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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Why we became enemies

Can Ukrainians get through to Russians with the help of the “language of arguments”?
19 March, 2014 - 18:32
MARCH 15, MOSCOW. THE PLACARD READS: “RUSSIA, WHERE IS YOUR BROTHER ABEL?” / Photo from the website NOVAYAGAZETA.RU

My wife’s cousin deleted us on social media. She and her husband don’t want to communicate with us anymore, because they think that we were brainwashed by the American propaganda. This family resides in Abkhazia. They say they know the consequences of war and truly believe that be it not for Russia, there would be no peace in Abkhazia. The relatives are aggressively trying to convince us that Russia will help Ukraine. They don’t want to hear that we did not ask for this help. My wife’s another cousin from Russia supports peace in Ukraine, but he makes it precise: “Give us the Crimea, because it historically belongs to Russia.” A short course of education concerning Crimean history makes all questions drop. The interlocutor gets emotional and refuses to talk at all.

It is frightening to see the reaction of ordinary Russians (acquaintances, friends, and even relatives) to events in Ukraine, in particular, to the RF aggression in the Crimea. Modern intelligent progressive people with higher education categorically support Putin’s policy. The Day asked historians, scholars, and writers why and when did Ukrainians become an enemy image for Russians, and how can we maintain the dialog between our peoples and prevent them from falling out completely.

“THERE ARE PEOPLE AMONG RUSSIANS WHO ARE ABLE TO THINK CRITICALLY, AND THEY SUPPORT UKRAINE”

Kyrylo HALUSHKO, historian:

“The situation we observe in Russia today did not emerge from nothing. This is a result of long-lasting processes in the Russian society. We need to understand that starting from 2000 Russians have been living in a very specific information space. Unlike Ukraine, where in spite of all negative tendencies of the last years the society had an information choice, the media in Russia support only one point of view. All messages broadcasted by the local mass media are controlled and directed by the power. In fact, an entire generation with distorted notions of the world has emerged there. It is gratifying that among the Russians, among their educated people there are people who are able to think critically, and they support Ukraine. But not only in Russia, in any country of the world there are less people who think critically than those who believe everything the mass media tell.

“I feel sad and surprised at the list of Russian workers of culture who supported Putin’s policy in Ukraine. My Moscow friends, who can also be considered intelligentsia, admit that the government’s actions were above all supported by functionaries, as well as workers of the branches of culture which need state financing – first and foremost, Fedor Bondarchuk. And a great number of old actors of cinema are now not in the age and condition to make an adequate choice, like Tabakov, Batalov, etc. I am surprised by the stand taken by some Russian intellectuals-historians who deal with Ukrainian question. For example, Alexey Miller, an author of the well-known book Ukrainian question in the policy of Russian empire, who is considered in Ukraine a classic among Russian researchers of Ukrainian history, also inadequately assesses the current situation. And those are people who are supposed to understand better than others what is going on in Ukraine. They study us for a long time and, by the way, receive grants from Western foundations, so, the question is not about dependence on the state. There are many factors of inadequateness, complexes, and phobias in Russia concerning Ukraine, even among people, whom I used to consider progressive and adequate. Clearly, there is little we with our modest resources can do against the powerful machine of Russian propaganda. At the same time, since the main source of freedom of speech in Russia is the Internet, we must create Russian-language Internet resources with video and information about the Ukrainian events, so that Russians had a possibility to read, understand, think, and compare. I think the Russian-language version of The Day is a step in this direction. Such projects take place above all in people’s minds and souls, but for people to make their choice, they need to be given food for thought, a possibility of alternative. We need if not powerful source of propaganda, then at least a source highlighting the Ukrainian point of view in Russian.”

 

“FAR FROM ALL RUSSIANS CONSIDER THE KREMLIN’S AGGRESSIVE POLICY AGREEABLE”

Halyna KRUK, poet and translator:

“The appeals of the part of Russian intelligentsia (writers, musicians, workers of cinema, and scholars) and recent many-thousand manifestations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Magadan in support of Ukraine, against the war and intervention of the Kremlin to the Crimea are encouraging. These protests actually prove that Russia is variegated, and far from all Russians consider the aggressive policy of the Kremlin agreeable and close. Practically none of my Russian acquaintances, mostly writers and translators, misunderstood or did not want to see what was taking place here during the last months. Not only many of them expressed support, but also helped to spread the truthful information and tried to convince their fellow countrymen, how deceitful their news are, and often faced aggression of the zombified majority. But, sadly, those disagreeing and adequate Russians are at the moment too few to influence the political course of Putin or reform the country.

“IN HIS TIME JAMES MACE SAID: ‘UKRAINE IS STILL LIVING THROUGH BIBLICAL TRAGEDIES.’ WHAT DID JAMES MEAN? I SUPPOSE HE MEANT THE TRAGEDY OF CAIN AND ABEL, THE DRAMA OF CYNICAL SPLIT. UKRAINE HAS BEEN LIVING THROUGH THIS TRAGEDY FOR ALMOST 1,000 YEARS, BACK FROM THE TIME OF ANDREI BOGOLIUBSKY. IN THE VIEW OF UKRAINIANS HE COMMITTED A TERRIBLE SIN – HE BURNT DOWN ‘HIS FATHER’S HOUSE’ (CITY OF KYIV) AND BROUGHT OUT FROM THE CITY ONE OF THE MAIN RELICS – THE VLADIMIR (IN ORIGINAL VYSHHOROD) ICON. AND FOR RUSSIA, BOGOLYUBSKY IS A HERO AND A CANONIZED SAINT. ALREADY AT THIS STAGE WE HAVE A GRANDIOSE VALUE-BASED SPLIT BETWEEN THE BROTHERS,” THE DAY’S EDITOR-IN-CHIEF LARYSA IVSHYNA WRITES IN A PREFACE TO THE POWER OF THE SOFT SIGN (KYIV: PRJSC “UKRAINIAN PRESS GROUP,” 2013)

“It is not the first year and not even the first century that the official Russian policy of ‘conquering and raking’ concerning Ukraine and anti-Ukrainian propaganda has been carried out in Russia, very skillfully and, unfortunately, successfully. On the one hand, that declarative and perverse ‘love to fraternal people,’ on the other hand, the imperial arrogance and constantly fuelled in the masses distrust to ‘stupid, but cunning khokhol,’ and as well the constant need to have an external enemy – these are mainly the three angles of Ukrainian question in Russia. The disinformation namely about the events in Ukraine is awful and shameless, there is not a shade of truth in it. It is regrettable, because it turned out that skilful manipulations easily make an average person a stupid tool for imperial policy.

“How to reconcile the peoples in spite of the actions of the politicians? I think, by way of personal contacts on both sides of the border. But first and foremost we must defend the independence and integrity of our state, because the calls to reconciliation and assurance of good neighborly relations somehow do not protect from tanks and machine guns. If Putin does not come to senses and stop all of these outrageous actions, if he is not stopped by joint efforts, the peoples will not reconcile in the near future and it will be a difficult thing to do. However, as far as I understand, in this case it will be safer for our Russian friends who supported us to stay here, with us.”

By Vadym LUBCHAK, Roman HRYVINSKY, The Day; Liubov IAKYMCHUK
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