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Igor Pasko: “There were few national philosophers in Ukraine”


-Mr. Pasko, which values, do you think, are able to unite Ukrainian society today – believers and nonbelievers, citizens of West, East, North and South. What could unite them and let them live peacefully? 

-Unfortunately it’s hard to find in Ukrainian history something that could unite it, in my opinion. Ukraine’s been separated for at least decades. The fact, which could unite it, is probably that Ukraine is a land of workmen, who can work hard and love it, but here I must admit, that because of this thing east is looking suspiciously at west, and west-at east and both of them are asking the same question: Who works harder?
Of course, there are some core values like prosperity, security, tolerance, law and property. Each Ukrainian (if he thinks he is Ukrainian) must accept the fact that Ukraine has a right for freedom, that has its own history and a certain path, which it has passed. When our country became independent many citizens were very close to accept this, but the further we were going, the more blurred this uniting impulse became. Today I would say that it’s almost gone.

Certainly, there’s government’s fault in it, which didn’t see the necessity of consolidating Ukrainian ideology during these 2 decades. Moreover, centrifugal tendencies prevailed instead of them; regional stories have been absolutized and used to gain political benefits. For example, in Donbass there were markers of communist past and also mythological plots - Sarmatians, Scythians. Other regions also had their plots.

However, the collision of historical plots is not necessary, because it’s obvious that there’s a difference in time of historical regions’ development and industrial regions started their development in the XIX-XX centuries. Stakhanov is not a communist hero and as a Hero of Socialist Labor won’t hurt anyone’s feelings in the western part of our country, because in my opinion, no one has any rejection impulses concerning this fact. The prototype of the harmonious unification of the country can be seen in the co-existence of individual, local, historical narratives, which are subordinated with the national history.

-What is Donbass? Were there any ways to avoid such tragic scenario and what should we do next?

- Surely there were ways to avoid this conflict. In this case, it’s Ukrainian government’s and oligarchs’ fault. Oligarchs thought they could subdue Donbass, people etc. But their way of thinking is narrow by definition, it is limited with the interests of self- enrichment, however, our government also has this problem.

I would even say that the Ukrainian government is secretly guilty in destabilizing the situation in the country in favor of individuals. And this is a great sin, which is quite similar to the sin of the literary character, who betrayed Christ in favor of earthly blessings. Now we think of Yanukovych when we speak of government’s venality. But I think that he didn’t have this absolute power; he was a timeserver, who became president by chance. Since the day of the referendum, the result of which was Ukraine’s independence, we should have worked on general interests, should have resisted difficulties, which our society faced due to external and internal circumstances, however, the government didn’t do anything.

-Right now Ukraine is declaring, that it is going to be a part of the Europe, that it is going to enter European civilization space. In which cases should we compromise with the things, that are required from us, and in which should we defend our possibly core values and fundamental things?

- Europe is right that it makes terms, but the Europe doesn’t know, which terms it makes and which should be implemented. And Ukraine shouldn’t be afraid of Europe because it needs us as much as we need it. However, it doesn’t mean that we should refuse their protection and our own interests. I am sure that if Europeans demand a certain gas price from us, our dealers will trick both Ukrainians and Europeans after implementing this term. That’s why such demands are impossible. The other things are values, principles, including the economic sphere, distribution of loans and credits.

These are demands for our own sake – without them Europeans don’t see Ukraine in Europe. But the problem is that if we follow these terms it’s not a fact that we’ll enter the EU. Europeans are interested in Ukraine, but it seems to me that they don’t know how to make their wish come true. A profound lack of knowledge from both sides.

-How do you see the confessional ideal of Ukraine in future? Today we are witnessing the deterioration of relations between the UOC and the UOC-KP, with the active participation of the media. Which tactical and strategic moves must be done to avoid the interchurch conflict? Is it possible to unite Ukrainian churches into one local church in future?

- For now I don’t see such opportunity in the nearest future. In this area it’s not very easy to formulate any suggestions. For example, secular Ukraine is pretty good. While we are revolving in a secular framework, we can forget that there is the Moscow Patriarchate, Kiev Patriarchate or Greek Catholics. The UGCC has important historical merits before Ukraine, but the Orthodox has them too. It is clear that the position of the UOC (MP) and the attitude to this church is quite ambiguous, but the thing that comes out of it… I repeat myself, right now or in the nearest future I don’t see a united local church.

-Can we believe that East-Ukrainian conflict is a private case of global crisis tendencies or is it something new?

- Here we have two aspects. Surely it’s not a global tendency, about which we are used to talking in the language of civilization clashes theory. This is the most complicated problem of fracture on the Balkans - Eastern Europe - Ukraine. The end of XIX century and the whole XX century went to the fight for influence in the Balkans and beyond, up to Ukraine. These people were bleeding, as we are bleeding now. But if you turn everything into the riverbed of a geopolitical clash between West and Russia or the US and Russia, then everything will become more from the area of clichés rather than from the area of reality. Russia and America can’t “play the piano” without taking into account the establishment of peoples, especially Ukrainian, which is not over yet. As a result, everything is possible. You can exhaust this process, which will burst sometime as it happened in the Donbass. Why did it happen there? Because Donbass is a no man's land. Wild Fields.

-Which finale would be most optimal for Ukraine? For Europe? For Russia?

- For the nearest prospect, I think, is to give some authority to Donbass. To those, who control the situation there. And gradually look for a formula that will deter any external dictatorship in Ukraine etc. Maybe it will have success. And everything will come out in the further perspective: either Donbass will go to Russia or it will come back to Ukraine and admit it was wrong. But we can’t speak of these things as of something that must be done tomorrow, because otherwise we will complicate the situation. Also, we must think carefully what powers we should give today, because personally I can’t imagine how it’s possible to give the power to influence Ukraine’s international agreements. Concerning Russia, it’s hard to tell anything about it. It took the bit between its teeth. If you look at everything calmly (which is quite difficult to do), then for Russia it will be better to take borders under the Yalta and the Tehran agreements and put an end to this. There are too many Transnistrian, Ajarian, Abkhazian and Crimean precedents, the existence of which neither America nor Europe can accept.

-What can intellectuals offer society to normalize conflict situations? In particular, in Ukraine?

- To learn, to learn and to learn once again…Intellectuals must step aside from the activity of those “political experts”-talkers, who keep telling the same thing again and again on the Ukrainian television, but who don’t have anything substantive to say. I don’t accept the thesis that philosophers must be at the forefront or above the fray. Intellectuals should write books and provide an analysis, if they’re able to. Only in such situation we have an opportunity to create a cooperation between intellectuals and the government, which should finance culture not on a residual basis, but on an average European level. And the government should start spending money on the national ideology, which means to give intellectuals an opportunity to speak out and bring these ideas to the masses. We had poets, with a help of which the Ukrainian nation has developed. Philosophers come after poets, however we don’t have many of them, but we should, because otherwise everything will remain on the stage of a talking shop.

-What are the perspectives of a civil society in Ukraine? Can a voluntary movement be counted as an institute of a civil society?

- It’s hard for me to tell. I wasn’t at the frontier, didn’t see any volunteers. But I would recommend to read “Mother Courage and Her Children” by B.Brecht. There was a sutler, a volunteer, who supplied the army in the Middle Ages. And what gives? Nothing except tragedy. Volunteerism is a knight of the medieval society. Of course it’s hard to overestimate the role of this movement during last years, but it became a riverbed, which collected people's bitterness, their pain, the desire to change things for the better. Not the last part in such desire was played by officials, who are indifferent to everything except their own benefit, and also the sluggishness of the state machine. A negative consequence of this was an even greater degradation of official institutions, the abuse and disappointment in rows of volunteers. Civil society requires awareness, indifference, but also a well-developed country. Our volunteer can’t turn into a civil society, but can be quixotic.

-Can you see any ways of implementation of the Minsk Agreements? Is there any possible way of Donbass’ reintegration in Ukraine?

- Concerning the Minsk Agreements – I personally believe that this is an agreement of three sides concerning the fourth one. And these three strong sides want to solve their problems with the help of a fourth – a weak one. The situation reminds me a memorandum of Ukraine refusing the nuclear status and all its guarantees. We don’t have a nuclear weapon, but we don’t have the security either. What can come out of the agreements, when no one is willing to agree and is only going to solve their own problems at the expense of Ukraine? If Donbass decides to come back to Ukraine in, I don’t know, 5 years, 10 years or maybe 50, it won’t happen because of the Minsk Agreements.

-Are there any universal ethical values, which are not associated with civil religious and cultural systems? What are these values and how can they be substantiated?

- Certainly, such values exist. But I don’t know how universal values can be substantiated. They remind me of an axiom, which is accepted without any proofs, like, for example, the love of parents, love of children, love for your Motherland, and love for your land. These are universal values. And love for the government and for money is another thing.

-What will happen to the world system in the future? And to Ukraine?

- I’m not a big fan of Wallerstein. The world will be developing according to its own immanent laws. However, to development and degradation are different sides of the same coin. The period of XVIII-XIX centuries, when all people were optimists and thought that they were developing, has passed. And now everything’s unknown. And I know Russia much better than many other people, because I’ve graduated from the university in St.Petersburg, defended my thesis in Moscow and traveled across the Soviet Union – from Solovki and Valaam to Siberia. And I understand very well that such experience is not enough. In particular, I can’t say anything about the course of the events. But here how I would like everything to be: I would like Russia and especially its European part to master common European values and therefore reconsider its attitude concerning Ukraine as its former colony.

-How much do the values of Ukrainian citizens depend on the Soviet legacy? What are the perspectives and risks of the decommunization policy?

- Decommunization shouldn’t be pointless and thoughtless, it shouldn’t reset everything. A small amount of comprehension concerning this question will be enough, for example, whose monuments should have remained. The monument of Sholem Aleichem is standing and this monument has a right to stand. And what about Schors? Those people, who give their pros and cons – what do they know about Schors? The problem of argumentation in historical questions exists separately from historical questions and the problem of political conjuncture. But we shouldn’t forget about the fact that communist symbols are distinctive markers, which take us away from Europe.

-Lina Kostenko wrote that we don’t have a leader and even a person, who can qualify for such status. Why didn’t this person appear during last 25 years? How can we fix this and on who/what can we rely?

- As people liked to say in Soviet times, everything must be approached comprehensively. Firstly, poets as heads of state won’t be able to change the situation for better today- neither the older generation of Kostenko, Pavlychko nor the younger generation of Zabuzhko etc.

But what we desperately need is their erudition- for hundreds, thousands of leaders, without whom people won’t be able to feel their culture, to comprehend it. Unfortunately, our period of time is characterized by a desire for something opposite. And it is instilling fear.

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