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Chicago Humanities Festival | 09Nov2014 | Timothy Snyder  [57:36]

Ukraine: From Propaganda to Reality

Chicago Humanities Festival

Published on 14 Nov 2014
Since February, the world’s eyes have been on Ukraine as Ukrainians rebelled against rising authoritarianism in their own country and were met in return with a Russian invasion of Ukraine's southern and eastern provinces. Yale University’s Timothy Snyder is the world’s leading historian of Eastern Europe. His series of articles in the New York Review of Books has been hailed as the definitive analysis of this crisis. Join him as he clarifies the stakes.

This program is generously underwritten by Rose L. Shure.

This program was recorded on November 9, 2014 as part of the 25th Anniversary Chicago Humanities Festival, Journeys: http://chf.to/2014Journeys

[01:38] Historical reality on Ukraine -- 988 Kyiv Christianity -- Vikings trade route -- Khazaria had converted to Judaism and vanished -- Roos [Rus'] = Vikings, Khazars, indigenous peoples.

[05:09]  1241 when Mongols destroyed Kyivan Rus', invaded Europe, but turned back for a funeral when Khan in Mongolia died.

[06:39] 1569 creation of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth -- Kyivan Rus' culture and law were adopted by Lithuania (inheritor of most of the territory of Rus'; Moscow remains under Mongol control).

[09:07] 1863 Ukrainian national movement starts to assert itself  (following the decline of Lithuania and establishment of Austrian, German, Ottoman and Russian Empires) -- first in Kharkiv (Russian Empire) and spreading west to Kyiv and Lviv.

[11:12] WWI opportunity to establish independence after collapse of the various empires -- Wilsonian 14 points, many nation states established, but not Ukraine. (Very complicated, Kyiv occupied 12 times.)

[13:53] 1933 Stalin's second social revolution to remove peasants from the land and industrialize the Soviet Union -- more than 3 million people starved in Ukraine. [Snyder never uses the term Holodomor.]

[15:50] At the same time as Stalin was implementing his "internal colonization", Hitler was planning to expand German "Lebensraum" by colonizing Ukriane. (Plans to starve tens of millions of Soviet citizens.) The period form 1933 to 1945 was the most dangerous place on the planet. Most of the Jews who are in America today are descended from the territory that is now Ukraine.

[17:41] 1991 Ukraine central to disintegration of the Soviet Union.

[19:00] Today, 2014. "Ukraine is very much at the centre of European history." Creation of historical myths -- Ukrainians see their history differently from the Russian-created myths. Association Agreement was seen as an opportunity for "bureaucratic predictability and rule of law".

[24:02] 2013 Russian propaganda campaign declares Europe "decadent". (homosexuality) Evolution of Maidan protests.

[27:35] Real issue is transition from "Oligarchic pluralism to real pluralism" -- half dozen Oligarchical clans. Russian regime has succeeded in bringing Russian Oligarchs under Putin's control. Presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine were successfully held, despite annexation of Crimea and ongoing war in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

[31:44] Tactics, strategy, philosophy. Tactics = reverse asymmetrical warfare -- strong Russia acts as it it were weak. Presented as a "Russian defensive struggle against the overwhelming might of the United States".

[35:55] Strategic goal: "end of the Ukrainian state" -- never existed, treaties are non-binding, Novorossia, Ruski mir. "Strategic relativism": make other people weaker. U.S. - European relationship. Weaken Europe itself. Recruitment of European far-right. Russian power depends on energy -- sale of oil and natural gas.

[42:00] Underlying philosophy of strategic relativism is that "there aren't any real connections" -- an American hidden hand pulling strings. "Even though it's not true, it is enforcible -- it can be made to be true." You can break up civil society.

[44:07] "Applied post-modernism": "For illustration purposes only" -- means exactly opposite. Example 1: WWII concentration camp videos applied to present-day situation in Ukraine. Example 2: Politics as marketing. The target audience is the European left, which is particularly anti-American. Insiduously, this removes Ukraine and Ukrainians from the picture entirely -- it is just a geopolitical struggle between the United States and Russia.

[47:25] Idea that Ukrainians are all fascists had a market.  Continual repetition of "Nazi fascist hunta" mantra has been effective. Russia Today deliberately brings on 5 different experts to confuse the issue. Example is the MH17 affair. "There is no such thing as truth."

[51:30] "Principle of Aritotalian non-contadiction"; "There is no Ukrainian state" vs "The Ukrainian state is very repressive"; "There is no Ukrainan nation" vs "All Ukrainians are nationalists"; "There is no Ukrainian language" vs "Russians are being forced to speak Ukrainian language"; "Russia is fighting a war to save the world from fascism" vs "Maybe fascism isn't such a bad thing, after all".

[52:55] We are at a point of "To be or not to be" for the West. Russian money is used to fund NGOs in the U.S. and thus we get skeptical about all NGOs in general. -- skeptical about journalists, judiciary, etc.

[54:20] The best Russia policy is a good Ukraine policy. "Orwellian moment." It is not a description of Ukraine-Russia; it is a description of us.The title "From Propaganda to Reality" is really about us (in the West) and how we react to the situation in Ukraine.