A leftist view on the situation in Donbass
This article originally appeared at Ukraina.ru, translated from Russian by Carpatho-Russian
Alexander Chalenko talked with an active participant of the “Russian spring” in Kharkov and Odessa, and coordinator of the “Borotba” movement
– Victor, you were communicating here in Donetsk and Lugansk with Russian volunteers who had come at fight in Donbass. Did you raise subjects in conversations with them such as: when did they arrive in Donbass, did their ideas of how Russian people appear in Donetsk, Lugansk, Alchevsk and in other cities of the region coincide with reality? What discoveries did they make for themselves in this plan?
— Yes, I raised them. We even laughed together, and Russian volunteers would jokingly say: “We thought that there were Russian people here whom the Ukrainians are oppressing, but in fact there are real khokhli here in Donbass”. Actually, how the average Russian visualizes a Ukrainian is more similar to an inhabitant of Donbass, than, let us say, to a Galician. Many went to defend the “Russian world”, and it turned out that in a civil war in Ukraine whereas the militia can contain people from Ivano-Frankovsk (I have met them myself), among the Rightsectorites the majority are Russian-speaking, and many even understand Ukrainian badly. Also you know, the most blood-thirsty haters of DNR and LNR in Ukraine are emigrants from Donbass who supported Maidan and were heaped up in Kiev. Above all, it is they urge who encourage killing fellow countrymen whom they consider “cattle” and “lint”. So this is a civil war having a sociopolitical nature, but national and language issues are not so important. in practice
– Here you are a citizen of Russia. You have experience of living in Moscow. You lived a long time in Kiev. Then after Euromaidan you lived in Kharkov and Odessa. Afterwards in Crimea. And now in warring Donbass. What distinctions are there between Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Crimea, and Donbass? Is it possible to say that everywhere there the same people — Russians – live?
— If there live one people in all these cities, these people are not Russian, but Soviet. Here the head of DNR, Alexander Zakharchenko, spoke on a television broadcast about the “Soviet world”, instead of “Russian”. Yes, this “Soviet world” developed in many respects on the basis of Russian culture and Russian language, as a language of international communication, on the traditions of Russian classical literature and the Russian liberation movement — from the Decembrists to the Narodna Volya [People’s Will] activists and the Bolsheviks. But not only that. It united the best, progressive traditions of all peoples of the USSR.
This is like Soviet cuisine, created under the direction of Stalin people’s Commissar Anastas Mikoyan, which included Ukrainian borsch and Uzbek pilaf, Caucasian shish kebab and Russian shchi [cabbage soup]. The Soviet Union had a great modernizing mission. In place of a Russian with a balalaika and a kosovorotka [Russian-style shirt] and a Ukrainian with a vyshivanka [embroidered shirt] and sharovary [wide trousers] it created the Soviet Ukrainian and the Soviet Russian.
Now they are trying to return us to this national wildness, again to inculcate the sharovarshchina [wide-trousers culture] and fofudya […???]. In Ukraine this barbarity was actually accepted in government circles, against which primarily Donbass rose. In Russia for now it is less severe, but here also there are many forces which dream of an Orthodox Taliban. Among those people in Russia who absolutely and validly hate Ukrainian fascism, sometimes hatred to everything Ukrainian develops, they negate the existance of a Ukrainian language, and start to agitate that Ukrainians as a nation were thought up by the Austrian General Staff. These people do not understand that they themselves are assimilating to the ukrofashists that they hate. Such people are categorically wrong.
In its time Germany was affected by a dreadful social disease — Nazism, where a considerable proportion of the German people supported Hitler, and Germans killed and plundered the peoples of Eastern Europe. But when the Red Army drove the new barbarians back to the Reich boundaries, many said that it is necessary to destroy Germany as a state overall, and to kill Germans according to their nationality.
In 1944 Ilya Erenburg, the known Soviet writer, wrote an article in which he called for “complete elimination of Germany”. Stalin answered him with what became the widely known phrase: “Hitlers come and go, but the German people and the German state remain”. Likewisel we — opponents of the Kiev junta — must say: “Poroshenkos and Yaroshes come and go, but the Ukrainian people remains”.
– Can you tell the difference between a Ukrainian and a Russian?
— These are different, but very similar people. But after all, even the Ukrainian version of the Russian language differs little from its Russian version. Though I would not go too deeply into this subject,which might make it possible to reach to measuring of skulls, and then to “blood and soil”. Development in the form of a nation is a long historical era, but it does come to an end. Mankind will sooner or later get rid of national division, and the Soviet Union took important steps in this direction, forming the “Soviet people”. I suggest that the future will be here instead of behind the search for and cultivation of national distinctions.
– To wind back, once again: name some differences between Ukrainians and Russians? Come on, I will help you. Name some national distinctions between us: you, a native of the Moscow region, and me, a native of Donetsk who has lived 30 years in Kiev and whose Soviet passport signified me as “Ukrainian”.
— The differecne is that you are Ukrainian, and I am Russian. Once again, I am not going to “measure the skull”, but let’s say that meeting you on the streets of Moscow and without knowing you personally, I would think at once that you are Ukrainian. It seems to me that both by appearance, and by character and temperament, it is difficult to present more a typical Ukrainian than you.
– So if I understand correctly: I speak the “Ukrainian version” of Russian, and you speak the “Russian version” of Russian. Couldn’t you give me from my speech or from my articles examples of what you call the “Ukrainian version” of Russian?
— Having lived 10 years in Ukraine, I already speak in some intermixture of these versions. I am not a linguist and therefore it is difficult to me to speak on this subject; however, I think that all who have lived both in Russia and in Ukraine feel this difference. I understand that you want to prove that no Ukrainians exist, but that is not so. Look, among Belarusians 90% speak Russian and their version of Russian is closer to Russian than Ukrainian is. However, for some reason nobody negates the existence of a Belarusian people, but a Ukrainian one they do negate.
– Here, there are RightSectorites about whom you spoke, who are Russian-speaking and don’t understand Ukrainian very well, so are they in your opinion Ukrainians?
— Among them there are Russian-speaking Ukrainians, there are also Russians among the RightSectorites. Once again: I do not consider that in Ukraine there is national opposition. Whoever so considers that the case, must consider all RightSectorites as Ukrainians, and all rebels as Russians.But in fact in Ukraine there is a civil war which has divided all peoples living in the country.
– You are a Marxist and a Communist. You believe in the class struggle. But after all the revolt in Novorossiya proceeds primarily under Russian slogans as well as under Soviet ones, which, not even to mention in actual fact are all taken as Russians on the surface. Hence the question: why do you, leftists, support the “Russian spring” in that case, instead of considering it as something petty-bourgeois or Russian bourgeois nationalism?
— Marxists and Communists always support the struggle against national oppression, hence we are on the side of Donbass. But there is a struggle against national oppression, and there is nationalism as superiority of one nation and oppression of others. Here we are also against Russian nationalism and if someone in Donbass oppresses Ukrainians, Jews, Tatars or any other nation, for us he will be the same enemy as an Ukrainian fascist trying to forbid Russian and Russian culture.
But I did not see such [a person] in Donbass. I did however see Tatar militia and Azerbaijanians, and got acquainted with Pashtun militia. They are fighting so that their region could remain in the same international spirit of friendship of peoples, as has been in Donbass.
And those who in Donetsk consider themselves as Russian nationalists are rather fighters against national oppression, something like the Irish Republicans or national-liberation motions in the third world. Imported Russian fascists are now in times fighting on the side of Kiev, especially after from DNR, at last, expelled the gang of the Petersburg fascist Milchakov which was dishonoring the entire republic and all the militia.
I do not think that the term “Soviet” all the same equal to “Russian”. “Soviet” bears within itself the most powerful charge of social liberation and a charge of anti-capitalism. This charge was from the very beginning very strong during the uprising in Donbass. As the late Alexey Mozgovoy said: “The main enemy is the oligarch and the official”. Fighters remember this precept of the legendary commander.
The very name “national republic” is from there, out of the “Soviet world”, where there were the Socialist Polish National Republic, Chinese National Republic etc. They rose up not just against Kiev, but also against the oligarchs. Against the “Donetsk” ones: against Taruta, against Ahmetov, who tried to “smother in his embraces” the uprising and afterwards to “agree” with Kiev about the delivery of Donetsk. We, leftists and Communists, support specifically this primary orientation of the uprising, and we wish that the name “national republic” not remain only words. The people will not be at war to restore the empire of the Romanovs, and these shades of the past “will not be inserted” — but are for returning all those gains which were taken away from the people since 1991.
– And what do you leftists think about the “extractions”, “cellars”, and such practices as how to “shoot your foot”, which occurred among the “national commanders” before the DNR and LNR authorities hasd power?
— On “extractions”. There is marauding, for which it is necessary to execute. There is confiscation of property of refugees on the side of Kiev from among the bourgeois and officials. These are different things. “Cellars” arose when governmental authority and the law-enforcement system broke up. Each commander became his own court, and prosecutor, and militiaman, and jailer. Certainly such a system, which was spontaneously born from revolution, could not be without uglinesses and excesses. And such excesses on the account of the “DNR and LNR authorities”, who are from the national commanders, are not less than among other groups of the militia. As far as I know, thre is struggle against these phenomena.
– And here in Alexey Borisovich Mozgovogo’s biography there were such practices as “cellars” and “extractions”.
— Everyone had a “cellar”. How do you punish a hooligan or a fighter drinking at his post? They put them for a specific term “to the cellar”, where they are engaged in socially useful operation such as digging entrenchments or cleaning garbage. Mozgovoy cetainly had such a “cellar”. Now, when the law-enforcement system is being created, the need for “cellars” disappears. Alexey Borisovich Mozgovoy himself, as is confirmed by my companions in the “Prizrak” [Phantom] Brigade, was an idealistic and honorable person, and no “extractions” are counted against him.
– What do you consider that the people in Donbass want: DNR and LNR entering Russia, or independent socialist republics?
— It is hard to say. But I do think that the question is not necessary. No one is preparing to accept DNR and LNR into Russia, as became clear already a year ago. It is almost impossible to build socialism in such small territory with an export-dependent economy. I suppose that, before the Kiev regime is overthrown, there will be independent states with certain elements of a social state, a powerful public sector, and nationalization of banks. This is the most on which one may depend. And when at least Greater Novorossiya or all of Ukraine will bw liberated, then it will be possible to think also about replacing the capitalist model with something less cannibalistic.
Alexander Chalenko conducted the interview.