Are Ukrainians Particularly Anti-Semitic?

On one of the blogs I follow, I just read an appalling (albeit not an unusual) suggestion that Ukrainians are especially anti-Semitic. Forgetting about how many Ukrainians fought against Hitler – and defeated him, in the end – this blogger has the gall to write the following:

In the end, this is why the Holodomor [the genocide of the people of Ukraine in 1931 when over 11 million people died of organized famines] might deserve its own wing in the museum.  Like the Holocaust it too has a unique feature: its victims, when given the chance, did to the Jews what the Soviets, y”sh, did to them.  The idea that a people could suffer in such a way and then learn absolutely nothing moral about it, could remain as cruel as their oppressors, is certainly unique.It should be remembered that the Ukraine has an extensive history of Jew hatred including the worst massacres of Jews between the destruction of the Second Temple (may it speedily be rebuilt) and the Holocaust, the Cheilmnitsky pogroms.

Contrary to this blogger’s hateful lie, when given the chance, the victims of Holodomor defeated Nazism.

One of the victims of the Holodomor was my Ukrainian grandfather. He was also a veteran of World War II. A hero who fought against Hitler, was wounded, and remained an invalid for the rest of his life. Yes, there were a few Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis and served as polizei. But there were just as many (or just as few) French, Poles, Russians, Estonians, etc. who collaborated. The majority of the people in the countries occupied by Hitler, however, fought bravely against the Nazis. Few countries suffered from Hitler as much as Ukraine did. There is not a single family in my country that didn’t lose somebody and have somebody fight in the war against Nazis.

It’s shocking to me that some ignoramus would just spit on the memory of these heroes and on the memory of my Ukrainian grandfather (who, by the way, had a Jewish son-in-law and two half-Jewish grandchildren). It is also completely appalling to me that people don’t even make an effort to learn the first thing about the history of Ukraine and of the Ukrainian Jews.

Well, what can you expect from a person who feels the need to pontificate about Chmelnitsky pogroms without even finding out how to spell the word Chmelnitsky.

So this is what I wrote in response on the offending blog:

As a Ukrainian Jew, I am saddened that the author of this blog has bought into the lies about the anti-semitism of the Ukrainians.

Are you even aware that the moment when Ukraine gained its independence from the Russian Empire in 1918, Ukrainian politicians introduced laws that insisted that no Ukrainian parliament could open a session without a significant number of Jewish MPs being present? Are you aware that all of the foundational documents of the independent Ukrainian Republic were always signed by the Ukrainian committee, the Russian committee, the Jewish committee, and the Polish committee? Have you missed the fact that Volodymyr Vinnichenko, the Prime Minister of the Ukrainian Republic was sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis for refusing to collaborate with them? That he spend his entire life tirelessly defending the rights of Jews everywhere?

In 1918-1921 (the only years before 1991 when Ukraine was independent), nowhere in the world – nowhere – were the rights of the Jews so protected and cherished as in Ukraine.

The degree of willful blindness you need to practice in order to equate the pogroms of 1648-9 and the pogroms of the early XXth century with Ukraine is terrifying.

40 comments on “Are Ukrainians Particularly Anti-Semitic?

  1. Wow, that blogger has some gall.
    Then again, I always have to roll my eyes whenever someone suggests that group X is “uniquely” bigoted in one way or another. It’s a really lazy way of thinking about how these things work.

  2. If this blogger were even marginally educated about history of Jews in Eastern Europe, he would be aware that the lies about the anti-semitism of Ukrainians were spread by the officials of the Russian Empire. The best way to hold the empire together is to make its subjects hate and be suspicious of each other rather than of the colonial master.

  3. The concept that Ukrainians are more Anti-Semitic than people of other nationalities is as stupid as Anti-Semitism itself

    • You know? Of course, there is anti-semitism in Ukraine. But where is the magical place with no anti-semitism? The US, maybe? Ha ha. Canada? Also has a rich history of “Jews and dogs are not welcome.” Great Britain? Many ha ha.

      Etc.

      • Yes, you don’t see a great deal of Anti-Semitism in the part of Britain that I’m from, really, not any more at least, But it is woefully common if one looks in the right places.
        And of course, one only needs a basic grasp of world history to know of the sufferings of the Jewish people overtime. Especially in Medieval Europe.

      • One excellent reason for certain prejudices to be absent in a place is the absence of the group to be prejudiced against. This is why there is very little anti-Semitism in India. Just like there’s very little caste-based violence in North America and Western Europe. To then preen and say, “Look how equitable and progressive Indian/the UK is in terms of semitism/caste” — or, in this case, to say, “Look how very utterly anti-semitic Ukraine is” — is incredibly moronic rationalising.

        • I especially adore it when Americans start imposing their incredibly arrogant and ignorant reading of history onto cultures and places they know nothing about. “Lookie here,” they whine. “This must be true because I read it on Wikipedia.”

          Yes, you did. And it was probably written by the same idiot as you are.

          Cultural appropriation always makes me very very angry. People telling me what my history is are always incredible jerks.

  4. While I agree with you in general (that there is no reason to believe Ukrainians on average are more anti-semitic than other people), I find some of your arguments somewhat … too much affected by your origins. A citizen of a country attacked by the Nazis may be interested in defeating the Nazis for his or her own reasons, without giving a beep about the Jews. Thus, participating in defeating Nazism is not a proof of either presence or absence of any particular attitude about Jews, positive or negative.

    • Read the post. That jerk is suggesting that Jews prepared for Holocaust through “trial runs” and collaborated in inflicting it.

      Of course, the Slavic people fought against Hitler because he was going to eliminate both the Jews and the Slavs (and the Gipsies, too). But the Slavs did defeat Nazism. And they did end up liberating the Jews from the concentration camps.

      • I guess I was referring to this particular sentence: “Forgetting about how many Ukrainians fought against Hitler – and defeated him, in the end…”
        Did not read the original post in its fullness. Have not been inspired by the quotation you brought up. Which illustrates the author has problems with a) logic, b) history and c) attitude.

        • And the writing isn’t very good either.

          Since I don’t like talking about people behind their backs and Blogspot doesn’t do trackbacks, I just left a comment there that I made him famous. But not in a good way. :-)

          Of course, he will now claim that I’m an anti-semite. I’m sure he’s part of that crowd that claims everybody who dislikes him and reveals his ignorance is a horrible anti-semite.

          • You’re remarkably closed minded for an academic. Do you vote for the NDP? You seem the type.
            I don’t believe that
            a) I said Ukrainians are more anti-Semitic than other national groups in Eastern Europe, only that they had the unique experience of the Holodomor and that didn’t stop them from turning on their Jews
            b) I ever accused you of anti-Semitism. I can’t imagine why I would. I don’t like the term (I prefer Jew hater, it’s much more blunt and accurate) and you haven’t shown any evidence of that so why would I accuse you of it?
            c) I left a comment here a short time ago with several non-Wikipedia links documenting evidence of historical and contemporary Ukrainian Jew hatred – again, I’m not suggesting it’s worse than other countries in the region but that it exists and isn’t a fringe philosophy – but it seems to have disappeared.

            • Yeah, we are all huge NDP voters here in Illinois.

              I’m still waiting for you to address the points I raised. Namely, that during the only 3 years since 1665 of Ukrainian history when Ukrainians had a country of their own one of the central goals of the Ukrainian leaders was to ensure full representation of Jews in the parliament.

              Another question: I’m sure you are aware of the horrible Jewish pogroms in Ukraine in 1905. Who organized them and why? What slogans did the people carry during those pogroms. A hint: the slogans said “Beat the Jews to save. . .” Who or what needed saving by beating the Jews during those pogroms?

              Everybody else should feel free to provide an answer. Except V. who knows it anyways. :-)

              • 1) More important, how was the average Jew on the street treated between 1918-1921? Yes, yes, the leadership came up with some flowery language and a multicultural parliament but then China calls itself a democracy since communism is technically rule by the “people”.
                2) So the Ukrainians didn’t organize the pogroms but enough of ‘em sure enjoyed participating in them.

              • So no answers, right?

                But at least you are now asking questions, so that’s good.

                Ukraine was a big country with many streets. So I can’t testify to what happened on each of them, as you might understand. My Jewish great-great-grandparents were liberated from the pale of settlement of the tsarist Russia in 1917. Five of my great-grandmother’s brothers died fighting for the revolution. Her parents lived in a small Ukrainian town and were venerated for their great personal qualities by their neighbors of different ethnicities.

                My great-grandmother became an engineer in Ukraine and had the kind of career that most American women TODAY can only dream about.

                Yes, there were Ukrainians who participated in pogroms. There were also Russians and Poles who did in equal and greater numbers. However, among all decent people such folks were despised and reviled. Anti-semitism was absolutely unacceptable in the intellectual circles. More unacceptable that it was in Canada and the US even in 1940ies and 1950ies.

                My mentor was almost denied tenure at an American university just 18 years ago because the Dean thought it was inappropriate that a Jew should teach German lit to American students.

                So dump on your culture for that and leave mine alone.

  5. Not sure how famous you’ve made me but whatever.
    I suppose the Russian empire and other consipirators invented:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menahem_Mendel_Beilis

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohdan_Khmelnytsky

    Oh, oh, and this is contemporary:

    http://www.insudok.nl/eng/ukrain/asukr.htm

    I don’t believe I said the Ukrainains were the worst. Certainly pretty much every country in Europe with the exception of Denmark collaborated with the Nazis to some degree in trying to eliminate their Jewish population even as they fought the German occupation. However, no other country in Europe had ever undergone an attempted genocide in its immediate past and then turned on its own population of Jews.

    There is a tremendous effort to revise history in Europe. One wonders if the Holocaust even happens because every European who is old enough to remember the war can’t seem to remember any of their compatriots assisting the Germans, can’t remember the camps or the plumes of smoke, can’t seem to remember anything about it. Except, oddly, for the Germans. Well and us, of course.

    • You have come here to quote Wikipedia? On the blog of a university professor who bases her knowledge of Ukrainian history on working with archival sources for years? And you bring some Wikipedia article to me? Is that how you educate yourself? By reading Wikipedia?

      Seriously, buddy, it’s time for you to speak less and chew more. You are not prepared for a dialogue with me because you are woefully ignorant and don’t even try to learn anything. As long as you keep studying history on the basis of Wikipedia articles, you will keep being ridiculed by people who have graduated to more reliable sources of knowledge.

      Try responding to at least one of the things I listed in your own words and without relying on Wikipedia. Strain your thinking capacity and attempt to do so. Remember that, other than 1918-1921 no “Ukraine” existed between 1665 and 1991. Ukraine was a colony of the Russian Empire.

      No, sit there, think quietly, and try to come up with something not completely stupid.

    • “Not sure how famous you’ve made me but whatever.”

      -I’ve had 200,000 visits to this blog just since this last May. As I said, buddy, you are now better known as ever before. But in a really bad way.

      • Well it hasn’t rubbed off. My stats haven’t jumped and the post you’re sooooo upset with has barely been visited. Maybe try a little more vociferously next time. I do appreciate the effort though.

        • As my readers say, when they read the quote from your post I provided, your writing hasn’t attracted them to visit your blog.

          My “soooo upset” post, however, has been visited by a veritable crowd.

  6. Excellent retort to a biased and irresponsible post. I am reminded of a passage from “The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew” by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern. Shtern describes the anti-Ukrainian sentiment encountered by the Ukrainian-Jewish poet Moisei Fishbein, who was forced into exile to Israel in the 1079s for his refusal to spy on his Ukrainian writer friends for the KGB. Petrovsky-Shtern describes the atmosphere that greeted Fishbein, a Ukrainian speaker:

    “Moreover, Israeli fascination with Russian culture continued despite the state-sponsored antisemitism in the USSR. Russian propaganda successfully enticed one ethnicity against the other: from the 1940s on it had effectively convinced the population of Ukraine, Jewish veterans of World War II included, that all Ukrainian nationalists were vociferously antiemetic and that those who insisted on speaking Ukrainian were nationalists. The Israeli establishment strongly supported this vision.”

    Sadly, Russia/Soviet propaganda continues to be successful in this regard.

    • “The Israeli establishment strongly supported this vision.”

      -Is it still doing so? And is that where our Mighty takes his info and his attitude?

      We need el (a reader from Israel) to clarify this for us.

      El? Do you have anything to contribute?

  7. Clarissa, you are taking this way too personally. Are you always this hypervigilant?
    (Out of curiousity, if I’m so offensive to you, why do you follow my blog?)

    Your answers are somewhat ingenious. For example, the statement ” Remember that, other than 1918-1921 no “Ukraine” existed between 1665 and 1991.” is quite irrelevant. For a good chunk of that time there was also no Poland. Were there no Polish people either? The Ukrainians, as a distinctive national group have exists for centuries even in the absence of an independent state. Furthermore, bringing official government policies as proof of absence of anti-Semitism is a weak argument. The Polish government between the two world wars also had laws against discrimination. That didn’t stop universities from imposing strict quotas on how many Jews could enroll in them and limiting the faculties they could study in. Heck, the Soviet constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Are you going to tell me that actually happened?

    Anyway, since Wikipedia offends you (remember I have a job so I don’t have the luxury of sifting through “the evidence” like you, besides using Wikipedia is what most university students do anyway):

    http://www.ejpress.org/article/30052

    http://www.berdichev.org/a_brief_history_of_antisemitism_in_ukraine.html

    http://www.eurasiacenter.org/Publications/Aaron%20Ostrovsky%20-%20Anti-Semitism%20in%20Ukraine.pdf

    http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2007/ukraine.html

    • Yes, it is personal to me. Because I’m a Ukrainian Jew, buddy. That’s my personal history right there that you reviled.

      Still no arguments of your own to make, eh?

      “The Ukrainians, as a distinctive national group have exists for centuries even in the absence of an independent state.”

      -Ignorance is truly bliss. Please try to learn at least something about the difference between a national group and an ethnic group. A hint: a concept of a nation and the ideology of nationalism is a pretty recent invention historically.

      ‘Furthermore, bringing official government policies as proof of absence of anti-Semitism is a weak argument. ”

      -Leaving aside the Poles (because you see to have enough trouble concentrating on the subject under discussion as it is), I am telling you that the second when the independent Republic of Ukraine was organized one of the first orders of business was to assure equal representation for the Jews. Do you know of any other country that did anything like this the moment it achieved independence?

      The attempts to cover your ignorance about Ukraine with bromides about Poland and Soviet Union don’t look very worthy of respect, to tell you the truth.

      Arguing with me about the Soviet Union takes somebody a little better informed.

      By the way, what did your Jewish great-grandma do for a living in the country where she lived in the 20ies, 30ies, 40ies? Just curious.

  8. Clarissa: I like the post and your comments on the Ukranians during WWII (or the Great Patriotic War or whatever Ukranians call it).

    OK, this is tangential, but: what is the proper/”best” Romanization of the name of the Hetman who led the revolt in 1648? FWIW, wikipedia favors “Khmelnytsky”; the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia has “Chmielnicki”; in the post, you use “Chmelnicki.”

    I’m not trying to be snarky; I am genuinely asking about the best practice here for rendering this name in a Roman alphabet. (I think we all agree that “Cheilmnitsky”, from the quoted excerpt, is wrong.)

    • Good question, my friend. :-) When my family emigrated, our last name was Romanized in 2 different ways, so we ended up with different last names. :-)

      So it’s quite hard to come up with one version of a Ukrainian name in English. People who are more Russian-oriented use Khmelnitsky while people from the Western part of Ukraine use Chmelnitsky more often. The choice is yours, I guess. :-)

      • If you listen when a Russian pronounces “kitchen”, then you will hear “key-chain”.

        A Russian is incapable of pronouncing KHMELNYTSKY.

        Why use Russian pronunciations of Ukrainian words?

  9. Pingback: A Jew, a Ukrainian Jew, and a Gentile Ukrainophile head onto the Internet… « Scattered Graves: A Blog By Brian Spadora

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  11. Pingback: Anti-Semitism in Ukraine | Clarissa's Blog

  12. Svoboda (Freedom) Party in Ukraine is not a right-wing extremist neo-Nazi anti-Semitic party. It advances the interests of true Ukrainian sovereignty and opposes Russia’s domination of Ukraine and Russification of Ukraine (linguistically, religiously and culturally). Svoboda Party supports the legitimate interests of ethnic minorities in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine on the basis that ethnic minorities support Ukraine’s sovereignty and act in its interests. It also supports eventual Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO.

    Keep in mind that historically Jews as an ethnic minority in Ukraine predominantly supported foreign rule (Polish and Russian) in Ukraine, not Ukraine’s independence (sovereignty). Jews predominantly served the interests of foreign occupiers and oppressors of the Ukrainian nation (Poles and Russians) and did not support the Ukrainian Liberation Movement.

    Now Jews in Ukraine largely promote Russian domination in Ukraine, not Ukraine’s sovereignty, judging by the actions of Jewish oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine who do not act in the interests of ordinary people in Ukraine causing poverty, misery and suffering to them.
    It’s wrong to call valid truthful criticism of Jews anti-Semitism.

    • You are very ignorant of the history of Ukraine. What makes you think you are entitled to an opinion if you are so lacking in even the most basic information on the subject?? Have you tried reading anything on the history of Ukraine? Some very basic stuff, at least?

  13. Instead of empty talk and groundless accusations provide valid arguments against me. I know Ukraine’s history and politics quite well from authoritative objective unbiased sources.

    • I have better things to do with my life than to argue with silly air-heads who haven’t read or learned anything. Go play with other kids, child. Here, adults are having intelligent conversations.

      • Your astounding nonsense talk applies to you. Having no arguments you resort to your nasty habit of trying to humiliate people which should be very shameful to you.
        Your refusal to provide any arguments to support your views proves that you are not knowledgeable on this topic. Now you are fully exposed and face the fact that you are ignorant and don’t pretend to be a professor of Ukrainian history and politics.

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