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.


  1. I'm glad that at least my blog is widely read enough to cause some controversy somewhere. Ukraine was really not supposed to be the main point of my post. I wouldn't have a problem with anyone calling the USA a fake nation; however, it's been around a lot longer than Ukraine has (1783 versus 1991). In general I support monarchies (which would include Belgium) and dislike republics. That really shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. If Ukraine were to become a monarchy maybe I would have more respect for it. I like the Ukrainian nationalists' anti-Communism, the more statues of Lenin destroyed the better, but not their Russophobic nationalism. The point of my post was that I want Europe to be dominated by monarchies, not republics. Obviously a Russia under Empress Maria Vladimirovna would be rather different than Russia under Putin.

    I don't think I'm a "Little Englander"; I love continental Europe but not as it is today; rather, I love the old, Christian, monarchical Europe that was all but destroyed by the World Wars. I see the secular and republic-dominated EU as the antithesis of everything I love about Europe. Britain should have warm relations with continental monarchies, but the republics are mostly illegitimate abominations. Instead of the EU, why not focus on the Commonwealth? As a monarchist I would think it would bother you that at points of entry Canadians and Australians who have the same Queen are grouped with other foreigners while Europeans with nothing substantial in common with Britain sail through.

    1. The USA has been around, but as I pointed out, Ukraine has an history that goes back a lot longer.

      Do you really need to trash republics all the time? I agree with you that monarchies are superior, but you really need to think about why most nations are content to be governed by republics and the obstacles that stand in the way of restorations. This is the problem with you ideological monarchists; like Fascists and Communists, you want to impose your ideal of how the world should be governed on nations that are not necessarily ready for it.

      I don't see how an independent Ukraine could become a monarchy. Who would be king or emperor? I am sure Grand Duchess Maria would make a wonderful Tsarina, but she would be a Russian tsarina and accepting her would compromise Ukraine's identity as a nation independent from Russia. A Habsburg would never be accepted. A revived Hetmanate might be acceptable to most Ukrainians, but probably not Catholics in western Ukraine. A descendent of the Polish monarchy would bring back memories of injustices under Polish rule. A foreign dynasty would be deemed as alien.

      There is a simple reason why Canadians and Australians don't get unrestricted entry into Britain. If they did, there would be demands for Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia and the Carribean to get unrestricted access. That means lots of dark skinned people. And voters and politicians have always been scared of dark skinned people.

  2. You say "you ideological monarchists" as if this were a rather common thing; I haven't noticed that there are many of us at all, sadly. I don't think comparisons to Fascists and Communists are appropriate since we have no power. I specifically stated that my fantasy--and it's no more than that--would require many people changing their minds and hearts, so no coercion is implied, except perhaps of a recalcitrant minority.

    I thought I was being rather reasonable by allowing--even in my fantasy--for Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to remain republics. If you would prefer to add Ukraine and Belarus to the list, fine; the monarchies I listed could still be restored, just with somewhat less territory in Empress Maria's case. Let's focus on where we do agree. But I will not apologise for my contempt for republics such as those that occupy Germany and Austria. I think I used to be less negative but I suppose I've grown embittered by online republican bile over the years as well as the failure to restore a single European monarchy for which I was hopeful when the Soviet Union fell in 1991 (when I was 13).

    It seems needlessly confrontational to title your post "Against Theodore Harvey" given that Ukraine was not the main thrust of my post and is hardly the sum total of my existence. I strongly disagree with your views on the EU and Muslim immigration, but if I were to post on those topics would not title it "Against Matthew Celestine."

    1. Alright, I'll try to be nice and change the title.