Supporting the Colonial Norm

Mykola Riabchuk

I have finally found a time-span to read all the articles, which largely confirmed everything I knew about Dr. Kuzio’s inaccuracy and Mr. Viatrovych’s partisanship but did not dissuade me from my impression that the conference was something like a Nuremberg trial against the demonic Ukrainian nationalism and that the conference title was largely misleading because Russian nationalism was not an issue at all – as it never was, I remember, in Soviet times.

Even more stunning is that no pundit seems to have read (comprehensively) Michael Billig’s Banal Nationalism that so aptly explains the legacy upon which the Russian/neo-Soviet nationalism in Ukraine draws, and which makes that (dominant!) nationalism in Ukraine largely invisible.

Ukrainian nationalists who break Lenin’s monuments look like radicals because they challenge the colonial status quo. Russian nationalists (like the Kharkiv Mayor who promised to break the hands and legs of anyone who attacks Lenin) look like respectable politicians because they simply support the (colonial) “norm.” And they don’t need to embark on violence themselves because they have quasi-legal bodies like courts, police and security service on their side.

Surprisingly, so many pundits in this discussion fail to understand that any attempt to challenge the (colonial) status quo looks much more “radical” than its quasi-legitimate preservation. Instead they quarrel about minor conference details, which are very boring for an outsider.



Distinguished University Professor, University of Alberta


  1. John-Paul Himka

    I believe that the respondents prior to Mr. Riabchuk were scholars rather than pundits.

  2. Steve Komarnyckyj

    Dear Professor Himka,

    Perhaps you could try addressing the argument he makes in the spirit of dialogue? You might also look in the dictionary- pundit and scholar are not mutually exclusive terms, a scholar can be a pundit.

    Best Wishes

  3. Natalya BELITSER

    Is the linguistic (non- or subtle) difference between “pundits” and “scholars” the most important point in Mr. Riabchul’s comment? Maybe, it’s high time to pay more attention to crucial issues raised by him, namely, the true sense of the so-called “radical Ukrainian nationalism” which for those who follows actual events and proceedings is not only “challenging (post) colonial status quo” but also resists the attempts to push the society back into soviet-like atmosphere, imposed so often by the ruling authorities? While following activities of the so-called “Russian nationalists” in Ukraine, and especially in Crimea, I cannot even compare them with “nationalists” in a more traditional sense, they are, to my mind, much more a kind of chauvinists…

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