May 23, 2019

Despite Widespread Antisemitism, Ukraine Elected a Jewish President

“Ukraine’s always been a complex place when it comes to Judaism. The latest proof came on Sunday, when Jewish comedian Volodymyr Zelensky trounced incumbent president Petro Poroshenko in a landslide.

After Zelensky’s inauguration, Ukraine will become the only country outside Israel to have a Jewish president and a Jewish prime minister. But it’ll also be the only country in the world to have a neo-Nazi battalion in its armed forces.

Both these things coexist. Both show the opportunity and the danger in a land that continues to defy simple depictions.

During the 2013-2014 Maidan uprising, Russian propaganda churned out lurid tales about a Ukraine overrun by neo-Nazis. In turn, this caused a backlash in Western media, which claimed Ukrainian Nazis were mostly phantoms of Vladimir Putin’s imagination. As I wrote at the time, neither depiction was right.”

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