Putin’s lies about Ukraine – Center for Strategic Communications
The Center for Strategic Communications, or Stratcom, in its latest article analyzes Putin’s address on Feb. 21, during which he recognized the so-called “L/DPR” (“Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics”) and de-facto denied Ukrainian statehood.
NV is publishing this material under its partnership with the Center, which is aimed at countering disinformation and informing the public about Russian hybrid aggression and other threats.
Putin’s address regarding the diplomatic recognition of the pseudo-republics in the Russian-occupied territories of eastern Ukraine was heavily based in a seemingly historical argument. This is not the first time the master of the Kremlin has resorted to such rhetoric.
Since 2014, he has been actively promoting his ideas about the past, lecturing historians, and writing articles. For Putin, the past – or rather, his own distorted view of the past – is a source of legitimacy for his behavior not only within Russia, but also in the international arena.
He cares about the territorial integrity of “historical Russia,” deals with the state of its economy, as well as the morality of its residents. It is from this position that Putin demonstrates his attitude toward Ukraine – as a rebellious province that is trying to escape, to leave his imaginary country.
Of course, romantic ideas about one’s own past play a significant role in the formation of national identity. But this can be a topic of an exclusively cultural and educational agenda – school textbooks on history, patriotic education, works of art. Every country has its own historical narrative, and it is quite a natural thing, even despite the fundamental differences between the historical narratives of neighboring countries, as in the case of Russia and Ukraine.
However, this romantic “inner kitchen” is absolutely unacceptable in the civilized world for solving issues of international relations. The world is guided not by someone’s subjective ideas about “historical rights,” but by international law, with universal and mutually acceptable principles.
For example, clear boundaries are possible only between legitimate internationally recognized states. Clear boundaries are impossible in principle between imaginary countries such as “historical Russia” or “historical Germany.”
Even the entire planet of Jupiter would not be enough to accommodate all of these imaginary countries from the past, without mutual territorial encroachments.
The world has paid a heavy price for realizing these principles. The bloody 20th century has demonstrated what the fascination with historical romance leads to in international relations.
(Adolf) Hitler also presented himself as the German leader, and (Benito) Mussolini as the emperor of Rome. To date, it is barbarism and outright wickedness to refer to historical arguments when sorting out relations with neighbors.
Once again, Putin declares Ukrainians to be the same as Russians, just prodigal sheep who have strayed from the flock. And he calls Ukrainians who do not agree with his views on the past nationalists and neo-Nazis. Therefore, in order to bring reality into line with Putin’s worldview, Russia must get rid of these uncomfortable Ukrainians at any cost.
Putin’s rhetoric, demonizing and dehumanizing the citizens of Ukraine who are patriots of their country, indicates a desire to eliminate them. And it doesn’t matter that there are millions of such unsuitable Ukrainians for Putin’s worldview. We have already gone through all this in the Soviet Union, when society was formatted according to the Bolsheviks’ patterns, and whole classes and social strata were subject to destruction.
In international relations, Ukraine consistently relies on the principles and norms of international law, which has everything necessary to justify the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our state, and its representation on an equal footing in the world community. We don’t need anything else.
What is wrong in Putin’s words?
However, it is still worth answering one passage of Putin’s speech, which diverges not only from the Ukrainian historical narrative, but also from truth and common sense.
The Russian president claims that Ukraine was completely created by the Bolsheviks in a place where only his “historical Russia” had previously been. The dictator threatens us with decommunization, by which he means the dismantling of Ukrainian statehood.
Putin repeats this manipulation regularly. He borrowed it from once-marginal Black Hundred monarchist novelists who had combined Ukrainophobia and the idea of a Jewish Bolshevik plot against “Mother Russia.”
In fact, the Ukrainian national movement, which matured during the 19th century and loudly declared itself in the early 20th century, is the creator of modern Ukrainian statehood. It had deep cultural and historical roots, reaching back to the time when the Muscovite state had not yet come to Ukrainian lands.
It is not the Bolsheviks, but the Ukrainian national movement that proclaimed the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) in November 1917 – the first modern Ukrainian state.
If fate had been more favorable to the Ukrainians, the UPR would have held out like Poland or Finland. These countries also stood on the ruins of the empire and did without Bolshevik assistance in creating the state.
At the same time, the UPR was subjected to Bolshevik aggression and, after several years of unequal struggle, was again occupied by Russia.
And here we should agree with Putin that Lenin’s concessions to the Ukrainians in the form of their own republic and certain surviving attributes of statehood were made in order to retain power.
But for some reason, the Russian president did not develop this opinion: The Ukrainians did not get the concessions as a gift, it was just impossible to maintain control over Ukraine without these concessions.
At that time, the Ukrainians were unable to defend their independence, but even then they became a factor that cannot be ignored. And (Vladimir) Lenin showed himself to be a more pragmatic politician than Putin – the dreamer of “historical Russia.”
But this is not a reason for Ukrainians to respect Lenin – the dictator who dragged our people into bloody Bolshevik experiments that cost millions of victims.
The Center for Strategic Communications was established under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy as one of the mechanisms to counter disinformation through the joint efforts of the state and civil society. The Center’s work is focused on communication counteraction to external threats, in particular, Russian information attacks.
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