‘The alternative reality of propaganda’

One of the advantages of working at a university is having access to a large number of academic journals. In this post, therefore, I will take the opportunity to highlight a couple of recent articles from these.

The first is from the latest edition of Survival, the journal of a prominent British think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The author is Elizabeth Pond, described as ‘a Berlin-based journalist and author’, who worked for 20 years for the Christian Science Monitor and in 1981 published a book about the Soviet Union entitled From the Yaroslavsky Station. Entitled ‘Will Ukraine Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory?’ the article begins with the words: ‘In holding Russia’s military behemoth to a stalemate in President Vladimir Putin’s undeclared war on Ukraine, Kiev has won an improbable victory.’ According to Pond:

The rebels kept edging the front line west during the year of the poorly observed truce [from September 2014 onwards], kilometre by kilometre, and tried for one last major breakthrough in January and February 2015. Yet the Ukrainian lines basically held. For a few months more Putin continued to talk about his original dream of reconquering Novorossiya, the eastern 40% of today’s Ukraine that Catherine the Great had seized from the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century. By May he had dropped the subject, however, and by the end of August there was a sudden change in leaders among his Donbas proxies that brought the less militant Denis Pushilin to the fore in time to approve the new 1 September 2015 truce. … As provisional peace breaks out, the 1,000 Russian officers and trainers in the Donbas and 50,000 troops still massed just over the Russian border no longer seem menacing to Kiev.

Pond continues her article by expressing concern that Ukraine’s oligarchs may now squander their country’s ‘victory’ by renewing their internecine squabbles. Still, she voices the hope that oligarchic competition ‘might eventually lead, in conjunction with the current anti-corruption drive and with decentralisation on the highly successful Polish pattern, to real political parties instead of today’s patron–client clans devoid of policy content. … They might even capitalise on the new Ukrainian identity that Vladimir Putin has bestowed on them by war to reconcile western and eastern Ukraine politically.’

The second article appeared in what is probably the most prestigious academic journal in the field of Russian and Eastern European studies, Slavic Review. The journal’s current edition begins with an article by Yale professor Timothy Snyder entitled ‘Integration and Disintegration; Europe, Ukraine, and the World.’ Snyder starts by writing that, ‘It is not so often that a true revolution takes place in Europe, mobilizing more than a million, provoking counter-revolution and mass killing’. Snyder looks at Ukrainian history through lenses of colonization v. decolonization and integration v. disintegration. He argues that the First World War was the first step in decolonization and disintegration as multinational empires fell apart, but the Soviet era then witnessed a new era of colonization. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the colonial era came to an end, and Ukraine is now seeking reintegration into Europe through the European Union. But whereas the EU is a force of integration in Snyder’s analysis, Russia is a force for disintegration, seeking to tear Europe apart. Thus Snyder writes that,

In the summer and autumn of 2013, Russian foreign policy shifted, taking the disintegration of the European project as an explicit goal. … the Kremlin defined the EU as an opponent. … in the first weeks of authentic surprise at Ukrainian preferences, the impulse was to call Europeans and Ukrainians homosexuals. The origin of the anti-Maidan policy was the anti-EU policy, of which it was a constituent part. … the war [in Donbass can be seen as] … unfolding from a larger campaign of disintegration. … Russia shows no inclination to annex Luhan’sk or Donet’sk oblasts, preferring instead to leave them in a permanent state of disaster. … Russia’s proposal seems to be to subjugate to destroy.

‘The Russian project to destroy Ukraine and the European Union in the name of an alternative global order should not shock or confuse,’ says Snyder, ‘If the Maidan was about agency, sovereignty, and Europe, Russia’s anti-Maidan is about propaganda, conspiracy, and empire.’ He ends by urging readers to distance themselves ‘from the alternative reality of propaganda, whose tropes can otherwise serve as a tempting substitute for thought’.

In my opinion, there are several things wrong with these two articles: errors of fact; omissions of fact; and highly disputable conceptual foundations.

Elizabeth Pond gets important facts wrong. In the excerpt above, for instance, she claims that in January and February 2015, ‘the Ukrainian lines basically held’. Yet this was the period in which the rebel forces in Donbass successfully surrounded the Ukrainian Army at Debaltsevo and then eliminated the Debaltsevo pocket. If this was a Ukrainian ‘victory’, I would hate to see what a Ukrainian defeat looks like. Pond then says that for months after Debaltsevo Putin ‘continued to talk’ about conquering Novorossiia. For an academic article I have just written, I have examined public statements which Putin made about Donbass in this period. In not one of them did he talk about conquering Novorossiia. Pond is just plain wrong.

Snyder also makes errors. For instance, his claim that the ‘disintegration of the European project’ has been an ‘explicit goal’ of Russian foreign policy since 2013 is false. Senior officials such as President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have never said this. One might argue (with some difficulty) that destroying the EU is a hidden or implicit goal, but it certainly isn’t an ‘explicit’ one.

Both authors omit uncomfortable facts. For instance, in talking of ‘Russia’s military behemoth’ Pond ignores the fact that the Ukrainian Army wasn’t for most of the time fighting that ‘behemoth’ but rather was fighting fellow Ukrainians, who have always made up the vast majority of the rebel forces. This is at least better than Snyder, who claims that the local rebels consisted primarily of ‘criminals and local right-wingers and Nazis’. Snyder also manages to mislead by omission. In his second paragraph he mentions that the revolution in Kiev provoked ‘counterrevolution and mass killing’ and later writes that, ‘Russia was forced to use its own troops. Ukrainians have died in the thousands in these two oblasts’. The juxtaposition of words within these two phrases suggests that it was the counterrevolutionaries and Russian troops who did the killing. In fact, the Ukrainian Army is almost certainly responsible for the majority of deaths in Donbass through its shelling of rebel-held towns. Snyder doesn’t tell us this.

Finally, both articles suffer from conceptual problems. They assume a greater degree of Ukrainian unity than probably exists, given that the country is engaged in civil war. Pond writes of ‘the new Ukrainian identity that Vladimir Putin has bestowed’. There might be something to this, but one should be careful about exaggerating the extent of this unified identity. As recent elections have shown, the south and east of the country continue to vote in a different way to the rest of Ukraine, and the idea that Donbass shares in any ‘new Ukrainian identity’ smacks of wishful thinking. Snyder similarly falls into the error of assuming a unitary Ukraine, talking, for instance, of the European ‘aspirations of Ukrainians in 2013 and 2014’, as if all Ukrainians shared these aspirations. They obviously didn’t, or there wouldn’t have been a war.

Equally problematic, I think, is Snyder’s description of the Russian-Ukrainian relationship as a colonial one. Given the interconnectedness of Ukrainian and Russian history over hundreds of years, colonialism doesn’t seem to me to be a useful way of looking at it. And while it is fair to point out the suffering of Ukrainians under Soviet rule, this needs to be balanced with all the Soviets did to expand Ukrainian language education, foster the promotion of Ukrainian elites, and so on – acts which don’t easily fit the colonial model. All in all, Snyder’s conceptual framework strikes me as promoting a rather simplistic view of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

If you can access these articles, I urge you also to read the reply to Snyder written by Bulgarian academic Maria Todorova, which appears in Slavic Review immediately after Snyder’s article. Todorova hits the nail on the head. She writes that what Snyder has produced is ‘a simple, not to say simplistic argument, wrapped in an obfuscating scholarly garb. … It is disappointing that a historian … should present a monolithic, almost anthropomorphic Ukraine, without any internal diversity, in his discourse. … We have come full circle to what Snyder himself warns against: “the alternative reality of propaganda”.’

23 thoughts on “‘The alternative reality of propaganda’”

  1. You’re being too nice to these scoundrels. Especially Snyder, who’s known to explain (some say, justify) German Nazism as an understandable reaction to the Soviet pre-war excesses (equally evil, in his view). That’s just beyond the pale, imo.

    Incidentally, “Yaroslavsky Station” doesn’t sound right. If this is about ярославский вокзал in Moscow, it’s definitely a terminus, not station.


  2. “and with decentralisation on the highly successful Polish pattern”

    Ah, yes! For more than a year Poroshenko &Co were sqealing that “Ukraine is Unitary!” and “Federalization won’t Happen!” and loyal hordes of maidanauts were happy and jumped in support of this fiery rhetoric, while chanting “Putin – la-la-la!”

    And then – blam! Vice-roy Joe Biden arrives to Ukrainian Raj and tells local nabobs, that, guys – you have a huge-ass corruption problem here. Also – make your excuse of a country decetralized, pronto. And what happens next? Staunchest defender of Ukraine, its Unity and Non-divisivness Petro Poroshenko “asks” Rada to quickly vote on this decentralization project – penned, you caould be sure, by anyone but Ukrainians themselves. Peremoga!


    Excellent and well balanced article, Paul. But…

    “it is fair to point out the suffering of Ukrainians under Soviet rule”

    I understand that speaking about the SU as “the prison of nation” is something like a knee-jerk reaction in Western academic circles, that this is one of things that “Everybody knows” ™ and “This needs no proof” ™. But, Paul – you are better than that.

    Or, if we are are absolutely honest here (“fair”), then lets compare the “suffering of Ukrainians under Soviet rule” with:

    1) Suffering of Ukrainians in pre-war Poland.
    2) The fate of Ukrainians (and other ethnic groups) of the Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since this is about propaganda, here’s a funny one, demonstrating that not only they can insist that night is day, but also righteously accuse those who call night a night of blatant lying.

      Biden in Kiev: “It’s important to have autonomous, independent states that solve their own problems, determine their own educational system and government in the framework of a united Constitution,”

      Kiev propaganda site Stopfake: “As for federalism, the Vice President spoke about it negatively … Speculation about the federalization of Ukraine is a favorite topic in the Russian and separatist media. The fake news about Biden’s alleged proposal to “federalize” Ukraine was also posted by Izvestia.”



      1. Why are you surprised? StopFake stops only “vile Russian” fakes – not kosher Ukrainian ones.

        And as for Biden’s proposition wich calls for Federalization in all but name (and how the current zlochinna vlada in Kiev tries to present it as “our own idea”) – well, “We were always at war with Eastasia!” (c)


      2. He LITERALLY calls for federalization. I don’t think there is any other way to interpret “independent states … that … determine their own … government”. Confederacy, really.

        Misrepresenting and spinning is one thing, but accusing people telling literal truth of lying seems like a more advanced stage of the disease.


      3. Do any of you know of a link to the full text of Biden’s speech (not the YouTube of it, as then I have to listen to all 30 minutes of it – it’s much quicker to scan a text)?


  3. Is this some kind of “diplomatic” analysis? I have to agree with Mao that you’re being too nice. This Pond woman’s writing is flat out lies. This clown Snyder sounds like he teaches doublespeak to U.S. government mouthpieces.


  4. Here’s a link to the transcript of Biden’s speech.


    There’s one point I disagree with a little bit in your review of Snyder’s article. I think that the “colonial” analysis is a useful one for looking at Russian-Ukrainian relations in the Soviet era. Although the Bolsheviks didn’t command majority support in either Russia or Ukraine, they came to power in Russia as a result of internal processes, whereas they came to power in Ukraine as a result of a Russian invasion. In the early 20th century, Ukraine had also developed a separate national consciousness, as shown by its attempt to declare independence. Given this national consciousness, I think it’s fair to say that the Bolshevik regime in Ukraine was experienced as a foreign imposition. It was also, of course, a very dogmatically ideological imposition.
    It’s true that this wasn’t an instance of “extractive colonialism” like the colonial regimes of central Africa (eg. the French and Belgian Congos, German Cameroon, etc.), but I think it shares the relevant common points with “civilizing colonialism”, like the French “mission civilatrice” in Algeria or the American regime in the Philippines. In all these cases, there was significant opportunity for advancement (even into the elite) for the local population, so long as they held to the line set down by the metropolis (in Algeria, abandoning Islam and/or engaging in particularly meritorious military or civil service, and adopting French culture, in the Philippines, integrating into the American-oriented economic order). I think it’s this outside imposition of a foreign model, and not necessarily its relative harshness, that marks the situation as colonial. Ukrainians (at least from the 1940s) were able to do fairly well for themselves, but only if they were willing to play someone else’s tune.


    1. In 1992, I don’t think the identity of people in Kharkov was different from that in Belgorod, Donetsk from Rostov. Not to mention Crimea. Independence was declared by UkSSR, an administrative entity of the USSR, not by some separate ethno-religious group. Which is exactly the problem.

      And then, as my Ukrainian colleague explained to me, Mr. Kravchuk, their first president, let activists from the western regions take care of all the cultural aspects of the new state. The language had changed, even the alphabet had changed. History in the schoolbooks had changed. Etc.

      So, I don’t think your logic stands. North Carolina has a much better excuse to complain about Yankee colonialism than Ukraine about Russian colonialism; after all Russia never invaded Ukraine. Most you could argue is that Bolsheviks did, led by Trotsky, the Ukrainian whose native language was malorossiyan surzhyk (even though he himself rejected any ethnic labels).


    2. I do not think that this is the case.

      First, there was the Kharkov republic in the interwar period which was, broadly speaking, communist and was (temporarily) crushed by German Bayonets. Elements of the Kharkov republic went into Russia, and eventually returned with the Red army backing them. Then there is also the Makhno movement. If you do claim “Bolshevism” as foreign, and there are reasons to do so, then Russia was as much if not more a “Bolshevik colony” then Ukraine was.

      In addition, Ukraine boasted 3 general secretaries of the Soviet Union, and 2 of them held near complete power. While this is not unheard of via certain “personal Unions” (e.g. Hannover and Britain, perhaps also concerning certain German queens of Russia), this kind of relations are not exactly “colonial”. Concerning showing “loyalty to Communist ideals”, this was also a neccessary precondition for having success (or, under Stalin, just surviving) as an ethnic Russian.

      Bolschevik Russia also increased the territorial size of Ukraine at its own territorial expense on 2 different occassions (Lenin and Chruschev). Again, this is utterly unheard of in traditional “colonial relationships”.

      In some ways, the relationship had something of a “personal Union with modern characteristics”.

      Your sentence of “playing to someone elses tune” is quite interesting. Did it occur to you that Soviet Ukrainians did not, certainly not in the South East, regard the Soviet Union as foreign? That they became Field Marshalls or general secretaries on their own volition? That they would have laughed at the idea of being dominated by the Russians, since in some ways they were dominating them, and that the Soviet model was the only one in which this was actually possible?

      Effectively, Highly Nationalist Ukrainian exiles wrote Ukrainian history as far as the west was concerned, and they have claimed for themself the exclusive right to define what and who is Ukrainian, and who isnt.

      In the process, they proceed to cherrypick and exclude from being “Ukrainian” anyone who does not fit their “standards”, even if this means excluding a majority in the South East, and simply viewing them as foreign oppressors to be expelled as soon as this is “practical”.

      Perhaps a reason why Ukrainian nationalism is so incredibly “inept” in its personel (Bandera, Skoropadsky, Petljura etc. leadership skills generally ranged from subpar to terribly bad. The one exception was Nestor Makhno, who was not a Nationalist) is that ambitious people often prefer to (quote Cesar) be “first in a Gallic Oppidia rather then second in Rome”, and this resulted in ambitious and competent people taking on seperatist causes. For Ukraine in Soviet times, it was different. It was a choice between being “first in Kiev” or being “first in Moscow”.


    3. Once again, Mr. Ward, you allow your own prejudice and stereotypes to dictate your view on history. What a pity.

      Others already pointed out some of your mistakes, and I will take the rest:

      ”Although the Bolsheviks didn’t command majority support in either Russia or Ukraine…”

      And ho did, Mr. Ward? I mean, really “commanded majority support”, whatever you understand by that. Bloody Bolsheviks, whom you hate with all passion of your Westerners heart, gave peasants the land. Pomesh’ik’s land. Whites took it from them on the territories they’d manage to “liberate” from the “Red plague”. In their pre election campaign into Constitutional Assembly, Right eSeRs (you know – fine chaps who’ve spent about 25 years living in luxury abroad while “caring about Russian peasantry” and performing al-Qaeda level of terror in Russian Empire) were against the transfer of pomeshik’s land to peasant mirs.

      ”…they came to power in Russia as a result of internal processes, whereas they came to power in Ukraine as a result of a Russian invasion”

      Mr. Ward – are you familiar with the World War I in the Eastern Front? Ever heard about the joint German-AH occupation of Ukraine and the proclamation of the first “Independent” Hetmanate Ukraine? Read Bulgakov’s “White Guard”?

      ”In the early 20th century, Ukraine had also developed a separate national consciousness, as shown by its attempt to declare independence.”




      [long, very long “fall-from-your-chair” kind of laughter]

      What Ukraine, Mr. Ward? Hetmanate’s puppet government? Or Petlura’s constantly shrinking qiuasi-domain of нацiональна свiдомость which have never controlled more than a half of what is modern Ukrainian territory? What about Whites, Makhnovtsi, Entante interventionists, Reds, and, finally, Poles, who just steamrolled through all this newly proclaimed “нiзалэжность” like a hot knife through a butter?

      ”Given this national consciousness, I think it’s fair to say that the Bolshevik regime in Ukraine was experienced as a foreign imposition. It was also, of course, a very dogmatically ideological imposition.”

      Mr. Ward, I’m afraid to ask, but – are you a svidomite?

      In the end your logic is “Soviet colonialism has nothing in common with the Western «squeeze them till they bleed» kind of colonialism… but I will call it a colonialism anyway, ‘cause I bloody hate Bolshies!”, right?


    4. >internal processes

      That is an interesting euphemism for civil war.

      >but only if they were willing to play someone else’s tune

      Just like in Russia.
      Or in Belarus.
      Or any other Soviet republic.
      Ukrainians had the same opportunities as non-Ukrainians.


  5. I don’t want to hijack this post and turn it into a long discussion of Soviet Ukraine, so I’ll just reply once, to clarify a few points.
    Firstly, I think it’s important to distinguish the period . To point out that the inhabitants of the southeast and Crimea wouldn’t have seen the Russian Bolshevik army as foreign (although many of the people would of course have objected to the invasions on other grounds), is true, but not relevant in this context. The Central Rada of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, under Hrushevsky, never controlled all of what eventually became the Ukraine SSR, and is now Ukraine. Indeed, until the time of the Hetmanate, Ukraine never even tried to claim Crimea. There were solid reasons why, in the 1990’s, Ukraine gained independence within the borders of the Ukraine SSR, but when we’re talking about earlier periods, it’s important not to confuse the borders of today with the borders of those times. The regions where I’m describing the Bolshevik regime as having a colonial character are the regions of the People’s Republic, particularly the five “central” regions of Volhynia, Kiev, Podolie, Chernigov and Poltava, but also, with recognition that the conditions of newly forming nation states are always fluid, tentatively stretching into the areas to the South (but not Crimea) and the East (but not the Donbas and probably not Kharkov or Zaporizhia). Within its own borders, the People’s Republic, for all its many flaws, was a genuinely broad-based and representative regime, which was not oppressive toward the minority populations (and for that reason, was supported by the Jewish socialist parties), and also commanded the support of most of the local soviets except in the southeast. It had also been recognized as the legitimate autonomous government of the central and western regions by the Provisional Government. Again, admitting its problems and weaknesses, it had all the hallmarks of fundamental legitimacy. So, the question becomes, how did it fall? Because of local revolution? No, it fell because of an invasion by an army overwhelmingly composed of Russians, coming from Russia, and led by a Russian general (Muravyov) Of course, there’s a lengthy and complicated history after the Bolshevik invasion of January 1918, before the dust finally settled 3 years later. But all that complicated history is the result of the Bolshevik invasion, which drove a legitimate and recognized regime from its capital, leading it to turn (rather desperately) to the Central Powers, which resulted in the Hetmanate, and all else that followed.
    Secondly, it’s important to recognize how unpopular the Bolsheviks were in Ukraine when they temporarily took control of most of it after the second invasion under Tukhachevsky (in December 1918). As Serhii Plokhy notes, “The countryside was in revolt against the new Bolshevik masters. Their rule antagonized Ukrainian liberals and socialists, many of whom were prepared to welcome Soviet power in principle but not at the expense of their nation-building program. The same was true of the peasants, who took Bolshevik promises to give them land at face value, only to have their crops requisitioned at gunpoint. Led by a variety of warlords, the peasants rebelled, and their revolts became as much a factor in the Bolshevik loss of Ukraine as the White armies of Denikin and the Galician and Eastern Ukrainian armies of Petliura.” Only with a third invasion, again, with an army coming from Russia and overwhelmingly composed of Russians, was Ukraine finally brought into the Soviet orbit.
    Thirdly, I feel like a couple of the people who replied to my first comment showed an unsettling disregard for the Ukrainians as a people. It’s one thing to note that Russians (and Jews, and Crimean Tatars, etc.) are part of the picture too, and should not be seen as unwelcome guests, but as people with their own histories and claims. That`s fair enough, and the existence of minority populations is an issue in all nascent nation states (ironically, an issue that the Central Rada dealt with much better than most of the other new states of Eastern Europe). It`s another matter to imply that the Ukrainians aren`t a real nation at all, unlike, for example the Poles, Russians or Romanians. The Ukrainians had a particular historical experience, language, set of memories and cultural traits. They also had a young, but established tradition of national community-building in terms of art, literature and scholarship in the Ukrainian language. Of course these national traits didn`t exist in some hermetically sealed compartment, completely separate from the common history with the Russians and other people groups, but that`s true for all national identities. The existence of the largely Russian southeast and the large Russian population in the cities, along with the intertwining of Ukrainian and Russian history, doesn`t show that the Ukrainians are not a real nation. To suggest that it does is a simple non-sequitur.
    Finally, within the model of so-called civilizing colonialism, the opportunities for individual Ukrainians are not only not a counter-example, but they`re actually a predictable result of the model. If the idea is to civilize (or perhaps in this case proletarianize) the natives, it`s altogether natural that, once the civilizing process is complete, the now converted and redeemed native can now be treated as an equal. Again, this is not without precedent, and was seen also in the French regime in Algeria and the American regime in the Philippines. To be fair, the Soviets followed through on their mission civilisatrice more consistently and thoroughly than either the French or the Americans, but the difference is one of degree rather than kind. In each case, the native is seen as inferior, not by virtue of unchangeable biological characteristics, but by a deficiency of culture (in the French case) or proper political orientation (in the American and Soviet cases). As mentioned, there`s an analogy between this colonial process and the revolutionary drive to remake one`s own society, and therefore I agree that there`s some sense in looking at the imposition of Bolshevik principles in Russia as a form of “internal colonialism“. However, the difference remains that Bolshevism, however narrow its base of support, was not brought by force to Russia from outside. It was, however, brought in that way to Ukraine, a country that was trying to set up its own trajectory apart from what was happening in Russia. When a Russian conformed to Bolshevik ideals to advance in the system, he was conforming to a set of ideals formed in his own country, by his own compatriots. A Ukrainian, in making the same gesture of conformity, was conforming to a foreign imposition. Even if the act is the same, the meaning of the act is different.


  6. Let’s not kid ourselves talking about points of view, professional propaganda or flawed scholarly methods. Those two are idiots pure and simple.

    Yet there is a simple system behind their idiocy. For the most part they simply translate Ukrainian media and politians claims into english and declare it their own analysis.

    Victory at Debaltsevo (yes, Ukrainian victory at Debaltsevo), Putin’s intention to conquer Novorossiya and to split EU, Ukrainian unity etc. I heard it all many times, but it was confined to the asylum which is modern day Ukrainian public life.

    Now virus has spread, God have mercy on all those poor souls who read english language press.


  7. I think Bolsheviks were just as popular/unpopular in Ukraine (Malorossiya) as they were in any other part of Russia. It didn’t make Malorossiya a colony any more than it made, say, Tambov oblast (where anti-Bolshevik riots went on for months if not years) a colony.

    The problem is, I think, the abruptness of collapse of the USSR. It is remarkable how little blood was spilled in the collapse, but serious tensions and contradictions remained, and still exist. Ukraine – its Russian east and russophobe west – is one. Georgian provinces is another, Karabakh, Transnistria, Russian population in the Baltics, in parts of central Asia, Kyrgyz/Uzbek clashes in Osh, etc, etc, etc.

    And of course American neocons are playing these tensions, a-la Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, which doesn’t make it any easier for anybody. Oh, well.


  8. Within its own borders, the People’s Republic, for all its many flaws, was a genuinely broad-based and representative regime, which was not oppressive toward the minority populations (and for that reason, was supported by the Jewish socialist parties), and also commanded the support of most of the local soviets except in the southeast.

    Mister Ward! I’d laugh at such preposterous claim if the reality of what had happened wasn’t so tragic. Once again, I have to ask – what is your connection with the Ukrainian svidomites? Friends? Relatives? Or just the general indoctrination which was steadily pumped up in the West since the so-called “Revolution of Dignity”?

    Should I really remind you about non-stop Jewish pogroms which began in 1917 and continued for the whole duration of the Civil War, and that the main perpetrators were Whites (17%), various Ukrainian nationalists (40%) and Makhnovtsi (25%), which resulted in 50-200 thousand dead and 200 000 maimed and wounded?

    ^Nice example of the true Ukrainian нацiонально свiдомого exercise in anti-semitism – a “How to” guide for the people of village to be pogromed. Also – I guess its unnecessary to remind about Petlura’s killer – Samuil Issakovitch Shvarchburd – ethnicity.

    It had also been recognized as the legitimate autonomous government of the central and western regions by the Provisional Government

    Huh. Tough call for the Provisional Government, given the fact that so-called “Ukrainian People’s Republic” proclaimed its independence in January 25 1918… only to be eliminated by April by the Hetmanate and the Germans.

    ”Again, admitting its problems and weaknesses, it had all the hallmarks of fundamental legitimacy”

    This is one of the most meaningless and unsupported claims I’ve ever read/heard. And I saw 30 minutes of the “Ancient Astronauts” clip on YouTube.

    Of course, there’s a lengthy and complicated history after the Bolshevik invasion of January 1918, before the dust finally settled 3 years later.

    Oh, so it was Bloody Bolsheviks who’ve annihilated the Ukrainian Eden? Or maybe other Ukrainians with the help from the Germans?

    And, Mr. Ward, your willingness to dismiss and handwave the entire Russian Civil War and Foreign Interventions as just “complicated history” is nothing if not adorable. Pray, continue!

    But all that complicated history is the result of the Bolshevik invasion, which drove a legitimate and recognized regime from its capital, leading it to turn (rather desperately) to the Central Powers, which resulted in the Hetmanate, and all else that followed.

    Legitimate and recognized – by the Central Powers, yes, who were interested in dismembering Russian Empire. Not much anyone else. Just how long did this “independent state” existed before basically surrendering their “sovereignty” to the Germans?

    ”with an army coming from Russia and overwhelmingly composed of Russians”

    Source for the ethnic composition of that “Russian army”, please.


    1. Are you claiming, Lyttenburgh, that the Red Army in the Civil War was not predominantly Russian? That doesn’t seem very likely, given that the heartland of Bolshevik support was in the European part of Russia, and the soldiers whom the Reds were conscripting were from that area. Meanwhile, the peripheries of the old Empire were where the anti-Bolshevik forces collected.


      1. Bringing the ethnic angle here seems completely screwed up and weird, and a bit tasteless, frankly. The Bolshevik leadership, at least, is well-known to be very much ethnically diverse, with ethnic minorities (or, rather, people with minority backgrounds. We don’t know whether they identified themselves as minorities) heavily overrepresented.

        Not to mention that the whole point of ideology of Bolshevism (and Marxism in general), concentrating on the class struggle and ignoring the ethnic component altogether. If some ethnic group was over- or under-represented, this – obviously – would be a minor side effect, indicating some statistical deviation in that ethnic group’s socio-economic or educational/cultural status, or something to that effect.

        In addition, once again, there was no ethnic difference to speak of between Russia and Malorussiya. Malorussiyan city dwellers were Russians. And Malorussiyan peasants had more in common with Russian peasants than with Malorussiyan city dwellers.


      2. Paul, Mr. Ward once again made a sweeping and unsupported claim, i.e. that Bolshevik’s “army coming from Russia and overwhelmingly composed of Russians” and trying to spin it as Russian invasion of the Ukraine. I had some hopes that, perhaps, Mr. Ward can educate himself on the matter. That he will learn about Latvian Rifles, Red Finns and even Chinese serving in the RKKA, without pulling a “evul Ruskies” card.

        Mao already touched upon this subject. There was a difference in both outlooks and political views between, say, Petrograd’s factory worker, Tver’s gubernia peasant and the Red Cossack, commanded by former Imperial Army officer (voien-spetz) with the attached Commisar from the Old Bolsheviks. Were they thinking “We are Russians, and those are puny khokhli to be trumped beneath our feet and then colonized”? I don’t think so.

        The same goes to any armed group during the Civil War – a plethora of national and ethnic backgounds. The only true nationalistic ones (“pure ones”) were the Poles, Basmachs (to a degree), Baltic states and various Ukrainian republics. And, yes – the East-West-Center divide already existed among the Ukrainian way back then.


      3. How do you define “Russian” and “Ukrainian” Paul? (my personal definition for Ukrainian is someone from Ukraine who gets annoyed when he is called a Russian. This is not even remotely true for all Ukrainians right now, and was most certainly less true for those living in todays Ukraine during the civil war times).

        This is not an easy question in the slightest, especially during the Russian civil war era.
        Identities in this area and this era are/were very complex things, if one defined oneself primarily by ones occupation (peasant, factory worker), culture, language, religion or political orientation could very rapidly shift, even for just one individual over a short time and depend a lot on very short term factors.

        Second, what one defines one-self as, may, or rather will be, quite different from what other people define oneself as, especially in a civil war situation, the various factions will see other factions very differently then these factions see themselfs.


  9. Paul, you mention here content-analytic work on Putin’s speeches. Here’s someone who’s been doing this systematically for some time, and whose view on the Ukrainian crisis, including how to “solve” it, are as original as yours. Name’s Ted Hopf, recent talk on Crimea https://hml.aber.ac.uk/Play/5917. and an article on “what’s wrong with Russia,” https://www.academia.edu/2097523/Common_Sense_Constructivism_and_Hegemony_in_World_Politics


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