Roman Bezsmertnyi – people’s deputy of the four convocations, ex-vice-prime minister of Ukraine, field commander of Maidan in 2004, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus, negotiator in the Minsk process, while telling about the fundamental difference between us and the aggressive neighbor he was constantly drawing and making sketches to explain the obvious things for him. He was reproducing his picture of the world. It started to form in his childhood with the help of his grandfather Demian, the formation continued when he was studying world history in school, university and while he was writing his thesis. The true intellectual and extremely intelligent politician who’s “tired of bringing the ammunition to those who can’t shoot,” therefore, he decided to run for a presidency. Mr. Bezsmertnyi shared with Opinion the secret of his life’s effectiveness. He explained how a science of the past helps to predict the future. He spoke about the impossibility of new leaders’ emergence in Russia. He told us why Putin’s and Lukashenko’s destinies are unimportant, he spoke about the true value of Tomos and two parts of Ukrainian society.
About the recipe for success and child’s dreams
You see, my father taught me in the childhood that our home village of Motyzhyn was the first in alphabetical order, Moscow came next. So I remembered it. My recipe for success is not only about ambitions. I was taught in the childhood to work hard. I always have to do my best. If you work, you definitely have to show a result. That’s why I have always done my best in studying as well as in working. That’s my recipe for getting maximum of results.
Despite the fact that Motyzhyn is just a village, and I was brought up in a regular Soviet family (mother worked at a hospital all her life, dad worked at a collective farm), but a family code, attitude to work and an appropriate upbringing are the main conditions for success.
My first child’s dream was to become a pilot. I was dreaming of cosmic flights for a long time in childhood. Once I woke up and found my granny, mother’s mum, standing above me and blowing on me. She was a very religious person, she was an elder in a church, was keen on many things. Since that, I’ve stopped dreaming of flights. In a while, the dream to become a pilot disappeared. Instead of that, very pragmatic dreams appeared, but it was much later.
My father wanted me to become a military. He really wanted me to enter the Suvorov Military School after I finished my Year 7. I didn’t want to. I applied for the History Department.
My parents didn’t know about that for long. Until a postman brought a letter that I had entered the History Department (we were digging up potatoes at that moment), but for that postman, they would have never found out. My father was very taciturn. He never told me he got offended but he was always saying it was my choice and I was responsible for that.
If you take a register for my Years 4-10, you will see I had the best marks for History. Only once, I got 4 (out of 5). I remember well that lesson I hadn’t learnt, the topic was “Paris Commune”. I knew something about it but it wasn’t enough to score the highest.
Actually, I have been fond of reading since my childhood. What does a boy read about? About war! This is the History. That’s why I knew it. I was reading everything from Rafaello Giavagnoli‘s “Spartacus” to the books about partisans of Alexander Saburov, Sidor Kovpak. About medieval uprisings, about ancient times… I was reading fiction. What is fiction? It is a retelling of certain historical events. That’s why I was good at History. Moreover, my first History teachers were also playing football. I’ve been crazy about it since my childhood. So History and football combined.
My professors noticed that I was often using historical parallels as for comprehending of a situation and explaining. And taking into account that History develops on a spiral, everything used to happen once just at another emotional state. That’s why it’s quite easy to look at modern events through the example of analogies. And if you realise the course of events, it makes an analysis of a situation quite easier.
About Russia’s otherness
The war was absolutely expected… You see, since my first days in the Ukrainian politics, I began communicating with such people as Mykhailo Horyn, Levko Lukyanenko, Ihor Yukhnovsky, Leon Horokhivsky, Viacheslav Chernovil (Soviet dissidents who became policymakers as Ukraine gained the Independence). They had spent 20-25 years in camps. For me it was clear who had put them there that’s why I always realised there was some dividing line.
I know what the Kyivan Rus and the Zalesye Rus are. I heard two stories in the childhood: at school, I was told one story, and at home, my grandad Demian who fought at the Second World War told me another story. I have always lived realising these two stories. Along with that grandad was saying, “Don’t even dare to tell anybody what I am telling you. You have to know but don’t tell anyone.”
Since 1996, as I started to work with Kuchma (Ukrainian president 1994-2005), I have seen: politicians realised that there would be a struggle. It wasn’t clear what exactly it would be. But it was clear that it will happen.
I am recalling and I can tell it even today: before leaving for Minsk [February 2010, Roman Bezsmertnyi was appointed an Ambassador of Ukraine to Belarus – ED], I had a meeting with President Yanukovych. He said to me, “You see, the bottom line for us today is the border with Russia and the border with Belarus. If we fail to build it, it will be a disaster.” I mean if Yanukovych realised that, what we can say about the others…
One more thing to understand: today, we have three, not two, battlefields: there are the Crimea, Donbas and the Sea of Azov area. For some reason, we are constantly talking about Donbas but it is the Azov area which is the most challenging.
Today, Belarus is fully controlled by Moscow, namely by the Kremlin.
Actually, if you were so lucky (or unlucky) to live 24 hours in Belarus and listen to their radio or TV, you would feel as an ill person in the evening. Belarusian information is ultimately filled with Russian sources. There is no alternative. People who have satellite TV can watch Ukrainian TV from time to time. That’s why there is no difference for us – Russia or Belarus. We have to understand it. Nobody will ask Lukashenko whether to use territories or not. There are two military bases in Belarus today: strategical and tactical air forces which are filled with manpower after the exercise. Moscow always demands there to be more of manpower. What for? It is obvious.
The Ukrainian-Belarusian border is as much as 1000 km long. Only two border-crossing checkpoints are regulated, others are easy to cross, these kilometres are not regulated. Belarus is not only Ukraine’s problem, but it is also the problem from the EU security point of view. The Kremlin can’t fail to use it, they will always use it as a potential threat.
About Lukashenko and Putin
Lukashenko can cease being the president at any moment. It depends on his behaviour, he is totally controlled by Putin. As for Putin, there is no difference among Yuri Dolgorukiy, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Stalin, Brezhnev, Putin. Why? Because it is the line of a civilizational break.
Civilisation moves from West to East, while people inhabit the earth from East to West. Once in, a while, periodically, they meet. Barbarians met at the border of the Roman state.
We are going across another line, which I’d call an IT conflict line. This is Rimland and this is Hartland, that’s why it doesn’t matter how Russia is called. I call a modern Russian with Reagan’s words “Evil Empire”. What form it chooses and who is its leader – it doesn’t matter at all.
About new possible Russian leaders
Can young people who emigrated to the West for studying come back and change anything in this state? Unfortunately, only a few of them come back to Russia after having studied overseas. Only those who can’t feel comfortable in the western world come back. And the most important thing is that their impact on Russian politics today, tomorrow and in the near future is minimal. And it will be so because the nature of Russia, the USSR, the Russian Empire is producing aggression. That’s why even their potential will be used negatively.
Sakharov is a genius, but how his invention was used? How the invention of genius Korolev was used? For the world, they are people who stepped much forward. The world would use it for good but how was it used by the Russian Empire, the USSR, the Russian Federation? We are living with the neighbour who is always looking at us as at a potential victim. It can be poor and hungry but we are always a victim for it.
About joining the NATO
It concerns our inner possibilities: just as membership in the EU, so the membership in the NATO. I would say so: joining the NATO and the EU 90% depends on social, economic, humanitarian, political branches and only 10% depends on security. That’s why we have to complete these tasks, and then we will be invited there.
We need not just game rules, we have to learn them by heart and apply them appropriately. If we can’t interpret to fit Ukraine, then we have to just learn them and complete.
About tomos and division of property between churches
The tomos makes Ukraine a centre of the Orthodox Christianity. That what the tomos is in fact. If you look at a map, you will see that even geographically it shows that, having become a centre of the Orthodox Christianity, this territory and its parish will balance the influence of Orthodox and Catholic Christianity in Europe. It will also open a path to the Christianity union. That’s why it is not only about Ukraine. It is about Christianity in general.
Technically, the union of churches has been a solved issue for several years already. I communicate with some hierarchs who have made it clear that everything has already been decided. I won’t speak about it, reveal schemes, it is not in my wheelhouse. But for them, it was decided a long time ago, but they communicate with each other and realised how to do it. That’s why the division of property issue is a fringe concern. Obviously, it will look much different if we let Russia cause rifts here.
So now, we have the following task: to put Ukraine’s intelligence agencies up to special agents in cassocks. Where there are not monks but assault and special forces agents, believe me, it is of no secret for the Ukrainian intelligence. I’ll remind you only one fact: some clergymen of Moscow Patriarchate have 2-4 criminal cases. The wheels should have been set in motion a long time ago.
About Ukrainians’ readiness for democracy
I’d divide the Ukrainian community into at least two parts. The first one is people who have lived with democratical beliefs, who were born in an independent Ukraine, who dream about nothing but democracy and freedoms. The second one is the Ukrainian population which is infected with totalitarian, soviet diseases. This part can’t imagine themselves without patriarchal customs.
Correlation is 30% / 70% now. That’s why any manager who enters office has to reconcile with that. I don’t give an assessment to either of these groups. Politics has to save in itself that what can give an answer to the infected as well because sometimes these people look helpless. Along with that, it has to give chances to new people because it is a driving force which helps us develop.
Freedom is the main thing for me. I do what I have to do
About the impact of education on democracy development
Teachers are actually the most conservative people, that’s why there is a problem, a very big one. A modern class-and-lesson system of education and European education system are, in fact, shaped through the Ukrainian example. Ukrainian educators Ushynskyi and Sukhomlynskyi are significant figures.
However in Ukraine, only about a third of those who graduate from education colleges are true-born teachers, and mostly, they are women. The rest are people who suffer from being teachers. The USSR broke approaches I am talking about. This education became burdening for students, that’s why a teacher isn’t brought up, he or she is taught in Ukraine. That’s why if you were born a teacher, you become a teacher. If you weren’t born so, Ukraine doesn’t have a system which can teach you to become a teacher, that is the problem. That’s why there are people who have graduated from education colleges but I would let them work with children for no reason.
One more thing we have failed with is values. When the USSR collapsed, we forgot 10 Commandments of a Communist, but we also forgot 10 Christ’s Commandments. As a result, our values started to collapse. It caused that we forgot that there are family and streets except for a school. That’s why when you look at a 30-year-old person today, you see that whether a school, family or streets dominate in his personality. We have forgotten that this is us who are responsible to the society, the state for our children. We are also responsible for our parents, who are getting old. How can we renew it? Only via Christian values.
By Svitlana Bondar
Photo by Oleksandr Kosaryev