Staunton, July 15 – “Putin’s main mistake,” Sergey Markov says, was not introducing Russian military forces into Ukraine in the spring of 2014, a failure that has led to the rise of “an occupation regime” there and the formation of an “anti-Russia.” With his new article, the Kremlin leader has laid the foundation for reversing that error.
This “anti-Russia,” the Moscow commentator says, involves “the forcible elimination of the Russian language and the forcible transformation of Ukraine into a country hostile to Russia” by means of laws, the school system and the media. Those who don’t support this program are being excluded (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2870466-echo/).
And all of this is leading to a situation in which ever more ethnic Russians in Ukraine are identifying as Ukrainians, something the West plans to use within Russia itself to cause Russians to identify regionally or as Cossacks rather than as the Great Russians they in fact are, Markov says.
According to him, the West gains from this because it creates a form of anti-matter against Russia that will lead to “the annihilation” of the latter. That is because as in physics, “matter and anti-matter annihilate one another” and that is what the West hopes to do with Ukraine as a tool against Russia.
This Western project does not mean that Russians will be killed off, the commentator continues. “Now there are already other methods” available. What is going on is “the forcible change of identity. To create such a conflict with the help of this anti-Russia” and thus be in a position to impose “a puppet ruler” on Russia, someone like Navalny.
Since the disintegration of the USSR, Russians in Ukraine have reidentified as Ukrainians in large numbers, Markov says. Surveys show that while 45 percent of Russians there called themselves Russians in the 1990s, now only 20 percent do. That highlights how relatively easy it is to change this identity.
That is what lies behind Putin’s essay on Ukrainians as part of the large Russian people, Markov says. He is focusing on the fact that the West is telling various groups of Russians that they are not Russians but something else.
The West says to the people of the Urals
that they can be a separate people if they take political power, he continues.
The West says the same thing to the Siberians and to the Cossacks, even
suggesting to the latter that they should then be in a position “to live in a
separate Cossackia.” (On Cossackia, see jamestown.org/program/cossackia-no-longer-an-impossible-dream/.)
The West isn’t hiding this. It is flouting it and using “humanitarian technologies” to achieve it. And Russia must respond because such techniques are now “one of the main weapons of struggle” between Russia and the West.
Markov does not say but what clearly lies behind his and Putin’s fears is that Russian national identity is far weaker than they would like it to be. If more than half of the Russians in Ukraine could shift so quickly from identifying as Russians to identifying as Ukrainians, the likelihood that others could do the same is very, very great.
That is why Putin speaks so emotionally about this subject. Ultimately, it is not about Ukraine or the restoration of the empire but about the preservation of the Russian Federation as a Russian state, something the rise of regional and other collective identities threatens just as much as nationalism did at the end of Soviet times.
(On this looming risk to Russian identity and unity, see the arguments of the author of these lines in “Regionalism is the Nationalism of the Next Russian Revolution” (region.expert/regionalism-next-nationalism/.)