Collision of Memories, Eric Onoble (Le Monde Diplomatique)

Frescoes commemorating victims of the 1933 famine, Kyiv

Sergey Spinski AFP Getty

worldAroslav The wise Grand Duke of Kyiv (978-1054) could not have imagined that his distant descendants would go on a murderous madness in 2022… historical justification. The war in historical stories began long before the war on the battlefield.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, this memory clash seemed harmless. The Ukrainian government was even trying to ease international friction by addressing past historical grievances. In 2002 and 2007, Russian-Ukrainian Historical Commissions were established at the intergovernmental level to produce textbooks on the common history of the two countries. However, these attempts were hampered by mutual distrust and the need for new nation-states to assert themselves.

Political unforeseen circumstances also contributed to the failure of shared historical dialogue. Leonid Kravchuk, former chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party’s ideological department, used the nationalist rhetoric that served him during the Soviet era to become the first president of an independent Ukraine. His successor, Leonid Kuchma, was elected by Russian-speaking voters in the Industrial East. To counter the communist popularity in the 1999 elections, he caused the Great Famine of 1933 (Holodomor) as his own re-election debate with nationalist voters in western Ukraine.

Ukraine divided by its ‘national narrative’

Far from uniting the country, the “National Story” divided it. After the 2004 Orange Revolution, pro-European President Viktor Yushchenko announced in 2006: Holodomor as genocide. This shocked Russia, which suffered famine under Stalin, and Israel, who felt Ukraine was competing with its own commemoration of history.

Yushchenko also paid tribute to controversial figures in the nationalist movement, including Stepan Bandera (1909-59), who was awarded the official title of “Hero of Ukraine” in 2010. The organization was a co-founder of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). OUN-B is politsai, who hunted Jews for the Nazis. The UPA said that in 1943 he massacred 60,000 Poles in a large area of ​​Volhynia. (1)On the other hand, the defeated regional party, called the pro-Russian faction, built a local ideology in Donbass, defending the memory of the Great Patriotic War against fascism and aligning it with the Slavic orthodox world. Two versions of history collided on the ground.

Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, from Ladoga near Finland to Kyiv and Chernigov.They were united by one language and Orthodox faith

Vladimir Putin

Moscow took advantage of this division in 2014 to create the separatist republics of Donbass (Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic), but historical politics became more radical in loyalist Ukraine. In 2015, the “Decommunicate” Act was passed. But banning communist propaganda and eradicating the hammer and sickle didn’t solve anything. Neither the war in Donbass nor the domination of the country by oligarchs solved it. To address these issues, the Russian-speaking Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, elected in 2019 on the basis of a manifesto of reconciliation with Russia, will try to silence the most jarring nationalist voices. It was made. But there was little room for political maneuvering between nationalist activism and Russian intransigence.

In July 2021, the President of Russia released a 25-page historical vision. (2)“I envy the presidents of great powers who can devote so much time to such detailed work.” (3)Putin presents the “gist” of history for “more than a thousand years” and clarifies known events in his own way.

His story is simple and linear. “Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are all descendants of ancient Russia”, extending from “Ladoga” near Finland to “Kyiv and Chernigov”. ” were tied together. This unity was shattered by the Mongol invasion that destroyed Kyiv and drove the Ukrainians west. “The process of polonization and Latinization began,” and “some of the Western Russian Orthodox clergy who submitted to papal authority” dominated the Lviv region today in the Uniate His Greek Catholic Church. was founded.

Moscow, the ‘center of reunification’

The struggle between the “center of reunification” (Moscow) and Western influences continued for centuries. Cossack leader Bogdan Khmelnytsky signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav with the Tsardom of Moscow (or Russia) in 1654 to combat the Polish yoke. As a result, the Cossacks “reunited with most of the Russian Orthodox Church” and “the land on the left bank of the Dnieper … was called ‘Malorossia’. [Little Russia]” wrote Putin. In the following century, the hetman Mazepa sided with the Swedes against the emperor, but “supported only a small portion of the Cossacks.” [the] rebellion. ‘

Putin synthesized the ideas of late 19th-century Russian historians such as Sergei Solovyov (1820-79) and Vasily Klyuchevsky (1841-1911). And it pushes them further by connecting the traitorous Cossack leader with his 20th-century nationalist. In 2014, he followed a similar line of reasoning, backing a coup d’état by “the West… radical nationalist groups.” Ukraine’s “anti-Russian program”, he wrote, “can only be sustained by constantly fostering the image of its internal and external enemies.”

In repeating this imperial narrative, Putin employs two techniques that are effective but lack a sound historical approach. Instead of putting the past in historical context, he offers a retrospective interpretation of events. Moscow is presented as Kyiv’s successor, as if his 10th-century monarchs could nominate their own successors. According to him, the Polish-Lithuanian state of the 16th century was the forerunner of NATO to separate Ukrainians from Moscow. Cossack leaders in territories contested by several powers transform into archetypes of fascist leaders.

Putin’s second technique is to maintain a conceptual ambiguity between the two words translated in English as “Russian”. Russky, Designates a particular linguistic and cultural community originating from Russia.When Roszysky, It refers to the Russian state that declared itself an empire in St. Petersburg in 1721. This led him to call the “Russian world (Russky meal) as political entities, the two concepts are different.Russky), endlessly criticizing the politics of the Russian head of state (Roszysky).

Fear of “fragmentation”

Putin’s narrative is plagued by fears of a “schism” that threatens the political and spiritual unity of the state. This is why he denounces the “Soviet national policy” of keeping “his three separate Slavic peoples in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus” alive at the national level. [one great] Russian nation, a trinity of peoples consisting of the Velicorsians [Great Russians]Malorussian [Little Russians] and Belarusians.

In his February 21, 2022 speech, two days before attacking Ukraine, Putin claimed without reason that the Lenin-inspired Soviet constitution promoted the country’s independence. 1991 (Four)Putin also recalled what historian Moshe Lewin called “Lenin’s final struggle” with Stalin. (Five) On the institutional structure of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Whereas Lenin imposed legal equality on national republics, Stalin wanted a centralized system with only regional autonomy.

But where Lewin credited Lenin, Putin reprimanded him. Lenin’s Ukraine is ‘Modern Ukraine’ [which] Completely a product of the Soviet era. Commentators, especially Ukrainians, protest that Lenin cannot be the father of the Ukrainian state. It was Lenin who turned the Ukrainian state into an independent Ukrainian state, laying the foundations and able to withstand the crisis. 30 years. By claiming that he wants to “show what true ‘decommunization’ means for Ukraine,” Putin is clearly threatening the existence of the Ukrainian state.

In denouncing the Bolsheviks, especially Lenin’s “abhorrent, destructive and utopian fantasies,” Putin forgets that the empire was crumbling in 1917. Demands for independence were growing not only in Ukraine, but also in Finland, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Above all, there were social protests from workers suffering from an economic crisis and conscripts who did not want to die for Greater Russia. A history buff, Putin decided to risk overlooking certain aspects of history when he invaded Ukraine. Collision of Memories, Eric Onoble (Le Monde Diplomatique)

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