The “Independent” ones will have to share with Russian princes, Polish nobility, and international capital
The fanatical desire to become full-fledged Europeans could leave many Ukrainians literally with nothing. Since joining the association, they’d be required to follow the EU legislation, which provides for property restitution. That is, the return of expropriated property to the former owners or their heirs. For example, in Poland some are seriously pursuing this problem. Recently, TASS reported on a newly established organization “Restitution Kresy”, created to deal with the return of Polish property in what’s now the Western Ukraine. It brings together heirs of former owners of property nationalised in 1939-40 when that region became part of the Ukrainian SSR. The founders of this pressure group refer to the Association Agreement signed by Kiev with the EU, which provides for resolving these issues. Whilst this particular group only has a few hundred members, however, current estimates show that about 100,000 people in Poland have documentation to prove that they’re heirs or successors of those who owned property in the former eastern lands (Kresy Wschodnie) of the II Rzeczpospolita (Second Polish Commonwealth, 1918-39) before World War II.
As you know, the USSR resettled more than 800,000 Poles living in the Ukraine in modern Poland. Accordingly, one can imagine what would be the total amount of property claims. That’s just on the part of Poland, but there are also Hungary and Romania, which are also likely to want to get their part of the “restitution pie”. It’s difficult to say how the restitution process would work out, but surely, it’d be painful. In Latvia, for example, which, like the other Baltic countries through the past, restitution turned to so many people of this tragedy. The famous Viya Artmane, People’s Artist of the USSR, the Queen, as the Latvians loved to call her, lost her Riga apartment. In fact, in her old age, they made her homeless. Similar dramas happened in Hungary, in Slovakia, and in Germany.
After the Ukraine formally joins the EU framework, how many people will it make homeless, especially in the western regions?
Igor Shishkin (Deputy Director of the Institute of SNG Countries)
Indeed, the Association Agreement provides for “restitution of property to its rightful owners”. There was a corresponding item. Amongst other things, [Yanukovich] pointed this up at the preparation stage of [the Association Agreement] at the Vilnius Summit in 2013 as one of the reasons why it’d be dangerous to sign the treaty, and why it was necessary to make certain changes. However, as we know, they signed this treaty, and it’ll soon be in full force. The fact that it isn’t yet in force isn’t due to the Ukrainian authorities; it’s due to Russia, which seeks certain changes in these agreements. However, by the way, the Russian state isn’t directly involved in the section on property restitution in the Ukraine.
What about the EU?
The EU always very closely followed this issue in Eastern Europe and in the Baltic states. Some countries tried to avoid restitution, but the EU simply coerced them. There’s no reason to think that the EU will behave differently in this case. When it comes to the purse, “the old woman” doesn’t compromise at all. Currently, in Poland, it seems that there’s only a minor movement in this direction. A small group, only several hundred members, etc. … it seems a trifle. However, the mischief and misfortune has begun, but there’s no sense in being pre-emptive now… the articles of the economic integration agreement remain in full force, and the effects [of restitution] won’t affect it. They can wait for January 2016.
So, after the “16th”, will they not tear the Ukraine into pieces?
Restitution won’t eat away the Ukraine as a state… we’re not talking about sovereignty over these regions; we’re talking about property transfers. Restitution will only lead to Ukrainians losing their property. By the way, not only will ordinary Ukrainians lose their property, but also so will the Ukrainian oligarchs, who are the most directly concerned. Now, there are questions about Poles, Magyars, and Romanians… that’s a fact. This is due to the Western Ukraine’s incorporation into the USSR in 1939. There’s no doubt that there’s activity in this sphere. However, let’s not forget that these agreements relate to the whole country, not just the Western Ukraine. They must return property, regardless of the former owner’s nationality. They may make a separate agreement with the Poles… but the Poles “helping” them introduce “European values”, as they say. We should remember that the main property owners in the present-day Ukraine were the Russian aristocracy and foreign capitalists. Descendants of the Russian aristocracy live in Russia and abroad… mostly, they’re abroad. Under these laws, they’d now have the full right to make a claim on their estates… and the Ukrainians would have to give them that. Then, there were Western European capitalists. The money of British and Belgian capitalists built many businesses, but after the revolution, the state nationalised these enterprises. Recently, the current Kiev government adopted laws that abolished its historical continuity with the Ukrainian SSR. That is, anything done under the authority and laws of the Ukrainian SSR is invalid. These laws opened a Pandora’s Box… for they virtually eliminated Ukrainian statehood. After all, until 1917, before the USSR’s creation, there was no such thing as Ukrainian statehood. Therefore, we’ll have to see what they leave for Poroshenko and his clique.
They’re hoping that the Polish government won’t allow this as Poland is a “friendly” country. However, the Poles are very pragmatic…
The Polish government can’t do this. The Polish state deliberately ignored the Volyn Massacre. It didn’t respond to laws that glorified those who cut about 200,000 Poles… including women and children. However, that’s just it, the Association Agreement doesn’t involve the Polish state, it involves the heirs of the property. That is, it’s a mechanism of private restitution. Specific citizens of Poland and the specific members of the Russian aristocracy who are heirs will have the right to file for and demand the best lands in the Ukraine. In this, the Polish state can only do one thing… ask Poles to abandon their claims for reasons of political expediency. Nevertheless, it involves private selfishness. Therefore, they ask a legitimate question, “Why should I?” That is, “If I can get a million Euros, and you tell me that because of political considerations, I shouldn’t do this, then, give me a million Euros from the Polish Treasury”.
The perspective in Kiev is quite miserable…
Why? If you dug yourself a hole and then fell it in it… what’s so miserable about that? According to Tamara Guzenkova, the Deputy Director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies and Director of the Centre for Research of SNG and Baltic Problems, the European future of the Ukraine isn’t going to be pretty, “Of course, the fact that Poles raised the issue of restitution is only the first demand. This trend has a very specific and alarming portent for the Ukraine’s European future”. I must say that this public movement and the initiatives put forward by it, won’t be legally binding. Rather, it’s a movement of political thought of a certain part of the Polish establishment. Here, we should note that the Ukraine isn’t yet an EU member, whose members carry out restitution and such commitments are the rule. As of today, the Ukraine is only an associate member, so, in this sense, the rules that apply to restitution don’t apply to it yet.
So, we need to understand what makes it tick?
Yes, it’s just a question of time. We’ll see how those trends work out in the Ukrainian political developments that we’re seeing now. In general, it is quite clear that the Ukraine no longer exists as a unitary state. Now, at most, it’s only half-alive. Today, it doesn’t have the borders that the Ukrainian SSR had when the USSR collapsed. I must say that there’s already a chain reaction set in motion. In fact, the loss of Ukrainian territories didn’t begin with the Crimea. No, it started earlier. For several years, the Ukraine and Romania had a heated territorial dispute that went before an international court.
You mean Zmeiny Island?
Yes, exactly. If you remember, in that court case the Ukraine was so pathetic in defending their own interests and behaved so horridly that they lost the island to Romania. Of course, this uninhabited island was a pip… it’s a small piece of land standing just above sea level. However, the fact is that around this island there are very strong indications of a rich gas shelf. Therefore, in losing Zmeiny Island, the Ukraine lost ownership of the shelf and the opportunity to develop this field. Apparently, because this geopolitical failure occurred under Yushchenko, it didn’t get any publicity… the intelligentsia was silent, and the diplomatic services were silent. In general, in fact, Yushchenko did his best to squelch and coverup this whole scandal. This is the result… in 2006, the loss of Zmeiny Island, in 2014, the loss of the Crimea. The questions on restitution indicate that there are many people interested in significant lands and property in the Ukraine. It’s not just Romania. There’s Hungary, with compact Magyar ethnic minorities living in Podkarpatskaya. I think there are some countries that haven’t given up on areas on that Kiev isn’t able to govern properly. What we’re seeing in Poland is just the beginning. Perhaps, now, it seems to be an exclusively private initiative or an initiative of a particular political party. However, it’s possible that not far off the movement will become official. After all, it’s probable that people in the Baltic States couldn’t imagine a time when they simply threw many people simply out of their houses and they lost their property. That moment came. Many lost their apartments, houses, and property. Therefore, at least, it seems to me that residents of the Lvovshchina need to ponder their future seriously, if not their own future, at least their children’s future… definitely.
17 April 2105
Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press)
I’ll give you a simple fact… in 1931, Lvov’s population was 32 percent Jewish, 51 percent Polish, and only 16 percent “Ukrainian”… today, there are negligible numbers of Jews and Poles, its 89 percent “Ukrainian” and 9 percent Russian. Would the USA use “restitution” claims to knacker the Ukraine (they’ve already stolen most of the gold and forex reserves from the junta)?
An interesting point is that Lvov has nearly identical numbers of Orthodox and Uniates, indicating people moving in from the pre-1939 Ukrainian SSR… 45 percent Uniate, 39 percent Orthodox (3 percent canonical plus 36 percent schismatical; thus, 7.7 percent of Orthodox are real canonical Orthodox, 92.3 percent are schismatical). Local sources tell me that’s due to political interference… most Orthodox are loyal to Moscow and many of the “Uniates” are in parishes seized by CIA-paid Rukh gunmen in the 90s. That is… Lvov isn’t as securely in the junta’s hands as the Americans and Canadians mistakenly think. I’d say that the American and Canadian troops had best take a care… there were plenty of Red partisans in the Lvovshchina who fought the Nazis and their UPA running dogs. Maybe the UPA thugs had kids… but so did the Red partisans… as I said, the Americans and Canadians had best watch their backs…