Letter: Playing Ukraine National Anthem at Tanglewood on Parade Was Bad Idea
To the Editor:
As recently reported by The Eagle in a piece by Clarence Fanto, at Tanglewood on Parade, the Ukrainian national anthem was played. Many in the shed and the lawn stood up in support. While I would certainly concede that Russia is the worst of the two countries in terms of human rights abuses, Ukraine has many despicable aspects to it of which I am highly confident almost all the people standing were ignorant.
Boston Pops conductor Thomas Wilkins said, "The Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony stands with the people of Ukraine, and salutes all who stand for democracy and against injustice, and are willing to sacrifice everything for their freedom." Ironically, Mr. Wilkins also made reference to the rights of the Ukrainian people to have self-determination.
Let me explain why I used the word "ironic." While most Americans do not know it, the present government of Ukraine obtained power by a violent coup in 2014. The Revolution of Dignity, also known as the Maidan Revolution, took place in Ukraine in February 2014 at the end of the Euromaidan protests, when a series of violent events involving protesters, riot police, and unknown shooters in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv culminated in the ousting of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. In a Cato piece titled, "America's Ukraine Hypocrisy," Ted Galen Carpenter writes: "Despite his leadership defects and character flaws, Yanukovych had been duly elected in balloting that international observers considered reasonably free and fair — about the best standard one can hope for outside the mature Western democracies."
But having a violent coup to overthrow a democratically elected government is not the only time Ukraine stood against self-determination. Ukraine's eastern provinces are known as the Donbass Region and is composed of what is the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic. These are predominantly Russian-speaking areas that either want to be with Russia or independent. Does Wilkins and those that have unquestioning support for Ukraine support the people in the Donbass region's rights to "self-determination"? Of course not — amnesia about self-determination sets in and "territorial integrity" is now all the rage.
Russian-speaking Ukrainians wanting out is totally to be expected because of the anti-Russian bias in Ukraine. For example, though a very high percentage of Ukrainians speak Russian, in 2019 Ukraine passed a law that grants special status to the Ukrainian language and makes it mandatory for public sector workers. According to France 24, "Lawmakers in 2019 passed legislation to cement Ukrainian as the country's primary language, ordering middle schools that taught in Russian and other minority languages to make the switch and mandating Ukrainian versions of online stores." Moreover, "shops, restaurants and the service industry [have] to engage customers in Ukrainian unless clients specifically ask to switch."
And Ukraine is far from a "normal" democracy. Recently, President Zelenskyy outlawed 11 opposition parties. None were aiding Russians. One political party had 10 percent of the Ukraine parliament. It was not the first time political parties were banned: six years ago communist parties were also banned from running in local elections.
Ukraine has a neo-Nazi political party, Svoboda that has won seats in the Verkhovna Rada, the unicameral parliament of Ukraine. This fascist party that has ethnic ultranationalist views was not one of the parties recently outlawed. Russians have Chechen Muslims fighting on their side. According to the Washington Examiner, "Shocking new video shared online shows Ukraine's controversial Azov fighters dipping bullets in pig fat to shoot at Chechen Muslims set to invade their country on behalf of Russia."
In February of 2021, Zelenskyy had closed down three opposition television channels. The Kyiv stations affected were ZIK, NewsOne, and 112 Ukraine. The libertarian think-tank CATO reports, "On May 13, 2021, a Ukrainian court ordered prominent pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a political ally of the owner of those television stations, to be put under house arrest while he faced allegations of treason." Further suppressing television, misusing martial law, Zelenskyy reduced all television channels to only one.
While most democracies have some fascists, Ukraine has an openly fascistic organization of self-described neo-Nazis, who are in a battalion known as the "Azov Battalion." The Azov Battalion is part of the Ukrainian National Guard. The Nazis (who hated both Communist and the Russian people) killed 3.3 million to 3.5 million Soviet POWs, making the Azov Battalion a particular Russian concern. The Officer of the High Commission for Human Rights of the United Nations observed in a report of May of 2016 that members of the Azov Battalion committed rape and torture of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas region during the Donbas wars.
There is also an "Aidar Battalion," not to be confused with the Avon Battalion. Amnesty International said in September of 2014, "Amnesty International has documented a growing spate of abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, robbery, extortion, and possible executions committed by the Aidar battalion. Some of these amount to war crimes." On December 24, 2014, Amnesty International reported that the unit was blocking humanitarian aid from Ukraine reaching the population of the separatist-controlled areas. In February of this year, 2022, according to Reuters, "Ukraine cut off the fresh water supply to Crimea by damming a canal that had supplied 85 percent of the peninsula's needs before Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014."
There have been countless arrests of those that favor the rights of those in the Donbass region, so much so I can only report generally of them. I might end with the generally agreed upon assertion that Ukraine is a corrupt government.
I realize that I am one of the few pro-peace progressives and stand with the likes of progressives like Jimmy Dore, Glen Greenwald, and Tulsi Gabbard, but very few of the mainstream Democrats. I don't want to die in a nuclear holocaust; I don't want to see our young men and women die in battle; I don't want to have sky-rocketing gas prices and world food shortages; and I don't want to see any more bloodshed of Ukrainian or Russian people. I did not stand for the Ukrainian national anthem because I would rather stand for peace.
While playing another national anthem may be appropriate in the sports context or when a foreign dignitary visits, the playing of the Ukrainian national anthem at Tanglewood had a distinctive jingoistic feel, all accompanied by words that ring hollow upon close scrutiny of the facts, all of which were well-outside the purpose of Tanglewood, to promote classical music. Tanglewood should appeal to our better nature and the uplifting of the human condition rather than inching us closer to war.
Thich Nhat Hanh, in "The Art of Power," said, "Many people think excitement is happiness… But when you are excited, you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace." I can truly report, the playing of the Ukraine national anthem at Tanglewood on Parade did excite the passions, which can only pique the passion for war, which can only lead to abject human misery, which is why the playing was such a disservice to the cause of peace and happiness.
Rinaldo Del Gallo