There isn’t any Space for Holodomor Propaganda in Russian Donbas

So I ventured to the Atlantic Council and found an article discussing a recent forum held in Donetsk called Russian Donbas, where the head of RT, Margarita Simonyan called for Donbas to be reintegrated with Russia…

There some Lithuanian Russophobe discusses the doctrine of the Russian Donbas, which is the intellectual blueprint for the aims of the Donbas republics, which is the reintegration with the motherland. There he writes:

The Russian Donbas doctrine is the latest example of the Kremlin’s enthusiasm for rewriting history in order to suit its contemporary political requirements. This tendency to distort the past has been central to the information war that has accompanied Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Well, OK…

When Russian forces first seized Crimea in spring 2014, Moscow propagandists were quick to declare that the Ukrainian peninsula had “always been Russian.” In reality, Crimea is an ancient land with a recorded history stretching back almost three thousand years that includes extended periods as part of the Byzantine Empire, Golden Horde, and Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile, Russia’s involvement in Crimea began comparatively recently in the late eighteenth century. Clearly, it is nonsensical to claim that this highly cosmopolitan geopolitical crossroads has “always been Russian.”

Please show me any academic Russian historian that made the claim that Crimea was always Russian. If anything, Crimea was a territory transferred from the RSFSR to Ukraine by the Bolsheviks, who have created Ukraine as we know it. I understand that in the Atlantic Council they prefer narratives that would derusify the Russian history of Crimea.

Regardless of whether the authors were Ukrainian, Russian, or Western, most traditional academic histories of the Donbas have tended to focus on three key aspects of the region’s early development. These accounts typically begin with details of how the Donbas was first colonized by Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants, who moved into the borderland regions previously known as the “Wild Fields” following the gradual retreat of the Crimean Khanate.

Next came waves of colonization from different parts of Europe and beyond. This was followed by an extended period of intensive international involvement that fueled the industrialization of the region throughout the second half of the nineteenth century.

Western investors and industrialists were instrumental in the development of the Donbas, bringing vital capital and technologies to the region. The most famous of these was Welsh businessman John Hughes, who founded Donetsk in 1869. The city was called “Hughezovka” in his honor until 1929, when it was renamed “Stalino” by the Soviet authorities.

The Russian Donbas doctrine outlined in Donetsk on January 28 made barely any mention of these crucial factors in the history of eastern Ukraine. Instead, the discussion focused almost exclusively on Russians who played prominent roles in the region’s growth.

The Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants did not have any notion of being Ukrainian. They thought themselves as Orthodox Russians. The region was always international and Russian was the lingua franca that served the people as means of interethnic communication, and the Russian people are an amalgam of ethnicities united by loyalty to the Russian state and the Russian language. Ukrainians on the other hand are an ethnographic subgroup of Russians that aims to build a separate nation and state.

There was no mention of the systematic Russification policies adopted during both the Czarist and Soviet eras, and no room for an honest exploration of the Holodomor, the artificial famine engineered by the Soviet authorities in the early 1930s that killed millions of Ukrainians and ravaged the region. Other Soviet atrocities were similarly ignored.

However, forum delegates did find time to condemn the Ukrainian authorities for recent efforts to return historical names to towns and cities throughout the Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donbas. This was portrayed as evidence of the Ukrainian government’s anti-Russian policies.

Kremlin efforts to criticize the Ukrainian authorities for the “Ukrainianization” of Ukraine speak volumes about Russia’s deeply entrenched imperial thinking. This kind of ideology has roots stretching all the way back to the Czarist past, an era when Ukrainians were branded “Little Russians” and their language was suppressed as a mere dialect.

The only systematic nationality policy in Ukraine was Ukrainization under the Soviet union, which was presented in waves because Ukrainization always finds resistance from the people. The Russification of the late Tsarist era also came in waves because it encountered resistance in Central and Western Ukraine but it was much less systemic. Obviously, there is no way a Russian patriot would be interested in some Ukrainian nationalist bleating about how bad Russians Russified Ukraine.

Now, the author does show an absence of knowledge of Ukraine. the region itself was only joined to Ukraine by Lenin. It had nothing to do with any Ukrainian state prior to that and the names of cities all appeared during the Late Tsarist and Soviet eras. They either bear the names of the early settlers, communist revolutionaries, or something unrelated to Ukraine. For instance one village was called Novgorodske, and was given back its old name New York, which was probably a remnant of the early British colonization of the region but was renamed in 1951, right at the start of the Cold War. I don’t know where you see Ukrainization in the decision to give this town its old name, not even Ukrainization in inverted commas.

I am glad that the people of East Donbas are free from Holodomor propaganda because Holodomor is hateful hype of anti-Soviet forces. You see, the famine of the 1930s is a real event but Holodomor is something else, it is a spin on that event. In that interpretation, the famine was engineered by the Soviets to kill Ukrainians, and in the modern interpretation Russians are blamed for it. It first appeared in the press of Nazi Germany, which had a strong community of Ukrainian exiles from the Skoropadsky regime and was coaching Ukrainian nationalists to fights against Poland and the Soviet Union.

The story about the artificial famine was widespread in Western Ukrainian circles before WWII and that is why today, we see more people in Western Ukraine believing in Holodomor than in Eastern Ukraine where it actually happened. When I asked my relatives if my great grandmother, who was a Ukrainian peasant, ever spoke about Holodomor, knowing she was no fan of the Soviet government, I was told that she never did. She only complained about being made to work in a collectivized farm. She was not subjected to Holodomor propaganda. Famine was something that she experienced thrice, during the Civil War, during 1930s, and in the 1940s during WWII. My grandfather had to leave Ukraine and fend for himself after the War, he joined the military and moved across Russia.

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