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This reaction was more than predictable, though. They saw the West as both a model for imitation and a shield.


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The Ukrainian crisis has once again shown that their suspicions were fully justified and that Russia has not renounced its Stalinist heritage. Did Russians occupy Estonia in , or did Estonians occupy Russia? Who has better grounds for feeling insecure? Or is it the case that only nuclear giants may have legitimate concerns about their national security?

The Russian-Ukrainian memory war reached its peak between and , during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko whose politics of memory was quite manipulative as well. One of the most tragic events in Soviet history, the Holodomor cost the lives of no less than three million Ukrainians.

Joseph Stalin, Leader of the Soviet Union (1878-1953)

Today, Russia declares that it has to defend from Banderivtsy those Russians who live in mostly eastern Ukraine. Let me make myself crystal clear on a sensitive topic: there is no doubt that Nazis found collaborators in eastern Europe including both Ukraine and Russia , some of whom participated in the Holocaust. Today, some eastern European politicians cultivate aggressive nationalist memories that are typologically similar to the Russian cult of the war and different from the western memory focused on the Holocaust and cultural heritage.

Nationalists, including far-right activists, have played their role in the Ukrainian revolution. But they were clearly a minority though a highly visible one.


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  • Most Ukrainians simply wanted democracy and integration into the European Union, which has nothing to do with fascism. We have to be cautious not to follow those Russian nationalists who see any Ukrainian attempt at self-determination as nationalist if not fascist by definition. Movements for national liberation do not have to be nationalist movements, though nationalists normally support them.

    Stephen Cohen and the Ukrainian crisis

    Can we reduce the Ukrainian revolution to its nationalist component? This is a distinctive — and regrettable — sign of our times, which are characterized by the decay of universal values. Conservative, populist and democratic politics alike often share this feature. The far-right danger in Ukraine has been grossly exaggerated by Russian propaganda. But it should by no means be ignored. Is the far-right danger in Ukraine a real concern for the Russian government? I do not think so, for the Russian government supports nationalists, including ultra-nationalists, both at home and abroad, and is often supported by them.

    Elena Servettaz, The more persistently Russian media portray the new Ukrainian government as a fascist junta, the clearer it becomes that Russian arrows, shot at the Maidan, aim at the Bolotnaya. Relatively few people in the world would be convinced by this anti-Ukrainian propaganda. But its target audience is essentially domestic. A new period in the history of the regime began in spring Putinism Mark II is above all the politics of radical cultural conservatism as manifested in the handling of issues ranging from the Pussy Riot affair to anti-gay legislation.

    This politics has replaced past manoeuvres between hardline nationalists and liberal modernizers. Radical cultural conservatism is its last resort. This politics is complemented by repression and new legislation that has considerably increased police control over Russian society. In a very profound sense, the annexation of Crimea is also an expression of cultural conservatism, with its pre-modern land-hunger and predilection for tangible symbols of power.

    Cultural conservatism, authoritarianism and aggressive foreign policy often go hand in hand.

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    It is a profoundly internalized worldview that informs his vision of national security and his foreign policy. The Ukrainian case shows this unambiguously. What is Ukraine? Part of its territory is in eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us. A memory of the Russian Empire seen as the only historical reality in the post-Soviet space nourishes an aggressive foreign policy.

    What has for decades been crucial about Ukraine is that most Ukrainians acknowledged their differences, but wanted to live together. This is a scenario that Putin certainly welcomes. But even if Russia keeps Crimea and occupies Donetsk, it will definitively loose the rest of Ukraine, as well as eastern Europe as a whole, which now feels itself to be in Ukrainian shoes too.

    To which end, Russia has the potential, culturally and intellectually above all. To achieve this goal, it has to cooperate with other democracies, including its eastern European neighbours. Winning their friendship would be no easy task, but close cultural and personal interconnections could make it feasible. However, Russia has to accept the right of eastern European countries to be suspicious of it and avoid making them choose between Russia and the West.

    Russia has an obligation to take the lead in peacefully overcoming these issues. Unless Russia returns Crimea which seems unlikely , any solution will remain provisional.

    The “Partisan Republic”: Colonial Myths and Memory Wars in Belarus

    So far, Putin has improved his approval ratings. But this effect of the annexation of Crimea will not last forever. The Ukrainian crisis is probably the birthplace of a far less stable and predictable world than the one we have enjoyed in recent decades.


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    Russian aggression against Ukraine has betrayed the general expectation of the major powers to pursue a responsible and, therefore, predictable politics, such that the world is spared major military conflicts. This is why the current crisis, no matter what its outcome may be, has already created a new international situation.

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    Territorial integrity, reasonable restraint from the threat or use of force and other principles of the Helsinki Accords of no longer look inviolable. Today — perhaps for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, and certainly since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in — there seems to be a real danger of a world war. The previous period that began with the crisis of communism and the end of the Cold War is now definitely over. The West must devise a completely new strategy to deal with Russia under these new conditions.

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