Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Dropping Russian Names from Ukrainian Places ‘Act of Genocide,’ Moscow Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 11 – Many Russian commentators are denouncing the introduction of a new bill in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada that would eliminate Russian names from cities, towns, institutions, and even metro stations, but some have gone further and argued that this “mankurtization of Ukraine” is “an act of genocide” against Russians.

            Among those doing so is Svyatoslav Knyazev who says those behind the proposed law want to “decolonize” Ukraine but in so doing are depriving the Ukrainians of their real history and instead imposing a Galician version that has little in common with that of most Ukrainians (

            What is happening now, the Moscow commentator says, is a continuation of a drive that began in earnest in 2015. Between April 2015 and August 2017, Ukrainian officials demolished almost 2400 monuments connected with Soviet times and changed the names of about a thousand cities and towns and 52,000 streets.”

            Initially, Knyazev says, Ukrainians focused on names connected with the Soviet Union; but beginning in 2019-2020, they expanded that to include plans to remove names connected with Russia more generally.  It is obvious, he says, that Kyiv wants to make Ukrainians “a virtual nation – without roots, without history, without memory and without traditions.”

            “Instead of real events of their past,” he continues, Ukrainian leaders want to focus only on what occurred in Galicia” and on any Ukrainian or foreigner who opposed Russia. As a result, what we have now, Knyazev insists, is “the most genuine genocide” directed against all things Russian.

            According to him, “Ukrainian bureaucrats are already telling children that they should play not on the side of the Red Army but on the side of the Nazis.” If that is allowed to stand, Knyazev says, “in a couple of years, young Ukrainians will begin to play in concentration camps with gas chambers and crematoria.”

            “Does that seem incredible?” he asks rhetorically. Well, who only a few years ago would have thought that the Ukrainians would be taking down the names of Pushkin and Tolstoy? Clearly, Knyazev says, what is going on in Ukraine now is “only just the beginning” of something terribly wrong.

            Conveying the shear hyperbole of Russian commentaries on Ukraine and much else is hard because most of them seem so absurd that one would assume that they would fall of their own weight. But they are having an impact, and so unfortunately, it is important to at least occasionally call attention to what such articles contain.

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