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Letter for Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Eastern European history and the war in Ukraine

On Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry Truman described the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima: “…the sun(‘s) power has been loosened against (Japan).” Being in the Hawaiian sun, I could feel the awful burning pain of the dying Japanese people. It must never happen again. I write these articles with that purpose in mind.

Europe has dragged America into two world wars. America must not be dragged into a third. Diplomacy, negotiation between countries, must be engaged in to settle the present conflict. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that wars usually end by a negotiated agreement.

From the news media, we learn, “Diplomacy resurfaces” (Star-Advertiser 3/10/22). Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are currently ongoing, and there is some hope to the end of hostilities.

We need to return to our war-games table to learn the history that affects the two major players in our game, Russia and Ukraine. It will take several articles to explain.

When the Russian tsar abdicated in 1917 amid war with Germany, it left a huge chasm of governance in Russia. The victors in this overthrow of the tsar found themselves with a “ship of state” without a rudder. How to sail? A republic was considered. This form of government at first prevailed, but it fell apart due to the continuation of the war with Germany.

Lenin sailed into St. Petersburg with German assistance. He proposed a novel idea: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” (Karl Marx)

It’s the Robin Hood story. Lenin called it “Communism” and said the Communist party would administer the new Russia.

Wealth redistribution had enormous appeal to impoverished peasants, underpaid industrial workers and unpaid soldiers. Lenin’s proposal was like a life preserver in a stormy sea.

To preserve the sovereignty of this new nation, a secret service was created to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It was a copy of the tsarist secret police and eventually was called the KGB. Putin is KGB. The creation of the KGB pushed the Soviet Union toward a police state like the role of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

When Ukraine declared its independence in 1918, it created an SBU to defend its sovereignty. The SBU structure was similar to the KGB of the Soviet Union.

The functional disability of a one-party, communist system is it suppresses individual initiative and can lead to totalitarianism. You may disagree, but to me, it explains what occurred in Russia/Soviet Union/Ukraine/World War II, and where we are today in Eastern Europe. A very complex subject.

After Lenin died in 1924, there was a struggle for power. Joseph Stalin won out. The KGB became his tool for people-suppression. Stalin was brutal, a butcher who rivaled Hitler in killing people. By brutal methods, he won control of the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s message to the breadbasket of Europe was collectivization. Stalin ordered the “collective farm system” in Ukraine. During the period 1931 to 1933, he caused the greatest disaster in human history. It is estimated that 2.6 million to 10 million people starved to death in Ukraine. This is important to remember when we delve into the complex history of Eastern Europe.

For a long time, Ukrainians have desired independence for Ukraine. The famine drove nationalists to seek help from Western Europe. Thousands of Ukrainians collaborated with Nazi Germany to overthrow Stalin. Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Slavs thought Hitler would give them freedom. He offered only slavery or death.


William J. Fernandez is a retired judge and Kapa‘a resident.
Source: The Garden Island

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