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Beware Ukrainian ignorance

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 06:00 am

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On May 28 the St. Albert Gazette published an article by Dr. Irina Shilova, adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary, entitled “Beware Ukraine ‘experts’.”

Indicating on the decline of Slavic and regional studies in North American universities following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the author argues that this negative change affected not only academia but also policy decisions on the governmental level due to the growing lack of experts. No doubt, the observation is accurate and fair. But for some reason her conclusions were turned upside down to make a false impression on the reader.

To show how the budget cuts in academia had political implications, Dr. Shilova used an example of the current crisis in Ukraine. She says that U.S. politicians such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland openly “sided with the leaders of the right-wing Ukrainian party “The Right Sector.”

Here is the catch. She did not say that they first of all met with leaders of the strong and legitimately elected opposition in the Ukrainian parliament, with largely pro-European and democratic views, but singled out this small radical group, not represented in the parliament at all. Its support is about one perccent based on the recent presidential election in Ukraine (for comparison, similar groups have much higher support in the EU countries).

This is actually what official Russian propaganda tries to install in people’s minds, distorting real facts and justifying the Russian expansionism: Ukrainian nationalists are coming to power, so Russia has now the right to protect peace and stability in the region.

In another example, Dr. Shilova criticizes senator McCain for relying on Cold War specialists such as Henry Kissinger and blaming Russia for the Ukrainian crisis. What may this imply? One may think that this is the United States who is allegedly initiating a new Cold War, not Russia, which has in fact violated a number of international laws and annexed Crimea.

I have recently watched a lecture by another icon of the Cold War era, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and found it extremely competent and up to the point. He put the current crisis in Eastern Europe (that also includes Georgia and Moldova) into the framework of civilizational conflict: Western democracy versus Russian authoritarianism.

Other factual errors betray Dr. Shilova’s lack of expertise in the field, which she herself calls to repair. Her references to “the Kiev coup,” “Ukrainian Resistance” in Eastern Ukraine, “civil war,” and “shady ‘government’ in Kiev” are notorious clichés exploited by the Russian propaganda machine. Is this a kind of expertise, which Dr. Shilova wants to strengthen in North American universities or something else?

Dr. Mykola Soroka, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta


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