It’s not about the justice of the cause

I’m all in favor of Russian as Ukraine’s official language and, possibly, of more power to Ukraine’s regions. What I’m opposed to is the Kremlin’s attempted partition or takeover of Ukraine under these pretexts. These are strictly Ukrainian issues and should not be decided at gunpoint. Once Russian troops are back at their bases and there is no threat of invasion of any kind, Ukraine should probably try to resolve those internal disputes.

When I was growing up, the Soviet press and television would often extol various “heroes” of “anti-imperialist” or “anti-racist” struggle. Some of them were true heroes, like MLK. Others were a tad controversial, like Nelson Mandela (whose greatest achievement came later, I believe, when he prevented large-scale retaliation against the white community). Yet others were more that just controversial, such as Angela Davis, Leonard Peltier or Bobby Sands. I must admit that I still admire Bobby’s nerve in fighting the system by slowly killing himself – it was no GULAG but he was subjected to unfair and indecent treatment. Whether he personally committed acts of terror or merely an IRA member, I have no idea although I suppose that, as an IRA man, he was somehow responsible for their actions.

The point is, it does not matter whether the cause was just or not quite or not at all, Soviet propaganda would take it up to spite the Americans or the Brits. They did not care about Irish republicanism – they just wanted to annoy Thatcher. Likewise, Putin’s “support” for the rights of Eastern Ukrainians says nothing about the merits of their plight; it’s just opportunism.



  1. Well, the interim government in Kyiv hasn’t had time to do much oppressing, assuming it ever intended to do so or has the power to carry such oppression out. It’s about a month and a half since the eastern Ukrainians lost “their” president Yanukovych (I’m generalising massively here about Y.’s voter base, of course). Kyiv is currently weak and disorganised. Putin’s propaganda seems to want it both ways: the Kyiv government is both too frail to run Ukraine properly and it is a dangerously oppressive monster.

    This is more about Putin’s fear of a successful Orange/Maidan revolution spreading to Russia. He’s drawing on Russian imperialist nostalgia to stop it.

    I think Russia may have got itself an Ulster by annexing Crimea (to add to the others in the North Caucasus and elsewhere). I can certainly imagine a Crimean Tatar Bobby Sands a few years down the line.

    • BTW, Mustafa Dzhemilyov went on a hunger strikes in a Soviet labor camp and was force-fed, but he was an old-time Soviet dissident.

      • Didn’t the Ukrainian dissident poet Vazyl Stus die in a Soviet prison when he was on hunger strike in the 1980s?

    • I think Russia may have got itself an Ulster by annexing Crimea (to add to the others in the North Caucasus and elsewhere).

      I’m wondering the same thing, although I can equally see a slow (or not so slow) ethnic cleansing occurring (both voluntary and not-so) or the type of response to any unrest that we saw in Chechnya.

      • I can equally see a slow (or not so slow) ethnic cleansing occurring

        IMO that’s more likely with the ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea, but I have a feeling a sizeable number of Crimean Tatars will be more tenacious. After all, it is their homeland and they’ve fought long and hard to get back there after the Stalinist deportations.

        Russian government rhetoric at the moment is particularly deranged. They’re inveighing against multi-culturalism while trying to extend a multi-ethnic empire. They’re going to add to their Muslim population AND impose Russification? I can’t see this ending happily.

        • Putin’s brand of multiculturalism is reductive: it’s OK to be a Muslim as long as you’re an “ethnic” (hereditary) Muslim and worship in a “traditional” mosque. Ethnic Russian converts are unwelcome. Russians are supposed to be Eastern Orthodox, at least nominally, under the Moscow patriarchate. Putin will probably try to find a niche for the Crimean Tatars in his empire. But he will need to sort out issues with the land. That could be explosive.

      • Tim, I believe Putin’s lieutenants are going to tread as carefully as they can in Crimea to avoid any ethnic tension. The land issue may be the most explosive. Since Crimean Tatars started to return in Crimea in the 1990s, they have been seizing land from non-residential users to build new settlements. It’s not the same land the Tatars held before the deportation – most of that was on the southern coast and has long been built over. The legal status of this newly seized land is still uncertain.

        • I saw something about the land issue on an hour-long documentary on the Crimean Tatars on Al Jazeera English the other day. AJE’s coverage of some of the background to this crisis has been superior to major news channels such as Sky and BBC TV News (there might have been more on BBC Radio but I haven’t been listening to it). Very little coverage of the Pistorius trial on AJE either.

  2. Chiang Kai-shek in the 1920s: “What the Russians call ‘Internationalism’ and ‘World Revolution’ are nothing but old-fashioned imperialism.”

    The Soviets invented anti-imperialist imperialism and now Putin has come up with anti-fascist fascism.

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