Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine’s Donbas is Becoming a Northern Ireland, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 11 – Even as political leaders talk about a solution to the troubles in southeastern Ukraine, a Moscow analyst suggests that Vladimir Putin’s subversive policies there have had the effect of transforming the Donbas into a kind of Northern Ireland, a place where violence has been limited but not ended when the influx of outside support and arms was cut.

                “When everything that is taking place in the Donbas will be completed, nothing will end,” Pavel Kazarin says. Instead, the conflict there will pass into the realm of myths, myths that may be quieted for a time but that almost certainly will give rise to new actions and counter-actions in the future (

            That is because as a result of the spilling of blood, “from now on” in Ukraine, there will be “only ‘we’ and ‘they,’ with each having its myth about why this happened and what should be done.  “For 23 years, Ukraine survived without blood,” but now, blood has been shed, and these myths “are being born in front of our eyes.”

            The Maidan and efforts to suppress it gave rise to the formation of “a new Ukrainian heroic myth” and promoted the formation of a Ukrainian nation – and not just in the ethnic sense as many imagine but in the political and civic senses as well.

                Had history stopped with the victory of the Maidan and the flight of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, “then history would have gone along another path.” There would have been only one “collective myth,” and it would have supported the rise and strengthening of Ukraine.

            But the Russian Anschluss of Crimea and Moscow’s support for the secessionists in the south east has had generated a “second” couter-myth, one that defines itself completely in opposition to the first.  In short, Kazarin says, the situation in Ukraine’s Donbas now resembles the tragic situation in Northern Ireland during the troubles.

            These myths are “invented” in the wake of bloodshed, he continues, but as Northern Ireland shows, “they are real for those who are prepared to fight with arms in their hands.”  Worse, once these myths appear, they will inform the thinking of people even if one or the other side appears to win.

            In this, Kazarin says, “is the special quality of a myth: one can quiet it down but one cannot destroy it, especially if blood has been shed.” Military conflicts “give birth to history. For supporters of a unitary Ukraine, it is one thing: a war with interventionists.” For others, it is something else. Trying to dispel such myths with facts is virtually impossible.

            The Moscow commentator says that he is writing this in order to “repeat that blood makes” such views “sacred. It has given birth to Ukraine out of the remnants of the Ukrainian SSR. It has given birth to Ukrainians out of a divided and inert population.”  Given that, “why should we think that” the events in Donetsk and Luhansk “won’t become the basis for a new myth, even if it is alien to the rest of Ukraine?”

                “Ukraine cannot not fight for the Donbas,” Kazarin says. Were it to do so, it would face “at minimum ‘a Palestine’” on part of its territory, “and at a maximum an analogous scenario” elsewhere.” But even if it wins militarily, that won’t be the end of history. People will remember the myths they have created and act accordingly in the future.

            “In Russia,” people like to think that “Ukraine is in the midst of a civil war,” he says. But “Ukraine is certain that it is fighting with an intervention. In point of fact, the truth is somewhere in between. For a fire one needs a heat source and something combustible, and it isn’t important that the match was produced somewhere else. What is important is that the combustible is local.”

            According to Kazarin, “one thing is clear” whatever the politicians, diplomats and generals do. “There will not be any more peace.  All have gone to war. The war is giving birth to the myth of the victors and the myth of the vanquished.” That is something that potential victors regardless of which myth they hold “must not forget.”

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