Ukraine is not a two-nation state. Russian imperialism should not be rewarded.
Why is there no uproar over ‘liberal’ Russians who regularly criticize virtually everything about Ukraine – from its politics & policies, to its language and culture? Why don’t westerners challenge these ‘liberals’ when they absurdly accuse many Ukrainians of “enthonationalism”?
Why do they not challenge these ‘liberal’ Russians when they accuse Ukrainians of being “xenophobic” when Ukrainians say they do not trust Russia as a neighbour – the country waging unprovoked and unlawful war on Ukraine? Why assume that a Russian critical of Ukraine and Ukrainians is well-intentioned?
Why are Russian visions of Ukrainian society considered at all? Who cares what the historical and present day oppressors want for Ukraine? Why is it ignored that even many ‘liberal’ Russians view Ukraine and Ukrainians through the ugly lens of Russian chauvinism and imperialism?
Why is their vision of a “multicultural” “two-nation” Ukraine (which sees Russian language & culture as official part of Ukraine) taken at face value? Why is it ignored that Ukraine can be a multicultural & multiethnic nation which has a Ukrainian cultural, linguistic & political identity?
It is difficult not to conclude that for many westerners, the opinions of ‘liberal’ Russians about Ukraine have merit because of the Russocentric understanding of Eastern Europe. Many westerners have internalized Russian understanding of Ukraine, and view Ukraine through that lens.
It is difficult not to suspect this bias. Why else begrudge Ukraine the right to fashion itself in a way that is consistent with other western democracies on the matter of identity? And why deny Ukraine this right after centuries of Kremlin oppression & destruction?
Ukrainians have fought for centuries for their freedom and independence from various colonizing forces, most notably Russian. Part of this independence and sovereignty is the right to enjoy a culture which is Ukraine’s own, not one that was forcibly imposed by its colonizers.
It is dishonest & manipulative to equate a culturally Ukrainian Ukraine with ethnonationalism, xenophobia, extremism, etc. It is dishonest and manipulative to say Ukrainian Ukraine will be undemocratic & hostile to other cultures.
It is perfectly consistent for a democratic state with citizens of various ethnicities and cultures to have one cultural and linguistic political national identity, and for that political national identity to be its own.
There is no expectation that Ukrainians must be ethnically Ukrainian. There is no expectation that Ukrainians speak only Ukrainian. But there is an expectation that Ukrainians can speak the country’s official language, and that the country itself operates in the official language.
And it is a reasonable expectation that Ukraine be free to enjoy a unified national identity after the deliberate destruction of the Ukrainian national idea. Ukrainians were killed in cold blood on the streets for speaking Ukrainian for a reason – to destroy and subjugate them.
Ukraine has a right to exist. It has a right to its sovereignty and identity. The notion of a national identity which includes as its core identity the culture and language of its historical and modern day oppressor is cruel, unjust, and unethical.
To impose on Ukraine the notion of a ‘two culture’ state because of the success of brutal and aggressive forced Russification is to place the crown of strength and legitimacy on all colonizers and aggressors, and to keep the victims shackled to their aggressors forever.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but for moral perspective, I invite people to consider what it would mean to ask Israel to include German as an official language. To say that Germans had a say about how Jews should structure their political society. Now consider Russia & Ukraine…
I’ve said this many times before – a strong national identity is a key part of Ukraine’s existence. Putin could have never pulled off a Crimea or Donbas type of invasion in Western Ukraine. This cultural aspect of Ukraine has strong political & security implications which shouldn’t be ignored.