Moscow, Not Kyiv, Behind Ethnocide of Ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

The Russian Duma has declared that Kyiv’s decision to make Ukrainian the language of instruction in Ukrainian schools is “’an act of ethnocide’ of the ethnic Russian people in Ukraine, thus denouncing in another what Moscow is itself doing in Russia and ignoring who is really responsible for the shift away from Russian ethnic identity in Ukraine.

In a commentary, Russian analyst Igor Yakovenko notes that “ethnocide is the policy of the intentional destruction of national identity and the self-consciousness of a people” that can be achieved either by genocide or by forced assimilation into another human community.

There is no genocide of ethnic Russians going on in Ukraine except in the fevered imaginations of some Russian commentators, Yakovenko says; but there is assimilation of ethnic Russians into the Ukrainian nation – but not as a result of Kyiv’s policies but rather because of the actions and statement of the Russian government.

In Soviet times, the share of ethnic Russians in the Ukrainian population rose from 9.23 percent in 1926 to 22.07 percent in 1989, the result of the mass murder of the Ukrainian peasantry by Stalin and the Moscow-organized in-migration of ethnic Russians and Moscow’s encouragement of Russian as opposed to Ukrainian identity.

The next Ukrainian census is scheduled for 2020 and it will show a precipitous decline in the share of ethnic Russians in the population, Yakovenko says. A recent survey found that only six percent of the citizens of Ukraine now say they are ethnic Russians. The figure in 2020 will likely be even lower.

Most ethnic Russians in Ukraine are characterized by “bi-ethnicity,” the Russian analyst says. That is, people who hold this identity view themselves as part of two peoples simultaneously – Russians and Ukrainians.  But now if they have to choose, almost all of these people will choose to identify as Ukrainians.

According to Yakovenko, “the…

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