A truly professional researcher never limits the scope of their study to the external “dimension” of the subject at hand. They, unlike a mere craftsman or a conscientious routine worker, aim to go deeper, to analyze the hidden, implicit consequences of processes and facts they observe and interpret. This applies both to exact sciences and humanities.
James Ernest Mace was just such a researcher, famous as historian, journalist, good citizen, and true patriot of Ukraine. In this country and beyond, his works on the history, causes, course and “purpose” (in the Stalinist-totalitarian sense of the word) of the Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide of 1932-33 have achieved well-deserved recognition. Den has published most of Mace’s articles, his books have been published as well, and have long been seen as rightful classics of historical science. However, one component of his legacy has not been fully appreciated by us, his contemporaries, while the nation’s decision makers have not comprehended this component either, and the general public is still ignorant of it.
It is the concept of post-genocidal society, developed by this American and Ukrainian scholar. Having covered the political, economic, social, and mental aspects of the apocalyptic tragedy that befell our people in the early 1930s, Mace, to his great credit, did not stop there and went on. He asked the key question: what was the terror famine’s impact on the spiritual world of survivors, their behavior, values, and motivation? The conclusions reached by Mace are honest, tough, frank, and truthful (this is a lesson for all of us, historians and journalists, for we have to tell the public the truth, even if it is hard to swallow and ruthless, because only it can begin, at least, the process of treating our seriously sick society). Below is an attempt to offer a very brief outline of these conclusions.
The post-genocidal society is any society that was subjected to such barbaric totalitarian repressive “treatment,” lasting for generations, that people who have gone through such ruthless ordeals (it is certainly not the whole society, but a significant part of it, and it is really scary), consciously or unconsciously have lost basic human and national values, including civic dignity, historical memory, freedom, economic and social initiative, the desire to be at least somewhat independent of the government, of yet another crop of rulers who “know better” what the country needs. Instead, both bloody Stalinist totalitarianism and soft Brezhnev-era totalitarianism systematically and thoughtfully cultivated, nurtured the servile penchant for collaboration with the enemy, conformism, lack of historical memory, silent obedience, paternalism, and almost total reliance on the goodwill and assistance of the government or one’s superiors (however, public statements, like those made from the rostrum of the 25th Party Congress, sounded quite differently: “Nothing exalts a person like civic activity!”; it is a vivid illustration of the hypocrisy of the Soviet regime). It is not surprising that keeping one’s head down was becoming the preferred way of doing things in a growing number of fields, even though it should be emphasized at once that at all times, there were people who wanted to live honestly, based on the eternal moral and ethical values. However, they were too few to significantly change Ukrainians’ lives.
A society of this kind was present at the proclamation of the independent Ukrainian state on August 24, 1991. As stressed with particular emphasis by Mace, “it was the Ukrainian SSR that gained independence.” It is true, because no other institutionalized Ukrainian state existed at that time, and none could exist, given what we discussed above. These were the realities of the time when our sovereign state was being created (not restored, because such was the choice of the “elites”). What do we see now? There are two Ukraines: the Ukraine of the fearless Maidan of Dignity, ready to give their lives for freedom (which still gave power to, putting it mildly, questionable “people from the stage of the Maidan” – and what a tragedy it is!), and the Ukraine, which cannot (even if it sincerely desires) get rid of the post-genocidal legacy, thus depriving themselves of worthy human future. That is why a decisive break with the “post-genocidal situation” (as defined by Mace) is the only possible program of reforms, urgently needed by the people and the state.
Doing it is even harder because, firstly, the history has given us extremely little time (otherwise, we will fall behind, hopelessly and for all time). Secondly, Europe of democratic values, which we all hope will come to our aid, sometimes fails to understand the depth, drama, and complexity of our problems (exacerbated, above all, by shameful corruption!) just as it failed to understand what was happening in Ukraine back then, in 1932-33 (there were some, unfortunately rare, exceptions: Gareth Jones, Lancelot Lawton, and Malcolm Muggeridge). They simply “did not know” then, one may say. It is possible; but later, when the world had learned about these horrors – what stopped it then? Was it unwillingness to comprehend brutal facts, to violate their “peace of mind” (despite the work done by Robert Conquest, James Mace, and Andre Glucksmann)? The thing is that just like the genocide of 1932-33 was a special, unique phenomenon in history (never before a people was being exterminated through a terror famine rather than by force of arms), the post-genocidal society also is a phenomenon that defies any, even most “democratically-oriented,” standard approaches. One needs a special “key” to it, and no legislation, good as it may be, will resolve the issue.
The Ukrainian genocide undermined the “health” of the nation, and its consequences are “poisoning” our society even now. Let us read Mace, then!