Ukraine's ultra-nationalist parties continued to support the idea of
Ukraine for the Ukrainians, and some were openly anti-Semitic. The fact that a
number of wealthy Jews have connections with major Ukrainian political groups,
and have even backed certain political struggles in the country, has already
been used as a cloak for nationalistic Ukrainians to mask their anti-Semitic
propaganda. There were few violent anti-Semitic incidents in 1997. No legal
steps were taken against racist and anti-Semitic organizations.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
At the beginning of 1998, the Jewish population in Ukraine numbered 290,000.
Most resided in the large cities: Kiev, about 80,000, Kharkov, Odessa and
Dnepropetrovsk, about 110,000 altogether. The rest, about 100,000, lived in
the smaller cities and town.
The Jewish population has been declining at about 50,000 per year. In 1997,
about 25,000 left for Israel, and 18,000 for other Western countries, while
some 16,000 were lost due to negative population growth. From 1989 to 1997,
the Jewish population of Ukraine decreased by 445,000, of whom 223,000
emigrated to Israel.
There are about 115 Jewish organizations and religious communities active in
62 Ukrainian cities. They publish 11 periodicals and newspapers. As of the
second half of 1997, the Jewish organizations were united under two umbrella
organizations: the Union of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine,
and the Coordinating Council of Jewish Organizations in Ukraine.
In September 1997, most of these Jewish organizations joined the Ukrainian
Jewish Congress (UEK) led by the Jewish business tycoon Vadim Rabinovitch.This
parallels the situation in Russia where a similar organization, REK, was
founded in January 1996, under the leadership of local millionaires.
As in the Russian federation, there is no government-sponsored anti-Semitism.
Indeed, in local and international Jewish forums, the authorities of the
sovereign Ukrainian state have often expressed their obligation to protect the
Jewish population and guarantee freedom of action of its organizations. On the
other hand, they deplore the emigration of Jews, while not limiting their
freedom to leave.
EXTREME NATIONALIST ORGANIZATIONS AND GROUPS
In recent years, anti-Semitic activity has reappeared in Ukraine, including
desecration of Jewish cemeteries, incorporation of anti-Semitism in
nationalist political groups, and neo-?Nazis who use anti-Semitism openly and
blatantly (especially in Kiev, Kharkov and Lvov), without any interference on
the part of the authorities.
In the background, the fact that a number of wealthy Jews have connections
with major Ukrainian political groups, and have even backed certain political
struggles in the country, has already been used as a cloak for nationalistic
Ukrainians to mask their anti-Semitic propaganda and could be used to
whitewash anti-Semitism, while exploiting it in future political battles.
The Ukrainian nationalist camp is made up of nine relatively small, but
active, parties and movements, grouped into five main political blocs:
The Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) now has about 16,000 members in 19
cities. The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, which canceled UNA's registration
as a legal body in September 1995, re-registered it on September 29, 1997, in
some measure due to the influence of the head of the Orthodox Church of
Ukraine. This bloc maintains Ukrainian Self-Defense (UNSO), "self-defense"
units, mainly active in Kiev and Lvov. UNA-UNSO publishes a number of
newspapers, including Zamkova Gora (Mountain Fortress), Ukrainski Obrii
(Ukrainian Vista), Natsionalist and Za Vilnu Ukrainu (For a Free Ukraine)
which comes out in Lvov (western Ukraine) and is consistently and vehemently
anti-Semitic. UNA-UNSO ran in the parliamentary election, on 29 March, 1998,
but failed to pass the minimum threshold of 4 percent, garnering only 0.4
percent of the vote. UNA-UNSO has close connections with the German NPD and
its youth movement.
State Independence of Ukraine (DSU) has about 3,000 members in 17 cities. It
publishes the newspaper Nezborima Natsia (The Invincible Nation). In 1993 a
faction, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), broke away. OUN
publishes Neskorena Natsia (The Unconquered Nation). Both newspapers print
anti-Semitic material reminiscent of the Nazis on a massive scale.
The Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN) has about 12,000 members
throughout the Ukraine and publishes Klich (The Call), while the Ukrainian
Conservative Republican Ukraine (UKRP) has about 3,000 members organized in
branches in most of the cities of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Social National Party (USNP) is an extremist, right-wing,
nationalist organization which emphasizes its identification with the ideology
of German National Socialism. It has about 2,000 members, mostly youth and
young adults, in the areas of western Ukraine. Its registration by the
Ukrainian Ministry of Justice in November 1995 was not rescinded even after
party members caused riots in 1996 and 1997 (on May 9, Victory Day over the
Germans, and November 7, Communist Revolution Day) in Lvov and other cities.
Hundreds, mostly communists, were injured in these riots.
All these parties support the idea of Ukraine for the Ukrainians, are hostile
to foreigners (mainly Russians and Poles), some are openly anti-Semitic, and
all use the mass media which they control to broadcast their ideas.
There were few violent anti-Semitic incidents in 1997. A fire was started at
the Israel Cultural Center in Kharkov in February 1997 by a member of the
nationalist organization United Slavic Party (PSU), and a Jewish cemetery was
desecrated in the city of Hust in July 1997.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM
The Ukrainian authorities remained passive in the face of anti-Semitic
activity. In the period under review no legal steps were taken against racist
and anti-Semitic organizations which disseminated their propaganda unhindered.
The laws against organizations "whose activity is directed at incitement of
ethnic, racial or religious hatred" (Article 32 of the Ukrainian Constitution
and Section 66 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code) were never invoked.
Furthermore, the chief political organizations of Ukraine, including the
democratic ones, failed to place the issue on the public agenda. Public
appeals by leading Jewish figures, such as the head of UEK, on September 24,
to national bodies and to the president to put an end to the uninterrupted
activity of anti-Semitic organizations and their propaganda, did little to
change the situation.