Monday, August 18, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia Moves From 'Evil Empire' to 'Empire of Hatred,' Ukrainian Commentator Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, August 18 – Unless it discriminates against non-Russian peoples on the basis of cultivating hatred against them, an empire like Russia remains cannot survive and will collapse, according to Ukrainian commentator Oleg Shro. And because that is the case, Russia today is best described so much as “the evil empire” but rather as “the empire of hatred.”
            Shro argues that the most visible manifestation of this is “Russian propaganda spread both officially and by ‘comrades with initiative’ in the localities in conformity with ‘the general line of the party and government’” and which “creates an information field of hatred in which Russians live” (
            But “it would be a mistake to consider that this hatred is formed artificially,” he continues. In fact, the situation is “just the reverse: official propaganda is based on the public consciousness of Russians.”  And its “primary source” is “the deep social trauma connected with the collapse of the Soviet Union” and the succeeding events of the 1990s.
            “Russians as the skeleton-forming imperial nation, from the times of the Muscovite kingdom have found themselves as a result of these processes in the most difficult social-psychological state,” Shro says.  They have been encouraged to think of themselves as a great imperial nation which must “collect under its wing ‘less progressive peoples and nations.”
            Consequently, when the empire fell apart – and that process, Shro says, “is not yet completed” because there are non-Russian peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation who have never forgotten that the lands on which they live are their own even and that they are distinctive nations if they have learned to speak Russian.
            Russia became “the empire of hatred” because of the sense among Russians that their “accustomed worldview” had lost its foundation, and that they have no chance “to influence this process,” the Ukrainian commentator argues. That sense of powerlessness thus has become “the source of growing social hatred and heightened social aggressiveness.”
            That shows itself domestically “in the complex socio-cultural inter-relationships with other peoples of Russia” and gives rise to negative attitudes or even “blind anger” toward them, he says. One need only remember “how quickly” Russians were willing to blame the Chechens for the explosions in Moscow in 1999 despite the absence of evidence against them.
            And it shows itself most clearly in the treatment of Russia’s neighbors and in “one of the central imperial Russian myths” about Ukraine, a country which Russians do not view as “a state formation of equal value to Russia’ and a nation which Russians are not willing to recognize as an independent one.
            Rather, for Russians, “Ukraine is considered exclusively ‘as a prodigal younger sister of the Russian world,’” and when Ukrainians resist that classification, “Ukrainophobia as cultivated in the Russian world exceeds all imaginable limits.”
            Thus, at present, it is no accident that Ukraine now occupies in the ranking of Russia’s enemies second place “just after the United States.” And that placement says a lot too: Russians want to view Ukraine “as the embodiment of Absolute Evil” but “at the same time,” they want to denigrate Ukraine by ranking it only second.
            Happily, there are some exceptions among Russians with regard to Ukrainophobia, Shro says. There are even some who are prepared to demonstrate in opposition to it, but “carrying out such actions in Moscow is incomparably easier than at the regional level,” given the fears of regional Russian officials of getting in trouble and their ability to engage in repression.
             An especially welcome example was provided over the weekend in Volgograd by a small group of activists led by Mikhail Yasin-Panin and Anatoly Boltytkhov in response to an appeal by the Ukrainian National Cultural Autonomy of St. Petersburg to Vladimir Putin to fight rather than promote anti-Ukrainian attitudes.

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