Destruction of the Ukrainian Language: Genocide blessed by the Kremlin

Destruction of language

I feel a deep ethical obligation to bring into consciousness one final dimension of colonialism: the destruction of indigenous languages. It seems that an inadequate amount of academic attention is given to this matter. Perhaps this is the result of academia’s Eurocentrism and the dominant image of education remaining in the controlling hands of the English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian linguistic elite. The lack of representation of the “mother tongues” of the Irish, Scots, Welsh, and Basque peoples in academic, political, and media discourses confirms the marginalization of the “Other,” the lesser, and the conquered. This is not to mention the suppression of the countless languages of native peoples all over the globe.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1986) wonders when the fatal acceptance of the English language as the sole language of discourse and education for African peoples happened. There were, no doubt, many tragic moments, many edicts and political treaties that parceled the African continent to a host of imperial aggressors. Whereas the bullet was the means of physical subjugation and destruction, it was language that was the means of spiritual subjugation.


The same holds true for the Ukrainian language that was declared as nonexistent in 1863 by the Russian imperial minister of internal affairs Count Valuev, and once again in 1876 by Tsar Alexander II when he was vacationing in the German town of Ems. Known as the Ems Ukaz (Declaration), the usage of the Ukrainian language in education and the school system was prohibited, and all Ukrainian language books were removed from libraries (Subtelny, 2000).  Anecdotal evidence of the second-class status of the Ukrainian language has been pointed out to me by numerous colleagues who lament the fact that although Ukrainian is considered to be the official language of the country, Russian is the language of business, academia, and political discourse in many large urban centers. Ukrainian is viewed as the language of the countryside, of farmers, lower class citizens, of folk music, and folklore.

In May of 2012, at the World Psychoanalytic Conference in Kyiv, I was the only person to present a paper in the Ukrainian language, and only after being granted permission by the participants of the fledgling Ukrainian group of Jungian analysts in attendance. Ironically, I also utilized an English language powerpoint during the presentation and did respond to some questions in Russian afterward; an unconscious reflexive affirmation of the hegemony of two imperial languages on my part. For the sake of clarity, in other academic disciplines, Ukrainian is widely utilized, but in the area of depth psychology and the study of Freud, Jung, and Lacan, Russian predominates.

This is especially ironic since Freud’s parents were both born and lived in two current day Western Ukrainian towns (at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). His mother was from Brody, and his father from Tysmenytsya (Zaretsky, 2005). Although Freud was born in Moravia after his parents moved there due to economic hardship, he was in contact with many of his relatives who resided close to Kyiv, and the majority of his patients were not Germans or Austrians but were Slavic peoples (Etkind, 1997). His most notable case was Serge Pankejeff, known as the Wolf-Man, who was born in Kherson and grew up in Odessa.

Gayatri Spivak’s (2002) image of the “resident alien,” a person who lives in at least two communities and cultures, is a fitting description for all colonized “subjects” of empire.  This is not only true of Ukrainians today who are hard-pressed to advocate for the recognition of their language, culture, and identity as worthy of a dignified status, but was also the case in Freud’s time when he himself must have experienced the social complexities of being a Jewish subject in the German-speaking capitol of Austro-Hungary, Vienna.  Freud, countless others, and as Spivak makes note of his own life live in two worlds, “deeply, without being quite of them…this Resident Alien is a vestigial postcolonial figure” (p. 48). One can be assured of the pathological aspects of this strange reality simply because the status of being alien, whether in one’s own country or not, has been assigned by those who are in power.

The request for church autocephaly addresses the need for recognition and representation. Ukrainians want to prayer in Ukrainian and not a Russified version of Church Slavonic. They want to listen to sermons preached in Ukrainian and not Russian.

Internet trolls have spewed the Russian lie that the Ukrainian language does not exist; that it is an Austro-Hungarian creation. Why don’t these purveyors of fake news read Russian history and learn about Count Valuev?

Supporting the Russian Orthodox Church is an act of complicity in Genocide and the destruction of the Ukrainian people. How can conscientious Orthodox Christians accept this? Love your neighbor as yourself?


Ukrainians: A Colonized People

The battle for granting the Orthodox Church in Ukraine autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew, is shrouded by centuries of the Tsarist and Soviet regimes political suppression of Ukrainians and other ethnic groups. Granting autocephaly is not only a canonical act but at a psychological level a declaration of independence. Long overdue, granting the Ukrainian people the right to ecclesial self-government is liberating.

We have grown up with the reality of being invisible. All of us experienced the frustration of being identified as Russians. Through the years, colleagues, professors, co-workers, and others would confuse Ukraine with Russia. The dominant political and sociological narrative continually subverts the existential truth: we are a distinct people who speak a different language.

The fall of the Soviet Union, the Orange Revolution, and the Revolution of Dignity are historical moments which address the ravages of colonialism.  The request for autocephaly reinforces the need for Ukrainians to shed light on and fight against enslavement by the Russian master.

The Moscow Patriarchy claims that Ukraine is its territory, i.e. Russian territory. In regards to the existence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church, Russian hierarchs have maintained a political stance that this church has no place in Ukraine and that the Vatican recognize their demand that the Ukrainian GGC surrender territory to the Russians. If the Pope wants to visit Russia, he must recognize that the UGCC is an obstacle that must be resolved before good relations can be established.

Let’s not forget that Putin has stated that Ukraine does not exist and its government was the result of political sabotage by the United States. The world knows that Putin wants to aggressively reclaim all former territory and rebuild the Soviet Union; the Russian Empire. He represses, murders, and eliminates all opponents.  Those who do not recognize this truth are blinded by propaganda and supportive of evil.

In order to understand this situation, it is important to revisit the philosophical works of Hegel. Hegel identified and wrote about the master/slave dialectic. He brilliantly pointed out the relation of power between master and slave. Freedom demands mutual recognition. My needs and desires can only be satisfied through mutual recognition in a world in which freedom exists. The master demands recognition from the slave who exists to work, to produce. Slaves are cogs in the wheels of industry.  The master does not recognize the slave as anything else. What follows is an excerpt from my dissertation that illustrates the master/slave dyad in the writings of Mykola Hohol (Nikolai Gogol).

Nikolai Gogol and the colonized soul.

There were several figures of Ukrainian origin, such as Teofan Prokopovich, Victor Kochubei, and Oleksander Bezborodko, who moved to St. Petersburg and served the imperial court for the purposes of advising the Tsar on a variety of matters including the integration of the Church and the maintenance of tight control of colonialized Ukrainian lands (Saunders, 1985). However, in terms of bridging the cultural vacuum noted above it was Nikolai Gogol’s contribution to the literary imagination which warrants separate attention.  This contribution to Russian culture offered images of Ukrainian folklore and life in the countryside which were lacking in the imagination of the aristocratic elite. At the same time, Gogol’s works can be construed as a satirical critique of imperial hegemony.

An ethnic Ukrainian, Gogol moved to St. Petersburg in the 1830s. He described his new city of residence as something akin to a European colony in North America; its population composed primarily of foreigners and not native Russians (Etkind, 2011). Gogol’s keen eye to the colonialist social realities of the empire reflected his own sense of dual culture. He wrote to a colleague that he was unsure “whether his soul was Ukrainian or Russian” (Saunders, 1985, p. 166). This sense of dual identity offered his readers a plethora of images which captured the polarities of life in the Russian empire. For example, in his story of a Tsarist official who loses his nose, this body part becomes a metaphor for being an imperial functionary whose career dreams are thwarted. Without the nose, everything that is perceived as required by the whole in the relationship of empire and colony, i.e. power, title, women, and money, becomes unattainable. Gogol captures Homi Bhabha’s (1994) description of colonial discourse as “a splitting of hybridity that is less than one and double” (p. 166). The imperial subject is forced to deny indigenous culture, religiosity, language, and discourse (feelings less than whole), and becomes a mirror double of the Master.

One of Gogol’s most jarring literary insights into the relationship of the empire, its bureaucratic functionaries, and its vast population of indentured serfs is the metaphor of “dead souls.” Situated on the Ukrainian territory of Kherson, the satirical comedy Dead Souls (1842/2008) portrays the colonized as nothing more than taxable property. The protagonist, Chichikov, sets out to con the local authorities and landowners by purchasing their dead to relieve them of a tax burden which they were still obliged to pay. His true motive is to amass many serfs, albeit dead, with the intent of using them as collateral to take out a loan and retire as a rich man.

The economic speculation in “dead souls” is one of the most horrifying images of the imperial/colonialist project.  In the context of both Russian and Ukrainian linguistic signifiers, the word “soul,’’ (dusha), is a term which predates the notion of a citizen. Any census taken during this time would have counted persons as “souls;” understood as living persons living within the territory of a village, town, or city. The oxymoron “dead souls” not only presents the readers of Gogol’s novel with his keen ability to satirize the corrupt financial practices of his day but with the image of imperial subjects lacking human representation. The indentured serf, the enslaved soul, is just another commodity of economic trade. Whether it was oil, furs, timber, or land (Etkind, 2011), the well-being and efficiency of the Russian imperial economy may have included the sale and purchase of the dead.

Frantz Fanon (1963/2004) framed the moral and ethical disregard for the colonized as “Manichean” and “totalitarian.”  “Sometimes this Manichaeanism reached its logical conclusion and dehumanizes the colonized subject. In plain talk, he is reduced to the state of an animal” (p. 7). The Russian colonialist discourse was not exempt from disregarding the humanity of the peoples it colonized, whether they were animals without souls or “dead souls.”  Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Swede, Jew (arrested and exiled during expansionist battles and wars), Kalmyk, Aleut, Chuckchi, Koryak (some of a large number of colonized indigenous tribes), all were subject to ethnic, religious, and/or racial discrimination. All of them were, and still are, regarded as “Other.” Perhaps there is a spectrum in colonial narratives of ethnic, religious, and racial “Others,” in which persons regarded as “white” and “Christian” were more readily Russified and assimilated into the Russian Orthodox faith than those considered non-white and non-Christian. But, as notable in Western European colonialist histories, the Church colluded with the State in unleashing grave harm and trauma upon the indigenous soul (Gambini, 2000).

Ukrainians are a colonized people. The Russian Orthodox Church continues this heinous politics. Autocephaly opens the door to self-reflection, the rejection of our own psychic enslavement, and the ability to support other enslaved peoples.




Moral Bankruptcy of Russian Orthodox Church at Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv, Ukraine

Four years ago I wrote paper utilizing alchemical imagery in an attempt to situate the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv (Kiev). It is important to note that an InfectiousnDiseases Hospital was located on the territory of the Pechrska Lavra. The Hospital was evicted, stigmatizing and marginalizing patients as sinners. I write this today to advocate on behalf of the sick and suffering and on behalf of countless souls who have lost their lives to AIDS. The clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate and its clergy should be evicted from Ukraine for collusion in the deaths of the innocent.

The AIDS Patient and the Abbot

Susan Sontag’s (1988) AIDS and Its Metaphors draws upon her own struggle with cancer and her seminal work Illness as Metaphor (1977) in which she presents illness as not only a physical reality but a metaphorical one. The very nature of human existence is grounded in what she terms a “dual citizenship,” a citizenship which grants us a place “in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick” (1977, p.3). As she explores the metaphorical aspects of illness, her discourse brings to light such notions as a disease as a battle, invasion, and punishment from God. Although AIDS is not a disease, but a syndrome, the military metaphor is particularly applicable since AIDS does not originate inside of the body, but is contracted from fluids that originate outside of it. It is not surprising that the term “plague” has also become a metaphor for this syndrome, and that religious fundamentalists’ project divine punishment upon those who can justifiably be considered to be their own shadow.

AIDS is an acquired condition. The seemingly innocent word “acquired” in reality is hardly that at all. The notion that a deadly condition can be “acquired” extends the metaphor even further, suggesting pollution and contamination. Through active imagination, this syndrome can no longer be ascribed to a segment of the society, but to all of us who live with a collective sense that all of our defenses have become weaker. Behind the collective projection of a world that is defined by a political and militaristic wall of defense, what lies in its shadow is the inability to remain immune to such realities as a global economy, climate change, political upheaval, and the interconnectedness of everyone and everything in a web that is worldwide. Perhaps AIDS is a metaphor which describes the fluid connection between consciousness and the unconscious, the visible and the invisible. Corbin (1977) notes that the alchemical operation depends upon a metaphorical mirror accessible to the Wise, and through which one can “contemplate all the things of this world, whether it be a concrete reality (‘ayn) or a mental reality (ma’na)” (p. 99). The alchemical practitioner’s gaze opens up a horizon of inner sight which permits the intimate connection between the conscious and the unconscious to come into awareness and is an appropriate psychological lens for understanding the metaphorical aspects of the AIDS syndrome more deeply.

The AIDS patient to whom we are referring is not one specific individual, but a person, who like millions of others, has lost a sense of unique history and identity. The ravages of this syndrome displace a sense of normative identity and is replaced by a new collective identity and class membership. This does not mean that persons who live with HIV/AIDS have totally lost their individuality, but rather to draw awareness to society’s labeling of this population as sinners, outcasts, lepers, and persons to avoid for fear of contamination. Hillman (2010) points out that our Christianized cultural psyche, which is stuck in the psychic split of Jesus and the devil, overemphasizes whiteness and light, and fears darkness and the nigredo; an essential component and starting point of the alchemical opus.

The photograph below, chosen from the “Photo-Shock” series, depicts an AIDS victim standing in front of dilapidated housing.  This man with AIDS is the quintessential image of mortificatio. His emaciated body and loss of muscle tone, the sad gaze of his eyes, the decaying fence and housing behind him, present a physical landscape reflective of the inability to sustain an immune defense system. If one follows Hillman’s dictum to “stick to the image,” then the viewer and the image can enter into an intersubjective field which holds and respects this man’s literal personal mortificatio and the putrefactio of his environment. According to Hillman (2010) the nigredo is not the beginning, but a phase which has been accomplished. He states:

Black is, in fact, an achievement! It is a condition of something having been worked upon, as charcoal is the result of fire acting on a naïve and natural condition of wood, as black feces are the result of digested blood, as blackened fungus is the result of decay. Because depression, fixations, obsessions, and a general blackening of mood and vision may bring a person to therapy, these indicate that the soul is already engaged in the opus. (p.87)



Hillman (2010) amplifies his discourse on the alchemical nigredo by engaging in a poetics of black as a metaphor for the destruction of paradigms such as dogma, and dependable notions of what constitutes goodness. Black dissolves the tyranny of what he terms “possitivities;’ it is fluid and moves downward opening up new arterial pathways in the psyche. What was taken for granted, as fact, truth, and virtue, are not longer comforting, but seen through with a darkened eye. It should be of no surprise that persons who suffer from HIV/AIDS are outsiders and in the company of other social non-conformists, such as revolutionaries, prostitutes, pirates, and anarchists.


The Infectious Diseases Hospital, which was established and built by the citizens of Kiev over 100 years ago,  is the only facility in this city which is capable of serving an ever-growing population of people living with HIV/AIDS.  This hospital also played a vital role in treating patients during the flu pandemic of 1918. Although it was not constructed by the monastery, the archives of this community indicate that the monks themselves founded a hospital to serve lay people as far back as the 11th century. Patients who benefit from services are not only city dwellers, but villagers who, like our unnamed man, have no access to other places to receive treatment, and who also desire confidentiality for fear of being stigmatized by neighbors

The Abbot of the monastery has publicly expressed his disdain for the “sinners” who come for medical services on the territory of holy ground. Television reporters have recorded him standing in front of the hospital making the following statement: “Would you want to live next to people who have lived a promiscuous and sinful lifestyle?” (My translation) This created quite a stir, and the medical staff, patients, and members of the All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS are still waiting for an apology. Investigative reporting has also disclosed that the Abbot is allegedly involved in money laundering, was an elected official in city government from the Communist Party, held a lavish birthday party in an exclusive hotel when he turned 50 this year, and was gifted a Mercedes Benz worth over $100,000.00 American dollars by one of his guests. Certainly, the Abbot’s reputation has been “blackened” by his greed for “gold.”

Although abbots are elected from the ranks of male ascetics, it is not uncommon to encounter abuses of power and money. This is particularly true in the Russian Orthodox Church which colluded with communist party authorities during Soviet times, and continues to do so today. From an alchemical perspective, this Abbot’s relentless pursuit of “gold” is very telling. Commentaries on alchemical literature, such as von Franz (1980), Henderson and Sherwood (2003), and Abt (2009), point out that the transmutation of base metals into gold is a metaphor for describing the interrelationship of the unconscious world with consciousness. In other words, the goal of alchemy is not a literal transformation of lead into gold, but an opus which demands a knowledge which is well-guarded and passed down to adepts from Sages who understand the art. The pursuit of gold is appropriate for all humans, including the Abbot who has sworn to live a life of poverty, if this pursuit is not a literal pursuit of wealth.  The gold of the alchemists is not the common gold, but “non vulgi” as noted by Carl Jung (1983).

The Abbot’s seemingly obsessive pursuit of wealth is, inadvertently, the first step for positive psychological growth, if only he would embrace an inner knowledge which opens up an understanding of the symbolic dimensions of human life. When compounded by his projections of “sinner” upon the HIV/AIDS patients at the clinic, the horrible dualism which plagues the Christian world becomes even more evident.  Jung (1954) analyzes this split by noting that Augustine’s understanding of “man as a microcosm…has yet to be discovered” (p. 32). Projection and possession by the unconscious reveal that humanity is being torn apart and that it unknowingly “provides the inner disunity with an outwards vessel without changing the disiunctio into a conuinctio” (p. 33).

Recently, the Abbot has avoided confrontations with the press and has made no further statements regarding his desire that the “sinners” be evicted from the monastery grounds. As I actively imagine the Abbot’s current psychic state, the wall which he has created between himself and the public may be a metaphor for his interior life. The disiunctio which Jung (1954) noted above can lead to a nigredo state of separatio. One of the plates of the Harley text of the Splendor Solis entitled “The Golden Head” (Henderson & Sherwood, 2003) renders a pictorial representation of this state of separatio, and may provide alchemical insight into the Abbot’s behavior and his potential for future integration.

Moral Reasons for Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephaly: No more Russian Oppression of Believers

In recent years attempts have been made by the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill to take over the entire Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv, Ukraine. The video clip posted on this blog was a social justice project co-authored by Julian Hayda and myself during my second year of graduate studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. The purpose of the video was to expose the secret corporate theft of property by the Russian Orthodox Church.  Although the film focuses on the Artists’ Workshop, other buildings were at risk. After a battle to save the Infectious Diseases Hospital that was built on the monastery’s territory over 100 years ago, the facility was evicted and the patients were at risk of death due to lack of treatment. Most patients were being treated for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.

Imagine Orthodox Monks colluding with Russians and Moscow’s FSB to destroy the lives of Ukraine’s citizens and the culture of its people.  The video needs to be updated (from 2012) but please take a look:

Patient Protests in the past:

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill has had many opportunities to confront his clerics with corruption, money laundering, and ostentatious living. Instead of prophetically teaching his faithful to feed the hungry (not just physically, but also spiritually), he colludes with Vladimir Putin in his politics of oppression, murder, invading other countries, and genocidal acts. Just remember the murders of journalists, political opponents, and dissidents.

Why such an accusation? The head of the Russian Orthodox Church is called to set a higher moral standard. Higher than anyone else in the country. He has never confronted Putin, and by not doing so he is silently supporting a tyrant. Certainly, he needs Putin’s and his kleptocrat’s money, and that may be the reason for his paralysis. Recently, it was announced that Patriarch Kirill plans to build a Russian “Vatican” outside of Moscow. His own personal wealth is huge and has been attributed to selling cigarettes without paying taxes on them.

Russians should read the history of their church. The murder of Metropolitan Phillip of Moscow illustrates the price paid for confronting the Czar, in this instance Ivan the Terrible. Phillip confronted the Czar by reminding him that no one can serve two masters. It is said that Ivan the Terrible tried to reform and recant his sin of massacring the masses, but eventually had Phillip arrested and murdered for not giving him a blessing to engage in another massacre. Proclaimed a martyr and saint, he remains an example of a fearless bishop who openly confronted a tyrant.


Metropolitan Phillip confronting Ivan the Terrible

Ukraine has been invaded by Russia, people are being killed, and the Moscow Patriarchy in Ukraine has remained loyal to Putin the tyrant. Most of the clergy refuse to meet the needs of their faithful. Services are not celebrated in the Ukrainian language, sermons are in Russian, and the faithful of the Kyivan Patriarchate are discriminated and ostracized.

Clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine refuse to bury soldiers killed on the front.  They abuse the Mystery of Baptism by refusing to bury a child baptized in a parish of the Kyiv Patriarchate, although they know that even a baptism by a layperson is valid.  If your son or daughter fights with the Russian army all is good. But if your child fights with Ukrainians it is a sin.

Orthodox Christians need to wake up, see the truth and speak out. It is time to understand why Ukrainians want and need the Tomos of Autocephaly. It is important to ask ourselves who do we serve, God or Mammon?

Hieronymous Bosch. Hell

Putin says: “Russia a hotbed of terrorism”

The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments…

via “Putin tells why Russia is seedbed of terrorism” and other neglected Russian stories — Euromaidan Press