August 16, 2000
The Hon. Mr. Max van der Stoel
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
P.O. Box 20062, 2500 EB
The Hague, The Netherlands
Fax: 31 (70) 363 5910

Honourable Sir,

The Commission on Human and Civil Rights was formed by the Ukrainian World Congress, the coordinating body for Ukrainian organizations outside Ukraine, for the purpose of monitoring the human and civil rights of Ukrainians outside Ukraine. In connection with your planned visit to Russia, we wish to submit to you an outline of the situation of the Ukrainian national minority in the Russian Federation.

This memorandum is also an expression of our deep concern about the difficult situation of the Ukrainian minority in Russia, particularly with respect to the retention and development of its identity, language and culture. The attitude of the Russian authorities towards the Ukrainian minority can be characterized, in one sentence, as benign neglect, at the best, and outright hostility, at worst. Certainly there is little in the policy and actions of the Russian Government that can be viewed as supportive of the Ukrainian minority in Russia. The reasons for this lamentable situation stem from the historic relationship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, and is a legacy of the policy of previous Russian and Soviet State authorities.

According to the 1989 census, there were some 4,400,000 Ukrainians living in present-day Russia, which constitutes about 3% of the total population. They are the second largest national minority in Russia, after the Tatars. Ukrainians are distributed throughout the Russian Federation, and generally comprise a small fraction of the population (the largest being 25% in the Altai Region in Asia). Part of Russia, particularly the Briansk, Kursk, Voronezh, Rostov and Krasnodar regions contain indigenous Ukrainian populations. In most other areas of the Russian Federation Ukrainians are migrants or their descendants, who settled there during the 18-20 centuries (when most of Ukraine was a part of the Russian Empire, and later, the Soviet Union), as well as people deported to Siberia and other parts of Asian Russia, particularly during the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin.

There were periods when the central authorities implemented an outright genocidal policy towards Ukrainians (and other minorities). For example, during the first half of the 1930s the indigenous Ukrainian population in the Krasnodar region of the Russian Federation decreased by a factor of about ten, largely as the result of the forced famine of 1932-33, when some three million Ukrainians perished in that region alone. This horrible travesty coincided with the closing of all Ukrainian schools, the related pedagogical institutes, periodical publications, and cultural and religious institutions in the Krasnodar region by the Russian authorities, as well as with mass deportations of local Ukrainians to Soviet Concentration Camps (the GULAG).

As a consequence, during the period from the 1930s to 1980s there was not a single Ukrainian organization, school, theatre, library or Ukrainian-language newspaper anywhere in the Russian Federation. This situation began to change only during the period of perestroika. During the late period of the Gorbachev regime (1989-91) over 20 Ukrainian cultural organizations were registered with the Government in various regions of Russia. Presently that number is over forty. These organizations support music and dance groups, Sunday schools, and publish limited-circulation, quasiperiodic regional newspapers. In 1993, the various regional Ukrainian organizations formed the Association of Ukrainians in Russia to coordinate their activities. Mr. Oleksander Rudenko-Desniak heads the Association. This Association has, to date, taken a rather passive role with respect to the civil rights of Ukrainians in Russia, and has made few demands of the Russian Government pertaining to the cultural development of the Ukrainian minority in Russia. The Russian Government has, in turn, almost completely ignored the requirements of the Ukrainian minority, and has ignored those requests for assistance that have been made.

The current status of the Ukrainian minority and its culture in the Russian Federation may be summarized as follows:

1. Secondary school instruction.
To our knowledge, there is some Ukrainian language instruction in thirteen schools throughout the Russian federation. The total number of students involved is less than a thousand. In addition, about 16 community-organized Sunday schools are in operation in various regions.

2. Ukrainian studies at the post-secondary level.
Ukrainian language and literature courses are taught in seven Universities (Ufa, Volgograd, Voronezh, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tiumen and Tomsk). These are attended by two to three hundred students in total.

3. Ukrainian-language press and periodicals.
In 1999 there were about 15 regional, quasi-periodic (1 to 6 months), low circulation (200 to 1,000 press-run) Ukrainian-language newspapers published in Russia. These publications receive no financial support from the Russian Government. Though it is theoretically possible for Ukrainians in Russia to subscribe to periodical publications from Ukraine or other foreign countries, in practice this is an impossibility, since the annual subscription and delivery prices are equivalent to an average monthly wage. There is practically no publication of Ukrainian-language books in Russia.

4. Other forms of mass-media.
There is not a single Ukrainian-language television programme in Russia, either at the regional or national level. In some regions (for example, Tyumen) there exist weekly half-hour Ukrainian radio programmes, which broadcast primarily folk music. The only "accessible" source of information about Ukraine, Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture is the Internet. Internet providers are, however, prohibitively expensive for an average citizen. In addition, personal computers are a relative rarity among ordinary people in Russia, including Ukrainians.

5. Libraries.
There is only one library with substantial holdings of Ukrainian language books (about 15,000 volumes in toto). This is the Ukrainian Library in Moscow (ul. Velozavodskaya 11/1). There are also small Ukrainian-language sections in a few academic and University libraries. As a result, Ukrainian-language books are practically not accessible to the majority of Ukrainians in Russia.

6. Ukrainian Churches in Russia
The majority of Ukrainians in Russia (as elsewhere) are Orthodox Christians, though a small fraction are Eastern-rite Catholics (also, called Greek-Catholics or, in the past, Uniates). A substantial fraction belongs to various Protestant denominations, as well as to other creeds. In Russia, the dominant religious denomination is the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. This Church has the status of a quasi-state religion in contemporary Russia, a status that it formally held under the Czars. The Russian Orthodox Church is a bastion of conservative Russian patriotism, if not chauvinism, as it had been in the past. Though severely repressed at various times under the Soviet Communist regime, it nevertheless maintained a privileged status compared with other Christian denominations even during the period of official state atheism.
The current dismal state of Ukrainian churches in Russia is in large measure a reflection and continuation of past history. The Russian Orthodox Church, and its state sponsors, have always been intolerant of any form of "independence" of Ukrainian Orthodox or Catholic Churches. With one exception, there, at present, no Ukrainian Orthodox, nor Ukrainian Greek-Catholic, churches in the Russian Federation. Recent attempts at establishing such met with opposition and were not successful. For example, in 1993 in the city of Noginsk (Moscow Region) two parishes of the Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate were registered with the authorities (the Bohojavlenska and Sviato-Troitska parishes). The Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate began immediate legal action to take over the Bohojavlenska Church and the associated Seminary, Monastery and High School. In September, 1997 the Court of Arbitration, after intervention of the General Procuracy of the Russian Federation, decided in favour of the Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate. Soon after, on the night of Sep. 29, 1997, about 100 officers and other ranks of the Militia, forcefully evicted the parishioners from the Bohojavlenska Church. In the course of this forceful eviction, Archbishop Adrian Starina of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) was thrown to the floor, beaten, handcuffed and taken to the the local Militia building. Mother Maria Parfygina, the Superior of the Monastery was sworn at and threatened with a submachine gun. Seven priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) were also beaten. Russian authorities are also continuing their campaign against the one remaining Sviato-Troitska parish of the Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate. Electricity and gas were cut off nearly three years ago. Taxes, totaling in excess of $1,000,000 US have been imposed on the parish, which is referred-to, in official correspondence, as a "foreign church". There is an on-going press campaign against the Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) and the person of Archbishop Adrian Starina.

In concluding, we wish to point out that the Ukrainian minority in Russia has not made many demands of the Russian Government to ensure for itself even the most modest means for the retention and development of its language and culture. This is understandable, since the many decades of fear, of being labeled a "bourgeois nationalist", and of being ostracized and even incarcerated as an "enemy of the people", have left an indelible mark on Ukrainians in Russia. They are reluctant to speak out and to demand the sort of rights and government support that are taken for granted by Russians living in Ukraine.

We request that The High Commissioner for National Minorities meet personally with spokespersons for the Ukrainian communities in Russia. We would be happy to assist with arranging such meetings. We trust that this visit will be but the beginning of the High Commission's efforts on behalf of the Ukrainian and other national minorities in Russia. We also sincerely hope that the High Commissioner's visit will stimulate a positive change of attitude and policy on the part of the Russian Government towards its large Ukrainian minority, and indeed towards all other nationalities that make up the Russian Federation. We wish you a fruitful visit, and look forward to future cooperation.

Sincerely yours,

Jurij Darewych
Chairman of the Commission on Human
And Civil Rights, Ukrainian World Congress
  Vasyl' Kolomatsky
Chairman of the Committee on
the Ukrainian Community in Russia

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