For Freedom of Speech and Expression in Ukraine

In February 2012, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, a doctoral student at the University of Hamburg, was scheduled to give a series of lectures in Ukraine on the life and memory of Stepan Bandera, upon invitation by the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Embassy and the Boell Foundation.

The right wing Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda organized a large and aggressive demonstration in front of the embassy, with banners calling him a "liberal fascist", "Nazi", "provocateur," "mendacious grandson of Goebbels" and a "Ukrainophobe" (see pictures below). Various forms of pressure were exerted on institutions to have his other talks cancelled. Some institutions cancelled his talks on their own initiative. Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe was threatened and had to hide in an anonymous apartment under the protection of the embassy.

 

Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe came under attack in Ukraine because he came to deliver two lectures on the Ukrainian fascist politician Stepan Bandera and the ethnic and political violence of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) and the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Stepan Bandera appears in Ukrainian national discourses as a national hero and the OUN and UPA as a "liberation movement." Both are objects of a nationalist cult. 

 

The claims by some historians or activists, that Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe is "not a researcher", or "out for scandal", or in any way responsible for the violence and threats, that he is either a "provocateur" or a "puppet" manipulated by the German Embassy or the Party of Regions, or that he has in some way called for this situation based on his debating style  are just not sustainable. 

 

Most dangerously, they is a wider and deeper challenge to elementary academic freedom, free speech and the rule of law. That this unseemly campaign is rooted in dedication to the OUN and UPA makes this situation all the more objectionable.


Moreover, several students and colleagues have confirmed privately that they have been intimidated and received threats or insults, so as not to voice any support on his behalf, lest they lose stipends, invitations to Ukrainian institutions and the like.


We, the undersigned, are concerned with what is actually under attack here: the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of research, the independence of academic institutions and ultimately, of researchers themselves.

 

More information on the situation can be found here:

the SVOBODA demonstration
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7zhI5QMnAs

http://revizor.ua/news/elections/20120301_national_socialists


Commentary on the events by Per A. Rudling

http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/03/01/ukrainian-academic-freedom-and-democracy-under-siege/

Commentary by JP Himka

http://ukraineanalysis.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/sex-nationalism-and-academic-freedom-the-controversy-at-kyiv-mohyla/

Reaction of protest of the Boell Stiftung in German, along with the full recording of Gregorz Rossolinski-Liebe's talk

http://boell.org.ua/web/index-484.html

Here some reactions of Ukrainian nationalist circles

http://www.day.kiev.ua/3042312

http://ukraine-nachrichten.de/offener-brief-botschafter-deutschlands-ukraine_3556_meinungen-analysen

(A. Lozinski is well known for his anti-Semitic diatribes; he and the co-signer Borys Potapenko both deny well-documented participation of Ukrainians in anti-Jewish violence)

For Freedom of Speech in Ukraine

 

In February 2012 Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, an academic colleague and doctoral student at the University of Hamburg, was prevented from giving a series of lectures in Dnipropetrovsk and Kyiv on the Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera and the ethnic and political violence of the OUN and UPA. Grzegorz had been invited by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the German Embassy and the German Academic Exchange Service. During the only lecture that he gave in Ukraine, at the German Embassy in Kyiv, picket lines were placed in front of the building by members of the right wing ultranationalist party Svoboda. Protesters held posters and banners accusing him of being an "advocate of the Nazis,"  a  "liberal fascist," and a "mendacious grandson of Goebbels."

 

In addition, pressure was put on a number of institutions to cancel his lectures, and a campaign of contempt, hatred, fanaticism, and intimidation was launched against the young researcher. The sudden cancellation of three lectures by Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe in Dnipropetrovsk and Kyiv that had been planned long in advance, less than 48 hours before their announced start, indicates that pressure had been placed on the institutions where the lectures were supposed to take place. One lecture was prevented because of the closing of the Visual Culture Research Center in Kyiv, another act of censorship. In the end, only one lecture could be held inside the German Embassy (formally on German territory) and under heavy protection by the Ukrainian police.

 

Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe has been also harassed by a number of Ukrainian intellectuals who have called him a "propagandist," "political agitator" and various other terms. There have been claims that his lecture was planned as a "scandalous event" or that he uses "such anachronistic terms as 'fascism'."   Very few Ukrainian intellectuals dare speak out against this obvious violation of freedom of speech and academic research. In addition, some people, including students, have received threats for supporting Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe.

 

The dispute around the OUN and Stepan Bandera not only continues to divide Ukraine, but is also estranging a large part of Ukraine's pro-Western elite from their friends and colleagues in such countries as Poland, Germany, and the United States.

 

We are concerned with the breach in freedom of speech and opinion in Ukraine.

 

We are concerned with the freedom and independence of academic research.

 

We want to support academic debate among historians and between historians/ researchers and the public. This should allow for different opinions to be expressed, confronted with the sources and debated freely. Writing history is always a work in progress, and results from a process of exchange and controversy. It is not resolved by removing and / or excluding historians, as soon as they articulate viewpoints being in dissent with the ones held up by certain parts of society.

 

Regardless of our political views, we as researchers and educated public at large cannot clearly enough express our rejection of this unacceptable situation.

 

LINKS:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7zhI5QMnAs

http://revizor.ua/news/elections/20120301_national_socialists

http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/03/01/ukrainian-academic-freedom-and-democracy-under-siege/

http://www.istpravda.com.ua/short/2012/03/13/76630/


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