This post will dissect Kuzio’s recent drivel on Facebook…
It has become a sort of a tradition of the Ukrainian pundits to attempt to deny the plight, and rightful grievances of the Russian speakers, who rebelled against Ukraine in 2014. And another tradition, particularly in Western academia, is to frame discourse about Ukraine using the language of decolonisation studies, and Western leftist narratives of power.
…these Russianists provide an Orientalist analysis of Ukrainian developments by looking at the Crimea and Donbas through the eyes of the former imperial power and the state undertaking military aggression against Ukraine.
I have even seen academics refer metaphorically to Ukrainians as black, and Russians as white colonists. This is a grave overstretch of reality but it sells in the West.
Jesse Driscoll’s article in Ponars is an example of this academic orientalism. His article is based on the wrong assumption that Ukraine has a language problem – it does not. Driscoll, similar to other Western Russianists, do not bother with opinion polls which show only 1-2% of Ukrainians who believe Russian speakers have problems in Ukraine.
The issue of the Russian language is a complex one. And so is the understanding of what a Russian speaker is. As I mentioned on this blog, Russian is likely the most used language in Ukraine. However, the identity of its users is a complex one. You have people, who identify as Ukrainians, consider their native language to be Ukrainian, but use Russian almost exclusively in daily life. There are also Ukrainian people, who consider their native language to be Russian, and they have always been a minority. Furthermore, there are also people, who consider their ethnicity to be Russian, and they are an even lesser minority. My recent post, shows the results of the 2001 census represented geographically.
What does Driscoll therefore mean when he talks of the “valid concerns of the Russian-speaking population” when the evidence from the war and opinion polls shows they have no concerns on the language question and why is he repeating Moscow’s framework for understanding the war?
Kuzio does not reference any of the polls he mentions but the problem of Russian speakers, or what I like to call, the “Russian element” is somewhat more complex than just the issue of the Russian language, which is clearly being discriminated against in Ukraine. The issues also include economic ties to Russia, and historical memory which is under threat by the ubiquitous rehabilitation of the radical interbellum nationalism, that is Fascism and Naziism.
If the Russian speakers didn’t have any concerns, where then did the anti-Maidan, the Russian spring, and the rebellion in the Donbass come from? Ukrainian pundits would want to say it is all Russia’s fault but that’s rather lame.
Driscoll writes that he is “doubtful that those forces could survive autonomously” without Russian support. He is correct which is why they are best labelled Russian proxies and the war cannot be classified as a “civil war.”
In Spring 2014, Russia transformed anti-Euromaidan protestors into an armed insurgency through provision of intelligence assets (throughout the Euromaidan Revolution), Russian mercenaries who took up leadership positions in the DNR and LNR (most of whom were Russian neo-Nazis in February-March 2014), Russian special forces in Aril 2014, Chechen Kadyrov mercenaries in April-May 2014, Russian artillery firing into Ukraine in July 2014, and outright Russian invasion in August 2014. Between Minsk 1 and Minsk 2, Russia transformed its proxies into a 35, 000 army consisting of two corps within the southern Russian military district.
The Ukrainian state in Donetsk and in the Crimea collapsed without the help of the Russian military because of local protest against the Maidan putsch.
The debate whether the rebels would have survived without Russia is meaningless. Why is it wrong for a foreign power to support an independence movement of friendly people? Didn’t the French support the British colonies in the Americas in their fight for independence? Wasn’t the United States essentially like LNR and DNR in its time?
Kuzio also makes other meaningless and misleading arguments:
Driscoll’s assumptions and framework ignores the large number of Russian speakers fighting and dying for Ukraine. It ignores the fact that the eastern Ukrainian Dnipro oblast has the highest casualties of security forces. Putin’s military aggression against Ukraine is killing and displacing Russian speakers.
Driscoll writes about Spring 2014 without showing a grasp of what transpired. Ukrainian Security forces partially defected in the Donbas and fully defected in the Crimea, but nowhere else. Ukrainian security forces in the two crown jewels of eastern and southern Ukraine – Kharkiv and Odesa – and elsewhere remained loyal to Kyiv.
Do I detect a case of contradiction? On one hand the Kuzio confirms Ukrainian military has defected in the mutinous regions but Ukraine does not have a civil war because Russia helped these rebels? How does that work?
Another case of dishonesty is when Kuzio mentions Dnipro (former Dnepropetrovsk) volunteers. If you refer back to the link about the 2001 census above, you will see that in the Dnepropetrovsk region, people who identify as Ukrainians predominate. People, who consider their native language to be Russian predominate only in Dnipro. And that’s 2001 we are talking about, the situation has likely changed since then thanks to the work of local rulers, Boris Filatov and Genadiy Korban.
Donetsk on the other hand is much more Russian, linguistically and ethnically, and the Russian identification is not just limited to the regional capital. It should also be added that the Donbass attracted many fleeing the repression of pro-Russians in other regions.
Nearly 2 million Ukrainians have fled from the Donbas and 1.7 of these Russian speakers fled to Ukraine. Jews, who are also Russian speakers, have also fled from the Donbas to Ukraine.
Perhaps a part of the population likely identified more with Ukraine, and quite frankly, life in an internationally unrecognised territory managed by Vladislav Surkov certainly isn’t for everyone.