“Nothing so infuriates a Russian as does indisputable evidence of his own slavish submissiveness both in the east of Ukraine and in the post-Soviet state as a whole,” according to one ethnic Russian commentator, and thus Ukrainian activism has challenged the self-assessments of Russians and driven them out of their “comfort zone.”
What the Maidan has done, Viktor Yadukha says, is divide people not between supporters and opponents of the Ukrainian protest but between “those who believe in the possibility and necessity of ‘achieving liberation by their own hand’ and those who don’t believe in that”
The latter, he continues, generally “believe in conspiracies,” a belief that allows them to feel about not taking action on their own behalf. “The more global this secret behind the scenes action is assumed to be … the greater justification there is [in their minds] for sitting on the couch” rather than going into the streets.
This is an attitude and approach that underlies all assessments of what is going on. “Sooner or later, we Russians,” he says, “will have to become involved with the arrangement of life in our own country,” especially given its problems. “But how will we be able to do this if the archetype of national behavior is [someone] ‘who very much loves to talk back to the TV.’”
It is important to note that ethnic Russians in south-eastern Ukraine haven’t pushed their own agenda or organized their own groups to push either changes within Ukraine or their own social issues. Instead, they have “preferred to wait” for the bosses, any bosses to decide. “For these people as for the overwhelming majority of citizens of the Russian Federation, everything is decided in the capital.”
On the basis of his experience in his native Sevastopol, Yadukha says, he is confident that “if Yanukovych falls, then the authorities and militia of south-eastern Ukraine will raise the black-red flags of the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists]” and then be ready to move against those who had supported Yanukovych and been part of the anti-Maidan.
Ethnic Russians wherever they may be are ready to follow orders, he continues, recalling the half-joking comment of dissident writer Aleksandr Zinovyev to a group of Sovietologists 40 years ago that the best way to defeat the Soviet Union was not to organize the population but rather to put their own person in as general secretary of the CPSU.
“I don’t know why we [ethnic] Russians are this way,” he says, and whether the Mongol yoke, serfdom, 1917, 1938 or 1991 are to blame. “But it is obvious that the ‘Russian vertical’ presupposes the submissive subordination to any change of course,” however radical, for the boss is seen expressing “the will of God” and any opposition is “from the anti-Christ.”