Lecture on Ukrainian history

Starting out with Kievan Rus, there is a lot of stuff that Ukraine is not a real state, just a weird mix and it’s the only country that is like that. It is stated that they have “different problems” in politics, since the east and west are different (comment: as it is in many other countries as well, e.g. in Russia. However, it goes so well with Russia’s tactic of splitting the country in two, destabilizing it and giving it a picture that the people are fighting and need to be “liberated”). Ukraine is mainly blamed for the soviet collapse, or portrayed as an actor.

Ukraine performed worse than Poland and even Belarus (is the claim), economically.

They say that Russia and Ukraine worked well together until 2014, such a pity that it didn’t go along from there (sic. no sarcasm contained).

It’s “sad” that the Soviet Union fell apart, quote “We were one country. We fell apart and everyone was on their own.”

There is a very weird argument (which seems flawed…) saying that Ukraines economy improved the least after the fall (comment: so what?!). This is used to say that “Ukraine became an outsider” (although it’s economy is still a lot stronger than many other states, just in comparison to what it was in 1990, in the Soviet Union, it “grew the least”).

In 4, they say that Ukraine was actually building good ships and aircrafts during the Soviet Union and that is now gone (comment: this can be a classical bias, soviet things usually were not that good compared to western standard, many things were mere copies. However, in the closed system they may seemed good). One went to china (the shipbulider), the antonov still exists.

In 5, they say that it’s sad that Ukraine stopped trade with Russia in 2014 (remember: this was when Russia invaded Ukraine for the first time, took crimea and set foot in Donbass), arguing that others can do trade such as germany and France, although there are memories of war (which is wrong as it can be: during the war and briefly after, Germany and France weren’t trading either. They trade today, decades after the war. Not while one party was occupying the other.). They argue that this process started in 1992 (comment: with the dissolution of the soviet union, most probably they changed trading partners for better ones. It’s astonishing how the lecturer “whines” about the “good old times”).

In 6 it’s about Ukraines economy and that they started to sell oil. It is often mentioned that many countries are still “catching up” to the soviet numbers (comment: given that “numbers” in the soviet era were… not reliable, this is most probably just plain wrong. But it’s again an admiration of how good the Soviet Union was). Ukrainians are always addressed as “our brothers”.

The interesting part

Lecture 7 gets interesting: it’s about Ukraines national and political identity. This starts with funny claims like “It is not always explainable why every new government in Ukraine rewrites or corrects history, starting as early as Roman times.” and makes comparisons like “ I would like to remind that these nations [Serbia and Croatia] are as closely related [as Russia and Ukraine are]”. They say that Ukraine had rewritten history to prove that the Kievan Rus has transformed into only one state (Ukraine) instead of three (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus) (comment: even if, who cares except of some historians in papers?). Therefore, there is the “crazy idea around” that Russians are a mixture of Finns and Tatars and only Ukrainians are real slavs (comment: I have never heard that, but again, who actually cares?). Then they go on about Cossacks (which were “Ukraine”, or some part at some point) and stuff, arguing that they may have also been Russians and others.

Lecture 1

Hello, my name is Nickolai Mezhevich, I am a professor in the School of International Relations

of St Petersburg University at the Department of European Studies.

The topic we will be discussing is Ukraine, the republic of Ukraine.

The state, its geography, its history and the economy of Ukraine,

the complex economic, political and social processes that have been taking place in the Republic of Ukraine for at least the last 30 years.

They did not appear on their own. The science of history teaches us that everything that happens today

has its origins in what happened yesterday.

And what happened yesterday is connected to what happened still before.

It is clear that one could go so far as to say that the modern history of Europe

is defined by Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal people.

We will not go to extremes. But as far as Ukraine is concerned, it is difficult to reject the basic thesis

that the political decisions made in 1989-1991 have more or less determined the fate of the country.

In the Soviet Union, and in modern Russia, and not only in Russia, but also in Ukraine, Belarus and Europe,

East Europe at least, the film Prisoner of the Caucasus is still very popular.

And one of the main characters, a rogue Soviet trade clerk, rightly says

that the Caucasus is a forge, a breadbasket, and a health resort.

And it’s true. The Caucasus is still today a forge, a breadbasket, and a health resort.

But the image of Ukraine as a forge, breadbasket and health resort was picked up by politicians in Ukraine in 1989-1991.

And objectively, they had good reason for this formula. I would say so:

in Ukraine there were better reasons to say that it was a unique forge, a great breadbasket and a health resort, of course it is.

Ukraine is, of course, a special state. Although probably every European state can and wants to make the same claim about itself.

But Ukraine’s problems are inherited from one century to the next. It seemed that the Soviets,

for all its problems and difficulties, had solved this problem.

I just remember Soviet Ukraine very well because of my age. It was a very peaceful place where people lived very well and comfortably,

in terms of social comfort. All of us were not very rich, of course in Russia,

in Belarus and in the Caucasus. We were not very rich, but we were generally happy.

And this is what many people are still saying today. Did Ukraine trigger the disintegration of the Soviet Union? No.

Has Ukraine been very active in this process? Yes, very active.

Could the Soviet Union exist without Ukraine? It could, but psychologically it was very hard to accept it.

Having studied the post-Soviet space for many decades, I can say that psychologically we were ready to understand and accept

that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would leave us. But we were not ready to accept that our own brotherly Ukraine could go away, too.

Where every third person has relatives and everyone has friends. In Ukraine, this process of parting also raised big questions.

And the movement towards the results we see in 2022 was very long, not overnight.

The slogan of European France, once proposed by Kravchuk, the first president of Ukraine and at the time

still a prominent Communist Party official in Soviet Ukraine, was a perfectly logical one at the time.

Why not France? Let’s think about it. Is France somehow superior to Ukraine in terms of territory?

Well…the first European country is of course Russia. It is more than four times larger than France in its European part.

But the second European country is Ukraine. 575,000 square kilometres as of 1991.

This is bigger than France. And in terms of population Ukraine was also not much inferior to France.

We will talk more about the population later on. Let’s think what France is rich in.

France actually doesn’t have any really unique mineral deposits.

By the way, unlike Ukraine. True, there are some things in common. France has very little gas.

Ukraine has gas, but not enough for its own needs. France has no oil and Ukraine has no oil either.

But Ukraine has unique coking coal from Donetsk.

Ukraine has black earth. There are also kinds of black earth in France; it is no coincidence that France is the largest producer of grain.

But the Ukrainian chernozems are absolutely unique. Ukrainians themselves say: put a stick in the ground

and it will sprout an apple or a pear tree.

And it’s true. During the Great Patriotic War, the Germans exported Ukrainian chernozem to their Kongsberg, in East Prussia.

One day the guerrillas blew up a German train, opened the door of the car, and saw dirt spilling out.

The guerrillas had no idea what it was. They opened the next door and the same dirt spilled out too.

Among them there was a geography teacher who said: “The Germans must be taking Ukrainian chernozem to their Konigsberg swamps.”

And so it was. And all these riches: iron ore, coal, manganese worked for the benefit of the Ukarinian people.

As part of the Soviet people. Have there been any attempts to calculate who gives more to whom or who gets less from whom?

Yes, there were, and we’ll talk about that a little later. And of course land is great. Australia is a huge country.

Greenland is big, but there are few people. It’s somewhat hard to live in Greenland, it’s a bit cold.

Australia doesn’t have an issue with cold, but it has the opposite problem. There are simply no prerequisites for a large population.

And what about Ukraine?Ukraine was naturally the second most populous republic after Soviet Russia.

More than 50 million citizens. This made it a bigger state not only than the Czech Republic, or even Czechoslovakia, or the former Yugoslavia

which was rapidly disintegrating during the same years. It made Ukraine comparable to the leaders: Britain and France,

though certainly inferior to Germany. Let’s sum it all up. The year 1991 saw Ukraine at the height of its power.

Yes, it was not an independent republic, it was part of the Soviet Union.

But the representative of Ukraine had his rightful place even in the United Nations.

Ukraine was preparing to live without the Soviet Union. And the whole of Ukraine: the left and the right, men and women alike,

all were convinced that things would be better from now on. But the problem was that it did not get any better.

The fate of Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was different.

Some stepped forward, some kept the pace, some fell behind. And in Ukraine, disaster struck.

Lecture 2

No state emerges all at once. There has to be a historical set of facts, events and dates that go back centuries,

which determine how a state has suddenly emerged. But in fact, in terms of history, all things are predictable.

There are always some processes that lead us to the emergence of a state.

The modern territory of the Republic of Ukraine has always been situated between different power centres.

But before those centres of power appeared, one must remember that in a broad sense,

the territory of Ukraine is based around one great river, which in times immemorial was both a barrier

and a meeting-point of civilizations. And the Slavic tribes inhabited the banks of this river, objectively earlier than the Volga.

There are many Slavic tribes in the world. Some of the Slavic tribes merged into one nation a very, very long time ago.

In some places, such processes continue, as in the Balkans with the southern Slavs.

The Polish nation was formed from a number of ethnic groups. Even today, the traces of this unification are visible.

Of course, the Poles understand each other, but it is very easy for them to see or hear the accent from the south,

or vice versa, from the German border. Something similar happened on the territory of the ancient state,

our common state – Kievan Rus. Along with ancient, not present-day Norway, ancient Sweden,

the Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of the Franks, Kievan Rus was one of the most ancient states of the early Middle Ages.

After the Roman period, so to speak. Kievan Rus was a rich, prosperous state. But it had not yet formed into a unified nucleus.

In Kievan Rus, as I would like to argue with Ukrainian historians, there were no Ukrainians, and there were no Russians,

and no Belarusians, because there were neither Ukrainians, nor Russians, and there were no Belarusians yet.

The Slavic tribes lived in a vast expanse that spanned almost the entire course of the Dnieper, and ended in the Baltic.

Slavs and Polyans, Krivichs and Dregovichs, and many, many others were there. From them, indeed,

three peoples would later emerge: the Russians, the Belarusians and the Ukrainians.

But we shall talk about this ethnic subject later. Something else is important. The land was blessed, and there were not many people.

But the neighbours were constantly pushing on these territories. The most serious challenge to all Slavs, the eastern Slavs

was a phenomenon, which in the Russian, Soviet and pre-Soviet historiography was traditionally referred to as – Yoke.

Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev, who worked in this very building, constantly argued with this.

Let us not be distracted by the theory of ethnogenesis. It is important to note something else.

Kievan Rus was destroyed, plundered, crushed. What has survived of the Kievan Rus?

The North – cold, dusky, forested – Novgorod and Pskov. And the West?

Poland, then Poland-Lithuania came to the Western lands. And for many years, centuries,

for six centuries, those people who long ago could have formed a single ethnos, were divided.

Serious differences began to form between that civilization, which would then give birth

to the Vladimir, Suzdal, Tver and Moscow principalities, and that civilization, which ended up under Poland,

the Galician-Volyn principalities. Yes, they survived, or almost survived, the terrible Mongol raids,

but they did not retain their independence. For many centuries Kiev would become Polish. This point is not much liked

in modern Ukrainian historiography, but it is a fact. And what an amazing story – the Zaporozhian Cossacks really turned the tide.

Strong and brave Cossacks of Zaporozhye traded with everyone, fought with everyone, preserved orthodoxy.

But from time to time they fought the Muscovites, the Tatars, the Turks and the Gaidamachina meant raids on Poland.

There were three centres of power around the Cossacks – Moscow, Poland and Turkey with its vassal, the Crimean Khanate.

And there were always people who cooperated with one of these three power centres.

But in 1654 in Pereyaslavl the Cossacks decided to reunite with the Russian people. Although the question

of the nation existence was still open at that time. But anyway, Ukraine in the borders of 1654,

the small Ukraine, as we can see on the map, became part of not yet the Russian Empire, of course,

but the Moscow Tsardom. Moscow started to protect the Ukrainian lands.

The wild lands were becoming Slobozhanshchina. And where elusive Tatar troops used to run,

glorious deposits of iron ore and coal were to be discovered in the future.

Kiev and the Dnieper became the frontier. It was not until 1686 [and they used to call almost every peace treaty eternal

but it has never been eternal at all] that Kiev with its surroundings was recongnized as a domaine of Moscow.

At first temporarily and then Moscow diplomats paid such bribes in Warsaw, that it was accepted on a permanent basis.

Thus began the transformation of the small Zaporozhian state, the real independence of which is in question,

to put it mildly, into the modern Ukraine. Oh, it’s going to be a long road!

The Sloboda Ukraine, what is now Kharkiv, was a very interesting land. People fled there from Polish rule,

but let’s be honest from Moscow’s too. They believed in the Orthodox God, but believed even more in a sharp sword and a good horse.

And the land then and now, the land gave good fodder. A territory was being formed where people lived with a mixed identity,

but with an understanding of their Slavic and Orthodox kinship. Novorossia – for many centuries these were Turkish lands,

including the Crimea. Russia’s victorious wars in the 18th century, they were of course victorious,

but there were centuries before them, when columns of Slavic slaves stretched to the slave markets of Caffa, now Feodosia.

The victory allowed these lands to be incorporated into the Russian Empire. There was no Ukraine in the Russian Empire,

there were provinces, where the Ukrainian identity and Ukrainian language were quite applicable

and a special, one can call it Southern Russian, one can call it Ukrainian culture was formed.

They were very close to each other. Just as today you and I can not tell a difference between Kuban borsch and Berdyansk borsch.

A very different situation occurred on the Right bank. The right bank of the Dnieper became part of Russia

as a result of the partition of Poland. These lands were not populated by the Poles, but the mentality was different.

And it was immediately clear to Imperial Petersburg that people in the east and west of the Ukraine spoke almost the same language,

but often attended different Christian churches. And they saw themselves differently within the Russian Empire.

And of course we should also mention Galicia and Lviv, where back in 1914 advancing troops of the Russian Empire

found remains of the Orthodox churches that had existed there in the X-XII centuries.

Galicia has become different during these centuries. It became Polish. Lviv was populated by Poles and Jews.

There were no Russians and Ukrainians in Lviv. It was a different city.

It does not look like anything in modern Ukraine or in Russia, either. But it is very similar to Cracow.

This is how diversity grew, diversity within one Ukraine.

Lecture 3

Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union Nikolai Mezhevich

Doctor of Economics, Professor, Department of European Studies

In 1917 two revolutions tore across the expanse of the Russian Empire. We can call the first one bourgeois,

and the second one socialist; we can add the word “great” or not, but the Russian Empire came to an end.

The new Soviet government, which did not win immediately or simply, had two concepts for shaping the country

– on an administrative basis and on a national basis. Paradoxically, the winning concept was federal

rather than quasi unitary. The federal concept was advocated by Vladimir Lenin, the man the last

monuments to whom were recently knocked down in Ukraine. Unitarianism, where the future Ukraine should be part of Socialist Russia

as an autonomy, was advocated by Stalin. The most serious dispute between Lenin and Stalin concerned the future territorial

and political structure of the country. But this is not about Lenin. This is about Stalin and Khrushchev.

There is a well-grounded argument that Stalin and Khrushchev did a lot for Ukraine in terms of increasing its territory.

And it is true. Stalin incorporated into Ukraine the city of Chernivtsi, which throughout European history

was never part of Kievan Rus or the Russian Empire, but ended up in the Soviet Union and in Soviet Ukraine.

It was inhabited by Romanians, Jews, and once there was a German diaspora. Neither Russians nor Ukrainians

lived there in significant numbers. In Transcarpathia the Hungarian lands became part of Ukraine.

Hungarians did not approve this idea very much and still do not like it. But of course, as they say,

our Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev outdid everyone. Nikita Sergeyevich was certainly a patriot of Ukraine.

Although all his photos in vyshyvanka are staged. But it is not that important, because in honour of the anniversary

of Pereyaslavska Rada he transferred the Crimea to Ukraine. This did not meet with much understanding

either among the people or the elites, but in the Soviet Union it was not customary to argue with the first secretaries.

Nikita Sergeyevich was first secretary, not general secretary. So another decision was made,

and Ukraine became even bigger, more extensive and more problematic. Because in one state there turned out to be territories

absolutely different in terms of history of being part of the Soviet Union and then Ukraine.

Ethnically there was no such difference, except for the extreme east and the Crimea, but the difference was felt.

It was not going to show itself in the good, prosperous years. It was to appear in difficult, problematic years,

when the choice was inevitably: what kind of Ukraine would it be? Western? That is the western Ukraine will forcefully spread

its program and platform to the east – as far as Kharkov and Sevastopol. Or vice versa, a moderate,

calm tolerant southern, eastern and central Ukraine will be able to implement its model of the future of Ukraine.

And here it is very important to note that the ultimate victory, let us say, the ultimate victory of the Western Ukrainian

version of statehood was not a one-step victory. All presidents of Ukraine were on their way to it. More consistently,

as Yushchenko did, or not at all consistently, as a strictly eastern Ukrainian – Yanukovich.

And the concept of perception of history was constantly changing in Kiev. If to take and collect in a pile the textbooks of history

of Ukraine for last 30 years, the separate events of the Ukrainian history for these 30 years have 15 interpretations.

Nothing of the kind, for various reasons, has happened in Estonia or Georgia. And even in Russia,

which is famous for its diversity of approaches, including in historical science, there was no such diversity.

Because Russian disputes are disputes between the right and the left, between liberals and conservatives.

The Ukrainian dispute is between the West and the East. It’s a different dispute, it’s a different dimension of the dispute.

And if the liberals and conservatives in Moscow had been arguing for decades, sometimes watering each other down

or criticizing each other in scientific articles, they lived peacefully for 30 years, the 30 years of peace in Ukraine did not work out.

The territory is a dead and at the same time constantly living element of the state.

The territory of modern Ukraine is almost like Lenin – more alive than ever. Do you remember that old Soviet song and slogan?

It constantly brings back to life those discussions, which, it would seem, should have remained,

if not in the XIX century, then in the XX century. There is such a formula – the dead grab the living.

In our case, the past grabs the future. And only extraordinary efforts can stop, intercept the agenda in modern Ukraine

and solve one of the most complex historical and socio-cultural puzzles of modern Europe.

Lecture 4

Ukraine and the disintegration of the Soviet Union:

the dilemma of sovereignty and the choice of development

Nickolai Mezhevich, Doctor of Economics

Doctor of Economics, Professor, Department of European Studies

Around 1987 it became apparent that there were centrifugal trends in the development of the Soviet Union.

These processes were widely discussed among the party leadership,

were discussed at the 1988 Congress of People’s Deputies and it was clear that if something were not changed radically,

the Soviet Union would either collapse or be transformed into a confederation.

Of course, in those years, most thought was given to politics. Little thought was given to economics,

but there is a reason for that too. The Soviet economic school was mainly represented either by the practical planners

[from the State Planning Committee, in which building the State Duma now sits] or by the Marxist theoreticians,

who were furthering the teachings of Marx, although after Marx there was nothing left to further deepen.

And there were very few people who could answer the question: well, I mean bad,

what would happen if the Soviet Union collapsed, who would be where?

And far away in Siberia, in the city of Novosibirsk, there lived Alexander Grigorievich Granberg, who was young at the time

and already a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union.

He studied the inter-republican import-export balances. He was approached by Gorbachev’s entourage

and asked to make an import-export balance for raw materials, food, generally everything by union republics.

Alexander Grigorievich was not very surprised. But when they told him: please, do it all in world prices, he was surprised.

Because such an instruction indicated that someone was considering the scenario of the USSR disintegration.

The working group was set up, and a model was created. They used whatever computers were available.

They came up with a very interesting result: if the republics of the Soviet Union switched to world prices in trade,

only three republics would have a positive balance – Soviet Russia, Soviet Kazakhstan and Soviet Azerbaijan.

It is not hard to guess that all three republics were not only highly developed at the time (Soviet Ukraine was no worse),

but had massive oil and gas reserves. The world economy was booming, and even at the modest prices of 1988-1990

it was not Ukraine or Estonia that fed Russia – but rather Russia fed Ukraine and Estonia.

The next question is: did Kiev understand this? To answer this question, I will recall my conversation

with a senior comrade in 1990, at the end of the year at the Central Committee of the Estonian Communist Party.

We were discussing precisely the issue of exchange equivalence in world prices and generally quickly came to the conclusion

that Estonia would have to buy oil, gas, iron – practically all raw materials – at world prices and Estonia would have hard times.

My colleague stood up, uncharacteristically for Estonians, put his arm around me and said: But you don’t understand,

we want independence so much that we are ready to eat potato peels for a year or two. You have studied Estonia,

and you know that we’ve been doing it for a couple of centuries, and we’ll just have to be patient for a couple of years.

Was that a joke? No, it was not a joke. Estonia reached independence with the expectation that the years 1992-93

would be extremely difficult. After that, the economy would be restructured and Estonia would move forward.

But the cunning Estonian Communists played this game, they told their people: people, we are in for hard times.

The people said: ouch, they bought salt and sugar and started waiting for hard times. And what happened in Kiev?

It was a different story. All Ukrainian leaders – democrats, independents – all said the same thing:

on Monday we will leave the Soviet Union, on Tuesday we will catch up with France, on Wednesday – with Switzerland.

Any questions? No questions. So, 30 years later, and soon it will be like Pushkin’s “30 years and three years”,

astonished people are still waiting for the time when they catch up with France. And Switzerland, of course, too.

But nothing works. They cannot catch up not only with Poland (of course, Ukraine compares itself to Poland),

it is not possible to catch up even with Belarus, which, as you know, has no oil, gas, iron ore,

where mechanical engineering was by a quarter weaker than in Ukraine, and in general among the minerals

you can find only potassium salt and peat. And mushrooms grow well, because there are a lot of forests.

And this fact, why it worked even for the Belarusians, has been repeatedly heard in Kyiv for many years.

And much of the reason here is inherently inflated expectations. There is a myth – a Russian ate my lard.

And not only a Russian, well, hardly a Kazakh, he will not eat lard, but everybody ate our everything.

They will leave, we will catch up with Switzerland. It did not work out. Partly, because Grandberg,

now deceased and not a corresponding member, but an academician, rightly said that for the countries

with average level of economy development the world raw material prices can give additional stimulus to development.

But countries which, with an average level of economic development, have to buy these resources, will face chllenges.

That’s it, as an economist he did not talk about any politics or history. Only economics, but this is the result.

However, the first president of the Republic of Ukraine, Kravchuk, once allowed himself to openly say

that they had overestimated their capabilities. The next president, Leonid Kuchma, a former Soviet citizen

and a communist director of Yuzhmash, a unique rocket building company, said bluntly

that the mistake was to expect that we would sell our goods at world prices and get everything from Russia at Soviet prices.

But in Russia the economic sector was supervised by Yegor Timurovich Gaidar. Some people liked him, some did not.

But it is a fact that Yegor Timurovich Gaidar was a free marketeer. And of course he did not try to sell cheaper

what he could sell at a higher price. This created a fork between the price of products and the price of feedstock.

The problems could have been avoided if an absolutely phenomenal number of production links

between Ukrainian and Russian companies had been preserved. Almost all of these ties lasted until 2014,

but that is where they ended. It turns out that Russian ships do not have Russian engines. Some of them, of course.

And Ukrainian aircrafts do not have Russian engines. So it turns out that together we would be proportionately richer

than each of us individually. And even jointly, due to integration we would get additional effect.

The way Moscow and Minsk are getting this effect today. The way the Eurasian Economic Union works today. But Ukraine said:

why do we need your CIS? We know better. Well, as you please.

The long and agonising process of persuading Kiev has gone nowhere. One can hear about external factors,

conflicts with Russia. The conflicts came about, in general, quite recently, while the economic problems

have been going on year after year, decade after decade. Let’s look at an illustration.

Here we see gross domestic product at purchasing power parity (GDP PPP) per capita from 1990 to 2018,

a quiet year before the pandemic. What do we see? We see that ’95 was still a terribly difficult year for almost everyone.

We were one country. We fell apart and everyone was on their own. And then the situation started to change.

Estonia, by the way, caught up with itself from the 90’s only in the new millennium.

Ukraine achieved this result with great difficulty, approximately by 2007-2008.

Bottom line: what does 2018 look like – a peaceful, quiet year before COVID [in relation to] 1990 in terms of GDP?

Growth in Azerbaijan is 229%. Not bad, given that the base was also decent. In Armenia it was 321%,

but the starting base was smaller there. We will not enumerate all of them. Georgia has a very modest index – 122%,

yet another example of a “breadbasket, forge and health resort”, which failed. But let’s look at Russia – 265%.

That means the economy of Russia, very roughly, grew by 2,6 times. I wish it were bigger, but, as they say, so be it.

And against this background the growth of Ukrainian economy in the same period from 1990 to 2018, is only 37%:

the lowest in the post-Soviet space. It means that after the collapse of the USSR those republican races began.

And Ukraine was the last country in that race, even Tajikistan surpassed it. I am not talking now about other republics.

It is clear that in some cases you can say: we have no oil, we have no gas. But is Georgia like Kuwait – is it all gas and oil there?

But even Georgia yielded better economic results. And this is a serious question not only for economists, but for historians as well,

for all of us: why the former Soviet Union republics showed different results, different degree of economic success.

Why Ukraine became an outsider – the forge, breadbasket and health resort in that unfortunate year of 1991?

Lecture 5

Emergence and development of the economic potential of the Ukrainian SSR

Nikolai Mezhevich

Doctor of Economics, Professor, Department of European Studies

There is a very important question that has been debated for 30 years, and you could soon say after Pushkin “30 and 3 years”,

the question of why the Soviet Union developed the economies of the Union republics and what was the extent of this?

In fact, this question sounded strange before 1987. Roughly like: can you smoke a boot?

Asking the question is illogical. It developed Soviet Estonia, Soviet Russia, Soviet Kazakhstan and certainly Soviet Ukraine.

But then certain nuances begin to appear. Why, for example, despite the 70 years of Soviet power,

the Urals and Siberia, let us say, did not receive such a strong development stimulus as Ukraine did?

For economists there are no questions here. There are only answers, everything is clear.

The previous history of economic development proved that it was more profitable to build factories and plants,

public canteens and pig farms in Ukraine, because self-accounting and understanding of costs existed in the Soviet Union.

[Than, for example, in the Urals or Siberia]. The costs of building a facility in any industry were objectively lower in Ukraine.

Not because the people there are good or, conversely, bad, but because of a whole series of circumstances.

For example, the geographic ones. Imagine, we are building an aircraft carrier in Severomorsk.

That means that for 12 months out of a possible 12, we have to heat all the shops.

There are enormous costs associated with coping with a harsh climate. And it is different when we build an aircraft carrier in Nikolaev.

We actually save, I think 6-8% of all costs of construction of any class ship, due to the geographical location.

And then, we can build an aircraft carrier, or something else, and it can serve the Northern Fleet or the Pacific Fleet. An ideal option.

But what does the Soviet Union have to do with it? After all the Nikolayev shipyard was founded long before the birth of the SU,

like many other industrial enterprises in Ukraine. Let’s travel not to the Soviet Union for a moment, but to the Russian Empire.

What were the biggest industrial centres of the Russian Empire 110-120 years ago? It’s not hard to guess,

the biggest industrial area was St Petersburg and the province around it, with Moscow coming in a bit behind.

And, most interestingly, the third place was the region of modern Donbass. Kharkov and Odessa ranked 5th or 6th or 7th.

That is, even before any Soviet power there was powerful industry on the territory of Ukraine, which was not yet Ukraine.

It would be quite logical to assume that this potential would be preserved. But it was not preserved. And we will talk why.

Again, the preconditions for super-successful economic development were there and the expectations of millions of Ukrainians,

Russians, Jews and Poles were absolutely justified. In itself the desire to live like in Switzerland

is in no way condemnable, rather the opposite. The question is: why didn’t it work?

From an economic point, there is no answer. Economists don’t really know or like history, and they don’t respect politics either.

What matters to them is the other thing, what economic and socio-economic resources were taken as inputs,

and what exist today. And then, of course, it starts… you can choose between a problem or a disaster.

I have already mentioned shipbuilding. Up to 250 ships were built in Ukraine every year. It is clear that the figure of 250

means everything from a port boat to an aircraft carrier (there are fewer aircraft carriers, but there are more boats).

It is not only the Nikolayev shipyard, it is Odessa and, naturally, Sevastopol, and Kerch, and some facilities in Feodosiya.

Where has it all gone? Why did shipbuilding come to an end in ’92, like a curtain put down in a theatre?

Maybe something went wrong with the shipbuilding? Maybe there wasn’t a market? No, there was a market.

The company that produced aircraft carriers, one of which is now serving in China, had a very good reputation. Today it no longer exists;

it went through bankruptcy and liquidation proceedings last year, I think – the Nikolaev Shipyard.

They might say that maybe there was some terrible mistake in shipbuilding? It happens. It happens in our country too.

Aircraft construction. The prerequisites for aircraft building were also brilliant and the Soviet Union put them into use.

They built such aircraft as Mriya (means “dream”). An absolutely unique thing – the biggest aeroplane in the world.

Just recently it perished, and it was not mass-produced. Antonov Design Bureau, but it worked in close cooperation

with other enterprises of the Soviet Union. Who would have thought, under Brezhnev or under Khrushchev,

that frigates would be built in one place, in one country, and the engines would be produced in another.

This may raise the question, how are the French doing this with the Germans? And they may have some historical memory

of Franco-German wars, but they are doing business together. And good business. Take Airbus.

It did not work out with Ukraine. There was a mass dissolution of cooperation ties on Ukrainian initiative. By the way

this process started not in 2008, 2013 or 2014, but in 1992. 30 years ago. So, if we look at the aircraft building industry in Ukraine today,

we find that only a dozen aircraft were rolled out during the entire period of Ukraine’s independence.

At the time when 100s of aircraft were being built every year. In essence, the country has shifted from line to manual assembly.

And here is a very important point. I understand that our viewers, our listeners might ask: was everything OK in Russia

with the shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing sectors? The answer is: it was bad, and even very bad.

We have practically lost competence in widebody aircraft. Just like in Ukraine, we had a huge number of people who said,

why do we need to produce planes? Switzerland does not manufacture any

and lives well. We would sell oil and gas, we used to say in Russia. Our Ukrainian friends and brothers were saying:

we too can sell our industrial and agricultural produce and buy a plane. No problem. It turns out that there are problems.

Because when you sell vegetable oil it’s very hard to sell it in such quantities to buy an aircraft. And they gave up their own.

Which sectors of Ukraine have survived? It is a very interesting question. Let’s admit that there are such industries.

Lecture 6

Features of the economy of modern Ukraine in the light of the economic experience of the former Soviet republics

Nickolai Mezhevich

Doctor of Economics

Professor, Department of European Studies

Ferrous metallurgy and ferroalloy production have always, since the time of Alexander III, been the branches of specialisation

of the territory which (I underline this point) became Ukraine under Soviet rule.

And there were, of course, certain natural resources prerequisites for that. The year 1991 came and these industries

fell into the hands of so-called Ukrainian oligarchs. I will give an opinion, which, in turn, was told to me by my friends

from Dnepropetrovsk (now Dnipro). They said: an oligarch is surely focused on making profits (both Ukrainian and Russian),

but he is also interested in keeping the industry afloat. As a result ferrous metallurgy and production of ferroalloys in Ukraine

has been preserved. But what is important is that ferrous metallurgy exists in Sweden too.

There, by the way, they also have excellent iron ore – maybe even better than Kryvyi Rih’s. But the Swedes have understood:

it is possible and profitable to trade in ore, but it is better to trade in rolled products. Trade in rolled products is also good and profitable,

but it is better to trade in finished products. Trade in finished products is great, but it is better to trade in those products,

for which buyers would queue and which would be known for high precision and, therefore, added value.

The Swedes make billions of crowns on bearings alone. On bearings alone. The Ukrainian variant proved to be more modest.

First stage products, i.e. not ore, but rolled metal were exported. This allowed many well known people to earn billions

– not even crowns, but dollars. But in the end it did not contribute to the wealth of the Ukrainian state.

And thus metallurgy and the energy sector, which shrank by two and a half times in kilowatt-hour production,

(together with nuclear energy). This complex has worked and is working quite well. Let’s not speak about the fact

that all factories were built in the Soviet Union, and all nuclear power plants were built in the Soviet Union.

What else keeps the economy of Ukraine going today? Crop production. I always say that compared to Ukrainian chernozems

even southern French soils are inferior. Black earth is wealth. And indeed, in crop production we see a positive shift:

2 times more grain than in 1991, 4 times more vegetable oil. But if we look at the structure of Ukrainian export,

it turns out that machine tools, buses, cars, rockets, sophisticated ships were substituted with grain and oil.

Oil and grain, beetroot and deforestation of the Carpathian Mountains. It is not only GDP as a quantitative indicator that matters to us.

Everything is clear with the GDP as a quantitative index: it does not mean anything in any country.

Of course, in Russia it means nothing and in Ukraine it means nothing either. What matters is final consumption. And here we must say

that some post-Soviet countries are still catching up with themselves. Ukraine is a leader in this sad row.

You can judge or discuss the nature of economic growth, for example, in Estonia, you can say that Estonia

has also undergone deindustrialization (and it is true), but in Estonia, there has been a substitution of one for the other:

some quite high-tech industries have been replaced by others, still quite high-tech industries. For example,

For example, prefabricated laminated timber houses are made in Estonia from the same timber or roughly the same timber

that Ukraine sells as logs. You will say: “These are not semiconductors, not computer components”.

Well, no, but it is very profitable. It is an environmentally friendly product, wood is a renewable resource, if you approach it wisely,

Estonians are proud of that, and that, unlike the marches of the Estonian SS, the 20th Veterans Division, is something to be proud of.

Ukraine could have followed this path as well, with no, round timber, round timber, logs are being exported!

The next very important point is that deindustrialisation at some point, in the 1990s, of course, fascinated everybody in Europe

(almost everybody). There were only two countries which said about deindustrialization: “You know, it doesn’t work for us”.

It was Germany and Sweden. In those countries this idea of moving everything that can and can’t be moved to China

was also implemented with more caution. Yes, even Volvo, the famous Swedish car, is a Chinese car today.

It is a Swedish brand owned by the Chinese. But there is a lot of industry, a lot of facilities of its own.

When France was losing industry, when Britain was losing industry, when Italy was losing industry,

Sweden and Germany tried to keep it. But even in this case Ukraine was not looking at those who were keeping their industries,

their industrial wealth, but at those who were getting rid of it. I understand that one did not want to look at the example of Poland

because of complicated Ukrainian-Polish relations. But why couldn’t one look at the example of Germany?

I cannot say for sure. It is clear that again there can be an objection “but how come? You had the same thing in Russia”.

Yes, we had. For 12-13 years, but at some point (strictly speaking, under Primakov) we realized that this was a dead-end road.

Well, as usual, first we realized, then we started doing something, then the results appeared, and today they are there, of course.

Our Ukrainian brothers didn’t notice Barack Obama’s new industrial policy, and Barack Obama is the American president,

the predecessor of Trump and Biden respectively, as you remember. He was, after all, the first to say that “it would be good to bring

our industry back from Asia”. It was not understood by American business, moreover it was not understood in Ukraine. If Soviet Ukraine

had 33% of industry in national GDP, today it is about 12%. You will say: “All right, the industry is gone. We can borrow and reborrow

here and there, sell something agricultural, open a land market, sell land directly”. But that is a loss of competence.

When Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko decided to build a nuclear power plant, he first asked the President of Russia

for the opportunity to teach students. Belarusian students (some already aged) were retrained at Russian universities

in nuclear power engineering. That is when the Republic of Belarus acquired specialists with relevant technology competences,

the construction actually started. Ukraine was losing competences and was not replacing them. The result was a paradoxical thing.

The Republic of Belarus, which at some stage was more agrarian (and the Soviet Belarus was more agrarian than the Soviet Ukraine),

today has become a more industrial power than Ukraine. And here we cannot avoid comparisons with other republics,

because everybody understood perfectly well that Moldova, the Soviet Moldavia which became Moldova, would have a lot of tomatoes,

good tobacco, wine, and cognac, but no industry. We generally understood this, and even our Moldovans understood it too, but

for some reason they were sure that their cognac would squeeze the French one out of the market. But Moldova had no industry to lose.

The situation in the economy of Moldova today is as it should be, from the point of view of the economic theory.

Ukraine is different. The economic theory says that it should be a rich and prosperous country. The economic practice says that it isn’t.

And here no matter how you spin it, no matter how you move on the economic scale, you can’t find an answer to what happened

in the terms of economic science. Yes, the economy is “neither dead nor alive “, but why? Who and how has brought it to this state?

Lecture 7

Shaping Ukraine’s National and International Identity

Nickolai Mezhevich, Doctor of Economics

Professor, Department of European Studies

Questions of history are, of course, of particular importance for understanding what is happening in Ukraine. The desire to reorder

(or if you like, tweak and rewrite one’s own history) is typical of the political class, of the political elites in all countries of the world.

There is no country which treats its history neutrally. In principle, it is understandable: if you treat your history neutrally,

then it is most likely not your history after all. Its glorification, its correction is logical, but not always understandable.

It is not always explainable why every new government in Ukraine rewrites or corrects history, starting as early as Roman times.

The explanation is that Ukraine has a complicated geographical location and an even more complicated name. The term “Ukraine” itself

has a rather clear origin and is present in all Slavic nations. The term is related to the word “okraina”, “kraina” or simply “the edge”.

The borders of an ethnos with other ethnoses have always been called krainy by the Slavs. Hence, for example, the name “Serbian Krajina”,

i.e. the Serbian borderland on the border with the Croats. I would like to remind that these nations are as closely related

as Russians and Ukrainians, only the latter also profess the same religion, sometimes in different political interpretations.

So, krajna is nothing offensive, but it is an indication of the borderland location. And this thing has been very frightening for 30 years,

not so much for Ukrainian historians as for Ukrainian politicians, because being an edge means being a periphery of something big.

Well, in the Soviet Union it was not much discussed, and there were no special opportunities, but now we can. And there was a task,

which was solved in Ukraine and for which the history was being rewritten, one of the tasks was to prove, that the Kievan Rus’

has transformed not into three states (Ukraine, Russia and Belarus), but into one – the Ukraine.

The Belarusians and Russians have nothing to do with it. Hence the crazy ideas that the Russians are a mix of the Tatars and the Finns,

and that we Ukrainians are real Slavs. Think of the classic Cossack costume (trousers, chub, chubuk, Turkish sabre – in fact,

everything else is Turkish). Is it a classical Slavic clothing? The answer is rather obvious: no. And being between Russia

(no matter what it was called: Novgorod, Moscow or what it is now), Poland (again, no matter what it was called) and the Crimean State,

behind which there was huge Turkey, Ukraine was constantly in search of a vector, in search of an orientation vector. Where should we go?

Who should we go with? Part of the Ukrainian elite became polonized ( which is still a fact), part served the Moscow princes

(remember that our city has the palace of Kushelev-Besborodko and many others, like Kochubei’s in Pushkin?), part went to Turkey.

But there was a reverse process too, and we will talk about it. What was this reverse process? This is when a Pole, a Polish nobleman,

deprived of his rights for robbery, murder or unfair gambling (this also happened), realised he could not stay in Poland, and fled to Ukraine.

A Tatar in Crimea or even Istanbul realized that a stake or a scaffold was waiting for him at home, fled to the Zaporozhians,

the future Ukrainians, so that in the new risky life, if not to regain his rights, then to earn money by robbery or in some other way.

Take Muscovy: serfs fled from serfdom, and nobles, the elite, also fled having quarreled with the great prince of Moscow,

and went to the Cossacks. And a Polish Jew understood that it was hard to make it in Poland (because of competition),

and here, on the great Dnieper waterways, it was possible, if not at once, to make a fortune and provide for his family.

Let us look at the surnames of Cossack elders. There are still many interesting surnames, many of which still survive today.

“Moskal” is one of the politicians of the modern (or almost modern) Ukraine. Doesn’t the surname say anything, remind you of anything?

It suggests that the ancestors of this Moskal were “moskals”, who for one reason or another fled from Muscovy to the Dnieper.

And Kochubey? Well, on the one hand, he is a Ukrainian, but on the other hand, excuse me, the surname “Kochubey” is purely Turkish.

And the Kochubey family (a noble family later on) is a Turkish-Ukrainian-Moscow family, so it turns out. Such surnames

as “Markovich” or “Perekrest” are those of Jews who were baptized into Orthodoxy and lived in Zaporozhye, on the Dnieper.

In fact, their surname says it all. “Perekrest” neans “baptized twice”. There were a lot of Poles, Hungarians and Romanians; Bulgarians

and Serbs came, too, and it was normal, because the Cossack army had no ethnicity – there was a common faith, and, I would say,

the mentality of dashing people, ready to fall upon the west and the east, and the south and the north

– and also ready to get their due from the north and the south, from the west and the east.

Naturally, the Belarusians and Lithuanians from the North also came to the Cossack free lands. And this Cossack mentality

is really very important for understanding of what is happening in Ukraine now. At the same time, the Cossack, essentially democratic

organization of power and administration was very progressive for its time. The situation is different today,

and much more difficult. Nowadays a different concept is being worked out where ideology must be the basis of the state.

And in Ukraine after a not very long search such ideology has been found and we will talk about it.