Margaret O'Brien Steinfels February 25, 2014 - 12:21pm
Events over several decades in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans remind us that upheavals in the present looking to the future also summon the past. Ukraine is a case in point.
A reminder of its past is captured in the phrase, "fascist riffraff," shouted by Russian-speaking Ukrainans against the Ukrainian-speaking groups now in charge in Kiev. It summons the Russian memory that the parents and grandparents of the current protesters fought with the Germans against Russia in WWII. Putin and Company's charges of terrorism and extreme nationalistism refer to this history. As prior dotCommonweal posts have noted Ukraine has been part of Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Luthuania as well as Russia. It is a borderland as the geo-politicians like to point out. It is also Bloodlands as historian Timothy Synder called it in a history that examines the war between Hitler and Stalin; both engaged in the mass killings of Ukrainians and other inhabitants of the borderlands before and during the war.
In the meantime, here is a brief assessment of the dangers all around: New Yorker
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.