By Maria Tomak
Unlike Boris Nemtsov, I do not consider the war between Russia and Ukraine “madness”. Moreover, I have always thought that this war would happen eventually, although I couldn’t have imagined it coming so soon that I would live to see it. It seems to me that I know why the Russian intervention in South East Ukraine has has come as such a surprise to many Russians, including many respected liberals.
The key to understanding of this matter lies in the text published by Boris Nemtsov. Particularly, in his ear-piercing phrases: “several centuries of common history” and “fratricidal war”.
If we are really against the war, let us put aside all the stereotypical and manipulative stamps. There was never “a shared country”, let alone “common history”. There was colonization, persecution, engineered famine, repressions, eradication of Ukrainian language. To me it looks more like a common prison. A “common country” – give me a break…
Likewise, there has never been any sort of Russo-Ukrainian brotherhood – their relations have always been very complex at best; intermarriages between bearers of Russian and Ukrainian passports cannot possibly constitute brotherhood between the two nations. As for “fratricidal war”, any war can be characterized as such, especially the war of conquest rather than defense.
Please don’t get me wrong; I am not splitting hairs here, it’s just that in this particular use of the proper terminology makes considerable difference.
Let me elaborate.
If the silence of the majority of Russians in response to their country’s aggression against Ukraine, and similarly to the flow of coffins returning from Ukraine can be attributed to propaganda, then how can one explain the support of the so called “Novorussia” by the Strategy-31 group?* These dissidents are quite politically aware people who are trying to defend their constitutional rights, rather than merely staring at Russian TV.
So where is the slogan: “Be a patriot – support Donbas (the area of anti-Ukrainian rebellion)” coming from? What are these facts but the illusions of “brotherhood”? And how can one explain the confession of one volunteer fighting with the pro-Russian forces in “Novorossia”, when he says that he had “magically” turned from Maidan supporter into a fighter of “the South East Army”? It seems to me that it all can be explained by the destructive illusion of “brotherhood” between Ukraine and Russia.
The war will go on until we give up this illusion. Otherwise, there will be no understanding that this war, however bloody and horrible it may be, is but a logical extension of this misconception of the situation.
Ukraine does not need any brotherhood. In fact, in order to defend itself from those “Russian brothers” the Ukrainians are currently digging trenches near Mariupol and Zaporizhye, sending their young men to the front line under the enemy’s fire, raising money to buy armored helmets and vests. What we need from Russia is a civilized relationship based on International Law, not on any sort of “brotherhood”.
Such relationships we have managed to establish in recent years with, for instance, Poland, despite our long history of mutual wrongdoing, as well as the rich soil for “brotherhood” stories.
So, let’s not kid ourselves. This is not “Putin’s war”, as Boris Nemtsov and many sympathetic Russians would like to think.
Unfortunately, the war is ours as well as yours.
* Strategy 31 is a group of Russian dissidents who are defending the freedom of peaceful gathering guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution of 1993.
Translated by: Vladislav A. Litosh, Ph.D. Edits by R. White.