Sunday, May 22, 2022

Pushkin and Tolstoy Aren’t Ukraine’s Enemies but Its ‘Fifth Column in the Russian Rear,’ Kyiv Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 8 – Russia won’t continue to exist in its current state much longer, but there will be a Russia and Ukrainians will have that country as a neighbor with which they must co-exist, Vladimir Paniotto says; and they must recognize that Pushkin and Tolstoy aren’t their enemies but instead “allies, a fifth column in the Russian rear.”

            The crimes Russian forces are committing in Ukraine now are “not because of Pushkin, Tolstoy or Chekhov but despite them,” the head of Kyiv’s International Institute of Sociology says. They are part of the common humanistic culture which Ukrainians share but which Putin and his regime are ignoring and violating (

            And Ukrainians historically have been well-disposed toward Russians and Russian culture, Paniotto continues. As late as 2014, “90 percent of Ukrainians even in the Western part of the country were positively disposed toward Russians” and “only 16 percent then wanted to join NATO.”

            Only after Putin occupied part of Ukrainian territory in 2014 and then launched his full-scale invasion three months ago did that change. Putin Ukrainians wanted to join NATO, but in fact, the sociologist says, “Ukraine has come to want to join NATO precisely because Putin attacked.

            Paniotto’s reflections on this point are part of his discussion of Ukrainian attitudes toward May 9 as Victory Day. In 2011, 50 percent of Ukrainians said it was one of the most important holidays, but by 2021, the share doing so had fallen to 18 percent. Now, with the Russian invasion, that figure is certainly even lower.

            But he says that proposals to strip May 9 of its current meaning are not a good idea and should not be adopted until there are detailed studies of how Ukrainians feel now and perhaps even more how the current war will end and thus how they will feel in the future, the sociologist says. The same thing goes for renaming toponyms.


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