Geopolitics

The Risk Of Ultranationalism In Ukraine

As overnight clashes in Kiev leave at least two dead, the Russian daily reports that the violence is being fed by nationalist groups that advocate open revolution.

 "The situation is increasingly spiraling out of control"
"The situation is increasingly spiraling out of control"
Valery Kalnish and Sergei Strokan

KIEV – After two months of mostly peaceful protests, Ukraine has been gripped by the most serious and violent protests since its independence. (Authorities on Wednesday confirmed at least two deaths in overnight clashes in Kiev)

While the capital is the identifiable epicenter of these protests, and there are some recent signs that the government may seek negotiations, the situation is increasingly spiraling out of control. The ultranationalist “Right Sector” movement is no longer answering to the leaders of the larger opposition movement, and is calling for a nationalist revolution, saying that is necessary to “combat the dictatorship.”

The last chance for peace in Ukraine might be the negotiations between the government and the peaceful opposition, but would require serious concessions from both sides.

The proof that the protests on the Maidan is no longer peaceful came when activists of the Right Sector (Pravyj) became violent with law enforcement, ignoring the calls from the opposition leaders. The street fight in the center of Kiev, which broke out on the eve of the eighth planned peaceful protest, spread onto Grushevski street, home of the Ukrainian government buildings. The Right Sector even used giant catapults in an attempt to storm the government buildings.

Right Sector leaders say that this is “a normal reaction to the establishment of a dictatorship.” They also insist that after the government adopted several laws severely restricting freedom and rights in Ukraine, the time for peaceful protest ended.

The Right Sector, which is comprised of several different nationalist parties, had emerged on December 11th when law enforcement tried to force protests out of the Maidan, and until recently provided security for the Maidan protests and for the opposition headquarters.

The Right Sector has their headquarters in the same building as the rest of the opposition movement, and are financed through donations, mostly from protesters. Stepan Kubiv, a commander from the Right Sector, says that they are collecting around $30,000 to $40,000 daily, but that is still not sufficient to finance operations.

Even before the recent outbursts of violence, Right Sector had addressed the people of Ukraine to make clear that their path would diverge with the more moderate opposition groups. Their manifesto calls for “punishment of all traitors, according to the full force of revolutionary laws,” and Right Sector considers anyone attempting to diffuse the rebellious atmosphere or who engages in negotiations with “internal enemies” to be a traitor. “There can be no compromise with criminals,” one leader said.

Little wiggle room

The top leaders of Ukraine's nationalist parties were not present during the recent clashes between Right Sector activists and law enforcement. The only opposition leader present was the former boxer Vitali Klitschko, a moderate opposition leader who was attempting to stop the violence. Some protesters greeted Klitschko with an obscene chant usually used by soccer fans. Others said he was the type of leader that they had long wanted to get rid of.

This outbreak of violence was unexpected both by the government and the mainstream opposition movement, and has forced President Viktor Yanukovich and his opponents to reestablish communication - urgently. Klitschko went, of his own initiative, to visit the President at his residence.

The former boxing champion says that he spoke with Yanukovich for around an hour, and expressed his concern that if action is not taken quickly, the country could start down an irreversible road toward civil war. Although the government has offered to hold talks with the opposition, so far it has not offered negotiations on a presidential level, and the opposition refuses to negotiate unless the talks are directly with Yanukovich.

In spite of the fact that real negotiations between the moderate opposition movement and the government seems to be the only hope for avoiding further violence in Ukraine, neither side seems prepared to make serious concessions. The opposition insists on early presidential and parliamentary elections, which the President categorically refuses. In addition, Yanukovich’s administration has been tightening laws in an effort to force the air out of the protest movement.

This week, Sergei Levochik, a senior Administration official, was dismissed after having advocated against adopting repressive laws, in order to give time for the protest movement to die down on its own.

Given these circumstances, it’s going to be difficult for both the government and the moderate opposition movement to make compromises that allow them both to save face. The apparent political dead end in Ukraine is instead the perfect atmosphere for radicals to escalate the violence.

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Society

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.


Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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