Saturday, March 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: A Cry of Despair from Moscow about Crimea, Putin and the West

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – Just as was the case in Nazi-occupied Europe and in the USSR, the most moving critiques of what dictators in those countries did are now coming in the case of Russia and Ukraine not from those who are sitting at a safe distance but rather from those who are either its immediate victims or its prospective ones.

            In an article on the Ukrainian site of, Moscow commentator Valeriya Novodvorskaya -- or Novodvorska, the Ukrainian form of her name she uses here -- denounces what Putin is doing and what the West is not in terms that few can rival even though she is putting herself at risk by her forceful declarations (

            As she writes these words, Novodvorska says, “Soviet marauders are roaming through and destroying Ukrainian and Tatar Crimea,” just as two millennia ago, the executioners on Golgotha did with Christ’s robe.  Today, such people are stealing that which doesn’t belong to them not just because they can but because their own country doesn’t really exist.

            “Our Russia,” she continues, “still doesn’t exist – it died three years from the time of its birth” when on December 11, 1994, Moscow’s “tanks crossed the border of Chechnya.”  The world didn’t recognize that at the time, and now it is seeing the continuation of the work of what has become a “bandit ‘machine.’” 

             Of course, she points out “this was not only terrible but [in a way] funny,” funny that is as is Gogol’s “Notes of a Madman. “Remember,” Novodvorska says, when the bureaucrat Poprishin, having lost his mind, “proposes to other madmen to save the moon.” And none of the madmen refused.

            If anyone does not recall Gogol’s story, he or she need only look at those who not so long ago began “with enthusiasm to cry about the salvation of [ethnic] Russians in Crimea,” an exact equivalent of the madness of saving the moon that the great nineteenth century described so precisely “because neither the ethnic Russians nor the moon need saving.”

            “We are living not where people think and not in the 21st century,” she continues.  We are being pulled back to an ugly past by Vladimir Putin with his aggression and talk about “national traitors.”  Many have failed to recognize how dangerous this is perhaps because they do not want to admit that such a leader can be in power in a major country now.

            Putin is throwback to the past,“a dinosaur,” Novodvorska says, but tragically, “the West has long ago turned away from the [still very necessary] struggle with dinosaurs,” thus opening the possibility for them to continue to exist, until of course, they “end their lives in a bunker with a cyanide capsule.”

            The greater tragedy is how the countries dinosaurs rule and others will end.  Russia will disintegrate into 15 to 20 parts, and “the sky over the planet is beginning to darken.” The reason for this, of course, is not only the actions of Putin but the failure of the West to stop him. “Bush stopped Putin in 2008 40 kilometers from Tbilisi, not by words” but by a display of power.

            US President Obama, Novodvorska says, “has been terribly late in dealing with the challenges of the times.” It appears, she suggests, that he and other Western leaders have studied fascism only in textbooks and that they confuse the trappings of fascism which Putin does not have with the substance which he increasingly does.

            Putin’s propaganda about Crimea is not so different from Hitler’s talk about Germany’s supposed need for “Lebensraum,” she writes. And the laws he has pushed through deifying the Red Army and tightening the screws against those who disagree with him and his regime resemble the content if not yet the precise form of Hitler’s.

            “When Putin declares that Crimea will never be Banderite,” she continues, “he has in mind not those of the UPA and OUN who died in battles with the Hitlerites or the Soviet army. What he has in mind is something else: namely, that no one will be able to offer armed resistance” to his forces.  “May God grant that he is wrong,” Novodvorska says.

            “We were not able to defend our country in 1920 or in 2000,” she continues.  “May Ukraine at least save itself.”

            “People say that grandchildren will cease to believe in the USSR and in Soviet fascism when the last Soviet grandmothers will pass away,” she writes. But “grandmothers vary widely. One grandmother in Kharkiv at 70 has enrolled in courses in Ukrainian. And one ‘grandson’ in Sevastopol thinks that the USSR must be restored and believes Alaska should also be part of it.”

            “But,” the Moscow commentator concludes, “the general tendency is true ... Don’t listen to those grandmothers who tell you that they lived well in the USSR and that Crimea is Russian territory.” Those who do, she says, are clearly a kind of “wolf dressed in human clothing.”  Look closely: such beings have “big teeth.”

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