V. I.   Lenin

How Does Bishop Nikon Defend the Ukrainians?

Published: Pravda Truda No. 3, September 13, 1913. Published according to the Pravda Truda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 379-381.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

It is reported in Kievskaya Mysl that Bishop Nikon, deputy to the State Duma, Right, was the first to put his signature to the bill on the Ukrainian school and Ukrainian associations submitted to the Duma.

The bill says: teaching in elementary schools in the Ukrainian language shall be permitted; Ukrainian teachers shall be appointed; the teaching of the Ukrainian language and the history of the Ukraine shall be introduced; Ukrainian associations shall not be persecuted and they shall not be closed “at the discretion of the authorities, which is frequently undisguised lawlessness”.

Thus Purishkevich’s party comrade, Bishop Nikon, does not like lawlessness in certain cases.

Bishop Nikon is quite right in assuming that the question he raises “is one of outstanding importance, one that concerns the perversion of the thirty-seven million Ukrainians”; in saying that “the rich, beautiful, talented, flourishing and poetic Ukraine is being condemned to degeneration, gradual stultification and slow extinction”.

The protest against, the oppression of the Ukrainians by the Great Russians is a perfectly just one. But let us look at the arguments Bishop Nikon puts forward in defence of the Ukrainian demands.

The Ukrainian people do not seek any of this notorious autonomy, re-establishment of the Zaporozhye Sech or something of that kind; the Ukrainians are not separatists.... The Ukrainians are not people of foreign extraction, they are our own people, our blood brothers, and as such should not suffer any limitations in respect of their language and the development of their national culture; other wise we equate them, our brothers, with the Jews, Poles, Georgians and others, who actually are people of foreign extraction.”

And so it boils down to this—the Ukrainian Bishop Nikon and others of his school of thought are begging the Great-Russian landowners to grant privileges to the Ukrainians on the grounds that they are their brothers, while the Jews are people of foreign extraction! To put it simply and forthrightly—because the Jews and others are of foreign extraction we agree to oppress them, if you make concessions to us.

The picture is the familiar one of the defence of “national culture” by all bourgeois nationalists, from the Black Hundreds to the liberals, and even to the bourgeois-democratic nationalists!

What Bishop Nikon refuses to understand is that the Ukrainians cannot be protected from oppression unless all peoples, without exception, are protected from all oppression, unless the concept “people of foreign extraction” is completely expunged from the life of the state, unless the complete equality of rights of all nationalities is upheld. No one can be protected from national oppression unless the most extensive local and regional autonomy and the principle of settling all state questions in accordance with the will of the majority of the population (that is, the principle of consistent democracy) are consistently put into practice.

Bishop Nikon’s slogan of “national culture” for the Ukrainians means nothing more than the propagation of Black-Hundred ideas in the Ukrainian language; it is the slogan of Ukrainian-clerical culture.

Politically conscious workers have understood that the slogan of “national culture” is clerical or bourgeois deception—no matter whether it concerns Great-Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, Georgian or any other culture. A hundred and twenty-five years ago, when the nation had not been split into bourgeoisie and proletariat, the slogan of national culture could have been a single and integral call to struggle against feudalism and clericalism. Since that time, however, the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has gained momentum everywhere. The division of the “single” nation into exploiters and exploited has become an accomplished fact.

Only the clericals and the bourgeoisie can speak of national culture in general. The working people can speak only   of the international culture of the world working-class movement. That is the only culture that means full, real, sincere equality of nations, the absence of national oppression and the implementation of democracy. Only the unity and solidarity of workers of all nations in all working-class organisations in the struggle against capital will lead to “the solution of the national problem”.


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