President Vladimir Putin of Russia says Ukraine’s government is “openly neo-Nazi” and “pro-Nazi,” controlled by “little Nazis,” a few of us were confused. We thought President Putin was talking to Westerners. Actually, he was talking to the Russian people, not the West. Over sixty years after World War II, the word Nazi has a personal meaning to Russians. This invective is reserved for those people who are in direct opposition to Russia and the Communist Party. For westerners, we would describe Ukraine as fervently anti-Russian. For Russians, it is a little more personal.
Recently my wife and I watched the documentary, Ukraine On Fire. Despite it reflecting a pro-Kremlin viewpoint both my wife and I thought it was informative.
The film associates the Ukrainian 2004 Orange Revolution and 2014 Revolution of Dignity with Ukrainian radical right and antisemitic political organizations, such as the Right Sector, and with WWII-era western Ukrainian far-right paramilitary organizations.
The film might be correct about the participation of far-right paramilitary organizations in the demonstrations but it did not result in legislators in Parliament. When I watched the demonstrations I saw far more blue and yellow flags than the red and black flags of right-wing organizations. The documentary made a point of saying that symbols are important to revolutions. In this case, the demonstrators wanted an independent Ukraine.
My biggest complaint about the documentary was the omission of the Great Famine between 1932 and 1933. During this time period between 3.5 million to 10 million Ukrainians died. Although the far-right organization activism was significant in the demonstrations, I think the current deep-seated dislike for Russian meddling in Ukrainian affairs goes back to the famine. It is the famine that unites the right, center, and left political parties in Ukraine for independence from Putin’s vision of a reconstituted Soviet Union. Wikipedia says it best,
Some scholars conclude that the famine was planned by Joseph Stalin to eliminate a Ukrainian independence movement. Others suggest that the famine was a concomitant of rapid Soviet industrialisation and collectivization of agriculture. Nevertheless, the famine’s widespread impact on Ukraine persists to this day.Holodomor
Over 3.5 million dead Ukrainians are saying never again. For Ukrainians, it is personal.
The questions about anti-semitism and government corruption are more nuanced. Historically there was antisemitism in Ukraine but the situation has changed in recent years. As the current president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, reminded President Putin, he is a Jew. To complicate the matter further there are Jewish members of the ultra-right Azov Battalion. Once again I think Ukrainians have united around a common enemy, Russia.
A similar situation exists around government corruption. Ukraine unsuccessfully tried to develop trade agreements with both the European Union and Russia. Russia threatened to turn off the gas pipeline going through Ukraine if Ukraine did not comply with Russian demands. The United States threatened to turn off the United States and IMF funding if Ukraine did not comply with US demands. Compromise is not in the air.
The first four days of the Ukrainian war was a war on the Ukrainian people. Every day thereafter was a war on the heart and soul of the Russian people. So much pain and so little to show for it. Stupid wars are stupid.