Article by: Vitaly Portnikov
A Russian thinks not of himself but of the power of the state that can conquer and humiliate other nations. For a Ukrainian, the state is simply the possibility of safeguarding his own freedom and prosperity.
During Soviet times, each anniversary of the October coup in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) was marked exactly the same way in all the union republics — in standardized fashion, as a continuing great holiday accompanying the “triumphant march of Soviet power.”
Apart from these celebrations, the histories of the nations that formed the Russian Empire developed along different paths that diverged not simply from October 1917, but from February 1917 as well. The fact is that the Bolsheviks ensured the unity of this empire not simply with ideology but with blood.
And, as the new state developed, this inhuman ideology turned into a cover for traditional Great Russian chauvinism. And we continued to live a fake history, in a falsified, fictitious reality.
It was the October 1917 coup that marked the difference between the fates of Russians and Ukrainians, the difference between their past and their future.
Before October, Ukrainian politicians who thought about prospects for their people still hoped to find a compromise and mutual understanding with Russian democracy for a certain special status for Ukraine in the new democratic state.
After the October coup, all these hopes disappeared. It became clear they were colliding with evil that does not want any compromise, which hides behind beautiful slogans about bread and peace but brings only famine and war.
It was no coincidence that the proclamation of the independence of the Ukrainian National Republic was a reaction to October, and not February, 1917. A reaction not to the revolution but to the gangster coup — because what happed in Petrograd in October was no revolution. It was not even an uprising. The Bolsheviks themselves have long acknowledged this undeniable fact.
One can argue extensively about why this divergence of fates occurred. But, in my view, the most important reason was contempt for the empire and its associated slavery. What the Russian still views as a key historical achievement, the Ukrainian views as a symbol of oppression and degradation.
The Russian thinks not of himself but of the power of the state that can conquer and humiliate other nations. This power compensates him for his own humiliation and helplessness.
For a Ukrainian, the state is simply the possibility of safeguarding his own freedom and prosperity. These are two different worlds. The world of those who followed Moses out of Egypt and the world of those who remained to live out their lives in chains and shackles, but with pride in pharaohs, pyramids and guaranteed soup.
These two worlds have nothing and can have nothing in common. Only when the army of slaves defeated the free people did they discover closeness. But closeness can develop only when neighbors refuse to celebrate slavery, when they understand that a person is an individual and not a cog in the state machinery, when they learn to respect not Lenin, Stalin, or Putin, but themselves.
Only then will Russians comprehend the ugliness of the monstrosity that arose on the ruins of the Russian Empire in October 1917.
Only then will our neighbors understand that the Ukrainian February of 1918, the August of 1991, and the February of 2014 were not accidents, not a conspiracy against the empire, not Russophobia, but the natural human aspiration for freedom that Russians still have to learn.