirely different interests. But we must always remember that most people do not live by the politics of the past, by the great theoreticians, including even Hrushevsky... There is real life and entirely different, earthly, interests. Some say, for example, that other political nations have a better understanding of things; they are not captives of one idea, but still a certain dominant political trend is better expressed there and identifies the common unifying vector for the whole state and society. Naturally, there is the Right and Left opposition — the point is not in this. I do not think we have a strong centrist trend which would embrace both the grassroots and the upper political crust. This is a very serious thing. We need to work each day. This gap is still not closed.”


“This year will see the 350th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Rada. A joint Ukrainian-Russian commission has been set up, headed by Dmytro Tabachnyk from our side. A joint celebration (not just observance) of this jubilee seems to be on the agenda...”

I. K.: “I, as Vice President of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, was approached by Russian academics, including a member of Russia’s presidential council. We agreed to hold a serious roundtable or conference without having to draft a concept in advance... We must discuss it frankly, for nobody demands that some decisions be made or commitments taken. All we have to do is discuss things. Yet, this point is now assuming a serious political meaning. This is a very delicate thing. I don’t think that academics and politicians have a profound and well-considered viewpoint. I want to suggest that you take it as a topic for your roundtable.”

“We will hold one for sure and take into account your proposals with pleasure.”

I. K.: “I’ve read Den’s articles on Pereyaslav — a fine range of authors, including Professor Valery Stepankov. It is a good idea to print a public lecture in a newspaper... I was pleased that Yevhen Marchuk immediately took interest and said, ‘Let the respected professor give a lecture to our generals and officers.’ The point is it is important to build a civilized system of coordinates if you do not identify yourself as a Ukrainian, do not know exactly what you must defend, what is the use of going to Iraq or Liberia. Here is food for thought. It seems to me the Russians also would like to keep a somewhat lower profile over Pereyaslav...”

“Of course, they will make the fullest possible use of their ideological machine in this matter. But there is another important point here. Each of our failed attempts to attain statehood showed that political classes and elites, with the rare exception of sacrificial leaders, sought to cash in on this. But they wouldn’t listen to their own people and, hence, were not supported by them. As to the so-called opposition, we have always known its real price. It is even unable to use profitable chances for some political reasons. Charisma is not the shape of nose, as [president-elect of Georgia] Saakashvili rightly noted, but consistency and the thing you want to do. If you want to be appointed to the throne behind the scenes and simultaneously to be the people’s messiah, these two desires cannot be materialized in one person. You can be either a prince or a people’s mouthpiece. Has there ever been a character like this in our history?”

Y. S.: “We had one like this: Ivan Mazepa, and, in the twentieth century, perhaps Kravchuk. Meanwhile, the Russians have their own vision of our political history and the role of such figures. I think we will more than once come across this vision. It is precisely the right time to quote Pushkin, ‘The Russians and Ukrainians have been committing incest for so many centuries that we must do something about this’.”

“Can politics be moral taking into account twentieth-century experience.”

I. K.: “In theory, it can...”

“But what about the concentration of all those who climb Olympus, the summit? They are no angels...”

I. K.: “We must exercise sober calculation. And in theory, which is also important, political science and theory must be moral.”

“Is a certain share of idealism really required?”

I. K.: “Yes, it is a motive force. We know that idealism is doomed to failure. But it is better to be accused of political idealism than cynicism. Surely, undisguised cynicism and pure pragmatism can win, but the future does not belong to them.

“It is the coming months of the extremely tough year 2004, the year of presidential elections, that will show what kind of future is in store for us. I would like to believe that the Ukrainian people will draw the proper conclusions from their history.”

By Larysa IVSHYNA, Serhiy MAKHUN, Ihor SIUNDIUKOV, and Volodymyr SONIUK, The Day