Putin’s new National Guard – what does it say when you need your own personal army?

The idea of creating a National Guard (NG) for Russia bringing together public security forces under a single command has been raised periodically and always abandoned for very good reasons, not least the lack of any apparent need to have a Praetorian Guard on steroids. In 2012, for example, I didn’t think it likely: it would upend the balance of power within the security agencies, create a monster, and not really meet any true security need.

So what does it say that Putin today announced that such a natsgvardiya was going to be formed? After a meeting with security luminaries include MVD Interior Troops commander (and new NG head) Viktor Zolotov – a trusted ex-bodyguard – he announced [my translation]:

Decisions have been made: we are creating a new federal executive body on the basis of the Interior Troops – creating the National Guard, which will handle the fight against terrorism, the fight against organised crime, and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, will continue to perform those functions which are [currently] performed by the OMON (riot police), SOBR (SWAT) and so on.

We will arrange, as we discussed with the Interior Minister [Vladimir Kolokoltsev], not only in the decree, but in a future federal law, so that there will be no discord in order to get everything working smoothly and clearly. I hope very much that the troops of the National Guard will effectively perform their tasks, as has been the case up now, and that they will strengthen the work on the areas that are considered priorities.

The NG will thus also take over the OMON and SOBR, making it a powerful paramilitary security force, with elements right across the country.

Meanwhile, the Federal Drugs Control Service (FSKN) and Federal Migration Service (FMS) will be brought under the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), albeit remaining separate services. (Again, an idea which had been mooted before.) This may be a consolation prize for Kolokoltsev but appears, unsurprisingly, to have been a bitter pill for FSKN chief Viktor Ivanov, moving from independent director to ministerial subordinate.

The creation of a National Guard is a big deal. We await details, but here are a few first observations:

1. No discussion, no lead time. As with so many crucial decisions, this came essentially unheralded, underlining the extent to which policy comes from a small, tight circlearound Putin. It is not just that they have good operational security; they also clearly see no reason to prepare the public in advance. This is just the way politics goes these days.

2. Big worries in a little circle. There is no real reason for creating the NG out of the Interior Troops (VV) and other forces unless you have a serious worry about public unrest. Let’s be clear, whatever Putin says the militarised security forces of the VV and now NG have little real role fighting crime or terrorism; they are public security forces, riot and insurrection control and deterrence assets. The OMON and SOBR do play a certain role, but detaching them from the investigations elements of the MVD actually reduces their value in fighting crime. (And the MVD will likely have to recreate some kind of SWAT forces of its own.)

3. Putin’s Own. The NG, as a federal agency, will be directly subordinated to the government, without a minister in the way. With Zolotov at its head, then it is even more clearly a personal, presidential Praetorian force, under a maximalist loyalist. This may not only be a force to keep the masses in check, but also the elite.

4. Upsetting the power ministry balance. In the past, there was a key desire to retain a degree of balance between the various security agencies. The MVD has now been weakened (and having the FMS and FSKN is by no means enough of a recompense), and the Federal Security Service (FSB) has a more direct rival in the domestic security stakes.

5. I see from the text of the law that FGUP Okhrany, the private security corporation of the MVD, is being transferred to the NG. This is a major blow to the MVD, as it made quite a bit of revenue for them. It also raises questions about the future of the Vnevedomstvennaya okhrana, the police’s private security department, which was often a good way for cops to do some paid overtime and eke out their salaries. Will they still be able to do this? If not, then that may well be a further encouragement to more petty and predatory corruption by cops seeing their real wages shrink (as bonuses have also already been cut) and options legally to make up the shortfall vanish…

Offensive Language: Putin began his verbal attack on Ukrainian statehood in 2004

Vladimir Putin stopped using the preposition “v” or “in” Ukraine in 2004, reverting to the older form “na” or “on,” in official government documents, an indication that the Kremlin leader did not view Ukraine as a country but rather as a Russian borderland, according to Andrey Illarionov.

Editor’s note: This is similar to the distinction in English between ‘Ukraine’ and ‘the Ukraine’ with the Russian “on Ukraine” being an archaism equivalent to ‘in the Ukraine’. See articles in TIME and Business Insider for more on the subject.

From the time he became president in 2000 through March 2004, Putin used the preposition “v” exclusively in official documents he signed, but beginning on April 5, 2004, he shifted to “na” and since Putin returned for his third term, such documents have used “na” exclusively.

In his own speeches, commentaries and responses to questions, Illarionov points out, Putin has gone from using “in” in 87.5 percent of the cases in 2002 to 70 percent in 2007 to 15.4 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent last year, thus ever more often replacing it with the “on” and thus showing his lack of respect for Ukraine’s status as a state.

Since April 5, 2004, 99.4 percent of the official documents Putin has signed which refer to Ukraine have used “on” rather than “in.” Most of these 11 exceptions reflect either statements about the past or about the work of specific Russian officials of various kinds in Ukraine, he says.

“The last time the grammatical form ‘in Ukraine’ was used in official documents of the Kremlin was about five years ago on July 1, 2010,” concerning the presentation of an award to the head of ITAR-TASS in Ukraine. And that order was signed by then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

Since that time, “in” has not been used in the official documents of the Russian president and his administration even once. “In 2011-2015, 100 percent of the cases have used the form “na Ukraine,” Illarionov reports.

233176_600Graph 1: Use of “on Ukraine” (red) versus “in Ukraine” (green) in official Russian use, 1910-2008
Graph 2: Use of “in Ukraine” (blue) versus “in the Ukraine” (red) in English books, 1910-2008

This allows one to conclude, the Russian analyst says, that the decision to shift from “in” to “on” was taken “in the period between March 1 and April 5, 2004” – quite possibly immediately after Putin’s winning a second term as president and thus an indication of his intentions toward Kyiv at that time.

Certainly by April 16, 2004, Putin had made a decision to shift gears with regard to Ukraine. On that date, Illarionov recalls, Putin told the Ukrainian President Viktor Medvedchuk, “You know our position.” Working with Ukraine is “the top priority and the most important for us.”

“But however that was, the beginning of linguistic aggression by denying the statehood of Ukraine by the Russian authorities begins in March-April 2004,” Illarionov says. That was before the beginning of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in that year and long before July 2013 when Putin began his hybrid war against Ukraine.

“In other words,” Illarionov concludes, “the decision about the denial of the statehood of Ukraine was not provoked by any real actions of Ukrainians, be they from the Ukrainian authorities or Ukrainian society. This decision was taken by Putin personally, independent of the situation in Ukraine and as a result of his own ideas and in correspondence with his own plans.”

Girkin: Putin will be murdered like the Tsar, or die in prison like Milosevic

In the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s widely speculated disappearance from the public eye, retired FSB colonel and terrorist “Defense Minister” Igor “Strelkov” Girkin has reemerged offering his own personal insight, but this time criticism of the Russian leader.

Girkin had recently arrived in Yekaterinberg, Russia’s fourth largest city, to announce the founding of a new cell of his “New Russia” (Novorossiya) movement in the Urals. A day prior, a large rally was held in public view to send off 50 Russian recruits to fight in Ukraine. Local organizers have acknowledged that these “volunteer” mercenaries can earn between $1,500-2,500 to participate in the war against Ukraine.

During a press conference (documented by local news site Znak) held in the Ural Mining University, Girkin touched on a number of subjects, not the least of which brazed the current rumors circulating of a potential palace coup in the Kremlin.

In a culmination of public frustration against the Russian president, Girkin predicts, “not only liberals, but the patriots (nationalists – ed.) will turn against Putin. Then he will repeat the fate of Slobodan Milosevic, who was overthrown [by] liberals & patriots, since he conducted a policy that was neither yours nor ours.” Girkin lays out two conclusions for Putin’s fate following such an overthrow: he can either be executed like Russian Emperor Nicholas II, or die in prison as Milosevic did awaiting his trial in The Hague.

Girkin

Feuding & criticism

Previously Girkin has spoken out about an alleged “fifth column,” vowing to protect Putin from any possible power shift. “The West and the ‘fifth column’ are making no secret of their plans to overthrow Putin. Their path is that of dragging out the war [in Ukraine] as long as possible,” Strelkov told reporters in September. “I support Putin and am against the ‘fifth column.’ Russian people need to completely reject any opposition activity,” he said.

The root of new frustration for Girkin was due in part to Putin’s war policy, as he lambasted the “fifth column” derailing the war effort; personally calling out Putin’s own presidential advisor Vladislav Surkov, known otherwise as the ‘grey cardinal’ and for being the architect of not only Russia’s frozen conflicts but its entire current political system. Surkov is of Chechen descent and is considered a counterweight to FSB-KGB security service hawks dominating Putin’s inner circle. The “fifth column” label, as described by Girkin, applies to all state actors and industrialists who view Russia as a resource base, namely those who live in Russia but keep wealth, property, and family abroad (such a label would apply to Putin and many of those he has enriched during his rule). It has been reported that Surkov was instrumental in pulling Girkin and his associates out of Ukraine as part of an ongoing feud between rival political camps.

He also took effort to criticize Putin’s strategy in the Donbas, saying he could have “freed all of New Russia” with virtually no blood spilled if he had acted more decisively in the spring of 2014. Instead, he blames the “fifth column” for convincing Putin to change course and, as a result, “we have not stopped and the war is more bloody,” while lamenting the ever increasing international sanctions and pressure that have come since.

This indecisive course by Putin was elaborated on, with Girkin incensed with the flip-flopping nature of official advocacy for the “Russian World,” and also the self-declared republics it has created, blasting the Kremlin’s use then disuse of the term ‘New Russia’ (Novorossiya) to describe the conflict region, then its alternating use in media to describe the Donetsk and Luhansk republics as legitimate, then self-declared, or ultimately as regions of Ukraine.

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On the war

Girkin accuses ‘the West’ of setting its sights on repeating the events of World War I, drawing loose parallels between Russia entering the war on the side of Serbia; and later blaming the current war on instigation by the United States. During WW1, the U.S., Serbia, and Russian Empire were all Allied members.

As a ‘tool’ of the U.S., he continues that even if Russia had not occupied Crimea, and even if war did not take place in the Donbas (which he has fully admitted to igniting himself), then “still the Kyiv government would lead to war with Russia.”

In fact many people are waiting for Russia in Kyiv

However, for the former Donetsk Republic’s minister of defense, the war will soon resume against Ukraine: “We conclude that this year the fighting will resume in the Donbas, and will resume soon enough. The war will unfold even more widespread than it was conducted during the fall and winter campaigns.” Just how widespread he predicts the war will escalate may coincide with his imperialist ambitions of creating ‘New Russia’. For him, Ukraine “is part of Russia” and names Odesa, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv as potential targets. “In fact many people are waiting for Russia in Kyiv.”

 

Harper: Putin has to be opposed very strongly

In and interview with CP24’s Stephen Ledrew in Toronto, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his and Canada’s position towards Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think not just to me but to the world, Mr. Putin has defied a pretty obvious principle and that is we do not redraw boundaries by military force. We have not been doing that since the Second World War — anywhere — so this is a very important principle he’s violated.”

I had reached conclusions about the nature of this man and the kind of place he was leading his country and ultimately leading the world

“I think I would tell you that, quite frankly, having grown up with many Ukrainian friends, understanding that experience probably alerts me even more to it. But also just the fact that I’ve dealt with Mr. Putin for a number of years and I don’t think it was any secret to other G7 leaders, or to this country, that I had reached conclusions about the nature of this man and the kind of place he was leading his country and ultimately leading the world, and I think he has to be opposed very strongly.”

When asked about his widely publicized encounter with Putin during the G20 Summit in Australia, Harper doubled down on his actions:

“I guess I don’t know what else I would have said to him. He and I, I guess we’re not the closest of friends, and he came over, we were in an awkward position where we had to shake hands and I have only one thing to say to him, and that is: get out of Ukraine. And frankly as long as he continues to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity I don’t have a lot else to say to the man.”

 

Russian insider says Putin openly planned invasion of Ukraine since 2003

A former Russian insider says he was there when Putin began openly planning the present invasion of Ukraine back in 2003.

At a conference in Brussels this week, Andrey Illarionov, a Russian economist and former economic advisor to Vladimir Putin informed that the invasion of Ukraine has been in official planning since at least 2003.

“Since 2003. I can say that certain questions relating to the future war with Ukraine were discussed in my presence. I didn’t think the talks would really lead to a real war,” he said.

In an anguished response to the Orange Revolution a year later which brought about an ostensibly pro-Western government, Russian officials then began discussing the potential for launching a military occupation of Crimea and it’s subsequent annexation. Illarionov also discussed leaked documents which detail the operation of Russia’s future war with Ukraine.

By 2009, he stated that plans to conjure and support separatism in Ukraine began to surface. It is now known that the terrorist organization known as the ‘Donetsk Republic’ began to reassert itself online in 2008 after then Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovych lost his position as Prime Minister. Created in 2005 also in the wake of the Orange Revolution, ‘Donetsk Republic’ members attended training camps in Russia funded by the Russian Presidential Administration, where instructors from the security services taught methods of espionage, sabotage and guerrilla tactics to attendees. Syncing with Illarionov’s statement, the group began organizing local terrorist training camps as early as 2009.

Putin’s July 2013 Speech

Putin and Yanukovych in Kyiv, July 2013
Putin and Yanukovych in Kyiv, July 2013

Illarionov did not mince words, making clear that this is a very much a “Russian-Ukrianian war” or rather, as he described: “Putin’s war against Ukraine.” A war he steadfastly describes as being long in the works that will continue to play out in the long term.

“So, they were preparing the war for a long time. The other matter is that it is a long war that has been continuing for more than 16 months. It was officially launched on July 27, 2013, by Putin’s speech in Kyiv on the occasion of the anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus,” he said.

The speech cited by Illarionov was on the topic of Ukraine’s “civilizational choice” and “orthodox Slavic values.” In it, Putin bloviates on alleged “common spiritual values” which make Russians and Ukrainians a “single people,” calling for the preservation of ‘ancestral traditions.’ He also convincingly ignores centuries of persecution, telling listeners that subjugation (“union”) under Russia “changed the lives of Ukraine’s population and its elite for the better, as everyone knows.”

At another point, Putin speaks glowingly of Stalin’s reforms and investment in Ukraine during his first ‘Five Year Plan,’ a disastrous policy which resulted in the Moscow-orchestrated genocide of up to 7 million Ukrainians.

Current conflict zones’ historical hallmarks were focused on in the speech, specifically calling the Donbas “one of Russia’s main mining and metals industry regions,” and Odesa “one of the Russian Empire’s biggest seaports.” The next day Putin would attend Russian naval celebrations in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol in Crimea.

Little Green Men of Russia's navy in Ukraine, July 28, 2013
Little Green Men of Russia’s navy in Ukraine, July 28, 2013

All of this, of course, amounted to a cynical sales pitch for Russia’s unborn Eurasian Union and reunion with Russia, and to convince Ukrainians the perils of European integration. With a smile.

Let me say again that we will respect whatever choice our Ukrainian partners, friends and brothers make. The question is only one of how we go about agreeing on working together under absolutely equal, transparent and clear conditions.

 Numerous predictions

Illarionov resigned from his position within the administration in 2005, has been an outspoken critic of president Vladimir Putin since that time.

Since becoming a dissident, his words to date have been prophetic. In October 2008 he quickly exposed that the Russian invasion and occupation of Georgia in August of that year was premeditated and instigated by the Russian government, when many still debated whether Georgia fired on Russian soldiers first.

In February of this year, prior to Russia’s “green men” swarming into Crimea, he fully predicted the occupation of the peninsula and similar destabilizing actions in the south and east. In March, after this had already come to fruition, he further predicted and warned of impending Russian forces seeping into eastern Ukraine during an interview on the Ukrainian network TSN. Russian Col. Igor Girkin, “Supreme Commander” of the Donetsk Republic, openly admitted recently to Russia’s involvement in the war and told how his special forces group entered Ukraine in April to seize government buildings.

Putin: DNR will always get weapons, and we won't let them lose

Russian President Vladimir Putin says insurgent and terrorist groups in Ukraine’s east “will always get weapons,” including armored vehicles and artillery in response to questions of Russia’s material involvement the war against Ukraine.  He reiterated this position on the German channel ARD prior to the G20 Summit in Australia, days after NATO officials confirmed reports that the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine was continuing full speed despite an agreed upon ceasefire.

The Russian president also stated he would not allow Ukraine to win the war, calling for “dialog” instead: “This points to the fact, that you want the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone there, all of their political foes and opponents. Is that what you want? We certainly don’t. And we won’t let it happen.”

Justifying his potion, the paranoid dictator expressed concerns that Ukraine would begin the “ethnic cleansing” (presumably) of Russians, and that the pro-Western government would become a “neo-Nazi state.”

NHL stars support the war against Ukraine

A number of Russian NHL stars have quickly taken to backing their homeland in the war against Ukraine, with multiple MVP Alexander Ovechkin making the most recent headlines. The negative attention was significant enough that Hall of Famer Slava Fetisov expressed concern over how Ovechkin will continue to be received by fans in North America.

On Instagram, Ovechkin posted a controversial picture of himself holding a card reading “save children from fascism.” Given the context of evoking ‘fascism’ in Russian rhetoric over the past several months, the Washington Capitals winger is effectively saying Russia must save children from Ukraine and Ukrainians, or possibly even Americans, as many Russians blame the U.S. for importing ‘fascism’ into Ukraine.

Affixed to the picture is also the note: “Our grandparents have seen the horrors of fascism. We will not allow it in our time!!” – clearly throwing his weight behind Russia’s military invasion aimed at preventing Ukrainian democracy and independence from taking root.

Acclaimed historian Timothy Snyder best explains the politics of the term:

Thus began the politics of fascism and anti-fascism, where Moscow was the defender of all that was good, and its critics were fascists. This very effective pose, of course, did not preclude an actual Soviet alliance with the actual Nazis in 1939. Given today’s return of Russian propaganda to anti-fascism, this is an important point to remember: The whole grand moral Manichaeism was meant to serve the state, and as such did not limit it in any way. The embrace of anti-fascism as a rhetorical strategy is quite different from opposing actual fascists.

“Anti-fascist” slogans (and even organizations) are also typically espoused as a smokescreen by Russia’s far-right, a political sphere that ironically contains a plethora of racist, neo-Nazi and indeed fascist figures. A leading figure of this core, Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, recently called for the outright genocide of Ukrainians, calling for the country to be “cleansed” of the Ukrainian “race of bastards.”

Thankfully, despite Ovechkin’s concerns, hockey for Donetsk area children in liberated territory couldn’t look brighter at the moment. In Druzhkivka, hundreds of players and their families turned out to start the season in the city’s new arena days after his comments.

Ovechkin’s show of support for Putin’s war wasn’t isolated to just the aforementioned photo, as he posted another photo two days later with fellow Russian NHL star Evgeni Malkin, brandishing a pair of Vladimir Putin iPhone cases, “a souvenir from our president.”

For his part, Malkin makes his position directly known in a number of recent uploads. A month ago, he posted photos of himself posing with both a figure of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and an airbrushed portrait of Putin on the hood of a BMW.

More direct though is this group shot which features Malkin (right) and another NHL player, Sergei Gonchar (left) wearing Putin fan shirts in a group photo.

The shirts aren’t simply innocuous kitsch, but rather an advertisement for Crimea’s occupation. The slogan beneath the venerating screen prints of macho-Putin, which is also coyly repeated by Malkin in the photo description (with a smiley face to boot), says “polite people” – a term popularized among Russian nationalists to describe the military personnel who participated in the annexation of Crimea. To people like Malkin and Gonchar, Crimea was a ‘polite’ annexation.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov has also posted a similar picture on his Instagram account, wearing Putin t-shirt which says “Crimea is Ours,” as reported by Sports Illustrated.

Varlamov later deleted this photo after it caught attention
Varlamov later deleted this photo after it caught attention

All of this should come as no surprise given these players’ track records. Following Russia’s IIHF World Championship win this summer, Putin joined in on the celebrations, partying with the players. The championship, which was hosted in Belarus, was wrought with controversy with many fans speculating that the officiating was fixed and rightfully protesting the overlooked actions of the Russian head coach who used a hidden radio device to circumvent his standing suspension.

Ovechkin and Putin

Days later the stars, Ovechkin and Malkin, were seen again being more than chummy with the Russian leader at a state ceremony held for the roster. While they may have just been overjoyed since Putin had just bought the players brand new Mercedes sports cars to celebrate the win, Ovechkin’s personal relationship with the benevolent dictator goes further back, evening having his personal home phone number (the two call each other frequently).

Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk caused a furor earlier in the year for his comments on Russia’s repressive anti-gay laws. When asked for his position he responded with: “I’m an orthodox and that says it all.” As Sports Illustrated pointed out, the Russian orthodox church’s position on the subject is straightforward: “This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on a path of self-destruction.” The Russian church’s position on Ukraine is, of course, not the least bit more encouraging.

But just how strong are the convictions of these players in their support for Russia? One thing’s for sure, they very much enjoy their American salaries and won’t be too thrilled if Russia continues to clamp down on American imports.


Snyder: Putin’s Eurasianism

Concerning the formation of a Eurasian Union of post-Soviet states, Timothy Snyder elaborates on the ideological roots of Putin politics, and the underpinnings of the propaganda that fuels it. Often times those who oppose Russian imperialism are labelled as fascists by state media in attempts to discredit opposing views. Snyder discusses in his upcoming piece for the New York Review both the obvious irony in such criticism, as well as the foundations of what may ultimately amount to Russian fascism in open policy.

The ethnic purification of the communist legacy is precisely the logic of National Bolshevism, which is the foundational ideology of Eurasianism today. Putin himself is an admirer of the philosopher Ivan Ilin, who wanted Russia to be a nationalist dictatorship.

The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is useful from both fascism and Stalinism. Dugin’s major work, The Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, follows closely the ideas of Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi political theorist. Eurasianism is not only the ideological source of the Eurasian Union, it is also the creed of a number of people in the Putin administration, and the moving force of a rather active far-right Russian youth movement. For years Dugin has openly supported the division and colonization of Ukraine.

The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia. Later that year Motherland was banned from taking part in further elections after complaints that its advertisements incited racial hatred.

Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people fascists? And why does anyone on the Western left take them seriously? One line of reasoning seems to run like this: the Russians won World War II, and therefore can be trusted to spot Nazis. Much is wrong with this. World War II on the eastern front was fought chiefly in what was then Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus, not in Soviet Russia. Five percent of Russia was occupied by the Germans; all of Ukraine was occupied by the Germans. Apart from the Jews, whose suffering was by far the worst, the main victims of Nazi policies were not Russians but Ukrainians and Belarusians. There was no Russian army fighting in World War II, but rather a Soviet Red Army. Its soldiers were disproportionately Ukrainian, since it took so many losses in Ukraine and recruited from the local population. The army group that liberated Auschwitz was called the First Ukrainian Front.

Timothy Snyder is an American historian and Professor of History at Yale University.

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Goble: Ukrainian Activism Highlights Russian Submissiveness and thus Infuriates Russians

“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.”

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