Ukrainian Nationalism: A Scottish Perspective

Lessons on peace and patience, from a proud Scottish nationalist

Mon, May 25, 2015
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Положим булыжники, содвинем бокалы!
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As a Scottish Nationalist born and bred, I am hardly unfamiliar with a country's desire to free itself from the clutches of an imperialist aggressor. Scotland has been dominated culturally and politically by England since the Union of the Crowns in 1707 and its struggle for independence since is world renowned. More than any country, we have known what it means to be dictated to by another country and told that our culture, language and traditions are inferior.

But does one hear of Ukrainian-style violent clashes in the Scottish streets? Aye, right! Change in Scotland has taken place in the most democratic fashion; by increasing votes for the Scottish National Party (SNP) and then through consecutive referendums — first on the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1979 and 1997 and then on Scottish Independence as a whole last year. Indeed,  even the decision to remain part of the UK in September 2014 did not trigger any major protests. And I can't imagine it would — the Scottish would never choose violence over peaceful political processes as was done on Maidan in Kiev two years ago. The bloodshed is just not worth it. It's the 21st century, after all.

The recent law passed by the Ukrainian government — which bans all Communist symbols and which makes support for the Communist party and Soviet past punishable by up to five years in prison — really got me thinking. Even if Scotland became independent, we couldn't simply erase the past! The idea of us, for example, banning the Union Jack or the English language would be unthinkable. We would actively seek to work together with England, a country with whom we have a shared history and have fought many bloody battles — not only as foes, but as compatriots. Yes, many Scots want sovereignty and power over our institutions, resources and areas such as foreign policy, but the only path to this is through the polls.

The move to eradicate Soviet and Russian elements from Ukraine by the current government — in a fashion which can only be described as ethnic cleansing  — is extremely short-sighted and foolish.  Ukraine, instead of proving to Russia and the world that it could go it alone and flourish as a sovereign nation, has unfortunately shown that it can't.  If only Ukrainians had sought inspiration from the Scottish example; the rise of the SNP in Scotland from no seats in 1965 in Westminster to 56 seats 50 years later is proof of an old and wise proverb: patience is a virtue.

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I very much want to see a flourishing Ukrainian nation — but this will only happen once it comes to terms with its Soviet past.


Johanna Ganyukova is a graduate from the University of Edinburgh in Russian Studies and is currently completing an Msc at the University of Glasgow in Russian, Central and Eastern European Studies. She is RI’s Russian Media Editor.

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