Nationalism and fascism and the rise of capitalism in Ukraine: Some Tentative Conclusions

BY OAKLANDSOCIALIST ON APRIL 25, 2022

  • The connection between Russian oppression and Stalinism
  • The connection between Ukrainian nationalism and anti-communism
  • The present basis of support for Ukrainian fascist groups
  • How that could all change

Since I was recently in Ukraine, I was asked by a respected friend and fellow worker to write about my impressions of the issue of fascism in Ukraine. To me, it’s a very complex issue and it involves the whole issue of the old Soviet regime, the restoration of capitalism in that part of the world in general and the whole issue of national rights for Ukraine.

I am very, very far from an expert on any of this, but I have read a little bit. That reading includes Yulia Yurchenko’s excellent book Ukraine and the Empire of Capital, which reads kind of like a combination of Das Capital plus the Communist Manifesto brought up to date and with a focus on Ukraine, but placed in a world context. My experience in Ukraine was extremely limited and only allowed me to just scratch the surface, but I tried my best to keep my eyes and ears open. So with that understanding, here’s how the issues appear to me:

Ukraine means “borderland”, and that’s what Ukraine is – a borderland between many of the European powers. Combined with the fact that much of it is a flat, broad plain, this meant that it was invaded over and over again, so its peoples are composed of many different ethnic groups. The country or major parts of it were passed back and forth like the booty in a war. Over the last 100+ years, though, Russia has been the dominating power and threat. There was, for example, the “Holodomor” or mass starvation of 1932-3 in which 13% of the Ukrainian population starved to death. This national disaster was caused by the criminal policies of Stalin.

This and similar memories is seared into the minds of Ukrainian national culture, and it means that national oppression is equated with both Russia and what passed for socialism. My impression is that to many Ukrainians, they are one and the same.

Donbas miners on strike in 1989

1989 Donbas miners strike
In the late 1980s there was a mass strike movement of miners in the Donbas region. (The following quotes and statistics are from Yurchenko’s book.) In 1989, 173 out of 226 miners – a half million in all – went on strike. They elected strike committees that became semi-permanent institutions These were embryonic workers councils in the making, but the workers didn’t know where to go with them. The miners called for educational programs, but that layer of society with access to history and a wider understanding of the world – the petit bourgeois intellectuals – were intent on Ukrainian nationalism and ignored these strike committees. So, the miners’ intent on fighting the “Soviet system” found but one alternative: a first step back to capitalism through “enterprise autonomy”.

The miners strike could have been a first step towards the working class taking power. But the only option that seemed on the table was some sort of “kinder and gentler” capitalism. Something along the lines of what existed in Sweden or Germany – a well ordered society in which clear laws existed and were observed by all. A society with a “free” press and “fair” elections. A society that was able to provide the economic basics and had a wide level of social benefits.

The result of the collapse of the miners strike was a forewarning of what was to come. Throughout the Donbas, crime took off as criminal gangs multiplied. Increased drug addiction, the collapse of family life – all the ties that hold a society together even under capitalism frayed to the breaking point.

Return to capitalism
The middle class nationalist intelligentsia and the gangster capitalists combined. This along with the fact of the long standing oppression by Russia led to over 90% of voters voted for independence from Russia in the 1991 referendum. This was not only a vote for political independence, it also implied a view of moving towards capitalism as it was seen in Western Europe – capitalism with a kind and “democratic” face, capitalism with clean and “democratic” elections, lack of corruption and social programs to provide health care, pensions, etc.

With or without independence from Russia, though, a return to capitalism was inevitable at that point. The point is that independence also meant some form of democratic rule to those who voted in its favor.

What kind of capitalism they were going to get was indicated by the fact that in 1993 inflation reached 10,000%, by 1996 the GDP had shrunk to its lowest level in the history of Ukraine and by the following year the productive (as opposed to the speculative) component of GDP was at a mere 47.8%.

The “nomenklatura” (the old Soviet era bureaucracy) combined with outright criminal gangs to hive off the state owned industries. Gangsterism reined supreme. Each oligarch ruled over his turf like drug gang leaders do. They developed their own regional-based political parties. They fought amongst themselves as much as they did against their class enemy, the working class. This capitalist class in the making was a “criminal-political nexus”.

Capitalism in Western Europe and U.S.
At that time Western Europe was headed down the neoliberal road, reducing all social benefits and even the social democrats were collaborating in taking that direction. Due to this, far right nationalist and even outright fascist forces were bound to develop in those countries. So what chance did capitalism stand in Ukraine?

As for “democracy”, we have to realize one thing: It is a luxury for the capitalist class to rule through democratic norms. True, it’s the safest and least expensive means of their rule, but it is only possible when the capitalist class can offer at least the hope of a decent life to the majority of the working class. That is why it is being steadily eroded in Western Europe and the United States. In the US, where the working class is in crisis, the main resistance to that erosion comes from all the institutions that base themselves on capitalist democracy. That includes most of the capitalist media and almost all governmental institutions – for example the bureaucracies that control elections, different regulatory bodies, and even the US military. Even here, though, we see the erosion as for example within the police, where a large sector are committed racists and even fascists. And the US military has always had its “Dr. Strangelove” wing which is exemplified today by the likes of Michael Flynn and the convicted war criminal (pardoned by Trump) Eddie Gallagher. For all its extreme failings and its decline, the US unions also still stand as something of a bulwark to the developing anti-democratic trend that is being led by the Republicans.

Political basis for capitalist rule in former East Bloc
But what did Ukraine (or Russia or any of those countries) have? The previous state institutions were based on repression. There was no tradition of “free” press. And the unions were simply the old state-controlled unions, more like company unions than real worker organizations of any sort.

As for socialism: In the West – the US for example – socialists always were in the forefront of any workers’ movement. All the best, the most serious and dedicated union leaders were socialists of some sort – the famous ones like Eugene Debs, Big Bill Hayward, P.J. McGuire, and those whom history has largely forgotten like Benjamin Fletcher and R.T. Sims. (These names are largely forgotten due to racism.)

But the working class of Ukraine lacked the mass workers’ organizations – the unions. And as for socialism – it was and is almost unanimously associated with national oppression and the monster to the east.

Western capital played its role. Again, according to Yurchenko, it flooded Ukraine with speculative finance capital. She writes: “A large proportion of the economic growth of Ukraine’s economy in the pre-crisis years was growth on paper, based on fictitious foundations of credit finance and mirage liquidity. Investment from abroad that flooded the country in the last few years, before the Lehman Brothers collapse, has been the last wave of Ponzi-type financialisation. Ukraine’s banking sector growth since 2000 and especially during 2005–2008 was not a sign of the country’s improving economic performance but rather a sign of growing dependency and integration with the global financial architecture. It was an expression of the last wave of financialisation that began in the USA and then spread over to Europe–first Western and later farther to the East….. Ukraine cumulatively borrowed $44 billion and over 15.6 billion euros with the largest lenders being the IMF, the World Bank and the European Commission.”

All that money had to be repaid… by the working class.

The Maidan protests
They were not nationalist or fascist inspired

Maidan
In 2014, masses of Ukrainian youth rose up against the corrupt and pro-Russian president Yanukovich. Some on the “left” claim that it was a right wing-led coup that drove Yanukovich out of office. An independent study revealed that 70% of the protesters mentioned police brutality as a reason for being out in the streets; 53.3% mentioned Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the EU-Ukraine agreement; 50% said it was a desire to change life in Ukraine. Only 5% mentioned following a call of one of the right wing parties.

As with the years that led up to Maidan, the years that followed were filled with power struggles between different regional and gangster capitalist based parties, of which Yanukovich’s “Party of the Regions” was only one. It was the one most closely linked to Russia.

Ukrainian fascism
It was in this historical context that we have to understand Ukrainian fascism. Before commenting any further, it should be stressed that contrary to how most of those on the left raise it, fascism in

A member of the Russian National Unity Party. Putin sent these fascists into Donbas. The “socialists” who talk about fascism in Ukraine ignore Putin’s much stronger fascist links.

Ukraine is no isolated phenomenon. There is a fascist component to almost all those former east bloc countries, with the strongest fascist component being in Russia. There, Putin’s Number One advisor is the fascist Aleksander Dugin. Almost every fascist group and prominent individual throughout Europe supports Putin. While she is not directly a fascist, France’s Marine Le Pen is close to it. She has been directly financed by Putin. At a recent conference of the white supremacist America First in the US, the crowd was chanting “Putin, Putin, Putin”. So any talk of fascism in Ukraine is hypocrisy at best if it doesn’t point this out.

Nor is the Zelensky government a fascist or even fascist friendly one. In fact, Zelensky recently dismissed his interior minister Avakov, who was giving protection to the fascist-led Azov Battalion. And in the 2021 elections, the fascists received something like 3% of the vote and didn’t get a single delegate elected (as opposed to in the US).

However, this can be somewhat deceptive. According to what I was told when I was there, support for Azov is quite widespread as are right wing sentiments… of a sort. I was told that one can give the Nazi salute without being arrested, but one can be arrested for singing the Internationale. But we must see the complexity of this sentiment:

A funeral for a right wing leader in Lviv. Support for the far right is a complex issue in Ukraine.

Ukraine nationalism is totally integrated with the view that national oppression of Ukraine is integrally linked with the old Soviet Union. This is the basis of the anti-communism. Anti-communism and Ukrainian nationalism are one and the same in a the minds of many Ukrainians. Those who want to resist the Russian invasion would be looking for the force most determined and most able to do so. For many, that would be Azov. It is similar to those Syrians who wanted to resist the fascistic Assad dictatorship joining with the Muslim fundamentalists. They were not necessarily fundamentalists; they just wanted arms to fight Assad.

It is worth quoting Yurchenko at length: “The Ukrainian nation as an imagined community was weak when the country became independent… until the insurrection of 2013-2014…. It became popular to view the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the latter’s active support for separatist forces as factors that forced the birth of the Ukrainian nation that had been in the making since the early 1990s…. The Ukrainian is now locked into defining themselves in opposition to the Russian ‘Other’… [which] is chained to the communist Soviet.” (From pp. 20-21)

This view has nothing in common with that of Putin, who denies the very right of Ukraine to exist, and does so in order to justify a brutal imperialist invasion. Yurchenko bitterly opposes the invasion and has no patience for those “socialists” who deny Ukraine’s right to obtain arms from any source available, including the NATO nations. But what her explanation does do is explain two things: First is the link between Ukrainian nationalism and anti-communism; and second and related to this is the relatively weak basis for Ukrainian nationalism as compared to, for example German or Italian nationalism.

The basis of any national sentiment is a shared historical experience, a common language and culture, and more or less clear borders, among other things. What is happening in Ukraine – what has happened – is only the most extreme example of a global process. In 2004, the Guardian newspaper carried an extremely interesting article called The Demise of the Nation State. The author, Das Gupta, explained that all these factors that hold a nation together are under assault by global capital as well as other forces. But workers know no form of rule under capitalism other than the nation states. In fact, there is no other form of rule. It is exactly these processes that are driving a yearning for the “good old days”, meaning increased nationalism. The author didn’t comment on the absence of a mass, working class based socialist movement as an alternative, but that factor is certainly there globally and doubly so in Ukraine.

So what we see in Ukraine is a concentrated image of the future that capitalism holds for all.

More specifically, in relation to Ukraine, if Putin’s invasion succeeds even in part, if he succeeds in gaining military control over the Black Sea coast, possibly even all the way down to Odessa, this will lead to years of low scale war. It won’t be entirely different from what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza today. In the absence of a clear headed – which is to say socialist – wing of the working class developing, then hatred of Russia and in fact all Russian people could develop. This could include a movement against ethnic Russians in Ukraine, maybe even including physical attacks. In that case, then genuine fascist ideology could start to really develop.

Israeli fascist youth chanting “death to Arabs” at a protest.

To continue the previous analogy: In Israel today, Zionist fascism (as opposed to simple colonial/racist thinking) is developing, especially among the settlers in the West Bank. In the case of the war in Ukraine, Putin would likely have to bring in a “new” and more loyal population into his newly conquered territory. These would have a fascist ideology. Not only that, but the chauvinism that Putin bases himself on in Russia would also lead to an increase in outright fascism in the mother country. In fact, it’s possible that Putin’s rule could become an outright fascist one.

On the other hand, if Putin’s invasion fails, if his forces are even just driven out of the regions they already have conquered and Luhansk and Donetsk remain as puppet “states” for Putin, it seems likely to me that that would be considered a huge victory for Ukraine. In that case, within Russia a mood similar to the post-Vietnam mood in the US could start to develop. That would be a radical left challenge to the Putin regime, including mass disafection within the military. More important is what could start to develop in Ukraine. It seems most likely to me that there would be an initial outpouring of national pride. “We beat the Russian bear!” would be the mood. But then a new mood could start to develop among workers: “We went through all this sacrifice, now we want ours.” In other words, a renewed class struggle. Under these circumstances, an opening could develop for genuine socialism.

A funeral for a right wing leader in Lviv. Support for the far right is a complex issue in Ukraine.

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 Categories: Europewarworld relations

What is it like in the Ukraine?

It seems to me, to have a look a the following posts would help a lot

in understanding the situation in the Ukraine a bit better:

Archives

The author of these posts calls himself the Oakland Socialist.

What I wrote as a comment to a blog by Dawn Pisturino on Feb. 27th/2022

Dawn Pisturino

Dawn Pisturino

I think, it is not hard to understand, that from the Russians point of view, it is of the utmost importance, that they create all around Russia sufficient buffer zones in order to secure Russian borders as much as possible.

They are very powerful country now! This gives them the means for securing all their borders!

I think they are not out for any wars: They just want to b e able to keep securing all their borders!

All people, that study history objectively, should find it obvious, why the Russians, with Putin as their leader, right now act the way they do!

Hasn’t the West fed them lie upon lie? I don’t see, why they should have any reason to trust us!

The Funny Man Volodymyr Zelensky

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Ukraine’s Hero President Z.

The funnyman who became a warrior and founded a new Europe

BY

BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY

MARCH 01, 2022

Courtesy the author

Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Bernard-Henri Levy, 2019COURTESY THE AUTHOR

Idon’t know if, by the time this article appears, Volodymyr Zelensky will still be alive.

We do know that he is in Kyiv, surrounded by his generals, in a bunker that the Sukhoi fighter jets seek.

And we have just seen him in a video where he appears helmetless, outside, like a young Churchill walking in the poor neighborhoods of London during the Nazi Blitz of September 1940.

But I also know that he is at the top of the Kremlin’s kill list, according to the English-language press.

His recent farewells come to mind—on Friday, Feb. 25, to his counterparts over Zoom during a special meeting of the European Union: “This is maybe the last time that you will see me alive.”

What is greatness?

True greatness, as taught by European chivalry?

Perhaps it is that.

That heroism, calm and proud.

A touch of Allende the night before the assault of the Moneda by Pinochet’s death squads.

The way he told President Biden, who offered up an exfiltration—“I need weapons, not a taxi”—and Putin, today’s Pinochet: “You can try to kill me, I am ready for it, since I know that the idea lives in me and will survive me.”

The first time I met him was on March 30, 2019, the night before the first round of his stunning election, in a seafood restaurant near the Maidan.

I had just performed, at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Looking for Europe, the theatrical monologue that I was bringing then to the European capitals. My friend Vladislav Davidzon, one of the last American journalists still in Ukraine—reporting for Tablet—had arranged the meeting.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Getty Images
Getty Images

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Ukraine’s New President Is a Jewish ComedianTablet’s Vladislav Davidzon gained special access to Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s enigmatic new leader who once played the president on TV. Here, Davidzon shares his impressions of Zelensky and his predictions for Ukraine’s political future.

BYVLADISLAV DAVIDZON

Volodymyr Zelensky was, at the time, a very young man. Looking like a paper boy in jeans, old sneakers, and a black T-shirt with a worn neckline, he had spent the night celebrating the final performance, in an old Kyiv skating rink turned café-theater, of “Servant of the People,” the one-man show that had made him famous.

We talked about Beppe Grillo, that other cabaret actor, and founder of the Five Star movement in Italy, whom Zelensky hated being compared to.

About French Coluche, whose story he didn’t know well and whose final pirouette, a decision to retire from the presidential election, he did not quite understand: “Maybe because there was now a great man in France, François Mitterrand, so his service was no longer needed?”

About Ronald Reagan, by contrast, he knew everything; hadn’t he just done—for the Ukrainian TV channel 1+1, which belongs to the Israeli-Ukrainian Igor Kolomoyskyi, Zelensky’s sponsor—the voice-over for a docudrama on the destiny of this actor in bad Westerns who became a great president?

We also spoke about Putin, the other Vladimir, about whom he had no doubt: If he would come face to face, he would make Putin laugh, just as he had made all Russians laugh. “I act in the Russian language, you know; the kids love me, in Moscow; they double over with laughter at my sketches; the only thing is …”

He hesitated …

Then, over the table, in a low voice: “There is one thing … this man does not see; he has eyes, but does not see; or, if he does look, it’s with an icy stare, devoid of all expression.”

The other subject of our conversation was his Judaism.

How could a young Jew, born into a family decimated by the Shoah, in the oblast of Dnipropetrovsk, become president of the country of Babi Yar?

It’s simple, he answered, with a hoarse laugh: “There is less antisemitism in Ukraine than in France; and, above all, less than in Russia where, hunting for the Nazi mote in thy brother’s eye, they end up missing the beam in thine own eye; wasn’t it Ukrainian units of the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz, after all?”

Our second meeting took place at the annual Yalta European Strategy conference, the Ukrainian mini-Davos created by the philanthropist Victor Pinchuk.

Like every year, there were distinguished geopoliticians, American officials, NATO representatives, acting or former European heads of state, and intellectuals.

Zelensky, now president, gave a strong speech in which he laid out his plan for combatting corruption, the scourge of his country’s economy.

The time came for the traditional closing dinner, where the host would, over pears and cheese, offer a “surprise” to anchor the event: one year, Donald Trump, candidate … another, Elton John or Stephen Hawking …

This time the surprise, arriving on the stage, in front of the tables, is the troupe of actors who had performed with the new head of state, up to his election.

One does an impersonation of Angela Merkel.

Another plays a supposed WhatsApp exchange, hilarious and salacious, between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

And here was a third, made up like Zelensky, playing a rustic Ukrainian who speaks poor English searching for someone to interpret for him and pointing, as if by chance, at the real Zelensky, who without being asked twice, bounds out of his chair to join his comrades on stage.

That was the situation.

A fake Zelensky, playing the real one.

The real Zelensky, playing the interpreter of the fake.

The fake, translated by the real, offers up howlers that the other is forced to translate, which make fun of him.

In short, an incredible show.

The room, faced with this quid pro quo, this joyful blurring of original and copy, faced with the self-effacement of a president swallowed by his avatar, hesitates among laughter, uneasiness, and amazement.

That night, Zelensky was Woody Allen inviting us, like in The Purple Rose of Cairo, into his film, or, better, into his TV series.

When the show was over, I went to ask him what Putin, in Moscow, might think of this enemy disappearing behind his mask and allowing himself to be silent within his simulacrum. He told me this: “It’s true! The attitude is surely unheard of in the main repertoire of the FSB! But laughter is a weapon that is fatal to men of marble! You shall see.”

We met again, once more, last year.

I was coming back from reporting in the Donbas, where I had run the front lines from Mariupol to Luhansk, with elite troops of the new Ukrainian army. And while my photographers, Marc Roussel and Gilles Hertzog, had laid out some of their best shots on the coffee table in the room where we were being received, a whole other Zelensky revealed himself.

In one of the photos, taken at Novotroitske, Zelensky recognized Major General Viktor Ganushchak, the leader of the 10th Battalion of the Alpine Chasers brigade, mildly paunchy in a chicane jacket straight out of frozen Verdun.

About another photo, taken in the Myroliubovka zone, near Donetsk, he commented to Andriy Yermak, his close adviser, to his right, on the vulnerability of three 155 mm cannons, positioned like prehistoric iron monsters in the middle of a field.

About a third, taken near Donetsk, on a gutted road in the ghost town Pisky, he knew the exact number of brave souls who, dug into the mud and snow, held the line.

And then, in Zolote, not far from Luhansk, in a maze of trenches made from an assembly of planks planted in the black earth, he knew by name, having just inspected them, most of the overequipped Rambos, their faces muddy or hooded, who stood guard every 30 feet and seemed hypnotized by the no man’s land before them.

Did Volodymyr Zelensky already know, on that day, that Putin had decided he’d had enough of the Ukrainian democratic exception, and of his clowning?

Did he understand that he would never, after all, laugh with the cold-eyed man with an assassin’s soul?

At that moment, things became clear.

I understood that this former artist of the LOL and the stand-up, whose true nature I thought I had found at the gala dinner in Kyiv, had transformed himself into a warrior.

I saw him join the exemplary company of the men and women that I’d revered my whole life—from republican Spain to Sarajevo and Kurdistan—who are not made for the part that befalls them, but who take it up with panache and learn to make war without loving it.

And in his silhouette grown heavier, on his features once young like French republican drummer boy Francois Joseph Bara, now resembling the French revolutionary Georges Danton, I saw the resistance fighter whose courage amazes the world today.

This man prefers to die fighting than to suffer the dishonor of forced surrender.

Young Global Leaders

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Global_Leaders#:~:text=The%20program%20was%20founded%20by,class%20comprised%20237%20young%20leaders.

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The Forum of Young Global Leaders, or Young Global Leaders (YGL), was created by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. It is a non-profit organization managed from GenevaSwitzerland, under the supervision of the Swiss government.

The program was founded by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum in 1993 under the name “Global Leaders for Tomorrow” and was renamed to Young Global Leaders in 2004.[1]

Schwab created the group with $1 million won from the Dan David Prize,[2] and the inaugural 2005 class comprised 237 young leaders.

People recognized as a Young Global Leader are allowed to attend one meeting of the World Economic Forum for free.[3]

Reception

BusinessWeeks Bruce Nussbaum describes the Young Global Leaders as “the most exclusive private social network in the world”,[4] while the organization itself describes the selected leaders as representing “the voice for the future and the hopes of the next generation”.

. . . . .

DARWIN – 19 FEBRUARY 1942

On 19 February 1942, the Japanese mounted two air raids on Darwin and mainland Australia came under foreign attack for the first time since white settlement.

Admiral Chūichi Nagumo (1887 – 1944), the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941, planned the Darwin raids, which involved 54 land-based bombers and 188 aircraft launched from four aircraft carriers operating in the Timor Sea. The Japanese, who were preparing to invade Timor, correctly surmised that a disruptive air attack on the Darwin base would hinder any Allied counteroffensive.

Admiral Chūichi Nagumo

The first attack began just before 10.00 am and lasted 40 minutes. Heavy bombers struck harbour installations and the town, while dive bombers, escorted by Zero fighters, attacked shipping in the harbour, the military and civil aerodromes and the hospital at Berrimah. The second raid began an hour later and involved high altitude bombing of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Parap. This raid lasted about 20 minutes.

Singapore had fallen to the Japanese only days earlier and the civilian population of Darwin, believing that an invasion was imminent, panicked. Looting and disorder was rife and approximately half the city fled south in an event which became known as the ‘Adelaide River Stakes’. Hundreds of Australian servicemen abandoned their posts. Three days after the attack 278 servicemen were still missing.

Together the two raids killed at least 243 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. Twenty military aircraft were destroyed, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed. The Australian government, concerned at the effect of the bombing on national morale, played down the event and claimed that only 17 people had been killed.

Australian soldiers survey the damage inflicted by Japanese bombers.

In the coming months other northern Australia towns, such as Townsville, Katherine, Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Port Hedland, would suffer from Japanese air attack. Further south, Sydney and Newcastle were attacked by submarines. Darwin would be bombed a total of 64 times, the last raids occurring in November 1943. None of these subsequent raids would, however, match the ferocity of those on 19 February 1942.

-Neil Sharkey

The Lantern Festival

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to navigation Jump to search

You can see the pictures if you open up here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lantern_Festival

This article is about the Lantern Festival in China. For related festivals in the East Asian cultural sphere, see First Full Moon Festival.

Lantern Festival
元宵節
元宵节
Lantern Festival celebrated in Tainan at night
Official nameYuánxiāo jié (元宵節) / Shàngyuán jié (上元節)
Observed byChinese
TypeCultural
SignificanceMarks the end of the Chinese New Year
ObservancesFlying of paper lanterns;
Consumption of tangyuan
Date15th day of the 1st month (lunisolar year)
2022 date15 February
2023 date5 February
Related toChotrul Duchen (in Tibet)
Daeboreum (in Korea)
Koshōgatsu (in Japan)
Magha Puja (in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos)
Tết Nguyên Tiêu (in Vietnam)
Lantern Festival
Traditional Chinese元宵節
Simplified Chinese元宵节
Literal meaning“Prime Night Festival”
showTranscriptions
Hokkien Name
Traditional Chinese十五暝 / 上元
Literal meaning“15th Night” / “Top Primary”
showTranscriptions

Statues of mother and daughter celebrating the Lantern Festival. Xi’an

The Lantern Festival (traditional Chinese: 元宵節; simplified Chinese: 元宵节; pinyinYuánxiāo jié), also called Shangyuan Festival (traditional Chinese: 上元節; simplified Chinese: 上元节; pinyinShàngyuán jié), is a Chinese traditional festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, during the full moon. Usually falling in February or early March on the Gregorian calendar, it marks the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations.[1] As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE–25 CE), it had become a festival with great significance.[2]

During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns (traditional Chinese: 猜燈謎; simplified Chinese: 猜灯谜; pinyincāidēngmí).[3][4] In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones.[5] In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs.[4] For example, lanterns are now often made in the shape of animals. The lanterns can symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones,[6] which they will let go of the next year. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune.[7]

The festival acts as an Uposatha day on the Chinese calendar.[8][9] It should not be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival; which is sometimes also known as the “Lantern Festival” in locations such as IndonesiaMalaysia, and Singapore.[2][10] Lantern Festivals have also become popular in Western countries, such as the Water Lantern Festival held in multiple locations in the United States.[11] In London, the Magical Lantern Festival is held annually.[12]

Contents

Origin[edit]

There are several beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. However, its roots trace back more than 2,000 years ago and is popularly linked to the reign of Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty at the time when Buddhism was growing in China.[citation needed] Emperor Ming, an advocate of Buddhism, noticed Buddhist monks would light lanterns in temples on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. As a result, he ordered all households, temples and the imperial palace to light lanterns on that evening.[13] From there it developed into a folk custom. Another likely origin is the celebration of “the declining darkness of winter” and community’s ability to “move about at night with human-made light,” namely, lanterns. During the Han dynasty, the festival was connected to Ti Yin, the deity of the North Star.[1]

Red lanterns, often seen during the festivities in China

Taiwan Lantern Festival

There is one legend that states that it was a time to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven in ancient times. The belief was that Taiyi controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his beck and call and he decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon human beings. Beginning with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, all the emperors ordered splendid ceremonies each year. The emperor would ask Taiyi to bring favorable weather and good health to him and his people.[14][5]

Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty directed special attention to this event. In 104 BCE, he proclaimed it to be one of the most important celebrations and the ceremony would last throughout the night.

Another legend associates the Lantern Festival with TaoismTianguan is the Taoist deity responsible for good fortune. His birthday falls on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. It is said that Tianguan likes all types of entertainment, so followers prepare various kinds of activities during which they pray for good fortune.[15]

Another legend associates with the Lantern Festival with an ancient warrior named Lan Moon, who led a rebellion against the tyrannical king in ancient China. He was killed in the storming of the city and the successful rebels commemorated the festival in his name.[15]

Yet another common legend dealing with the origins of the Lantern Festival speaks of a beautiful crane that flew down to earth from heaven. After it landed on earth it was hunted and killed by some villagers. This angered the Jade Emperor in heaven because the crane was his favorite. So, he planned a storm of fire to destroy the village on the fifteenth lunar day. The Jade Emperor’s daughter warned the inhabitants of her father’s plan to destroy their village. The village was in turmoil because nobody knew how they could escape their imminent destruction. However, a wise man from another village suggested that every family should hang red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets, and explode firecrackers on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth lunar days. This would give the village the appearance of being on fire to the Jade Emperor. On the fifteenth lunar day, troops sent down from heaven whose mission was to destroy the village saw that the village was already ablaze, and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied, the Jade Emperor decided not to burn down the village. From that day on, people celebrate the anniversary on the fifteenth lunar day every year by carrying lanterns on the streets and exploding firecrackers and fireworks.[16]

Another legend about the origins of Lantern Festival involves a maid named Yuan-Xiao. In the Han dynastyDongfang Shuo was a favorite adviser of the emperor. One winter day, he went to the garden and heard a little girl crying and getting ready to jump into a well to commit suicide. Shuo stopped her and asked why. She said she was Yuan-Xiao, a maid in the emperor’s palace and that she never had a chance to see her family since she started working there. If she could not have the chance to show her filial piety in this life, she would rather die. Shuo promised to find a way to reunite her with her family. Shuo left the palace and set up a fortune-telling stall on the street. Due to his reputation, many people asked for their fortunes to be told but everyone got the same prediction – a calamitous fire on the fifteenth lunar day. The rumor spread quickly.[15]

Everyone was worried about the future so they asked Dongfang Shuo for help. Dongfang Shuo said that on the thirteenth lunar day, the God of Fire would send a fairy in red riding a black horse to burn down the city. When people saw the fairy they should ask for her mercy. On that day, Yuan-Xiao pretended to be the red fairy. When people asked for her help, she said that she had a copy of a decree from the God of Fire that should be taken to the emperor. After she left, people went to the palace to show the emperor the decree which stated that the capital city would burn down on the fifteenth. When the emperor asked Dongfang Shuo for advice, the latter said that the God of Fire liked to eat tangyuan (sweet dumplings). Yuan-Xiao should cook tangyuan on the fifteenth lunar day and the emperor should order every house to prepare tangyuan to worship the God of Fire at the same time. Also, every house in the city should hang red lantern and explode fire crackers. Lastly, everyone in the palace and people outside the city should carry their lanterns on the street to watch the lantern decorations and fireworks. The Jade Emperor would be deceived and everyone would avoid the disastrous fire.[16]

The emperor happily followed the plan. Lanterns were everywhere in the capital city on the night of the fifteenth lunar day and people were walking on the street and there were noisy firecrackers. It looked as if the entire city was on fire. Yuan-Xiao’s parents went into the palace to watch the lantern decorations and were reunited with their daughter. The emperor decreed that people should do the same thing every year. Since Yuan-Xiao cooked the best tangyuan, people called the day Yuan-Xiao Festival.

For each Festival celebrated, a switch in the Chinese Zodiac takes place. If this year is the year of the cow, the next will be the year of the tiger.

Tradition[edit]

Finding love[edit]

In the early days, young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. As time has passed, the festival no longer has such implications in most of Mainland China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.[10]

Tangyuan or Yuanxiao[edit]

Further information: Tangyuan (food) and Yuanxiao

Eaten during the Lantern Festival, tangyuan ‘湯圓’ (Southern China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia) or yuanxiao ‘元宵’ (Northern China) is a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter.[3] Actually, tangyuan is different from yuanxiao due to different manual making and filling processes.[17] It can be boiled, fried or steamed, each has independent taste. However, they are very similar in shape and taste, so most people do not distinguish them for convenience and consider them as the same thing.[17] Chinese people believe that the round shape of the balls and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and that eating tangyuan or yuanxiao may bring the family harmony, happiness and luck in the new year.[2][4]

  • Yuanxiao and its fillings
  • Yuanxiao
  • Yuanxiao
  • Yuanxiao
  • Yuanxiao
  • Tangyuan
  • Tangyuan
  • Tangyuan
  • Tangyuan
  • Tang Yuan

6th century and afterwards[edit]

Lanterns in Qinhuai Lantern Fair

Until the Sui dynasty in the sixth century, Emperor Yang invited envoys from other countries to China to see the colourful lighted lanterns and enjoy the gala performances.[18]

By the beginning of the Tang dynasty in the seventh century, the lantern displays would last three days. The emperor also lifted the curfew, allowing the people to enjoy the festive lanterns day and night. It is not difficult to find Chinese poems which describe this happy scene.[18]

In the Song dynasty, the festival was celebrated for five days and the activities began to spread to many of the big cities in China. Colorful glass and even jade were used to make lanterns, with figures from folk tales painted on the lanterns.[citation needed]

However, the largest Lantern Festival celebration took place in the early part of the 15th century. The festivities continued for ten days. The Yongle Emperor had the downtown area set aside as a center for displaying the lanterns. Even today, there is a place in Beijing called Dengshikou. In Chinesedeng means lantern and shi is market. The area became a market where lanterns were sold during the day. In the evening, the local people would go there to see the beautiful lighted lanterns on display.[citation needed]

Today, the displaying of lanterns is still a major event on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month throughout China. Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, for example, holds a lantern fair each year in Culture Park. During the Lantern Festival, the park is a virtual ocean of lanterns. Many new designs attract large numbers of visitors. The most eye-catching lantern is the Dragon Pole. This is a lantern in the shape of a golden dragon, spiraling up a 38-meter-high pole, spewing fireworks from its mouth. Cities such as Hangzhou and Shanghai have adopted electric and neon lanterns, which can often be seen beside their traditional paper or wooden counterparts. Another popular activity at this festival is guessing lantern riddles (which became part of the festival during the Tang dynasty).[19] These often contain messages of good fortune, family reunion, abundant harvest, prosperity and love.[citation needed] Just like the pumpkin carved into jack-o’-lantern for Halloween in the western world, Asian parents sometime teach their children to carve empty the inner tubing of Oriental radish /mooli/ daikon into a Cai-Tou-Lantern (traditional Chinese: 營菜頭燈; simplified Chinese: 营菜头灯; pinyinyíng cai tóu dēng) for the Festival.[citation needed]

Festivities[edit]

This painting, by an imperial court painter in 1485, depicts the Chenghua Emperor enjoying the festivities with families in the Forbidden City during the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival. It includes acrobatic performances, operas, magic shows and setting off firecrackers.

Lion dance (舞獅), walk on stilts (踩高蹺), riddle games (猜燈謎), dragon dance (耍龍燈) are very popular during lantern festival.

The lantern riddle, according to Japanese scholars, became popular as early as the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1126). The lantern riddles are done by a host blocking one side of the lantern and pasting riddles on the remaining three sides of the lanterns. Participants will guess the blocked side by solving the riddles, which is called “breaking/solving lantern riddles”. The theme of riddles can be drawn from classics, biographies, poetry, the various philosophers’ well-known stories and novels, proverbs, (the names of) all kinds of birds, animals, and insects, as well as flowers, grasses, vegetables, and herbs. Participants can tear off the riddle of the lantern and let the host verify their answers. Those who answer the correct answer can get a “riddle reward”, including ink, paper, writing brushes, ink slabs, fans, perfumed sachets, fruit, or eatables. 

Peter wrote in 2014: My Granddad and World War I

One hundred years ago the most terrible of wars began. Up to that time there had been no war like this. I blame the industrial societies for it. In their search for growth potential they did not allow any restrictions; “markets, customers and resources,” was the cry for the “promised land”.

My Granddad, Otto Hannemann, was a carpenter foreman in the growing city of Berlin. Born in the small town of Lukenwalde, south of Berlin, he looked for work in the big city to support his growing family. In the first picture we see him with one of his two daughters and my dad. It seems they are all dressed up for  a Sunday outing. In July 1907 my father was six years old.

July 1907

July 1907

These were the years of peace and  future  well being. I don’t know much about my Granddad. My father seemed to be proud of him and proclaimed that “he built all the bridges” over the railway lines out of Berlin to the South. In the next picture we see him with some workers on a building site. I have been assured that he is in the picture. I think it is him on the far left with his hat on. The occasion is most likely a “Richtfest”,  the celebration of the erection  of the roof supports.

IMG_20141103_0001

When the war started he was not called up straight away. Only later, in the beginning of 1916, he was called upon as he was a reservist (Landjäger). In the picture he looks rather serious, probably anticipating what lay ahead of him.

Early 1916, it is still Winter

Early 1916, it is still Winter

It is the same picture my Grandmother had in a large frame on the wall of her bedroom. It seems he had his training in Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg.

The next picture was taken on the 15th February 1916. He was sending the card as a birthday gift. For whom, I don’t know. You can see him on the left in the back row.with the arrow pointing at him.

15.2.1916

15.2.1916

In the next picture you can see him second from the left in the centre row. On the back he wrote that those are the men from room 13 and he added, which mystifies me,  “the ‘washer children’ are not in the picture”. Whatever this means?

14.4.1916

14.4.1916

The next picture could be from the same period. The soldiers in “drill uniforms” usually worn on work duties. It looks to me they are waiting to be issued with food. He is in the centre and is marked with a red cross.

IMG_20141103_0005

I have no idea when he was sent to the Western Front. Perhaps he was even opposite Australian forces.

The following photo was made on Sunday 14th May 1916. It tells on the sign  “Rat-Goulash on the menu for the day”.

14 th of May 1916

14 th of May 1916

On the 15th of July 1916 he wrote at the back of the photo that he sent to his loved ones, that really they don’t have to eat rat-goulash yet. The picture has been staged he assured the readers, but still there are lots of rats to be seen. And they say Germans have no sense of humour.

I don’t know what happened to him after his arrival at the front. We know from the war reports and history books that it was hell. On the 2. 12. 1916 he fell. Some reports tell of cold and frosty days. He is buried in a war cemetery just  outside Lille.#

Granddad's final resting place.

Granddad’s final resting place.

When the fighting stopped all soldiers hoped they saw the last of it. But the struggle was not over. World War Two, the next conflict, was even worse.

Diary

Pictures from Anzac Day 2021 among the trees in Lakelands Park, Dapto, NSW, Australia.

Remembering how the poppies grow row on row between the crosses in Flanders Fields.

Remembering Peter’s grandfather, Otto Hannemann, who died in 1916 in Flanders. His grave is near Lille in France.

https://berlioz1935.wordpress.com/tag/ww-1/

This is what Peter published about his grandfather Otto HANNEMANN:

One hundred years ago the most terrible of wars began. Up to that time there had been no war like this. I blame the industrial societies for it. In their search for growth potential they did not allow any restrictions; “markets, customers and resources,” was the cry for the “promised land”.

My Granddad, Otto Hannemann, was a carpenter foreman in the growing city of Berlin. Born in the small town of Lukenwalde, south of Berlin, he looked for work in the big city to support his growing family. In the first picture we see him with one of his two daughters and my dad. It seems they are all dressed up for  a Sunday outing. In July 1907 my father was six years old.

July 1907

These were the years of peace and  future  well being. I don’t know much about my Granddad. My father seemed to be proud of him and proclaimed that “he built all the bridges” over the railway lines out of Berlin to the South. In the next picture we see him with some workers on a building site. I have been assured that he is in the picture. I think it is him on the far left with his hat on. The occasion is most likely a “Richtfest”,  the celebration of the erection  of the roof supports.

IMG_20141103_0001

When the war started he was not called up straight away. Only later, in the beginning of 1916, he was called upon as he was a reservist (Landjäger). In the picture he looks rather serious, probably anticipating what lay ahead of him.

Early 1916, it is still Winter

It is the same picture my Grandmother had in a large frame on the wall of her bedroom. It seems he had his training in Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg.

The next picture was taken on the 15th February 1916. He was sending the card as a birthday gift. For whom, I don’t know. You can see him on the left in the back row.with the arrow pointing at him.

15.2.1916

In the next picture you can see him second from the left in the centre row. On the back he wrote that those are the men from room 13 and he added, which mystifies me,  “the ‘washer children’ are not in the picture”. Whatever this means?

14.4.1916

The next picture could be from the same period. The soldiers in “drill uniforms” usually worn on work duties. It looks to me they are waiting to be issued with food. He is in the centre and is marked with a red cross.

IMG_20141103_0005

I have no idea when he was sent to the Western Front. Perhaps he was even opposite Australian forces.

The following photo was made on Sunday 14th May 1916. It tells on the sign  “Rat-Goulash on the menu for the day”.

On the 15th of July 1916 he wrote at the back of the photo that he sent to his loved ones, that really they don’t have to eat rat-goulash yet. The picture has been staged he assured the readers, but still there are lots of rats to be seen. And they say Germans have no sense of humour.

July 1907

On the 2. 12. 1916 he fell. Some reports tell of cold and frosty days. He is buried in a war cemetery just  outside Lille.

A pictures of his grave can be viewed here just towards the end of Peter’s post:

https://berlioz1935.wordpress.com/tag/ww-1/

Title: Gurrupudu the Diver Bird

Artist: Bob Bilinyara

 

Title: Gurrupudu the Diver Bird

Artist: Bob Bilinyara

Date: 20th Century

Materials: Mineral pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 26 cm width x 59 cm length x 28 cm width x 64 cm length

Location: Madison Art Collection

Accession Number 83.4.2

Visual Analysis

Artist Bob Bilinyara’s (1915-1959) eucalyptus bark painting Gurrupurru the Diver Bird (c.1930-1956), depicts a diver bird and six catfish in the Ramingining-Glyde River region at the permanent waterholes of the Gatji lagoon in Central Arnhem Land (1). The diver duck is both the central figure and the largest, it dominates the composition and the six smaller catfish that surround it. The background of the work is filled with a red ochre, or mineral pigment, that has faded over the years, while white lines filled in with black ocher create a border around the centralized subject matter. This bark painting is believed to depict the story of the ancestral diver bird. The ancestral diver bird is related to the creation of the Yathalamarra and Gatji waterholes around Arnhem Land . . . .

Please, go to the website. There is a lot more interesting information!