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Putin forced Ukrainians to see Russian culture as a weapon of war

Putin forced Ukrainians to see Russian culture as a weapon of war

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled the ongoing debate over Russia’s cultural presence in Ukrainian society and accelerated efforts to remove the vestiges of its imperial past. Some Russian intellectuals have expressed concern over the targeting of Russian culture in Ukraine, with author Mikhail Shishkin writing in his recent article, Atlantic Whether Ukrainian writers will “speak up for Pushkin.”

This raises challenging questions about the separation of culture from politics and the role that culture has played in Russian imperialism. Russian intellectuals rally to defend Pushkin at a time when Russian forces occupy vast swaths of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly declares the return of “historic Russian lands” Is it the right time to do so?

A person like Shishkin certainly has a right to speak out about what is perceived as an attack on Russian culture in wartime Ukraine. However, some have the right to challenge the intentions behind such statements. As the Russian genocidal campaign enters its sixth month, with no clear end in sight, a prominent Russian intellectual has questioned which country to use as he uses his publicity to focus on preserving Russian culture in Ukraine. Do you want to convey such a message? Are they really not listening to the centuries of imperial politics that underpinned the once dominant position of Russian culture in Ukraine? Don’t you understand how Putin weaponized Russian culture to rebuild the Russian Empire?

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Russia is committing genocide against the Ukrainian people and does not hide the facts. On the contrary, the overwhelming physical evidence of war crimes in Ukraine itself is backed up by endless evidence of clear and overt genocidal intent by Russian officials and Moscow propagandists.

Testimony from survivors who fled Russian occupation since the invasion began on February 24 makes it clear that Putin’s ultimate goal is to wipe Ukraine off the map. A combination of genocide, terror tactics, deportation, and depopulation seeks to achieve this criminal goal. Mass graves were found where Russian troops were forced to retreat. Ukrainian authorities are overwhelmed with reports of torture and sexual violence. Thousands of Ukrainian children were forcibly deported to Russia. Air raid sirens go off every week, sometimes every day, in almost all parts of Ukraine. Civilian buildings are often targeted by missile attacks. Millions of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes. No part of the country is safe.

Meanwhile, Kremlin TV commentators routinely question the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state and call for forced “re-education” to strip Ukrainians of their Ukrainian identity. Officials declared that Ukraine “no longer exists” and an editorial in Russian state media confirmed that “de-Nazification”, the military goal of the invasion, actually meant “de-Ukrainianization”. ing. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, once hailed by the West naively as a liberal changemaker, now has a crazy Regularly posts anti-Ukrainian messages.

Across occupied Ukraine, campaigns to erase Ukrainian identity frequently employ Russian cultural icons. for example, Billboard with a giant portrait of Pushkin It was built in the city of Kherson in occupied southern Ukraine as part of an effort to promote Russia’s imperialist claims. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that Ukrainians begin to see Russian culture as an extension of Russian military aggression, instead clinging more fiercely to their national identity.

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Several prominent Ukrainian writers, who wrote mostly in Russian until the invasion, emphasized how the conflict made it impossible to separate culture from politics.

One such example is Volodymyr Rafeyenko who wrote: Mondegrinis the first novel written in Ukrainian after fleeing his native Donetsk in 2014. literature hubhe was poised to become a bilingual writer, but that all changed after the full-scale invasion began in February. , kindergartens, the destruction of schools, bestial, ungodly atrocities.All these are closely related to the Russian language.And nothing can be done about it.The Russian language as a whole has become obscene and decent. And these days, whenever I have to use it in private communication, I always use a kind of disgust mixed with shame, guilt, and physical pain. After February 24, Rafeyenko found himself displaced again when the Russian invasion trapped him and his wife in an occupied suburb of Kyiv. With the help of friends, they were able to evacuate to the west of the country.

The daily atrocities of Russian aggression have forced many Ukrainian artists to call on the world to cease all cooperation with Russian cultural spheres as long as the war continues. The house argues that it is Putin, not Putin, who is directly responsible for the crimes taking place in Ukraine. They seem to think they can’t comprehend being talked about in the same way as gang torture, kidnapping, rape, and murder.

Over the centuries, Russian literature has played a key role in shaping negative imperialist stereotypes of Ukraine. The country has routinely been portrayed as a backward and inferior part of Russia, incapable of self-government and unfit for a state. One particularly infamous example of his is the infamous poem “On Ukraine’s Independence” by famous Soviet dissident Joseph Brodsky, which was written at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this vicious and vulgar poem, he uses Russian ethnic slurs to refer to Ukrainians who, on his deathbed, endorse Pushkin in favor of the 19th-century Ukrainian national poet Taras. Disdainfully declares that she will abandon Shevchenko.

Brodsky’s poetry sheds light on a painful truth that much of the West still struggles to grasp. Russian literary figures have traditionally been touted by Western audiences as symbols of a liberal Russia, but just because they are prepared to oppose the tyranny of the Russian state does not necessarily mean that they are the Ukrainian state. Not always a natural ally of the project. Indeed, Ukrainians have long pointed out that Russian liberalism ends at the Ukrainian border.

None of this-. is especially true in the context of the ongoing Russian aggression and against the historical backdrop of Russian imperialism. Ideally, the current war should trigger a fundamental shift in international perceptions of Ukraine, exposing the folly of trying to see the country through the Russian prism.

Russian artists, like Ukrainian artists, were victims of various ugly forms of the Russian state. But political repression should not be confused with genocide. Olev Sentsov, Artem Chapeye, Artem Chech, Oleksandr Mikhed, Hilarion Pavlyuk, Stanislav Aseyev, Pablo while Russian writers like Mikhail Shishkin went into exile and mourned the loss of the Pushkin statue in Ukraine. Ukrainian contemporaries such as Steph, Yarina Chornovuz, etc. took up arms to save the country from ruin. Ultimately, the true story of this war is not Pushkin’s destiny, but their experience of nation-building. This is a story the world desperately needs to hear.

Kate Turkan is a Ukraine-based American writer and editor-in-chief of Apofenie Magazine.


The views expressed in Ukraine Alert are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Atlantic Council, its staff or its supporters.

of of the Eurasia Center The mission is to strengthen transatlantic cooperation to promote stability, democratic values ​​and prosperity in Eurasia, from Eastern Europe and Turkey in the west to the Caucasus, Russia and Central Asia in the east.

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Image: A woman walks in front of a bust of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the colors of the Russian flag. December 6, 2017 Reuters/Maxim Shemetov