Odessa is the city with the imperial past and the Ukrainian future

Recently I had a talk with an American professor, a fullbright winner, who now lives in Kharkiv and studies “a monster” – an identity of a Russian speaking Ukrainian who predominantly lives in a Russian-speaking city but identifies himself with Ukraine. The Professor was interested to know what I think about how to keep identity under the difficult ideological and political conditions. We had a long dialogue. Finally, this is how I formulated different possible positions of Odessa citizens:

  1. I don’t care. Leave me in peace and do what you want. (I believe it is the mainstream position. Sometimes I think that all Odessans are brothers and they are not their brothers’ keepers.)
  2. My nationality is Odessan. My city is my country. We solve our problems ourselves. Don’t push us. Moscow, Kyiv, hands off this sea gem! We have our own criteria. We have our own traditions. Free trade and free corruption are the fundamentals of our life.
  3. Odessa is the Russian city – it was built an inhabited by Russians. Putin, bring in the troops! No to Galician occupation! Thank you, Great-Grandfather for the Victory!
  4. Odessa is UkraineandithasalwaysbeenUkraine. The history of Odessa that you’ve readis an imperial myth. The real history of Odessa hasn’t been written yet, we know how to write it but we have no writing skills. Odessa must speak Ukrainian. Ukraine is for the Ukrainians.
  5. Odessa is a Ukrainian city with the imperial past and the Ukrainian future. Every citizen of Ukraine regardless of his ethnic origin who loves his country and wishes it well is the Ukrainian. There is a big difference between the Unity of the country and its homogeneity.

Point 3 and Point 4 have conspiratorial roots. All evil comes from the USA or Russian Federation but not from us. The Jews are the enemy agents; homosexuals pose a threat to the statehood, etc… Radical positions are not typical of our city. However, the radicals as it usually is speak more loudly and more persistently than the people with common sense do. Unfortunately, the radicals speak as if from a position of power. We speak from a position of reason because reason is the one thing we can feel certain about. Dr. Freud wrote that reason speaks quietly but persistently until it is heard.  Once I coined a slogan – Reason to Ukraine! – Reason to heroes!

Boris Khersonskij

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