How Come Mound Named After Previous Most Known Devastator Of Russia Became Russia’s Last Height In WWII? – OpEd


Yet another attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to show Russia’s continued influence in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, ended with success. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon attended the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9. This is probably perceived by the Kremlin strategists as a great achievement compared with what it was previously. It should be reminded that no foreign leader attended Moscow Victory Day in 2022, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan did not hold Victory Day parades in 2022, with some citing health risks from the coronavirus pandemic. This year, there has apparently been no chance for them to evade making a trip to Moscow, and silently listening to Putin’s anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian propagandist speech and appearing to be agreeing with him. As they say, ‘Silence is a sign of agreement’

The Ukrainians are, of course, outraged at that. And this is even more understandable, given the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin in his congratulatory speech at the Victory Parade stressed it was ‘very important’ that [some of] the CIS leaders had joined him in Moscow, where they enjoyed an ‘informal breakfast’ together. It comes as no surprise that Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry slammed visit by those six post-Soviet leaders to Putin’s parade. “We consider the participation of the leaders of these foreign states in a public event alongside a war criminal who boasts of unleashing a war in Europe on a scale unknown since World War II as an immoral and unfriendly step towards Ukraine, a manifestation of contempt for the Ukrainian people who are fighting for their survival and freedom”, the Foreign Ministry said. It next noted that the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus made an ‘invaluable contribution’ to the victory over Nazism 78 years ago and ‘do not deserve the fate of being used by the Kremlin now to participate in a farce that has nothing to do with the victory over Nazism’.

At the highest level, the Caucasus was represented at the Victory Parade by only Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Presidents of Georgia and Azerbaijan did not appear in Moscow. How about the Central Asian top officials in this context? Here’s what Chris Rickleton, a journalist with RFE/RL, said in that regard: “But by the eve of the May 9 holiday, leaders from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan had also arrived in Moscow for the greatly scaled-down, tightly controlled military parade, making it five out of five for the region…

Writing on Twitter, Dionis Cenusa of the Lithuanian-based Eastern Europe Studies Center argued that each of the Central Asian leaders have their own ‘transactional relationships’ with the Kremlin, ‘which they care about more than reputational costs relative to the West that is trying to build separate platforms of strategic cooperation’. But with the Kremlin enjoying some form of leverage over all of the region’s countries, what individual motivations might have moved each leader to ignore those costs and attend the highly politicized event?”  

And here is what Alexander Kadyrbayev, an expert on Russia, China and Central Asia at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, once said in response to this kind of question: “All the [political] leaders in the countries of Central Asia exist only because they are supported by Russia”.

In the non-Slavic CIS countries, including the Central Asian ones, the set of ideas about the importance of victory over the Wehrmacht in the Soviet-German war, inherited from the Soviet years, have been devalued significantly over the last year. It couldn’t be any other way at this point in the post-Soviet history, given the fact that the two major republics of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine, which bore the main brunt of that war, are now at war with each other, accusing one another of Nazism and fascism. True, over time, the rhetoric – on the part of Moscow, anyway – has changed somewhat.  

The war has clearly not brought the expected results. Its prospects appear even gloomier as West boosts Ukraine aid, as Russia bridles at sanctions. In the foreseeable future, the situation is unlikely to change dramatically in Russia’s favor, so there is nothing left for Moscow as to put a good face on a bad game. “Now no one even talks about demilitarization and de-nazification anymore. So what are we fighting for in Ukraine?” some Russians ask. This question hangs in the air for quite some time. Not because there isn’t an answer, but because there are too many answers. But they all seem to be unpersuasive. 

In Russia, people do, however, remember very well what was put by the Kremlin as an excuse to invade Ukraine. 

Thus, the Russian propaganda machine cannot abandon the use of the terms like ‘Ukrainian fascists’, ‘Nazis’ even if they want to. The Ukrainian media react in a mirror way, using words like ‘Ruscism’ (‘Rashism’) and ‘Ruscists’ (‘Rashists’) that are portmanteaus combining the words ‘Russian’ and ‘fascism’ and ‘fascists’; and ‘Putler’, that is a portmanteau formed by merging the names of Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler.

In other words, the fiercest confrontation between the two biggest countries in the post-Soviet space contributes to breaking down the Kremlin’s narrative about the Soviet-German war inherited from the Soviet years. Central Asia, a region made up of the five ‘Stans’, former Soviet republics which became independent nations in 1991, face the task to start updating their views of the Soviet-German war, according to their own ideas, thoughts and feelings rather than to keep trusting in that Kremlin’s narrative on which there is no consensus even between Russia and Ukraine.

So let us take a look at some of the things which normally remain out of sight and mind in the context of talking WW2 and its aftermath in the Soviet Union and Russia. In the autumn of 1941, when the Germans were close to Moscow, Russian writers and journalists actively wrote on the heroism and courage of Kazakh officers and soldiers. The book by Alexander Beck ‘Volokolamsk highway’, and the article by Ilya Ehrenburg ‘Kazakhs’ (the Russian Defense Ministry’s official newspaper ‘Krasnaya Zvezda’, October 18, 1942) are proof of this. Yet by the end of that war, the attitude of official Moscow towards the Kazakhs markedly changed. And here’s how Aman Tuleyev, a Russian politician of Kazakh origin whose father had died in the war with the Germans in 1943, describes what was happening in post-war years: “The bullying, unfortunately, began at a time when I still did not understand anything [due to the small age]. When I went to school, it all started. [Later when I got into politics] they shouted that I was Kazakh, that I had narrow slanting eyes. They told me, ‘Who do you think you are?!’, ‘Watch where you’re going!’ and so on”.

It here is not about placing the blame on someone for something, but about saying that the above is true, and it also has a right to be told.

Another question that the Kazakhs cannot leave unnoticed is the following: how come the mound named after the previous most known devastator of Russia became Russia’s last height in WW2? It’s about Mamayev Kurgan, a dominant height named after Mamai (who commanded the Tatar Golden Horde in the 1370s) overlooking the city of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) in Southern Russia. The name in Russian means ‘tumulus of Mamai’, in Kazakh, ‘fortress of Mamai’. It absolutely lived up to its Kazakh name during the Battle of Stalingrad. Mamai remained in Russian people’s memory as the most terrible devastator of Russia. In Russian, there is a saying: “It looks like the aftermath of Mamai’s inroads”. This means that there is complete disorder, terrible devastation (in some place). Yet Mamai was not a stranger to Kazakhs. In Kazakh, there is a saying: “Now that you’ve gone, Mamai, you are becoming subject of humiliation”. And the mound named after him became Russia’s last height in WW2.

Akhas Tazhutov, a political analyst

Akhas Tazhutov

Akhas Tazhutov is a political analyst from Kazakhstan.

2 thoughts on “How Come Mound Named After Previous Most Known Devastator Of Russia Became Russia’s Last Height In WWII? – OpEd

    • May 12, 2023 at 2:44 pm

      maybe. but that is what former subjects of the Russian empire feel because they have a reason for that. if your family lived there, you’d feel the same way. funny how those farthest from Russia are the most pro-Russians, and those closest are anti-Russians.


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