One hundred years ago, on 7 November 1917, the Bolsheviks organized a coup against the Kerensky government in Russia. A brief renaissance of Russian society was snuffed out by the Red Terror. This event marked the beginning of the end of a brief period of independence for Ukraine, which would suffer invasion and occupation by Russia for the next 74 years. It also marked the beginning of the most brutal, most violent, and most extensive regime of destruction and mass murder in human history.
Ukraine regained formal independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. It began to get effective independence with the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014. A consequence of the democratic and cultural renaissance of Ukraine that is underway is an honest appraisal of history, especially the past of the Bolshevik invasion of 1918-1920, the Holodomor of 1932-1933, and the Soviet invasion of western Ukraine of 1939 and reinvasion of all of Ukraine in 1944. Most prominently for Ukrainians today is confronting the the horrors of the invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas by Russia, which began in 2014 and which is still underway.
On 9 April 2015, President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, signed into law legislation called “On the condemnation of the communist and national socialist (Nazi) regimes, and prohibition of propaganda of their symbols.” Ukraine has a decommunization law and a denazification law, just like Germany got a denazification law after the Second World War. There are no Lenin Streets in Ukraine, just like there are no Hitler Squares in Germany. On the centenary of the October Revolution in Russia, some Ukrainian Communists gathered to demonstrate. This is legal. Some had red flags. This is legal. Some had red flags with the hammer and sickle of the Communist totalitarian regime. This is illegal. Two people were arrested in Zaporizhia for displaying prohibited propaganda symbols, and face administrative sanction if found guilty of an offence. They were arrested just as someone would be if they displayed a swastika in Berlin.
In the parts of Ukraine that have been invaded and which are illegally occupied by Russia it is a different story. There are still Lenin statues in Crimea and in the parts of Donbas the Muscovy invaders dominate. The Putin regime is even putting up new memorials glorifying Communist terror, such as a statue of Stalin in Russia-occupied Luhansk. For the centenary of the October Revolution in Russia, the invader/occupiers forced the captive Ukrainian population of Crimea to hold portraits of Lenin and Stalin, and to wave the hammer and sickle flag that in free Ukraine is prohibited from being displayed for the purposes of glorification.
Ukraine is united in rejecting foreign occupation by Muscovy, and resisting the totalitarian terror that comes with it. The only reason symbols of the despised past appear in Crimea and Donbas is the exercise of coercive force by the Russian invader/occupiers. Decommunization is a natural expression of the feelings of the Ukrainian people, which come from hard experience. Every family was affected by the state terrorism of the Soviet Union. Glorification of Soviet atrocities is an unnatural imposition by foreign invaders in temporarily occupied Ukraine. The contrast between natural decommunization in free Ukraine and unnatural glorification of an artificially reconstructed past in occupied Ukraine could not be more stark. Never before in modern history have Ukrainian and Russian societies been more distinct. Ukraine is on a steady European, democratic, inclusive and peaceful path. Russia is on a disastrous “Eurasian,” fascist, revanchist, and warlike path.
In light of the centenary of the dawn of Bolshevik totalitarianism, Ukraine solemnly commemorates the event by remembering, for example, the mass murders by Russia’s NKVD committed during the Holodomor and during the Great Terror and during the Second World War and during the war against the OUN/UPA. The Putin regime forces its own enslaved Russians and the captive peoples of illegally occupied territories to celebrate the nightmare as if the mass murderers were heroes. Ukraine is on the path of truth and reconciliation. Russia is on the path of lies and expanded war.