Saturday, March 1, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia Again Living by Lies, Ukrainian Philosopher Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 1 – Vladimir Putin is again teaching Russia to live by lies, 40 years after Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn warned Russians of the dangers to themselves and others of doing so, a Ukrainian philosopher argues in an article that leading Russian publications like “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” and have refused to publish.

            On his own blog, Sergii Datsiuk points out that “the lie in Russia is a means of avoiding necessary changes ... it is an attempt to shift responsibility for one’s own mistakes to others in order to whitewash the authorities ... it is dangerous for Russia itself because it generates hatred with no way out ... [and] it is dangerous for the entire world because it divides Russia and the rest of the world (

                The fact that Ukrainians like Russians and want to live in peace but Russians dislike Ukrainians and are aggressive toward them, something confirmed by the actions of their respective governments and by various polls, he says, is not a natural or inevitable situation but the result of “Russia’s information war against Ukraine.”

            According to Datsiuk, “to force Russians to hate the Ukrainian people without the use of lies in Russia would have been impossible. And [consequently] Russia began to lie and to conduct a war.” That war consists of several components: trade, information, history, and technology.

            Lying behind Russia’s information war against Ukraine, he continues, is “the unwillingness of Russians in the Russian elite to recognize the right of Ukrainians to self-determination and independence.” But its results would not have been so terrible had there not been compradore elements within Ukraine like Yanukovich and the Berkut.

            But everyone must remember that it is not just former president Yanukovich and his group who bear responsibility for the spilling of Ukrainian blood. Also responsible are Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, Sergey Lavrov, Dmitry Kiselyev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Sergey Glazyev and Dmitry Rogozin.

            “There are the enemies of Ukraine,” Datsiuk says, “whose actions led to human victims,” and we can and must recognize them as such.  But they had the assistance of others in the Russian cultural elite in spreading hatred of Ukraine and Ukrainians, people llike Mikhail Zadornov, Ivan Okhlobystin, Sergey Lukyanenko, and Iosif Kobzon.

            What is happening in Crimea now is “the direct continuation of the information war of Russia against Ukraine, a ‘war of nerves’ which seeks to provoke Ukraine into making a harsh responsible so that Russia can unleash a full-scale war.” If before the existence of this information war was a matter for regret, now it has become “mortally dangerous.”

            Ukraine may be the target of this war, Datsiuk says, but Russia is its victim as well. “Ukraine is not Russia.” And even in the worst times of Yanukovich’s rule, “the lie in Ukraine came from two sources – Russian television channels ... and pro-regime ones.”  Truth defeated them in Ukraine, but in Russia, the lie swallowed up everything.

            One cannot “kill Russia’s lie against Ukraine without killing the lie in Russia itself,” Datsiuk says.

            The Putin regime has updated and modernized the system Solzhenitsyn decried. By claiming it is concerned about the defense of the state and the Russian people, the Kremlin hides its own crimes by spreading lies about other countries and peoples, in this case, Ukraine and Ukrainians. 

That means, Datsiuk says, that “the lie of the Russian authorities about themselves become  less obvious” because it is obscured by the lies Moscow is telling about everyone else.  As a result,”Russia is becoming the generating of hatred in the world.” Many countries have resisted this, including the Baltic states, Georgia and now Ukraine.

“However, hatred in Russia continues to be generated. The hatred which cannot be transferred to another remains in Russia, builds up and explodes it from within.  The lie and hatred will destroy Russia if this doesn’t stop.” But can that happen? Solzhenitsyn’s advice that individuals stop lying clearly isn’t enough. Public intellectuals must speak out.

Datsiuk says that “Russia needs its own Maidan where there is no hatred” and where truth can triumph and its people can think “collectively about their future. “’To Live Not By Lies’ today means not so much to avoid the individual lie but the collective one, the agitationand propaganda communicated by the Russian authorities through television news.”

The Internet isn’t enough; television news is required. But “today there is almost no quality TV news in Russia.”  Instead there is “agitation and propaganda” which promote “a positive image of Russia and its regime,” says Russia is surrounded by enemies, and argues that “the Russian empire is heaven on earth.”

That reflects the rise of the lie to a new level: the Russian elite is lying to its own people.  “This is the Big Lie about the possibility of an Empire.  This is a lie of the Russian elite to itself in the first instance” because that elite “cannot but know that the future does not belong to empires or even isolated states but to trans-national organizations.

But “the Big Lie continues in Russia and destroys all ideas of the future in which there is no place for the Empire.  The vacuum of ideas about the future supports and decorates the Big Lie.”  The only way out is to tell the truth and in the first instance to say and recognize that “there won’t be an empire.” Russia and Russians need  to “seek something else.”

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