Nothing beats giving away things that aren’t yours in the first place.
The Polish government has received a letter the other day. It came from Russian Duma (lower house of Russian parliament). It offered Poland five western Ukrainian regions: dear brothers, you’re free to go and get them.
To be precise: Russian Duma’s Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii has offered that Poland might as well annex the five western-most regions of Ukraine.
Not that such sentiment was unexpected: Zhirinovskii has been talking about the idea since the beginning of March.
But that he would send such a blatant invitation to the Polish government, on his office letterhead, to boot, to make sure the Poles treat it as an official offer, that’s what shocked the Poles no end.
Tomasz Nałęcz, advisor to Polish president Bronisław Komorowski, told the web site gazeta.pl his boss thought this must have come from a particularly sick mind.
Polish foreign affairs ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski confirmed to the TVP network that, indeed, the letter had been received.
“It’s so weird nobody is taking it seriously,” Wojciechowski added.
Asked what reply might Zhirinovskii expect from the Poles, Wojciechowski told TVP that it would be a polite receipt that wouldn’t mention the topic at all.
Something like this:
Yours of … (fill in the date) at hand.
Thanks for your communication.
Here are the regions that Zhirinovskii describes as “non-Ukrainian”: Volyn, Lviv, Ternpyl, Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivno. All of them in Western Ukraine, all of them bound to other countries throughout their history.
A joke about these parts used to make rounds. Here’s how it went: there was a census going on, and officials knocked on an old guy’s door. Where were you born? Austro-Hungarian Empire. Where did you go to school? Czechoslovakia. Where did you get your apprenticeship papers? Poland. Which pension are you receiving now? Soviet. Man, said one of the census officials, you must have been moving all over the place, right? Me? asked the old guy. Not at all, I’ve never left Mukachevo in my life!
Call to vote
But, to get back to Zhirinovskii: in his letter, he suggested that Polish citizens ought to have a referendum to decide whether they want to annex those five regions. Not one word about asking the people who actually live there.
Democracy in action, so to speak.
According to Russian sources, Zhirinovskii didn’t stop there. He offered two other parts of Ukraine to Romania (Chernovtsy) and Hungary (Transcarpathian Mountains).
That would leave eastern Ukraine that would be annexed by Russia, and a basic rump that Zhirinovskii called “central Ukraine.”
Presidential advisor Nałęcz said Zhirinovskii’s letter is cause enough to have him thoroughly checked by a psychiatrist.
Of course, Poland is rather sensitive about any talk about annexations and redistributions. Her history is rich with such occurrences. The last one came courtesy Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. When Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, had the gall to mention this in the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin, he was in for a surprise: Putin went ballistic. He yelled, and publicly, too, that the Poles should keep their mouths shut, that they tore a piece of Czechoslovakia off on the day the Nazis invaded it. He bullied Tusk like nobody’s business.
So, it seems, the Russians are quite sensitive about this point, too, except, they take a dim view of anyone who reminds them of their past sins.
All of this follows, of course, on the heels of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The official explanation, one that resembled Adolf Hitler’s explanations about his annexation of the so-called Sudetenland areas of former Czechoslovakia, said Russia just wanted to keep the poor Russians who live in Crimea safe.
The funniest part?
Crimea , if the Russians want to pull rank based on their view of history, hasn’t been Russian in the first place. It was annexed in the 18th by Russian Tsars.
An excursion into history
For all we know, Crimea used to be known as Tauric Khersonese (Peninsula) and it used to be part of Greece. Note, for example, that even today many of its local names remind all and sundry of their Greek origins: Sevastopol, Simferopol, for instance.
It became a multicultural paradise by the Middle Ages: its population consisted of Scythians (Scytho-Cimmerians, Tauri), Greeks, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Kipchaks and Khazars.
Following these happy times, Crimea fell to Kievan Rus and partly, to a remarkable degree, to Byzantium. It became victim to the Mongol invasions afterwards (remember the Golden Horde, anyone?).
The Venetians and the Genovese would enter the picture in the 13th century, only to be replaced by the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries.
Have you detected any Russian presence yet?
It would come only with the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire in 1783.
People in these areas remember their history as if it was happening today. So, no wonder Crimean Tatars want a referendum about their future in the region. After all, one of the new Crimean government’s first steps was to ask the Tatars to move from some of the areas they had traditionally considered theirs.
Considering the Tatars had been living in Crimea long before any Russians even heard of the peninsula, no wonder.
No wonder, either, that the Tatars recalled what Josif Stalin did to them, deporting them to some of the harshest parts of the Soviet Union (in the deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan). Stalin suspected some of them might have collaborated with the Nazis when the Germans got to Crimea during the Second World War.
Proof? Who needs proof? The Vozhdj (Leader) said so. Proof enough.
So, even less wonder, then, that the Tatars want some reassurances. President Putin’s recent admission that what Stalin had done to them wasn’t really cricket does not sound like reassurance enough.
A photograph has been making rounds on the web in recent days. It shows Russia’s Putin and U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama in conversation. Obama asks his Russian counterpart: “So, what are your plans now that you have annexed Crimea?” And Putin replies: “Well, come to think of it, Alaska used to be Russian, too.”
And does that Zhirinovskii letter still come as a shock out of clear blue sky?
Tagged: Adolf Hitler, Barack Hussein Obama, Bronisław Komorowski, Crimea, Czechoslovakia, Donald Tusk, gazeta.pl, Hungary, Josif Stalin, Marcin Wojciechowski, Mukachevo, Poland, Romania, Sudetenland, Tatars, Tomasz Nałęcz, TVP, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Zhirinovski