When Vladimir Putin began the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, he justified it by saying he wanted to. “Disarmament and uprooting of Ukraine from Nazism”.
The claim was repeated several times – Including the United Nations Security Councilthe latest of which was in Putin’s televised address on Thursday evening, Norwegian time.
But where does the claim that Ukrainians are Nazis come from?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – who is himself a Jew and has family members killed during the Holocaust – He has strongly denied and condemned the Nazi accusations.
That it is the fascists and the Nazis who are fighting in Ukraine is a good thing for the Russians. Russia suffered heavy losses when it participated in the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II.
Putin’s critics, according to Washington Postaccuses him of exploiting these traumas, deeply rooted in the soul of the Russian people, and turns history in proportion to his own interests.
In this narrative, the West and the United States never acknowledged the efforts of the Soviet Union, and turned their backs on the founding of NATO in 1949.
– justifies war
The Russian narrative about Ukrainian “Nazism” has historical roots that go back long before the war, according to Ukrainian Vitaly Rybak.
He is the chief analyst of Internews Ukraine, which works, among other things, to combat Russian disinformation.
To sum up: dehumanizing the Ukrainians makes it easier for the Kremlin to justify the war.
However, the close ties between the peoples of Ukraine and Russia make this task difficult for Putin, according to Rybak.
For this reason, the Russian propaganda machinery has been working for years to send the message that “the Nazis control the social and political agendas in Ukraine.” This, of course, is not true. Not a single nationalist party currently has more than 1% support.
The closest is the ultra-nationalist party Svoboda. The party is represented in the Ukrainian National Assembly with one representative.
“Svoboda is the largest at the moment, but they still have little or no influence on Ukrainian politics and society,” Rybak says.
– no around
There are two roots to this Nazi rhetoric, says Sven J. Holtsmark, professor of history and Russia expert at the Norwegian Defense College:
The first is that there is a real example of extreme right-wing forces in Ukraine. It was a reality. Among other things, some of these volunteer forces have a strong right-wing ideology, he says, and asserts:
The Ukrainian government is not distinguished by this ideology. There will be extreme forces in any society, not least in Russia itself. But it is not these forces that characterize Ukraine today.
Putin is trying to play on what the history professor describes as creating a heavy identity and memory in the Russian people: the wounds of the 1941-45 Great Patriotic War. This is the second root of Putin’s speech.
– Holtsmark says they are trying to refer to the aggressive war against Ukraine as a continuation of the defensive war against Germany.
– provokes strong emotions
Thus, Russian history renders the Nazis the image of the impending enemy.
Is Putin trying to bring back memories of World War II to the Russian people?
– In the 1960s, the Soviet Union developed a novel about “the country that fought the Nazis.” Modern Russia inherited this narrative, with the worship of May 9 (Victory Day – Germany surrendered on May 9 in the Moscow time zone, editor’s note), replied analyst Vitaly Rybak.
So calling someone a “Nazi” evokes strong feelings among Russians, according to Rybak.
Partly due to the great tragedy of World War II that turned to the Soviet Union, and partly because of years of propaganda. France and England also suffered heavy losses during World War II, but they did not develop the same cult of victory as Russia did.
Putin simply chose the easiest way to portray the Ukrainians as enemies of the Russian people.
There are groups
In Ukraine, several far-right paramilitary groups operate, such as the Azov Battalion. They are referred to as a group with neo-Nazi ideology fighting against Russian separatists in the Donbass region.
– There are such far-right units with organizational affiliation of the Ukrainian defense. Yes, it’s all there, but we shouldn’t bite into Putin’s sticky stick — that’s not a relevant argument, says Sven J. Holtsmark.
Ukrainian politician Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), who led the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, is often referred to as a hero and a Nazi in Ukraine. Russia has used this as an excuse for Ukraine’s alleged relationship with brown.
– Yes, Bandera was a criminal, but what does this have to do with the case today? Perhaps there are many in western Ukraine who have not read Bandera’s story. How many Norwegians have read the story of the Norwegian FN fighters who fought on the German side during the war? Professor Holtsmark asks rhetorically.
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