Staunton, December 16 – Sometimes it is the small things that underline the most important changes in the world. One of those is suggested by Valery Solovey who noted during a short visit to Ukraine that Ukrainian children are now playing war against Russian invaders just as their Soviet-era predecessors played war against the Nazi Wehrmacht.
That perhaps better than anything else shows that Vladimir Putin by his policies has not only antagonized Ukrainians by his aggression against their country but lost Ukraine as a Russian ally for a generation or more ahead, exactly the opposite result that he has said he has been pursuing.
That is one of the eight observations the Moscow historian and commentator makes on the basis of his visit to Ukraine, a visit he says he took for family reasons but one that provides him and others with some important lessons about where things now are in Ukraine and where they’re heading (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=548F0E232C866§ion_id=50A6C962A3D7C).
First, he says, “the economic and social situation” in Ukraine is difficult and likely will get still worse next year. But second, there is no sense that Ukraine is about to collapse under the weight of these problems, however much the Russian media predict exactly that outcome. Instead, and third, Russian interference has united Ukrainian society as never before.
Indeed, Solovey says, it is now entirely appropriate to speak of “the formation of a Ukrainian political nation.”
Fourth, Russia’s intervention in southeastern Ukraine and Ukrainian reactions to it has become the cornerstone of this new solidarity. Even “children are playing at war between Ukrainians and Russians,” Solovey says, “just as Soviet children at one time played at war with the Germans.”
Fifth, there is propaganda in the Ukrainian media, but it is “markedly less professional than its Russian counterpart.” But more important, the media in Ukraine is “significantly freer and more pluralist than the Russian,” as different from one another as the sky is from the earth.
Sixth, he continues, the Ukrainian authorities cannot (do not want? are afraid?) to restore communications with society. People do not understand why the authorities are doing what they are doing.” As a result and seventh, “this is giving birth in society to the wildest possible myths,” which in fact are “mirror images of Russian myths.”
On the one hand, some Ukrainians believe that Kyiv is about to surrender the Donbas to Russia, just as some Russians believe Moscow is about to do in reverse. And on the other, some Ukrainians believe that Russia is about to collapse “under the weight of its own errors and crimes,” again exactly as some Russians believe about Ukraine.
And eighth and most important of all, Solovey says, “in Ukraine there is a democratic politics. Its quality is not that high,” but compared to Russia where there is no competition of ideologies, parties and leaders, it is striking for a Russian visitor or indeed for anyone else used to Soviet and post-Soviet conditions.