Skip to comments.The Meaning of Words; Standing with Ukraine
Posted on 03/07/2014 4:46:21 AM PST by Bill Russell
Words have meaning. Sometimes even the small ones by their inclusion or omission can have a huge impact. Most readers in their first glance at the title of this article thought the word the was mistakenly dropped from in front of Ukraine. Over the last century, we have become used to referring the nation of Ukraine as the Ukraine. This writer has been guilty of the mistake, even in recent writings.
The inclusion or omission of an article of speech like the conveys the difference between a sovereign, independent nation of Ukraine and a region or territory claimed by Russia and the Soviet Union. Certainly, Vladamir Putin wants us to keep using the when referring to Ukraine, especially when he has invaded its sovereign territory.
But there are words Putin does not want us to use either. Holodomor is one of those words. The term Holodomor derives from Ukrainian words referring to death or execution by starvation. It is a word for the genocide of the Ukrainian people that has remained buried behind a massive wall of Soviet propaganda and western under-reporting for over 80 years.
During the years of Soviet domination of Russia and Eastern Europe, the Kremlin did its best to bury the truth of the Holodomor and its role in implementing it. Thanks to laudatory stories of Stalins Soviet Union written my New York Times reporter Walter Duranty during Stalins reign of terror, and the work of Soviet spies like Alger Hiss (a senior State Department official under President Franklin Roosevelt), the atrocities committed against the people of Ukraine by the Soviets have never been widely publicized in the west.
In 1932 -1933, during Stalins great terror, approximately 25% of the Ukrainian nation was starved to death on a grand scale. Through systematic Soviet theft of all the grain from the farmers, to include the seed grain stores, in an area known as the bread basket of Europe, resistance to the Soviet seizure of independent farms in Ukraine was crushed. Stalins point man in charge of the murder of over 8 million Ukrainians was the Great Reformer and Stalins successor, Nikita Khrushchev.
Khrushchev made extensive use of the NKVD (previously known as the Checka and OGPU, later known as the KGB, today referred to as the FSB ) in seizing grain stores and shooting any farmers who hid grain to plant or feed their families. Stalins proletarian socialist (Communist) genocide of the Holodomor and Gulag system was in full swing, and served as the model for Hitlers Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) concentration camp system and Final Solution when it was just beginning. The very real Holocaust of the Holodomor in Ukraine was perpetrated by the same organization which gave birth to Vladimir Putins career.
The world turned a blind eye in witness to the Ukrainians who had their churches destroyed and many of their family members (often their entire families) starved to death on their farms, or executed if they tried to leave in search of food. The Soviets were all too happy to allow the horrific images of the Nazi death camps and testimonies of the Nuremberg Trials to obscure the suppressed truth of the Holodomor.
It is important for the world to recognize and stand with Ukrainian defiance against domination from post-Soviet Russia. The same organizations and philosophical rationalizations for domination which existed in Stalins Russia are alive and well in Putins; they just have different names. - In which case, perhaps, words have no meaning.
Das ol' skoo'
Problem is that "the Ukraine" in English goes back to at least the 1700s. It's not an invention of the Soviets.
Stalins point man in charge of the murder of over 8 million Ukrainians was the Great Reformer and Stalins successor, Nikita Khrushchev.
It should be noted that Khrushchev was himself Ukrainian. And that he spent the years of the Holodomor in Moscow working in the city government. He didn't arrive in Ukraine till 1937.
This article tries to portray "the Soviets" as distinct from "Ukrainians," as if Ukrainians were conquered victims of an invasion, much as Poland was conquered by the Nazis.
The truth, of course, is much more complicated. Many Ukrainians were strong supporters of the Soviet system and rose high in its ranks, as can be seen by Khrushchev himself.
I.e., almost no one says, “I went to UK...” Instead they say, “I went to the UK...” and “I live in the United States...”
Although its far from consistent, as I've never hear anyone say “the Yugoslavia”, but everyone adds the article to most of the descriptive country names, “the Czech Republic”, “the United States”, but not all, “I landed in East Timor”.
Nor are all regional names set off with an article. No one goes to, “the Tuscany” even if they live in “the South” or "the Dells".
I cannot get worked up over a situation involving two corrupt sides.
The time for intervention has long passed. We proved to be too ignorant on the history, demographics and political economics to have any moral authority to assist. It all depends on whose debt slave the citizens want to be. Whoever promises the least pain will win.
Adjectives vs nouns
United is an adjective
Czech is an adjective
South is an adjective
Ukraine is a noun
Tuscany is a noun
Yes, I mentioned the issue of descriptors (adjectives); however, South is only an adjective if you add or imply “region”, in which case Tuscany, as in “the Tuscany region” is also an adjective. Obviously we treat them differently.
So, its a mixed bag. Four Corners is a region and certainly qualifies as starting with an adjective, but people, “visit Four Corners” they do not visit “the Four Corners”.
The lack of consistancy is my point.
I am not a huge fan of the EU.
But there is an enormous difference between the EU’s bureaucratic welfare states, and the criminal tyranny of Russia under Putin.
IMO presuming moral equivalency between the two is hyperbole.
Well stated, Sherman Logan. The nation of Ukraine is a modern, artificial construct that didn’t matter when all SSRs were under Moscow’s rule. Now the longstanding status quo is being restored. Those of us who defend and espouse the Monroe Doctrine in our own hemisphere should recognize that Russia is pursuing its self interests along its strategic southern border, and that this is none of our business.
No, no, no. Not between Russia and EU, the parties in the Ukraine.
But it is no game.
Don’t entirely agree with you. Carried to its logical conclusion this principle would justify Russia re-invading Poland and the Baltics, possibly more.
But I do find it interesting that the very people who decry our being “policemen to the world” seem to automatically assume it’s our business to stick our noses into this situation.
I can buy that. Sometimes there are no “good guys.” Often, in fact.
Which doesn’t mean there is no possibility of some emerging.
Russia’s interests in Poland and the Baltics are balanced against those of Western European nations which also share their borders. Ukraine is clearly beyond the scope of Western Europe, and has always been within the Russian sphere. To NATO, Ukraine is “a bridge too far.” To Russia, Ukraine is a strategic necessity.
I do realize that the Baltics do not border Western European nations, only Poland and Russia. But they are much closer to Western Europe, and more directly affect its strategic interests.
Large nations do not have a moral right to control neighboring small countries.
They do, however, have such a right to prevent potential enemies from gaining control there.
Yup. The EU is the weaker of the two tyrannies.
Thanks Sherman. The use of “the” in referring to Ukraine does go back a long way - to the 1700’s and at least as far as the days of Catherine and the patrician of Poland (a large portion of which is now called Ukraine). While the Russian language does not have articles like “a” or “the” many of the Russian broadcasts and discussions do make a point of using the “the” article in English messaging.
In reference to Khrushchev going back to the Ukraine in 1937,you are correct. I wrote this from memory and my time line was off. Khrushchev was a senior party member in the Ukraine in the late 1920s. In 1929 he followed Kaganovich to Moscow where he was very active in helping Stalin purge the Moscow party leadership beginning around 1934, and returned to the Ukraine as party chief in 1937. I should have gone back and checked before publishing. Going back to the Black Book of Communism, the Great Terror occurred from 1936-1938 and Khrushchev was the point man in the purge of the local communist party leaders in the Ukraine — in essence ensuring the executions of the executioners from the Holodomor, a very Soviet means of erasing evidence of atrocities. The Holodomor was part of the collectivization of farms (1932-33).
With reference to the Ukrainians committing the atrocities during the Holodomor — that is partly true. But more on that later.
But I digress. Between my timeline gaffe, and the other arguments in this post over the semantics in the use of “the” before the name of a country or region, this is turning out to be the worst work I have ever published. While I am embarrassed and humbled, my real regret is the message of what the Ukrainians have to fear from post- Soviet/ Russian domination has been lost in the discussion it created.
Never mind what the Ukrainian people want right?
There is no distinct “Ukrainian people.” It is an ethnically divided nation with a very large Russian population, and would make more sense politically if divided between East and West. I suspect that is what would happen if put to a vote.
I agree with you that large nations do not have a moral right to control the small nations on their borders. But that is precisely what they all do in the real world, unfortunately. My argument is that we have no ability to defend an indefensible nation halfway around the world, and we should be careful about committing ourselves there.
He was ethnically Russian, but grew up near the border with Ukraine. Stalin appointed him as Party Boss in Ukraine in 1937, so it stands to reason that over time he developed an affinity for the region.
Khrushchev was not an ethnic Ukrainian, he was one of those ethnic Russians settled on Ukrainian territory. In his memoirs he mentions this and how his internal passport was stamped “Russian”.
It was called the Ukraine, because the the Ukraina transplates as “ borderland”, the article incorporated in the word ending.
The Ukraine was in fact conquered, by the Soviets. There was an independent Ukrainian state during the Civil war. Of course there were Ukrainians on both sides as there were of every ethnic group in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless the Red Army under Trotsky made conquest of Ukraine a top priority.
Evidence of how much resistance there was to Soviet domination was plain when German troops invaded in 1941 and were largely greeted as liberators. Initially. Considering how terribly Ukraine suffered under Soviet domination, it’s not surprising.
You are dead wrong. Ukrainian nationhood goes back longer then America. It’s no more artificial then Poland, which disappeared from the map of Europe for 2 centuries. Both the concept of Italy, and Germany are younger, arising in the 19th century. Prior to that they were collections of individual regions and states.
The Monroe Doctrine stated we would not allow foreign intervention in our hemisphere. It wasn’t a blank check to invade our independent neighbors.
Khrushchev was an ethnic Russian born in the Eastern Ukraine.
He says so HIMSELF IN HIS MEMOIR. He notes his internal passport was marked “Russian”
“’I myself am a Russian and wouldn’t want to slight the Russian people, but 1 must attribute our success in the restoration of Ukrainian agriculture and the reconstruction of Ukrainian industry to the Ukrainian people themselves.”
Really dude? Because you are talking to one now.
40 million people disagree with you.
Looks like I screwed up my own self about K. being Ukrainian ethnically. Have read it many times, but it appears to be inaccurate.
Not the original Doctrine, no. Though it should be noted we didn't have the power to enforce it when issued, and in practice depended on the Royal Navy to do so.
However, in 1904 TR issued an expanded version, called the Roosevelt Corollary, in which he stated that since USA prohibited European powers from enforcing their legitimate claims against American states, USA would enforce those claims for the Europeans. And of course we'd enforce our own claims, too.
In practice this did indeed work out to mean "a blank check to invade our independent neighbors."
See Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, etc. All in the first 30 years of the last century.
Well, yes, actually they do. Lived in the area for 15 years, and the formulation "the Four Corners" is much more common.
I don't recall "Four Corners," as such, being used at all except possibly to refer to the actual point where the states meet, as opposed to the region.
Most or all of Ukraine was part of Poland (or Crimean Khanate/Ottoman Empire), then was added section by section to the Russian Empire. Never had an independent existence at all, except during brief and unsuccessful rebellions. This is as opposed to Poland, which had something like 7 centuries of independent existence as a state when it was finally partitioned.
That disappearance, BTW, took place in 1795, and Poland reappeared in 1918. So 123 years, which isn't exactly two centuries.
You are correct, however, about the very concept of nationalism. It didn't take root, at least in central and eastern Europe, till the 19th century. So talking about conflicts between the Russian, Polish and Ukrainian "nations" in earlier centuries is at best anachronistic.
Multiple "republics" existed in Ukraine for varying lengths of time between 1917 and 1919. None were ever stable or organized enough to really be considered independent by any logical standard.
At one time, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest Kingdom in Europe.
Oh. So “Might Makes Right”.
We should apologize to Germany and Japan.
Actually, Japan’s “aggression” in WWII wasn’t vastly different from European actions over the previous century in the region, or indeed our own in the Philippines around the turn of the century.
There were a good deal more violent, and they aggressively took land from European powers who had earlier taken it from the natives. The European powers, understandably, considered this wrong, though it’s difficult to make a logical case why the Dutch conquest of the East Indies was right and proper, but the Japanese conquest of the same areas was immoral and illegal. Or why the American conquest of the Philippines was ok, but not that by Japan.
Yes. But Ukrainians were a subject people of that State, not equal members.
Recently watched the movie Casablanca again.
Got a kick from the subtext of how naughty the Germans were for conquering the French, when the French themselves had only conquered Casablanca less than 35 years before.
IOW, what moral right did the French have to complain about conquest by the Germans when they’d spent the previous century or so building up a huge overseas empire of their own? Much of it based on a Master Race ideology differing primarily only in harshness from that of the Nazis.
Khrushchev was born in Kalinovka, near the border but on the Russian side of it.
And the Russians are welcome to that prick.
I am sympathetic to the Ukrainians who don’t want to fall back under Russia’s yoke, but it is not America’s fight and not worth going to war.
I don’t think so either. I do believe we owe them some support since they
Gave up their nuclear arsenal based on promises we made
And have supported us with combat troops in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. See my tag line.
Your tag line is sadly true. The world is littered with the tortured corpses of America’s former allies. We’re loyal until we decide to move along to the next war or interlude, and then you’re left to face our vengeful former enemies alone. Perhaps if America didn’t get into so many fights, it might not be so quick to abandon its former allies de jour. It is a sad legacy of much honorable service.