“Fifth line” or “fifth column”?


June 11, 2013

“Fifth line” or “fifth column”?

Recently the deputies from the AUU “Svoboda” have submitted the draft law stipulating the possibility for citizens of Ukraine to indicate their nationality in passports and in certificates of civil status. The initiative itself and the way it was submitted is the example of political meanness and cynicism. It is basely to offer to introduce the line with indication of nationality in passports within the new version of the law “On National Minorities” and to use the protection of the interests of national minorities as a cover. Like this initiative originates from national minorities themselves. Why Svoboda is ashamed of their “specialty” idea to officially consolidate the differences between the citizens of Ukraine with different nationalities. 

I am afraid that the introduction of the line “nationality” may become the key element in the establishment of the whole system of discrimination on the grounds of nationality. The line “nationality” itself, especially “in the interests of national minorities” is obviously senseless. It acquires its chauvinistic logic if it is supplemented with the bills like “On titular nation”, “On additional liabilities and obligations of minority national groups”, “On historical responsibility of certain nationalities”, “On protection of honour and dignity of a titular nation”, “On restriction of choice of place of residence and occupation”, etc. Legalization of the relevant line in passports opens the direct way towards this. Moreover, if to ask any of the members of the AUU “Svoboda” whether they approve the similar legislative ideas, the answers will be predictable. 

Frankly speaking, this initiative means nothing but the introduction of the voluntary-compulsory “marking” for the citizens of Ukraine. The matter is in the deliberate emphasizing of differences, which are interpreted by the authors of this draft law as qualitative and politically highly significant ones. The regulation about the voluntariness of this “mark” shall not mislead anyone as well, because history shows enough examples when law and free choice become a general repressive norm. It is known that documents exist not for somebody to hold them, but for checking, recording and putting things in order. With the certain way this question is put, this norm may become a voluntary demonstration of superiority for one people, and an obligatory “certificate of inferiority” for others during employment, medical treatment, children’s going to schools, etc. 

There need be no doubt that after the introduction of this innovation, it will become normal to indicate the nationality of criminals or their victims, representatives of sexual minorities, different ill persons, and other people who are treated negatively by society. Any, even the most vulgar manipulator may build any schizophrenic theories on this ground. It is known that people are punched in the face, not in the passport; and it remains unknown who will use this and what this will cause. By the way, Joseph Stalin was also a famous supporter of the “fifth line”. He subjected whole nations to repression without being a nationalist. 

All this have already been in the previous versions of this notorious idea. First, it was in Europe, where the similar “reform” was an integral element of two classical fascist regimes. This institution was brought to perfection in Nazi Germany and turned into the line “race”. In Italy, the line “nationality” is passports became the ground to expel all the undesirable persons from the country in 1938. Later it was used in the documents of the citizens of the USSR, where the wrong national identity meant an immediate “voucher” to the camps, resettlement places, or to scum of society. Those who consider that this period was a “golden age” for Ukrainians and representatives of many other nationalities should go to psychiatrist before using historical sources. 

I do not remember the similar initiatives to appear in the European countries during the previous years. On the contrary, “nationality” is understood as “citizenship” there; and a national passport itself becomes a vestige of the past. Nevertheless, this idea is very popular for some reason in post-Soviet countries. However, there is one nuance – in 90% of cases where this regulation is in force, the conflicts on the grounds of nationality appear from time to time for some reason. 

And of course, this strange idea cannot but cause curious incidents. The authors of the bill cannot answer the key question: what are the grounds for definition of nationality. Will it be the appearance, or the nationality of parents, or the self-sentiment, or the radius of skull? What if somebody decides to identify him- or herself as Scythian, Sarmatian, Goth, Celt, let alone elves and hobbits? As is known from the results of the recent population census in the Russian Federation, the cases of similar tricks were numerous. In order to avoid this, it will be necessary, like in the USSR, to form the list of officially recognized nations. But who will make this? 

Moreover, the authors of the draft law use in public and continue to affirm that the official name for the Jewish people is the word “zhyd”. Do they want to indicate exactly this word in the passports of Ukrainian Jews?! The representatives of other nationalities – there are about 130 of them in Ukraine – will also be able to derive the variants of writing of their ethnonyms from the specific vocabulary of the deputies from the AUU “Svoboda”. 

In a nutshell, the draft law on the “fifth line” has all the chances to become the law on the “fifth column”. It even sounds alike… 

Oleksandr Feldman, 

People’s Deputy of Ukraine