Ukraine, then and today

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By OLEG YASINSKY*

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia is actually a civil war

In the Soviet times when I grew up, Russia and Ukraine were one country, one people, one culture, with their different nuances. If I had to sum it up in a couple of words, it would be our happy childhood.

My own childhood was in Ukraine, in the Soviet Union, and as I said, we didn't feel like we lived in a separate country any more than, I'm sure, did kids in Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan or any of the other republics. We felt that we lived in a big country, where, in order to communicate, we needed a common language. And that language was Russian.

In the case of Ukraine, at least in Kiev, where I grew up, almost everyone spoke Russian. And from the first school years we were forced to study Ukrainian literature and the Ukrainian language. So we were bilingual. This was part of the institutions' respect for the land we lived on. And there was no contradiction, because Russian and Ukrainian cultures complement each other perfectly and shared territory, memories and dreams.

To think of a war between Russia and Ukraine would be completely crazy, absolutely impossible. The memories of the Second World War were still fresh, which for our people was the great national war. And in this war we managed to win because we didn't differentiate between Ukrainians and Russians or Jews or Kazakhs. Furthermore, it was considered bad taste to emphasize national differences. Of course, each people has its particularities, but that was part of the enormous wealth of our country. Indeed, Ukraine – which the Kiev regime is now trying to present as a uniform – also has enormous ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity within its own territory.

But I think that, with the last years of Perestroika, when the press was “democratized” (in quotation marks!), that is, when the private press appeared – which started to serve the private interests of the different political groups that were emerging, with enormous pressure and influence from the West (and I'm talking about the Gorbachev era) - even from state television, that is, to the entire Soviet Union, they started to tell us another story, they started to tell us about things that we could never have heard in the television before.

It was a very professional and convincing media work, and it was a very strong new stimulus for the public. Being finally free from censorship, eager to receive this information, we let ourselves be permeated by all this discourse, always very anti-communist. Because he wasn't just critical of Stalin or Stalinism, he wasn't just criticizing the excesses or the dark moments in our history, he was criticizing socialism as a system: he was a frontal, thorough critique, with a lot of things that today we would call fake news –we didn't speak much English yet –, and in everything there were half-truths, truths and outright lies, all mixed up, all turned upside down. And without special preparation, an ordinary citizen – hitherto used to only one point of view, the official one – had no way of orienting himself in the midst of all this avalanche of information.

In the case of Ukraine, the anti-Communist discourse was added to the anti-Russian discourse, the nationalist discourse. For example, former Nazi collaborators in Ukraine began to be presented as heroes of the struggle for “independence”. The idea began to be inculcated, subtly or directly, that the Ukrainian people are very different from the Russians, “because the Russians are wilder than us, they are Asians, and we are Europeans, civilized, those with the cleanest houses ; that Russians are all drunks, and that Ukrainian people are hardworking” etc etc…. This is quite absurd, because within the territory of Ukraine there are more internal cultural differences than between the Ukrainian territories bordering Russia and the other side.[1]

In other words, I strongly think, and now more than at any other time, that we are a single people, with the same history, with the same historical memory, educated with the same books, with the same films... I ask practically every day: how is all this possible now?

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia, then, is actually a civil war. Because it is a people with the same memory, a people of a single territory, who for hundreds of years perceived this territory as the land of all of us. Russians and Ukrainians, ethnically, we are practically the same. I don't believe it if someone says that he can physically distinguish a Russian from a Ukrainian. It's an absurd. It's impossible.

That's why I believe Ukraine was chosen by the West as a laboratory to destabilize Russia. I'm completely convinced that if someone takes a piece of Russia the size of Ukraine, and isolates it with a curtain woven by the western media for something like eight years, it can make a lot of people stupid.

And I feel that, regrettably, our peoples, our people, are still too naive, and that now they see history as a distorted tale. I think we lacked more critical insight to understand history. But let us also not forget that over the past 30 years, both in Ukrainian and Russian history, all countries of the former Soviet Union have been exposed to this bombardment by shows western values. And what these media tried to do was to reformat youth, change our perspectives, destroy our perspectives.

In Ukraine this policy was even more aggressive; it was, in fact, an absolute and complete thing, and that's why these results were achieved. I would say that Ukraine, eight or nine years ago, was another country. And now the Ukrainian people are victims of very professional media and ideological manipulation.

It's very difficult for me to talk about the inevitability of wars, because I've always believed that we have to fight for peace, because war is the worst thing that can happen to our peoples. So I always tended to be hopeful, right up to the last minute. However, when I was in Ukraine for quite some time just before the conflict, it looked like war was absolutely inevitable. Ukraine was doing everything possible to make this war inevitable.

The naivety of the Ukrainian people and, in general, of the people of the former Soviet Union is still very great. It's a kind of political childishness, I don't know how to define it... And people really didn't understand where they were going. Furthermore, they had no other alternative source of information, and for years the new education programs in Ukraine had been preparing people to be cannon fodder. I got to the point of meeting with Ukrainian journalists trained under the new regime and I was very surprised that in a country that had been a cultured country of the Soviet Union, where many things we did not understand, but we knew many others – we were naive, but we had a lot of information about the world and world culture – these young men and women (I'm talking about people who call themselves journalists, between the ages of 25 and 30) have no idea about practically anything. It is evident that they were brought up under a bestial ideological construction, which was installed with great force, great power, which explains many things, so absurd, so savage, that are now happening in Ukraine.

In Kiev, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, this power, in the last eight years, has practically turned it into a heap of rubbish. It was already possible to see the total abandonment of everything, the Ukrainian infrastructure… everything inherited from the Soviet Union, because absolutely nothing was built afterwards, and it was possible to see that the people who have power in Kiev do not feel anything at all, they do not care. for nothing; they are taskmasters to control an occupied territory.

I felt like I was in a Third World country, like when you arrive in a capital, a poor city in a Latin American country where people barely manage to survive, and where all the means of communication are strongly controlled by economic groups that rule over everything. all. For me it was a very strong psychological impact.

I think there were two turning points in the war escalation. The first, most obvious, most evident, was the coup d'état, what the West presented to the world as “the revolution of dignity” or the “Maidan revolution”, with all the required media coverage. But still, it was a blow. When the puppets of the West come to power, with the support of the effectively fascist forces in Ukraine – who were a minority, but very well organized and very active – we can see this perfect alliance between a neoliberal government and the neo-Nazi groups that do the work of field, intimidating the opposition, controlling squares and streets, so that there is no voice of protest. Those who live in Latin America know perfectly well the origin of paramilitarism within the continent's neoliberal governments. And in this sense, I believe that Ukraine did not invent anything new, it just repeated the same scheme.

The second turning point was the closure of the media, those that gave voice to the opposition, which was consummated between 2020 and 2021, since, clearly, when you are preparing for a war, you have to apply censorship of war. From then on, any perspective or critical voice, no matter how weak, mild or conciliatory it was, began to be interpreted as Russian propaganda, as the action of agents of Vladimir Putin. Without further explanation and in violation of the Ukrainian Constitution, open television channels were closed first, then the written press, and then very strong censorship was applied to the internet. Ukrainians were then isolated from the world's information, under the pressure of official government propaganda.

At that moment, many of us in Ukraine recognized that the decision had already been made, and that the country would be sacrificed in this war commissioned from the Kiev government by its owner. The environment became unbreathable: we could no longer express opinions or discuss. Media laws came into effect that prohibited speaking well of the Soviet Union, even though Ukraine exists (or has existed, I don't know what tense to use) thanks to the Soviet Union. Even the television workers laughed, the situation was so absurd. But the public, millions of people who watched these programs, did not understand the irony of the situation. And for Ukrainian youth, this was the only reality they learned.

I see in Ukraine a copy of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, during the dictatorships themselves, or later pseudo-democracies. Virtually everything was copied. If we were to translate some of Pinochet's speeches into Ukrainian, I don't think there would be any difference. In fact, I often thought that someone is trying to translate all these speeches, all these arguments into Ukrainian, because they are all very similar.

If we are talking about a dictatorship with the appearance of a formal democracy, there is no better example than Colombia – before Gustavo Petro, to be more precise. Colombia, like Ukraine, is a very rich country, with an unbeatable geopolitical location, key in its region, with enormous natural wealth, hardworking people, a country of agricultural wealth. Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe. And from Colombia we also know the importance of its rural environment. In both cases, we see the conflicts surrounding the crop, this control from the outside: military, economic, political, media control... a situation in which even a US embassy gardener has more power than the president of the Republic...

This ridiculous thing, so evident, that we know so well in Latin America, in Ukraine was copied absolutely to the letter. And since Ukrainians are not Latin Americans, they don't have this historical trauma. And since the United States is a distant thing, it was very easy to deceive the Ukrainian youth and tell another story about the United States. So the situation turns out to be very similar.

The phenomenon of paramilitarism by neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine also seems to have been completely copied, because just as it was very efficient in Colombia, it was also very efficient in Ukraine. Not just to intimidate the political opposition, but for something even more important: acting within the Ukrainian Army – like the Azov group and others – as if they were commissars to intimidate the military, fighting any doubt, any dissent, to prevent any possibility of rebellion inside Ukraine; something that, for the Ukrainian people, would certainly be the best solution in the face of this tragedy.[2]

Also, in Ukraine, the paramilitaries are explicitly using Nazi symbology, the names of Nazi battalions… They don't hide their sympathies. And one of the latest news, unfortunately very predictable, is that in Kiev the monument to Soviet Army General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from the Nazis, has been demolished, and now they are hinting at desecrating the grave that was under the monument. It is a logical consequence of the kind of power that now governs the Ukrainian territory. I don't even like to call this thing "Ukraine". Ukraine for me is another country.

The enemy of our peoples, or our Russian-Ukrainian people, to be more precise, is the enemy of all peoples of the whole world. Once again, he wants to take over our resources and territories. And this is not just Ukraine, but the post-Soviet territory, our countries, republics, where, despite the press, despite everything, historical memory still survives. Humanity had this experience of a non-capitalist society. And that she not only survived, but also managed to defeat the worst enemy of humanity, which at that time was German fascism. So it's a very symbolic territory, very important.

And to end this memory and appropriate our resources, obviously, it is necessary to enmity our peoples. That's what the media works for. And once again fascism is used, because, as an ideological tool, it is the safest for this big transnational capital, which is now reordering the planet.

The difference is that this time, Western elites are more united than before, or rather, more controlled by the US government, and this time they control the most powerful weapon of our time: not just the media, but the networks as well. social networks, which are becoming more important than the first, as we see that young people, or even adults, spend more time on social networks than watching television. By controlling these media, public opinion can be shaped, things that don't exist can be told, truths can be hidden… everything they are doing, and so efficiently.

So I believe this is not just a war against Russia. It's a war against everyone. Washington's main target is China, but before confronting China, it must weaken and divide Russia.

What we are trying to learn from the present is not to make big plans for the future, because reality is always very complex. I think we are facing a very difficult reality. But this is a conflict that very soon may be resolved. The system has accumulated many contradictions.

Europe, for its part, is already the backyard of the United States thanks to NATO and the European Union. I remember that, when we were still living in the Soviet Union, already on the verge of splitting into Russia, Ukraine or other smaller countries, we were told that the European Union would be a construction that would work as a counterweight to the United States, and that it would strengthen independence European. And we really liked that idea. Now we are seeing that the exact opposite has happened: that Europe is America's backyard, made up of banana republics. It's even funny to see that Honduras, today, with its current government, has a much more dignified foreign policy, much more independent than countries like France or Germany, which for us were examples of European independence.

in all this Show of Ukrainian “independence” in recent years, the slogan “Ukraine is Europe” has been used, as if that were necessary. Ukraine is, in fact, the geographic center of Europe. The irony is that, in this situation, with Europe turned into an instrument or a hostage of the US government, against Russia or China, I realize that Ukraine is not Europe. Instead, Europe is now Ukraine. In other words, they transformed Europe into what, just before, they had transformed Ukraine. To any attentive and unprejudiced eye, Europe is being very clearly sacrificed, as the United States is preparing an armed confrontation, with a high nuclear probability, on European soil, in the hope of saving its own economy, saving its interests and saving its domain. worldwide.

I believe that we are facing, in Ukraine, a real risk of the use of nuclear weapons; weapons that NATO can use – NATO is the United States – to accuse Russia. The United States has already done this several times. They apply this method to practically all their wars: false flag operations to accuse other countries of their military crimes. It doesn't matter, does it? Because human memory is short. And media memory is even shorter.

In this risky situation, the definitive answer must not come from governments, but from the people. From the peoples of Europe, from the Russian people, and also from the Ukrainian people, because, despite everything, there are still people who understand what is happening. On the other hand, I believe that this historic moment of total crisis is also a great opportunity for growth. Because, just like on a personal level, you can't grow without going through a crisis. Also this current crisis, dangerous and bloody, of such high human cost, is an opportunity to take another step towards humanism, so that we understand that, within the neoliberal model, within the “capitalist paradise”, which is not much more than propaganda, we have no future.

Neither I nor anyone else in the world knows the details or the form that events will take, but I believe that what is happening now can be a great lesson for all of us. So that Russian youth can learn again that there are other values, so that we turn our eyes to the historical memory of our peoples, so that we have more contact with each other.

I believe that humanity, Russia and all the forces that are really against death and against war have no choice but to defeat NATO and the great enemy of humanity, which is none other than the United States.

*Oleg Yasinsky is a journalist based in Chile.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published as an interview for RT News.

Translator's notes


[1] Perhaps without knowing it, the author of the statement replicates the same type of empirical finding that geneticists Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins made about “races” in the 70s: there is usually more genetic variation between members of a supposed “race” than between members of one and another “race” (phenotypically assumed).

[2] In the first phase of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, when the first formation of the Ukrainian army had not yet been destroyed and Russia sought, with a high-impact lightning operation, to bring Ukraine to the negotiating table ― which was definitively interrupted on 9 April 2022, with the visit of the then British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to Kiev – the Russian government ostensibly urged the Ukrainian military to take control of the country’s government and isolate neo-Nazi groups. Like all Russian expectations surrounding that first moment of the military operation, this one was also frustrated, throwing the conflict into a prolonged time scale, which the West believed to be more convenient. From then on, frustrations would weigh on the West's plans.

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