Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is built on a lie. And I want everyone in the world to understand that. This whole war – since the annexation of Crimea and fake “referendums” in Donbas in 2014 and up to the full-scale invasion on the 24th of February in 2022 – is based on a terribly, perversly fake pretense. Russian president as well as many Russian politicians on many occasions said that Russian speakers in Ukraine were somehow oppressed or that they are threatened by Ukrainian nationalists. This is the most absurdist nonsense I have ever heard in my lifetime. This I am saying as a person who was speaking predominantly Russian for the most part of my life.
The dominance of Russian language
In the 1980s Soviet Union introduced incentives for teachers to make Russian more popular, to slowly russify all the numerous ethnic groups of the Union into one linguistically homogenous “Soviet nation”. The effects of that policy are noticeable still, several decades later. While various post-Soviet countries encouraged development of their national languages, Russian was and still is widely spoken. In this regard Ukraine is no exception, especially taking into account that overwhelming majority of Ukrainians speak both Ukrainian and Russian languages very well.
Thus many media didn’t bother to make Ukrainian versions of newspapers or websites – to save some money and to be able to extend their outreach to Russian audience. Movies were often translated into Russian, but NOT Ukrainian. Most people in business circles spoke predominantly Russian, because they oriented themselves on working with the post-Soviet markets. It was truly hard to find a magazine in Ukrainian or a Ukrainian song on the radio. In the 1990s and 2000s Russian remained a widely spoken international language.
The slow return of Ukrainian language
Over the years of independence various Ukrainian governments introduced quotas and stimuli to increase the percentage of the Ukrainian language in the media or to make its use more compulsory in the official documents. Most of those measures were mild and quite often they were enforced only for a limited amount of time. Sometimes they caused displeasure of Russian speakers, quite often due to the older population’s refusal to learn Ukrainian, even though they’ve spent decades in Ukraine (but imagine coming to France, living there for 20-30-40 years and refusing speaking French, resisting using it even in the official documents).
After all, some slow change in the linguistic landscape did occur. Ukrainian songs were more often on air, some popular Ukrainian magazines appeared, TV-shows were dubbed in Ukrainian, it became easier to find a book in Ukrainian and the officials in various state institutions started using Ukrainian more often.
This doesn’t mean that Russian speakers were anyhow persecuted for their language or even that their freedom to use their language was limited in any meaningful way. MOST of the media-market was still full of Russian product. You could easily find a Russian version of a videogame on Steam (but not a Ukrainian one). You could still get much more content from all kinds of bloggers in Russian than in Ukrainian. The same could be said about books, music, movies, news websites, manuals for appliances and medication etc. And it was like that even after the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of war in Donbas: if you wanted anything in Russian language – until the 24th of February 2022 it was very easy to get it in Ukraine.
A total bullshit
Russia tries to justify its war crimes by saying that it is protecting Russian-speaking population. But the predominantly Russian-speaking Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have never suffered more death and degradation than under the control by the pro-Russian terrorist groups over the last 8 years. And since WWII a predominantly Russian-speaking Kharkiv hasn’t suffered as much ruination as under the bombardments launched by the Russian invaders.
Also, Russia tries to justify its atrocities by saying that it is fighting “Ukrainian nationalists” or “Kyiv junta”. But Ukraine has a Russian-speaking Jew as its President right now! And he was elected by over 70% of Ukrainians, including many people from the military. By the way, many of Ukrainian soldiers speak Russian due to the historical circumstances explained above.
Nationalist parties have never scored more than 12% in Ukrainian elections, in most cases they didn’t even manage to reach the threshold of 5%. Virtually nothing EVER bolstered the sympathies for them more than acts of Russian aggression. But even now nationalistic politicians are at the sidelines of political struggle.
The truth is that Russian leadership doesn’t care about Russian speakers whatsoever. If it did, it would invest money into the Siberian infrastructure or schools on Ural, and not into tanks and missiles which are used now against Ukraine.
Russia is lying. But this lies is not just a manipulation or distortion or exaggeration of the truth, it’s not even an urban legend or a stereotype, Russian lies is something absolutely opposite to the actual reality. This lie is a complete bullshit. And this bullshit was used for years to saw seeds of doubt in the minds of many people around the world, to paint the actual victim guilty and to justify a violent imperialistic war.
So what are the real reasons for this war then?
There are two major reasons for this invasion. None of them have anything to do with languages.
Reason #1. Soviet nostalgia that degraded into imperialism
Russia doesn’t recognise Ukraine as a separate independent nation and sees it as something that the collective West has stolen. This narrative isn’t new and to lesser extent was present in Russian political discourse for decades, similar narratives were also directed towards other post-Soviet countries, although to a lesser extent.
Russian president Vladimir Putin openly demands that the collective West allows Russia to absorb Ukraine back into the Russian “sphere of influence”. Essentially this demand foresees a restoration of some sort of USSR with pseudo-independent and pseudo-democratic republics ruled directly from Moscow.
Reason #2. Kremlin’s fear of a successful democracy
Even if Russia had no imperialist ambitions, Kremlin (being an autocratic retrograd kleptocracy) would still be deeply dissatisfied with Ukraine’s existence. Russian leadership is afraid that Ukraine’s success might become an example for the Russia itself. Because if the Russian citizens see that a neigboring former Soviet country can (re)join the collective West and have high standards of living under democratic government, they might become increasingly displeased with their own autocratic elites, they might start asking more questions and, at some point, even take to the streets demanding freedom and justice.
Support Ukraine and do not trust whatever Russia says!
Remember that Russia is the state of bullshit.