Because of the FIFA decision on the Lviv-Arena stadium and the match Ukraine-Poland http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/news/newsid=2182133/index.html not for the first time Ukraine looks like a country where racism blossoms and neo-Nazism is gaining momentum in the eyes of the world community. But every foreigner, having been here, will confirm – we are not different from any other European country in the scope of propagation of these undoubtedly disgraceful phenomena. Occasional demarches of marginal hooligan gangs and ultra right political forces are not a reason to draw any far reaching conclusions.
I will remind that last Friday the Ukrainian national football team was punished with empty seats for spectators in the principal match against Poland because its fans, as FARE observers claim (http://www.farenet.org/), allegedly, used forbidden symbolic of the Nazi fashion and politically incorrect gestures in respect of the black skin footballers in the match with the national team of San Marino. I am not eligible to prove or refute these claims – as I have not eye witnessed it.
But I would like to ascertain two immensely unpleasant tendencies for the reputation of Ukraine.
- It is the second time over the last two years that the world has learnt about racism manifestations owing to such powerful and fast spreading information stream as football news. The previous precedent, as it is known, took place during the preparation for Euro-2012 – British mass media enthusiastically scared European football lovers with crazed racism in Ukraine. It is sad as the political life of a peripheral European country is only interesting for few. And football is lively discussed and stereotypical ideas connected with it deeply settle in the minds
- More often, performances by the Ukrainian ultra right threaten the international image of Ukraine. In the context of many-year court hearings over military criminals from Ukrainian Polizei (recruited Nazi policemen), Europeans create a false view that Nazi sympathies are passed from generation to generation. And that today Nazi moods are on the rise. The view is, first of all, deeply mistaken and, second of all, more than inappropriate, on the eve of the Vilnius Summit.
It not worth persuading the FIFA and the UEFA, the European Parliament and other similar bodies that national collaborator heroes and their symbolism are a common thing. It will not work. Neo-Nazism is very painfully perceived in Old Europe and the topic of racial tolerance is very important for the European multicultural society.
At the same time it is impossible to watch indifferently as Ukraine is being ascribed to xenophobic manifestations, unnatural for it in the mass range. It is true, we are not the richest country, yes, and we are experiencing a lot of social problems. But the majority of the adult population (at the age of 35 and higher) was raised in the Soviet traditions of international friendship in their childhood. And they sincerely worried about a white American Mary (the heroine of the cult movie “Circus” released as far back as in the 1930’s –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circus_%281936_film%29), who was persecuted in her country for giving birth to a black son and who found her happiness in the USSR.
Like in independent Ukraine the most burning issues are not interracial relationships but the problems of the economic modernization and social security of the vulnerable strata of the population. Moreover, if speaking really pragmatically, Ukraine is not very interesting for people who are not the title race due to its economic development. The ratio of the non-white population in the general number of people is not significant, and they are not a considerable source or factor of aggravation of social problems. That is why blaming our country for bacchanalia of racism is unfair and dishonest.
There is a similar situation with the suspicions about the increase of neo-Nazi moods. Millions of Ukrainians died in the fields of the Second World War – basically every fifth inhabitant of the country. Their children and grandchildren are alive and economically active; the rejection of the Nazi ideology is an axiom on the greater territory of the country. The other question is that on the western territories, annexed by the USSR in 1939, the pantheon of national heroes includes those called collaborators in Europe. But let us remember that historical characters by virtue of the then historical context had to opt between two totalitarian regimes – Stalinist or Hitlerist; because destiny did not provided them with the third alternative way. And there is still not a single opinion in Ukrainian society (including among scientists) as for the fact who was a hero and who was a criminal. It takes time and a lot of it for the passions to die down – and they will calm faster unless artificially heated inside the country and outside its borders.
I will risk supposing that nowadays the international community is looking forward to the tough reaction by the Ukrainian authorities to neo-Nazi demarches. It is the most efficient way to bring the pumping of the anti-Ukrainian “racist-neo-Nazi” hysteria to a halt, which, probably, is very beneficial for somebody. For example, for the forces which are not interested in Ukraine’s European integration and which would like to draw an image of our country with black paints in the eyes of the Europeans.
Meanwhile, the authorities have to correctly present Ukraine as historically tolerant and alien to serious manifestations of xenophobia. As one of the modern Ukrainian authors writes, “By originally placing ourselves in the center of the Universe, we exist in the different dimension. We do not need purposefulness. We are a purpose ourselves. We do not need anyone but everybody needs us: Varangians liked living here, Tatars – profiting by us, Peter I could not build Petersburg without us, his daughter could not sleep without our man. We helped Stalin to guard the camps and Hitler – to fight. We have so much miracle-working health that we even agreed to take Chornobyl”.
Besides, excessive tolerance is likely to be one of the reasons for the difficult historical destiny of our state. But at the same time this is one of the fundamental European values and according to the degree of its attributiveness Ukraine quite correlates with other countries of the Old World.