I didn't read Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands. Did you? I loved his book On Tyranny. How did I miss this! My friend Melody turned me onto it yesterday. "Americans call the Second World War 'the Good War.' But before it even began, America’s ally Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens-- and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, German and Soviet killing sites fell behind the Iron Curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single story. With a new afterword addressing the relevance of these events to the contemporary decline of democracy, Bloodlands is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history and its meaning today.
Last week, Mariia Kravchenko provided her readers with an English translation of a Russian state propaganda article, What should Russia do with Ukraine? It describes," wrote Kravchenko, "ways how Russians want to wipe out Ukraine in the same way the Soviet regime did it. It’s important to spread this article. The Russian war should be stopped now. It was supposed to be stopped 8 years ago when it only began. 71% of Russians feel proud about this war. 75.5% of Russians approve of the idea of a military invasion of the next country and believe that it should be Poland. According to respondents, this is a logical continuation of the so-called 'military special operation of the Russian Federation.' The world should be aware of Russian methods, crimes, and plans. Putin will not stop until he is stopped."
We wrote about the inevitability of Ukraine’s denazification as early as last April. We do not need a Nazi, Banderite Ukraine, the enemy of Russia and a tool of the West used to destroy Russia. Today, the denazification issue has taken a practical turn.
Denazification is necessary when a considerable number of population (very likely most of it) has been subjected to the Nazi regime and engaged into its agenda. That is, when the “good people-- bad government” hypothesis does not apply. Recognizing this fact forms the backbone of the denazification policy and all its measures, while the fact itself constitutes its subject.
This is the situation Ukraine has found itself in. The fact that the Ukrainian voter was choosing between the “Poroshenko peace” and the “Zelenskyy peace” must not deceive you: Ukrainians were quite happy with the shortest way to peace via a blitzkrieg, which was strongly alluded to by the last two Ukrainian presidents when they were elected. This was the method used to “pacify” home antifascists in Odessa, Kharkiv, Dnipro[the RU original uses the city’s former name “Dnipropetrovsk”], Mariupol, and other Russian cities-- the method of total terror. And ordinary Ukrainians were fine with it. Denazification is a set of actions aimed at the nazified bulk of the population, who technically cannot be directly punished as war criminals.
Those Nazis who took up arms must be destroyed on the battlefield, as many of them as possible. No significant distinction should be made between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the so-called “nationalist battalions,” as well as the Territorial Defense, who have joined the two other types of military units. They are all equally complicit in the horrendous violence towards civilians, equally complicit in the genocide of the Russian people, and they don’t comply with the laws and customs of war. War criminals and active Nazis must be punished in such a way as to provide an example and a demonstration. A total lustration must be conducted. All organizations involved in Nazi actions must be eliminated and prohibited. However, besides the highest ranks, a significant number of common people are also guilty of being passive Nazis and Nazi accomplices. They supported the Nazi authorities and pandered to them. A just punishment for this part of the population can only be possible through bearing the inevitable hardships of a just war against the Nazi system, waged as carefully and sparingly as possible relates civilians. The further denazification of this bulk of the population will take the form of re-education through ideological repressions (suppression) of Nazi paradigms and a harsh censorship not only in the political sphere but also in the spheres of culture and education. It was through culture and education that the pervasive large-scale Nazification of the population was conducted, ensured by the guarantees of dividends from the Nazi regime victory over Russia, by the Nazi propaganda, internal violence and terror, and the 8-year-long war against the people of Donbas, who have rebelled against the Ukrainian Nazism.
Denazification can only be conducted by the winner, which means (1) their unconditional control over the denazification process and (2) the authority that can ensure such control. For this purpose, a country that is being denazified cannot possess sovereignty. The denazifier state, Russia, cannot take a liberal approach towards denazification. The denazifier ideology cannot be challenged by the guilty party that is being denazified. When Russia admits that Ukraine needs to be denazified, it essentially admits that the Crimea scenario cannot be applied to the whole Ukraine. In all fairness, this scenario was also not possible in the insurgent Donbas in 2014. Only the 8-year-long rebellion against the Nazi violence and terror managed to result in an internal unification and deliberate, explicit, broad-scale refusal of retaining any association with or relation to Ukraine, who has identified itself as a Nazi community.
The period of denazification can take no less than one generation that has to be born, brought upm and mature under the conditions of denazification. The nazification of Ukraine has been going on for more than 30 years-- starting from as early as 1989, when Ukrainian nationalism was given legal and legitimate forms of political self-expression and led the movement for “independence,” setting a course for Nazism.
The current nazified Ukraine is characterized by its formlessness and ambivalence, which allow it to disguise Nazism as the aspiration to “independence” and the “European” (Western, pro-American) path of “development” (in reality, to degradation) and claim that “there is no Nazism” in Ukraine, “only few sporadic incidents.” Indeed, there isn’t a main Nazi party, no Führer, no full-fledged racial laws (only a cutdown version in the form of repressions against the Russian language). As a result-- no opposition or resistance against the regime.
However, all listed above doesn’t make Ukrainian Nazism a “light version” of the German Nazism of the first half of the 20th century. Quite the opposite: since Ukrainian Nazism is free from such “genre” norms and limitations (which are essentially a product of political technologies), it can spread freely just like a basis for any Nazism-- both European and, in its most developed form, the American racism. That’s why there can be no compromise during denazification, as in the case of the “no to NATO, yes to EU” formula. The collective West is in itself the architect, source, and sponsor of Ukrainian Nazism, while the Banderite supporters from Western Ukraine and their “historical memory” is just one of the tools of the nazification of Ukraine. Ukronazism poses a much bigger threat to the world and Russia than the Hitler version of German Nazism.
Apparently, the name “Ukraine” cannot be kept as a title of any fully denazified state entity on the territory liberated from the Nazi regime. The people’s republics, newly created on the territories free from Nazism, must and will develop on the basis of practices of economic self-government and social security, restoration and modernization of systems of essential services for the population.
Their political direction cannot be neutral in practice: the redemption of their guilt before Russia for treating it like an enemy can be manifested only by relying on Russia in the processes of restoration, revival, and development. No “Marshall Plans” can be allowed to happen on these territories. No “neutrality” in the ideological and practical sense that is compatible with denazification can be possible. Individuals and organizations who are to become tools of denazification in the new denazified republics cannot but rely on the direct organizational and force support from Russia.
Denazification will inevitably include de-ukrainization-- the rejection of the large-scale artificial inflation of the ethnic component in the self-identification of the population of the historical Malorossiya and Novorossiya territories, which was started by the Soviet authorities. Being a tool of the Communist superpower, this artificial ethnocentrism was not left unclaimed after its fall. It was transferred in its subservient role to a different superpower (the power above states)-- the superpower of the West. It needs to be brought back within its natural boundaries and stripped of political functionality.
Unlike, for example, Georgia or the Baltic States, history has proved it impossible for Ukraine to exist as a nation-state, and any attempts to “build” such a nation-state naturally lead to Nazism. Ukrainism is an artificial anti-Russian construct that has no civilizational substance of its own, a subordinate element of an extraneous and alien civilization. Debanderization alone will not be enough for denazification: the Banderite element is only a hand and a screen, a disguise for the European project of the Nazi Ukraine, which is why the denazification of Ukraine means its inevitable de-europeanization.
The Banderite elites must be eliminated; their re-education is impossible. The social “bog,” which has actively and passively supported them through action and inaction, must go through the hardships of war and internalize the lived experience as a historical lesson and the redemption of its guilt. Those who didn’t support the Nazi regime and suffered from it and the war it started in Donbas must be consolidated and organized, must become the backbone of the new authorities, their vertical and horizontal framework. History has shown that the tragedies and dramas of the war time benefit the peoples who were tempted and carried away by their role as the enemy of Russia.
Denazification as a goal of the special military operation within the limits of the operation itself means a military victory over the Kyiv regime, the liberation of the territories from the armed supporters of nazification, the elimination of hard-line Nazis, the imprisonment of war criminals, and the creating of systemic conditions for further denazification in peacetime.
The latter, in its turn, must begin with the establishment of local governments, militia, and defense institutions, cleansed of Nazi elements, the launching on their basis of constituent processes to create a new republican statehood, the integration of this statehood into the close cooperation with the Russian agency on Ukraine denazification (newly established or reorganized on the basis of, for example, Rossotrudnichestvo), the adoption of the republican regulatory framework (legislation) on denazification under Russian control, the definition of boundaries and frameworks for the direct application of Russian law and Russian jurisdiction in the liberated territory in regard to denazification, the establishment of a tribunal for crimes against humanity in the former Ukraine. In this regard, Russia should act as the guardian of the Nuremberg Trials.
All of the above means that in order to achieve the denazification goals, the support of the population is necessary, as well as its transition to the Russian side after its liberation from the terror, violence, and ideological pressure of the Kyiv regime, and after their withdrawal from informational isolation. Of course, it will take some time for people to recover from the shock of military hostilities, to be convinced of Russia’s long-term intentions, meaning “they will not be abandoned.” It’s impossible to foresee exactly in which territories such a mass of the population will constitute a critically needed majority. The “Catholic province” (Western Ukraine, made up of five oblasts) is unlikely to become part of the pro-Russian territories. The exclusion line, however, will be found experimentally. Behind the line, a forcibly neutral and demilitarized Ukraine will remain, with the formally banned Nazism and hostile to Russia. This is where the haters of Russia will go. The threat of an immediate continuation of the military operation in case of non-compliance with the listed requirements must become a guarantee of the preservation of this obsolete Ukraine in a neutral state. Perhaps this will require a permanent Russian military presence on its territory. From the exclusion line to the Russian border, there will be a territory of potential integration into the Russian civilization, which is inherently anti-fascist.
The operation to denazify Ukraine, which began with a military phase, will follow the same logic of stages in peacetime as during the military operation. At each stage, it will be necessary to achieve irreversible changes, which will become the results of the corresponding stage. In this case, the necessary initial steps of denazification can be defined as follows:
• The elimination of armed Nazi formations (which means any armed formations of Ukraine, including the Armed Forces of Ukraine), as well as the military, informational, and educational infrastructure that ensures their activity;
• The establishment of people’s self-government institutions and militia (defense and law enforcement) of the liberated territories to protect the population from the terror of underground Nazi groups;
• The installation of the Russian information space;
• The seizure of educational materials and the prohibition of educational programs at all levels that contain Nazi ideological guidelines;
• Mass investigations aimed to establish personal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, the spread of Nazi ideology, and support for the Nazi regime;
• Lustration, making the names of accomplices of the Nazi regime public, involving them in forced labor to restore the destroyed infrastructure as punishment for Nazi activities (from among those who have not become subject to the death penalty or imprisonment);
• The adoption at the local level, under the supervision of Russia, of primary normative acts of denazification “from below,” a ban on all types and forms of the revival of Nazi ideology;
• The establishment of memorials, commemorative signs, monuments to the victims of Ukrainian Nazism, perpetuating the memory of the heroes of the struggle against it;
• The inclusion of a set of anti-fascist and denazification norms in the constitutions of the new people’s republics;
• The establishment of permanent denazification institutions for a period of 25 years.
Russia will have no allies in the denazification of Ukraine. Because this is a purely Russian business. And also because it is not just the Bandera version of Nazi Ukraine that will be eradicated. The process will also, and above all, affect Western totalitarianism, the imposed programs of civilizational degradation and disintegration, the mechanisms of subjugation under the superpower of the West and the United States.
In order to put the Ukraine denazification plan into practice, Russia itself will have to finally part with pro-European and pro-Western illusions, acknowledge itself as the last authority in protecting and preserving those values of historical Europe (the Old World) that deserve to preserve and that the West ultimately abandoned, losing the fight for itself. This struggle continued throughout the 20th century and found its expression in the world war and the Russian revolution, which were inextricably linked with each other.
Russia did everything possible to save the West in the 20th century. It implemented the main Western project that constituted an alternative to capitalism, which defeated the nation-states-- the Socialist red project. It crushed German Nazism, a monstrous offspring of the crisis of Western civilization. The last act of Russian altruism was its outstretched hand of friendship, for which it received a monstrous blow in the 1990s.
Everything that Russia has done for the West, it has done at its own expense, by making the greatest sacrifices. The West ultimately rejected all these sacrifices, devalued Russia’s contribution to resolving the Western crisis, and decided to take revenge on Russia for the help that it had selflessly provided. From now on, Russia will follow its own way, not worrying about the fate of the West, relying on another part of its heritage-- the leadership in the global process of decolonization.
As part of this process, Russia has a high potential for partnerships and alliances with countries that the West has oppressed for centuries and which are not going to put on its yoke again. Without Russian sacrifice and struggle, these countries would not have been liberated. The denazification of Ukraine is at the same time its decolonization, which the population of Ukraine will have to understand as it begins to free itself from the intoxication, temptation, and dependence of the so-called European choice.
Back to Snyder for a moment. Last week he delved into the mounting evidence of war crimes and atrocities being committed by the actual Nazis-- Putin and the Russian army: Russia's genocide handbook. "Russia," he explained in reference to the Kravchenko post above, "has just issued a genocide handbook for its war on Ukraine. The Russian official press agency RIA Novosti published last Sunday an explicit program for the complete elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such... As I have been saying since the war began, 'denazification' in official Russian usage just means the destruction of the Ukrainian state and nation. A 'Nazi,' as the genocide manual explains, is simply a human being who self-identifies as Ukrainian. According to the handbook, the establishment of a Ukrainian state thirty years ago was the 'nazification of Ukraine.' Indeed 'any attempt to build such a state' has to be a 'Nazi' act. Ukrainians are 'Nazis' because they fail to accept 'the necessity that the people support Russia.' Ukrainians should suffer for believing that they exist as a separate people; only this can lead to the 'redemption of guilt.'"
For anyone still out there who believes that Putin's Russia opposes the extreme right in Ukraine or anywhere else, the genocide program is a chance to reconsider. Putin's Russian regime talks of “Nazis” not because it opposes the extreme right, which it most certainly does not, but as a rhetorical device to justify unprovoked war and genocidal policies. Putin’s regime is the extreme right. It is the world center of fascism. It supports fascists and extreme-right authoritarians around the world. In traducing the meaning of words like "Nazi," Putin and his propagandists are creating more rhetorical and political space for fascists in Russia and elsewhere.
The genocide handbook explains that the Russian policy of "denazification" is not directed against Nazis in the sense that the word is normally used. The handbook grants, with no hesitation, that there is no evidence that Nazism, as generally understood, is important in Ukraine. It operates within the special Russian definition of "Nazi": a Nazi is a Ukrainian who refuses to admit being a Russian. The "Nazism" in question is "amorphous and ambivalent"; one must, for example, be able to see beneath the world of appearance and decode the affinity for Ukrainian culture or for the European Union as "Nazism."
The actual history of actual Nazis and their actual crimes in the 1930s and 1940s is thus totally irrelevant and completely cast aside. This is perfectly consistent with Russian warfighting in Ukraine. No tears are shed in the Kremlin over Russian killing of Holocaust survivors or Russian destruction of Holocaust memorials, because Jews and the Holocaust have nothing to do with the Russian definition of "Nazi." This explains why Volodymyr Zelens'kyi, although a democratically-elected president, and a Jew with family members who fought in the Red Army and died in the Holocaust, can be called a Nazi. Zelens'kyi is a Ukrainian, and that is all that "Nazi" means.
On this absurd definition, where Nazis have to be Ukrainians and Ukrainians have to be Nazis, Russia cannot be fascist, no matter what Russians do. This is very convenient. If "Nazi" has been assigned the meaning "Ukrainian who refuses to be Russian" then it follows that no Russian can be a Nazi. Since for the Kremlin being a Nazi has nothing to do with fascist ideology, swastika-like symbols, big lies, rallies, rhetoric of cleansings, aggressive wars, abductions of elites, mass deportations, and the mass killing of civilians, Russians can do all of these things without ever having to ask if they themselves on the wrong side of the historical ledger. And so we find Russians implementing fascist policies in the name of "denazification."
The Russian handbook is one of the most openly genocidal documents I have ever seen. It calls for the liquidation of the Ukrainian state, and for abolition of any organization that has any association with Ukraine. It postulates that the "majority of the population" of Ukraine are "Nazis," which is to say Ukrainians. (This is clearly a reaction to Ukrainian resistance; at war's beginning the assumption was that there were only a few Ukrainians and that they would be easily eliminated. This was clear in another text published in RIA Novosti, the victory declaration of 26 February.) Such people, "the majority of the population," so more than twenty million people, are to be killed or sent to work in "labor camps" to expurgate their guilt for not loving Russia. Survivors are to be subject to "re-education." Children will be raised to be Russian. The name "Ukraine" will disappear.
Had this genocide handbook appeared at some other time and in a more obscure outlet, it might have escaped notice. But it was published right in the middle of the Russian media landscape during a Russian war of destruction explicitly legitimated by the Russian head of state's claim that a neighboring nation did not exist. It was published on a day when the world was learning of a mass murder of Ukrainians committed by Russians.
Russia's genocide handbook was published on April 3, two days after the first revelation that Russian servicemen in Ukraine had murdered hundreds of people in Bucha, and just as the story was reaching major newspapers. The Bucha massacre was one of several cases of mass killing that emerged as Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region. This means that the genocide program was knowingly published even as the physical evidence of genocide was emerging. The writer and the editors chose this particular moment to make public a program for the elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such.
As a historian of mass killing, I am hard pressed to think of many examples where states explicitly advertise the genocidal character of their own actions right at at the moment those actions become public knowledge. From a legal perspective, the existence of such a text (in the larger context of similar statements and Vladimir Putin's repeated denial that Ukraine exists) makes the charge of genocide far easier to make. Legally, genocide means both actions that destroy a group in whole or in part, combined with some intention to do so. Russia has done the deed and confessed to the intention.