I just learned that Volodomyr Vyatrovych, a historian who was serving as director of the archives for Ukraine’s SBU, was fired from that post. The SBU is the successor to the KGB, and Vyatrovych made great progress in opening the archives from the Soviet era, archives that document the innumerable crimes of the Soviet Union against the Ukrainian people. Vyatrovych is a casualty of the recent presidential election, which saw Viktor Yanykovych become president. Yanukovych is often characterized in the Western press as “pro-Russian” or “pro-Kremlin.” I often think the “West versus Russian” frame for discussions about Ukraine is too simple, but the dismissal of Vyatrovych reeks of Russian and Kremlin appeasement. Vyatrovych was certainly unpopular with Russia, because he disclosed information about the Holodomor, the 1932-33 genocidal famine of Soviet Ukraine, and because his view of the WWII-era Ukrainian nationalist resistance didn’t coincide with the Soviet/Russian propaganda.
Vyatrovych’s dismissal is an outrage; the appointment of the new SBU head is cause for shame. President Yanukovych appopinted Valery Khoroshkovsky to the post. Khoroshkovsky is a billionaire of questionable reputation with zero apparent qualifications for the position. For a much more informed take on the appointment than I can provide, read Steve Bandera’s post here.
I am angry about this news for a couple of reasons. First, and perhaps self-interestedly, I am conducting research into Ukraine’s nationalist resistance during WWII, and it’s likely that I won’t have access to archives that are essential to understanding this history. More importantly, I am angry on Vyatrovych’s behalf. I met him a few times, both here in the U.S. and in Ukraine. Though we were separated by a language barrier, we were united by a love of history and a desire to see truth emerge from the shadow of totalitarianism. I interviewed him for several hours in Lviv in 2007, and his passion for his work was inspiring. I realize this sounds like a eulogy of Vyatrovych, which is wrong. He’s too determined and intelligent to let this incident impede him.
I will move forward with my research, too, and I will do so inspired by Vyatrovych’s example and his words: “No one, regardless of titles or rank, has the right to decide which truths, or how many, should be made public.”
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