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2 November, 2011  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

Not By Cabbage Alone?

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov philosophizes at the 6th CIS Intelligentsia Forum

“The economy is easier to restore than that unity which is our common historical and cultural heritage… Restoring moral values, which we, it must be said, have largely lost in our pursuit of material wealth, and instilling these values in our youth – this is what I view as the main task of the intelligentsia.”

This philosophical speech at the 6th CIS Intelligentsia Forum in Kyiv came not from the notable signatories (intellectuals) of laudatory letters to President Viktor Yanukovych, nor from the brainy Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, nor even from the president himself. The speaker was none other than Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the same man who stated on numerous occasions that fostering the right ideas, spiritual life and so on is far less important than daily bread, or at least daily potatoes and cabbage. In something of a rebuke to Ukrainians looking to the government for help, Azarov famously remarked months ago that Ukrainians should get their shovels in hand and start growing vegetables themselves, instead of calling on the government to keep food prices in check.

And what are these things that Azarov wants to see “restored” and “instilled”? Universal human values are called universal precisely because they are not the exclusive domain of the USSR or the “Russian world.” After all, the Soviet Union fell apart specifically because the Soviet's hypocritical propaganda of these values collided with reality in the USSR.

So the prime minister has it wrong: it is not that “values were lost” with the loss of common ties, but these ties were severed because they were not cemented with normal human values.

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