Continuing with my translation of the VZGLIAD interview with Ukrainian archaeologist/historian Peter Tolochko. Recall that Tolochko’s book-signing had been disrupted by Ukrainian nationalists belonging to the neo-Nazi Svoboda political party. The hooligans burst into the building, destroyed a bunch of copies of Tolochko’s book, threatened him and the director of the Russian Cultural Center where the book-signing was taking place; and then, to cap off their gall, went to the police to file a complaint against the Professor. On the grounds that he is allegedly a “Ukrainophobe”. Which, if he were, is considered a criminal act in today’s totalitarian Ukraine.
Where we left off, the interviewer had just asked Tolochko, what was their beef against him?
VZGLIAD: So, what is the core of your disagreements with the (Ukrainian) nationalists?
Professor Tolochko: None whatsoever! The nationalists do not engage in the same type of research as I do. When they swept aside the security [for the event] and burst into the Russian Cultural Center in Podol [historical neighborhood of Kiev], I turned to them and asked: “Shall I tell you, what is in this book?” And they replied: “You don’t need to tell us.” “Why? Have you read it already?” And they: “No, we didn’t read it, but we don’t need to, we know that it’s a pack of lies!” When people like that arrive at such an event, they are not coming in order to air disagreements, they are simply out to disrupt the event. Which they did.
I am forced to say, that such an occurrence is not a novelty for Ukraine. After all, these (same) people have disrupted the performances of artists as well as the sessions of judges who are trying to deal with “reluctant Atoshniki“. [yalensis: ATO = “Anti-Terrorist Operation. Atoshnik = a soldier fighting against “terrorists” in the Donbass region.] This has become such a normal part of today’s life, our very own “atamanshchina“. [yalensis: Ataman = a Cossack leader or warlord. Atamanshchina = living in a state of anarchy or ruled by warlords.] I simply don’t understand why our government, our President pay no attention to any of this. Well, perhaps, because to a certain degree they came to power precisely because of these people. [yalensis: ding ding ding! give the man a prize….] But regardless of that, it is still necessary to restore order, to make our country more Europeanized.
VZGLIAD: Judging by the communications, the nationalists have made specific allegations against you.
Professor Tolochko: In so far as I could grasp anything from their emitted shrieks, they associated the “Russian land” with (modern) Rossiya, and not with Ukraine. You, they say, do not admit that Ukraine existed, that there was a Ukraine! I attempted to explain to them that Rus’ (Russian Русь) was our common homeland, that during that time there was no such thing as Rossiya, nor Ukraina, nor Belorussia. But they just didn’t get it. They believe that Ukrainians, as a biological species, have been around forever. And if Tolochko doesn’t believe this too, well, then he is unpatriotic.
VZGLIAD: The group of pogromshchiki [yalensis: Pogrom = Russian word denoting an officially sanctioned attack against a certain group of people. Pogromshchiki = people who carry out pogroms.] were led by a Deputy of the Municipal Council, a member of the Political Council of the Svoboda Political Party. Igor Miroshnichenko. Judging by the photographs, he had some words with you. What did you two speak about?
Professor Tolochko: I only knew this individual second-hand. I had seen him on TV when he and People’s Artist [Bohdan] Beniuk had ganged up to beat up the Director of the National Channel of Ukraine. This created a negative impression of him in my mind. But at the time I couldn’t even imagine something similar happening to me. This man with a woman’s hair-do has decided, for some reason, that he is to be the judge over all others. Over the director of a TV channel; and over an academic historian — and I don’t even know what education he himself has, did he even finish school? The only thing he kept repeating, like a mantra: “You’re not a Ukrainian! You’re a khokhol!” * He kept screaming that at me. In other words, he is a Ukrainian, and he has the right to judge. Whereas I, the one sitting in judgement, am just a khokhol. That’s the only thing that he kept screaming. Well, and apart from that waving his hand and trying to get the audience to chant “Ganba! Ganba!” [Ukrainian word for “shame!”]
Physically, nothing happened to me, nobody touched me. But psychologically – this was brutal, and I felt ashamed for them. I even tried to reason with them: “Lads, let’s sit down and talk.” Nothing. Like talking to a brick wall. Well, you know, they came to carry out a specific assignment. Somebody paid them to do this. Forty people, they arrived on a bus, it’s pretty clear that this action was organized. Well, what can you do? This is the reality that we live in nowadays.
*yalensis footnote: Khokhol (Russian хохол) is a humorously derogatory word for a Ukrainian, based on the word for that topknot/foreknot of hair, as was worn by certain tribes and Cossacks. Nobody seems to be able to trace the etymology of the word further back than Common Slavic, but it is most likely a borrowing from some completely different language, with whom the Slavic tribes came in contact.
VZGLIAD: And yet you also have opponents who don’t break glass but do polemicize with you on a scientific level. For example, the historian Stanislav Kulchitsky, who remarked in an interview to our newspaper: “They stole our name. It is we who are the Russians.”
Professor Tolochko: That’s also a common view among many nationalists. But it is incorrect, because the term Rus’ belongs (to all 3 nationalities): In the post-Mongolian period three nationalities began to form: Great Russian, Little Russian, White Russian. Since the Russian state had already been formed (by then), it continued to develop using that same name. True, the name morphed into the Greek variant: “Rossiya”. Which is what the Greeks called us. Belorussia (=White Russia) had not yet been constructed, but the Belorussians managed to keep the same word as well. And for a long time we (=Ukrainians) were called “Rusichi”, even as late as the era of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Later, our intelligentsia, attempting to define themselves as something apart from Russia, began more and more to use the term “Ukraine”. The fact that we are now “Ukraine”, we owe, in essence, to such revolutionary democrats as Taras Grigorievich Shevchenko, Dragoman, and, to a lesser extent, Kostomarov and others. [yalensis: I don’t know who are Dragoman and Kostomarov.] This romanticized understanding of this territory as “Ukraine” is ours, and ours alone. Nobody stole the term “Russian” from us. We ourselves rejected it.
[to be continued]