Wokeness Goes to Ukraine
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
04 January 2023
Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov.
Whilst many of the Wokerati repeat uncritically any statement from the Western media or even NATO on Ukraine, wokeness itself was not to be found in Ukraine. The rabid right wing homophobic sentiment expressed at gay rights marches before the war, was not a fertile ground for the Wokerati. Homophobia abounds, as does racism, something we saw when black people were taken off or prevented from boarding trains leaving Ukraine at the start of the war. Gay rights and racism are not woke issues per se, in fact the Wokerati in the West have abandoned gay rights, particularly Lesbian rights, in favour of male heterosexuals invading women’s spaces. But you get the general idea about Ukraine being a hostile terrain.
Not anymore, wokeness and its methods have come to Ukraine. How it has done so, and on what issue, is illustrative of the reactionary nature of wokeness. When Russia invaded Ukraine, ridiculous calls were made to ban everything from Tchaikovsy to Tolstoy. In doing so, they emulated woke calls for authors to be banned from the airwaves and also the rewriting of history with long dead authors being judged by current understandings of society on issues like race, but not class. Class was still fair game, in fact it is the target of many woke comedians, whose middle-class audiences like to show their social sense of rightness by frowning on historical authors on issues, like race, women (to a degree only) and others. So, we are only a few steps from Shakespeare, John Donne and others getting chopped, but they have no problem with working class people being the target of their jokes.
Now the Ukrainians have got in on the game with calls for the closure of a museum in Kiev dedicated to the writer Mikhail Bulgakov.(1) Yes, I had to look him up too. I have to confess to the woke literati that he was never on my radar before this moment. I mean, he is not Tolstoy, is he? And he is certainly not anything closer to home like Beckett, or even the English author Thomas Hardy, both of whom have survived the woke banning spree so far, but this might be because their stuff is a little dense and maybe they haven’t read them yet. I know I haven’t, though as a child my Da would read them and sometimes out loud. So, I knew not to bother with them at an early age, unless you were going to get very serious.
Bulgakov’s crime was that he wasn’t enamoured with Ukrainian nationalism and so he must be expunged from the record.
Ukraine’s national writers’ union has called for the museum at number 13A Andriivskyi Descent – a historic cobbled street linking the upper town with the district of Podil, on the banks of the Dnipro River – to be closed down.(2)Apparently, he even criticised some Ukrainian nationalists of his time and Stalin was fond of some of his plays, though he censored him at the same time. Bulgakov opposed the idea of an independent Ukraine. And even The Guardian acknowledges that this was a common position at the time. He was not alone.
The museum’s director, Lyudmila Gubianuri, has also hit back against criticism, calling Bulgakov “a man of his time”. “He was born and lived in the Russian empire. Bulgakov had an inherent imperial mindset, but neither he nor his family were ever Ukrainophobes,” she stressed. “Bulgakov did not believe in the reality of an independent Ukraine, like quite a lot of people at that time.”(3)Were we to do this in Ireland, lots of people would come a cropper. Seán O’ Casey would get it in the neck. Joyce would be frowned upon as well, not for the views that saw the Catholic Church come down upon him, but perhaps his general view of Ireland. Brendan Behan was certainly in favour of Irish independence, but he joined the IRA and was arrested on bombing charges, so in the new climate of blessing the British government for taking up the White Man’s Burden in relation to us, he might also get it. There is no end of writers who might be banned. Roddy Doyle, is no friend of Irish independence. His unpublished play My Granny Was A Hunger Striker, written shortly after the 1981 hunger strike which saw ten men die, gives you an idea of where he stands. Maybe in the future someone might call for his works to be removed, no more The Van or Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha, or his work on violence against women in the home, The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I knew I should never have read him or even Behan, Joyce or Casey. Yes, I actually read them, unlike Beckett.
The reactionary nature of wokeness can be seen in its arrival in Ukraine. It is about stifling dissent and debate and generally promoting reactionary ideas. It is something more at home in an authoritarian regime like the Ukrainian one. Russia has been more straightforward in its censorship, though now a capitalist regime, its take on repression and censorship, has been borrowed straight out of the Soviet era book. The Wokerati under the guise of liberalism also want to shape a view of society on the basis of authoritarian methods, such as social shaming and the banning of literature to the literary equivalent of Outer Mongolia and have had some success.
Liberals ban books and place authors in quarantine, Ukrainian nationalists adopt the same tactics. Tells you everything you need to know about both. Though, that the Western Wokerati were streets ahead in the book burning club probably means they have the edge over the zealots of the East and this is also telling.
(1 ) Luke Harding (31/12/2022) ‘Propaganda literature’: calls to close Mikhail Bulgakov museum in Kyiv. The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2022/dec/31/mikhail-bulgakov-museum-kyiv-calls-to-close