In a move that some critics say could fan the flames of creeping racial intolerance and xenophobia in the country, one
of Ukraine’s largest higher educational institutes has again invited reputed White supremacist, American David Duke, to lecture on its campus.
Duke’s Oct. 19 appearance at the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, better known as MAUP, dealt with alleged Zionist influence over the United States government and mass media, according to an Oct. 20 news release posted on MAUP’s website, which has since been removed.
MAUP’s press service refused to provide the Post with comments regarding Duke’s visit.
MAUP, which has hosted Duke on several occasions in recent years, awarding him with a doctorate in history in 2005, has denied claims that it is propagating anti-Semitic rhetoric with Duke’s appearances.
According to the New York-based Anti-Defamation League [ADL], Duke subscribes to the ideologies of White supremacism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The ADL claims that Duke spent much of 2001-2002 in Russia and Ukraine promoting anti-Semitism.
In the United States, Duke is best known for his role in the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s as the White supremacist group’s Imperial Wizard, and his one-time stint as a member of the Louisiana State House of Representatives from 1989 to 1992.
Duke has recently been gaining attention by lecturing abroad and promoting his controversial book, “Jewish Supremacism: The Jewish Question from the Eye of an American,” the Russian-language version of which has enjoyed a wide readership in Russia and Ukraine, according to Duke.
“I am not in any way an anti-Semite,” Duke said in a phone interview with the Post.
“I am not a White supremacist in any way whatsoever. I do believe that every people has a right to defend their heritage and preserve their heritage,” he added.
Maksym Butkevych, an activist with No Borders–Kyiv Initiative, a Kyiv-based organization monitoring racism in Ukraine, said the fact that an educational institution such as MAUP would allocate funds to invite a person of Duke’s repute and help him disseminate his views, which are “racist by nature,” poses a potential danger of exacerbating worsening racial problems in the country.
“Duke’s visit is another detail in the overall panorama of the racist tensions in Ukraine, which already looks pretty grim,” Butkevych said.
“Duke lecturing at MAUP is one of those events that looks decent enough, but sends mixed and controversial messages,” he said.
“Criticizing Israel’s foreign policy, they end up talking about the threat of global Zionism, which is used as a label for a worldwide conspiracy orchestrated by people of one ethnic origin,” Butkevych added.
Duke’s repeat visit to Ukraine has also caused concern among members of Ukraine’s government.
According to an Oct. 31 article posted by Mosnews.com, an English-language website based in Russia, Oleksandr Feldman, a Ukrainian lawmaker with the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, criticized Ukraine’s government for allowing Duke to enter the country, calling him a “White supremacist.”
Lawmaker Refat Chubarov, a member of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine faction and parliament’s committee on human rights, ethnic minorities and interethnic relations, said that any educational institution that invites a guest speaker must evaluate his theories and the potential impact it might have on society.
Chubarov, who is also an active member of Ukraine’s Crimean Tatar community, said that it is the responsibility of the state to interfere in any actions that might stir up interethnic tensions.
Butkevych disagrees. He believes that the state should not get involved, and that public protests, which never took place in response to Duke’s visits and lectures, would be more appropriate in such cases.
Duke said that he came to Ukraine as part of a larger tour of Europe and the Middle East, where he will be promoting new translations of his book, “Jewish Supremacism.”
“My book’s coming out in about five countries over the next two or three months … I’m quite busy with all this stuff,” he said.
Duke estimated that the book’s Russian translation, which has been available since 2000, has sold nearly 650,000 copies in Russia alone. He said he didn’t know how many copies had sold in Ukraine but that the book had already been published in this country.
“I think the publisher sold the rights and I don’t know the numbers, but I know it’s been a lot. When I did my lecture, many individuals brought their books to have them signed,” Duke said.
Duke denied that MAUP paid him for taking part in the conference.
“No, they didn’t pay for me to come. No, I was traveling through the area, I had some other things … they wanted to do this press conference and academic lecture as well, so I came and did it,” Duke said, adding that he has already been to Ukraine on several occasions at MAUP’s bequest.
“I’ve lectured a number of times [at MAUP]. They also have had a series of anti-Zionist conferences, which have been well attended around the world, including many diplomats and many government officials,” he said.
After receiving an honorary degree from MAUP a few years earlier, Duke obtained a PhD in history from the university in September 2005 for his doctoral thesis entitled “Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism.”
Butkevych said there is an alarming tendency emerging in Ukraine of “ideological” racism and xenophobia, which is growing more popular among marginal youth groups and political parties.
However, according to him, the main sources exporting racist ideology to Ukraine have been Russian, with ultra-right-wing ideas disseminated via Russian nationalist websites and music.
Butkevych said that the slaying of a Nigerian citizen in a metro station on Kyiv’s left bank Oct. 25, allegedly by a group of five skinheads who have not been detained, appeared to closely resemble the numerous killings of racial minorities by neo-Nazi youth groups in Russia.
Ukrainian daily Kommersant reported Nov. 1 that the assailants who killed the 44-year-old Nigerian, Godknows Mievi, allegedly shouted in Russian and Ukrainian, “We will save Ukraine from these freaks!”
Duke, and other sources of racist ideology, such as France’s right-wing Front National, the party headed by Jean-Marie Le Pen, have been less instrumental in stoking racial intolerance in Ukraine, Butkevych said.
According to him, Le Pen has consulted Ukrainian right-wing groups in the past.
The Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli reported in May 2000 that Le Pen had visited Ukraine to speak at a congress of the ultra-right-wing All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, also known as the Social-Nationalist Party, headquartered in the Ukrainian nationalist stronghold of Lviv in the country’s west.
According to the Ukrainian Central Election Committee’s website, the party ran for parliament with Oleh Tiahnybok at its head in 1998.
Tiahnybok made it into parliament in 2002 on the ticket of Our Ukraine, the party led by current President Viktor Yushchenko.
Yushchenko announced Tiahnybok’s expulsion from the party for making racist and anti-Semitic statements amid Our Ukraine’s politicking during Yushchenko’s presidential campaign in the summer of 2004.
“A Ukrainian patriot is not synonymous with a xenophobe,” Yushchenko said at the time.
Tiahnybok ran for parliament in 2006, again as the head of the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, which dropped the Social-Nationalist Party moniker in 2004 due to the negative image associated with the name. The party received 0.36 percent of the vote in the 2006 elections, well below the 3 percent barrier needed to make it into parliament.
According to a November 3 report prepared by London-based Amnesty International for the United Nations, despite appeals to the Ukrainian government to take steps to prevent and punish racist and anti-Semitic tendencies, made back in 2001, such attacks are currently continuing, and the government “unwillingly admits they are racially motivated.” The report mentions “at least” eight attacks against Jews that took place in Ukraine in 2005, noting that they have been qualified by the police as “hooliganism.”
Natalia Prokopchuk, Regional Public Information Officer of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said that in 2006 her agency registered approximately 50 complaints from refugees and asylym seekers staying in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and Vinnytsia, primarily of African and Asian origin. She says in addition to racist attacks and battery, this number also includes extortion and other harassments.Prokopchuk notes, however, that only a small percentage of refugees in Ukraine approaches police or makes public complaints about racist attacks or other mistreatment, due to the fear of possible retaliation by the assailants.