How to write a Russia “realist” article

Hello there! I’m a British or possibly Irish author and I’m here to tell you why the mainstream media, also known as any media outlet that fails to report the Kremlin’s talking points without question, can’t be trusted when it comes to the topic of Russia. Marvel at what an independent thinker and contrarian I am!

Typically I start by claiming to have absolutely no prior knowledge about Russia. I might demonize the media again by claiming they were my only source of knowledge about the country, and thus my head was full of “Russophobic” stereotypes. But guess what? I actually went to Russia! Sure, it might have been for only a couple months, or maybe on and off for a few years. I may never have been conversational nor literate in Russian and thus unable to communicate with ordinary people who couldn’t speak English, but I’ve been to Russia and you haven’t! This is my first step towards establishing my authority to talk down to you, the obviously ignorant Westerner whose only source of information on Russia is no doubt Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.

In this part of the article, I’m going to start dropping in all kinds of Russian cultural and historical references. None of this really indicates any acumen in Russian history or politics, but I’m betting on the likelihood that it’s more than my audience knows, and thus I build my credentials as a Russia commentator. Usually I’ll start by making references to Russian literary figures such as Pushkin and Tolstoy, but I’ll also probably throw in Lermontov, Turgenev, or Bulgakov just to show you that I’m a bit more sophisticated than you when it comes to Russian literature.

At this point I’ll need to make some references about things you actually see in Russia, just to remind you that yes, I have been there, and it’s practically my old stomping ground. I’ll refer to certain buildings or landmarks. I’ll often imply there is something magical about them. Here are a few more random Russian references just in case I haven’t fully established my street cred with the readers: Samovars. Banya. Kvas. Vodka. Red Square.

Now that I’ve shown you what a Russia expert I am, it’s time for the main thrust of the article. First I’m going to slander all Western journalists by denigrating their knowledge about Russia. They are no Russia-knowers, rest assured of that! Oh sure, they may have spent more time in Russia than me, and they may speak the language, but I’m not going to bring up either of those points. Instead I’m going to question their Russia street cred and then I’m going to demonstrate my true expertise by spitting out random factoids about Russian history that one could easily get from Wikipedia.

For example, did you know that Russia has been invaded many times in its history? Sure, probably millions, if not tens of millions of English-speakers are well aware of this basic fact, but I’m going to act as though you, the readers, do not know. I’m also going to imply that other Western journalists are unaware of this fact as well. See I know, which means I know Russia better than them.

After writing about Russia’s historical invasions, I’m then going to engage in a massive leap of logic and claim that this justifies Russia’s actions in Ukraine, for example. And speaking of Ukraine, I spent a good amount of time on Wikipedia in order to find more factoids I can put here to convince you that Ukraine and Russia are really the same country. Just to be sure, I didn’t just get my info from Wikipedia. I also talked to some Russian friends who work for the Russian state media and they explained to me how Ukraine is really an eternal part of Russia and not a real country. Are you, an ignorant Westerner who has never been to Russia, going to seriously suggest that Russians don’t know their own history?

Now here’s the part where I condemn the West for provoking Russia into invading a sovereign nation. I’ll talk about NATO expansion while ignoring pesky facts such as the near-total lack of permanent garrisons in new member states or the fact that the US was closing down bases and pulling its forces out of Europe prior to 2015. Naturally I won’t explain how any of the actual NATO expansion actually harmed Russia in any measurable way. Then I’ll imply that the West tried to pull Ukraine into NATO even though this was clearly not the case. At this point I might concede that Russia has been behaving at least somewhat badly, but I’ll make it clear that this is totally the West’s fault.

This is the best part. I’ll pretend I’m just a patriotic dissident in my homeland and lament the breakdown in relations between the West and Russia. I’m totally oblivious to the fact that the Kremlin and its supporters actually don’t want peace between our nations but in fact they’d rather see our country collapse like theirs did in 1991, so don’t expect me to let this pesky reality get in the way. What I will do is demand that something must be done to repair relations between Russia and the West, and lucky you- I just happen to have a plan.

Here I outline my plan for how Russia and the West can reach a compromise and coexist in peace. It’s very simple- the West gives Russia everything it wants and in return Russia promises absolutely nothing. Obviously I won’t phrase it that way though. Instead I’ll enumerate the points on which the West should make concessions to the Russians, hoping you don’t notice that those concessions are all one-way in favor of Russia.

I might take this time to point out how people who oppose this idea and continue to criticize the actions of the Kremlin are “Russophobes” or “hawks.” I’ll claim that their talk of Russian aggression and a Russian “threat” are simply laughable, but if we fail to compromise with Moscow by unilaterally conceding to their every demand, it could lead to World War III and a nuclear holocaust, all of which will still be the West’s fault for not compromising.

And in case my word count is low: Pelmeni, borshch, matryoshka, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Gagarin, kitchen debates, babushki!

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41 thoughts on “How to write a Russia “realist” article

  1. Mr. Hack

    You had Mike Averko, a ‘A New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic’
    and head blogger for the ever popular ‘Strategic Culture Institute’ in mind when you wrote this one? I think that he went to Moscow once for two weeks to watch their ever formidable hockey team take part in a tournament there. He has never been conversational nor literate in Russian…sometimes I think that the same applies to his knowledge of the English language too.

    Welcome back. Certainly you could write more about your experiences visiting Georgian wineries? It sounds like you already know a thing or two about their fine wines?

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Actually today it was this: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/10/the-cold-war-is-over

      If Averko has actually made it to Russia, that’s got to be a first. When he first contacted me a couple years ago, I asked him about his experience in Russia and he was really defensive about that and the language thing. After pressing him several times he claimed that “he probably had more experience in Russian than me,” and then he claimed he was blocking my replies (though he kept sending his bullshit). I get this a lot from pro-Kremlin types living in the West. If I ask about your practical and language experience, it ought to be easy to give an answer. “Three years teaching English in Moscow” is not necessarily an extraordinary claim that I would dismiss out of hand. The fact is they squirm and get defensive because they know they don’t have the experience or language skills, or they spent an insignificant amount of time on some vacation trip.

      As for the wine, I cannot claim the same expertise in them as I do in pro-Kremlin useful idiots, but I’ve been drinking Georgian wine, mostly Saperavi, for a few years now. I don’t like white and I try to only drink dry.

      We went to two wineries. The name of the first I don’t remember off the top of my head. It was pretty straight forward- come in, drink different types of wine and later cognac and chacha (Georgian grappa), and they speak a little about each. Then you have the opportunity to buy some of their wine and other products. This cost about 40 lari if I remember correctly, just under $20.

      The second winery was called Shumi and the brand is very good. Supposedly they export to Western Europe and possibly even the US. There we had an actual tour of the cellar, the casks, etc. The tasting was pretty much the same, but they also had another product, similar to cognac, called Zigu. Unfortunately they supposedly don’t export that.

      Reply
      1. Peter Hitchens

        OK then, sweetie, since you say you are responding directly to me. I lived in the Soviet Union, later Russia, from June 1990 until October 1992, as an accredited correspondent, and have been back several times since. Here are a couple of examples of despatches written on a couple of those subsequent visits; http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2014/11/getting-putin-right-but-russia-wrong-two-old-articles-.html.

        Several more, should you be interested, are to be found at my archived, indexed blog.

        My Russian is feeble (I had three months in which to learn it before going to live there) , which is why, while I was living there and on subsequent visits, I have been careful to use high-quality translators, which my newspapers have been able to pay for, for interviews and other necessary translations.

        I make no claim to an encyclopaedic knowledge of Russian history. You are, however, right to note that most Western people have so little idea of Russian history and geography that they can even learn from me.

        If you care to dispute any of the facts in my article, or indeed my other writings on the subject, I am happy to engage. I can well understand , if you are perhaps a Ukrainian or Polish nationalist, that you would disagree with the weight I give to certain facts and events. I have Polonophile friends with whom I have such disagreements, as I regard them as excessively defensive and insufficiently critical about certain aspects of that country. No doubt there are faults on both sides. This is unavoidable and normal,and the intelligent reader takes it into account. I am also on very good terms with my old friend Edward Lucas, with whom I utterly disagree on the Western attitude towards Russia. even so, we can disagree without spite or rancour, and learn from each other as a result.

        Even so, the standard-issue Western media view of Russia is currently little short of moronic, and, worse, dangerous, and any corrective is therefore worthwhile, and valuable in itself. Your attack shows little sign of recognising the possibility, inherent in life, that you might yourself in any way be mistaken.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Actually I said in several different venues that your article was merely a straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s really more of a “composite character,” based on a few other writers.

        The problem, however, is not so much a matter of facts but interpretations. For example let’s start with this:

        “Oddly, this “expansion” only seems to be occurring in zones that Moscow once controlled, into which the E.U. and NATO, supported by the U.S., have sought to extend their influence.”

        The fact that Moscow used to control these territories is irrelevant. What is more, the only former Soviet republics in NATO are the Baltic states. While most would argue that the Warsaw Pact nations were controlled from Moscow, with the exception of Poland none of these nations were historically controlled by Moscow and once again, if they were it is irrelevant.

        Getting to the topic of “US expansion” I’d refer you to the Helsinki Act of 1975, which the USSR and signed. This affirmed the right of sovereign nations to enter into alliances and international organizations as they see fit.

        If Russia’s angry about the stampede of former allies or union republics towards NATO and the EU, perhaps they ought to sit down and have a long think about why these countries do this. If Russia is indeed surrounded by hostile countries, maybe it’s time to ask why that is the case. Germany did horrible things to all its neighbors in WWII, yet now it is surrounded by friends and allies (EU grumbling aside). The US seriously contemplated war with the British Empire in Canada during the interwar period, yet since then the idea is so laughable that there’s actually a comedy movie about the idea. Why is this? Why is the US, which does indeed act arrogantly, not surrounded by enemies? Why is Germany not surrounded by them?

        Then there’s this:

        “The U.S. has not really been invaded at all, unless you count Britain’s 1814 rampage through Washington, DC (almost exactly two years after Napoleon Bonaparte had made a far more destructive and less provoked attack upon Moscow). But Russia is invaded all the time—by the Tatars, the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Swedes, the French, us British, the Germans, the Japanese, the Germans again: They keep coming.”

        First of all, all of this is basically irrelevant to what Putin is doing today, for a number of reasons. First of all, a number of countries have long histories of invasion and conquest. Germany certainly, France, having been occupied in living memory. Should we tolerate these countries waging aggression against neighbors, especially considering that both have “lost lands” they can claim? Of course not.

        Again my problem isn’t so much a matter of facts, but the use of such encyclopedic facts to deliver what is a quite frankly dishonest message. What’s dishonest is taking advantage of that Western ignorance by blindsiding them with historical facts that aren’t exactly relevant to the issue at hand. I could rattle off all sorts of facts about Operation Barbarossa and its consequences for Russia (and more so Belarus and Ukraine), but none of this really has anything to do with what Putin is actually doing.

        Let’s take for example these claims of NATO encirclement. Russia has shared a border with NATO states since 2004. Where was the dire threat back then? Far more importantly, what people ignore about NATO expansion is that while the territory has expanded (because sovereign states joined it), the military presence dropped rapidly. Every time you see something about more fighters being deployed in the Baltics or US heavy armor returning to Europe- ask yourself where these things were before. Truly the US was pulling out of Europe and part of that process is still open.

        And here’s the thing- Putin could not have been ignorant of these facts. His intelligence services had to have had information on US and NATO deployments, and taking these facts into account one would have to be absolutely insane to imagine that Operation Barbarossa II was in the planning stage. It is clear from US investment in Russia (and vice versa) that the US does not have anything to gain from destroying or crippling that country, a large emerging market for US exports.

        Getting back to historical facts, sure, we can speak about invasion of Russia, and we can also speak about Russian invasions. When we consider territory that was once controlled (or still controlled) by Moscow, it’s worth remember how they came under that control in the first place.

        Start with the bloody conquest of Qazan, Asktrakhan, and Siberia, for example. The conquest of the Crimean Khanate and the Caucasus led to mass deportations and death. The Ukrainian cossacks who sided with the Russians soon found their privileges and freedom taken away, and in the 19th century printing in the Ukrainian language was banned by the Tsarist government.

        I could go on, but the point here is that if we’re going to talk about Russia’s long history of being invaded, we can just as easily speak about its long history of invasion and aggression, something that is often completely ignored even by Russia critics. As it turns out, rapid expansion and wars can often galvanize coalitions and create rivals.

        I do not feel that one need be a Polish or Ukrainian nationalist to take issue with your claims. One need only recognize that Poles and more importantly, Ukrainians, are people with agency and their own goals, dreams, an ideas- some lofty and some positively horrible. But still- there is agency.

        When you say it’s ridiculous to compare Russia to the USSR I am in total agreement. For one thing, China is basically taking Central Asia out from under Russia’s nose, in spite of defense treaty’s and economic agreements. Putin has lost Ukraine forever, and even Belarus happily flouts Kremlin foreign policy by not recognizing the Crimean annexation and not aiding the Russian sanctions regime.

        Moreover Russia lacks any coherent ideology and is a highly capitalistic state, state intervention notwithstanding.

        I also highly doubt claims that Russia plans to overtly invade and annex part of or all of Ukraine, and definitely don’t believe they’re stupid enough to make a play for any of the Baltic states, all NATO members.

        That being said, Putin has caused considerable suffering in Ukraine, and it is not out of any fear of NATO expansion. It is largely a matter of self-preservation. Ukraine must fail, because if it doesn’t Russians might get the idea that they can change the situation in their country.

        As for admitting that I was mistaken, you’re talking to a guy who has done that numerous times in my life. And I was indeed mistaken in lumping you in with certain expat writers who drive me up the wall. Unfortunately living here these days and working in this “industry” often breeds cynicism and knee-jerk reactions. I’m trying to work on it; that’s about all I can say.

        Now if you accept my apologies for my incivility I would only ask that you talk to a broad section of Ukrainians and treat them as a sovereign nation of people with their own agency, instead of pawns in some kind of East-West struggle who belong in someone’s sphere of influence. I might add that Western media has often been just as guilty of that.

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I might also point out that your comments about Yeltsin and various US allies are spot on- things I’ve mentioned numerous times. But none of this excuses what the Putin regime has been doing as of late, specifically their military aggression in Ukraine.

      4. Babka

        Actually schmuck, Averko has been in Russia before you, in addition to knowing a lot more than yourself about Russia related history, foreign policy, sports and foreign policy issues, as well as English language media matters pertaining to Russia.

        Keep censoring at your toilet of a blog, you loser, who posts under a fictitious name.

      5. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Averko has never demonstrated any proof that he’s been in Russia, and much of his writing suggests otherwise. When I asked him about it from the beginning, he got extremely defensive. His attempt to swear at me in Russian after repeated questions about his Russian experience and ability was simply hilarious. He’s such a joke I’m guessing he could be you.

      6. Babka

        NY is a big place with or without Averko.

        You talk shit under a fictitious name. I’ve yet to see you refute ANY of his articles.

      7. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Don’t need to. Anyone who thinks Averko knows anything about Russia isn’t worth my time. Enjoy gnashing your teeth and shaking your fist at your screen with impotent nerd rage, loser.

  2. Sanchez Garcia

    Peter Hitchens was a Correspondent in Moscow for an English newspaper for some years during the transition from Communist to Democracy in Russia….has visited there several times afterwards ,speaks the language and is an abudantly smart bloke. Nobody out of the plentiful who disagree with Hitchens views on a variety of topics would call him uninformed or stupid. Why wouldn’t you do an attempted rebutal of his piece and not this misdirected and peculiar ad-hominem thing?

    If not at P.H. then who is this ill-constructed diatribe against for commmenting on ” what they don’t know anything about”? Mark Ames? Eric Knauss? Stephan Cohen? Richard Sakwa? Or the large majority of the Russian population who share similar views in that same piece and who….wait for it…..actually know Russia,Ukraine, their history, the Russian language and American “good intentions” far better than me or you?

    My previous paragraph is not establishing that they are right ( though I believe that is the case)…but that they are in a position of enough authority and qualification to have a respected opinion on the subject……something your post strangely seeks to remove from them.

    If they are regurgitating from Wikipedia for their talking points……..it could be they are regurgitating their own quoted talking points…. that are also citated on Wikipedia.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The fact that Hitchens has such experience makes the article even worse. If you have a point to make, make it without irrelevant references.

      Yes, Russia has been invaded in the past. So what? Doesn’t justify aggression against its neighbors. Yes, Russia is attacking a country it used to control? So what? Russia recognized those borders in both a bilateral treaty and the Budapest Memorandum. Hitchens is just trying to drop these random facts (which can in fact be learned via Wikipedia) in hopes that his audience will be impressed and think he’s providing some sort of insight they won’t find elsewhere. It’s highly dishonest.

      In any case this isn’t aimed only at him. His piece was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      “Or the large majority of the Russian population who share similar views in that same piece and who….wait for it…..actually know Russia,Ukraine, their history, the Russian language and American “good intentions” far better than me or you?”

      Actually many average Russians hold ridiculous misconceptions about these things. It’s not really unique either. Most Americans will invoke the “Founding Fathers” or Constitution without really having any knowledge of either.

      Reply
    2. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I should also point out that in the case of academics like Cohen, a guy who basically accused Ukraine of invading itself in one article, a PhD is not a license to spout bullshit.

      I’m afraid that some of these folks, in the course of their work, formed sentimental, emotional ties with people in Russia and then somehow project those ideas onto a regime I’m afraid they simply don’t understand.

      Reply
      1. Xavier F.

        Thanks for the great post Jim, I’d add that you should always try to mention “the Russian soul” to add a touch of mystery and exoticism to whatever you’re trying to say about Russia (it seems to be much more prevalant among French “experts” though, must be their romantic view of the East!). I’d be very interested to read Cohen’s article that you mention, do you have a link to it?

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        It’s weird but the article by Mark Adomanis that is a response to that Cohen piece has been deleted off of Forbes. See the link from here: http://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinion/op-ed/mark-adomanis-the-nation-accuses-ukraine-of-plotting-to-seize-its-own-territory-359168.html

        Perhaps by using the date and checking The Nation’s archives one can track down the article he’s responding to. I remember there was a link in Adomanis’ piece and I did follow it.

        I must profusely apologize for forgetting to including something about the enigmatic Russian soul in this post. That’s really rookie-league work there. I have to get back into my A-Game.

    3. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Also if you want an idea of what the average Russian “knows” about Ukraine, I’ve been repeatedly told by Russians that the Ukrainian language was invented by:

      A. The Polish
      B. The Austrians
      C. Lenin. Yes, Lenin.

      Reply
      1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

        Peter Hitchens is regarded, pretty much, as a joke in the UK. He is a right-wing moralist who used to be a Trotskyist and now, when not yakking on about NATO, reckons our drug laws are too soft and gays are ruining civilisation.

      2. Mr. Hack

        Yes, I’ve heard these stupid unsubstantiated BS statements too. Besides not being able to substantiate any details of how and when this nefarious project took place, their thesis really breaks down when you ask them to explain how and when the Ukrainian language spread from Austrian and Polish dominated Galicia to Central and Eastern Ukraine, always the vast bulk of Ukrainian people (who supposedly were content little creatures that originally all spoke in Muskovian, Russian). Sheesh, what a bunch of hooey! 🙂

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        They also can’t explain how Ukrainian is far closer related to old Russian (as in Kyivian Rus times) than modern Russian (Muscovite).

        Also it’s rather amusing to think that the Poles would invent the Ukrainian language or anything that would help build that identity since they were famous for encouraging Polonization every chance they got.

      4. Sanchez Garcia

        “Ukrainian is far closer related to old Russian (as in Kyivian Rus times) than modern Russian”

        No it isn’t. The roles of A & C in Ukrainian language development are highly documented….as is the times when a country referring to itself as the “Ukraine” came into existence.

      5. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Then how do you account for the fact that Ukrainian-speakers find it far easier to read texts from Kyivian Rus compared to Russian speakers? Also the time that a country was known by a particular title is irrelevant.

      6. Jim Kovpak Post author

        And while I’ll admit that my research into the linguistic question is nowhere near in depth as my historical research on Ukraine, the fact remains that it was not an “invented” language.

      7. Asehpe

        The basic view of linguists (of which I am one) is that East Slavic, which branched off Ancient Slavic (Proto-Slavic) around the XII century, itself became a dialect continuum with different literary languages arising along its extension, including (Moscovian) Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian, probably already by the XV century. East Slavs shared many linguistic and cultural features (e.g., the habit of having three-word names, name-patronymic-family name; note that West or South Slavs don’t have that).

        Ukrainian has a number of conservative features: o-kanie (which means it didn’t change a number of Proto-East-Slavic *o’s into a’s, as did both Russian and Belarusian), the conservation of a separate vocative case (in -o), the conservation of full vocalic endings instead of word-final palatalization (i.e., in infinitives like розмовляти) or complete loss (e.g., the first-person plural form in -емо instead of -ем; cf. будемо), all of which were features of Old Russian texts (but note also the ubiquitous influence of Old Church Slavonic, which makes things more difficult to judge; still..;).

        All in all, it is indeed easier for Ukrainians to read Old Russian than for Russians — the latter have changed the language more than the more conservative Ukrainians. (I.e., in the linguistic sense, Ukrainian is the more conservative center, while Russian is the more peripheral, more changed variety — thus reversing the meanings of their names) — though even Ukrainians should study it if they really want to get the nuances right and not be foold by ‘false friends’. The claim that someone “invented” Ukrainian is as ridiculous as the suggestion that someone (Pushkin? Lermontov?) “invented” Russian — something I have also heard on occasion. Of course, standard, official versions of a language (the ‘literary language’) do have a more official history, and Ukrainian didn’t get a full standard language until the times of Taras Shevchenko. But this is not to say that the language was invented at that point, but rather simply codified.

      8. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Thanks for the more detailed background.

        I might add that in a way, Shakespeare and the King James Bible “invented” our modern English, even if it was earlier. And of course Early Modern English had been heavily distorted by Norman influence to the point that you could say they “invented” the English language. Thys is forhwy we ne sprekath swa thys. (I’m a bit rusty at the Englisc.)

      9. Dmitriev

        This is pure hilarity, Jim. Are you sure that those Russian “misconceptions” about Ukraine, the Ukrainian language, etc. are really worse than some Ukrainian “claims” about Russia, Russians, etc.? For example, the super common Ukrainian claim that the name “Russia” was made up (stolen) by Peter I (or Catherine II) in the 18th century and that Russia was called “Moscovia” before that. Or the claim that Russians under Peter or later “stole” their name from Ukrainians. I have heard supposedly educated people make these claims. I have also read in a Ukrainian emigre history book from the 1950’s or thereabouts that Russians are a mix of Finno-Ugrians and Mongols. This is another super common Ukrainian claim – that Russians are not Slavs, but Finno-Ugrians, etc, while Ukrainians of course are pure Aryan Slavs. This is said as a way to distance Ukrainians from Russians politically and is also a “racial” insult. Anyway, I have no doubt that many diaspora Ukrainians grew up on “history books” like the one mentioned above.

        Also, how do you reply to a reply here? Because I wanted to reply to your previous reply to me but I don’t see a reply button. What I want to say is this. You present a legalistic type of argument for why Russia is wrong and Ukraine should be supported in this conflict. The thing is, when people really believe something, they usually present moralistic or ethical arguments, rather than legalistic gobbledygook. Most of the people on the ground in Crimea don’t care about any Budapest Memorandum or anything else that the drunkard Yeltsin signed. And most Russians elsewhere don’t care either. We are not going to be treated like the Indians who sold off Manhattan for some shiny beads. We have nuclear weapons, bro – so it ain’t going down like that.

        You ask if Russian regions should have the right to separate from Russia – as far as I’m concerned, yes, they should. I’m not afraid of that. Because, at the end of the day, if you don’t want to be here, then I don’t want you here and I don’t want to force you to have to be here – that’s my attitude on this. Regarding Tatarstan, there is no substantial separatist movement in Tatarstan right now and there wasn’t in 1992 either. But if there was, I would respect it and oppose the use of military force to suppress it. Regarding separatist sentiment in the Donbass, it depends on which raions you look at. If look at some place like Aleksandrov raion in Donetsk oblast, with over 90% rural ethnic Ukrainians, there’s very little separatist sentiment there obviously. But there are other areas where ethnic Russians and other non-Ukrainians make up around 50% or more of the population, and these places would vote overwhelmingly to separate from Ukraine right now. In those areas, a huge part of the “passport Ukrainians” would vote along with the “passport Russians” to separate.

        When you talk about polls on separatist sentiment in the Donbass, you’re referring to polls that were taken before the war really began, when most Donbass residents still associated “Ukraine” with the Ukraine of Yanukovych. They certainly weren’t thinking of the Ukraine of Vyatrovych, Parubiy, and Poroshenko. And you know, if you had any confidence in the claim that separatist sentiment is uniformly low in the Donbass, you should and would support a free, transparent referendum to settle the matter and end this conflict. Thing is, most Ukrainians and the Ukrainian government know that such a referendum wouldn’t go their way, and that’s why they oppose it.

        You say that if the “Russian military/intelligence apparatus” left the Donbass, the DNR and LNR would cease to exist “overnight”. lol And what would happen if the Ukrainian military/intelligence apparatus left?

      10. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Okay let’s start with your first set of retarded claims. Russia as we know it was indeed known as Muscovy or Muscovia until Peter I formalized the Greek-derived name Rossiya and formally created the modern Russian Empire.

        Of course Muscovy and parts of it were once part of the lands of Rus, but those hadn’t been part of a unified territory since the time of the Golden Horde.

        There are a number of crackpot theories in Ukraine about Muscovites not being Slavs, but nobody with any intelligence pays attention to this.

        Your basic argument here is whatboutism, because you actually have no coherent argument.

        Your complaints about “legalistic” arguments regarding Crimea are bullshit because the Russians are more than happy to cite international law whenever they think it suits them. You can’t do this and then claim “historical justice” or “belief” when it doesn’t.

        The Russian government used a legalistic argument to claim that the Crimea was “illegally transferred” to the Ukrainian SSR, for example.

        It used a legalisic argument to cancel the Tatarstan referendum in 1992 (which passed, BTW).

        The reason they couldn’t have had a free and transparent referendum in Donbas is because some Russians invaded it and started a war. Prior to that- there was never any desire to separate. The Donetsk Republic existed as obscure organization as far back as 2006. Where was the support all that time?

        So here are some facts that are beyond debate:

        -Russia illegally annexed Crimea and is occupying it illegally.

        -Russia started a war in the Donbas and is currently occupying territory there.

        As far as your last question- we know what would happen- Russia would try to occupy the rest of Ukraine. But unfortunately for the midget in the Kremlin, Ukraine got an army very quickly, and “Kyiv in 48” hours evaporated into thin air within weeks.

      11. Jim Kovpak Post author

        First of all I’ve already told you that I reject nationalist pseudo-history that claims Muscovite Russians have nothing to do with Rus or that they are not Slavs or whatever. If we did some kind of DNA test we’d obviously find some different ethnic influences among Russian and Ukrainian populations due to the different populations they mixed with, but this really isn’t the best basis for dividing the people (it’s more linguistic and cultural) and it still wouldn’t debunk their common heritage.

        That being said, exonyms matter and they matter a bit more than some monarch’s claim. For example, Mehmet II claimed the title of Roman Emperor and he had some legitimacy for this claim, but if I went around calling Ottoman Sultans Roman emperors I’d be looked at as crazy. Ditto if I claimed that the Roman Empire actually fell in 1923 when the Ottoman Empire officially collapsed.

        Now that this trivial argument is out of the way, let’s deal with your laughably idiotic “logic.”

        “You present a legalistic type of argument for why Russia is wrong and Ukraine should be supported in this conflict. The thing is, when people really believe something, they usually present moralistic or ethical arguments, rather than legalistic gobbledygook. ”

        This is utter bullshit. First of all, there is a very good moral argument against invading and annexing parts of other countries just because you can.

        ” Most of the people on the ground in Crimea don’t care about any Budapest Memorandum or anything else that the drunkard Yeltsin signed.”

        Too fucking bad. You know a lot of Germans didn’t give a shit about Brest-Litovsk and Versailles.

        ” And most Russians elsewhere don’t care either. We are not going to be treated like the Indians who sold off Manhattan for some shiny beads. We have nuclear weapons, bro – so it ain’t going down like that.”

        So you basically admit that you’re aggressive fascists who are happy to threaten the world to get your way. Cool. Enjoy 1991. It’s coming again, and nobody’s going to take pity on you this time.

        “Regarding Tatarstan, there is no substantial separatist movement in Tatarstan right now and there wasn’t in 1992 either.”

        Incorrect. The referendum passed with a solid majority. I think it’s pretty clear why there isn’t such a movement today. The Kremlin’s policy is “self-determination for those we deem worthy.”

        “But there are other areas where ethnic Russians and other non-Ukrainians make up around 50% or more of the population, and these places would vote overwhelmingly to separate from Ukraine right now.”

        Right now- after a Russian invasion and occupation. Sure.

        “And you know, if you had any confidence in the claim that separatist sentiment is uniformly low in the Donbass, you should and would support a free, transparent referendum to settle the matter and end this conflict. ”

        Of course that can’t happen because someone invaded and occupied the Donbas. How convenient.

        Basically your post stands logic on its head. There was no significant separatist movement in Crimea or Donbas prior to the Russian invasion.

        This comment is idiotic beyond belief.

    4. Dmitriev

      Dude, “Jim Kovpak” is a Ukrainian nationalist and that’s really all you need to know. His point of view is just pure emotional anti-Russian bias and resentment. In this very thread, he basically admits that Russia does not plan to annex most of Ukraine, let alone attack NATO, yet he’s still crying about some Ukrainian suffering as if this is the most important thing in the world. At the same time, he doesn’t give a damn about the suffering inflicted by the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian nationalists. In his heart and mind, he knows perfectly well that the people of Crimea and the Donbass should be able to decide whether their territory remains part of Ukraine or not. But his petty nationalism won’t let him admit it. He desperately doesn’t want Russia to “get the last word” over Ukraine, to humiliate Ukraine “yet again” as he sees it.

      Reply
      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “Dude, “Jim Kovpak” is a Ukrainian nationalist and that’s really all you need to know.”

        Actually he’s not, something you’d notice if you’d ever actually read anything here. In fact I’m against nationalism in general. But then again, some folks to the east believe that anyone who believes Ukraine is a sovereign country is a raving nationalist.

        “In this very thread, he basically admits that Russia does not plan to annex most of Ukraine, let alone attack NATO, yet he’s still crying about some Ukrainian suffering as if this is the most important thing in the world. ”

        You have a weird definition of “crying,” but whatever. The reality is that Russia is still occupying Ukrainian territory, killing and imprisoning people there.

        Also you claim I write about this like it’s the most important thing in the world, yet the past four serious posts from the top are all about domestic American politics. Great reading there.

        “At the same time, he doesn’t give a damn about the suffering inflicted by the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian nationalists.”

        The Ukrainian army is obligated to carry out this war in a moral way. They have improved their performance greatly after the first year of war.

        But while that obligation remains,primary responsibility for the suffering must go to Russia, for initiating and sustaining a war.

        Your comment about nationalists causing suffering is just hilarious. I’ll keep it in mind today as I walk through the new Eurovision village they opened on Khreshchatyk.

        “In his heart and mind, he knows perfectly well that the people of Crimea and the Donbass should be able to decide whether their territory remains part of Ukraine or not.”

        Oh do citizens of the Russian Federation have that same right? Be careful how you answer. One way means you’re a hypocrite, and the other could mean 5 years for extremism.

        In 1992 Tatarstan had a referendum on independence which won by over 60%. No armed men seized the administration in Kazan like the Russians did in Simferopol. No violence whatsoever- the vote was fair. And Russia’s answer? The referendum “violated the constitution.” Same as the Crimean referendum, which was carried out by force.

        The Donbas referendum was even more illegal and nobody’s ever been able to show any polls suggesting that anything close to a majority ever wanted to break off or join Russia. If the entire Russian military/intelligence apparatus left Donbas tomorrow- the DNR and LNR would cease to exist overnight.

        “He desperately doesn’t want Russia to “get the last word” over Ukraine, to humiliate Ukraine “yet again” as he sees it.”

        You know people here can read for themselves, and they can read something other than this piece. My long time readers are laughing their asses off about me being a “Ukrainian nationalist.”

  3. Mr. Hack

    If anyone is interested in the development of both languages (Ukrainian and Russian), I would suggest that they just read the Wikipedia entries. From other background readings that I’ve done on the subject, both entries are good and give a credible account, including divergent theories etc; Although not perfect and sometimes full of bias (but what really isn’t?), Wikipedia, at least in this instance, offers good concise summaries of the historical knowledge here.

    Reply
  4. alkeilani

    There are other “pro-russian” talking points: 1° Russia has preserved its identity and culture, unlike Western countries threatened by mass immigration (atheism and islam are supposedly inexistent in Russia) ;
    2° Russia is an essential ally against terrorism, and has better counterterrorism policies than the USA, thanks to “abandoning political correctness” (see achievements in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Central Asia, and now Syria)

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Oh shit you’re right. I thought it was a new commentator because I had to approve it. I’m really sorry to alkeilani and I’ll delete that reply.

      You see how it is when you get comments that seriously advance those claims.

      Reply
  5. wildthang

    ignore/delete the first msg of mine, this is what I wanted to say:

    Jim, I do not believe, you have understood the alkeilani’s tone , he’s obviously just adding some of the “realist” talking points to your list

    Reply
  6. Curonian

    Heyhey! Thank you for writing this! I’m a Latvian journalist and a podcaster, making my show (The Eastern Border) explaining Russia and Soviet history to westerners because of “realist” articles like these. And you know after being blacklisted by Russia and receiving multiple death threats, it sort of stops being fun to be the only one out there, showing people how it really is like over here. So…yeah, a lot of thanks!

    Reply
  7. Jim Kovpak Post author

    One of the funniest things I find about the negative responses to this piece is that it isn’t even about who is more qualified to write about Russia or who’s a more qualified journalist. It’s about people who use their Russia knowledge in dishonest ways to sell a really poor argument. I can recite encyclopedic facts about a number of topics in history, but if I do that and then use it to sell some idea like eugenics or anarcho-capitalism then I’m not being entirely honest and I’m wasting everyone’s time. The words spend on historical cultural references could have been put to better use forming an argument.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: 9/10 Weekly Roundup | The Elicitor

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