By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-whats-destructive-constructive-and-necessary-in-ukrainian-politics/
I read an article about why it isn’t necessary to hate Ukrainian nationalists, and I can say that it is difficult to disagree with its general idea. Although I would make some essential specifications that, as a result, can change the concept of the article…
However, at first I will say what I agree with, for the reasons far from what inspired the author. So – about hatred, or more precisely, about its destructiveness.
Firstly, as is known, before becoming a part of the Soviet people, Russians in Russia were defined exclusively by the principle of creed. If someone is an Orthodox Christian, then it means they are Russian. There were almost no problems with this, because in Rus since time immemorial Orthodox Christians were all those Slavs living within its borders (Polish Catholics were attached only in the 19th century, and even then it was in accordance with the rights of a personal union — the All-Russian emperor was at the same time a Polish king). Baptised Muslims and Jews, converted representatives of the small peoples of the North, and also the Protestants who passed into Orthodoxy made up a small part of society and were quickly Russified, being more Russian already in the second generation than the most native Russian (directly from the Rurik Varangians).
There was a small problem with Georgians, who were Orthodox Christians, but at the same time they obviously weren’t Russians. But Georgians lived in the Caucasus, they had a separate church, they were very little in empire scales. In addition, common enemies united everyone, as well as the common tradition of hospitality, and only the tradition of small national conceit that generated the saying “In Georgia everyone is a prince” caused non-malicious irony, like concerning a relative who is too emotional.
Soviet people haven’t been present since 1992. We come back to the origins. Even a considerable part of communists returned to Orthodox Christianity. That’s why the Russian Orthodox Christian again becomes actual for modern Russia. And Orthodox Christianity teaches us: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”. I.e., God, as the highest judge, demands from believers not to encroach on his right to make a final verdict, trying to rescue everyone up to the end, even the most stray person, the inveterate sinner. The belief uniting us into Russian people forbids us to hate.
From this point of view, there can’t be any hatred towards Ukrainian nationalists.
Secondly, there can’t be hatred towards Ukrainian nationalists from Russians who were born and grew up as citizens of the Russian Federation. There can be ironic pity, maybe even contempt, there can even be gratitude. But from where could the feeling of hatred appear if Ukrainian nationalists did for the revival of Russia almost more than Russians themselves?
After all, it is precisely Ukrainian nationalists who weren’t able in ideal hothouse conditions to use the potential of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic that they inherited to build a powerful Ukrainian state. But such an opportunity existed – creating a political nation from Crimeans, Donetsk citizens, Kharkov citizens, Kiev citizens, Odessa citizens, and Galicians is much simpler than from the Chukchi, Kamchadals, Yakuts, Chechens, Karelians, the Komi, Russians, Mordva, Udmurts, Tatars, the Bashkir, Ossetians, and others, including dozens of Dagestan nationalities. The economy of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic was comparable in terms of its volume to the economy of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), and it was far ahead in terms of technological effectiveness and innovation. The army was even more numerous and armed with the most modern (at that time) weapons. Its scientific potential conceded a little, but in some areas it was exclusive. In addition, the country was much more compact, with a developed transport infrastructure and high transit potential.
Everything rested only on the creation of a political nation from which in 50-100 years a new ethnos would grow – very similar to Russians, however not Russian, but competitive in relation to Russians. Ukraine is a natural competitor of Russia and can’t be anything else.
Brzezinski – a clever, but accentuated in his hatred towards Russia Pole (with American nationality) – claimed that Russia is not an empire without Ukraine. This is not the truth. Russia became an empire already under Ivan III, when 150-300 years remained until the inclusion in its structure of separate parts of Ukraine (and Galicia – 450 years). It is Lithuania (The Grand Duchy of Lithuania) and Poland (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) that, as soon as they once included Ukraine into their structures, started laying claim to the status of the universal Eastern Slavic empire, and after losing it they became ordinary marginal limitrophes.
But the creation of a political nation demanded only the preservation of Russian as one of two state languages and the recognition of Russians as one of the state-building people of Ukraine. And that’s all. In two-three generations another ethos would live in Ukraine, and even the Ukrainian Russian language would differ from the Russian Russian language (in the conditions of separate development, languages gradually diverge). But the competent use of economic potential, the geopolitical situation, and the contradictions between Russia and the US/EU gave the chance to not only preserve and increase economic potential, but even to enter the EU and NATO on their own conditions, which in the very least were no worse than the ones Poland had.
In order to understand what the potential of Ukraine was in this regard, it is enough to look at how the West starts caressing Lukashenko as soon as he makes any conciliatory statement. But after all, in 1992 Belarus in terms of its possibilities was as far from Ukraine as modern Lithuania was from Germany. Now everything is on the contrary.
Ukrainian nationalists, because of their sharovarshchina [aggressive promotion of Ukrainian folk culture – ed], provincialism, frank tribalism, and the emergence in the world of myths and ethnographic rarities, frittered away all opportunities for the creation on the foundations of Ukraine of a second Russian state, which would inevitably (due to the will of the political and economic competition) become anti-Russian. In addition to this, they aggressively shouted at Russia and persistently called the West for a crusade on the Kremlin so much so that they eventually forced the Russian people and Russian elites, having felt the danger of death, to unite and to return to Russia the status of a superstate in the shortest possible time. If it wasn’t for the stupid frankness of Ukrainian nationalists, who all day long dreamed about the disintegration and occupation of Russia, the cautious West could continue to convince Moscow for two-three years more of its negotiability. But in our conditions 2-3 years can become critical.
Thirdly, hatred assumes the elimination of a subject of hatred. This feeling is too strong to live with for a long time. It destroys the organism (both the individual person and the whole state). It is most favorable to make a friend from any enemy — the combined resource not only grows twice, but the cumulative effect also starts working. If the friendship doesn’t work out, then there is a need to neutralise it. Perhaps it won’t bring additional resources, but there also won’t be resource expenses. And lastly, if affairs with the enemy are too bad and there is indeed a need to destroy them, then it is better to do it without anger and partiality, and you mustn’t at all tell your enemy in advance how much you hate them.
If in Crimea, Donbass, Kharkov, or Odessa it wasn’t foreknown how Ukrainian nationalists dream of making these territories “Ukrainian or deserted”, then most likely the Kiev regime wouldn’t face such rigid resistance, which it wasn’t able to suppress everywhere. After all, Crimea didn’t move to Russia when power was seized by Yushchenko (although he made two coups: in 2004/5 and in 2007). People would hope as usual for the best until they find themselves in a concentration camp. And then it will be too late. But the nazis shouted about their hatred and their plans on all squares and intersections, and then were terribly surprised about why they aren’t loved that much and for some reason are met by weapons in hands.
And fourthly, thanks to the sharp intellectual insufficiency of Ukrainian nationalists, the idea of moderate, civilised, constructive, European Ukrainian nationalism – the realisation of which was more dangerous for Russia than all the artful plans of the US, because it had to feed itself off the juice of Russia and not invoke fear in Russia, and, at the critical moment, to plunge a knife into Russia’s back – was forever hopelessly compromised. From now on, Ukrainian nationalism for everyone (even for Poles) has only one horrible Banderist grin, it stands up to its knees in blood and demands from everyone to worship its Banderist Moloch, otherwise it threatens to bite.
At this juncture we will move on to what is constructive.
Over decades we said to our western friends and partners that by feeding and raising Banderism they create Golem, who, having tried to bite Russia and having thus broken its teeth, will lunge at them. They didn’t believe it. But it lunged. Ukraine seriously argues about a possible war with Hungary for Transcarpathia. Ukraine increases the tension in relations with Poland, where the attitude towards Ukrainians is nearly worse than it was towards the Germans in 1945. Ukraine accuses Germany of betraying Ukrainian-European interests and brought the matter to the level that the Germans, French, and Poles – who created, fostered, and defended the current Ukrainian authorities – sleep and see that somebody liberates them from these authorities and from this Ukraine. And from their point of view Russia must become this somebody. Even the US, the presidential electoral campaign of which Kiev impudently interfered in by openly supporting Hillary Clinton, tries to get rid of this toxic asset, having once again dumped it on Russia. At the same time, Trump, like a zealous master, also wants to receive “compensation” from Moscow for this.
The West already understood that Ukraine is a big encumbrance, but they aren’t yet ready to work together [with Russia – ed] to eliminate this encumbrance. And all these “people with beautiful faces” who “aren’t guilty of anything” because they “simply came under the influence of western propaganda” today become our situational allies. They – every day and hour, by their very existence and vigorous publicistic and political activity, during communication with western colleagues – convince our friends and partners that they have no other way out besides convincing Russia of the need for collective action aimed at eliminating Banderism. They propose to ask Russia to save them from their own creation, but they don’t propose to agree to give Russia some room to manoeuvre in Ukraine in exchange for some little favours in other places.
When the West finally understands that it’s not they who will receive payment for Ukraine, but, on the contrary, they will have to pay to receive help in getting rid of it, and when the West is ready for any conditions, it is at this moment that it will be possible to discuss the problem and develop an algorithm to solve it. An algorithm that is mutually advantageous for all, except Ukrainian nationalists of course.
From this point of view, indeed, there is no need to corner the rat of Ukrainian Nazism, which lunged at its western patrons, thrashing it strongly with a stick from the East. Otherwise then it will again turn out that it is us [Russians – ed] who are the “violators of conventions”, “invaders”, “stranglers of freedom”, and “a threat to international peace”.
In Syria we helped Assad to win the civil war, and now we act as peacekeepers and intermediaries creating the opportunity for some to repent, and giving the chance to others to forgive (not always and not everyone), without being afraid of the harmful consequences of our warm-heartedness. In civil war the people are divided into two parts and fight to the death. If reconciliation doesn’t arrive, then either two nations appear, or all people disappear. As a rule, losses (not only and even not so much human ones, but material, moral, political, structural losses) are too great for the state to remain standing, even if the winners destroyed all those who were defeated.
Only an unbiased intermediary that both parties trust (even if the trust of one of them is compelled by a desperate situation) can save the people or at least what remains of the people who once made up the nation. At the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis the West was an “honest broker”, ready to arbitrate not only the parties to the standoff in Ukraine, but even Ukraine vis-a-vis Russia. Now Russia has the opportunity to become the arbitration judge restoring justice both in Ukraine and in Russia’s relationship with the West.
It is exactly this position that Anglo-Saxons sought to occupy and successfully exploited for centuries. And we could learn from our own experience just how practical and favorable this is. Of course, any emotion, especially such a strong emotion as hatred, doesn’t promote constructive, pragmatic work.
The last part of this comment is devoted to what is necessary.
I think that I wouldn’t be mistaken if I said that when Andrey Manchuk was writing his article, he was addressing not the inhabitants of Vologda or Tutaev, who even if they remember periodically about Ukraine, they do it less and less frequently because news from Ukraine became boring and it relevance started being reduced by fresher and sharper events in global policy long ago. And anyway, they don’t hate anyone unless maybe they are surprised by the stupidity and impracticality of abstract Banderists. Manchuk’s article speaks about the eradication of hatred as a natural and necessary condition for the end of civil war. I.e., the hatred of anti-fascists towards Ukrainian nazis, including those who didn’t kill children in Donbass and didn’t burn “Berkut” on Maidan (although they did jump on it). Towards those who created the ideology of the regime, theoretically justifying its right to murder dissenters, and who wrote articles and filmed TV programs that call to murder those who possess a different viewpoint.
In this regard Manchuk’s article is nothing more than a starry-eyed appeal to herons to not eat frogs, because frogs aren’t to blame for the fact that they were born in this way.
Before 2014 in Western Ukraine, in the very Banderist den, anti-Banderist villages existed (I think that they still exist today). And there were also many anti-fascists too (and they remain). Although now they, of course, are fewer in number than they were before. These people, or their ancestors, suffered from Banderists in the 1940’s-1950’s. And they hated them even more strongly than Crimea or Donbass did after 2014.
In the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine there was a hatred for abstract Banderism as a phenomenon. This is why we hate German Nazism, which brought death to each of our families, but we treat modern Germans normally. But the enemies of Banderism in Western Ukraine hated specific people who killed their relatives, they hated their descendants who didn’t repent for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers, but they apprehended their ideas as theirs and only bided their time. This hatred lasted decades, like an Italian vendetta, leading to sporadic excesses in the most safe years of the Soviet power.
But now the same thing has happened to all of Ukraine. The lives of tens of millions of people have been destroyed. Some were killed, some lost their jobs, some migrated, some were forced to leave the country for economic motives, some live in daily fear for their own life and the lives of their relatives. The marginal abomination that emerged from the bottom of society – dreaming only of satiating itself and sleeping comfortably, doing nothing – teaches normal people how to live. Bulgakov’s Sharikov is a demonstration of the softest and most harmless form of discomfort that is felt by a normal person when they face a rabble exulting in their own permissiveness.
Currently civil war in Ukraine is localised in Donbass. But it is bursting out into the expanses of the entire country. The fight between elite groups in Kiev already reached such a limit where power can’t be claimed without bloodshed. Even if Poroshenko isn’t able to find enough support to try to forcefully hold on to power, and even if it will be possible to overthrow him rather peacefully, it’s unlikely that his fate will inspire his successor. Anyone who comes to power after Poroshenko will fall into the same vicious circle from which there is already no exit. Anyone will face the same hatred of elite groups and the population, only it will happen earlier because there won’t be any more western loans – allowing to smoothen internal contradictions, and the internal reserve of system durability has been exhausted. The arrival of civil war to Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, and Lvov, and its return to Kharkov and Odessa is a matter of time and not of principle.
As long as the accumulated hatred hasn’t found a way out and blood is still being shed, as long as those who are incapable of forgiving and aren’t interested in repenting haven’t yet satisfied their thirst for revenge or haven’t yet been killed in battles, then civil war can’t end.
And external intervention won’t help here. External forces can help to stabilise a country that is ready to be stabilised, but they aren’t capable of stopping a civil conflict that hasn’t yet exhausted itself. On the contrary, by standing in the middle of the conflicting parties, they evoke the hatred of this or that party because they prevent them from grabbing each other by the throat.
As was said above, Russia and the West have yet to agree on how to bring order in Ukraine through joint efforts, who will receive what from it, and who will pay for it and how much will it cost. This means that stabilising external forces will appear on the territory of Ukraine with a very big delay.
Regular states, regular armies, and regular police formations don’t exact revenge. They prosecute or create conditions for national trials. But, as we saw in Syria, intermediary peacekeepers come only where one of the parties to the conflict is ready to surrender, but is afraid of revenge and thus wants guarantees from an external force. As long as the parties aren’t satiated with blood, and as long as someone isn’t in a desperate situation, then there is nothing intermediaries can do here. And for people who were deprived of their kin and meaning of life by the nazis, it is useless to talk about forgiveness, reconciliation, and about the malignancy of revenge. Having received the opportunity to exact revenge, they will do exactly this. And the opportunity will appear for them as soon as different groups of the Kiev regime claw each other and won’t be able to stand together against anti-fascists anymore.
So, the appeal to reject hatred and to understand and forgive can only be supported as a very moral and even pragmatic one. But it is necessary to understand that it isn’t realisable in an absolute form. The enemy is forgiven (not always and not everyone) when they repent. The enemy must suffer defeat in order to realise the depth of their mistakes and crimes, since winners don’t reflect on things. However, victory is won on the battlefield, where even the soldiers of regular armies in the heat of battle, becoming hardened from losses, forget about the Vienna and Geneva conventions and the majority of them aren’t prosecuted for this. But in civil war, where the armed citizens of the destroyed country fight against each other, no norms of international law work in general.
It is possible to condemn Ukrainian military personnel, representatives of the special services, police officers, and politicians for violating the Constitution, waging war against their own people, and shelling peaceful cities. But it is impossible to condemn the citizens of a destroyed state who armed themselves in self-defense. They acted in the conditions of a force majeure and had no possibility to fulfil the requirements of international legislation on the norms and rules of war.
We are responsible for those who we tamed. Europe considered that it tamed Ukrainian nazis. Europe was mistaken. Europe doesn’t know what to do with them, but it doesn’t want to take part in their soft disposal, ensuring the transfer of power from them to adequate politicians and their evacuation either to Poland or Canada. There is no place for them to flee and they can’t govern anymore. They ate the Ukrainian state and it, being eaten, can’t provide them with protection any more. But they also can’t hand over power without bloodshed, having seized it as a result of a bloody coup. This means that their disposal will take place in a hard format, because too much hatred accumulated in society for it to be possible to just apologise and pretend that nothing happened.
Thus, the “people with beautiful faces” who stood for “everything good and against everything bad” will also fail to come out unscathed. It won’t happen to all of them, but it will happen all the same. It always happens like this. Nobody knows any artillerists who manhandled the shells that destroyed cities and killed people in Donbass by sight. If they don’t boast about their “feats” too much, then nobody will file a lawsuit against them. But the journalists who justified Nazism, the volunteers raising money to help punishers, and the social network activists waging a propaganda war are known by many. And for some of them, their luck will simply run out.
And then, of course, who in Moscow, Vladivostok, Murmansk, or Sochi will want to spoil their nerves by having hatred for Ukrainian nationalists? They gifted us Crimea, and this isn’t their last gift.