Staunton, December 17 – Two new commentaries, one about Russia’s refusal to enter into any larger political structure in 1991 if Ukraine refused to take part and a second about the propensity of Ukrainians to view Russians as a fraternal people even now after Moscow invaded their country and seized Crimea highlight the highly fraught ties between the two peoples.
In a commentary on Kasparov.ru, Russian analyst Andrey Illarionov argues that “the main cause for the taking of the decision about the disintegration of the USSR and rejecting the idea of founding a Union of Sovereign States … was the principled and uncompromising decision of the Russian authorities not to participate in [such a] project without the participation in it of Ukraine” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=58540E5FC4C09).
And that outcome was not driven by the results of the December 1, 1991, Ukrainian referendum but “at a minimum” by decisions taken a week earlier. Boris Yeltsin, for example, said on November 25th that as long as Ukraine doesn’t sign a political treaty, “Russia will not put its signature to it either” (yeltsincenter.ru/digest/release/krakh-ssg-krakh-gorbacheva
One of the most beloved themes of Soviet propagandists was the notion that Russians and Ukrainians were “fraternal peoples,” an idea that even “military aggression, occupation of part of the country, and other ‘delights’ of the Russian world” have not succeeded in driving out of the heads of Ukrainians.
According to the latest Razumkov center poll, 51.1 percent of Ukrainians still consider the Russians a fraternal people, 33.8 percent don’t, and another 15.2 percent either can’t or won’t say. At one level, these results are shocking given what Russia has done to Ukraine over the last three years.
But at another, Klochko says, “there is nothing particularly surprising in such results.” A poll taken earlier this year found that 67 percent of Ukrainians had a good or very good attitude toward Russians, and only 21.5 percent had a bad or very bad one, even though they had an overwhelmingly negative attitude toward Putin, with only eight percent viewing him positively.
One reason that idea of “fraternal peoples” has survived is because it can be interpreted to mean so many things; but that doesn’t mean that its survival in the heads of Ukrainians is not a matter of concern for those who care about the survival and flourishing of the Ukrainian nation and state.
A major reason for that conclusion, Klochko suggests, is that that the notion that there is a bad Putin but good Russians, “absolutely mirrors the thesis actively spread now by Russian propaganda about the bad ‘Kyiv Banderite junta’ and the on the whole not bad fraternal Ukrainians,” an idea Moscow uses to weaken Ukrainian support for the Ukrainian state.
Thus, the idea that Ukrainians and Russians are “fraternal peoples” must be fought because “it is one of the constantly repeated propagandistic myths which does not have anything in common with reality: Russians overwhelmingly support Putin’s aggressive plans toward Ukraine” and don’t view Ukraine as a permanent reality.
The Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian media should be countering this every day, Klochko says. But “unfortunately, even patriotic television channels concentrate more on domestic scandals” than on this, something for which they may ultimately suffer if this attitude is allowed to continue.