The “New York Review of Books” mentioned the following in a recent review of a publication about language: “There are recent reports that Ukrainian defense forces are making their prisoners pronounce the word ‘palianytsia’ (a kind of bread) as a reliable indicator of Russian or Ukrainian upbringing. It seems that the Russians cannot pronounce ‘lia,’ instead pronouncing it as ‘la.’”
reminded me of when my wife Roksoliana visited Ukraine for the first time. Many Russified her name and she became Roksolana – much to my irritation.
But what is a seemingly trivial difference in pronunciation becomes even more stark when comparing evidence of behavioral traits between Ukrainians and Russians. Moreover, these observations collectively discredit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims of Ukrainians and Russians being “one people” in his July 2021 essay.
Recently, a Ukrainian court sentenced a young Russian soldier to life in prison not only for killing more than 10 Ukrainian civilians, but doing so in execution style. The killer is very young, deeply disturbed, clearly a degenerate, but seemingly not an aberration in either the Russian military or society.
In the same issue of the “New York Review of Books”, there is an article by American journalist Tim Judah, titled “The Russian Terror.” The essence of Judah’s analysis is that Russian soldiers are targeting civilians, particularly women and children, and subjecting them to brutal executions.
Devoid of morality
U.S. society has recently suffered two major tragedies: first of all, a racist shooting spree by a mentally-ill teenager in Buffalo; and then the murder of 19 young children and two teachers at a school in Texas.
The first murderer, a white supremacist, justified his crime with a manifesto running to nearly 200 pages. In addition to his illness, the morbidity and influence of American white racist groups played a role.
The second case was the result of a sick Texas society as espoused by its governor, Greg Abbott. At a news conference, Abbott chose to defend the position that the state of Texas licenses 18-year-olds to buy weapons.
This is reminiscent of former President George W. Bush’s adviser Karl Rove defending semi-automatic weapons by distinguishing them from automatics, while former President Donald Trump was the main speaker of the National Rifle Association.
Society can be sick, but when combined with the vagaries and passions of personal mental illness, this can lead to tragic events.
This is easily exacerbated during wartime when one side is entirely devoid of morality.
The imprisoned Russian soldier mentioned above is probably not mentally ill in the traditional medical sense, but as a result of a society scarred by the influence of Putin, the Kremlin and a society built on the lust for power and empire.
Back in 2012, U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed that Russia was the biggest threat to the world. He was naively ridiculed by then U.S. President Barack Obama, whilst successor Donald Trump frequently heaped praise on Putin. They conveniently forgot that their predecessor Ronald Reagan” had rightly dubbed the Russian-dominated Soviet system with its subject statellite states as the “evil Empire” and done so much to bring it down.
Russian identity did not form in a traditional sense. It took shape on wild terrain and under the captivity of being a vassal state of the Golden Horde and the Khanate. The 13th century Prince of Novgorod, Alexander Nevsky, is much revered by the Moscow-based Orthodox Church, but was simply a conqueror of land, not a martyr for any faith.
The Western world, starting with America, has never understood this. Very few American presidents saw what Ukrainians could see all along – that Russia was the personification of evil – but now they are starting to see the light.
Were it not for the heroism of the Ukrainian people, the world would look completely different. Ukraine has saved the world and seemingly against great odds.
Reconstituting Russian society
First, there has to be an ending to this war and it should be a victorious one for Ukraine.
The scale and pace of reconstruction must then replicate what was done with Germany and Europe after World War II.
Few of us can comprehend just how much of Europe was previously destroyed, not only by the Nazis but by the Red Army. So, Ukraine will need to be rebuilt as the European country that it is, and similarly accorded a comparable Marshall Plan.
At the same time, it will be necessary not to pacify, but rather to reconstitute, Russia and its society. This needs to start with the Kremlin and end with Russian mothers who instructed their sons to rape and murder women and children.
The Moscow-based Orthodox Church as a fifth column and one of the pillars of this evil regime, must be eliminated, starting with its many parishes in Ukraine.
All international institutions, including the United Nations, should at least begin the process of neutralising Moscow and dismantling it into, at the very least, its constituent federated republics and perhaps to its national minorities.
Russian access to international sports competitions at both individual and country level should be suspended indefinitely. The gradual release of some of the most basic sanctions must depend on progress in the liberalization of Russian society and the country’s demilitarization.
Obviously, there will be great resistance not only from the Kremlin but from Russia’s imperial mothers. This is where a program of psychological treatment may be needed.
Western culture can and should have a moral compass of good over evil, equality, justice and basic human rights.
We must not go back to the “business as usual” that was in place till Feb. 24.
A sick Russia armed with nuclear weapons is the greatest threat to our planet. And this is the most important lesson from the current war.
Askold Lozynskyj is an attorney based in New York City. He is a former president of the Ukrainian World Congress.