This story is about the quest for academic freedom, and how Nazis always seem to get in the way of that.
The incident itself occurred on July 7, here is the pidgin English version of the story. Here is a more grammatical Russian version, along with an extensive interview of the scholar in question. The interview is very interesting, and I plan to translate it in full, hence my piece will be a multi-parter. So please bear with me.
The scholar in question is named Peter Tolochko. He is an Academician, Ukrainian historian, and the Director of the Institute of Archaeology. He was presenting his new book, entitled “Whence the Russian Land” («Откуда пошла Русская земля») when, all of a sudden, members of the Svoboda Party burst in and disrupted the event. Svoboda is a neo-Nazi political party fueled by admiration of Adolph Hitler and Stepan Bandera; along with virulent hatred of everything Russian. One of the things that really boiled Svoboda’s grits was that Tolochko was presenting his book in the building of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Society. The Svoboda thugs, led by Igor Miroshnichenko busted into the building, vandalized the building itself, and trashed Tolochko’s books. They verbally threatened to harm Professor Tolochko, as well as Mr. Konstantin Vorobyov, Director of the Friendship Society. Thankfully, both men were allowed to walk out quietly, without being physically damaged. This was a blessing, considering how violent these Ukrainian neo-Nazis can get at times.
In normal country: When street gang busts in to a book signing and vandalizes stock of books, then professor calls the cops. In Ukraine, it’s actually the other way around: Vandals call the cops and complain about Professor’s bad ideas, as encapsulated in his book. In other words, Miroshnichenko’s “activists” called the police and ratted out Tolochko, complaining that his book contained “signs of Ukrainophobia”. The pidgin English version quotes a police spokesperson promising that the security services intend to follow up on this complaint and study Tolochko’s book for signs of “Ukrainophobia”.
Ukrainophobia is a crime in today’s Ukraine. What is Ukrainophobia? It is the expression of ideas hateful or disdainful of Ukraine or Ukrainians. For example, implying that the Ukrainian language is just a dialect of Russian; or that ancient Ukrainians did not build the pyramids — that constitutes criminal Ukrainophobia. It used to be a big joke, but it’s not even funny any more. What is the punishment for Ukrainophobia? Fine or possibly even prison time. Hence, the gentle white-haired historian Tolochko is at actual risk for going to jail. Because he wrote this book, of which the Svoboda Party disapproves.
VZGLIAD Reporter Interviews Tolochko
Next I proceed to the translation of the Tolochko interview. The text is written by reporter Yury Zainashev, who I assume is also the interlocutor during the interview.
VZGLIAD: Petro Petrovich, since your presentation was disrupted, could you at least now give us an idea what your book is about, and how it differs from your previous books?
Professor Tolochko: I have written books about the government of Ancient Rus, but it is only recently that I approached the theme of the origins of the Russian state. In my latest book I delve into the ancient question first posed by the chronicler Nestor: “Whence the Russian land?” Over the past 200 years quite a lot of historiographical material has been accumulated on this theme, and there are various points of view. Two main points of view, if you please. The first: the (Russian) state, along with its name, was brought by the Varangians [Russian: varyag], i.e., the Normans. The second theory is the “native” one: That the state coalesced independently, even before the arrival of the Varangians.
Being an archaeologist by profession, I naturally turn towards the archaeological evidence. Excavations have revealed approximately 15 early towns of the 6th to 8th centuries, hence founded long before the arrival on our soil of Varangians, let alone Khazars. These ancient towns were quite well constructed centers, showing signs of early state-building.
Because of this, I incline to the opinion that (the Russian) state started developing right here, in place, as a result of the social-economic development of the local tribes themselves, of which, according to Nestor, there were twelve. Well-developed inter-tribal formations were developed — the Chronicles call them “princedoms”, which developed out of specific settled places, one of which was Kiev.
The Varangians, in essence, inserted themselves into a structure which already existed in Rus. They themselves became Princes; Mayors (“Posadniki” – Посадник); Colonels i.e., commanders of 1000 men (“Tysyatsky” – Тысяцкий). Back in their own homeland they had called themselves “yarly” and “konungi”. However, in Rus these Varangians did not call their setup a “yarl-dom”, but rather a “prince-dom”.
[yalensis: I don’t know from “yarly”, but I do know from my linguistic studies that the Viking word “konungas” is one and the same as the Russian word князь – “kn’az'” – “prince”. And that the Russian word is borrowed from the Viking word. Hence I am not sure that this particular example substantiates Professor Tolochko’s point.]
Professor Tolochko [continuing despite rude yalensis interruption]: And they (the Varangians) very quickly became Slavicized. Igor was raised in a Slavic milieu and married Olga from Pskov. Their son was the first prince who bore the completely Slavic name of Svyatoslav.
VZGLIAD: So, what is the core of your disagreements with the (Ukrainian) nationalists?
[to be continued]