Tuesday, 12 January 2016
Response to Theodore Harvey on Ukraine
Theodore Harvey is an Anglican monarchist blogger from Texas whose Royal World I regularly read. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't. I share his monarchism, but his politics are not mine. If he was British, he would no doubt be a Little Englander, supporting UKIP or at least a Tory who complains about Cameron. I was moved to write this by his recent post, A Monarchist Vision of Europe. It seems to be a pattern of monarchist bloggers that they love to write these pipe-dream posts where they fantasize about how they would like the world to be. I am a political realist and a pragmatist. I'd rather take the world as it comes.
I was particularly bothered by his comments about Ukraine. In his vision, Theodore Harvey would carve up Ukraine, giving the western corner to a revived Habsburg Empire and the rest to Russia. If he had left it at that, I could have left him to his daydream of being Catherine the Great carving up an European nation, but he made a potentially quite offensive remark about Ukraine, describing her as a fake nation.
How long does a people have to be a people to be allowed to be a proper nation? I could easily call the USA a fake nation, after all, they are just an English colony with a few extra territories bolted on and a few million immigrants from various other countries. Then again, as a monarchist and Anglophile, perhaps Harvey does think the USA is a fake nation. How about Belgium? Belgium is arguably a quite artificial territory.
I don't think it can be denied that the majority of people in Ukraine see themselves as a nation. In 1991, 90% of Ukrainians voted for independence. Perhaps the outpourings of national sentiment at Maidan are not shared by every Ukrainian. Many Ukrainians are uncomfortable with the nationalist movement and don't see their future in the EU. Many Ukrainians would prefer closer ties with Russia. Yet wanting a closer relationship with Russia is not the same as rejecting Ukrainian national identity. Perhaps the strongest evidence for the reality of Ukrainian nationhood is that the country was governed by the Pro-Russian Party of the Regions. Despite being Pro-Russian, that party did not push for the re-unification with Russia that Harvey deems appropriate for her. Ukraine has kept her sense of identity whether leaning toward the West or to Russia.
Harvey points out that there are people in Ukraine who identify as Russian. This is the evil of nation-states, that the world cannot be neatly divided into nations, each with one language and culture. Most countries have minorities who do not necessarily feel at ease with the nation in which they live. As Harvey says, you cannot please everyone. Yet we cannot pretend that nations are unreal concepts, as the advocates of one-world government would have us do. I am an Europhile and believe that the European Union offers many benefits in unity. Yet the EU will always be a union of nations and not a single European country. As somebody who is sceptical of the EU, I would have expected Theodore Harvey to appreciate this.
You cannot please everyone, but carving Ukraine up as Poland was carved up is not going to please anyone in Ukraine. Once a people achieve nationhood, it is not something that can be taken away from them. We see it in Taiwan. Taiwan is not officially a nation, yet her people have learned to live as their own nation free from China. The younger generation of Taiwan see themselves as Taiwanese and not Chinese. This is something the Chinese government will never be able to take away from them.
Harvey says that Crimea is Russian. It was part of Russia, but now it is part of Ukraine, just as Texas was part of the Spanish Empire and parts of the USA were French. If the people of Crimea want to be Russian, then they should be allowed to be Russian. The problem is that Crimea has been seized and occupied by Russia. Let the Russians withdraw and then there can be a free and fair referendum for Crimea on where their future lies.
There is a great naivety to Harvey's claim that Kiev is part of Russian history, presumably because of the Kievan Rus. It is like claiming that Normandy should be a part of England because the Norman kings of England came from Normandy. Yes, Kiev was the cradle of Russian civilization, but Russia did not exist as a nation at the time of the Kievan Rus. One cannot jump from the Kievan Rus to the Russian Empire and ignore everything that happened in between those times.
Ukraine's history is connected to Russian history, but it has had a distinct history of its own. Kiev was separated from Russia by the Mongol invasion. Most of European Russia came under the rule of the Golden Horde, while Kiev and its surrounding territory came under the rule of Lithuania and Poland. Polish culture has had an huge impact on the culture of Ukraine. Harvey wants to give most of Ukraine back to Russia. One could just as easily conclude it should go back to Poland. In the 17th century, we have the beginnings of Ukrainian nationhood in the Hetmanate of the Cossacks of the Zaporozhian Host. After incorporation into the Russian Empire in the 18th century, the first stirrings of Ukrainian nationalism emerged in the 19th, followed by failed attempts to create a Ukrainian state in the 20th century. The Ukrainians have as much of their own history as the people of Serbia, the people of Lithuania or the people of New Zealand.
I like Theodore Harvey's blog, but his crass comments on Ukraine show the worst side of Monarchist blogging. Monarchist bloggers have a tendency to glorify the old Europe while ignoring its injustices. They idolize the past while having nothing meaningful to say about present political realities. They fantasize about re-drawaing maps as if peoples can be used as counters in a game of Risk.