April 15, 2015 by AK
The Guardian published a long article by Peter Pomerantsev on the Kremlin’s information warfare last week, along with a Russian translation. While it reads smoothly in English, the Russian version requires a little effort to take in, but I still hope it gets reprinted and discussed in Russia. (It has an odd word, блёф, in it, probably a typo: Russian borrowed “bluff” as блеф a century ago; changing е into ё makes it sound like a slang word for “vomiting.”)
The author’s father, Igor Pomerantsev, is a poet, essayist, Radio Liberty host, and a former Soviet dissident. He spent his late teens and early twenties in Chernivtsi (Czernowitz, Cernăuți) and graduated from the same university as Arseny Yatsenyuk – the same school where Schumpeter taught in the 1910s and Celan studied around 1940. (In the late 1960s, according to Igor P., very few people had heard of Celan in Chernivtsi.) Svyatoslav Pomerantsev, Igor’s nephew and, therefore, Peter’s cousin, is a native and resident of the city and president of the annual poetry festival, Meridian Czernowitz. The family connection to Ukraine continues.
I am a little wary of talking about Ukraine because I don’t live here and don’t feel I have the right to speculate on this. But there are different angles to take on what’s going on.
It’s principally a geopolitical crisis, Russia’s war against Ukraine; a certain crisis within Ukraine – should Donbass be its part?
Besides, it’s a war of Russians against Russians. It’s a fight for a different future for Russian culture. My friend Oliver Carroll has seen a good Russian in the Donetsk airport, fighting on Ukraine’s side. It’s Whites vs. Reds again.
I think the Russian and Ukrainian cultures can coexist. The Maidan has broadened a potential Ukrainian identity.
Before the Maidan, it was a classical national project of the 21st century: language, blood, Kievan Rus, Vasyl Stus. I have an awful lot of respect for all that but what do I have to do with it? The Maidan has greatly expanded what it means to be Ukrainian. For example, it is now possible to be a “Jewish Banderite” [an absurd slur invented by Putinists and cheerfully adopted as a self-designation by some supporters of the Ukrainian revolution].
The Nestor Group, having undertaken a massive poll, has recently presented its report in London. According to them, the value system in Ukraine is southern, akin to the Italian one. My father, Igor Pomerantsev, has also written a good deal about Ukraine being part of a southern civilization. And now polls are supporting this.
I don’t really know what to make of the last paragraph (the next-to-last is important to me but I concur without comment). By the standards of core EU countries, the Italian state has been a failure but measured against the non-Baltic post-Soviet world, it must look a shining polity on seven hills.