In a Ukrainian university, the way to get a good grade is to find several sources, copy paragraphs or pages from them, and hand the entire thing in. The way to get a bad grade is to develop your own argument. “Nobody cares about your ideas! Can’t you find a few authorities and copy them, like all normal students do?” my professors in Ukraine kept exclaiming.
This is why I’m not surprised that Ukrainian Secretary of National Security and Defense, Raisa Bogatyreva, plagiarized a speech that Steve Jobs gave to the students at Stanford in 2005.
For centuries, any original thought coming from a Ukrainian was punished first by the officials of the Russian Empire and then by their Soviet heirs. The result is that now it is commonly accepted that parroting somebody else’s ideas – hopefully, as close to the original text as possible – is the best way to proceed. In political terms, the main issue that Ukraine has been trying to resolve for a long time now is whether to imitate the Russians and allow them to guide the country or whether it’s best to follow the lead of the Western Europeans. The possibility of looking for one’s own way of doing things never even gets mentioned.
I am not excusing Bogatyreva’s plagiarism, of course. I’m simply explaining what the consequences of eradicating original thinking in a country are. The case of a bureaucrat plagiarizing Steve Jobs’s speech sounds funny at first. It is a lot less entertaining, though, if you see it in terms of what it says about the future of a country whose population is 1,5 times greater than that of Canada.