Cliburn’s Ukrainian winner: I feel the weakness of my generation

Cliburn’s Ukrainian winner: I feel the weakness of my generation


norman lebrecht

March 16, 2014

Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn competition, has been talking to Elijah Ho about the political situation back home. Here is a taste of his anguish when asked about Russia and Ukraine:

cliburn result


Kholodenko: Thank you for asking, Elijah. My mother and grandmother are still living in Kiev, actually. I think Putin is very passionate about the idea of ‘empire’. Crimea was originally a very important place for the Russians, and the situation is probably a huge bonus for his next presidential election.

Actually, this probably guarantees a fourth, fifth, and 150th presidential term for him. From this perspective, this is good for Putin’s Russia. Putin’s Russia needs power. There is a phantom pain for the separated parts of the USSR that is still in Russian blood.

For Ukraine, this is a tragedy. This is a total failure of the diplomatic section, failure of new government, failure of hope that something can change in Ukraine, and in Russia as well. But all of this is nothing compared to the tragedy of the people. This is not your average war: this is civil war. This is a war between nations who were in the Second World War. Together.

Of course, all of this is just lyrical tweet. War means war. Through all of the hysteria, I feel the weakness of my generation, in comparison with the generation of my grandmother. That generation saw and experienced real war.

Full interview here.


  • Fred says:

    putin -thoug he lost touch with reality played this brillantly, corrected chrutchev’s mistake…yet the european war mongers lost touch with reality as well, it will be messy for a long time to come…..with both peoples (and others) as the usual losers….oh nationalism and even worse nitwit politicians

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    “Together”? Perhaps Vadym needs a history lesson about his own country during WW2… And about Putin’s fourth, fifth terms, let’s recall that the 45 million Ukrainians had no election say in choosing their own government now installed in Kiev… as opposed to let say, US Secretary of State Kerry, US Assistant Secretary Nuland of “F the EU” fame, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and EU Lady Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, all of them unelected bureaucrats speaking on behalf of European peoples who in overwhelming majority according to polls do not approve of Ukraine potentially joining the EU.

    In addition, track record of the EU bureaucracy respecting the will of its own people when they vote against a treaty being quite dismal, their moral lecturing may not carry as much weight as they think.

    • Christy says:

      @Olaugh Ukraine is a parliamentary republic, led by a parliament elected in 2010. As per the constitution and all European norms, the parliament chooses the government. It recently did so with a vast majority including all parties, including Communists and that of the former, disgrace president. On May 25, the entire population will vote for a new president who serves as Head of State, but does not have significant domestic governing powers.

      Tell me again how the population had no say when they elected the parliament governing the country since 2010?

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Tell me again what brand of semi automatic weapons Svoboda and Pravy Sektor carried? Perhaps western democracies should get some inspiration from this type of democratic vote every time a President is low in the polls instead of carrying cumbersome elections: with you, it’s shoot first, vote later!

        • Gonout Backson says:

          I would say – less heavy and less numerous than those (probably “bought in any shop in Russia”) carried by the “Crimean self-defense” during the so-called “referendum”, circumstance which has, of course, nothing to do with its spectacular, North-Corean results.

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            “While most Latin American nations support Argentina’s position on the islands, citizens of the Falkland Islands Government voted by 99.8 percent to remain British.”

            Yet another North Korean result you did not object to…

          • Gonout Backson says:

            1. How do you know I didn’t? You were watching me?

            2. The analogy is, as with the kosovian dead horse, absurd.

            Argentina invaded a foreign territory (just as Russia did). Argentina did NOT organize a “point of gun” referendum after the invasion (as Russia did in Crimea). The 2013 referendum has been organized thirty years after the war. It’s been internationally watched (US, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, New Zealand). The commission “concluded that the voting process was executed in accordance with international standards and local laws”. No one declared that about the Crimea referendum, bevause the OSCE observers couldn’t get in and had to run for their lives.

            Even funnier: there are ca 2,5 mln people in Crimea. ca 3,000 people on Falkland Islands. The three guys who voted No in the Falklands referendum are known by name…

            Any more amusing analogies?

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            1) Yes, Big Brother is always watching dontcha no? 😉

            2) In that analogy Russia is Britain, not the other way around… Nice try.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Please, remind us : when did Ukraine invade Crimea?

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            When did Crimeans wanted to be part of Ukraine? Not on March 16. EOM.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            That wasn’t my question.

  • kitty says:

    Olaugh – whatever you think about Ukranian government today doesn’t give another country right to invade it and grab land. If there was a power change in Russia and Ukraine had thought “this new government is illegal”, would it give Ukraine the right to invade? I am from Russia originally (though I live in the US), and personally I’ve always thought that Crimea should never have been given to Ukraine, but it was. The treaty was signed by Russia to respect Ukranian borders in exchange for Ukraine’s giving up nuclear arms. The treaties should be respected. Also borders are more than just “suggestions”. Do you really think anybody would trust Russia’s word from now on?

    Whatever the track record of the EU or US is is irrelevant as well. I didn’t support many of the US actions, but two wrongs don’t make a right. No, the US had no business invading Iraq, but this still doesn’t mean Russia can annex parts of a different country or dictate its internal policies. Tell to the Ukranian people how the US invading Iraq justifies Russia’s land grab.

    The government of Crimea that called the referendum wasn’t legal either. It was put by Russian occupiers (even if they didn’t wear the uniform), in the last elections it barely gotten 4% of votes. In the referendum there is double voting, people voting by showing a Russian rather than Ukranian passport, dead people voting, etc. Crimean tatars boycotted it. Before the referendum the choices were presented with Crimea over Russian flag on one side vs Crimea over swastika on another side. The whole thing was scheduled so quickly that there was no time for people to discuss the issues.

    It’s possible, maybe even likely that with an honest referendum the Ukraine would’ve still voted to join Russia (though not so overwhelmingly – 96% of votes only happens in totalitarian states), but it would’ve been legitimate. There should’ve been a discussion preceding it, where people could really think about the issues and whether they’ll gain or lose on joining Russia.

    Incidentally, do you really think Putin cares for Russians in other countries? If he does, why didn’t he do anything when Russians were expelled from some of the Asian republics? Nobody persecuted Russian speakers in Ukraine. Incidentally, the whole Putin doctrine of “defending Russians” whom does he mean? Does he mean Russian citizens? If so, Ukraine doesn’t allow dual citizenship, so Russian citizens should have no say in Ukraine, they can go to Russia. Ethnic Russians? Russian-speakers? Should Russia grab Brooklyn in order to “defend” Russian-speakers on Brighton Beach? Of course who cares about Brooklyn, plenty or rich Russians travel to Florida, maybe they also need defending? Should France be able to grab Quebec if it thinks French speakers are “persecuted” there? BTW – now Chech Republic says how can they should be weary of Russian tourists lest Putin decides to “defend” them. Other countries are worried too.

    For the people of Crimea there are many issues too. Currently, their primary income is tourism. Russians can freely travel there already. But many of their tourists are Ukranians. They stand to lose them. Rich Russians may grab some of the best land, build fancy hotels and push locals inside. Ukraine has no draft, did Crimean mothers consider that now their sons are going to have to serve in Russian army, and we all know that there is hazing there and some die even during peace time. There probably are other issues as well, but the Crimean people had no chance to consider and discuss them.

    As you likely read Russian, here is an interesting take for you from a Russian (assuming his blog isn’t blocked to Russian readers (if you are in Russia), if it is you may need to use some of the “anonymizer” sites: