By Paul Goble
Russians and Ukrainians differ ideologically in terms of their revanchism, their resentments, and their nationalisms, differences that must be recognized is one is to understand the nature of the current bloody military conflict between them, Svyatoslav Afonkin says.
The St. Petersburg journalist in brief compass offers his views on how Russians and Ukrainians differ in these three categories (gorod-812.ru/stolpy-voennyh-ideologij/). His views are interesting not because they are indisputable but because they reflect an intriguing effort by a thoughtful Russia to come to terms with these deep structural differences.
As far as revanchism is concerned, the Russian version is “fed by recollections of defeat in the Cold War, the social-economic crisis that followed, the catastrophic decline in international prestige and national denigration. From a global superpower, it turned into a poor and troubled state seeking to maintain at least some influence in the countries bordering it.”
Because of these feeling, Afonkin continues, Russians have proved “ready to fight and die literally for dreams of their former power, to be incinerated in tanks and leave their children without fathers so that they are taken seriously somewhere across the ocean.” Ukrainians too suffer from revanchism, but it is very different.
“The keystone of Ukrainian military worldview and propaganda and perhaps even the entire basic structure of national thinking is the idea about the return of Crimea,” he says. “The events of 2014 have become the basis for a new national identity and in general the chief moving force of political ethnogenesis.”
And as a result, “today, the most important project which forces the Ukrainians to continue the war despite all the difficulties is the idea of the return of Crimea.
With regard to resentment, the two nations also differ. “In Russia, it is directed against the West and also arises from the defeat in the Cold War, although it also has much deeper cultural and historical roots.” The West has long looked down on Russia as “provincial and wild,” and Russians resent that.
Ukrainians do not have an equally long history of resentment because they do not have an equally long history of independent statehood, the St. Petersburg journalist says. But they have suffered mightily from the actions of their neighbors, and they resent that and are willing to die to prevent that from happening ever again.
And the nationalisms of the two are also very different. “Russian nationalism is the classic nationalism of an imperial nation but with a Byzantine component,” one that “presupposes dominance over other states and nations and is fed by narcissism and the story of its past it tells to itself.
Ukrainian nationalism in contrast, Afonkin says, “is reactionary by nature and under conditions of subethnic and linguistic diversity it sometimes has a hard time advancing. This is as it were small-town nationalism, based on the desire for isolation and believe in the importance of one’s own uniqueness.” The war is changing that and helping to create a political nation.