Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 7. Building European Values

Three main factors are decisive for the establishment of European values in the post-Soviet space: experiential, linguistic and religious.

The experiential factor implies people traveling to the Western world and acquainting themselves with the values and rules of societies there, becoming convinced that our compatriots in the post-Soviet space are much more oppressed than in the West. People in the West are much freer, have opportunities to receive good education, quality medical care and social services. They also see that a westerner has same abilities as an easterner. The difference, however, is that the easterner does not have the possibility to fully realize his/her abilities, whereas the westerner does. This happens because an individual person and his/her welfare has superior value in the West. The more intensively people travel to the West, the clearer they will understand Western values if, of course, they want to – I have seen many Eastern Europeans in the West who have failed to understand why Western values are so different from Soviet ones. The state of affairs in this regard is much better among Ukrainians. Ukrainians can cross over into Western Europe in the morning and be back in Ukraine the same evening. They can use cheap transportation to travel to the West and can easily familiarize themselves with Western culture and values.

The linguistic factor means that a large segment of our youth studies Western languages, mainly English, which enables the younger generation, in the virtual space, to learn about those values that have been established in the West. This is a process which cannot be stopped by anyone or anything. I spent many years of my life in a totalitarian society and know perfectly well that the thirst for freedom cannot be contained. God himself granted freedom to human beings and who has the right to deprive them of that? True, everyone tries to seize that freedom granted by God. State, public, social, cultural and religious institutions all compete with one another in this endeavor, but all these are transient efforts. Nothing can stand in the way of the drive towards liberty. The walls and barbed wire fences erected by people are not eternal. Linguistically, Ukrainians are way ahead of us, a large segment of the youth are eloquent in Western languages and are receiving education in Western countries.

The third factor is religious. We know that after the fall of the Soviet Union, religion has replaced irreligiosity in almost the entire post-Soviet space, which was the dominant ideology before. Where statehood was strong, religion started serving either the state or the local culture. Where the sense of statehood was weak, religion clung to the government as a leech. In the Baltic States, religion played a positive role in the integration of these countries into the European Union and the establishment of European values. In contrast to that, the Russian Orthodox Church, assumedly with encouragement from the government, soon took an anti-Western position. The state actually launched a new Cold War against the West, exploiting Orthodox Christianity as an anti-Western ideology. In political terms, it was an astute tactic. The state used religion. For its part, religion, in trading with the state, exchanged its values and practices into money, privileges and power. This proved beneficial for both the empire and the Church, the only loser was Christ. Christ was betrayed once again, but for more than 30 pieces of silver this time. Long ago, Patriarch Gundyaev, before becoming Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ Kirill, and his young apprentice Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, were distinguished Ecumenical activists – until that played into their hands. They never missed Ecumenical and pan-Ecumenical meetings and forums. They were much respected in the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches. Now they have put themselves in the service of the empire and their stay in the Ecumenical movement is only nominal. However, they still retain sufficient influence in these organizations to obstruct membership for those churches which they dislike: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, the Estonian Orthodox Church, and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. (Unfortunately, the World Council of Churches is today only a shadow of what it used to be. This organization is now basically in the hands of heartless bureaucrats and I think it will not last long. Instead, new alternative organizations have emerged that carry out those activities that, as a rule, must be performed by the World Council of Churches).

Taking into account these three factors, things are not bad in Ukraine. No one can stand up to its integration into Europe. And when this happens, it will give other post-Soviet countries, including Russia, a chance to better consider the need and necessity for European values.

I had finished writing this article when, while on a visit to Qatar, I received a letter from one brilliant young person that contained a difficult rhetorical question.

“Terrible things are happening in Kiev, it’s a disaster there..,” the letter read, “I have no idea when this will end… But, guess what I am thinking about? What would we have done had we been in place of the Ukrainians? Would we have been able to fight for our freedom?”

This question threw me into a strange disarray and made me feel anxious. I opened a window in my hotel room. Warm air came into the room. I heard a muezzin’s voice from a nearby mosque that stood against the background of skyscrapers in Doha. The muezzin was calling believers to prayers:

“… Ash-hadu al-la ilaha illa-llah!…” (I witness that there is no god but God).

It was pleasant to hear the muezzin’s call, I felt a sort of relief.

“I have no idea what we would have done were we in the place of the Ukrainians,” I said aloud, as if my friend was sitting in the room.

Since then, I have often mulled over this question. Sometimes I think that we would not be able to conduct such resistance, other times I think it would be possible for the drive for freedom, which is still contained inside us, to burst out so that we would be able to conduct non-violent resistance to our offenders. Perhaps it is not worth making any such guesses about that. Time will tell. Let us wait!

(Source of this series of texts, Tabula.)

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

One thought on “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 7. Building European Values”

  1. Ce se-ntimpla cu Ucraina este grav si descurajant. Vestul asista nepuntincios. Dar problema e si cu valorile vestice. Unde-s protestatarii de la marsurile pentru pace care umpleau cu milioanele marile capitale europene? Well… din pacate, problema e cu “valorile vestice”. Ele-s doar pe hirtie si mintea/asteptarile noastre “estice”. Desigur, ucrainienii trebuie sa fie si ei dezamagiti. Cred insa ca si Putin plateste un pret pina la urma. La terminarea mandatului, Secretarul de Stat Clinton, avertiza cu privire la cresterea influentei Rusiei in Europa de Rasarit. “Ucraina” ii va fi facut pe nostaligici sa vada adevarata fata a sovietizarii dar si ii va fi speriat pe adeptii occidentalizarii rasaritului. Ce va fi? Numai Dumnezeu stie.

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