A few years ago I wrote a translation of a documentary, called Project ‘Ukraine’, which very well covered the history, running up to the creation of the geopolitical entity, known as “Ukraine”.
I have now come across an unlikely source of information, corroborating and expanding on the theses put forth in the documentary above. It comes from a Polish politician Roman Dmowski and his 1930 work “Kwestia ukraińska” – “The Ukrainian Question”.
Below is my translation of a Russian article, which analyses his work: Year 1930: Roman Dmowski on Ukrainian Independence.
What is distinguishing a natural-born politician from a random rogue, hanging out on the political stage? The sense of political acumen, the ability to predict the course of events for decades to come signs that are little noticeable at the moment.
Roman Dmowski had this gift in abundance. The expert on Slavic history, active political leader of Poland of the first third of the twentieth century, opponent of Jozef Pilsudski. They say that in his youth Pilsudski stole Dmowski’s wife. Dmowski remained a bachelor, while in politics he seriously disagreed with Pilsudski.
Dmowski was a more measured politician than Pilsudski with his clinical Russophobia. During the revolution of 1905, Dmowski, remaining a Polish patriot, urged the Poles to ally with the Russian tsars, and during the First World War, unlike Pilsudski, he took the side of the Entente. However the proclaimed ultimate goal of his policy was always the building of a national Polish state.
Dmowski’s attitude to the Ukrainian question is noteworthy. Especially interesting is his extensive article “The Ukrainian Question” (“Kwestia ukraińska”). It does not exist in a Russian or Ukrainian translation, more’s the pity. The reader would be able to meet Dmowski’s predictions about the future of Ukrainian statehood and witness an amazing accuracy of his predictions. The “Ukrainian question” was written over 80 years ago – in 1930, when there was not even talk of independence of Ukraine, but Dmowski’s internal sense of politics foresaw much of what we are witnessing today. So…
From the first lines Dmowski indicates that the separate existence of the Ukrainian people begins only in the XIX century, and the dialect of the people “reached the level of literary language”, so the appearance of independent Ukraine on the world map was only a matter of time. The author agrees that the term “Ukraine” designated the lands near the Eastern edge of the Polish Commonwealth, and it had no political and national significance. Dmowski also acknowledges the fact of the unity of the Russian language from the Carpathian mountains to the Pacific ocean, and that the regional differences between the three Russian pieces (Greater Russia (Velikorossia), Rus Minor (Malorossia), Belorussia) was caused by the defeat of Kiev by the nomads.
As a cultural and historical whole, Ukraine does not exist for Dmowski. Different parts of it had different history and it makes no sense to speak of a single Ukrainian nation. He considered Chernigov and Poltava to be the most “Ukrainian”, while the spirit of Ukraine is expressed by “the great writer Gogol”. The author acknowledges that the tsarist authorities did not put obstacles in the way of literary and cultural ukrainophilism, but the Poles embarked on the transformation of this innocent ukrainophilism into a ukrainophilism of a different kind – political.
Ukraine is less interesting from the national-cultural point of view, than from the political-economic perspective, and that last factor is the key in the idea of Ukrainian independence. The populist idea that was so popular in the nineteenth century, became quickly adopted by the international powerhouses. Therefore, in the early twentieth century, the term “Ruthenian” (Rusin) – referring to the inhabitants of Galicia and Bukovina – is replaced by the term “Ukrainian” in the Austrian political discourse.
“The ease with which the official Vienna jumped from a local, narrow concept of “Rusin” (Ruthenian) to the broad concept of “Ukrainian” and thus the internal Ruthenian issue turned into an international Ukrainian issue is surprising,” writes Dmowski. Austria-Hungary, which was already associated with Germany in a close Union, went on to an even greater rapprochement with Berlin so as to have in the face of Germany as a second German state, an additional support for the Austrian Germans. It was just at that period that the common German political literature took up the production of a new state concept – Larger Ukraine. “A German Consulate is opened in Lvov – not for the German citizens, of which there were none in Eastern Galicia, but for the political cooperation with the Ukrainians, which subsequently became publicly disclosed”.
With the replacement of the “Ruthenian” question with the “Ukrainian” issue, the political centre of gravity shifted from Vienna to Berlin. There was no Ruthenian population in Germany, but the Ruthenian question very keenly interested the German strategists, who “on the eve of the First World War looked at Russia as an object of economic exploitation”. However, the discovery of coal and iron on the territory of Donbass (which would be transferred from the RSFSR to the UkSSR by the Soviet authorities) allowed the Russian Empire to begin strengthening their own industry, while for Germany that meant not only the closure of the Russian market for its exports, but also the emergence of a new competitor in the Asian markets.
Germany firmly asserted its presence in Turkey at the same time (during the First World War the Turks will act as the allies of the Germans), and they needed to remove Russia out of the way for the complete control over the Black Sea region and the Balkans: “All these dangers and difficulties were eliminated by the bold project of establishing an independent Ukraine. Given the national and cultural weakness of the Ukrainian population, its lack of solidity, the presence on the sea coast of peoples, who have nothing to do with Ukrainianism, a large Jewish population and a considerable number of German colonists in the Kherson region and Crimea, you can be sure that this new state will be easily subdued the Germanic influence. Independent Ukraine promises to be a political and economic branch of Germany”.
At the same time Russia would lose the opportunity to influence European policy, would be pushed away (albeit partially) from the Black Sea and would also lose influence in the Balkans, which improved the positions of the Ottoman Empire – a German ally and the eternal enemy of the Southern Slavs (Yugoslavs). In addition, the Ukrainian project was the German anti-Polish project, allowing to hit with one shot two German opponents – Poland and Russia.
For Dmowski the Ukrainian question was inseparably linked with oil. Due to the deposits of the Caucasian oil, Russia entered the small circle of privileged states with oil wealth. The oil of the New and Old world was already divided between the Western powers. Venezuelan, Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian crude oil was under US control; the Indian was under the control of the Dutch; Iranian and Iraqi – under the British control. The distribution of oil wealth meant the distribution of world powers and oil-rich Russia, with borders from the Pacific to the Carpathians was not included in the calculations of the West. “Ukraine has no oil… but if one understands its territorial scope in a wide sense, extending it to the Caspian sea, as some do, then the separation of Ukraine from Russia will lead to separation of the latter from the Caucasus and the liberation of the Caucasian oil from under her control,” concludes Dmowski, stating that the Ukrainian question is the issue of crude (Russian) oil.
How can one not remember the numerous statements of today’s national-patriots about “ethnic Ukrainian lands”, reaching the foothills of the Caucasus, and dashing statements of Michael Kolodzinski, a member of the OUN and the author of the military doctrine of Ukrainian nationalism: “We, who are building the Ukrainian state, must push the border of Europe to the Altai and Dzhungaria…. Ukraine aims to link this area with Europe politically, economically and culturally… and the phrase “on the border of two worlds” will get a real sense… Like Caesar, conquering Gaullia, opened the whole of Europe to the Roman culture and civilization, so will our nationalist revolutionary army must open to Western European culture the space, stretching to the South and South–East of Ukraine… This was the great goal of our life as nation and race, – to take possession of the steppes above the Black and Caspian seas and to build a new centre of world civilization on the verge of two continents”.
Dmowski insists on the rejection of the idyllic interpretations of the Ukrainian question as a matter of the people, suddenly awakened to political life in the nineteenth century. The Ukrainian problem got its scope due to the support of Germany, while the restoration of the Polish state only added urgency to it. An independent Ukraine with the deliberately undefined boundaries to the West became for Berlin a convenient way to get Poland to be flexible in determining the lines of the Polish-German border.
“In recent years, thanks to the coal and iron of the Donetsk basin and the Caucasus oil, Ukraine has become a subject of vivid interest of European and American capital and took a place in their plans for economic and political control of the world in the near future,” said Dmowski. External forces, causing the split between Ukraine and Russia, would never agree to the creation of a small Ukrainian state: “Only a large, as large as possible, Ukraine could solve the problems, that were giving the Ukrainian question such a broad meaning”.
“Ukraine has made a great career, but did the Ukrainians do so?” – the author asks the rhetorical question, alluding to the foreign trace in the Ukrainian question and predicting the future independent Ukraine hard times as soon as it becomes independent.
And it’s not from the machinations of “our enemies”, but from the future political elites’ lack of experience in managing such a large state and solving geopolitical problems of the country, something that they have never experienced before, being part of a larger geopolitical organism (Russian Empire, USSR).
Dmowski predicts the emergence of serious problems in the then non-Ukrainian Crimea and the Caucasus – as a consequence of the emergence of an externally controlled Ukraine next to Russia and the attempts of its creators to advance further into Russian territory. The Ukrainian people cannot solve all these problems, also due to the absence “of the outstanding instinct of statesmanship”, which characterizes Russians. According to Dmowski, stable and independent Ukraine is beyond the power of the Ukrainian people.
“However, there are those who can manage it [instead], but therein lies the tragedy. No human force is able to prevent the transformation of the independent and cut off from Russia Ukraine into a convergence spot for a bunch of speculators from all over the world, who can’t spread their wings in their own countries – the capitalists and seekers of capital, merchants, speculators, and schemers, thieves and prostitution organizers of all stripes. The Germans, the French, the Belgians, the Italians, the British and Americans would rush to the aid of nearby [ethnic] Russians, Poles, Armenians, Greeks, numerous, and most important, Jews… All these elements, with the aid… of the slyest of Ukrainians would create a ruling class, the elite… and no other state would be able boast such a rich set of international dregs”.
Here is the answer to the question why the Ukrainian government, comprised of people of different nationalities, remains the eternal guardian of Ukrainian nationalism! This is a business project, gentlemen, and no patriotism!
“Ukraine would become a boil on the body of Europe… – continues Dmowski, – and the people, dreaming of creating a cultural, healthy and strong Ukrainian nation, which would ripen in their own state, would see that instead of their own country they acquired an international enterprise, while instead of development they got a rapid progress of decay and rot. Those who think that… it could be otherwise, have not a penny’s worth of imagination. There are many managers of the Ukrainian question – both in Ukraine and abroad. Especially among the latter most clearly understand what they are aiming for. But there are also those who understand the project of Ukraine’s alienation from Russia in too a rural form. These naïve people would do well if they did not come near it.”
Sad, but true words.