Ukrainians as ‘fraternal people’ – a Soviet invention, Oleshchuk says

A Russian propaganda poster "Russians and Ukrainians - Together Forever!"

A Russian propaganda poster "Russians and Ukrainians - Together Forever!" 

2015/07/23 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia, Ukraine

The notion that Ukrainians are “a fraternal people” to the Russians, something that Russian leaders from Vladimir Putin on down have insisted upon and that all too many others accept as one that captures something important was invented by Soviet propagandists and should not be used, according to Petro Oleshchuk.

Petro Oleshchuk, political scientist, professor at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

Petro Oleshchuk, political scientist, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

In a Facebook post, the Ukrainian commentator says that the Soviets came up with this idea to try to bring together “the imperial conception of ‘three-in-one Rus’ and ‘proletarian internationalism.’” In other words, it was dreamed up in order to acknowledge that the Ukrainians were a people but one which “could never separate from the Russians.”

There are no such things as “’fraternal peoples,’” Oleshchuk argues. There are simply other peoples, and relative to the Russians, Ukrainians are one of them. Other collectivities of peoples one might call “fraternal” – “the fraternal romance peoples of the Italians, Spanish and French” – are the same; and it worth noting that they have often fought with one another.

“Those who speak about ‘fraternal peoples’ now,” he continues, “are at bottom Soviet, regardless of their age or education.” And consequently, those who want to escape the Soviet worldview need to call them on it when they have the chance – and, at the very least, must not use terms that covertly import Soviet ideas into their own thinking.

At a more general level, that is no easy matter for those who rely on the Russian media now. Indeed, Russian newspapers have again become so full of Soviet jargon that it is often difficult for readers to be able to distinguish Russian papers now from their Soviet predecessors of three or four decades ago.

To make that more general point, Meduza.io has come up with a simple test in which visitors to its site are asked to identify which passage is from a Russian newspaper now and which is from a Soviet newspaper from the past. The fact that this test represents a challenge at all shows how far backwards Russian media have gone under Putin.

Edited by: A. N.

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