Which, as Plokhy also points out, is exactly what happened in 1991. Plokhy’s previous book, The Last Empire , recounted the history of that year in great detail. In The Gates of Europe he offers a brief reminder of just how important the decisions taken in Kiev that year turned out to be. Given the nature of the present conflict, it’s useful now to remember at least this detail: on December 1, 1991, with 84 percent of the eligible population voting, 90 percent of Ukrainians, of all ethnic backgrounds, voted overwhelmingly for independence from the Soviet Union. Of course the largest percentages in favor were in western Ukraine, where in Ternopil 99 percent voted for it, but Odessa, Kharkiv, and even Donetsk, where war continues, weren’t far behind. After that vote, the president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, refused to sign a cooperation treaty with Russia and Stalin’s nightmare came true: the loss of Ukraine to the Ukrainian national movement brought about the end of the Soviet Union.
All this does not mean that Italian fascism was tolerant. Gramsci was put in prison until his death; the opposition leaders Giacomo Matteotti and the brothers Rosselli were assassinated; the free press was abolished, the labor unions were dismantled, and political dissenters were confined on remote islands. Legislative power became a mere fiction and the executive power (which controlled the judiciary as well as the mass media) directly issued new laws, among them laws calling for preservation of the race (the formal Italian gesture of support for what became the Holocaust).