3 June 2014

Russian nationalism on the move.

Interesting article from New York Times on the situation in Eastern Ukraine. The article treads lightly on the responsibility of the Russian government. Yet to me Putin (and the Russian government) is the prime culprit behind the unrest and loss of life in Eastern Ukraine. Putin obtained explicit permission from his rubber stamp parliament to invade Ukraine. Putin massed troops on the border of Ukraine. Either he intended to invade and change his mind,  or he just wanted to intimidate Ukraine and inflame Russian nationalism in Eastern Ukraine.  Putin stated publicly that the formation of Ukraine as a separate country in 1991 was illegitimate, and that large parts of Ukraine really should be part of Russia. Putin annexed Crimea with the help of soldiers from the Russian base there, which he at first denied and then admitted.  Russian “volunteers” recruited and trained in Crimea,  armed with automatic weapons, soon showed up in Eastern Ukraine to foment unrest and organize an armed rebellion. These forces are now formidable, including many “volunteers” from Russia, armed with very sophisticated weapons from Russia. I don’t believe this would be possible without direction, or at least some involvement by the Russian government.

But more than anything else, Russia’s relentless propaganda attack on Ukraine, using its overwhelming control of media in Russia, and hired trollers on social media and news websites, has whipped up feelings, not only in Russia, but amongst Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine. That is what is behind much of the unrest there. What is most shocking to me is that so many Russians who live in the West just accept Russian nationalism and related propaganda. Beyond the daily falsification of news, well documented on sites like Stop Fake, it is the constant demonization of the Ukrainian government and state that is one of Russian’s main weapons in its  goal to destabilize Ukraine, all in the name of elevating Russia’s sense of its own might and power.

Russian nationalism will be an increasingly important source of destabilization in the world in the years to come. I don’t yet see the end of the troubles in Ukraine. If Russians living there can be roused to the siren call of Russian nationalism, and garner “volunteers” , often heavily armed, and other forms of military and financial support from  mother Russia,  the same scenario can be played out elsewhere where Russians live in large numbers. And if Russians can ignore national boundaries in the name of nationalism, will other nationalisms follow suit.


  1. Alex
    Posted June 5, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    It’s just a propaganda, nobody knows the truth

  2. Pavel Pustina
    Posted July 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  3. Dmitry
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Hello, Steve! I am from Crimea. You might be puzzled but we have really voted for Russia. 80-90% is pretty true figure.

    As you speak Russian, you would be interested in reading our the most popular local e-newspaper:


    • Danilo
      Posted September 8, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      I like languages and I like your site but this text is a terribly uninformed and biased waffle people turn out tons of on the internet. This kind of writing arouses bad feelings in people, and in my view, as an intellectual, you should know better than joining mass hysteria against Russians in the West. I wrote to prof.Pullum on Language Log, who was similarly horrified by Putin’s demands for territorial rights for Russian speakers in Ukraine, to point out to the inconsistencies in the views he expressed in the article and he kindly answered to my email. Prof.Pullum is a great intellectual, and I am a great admirer of his work, but his thinking on the subject of the crisis in Ukraine was similar inconsistent waffle as yours in this article, rich with misleading implications and mediocre writing one can find anywhere on the net. As there isn’t much space to go into more detail in commenting on your article here, I’ll only say that you should learn more about Donetsk and Lugansk before you start writing about the crisis in Donetsk in Lugansk. More than that, if it is to be Geoff and Steve who will take on the task of resolving conflicts in Ukraine or anywhere in the world, then the rest of the world should vote the same politicians Geoff and Steve vote. That would at least put a bit sense into the whole thing we are used to call democracy, wouldn’t you say so?

  4. Henry
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Mr you are clearly one side and you really should stop reading and watching the lame stream media. You can’t trust American news anymore you can Russian or e.u news.
    Why don’t you try to look at what the Russian and ukrainian people actually want (a survey done by ukraine noted that 90% of ukrainians have a positive opinion of Russia) and if your talking about rubber stamp parliaments maybe you show look at the atrocious treatment of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine by the nazi government (and before you say “oh he is a russki communist that watches Pravda” the eu labeled the current leading party of Ukraine a neo nazi organization until the year 2000 someing you never hear in u.s news.

  5. Isa
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Hi Steve,

    Before you write something like this you need to be good prepared because this is a serious topic. You need to read much about Ukraine and who lives there. Just to refresh your memory 96.77% of Crimean population wanted to join Russia. The was no bullet. Which “invasion” you´re talking about? Similar situation is in Donbas and easter Ukraine, except Ukrainian Army wants to invade Donezk and other cities opposed to their own will to join Russia. You need to know also how and when those Ukrainian border made are, and then you would have be better prepared


  6. Dmitry
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    You all said right. It is truth all truth. For example I watched video with Alexander Borodai (who now is head of DPR) in YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM4DAvNnMrU), video made 1-2 years ago about russian nationalism. Never before saw people from other country who feel this theme so good. Thank you from Ukraine.

  7. Henry
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    Wow this was a pretty disgusting post, Russian national pride is a threat to world stability sounds like typical Yankee bull crap. I won’t read this blog again (even though I’m not a Russian and this isn’t my people being insulted you clearly seem to be on of the idiots that thinks that the American empire is the saving grace of the world instead of a brutal genocide state which is what America is.)

  8. Nilolay
    Posted September 8, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Steve, you’re absolutely right, I know you’re watching Schuster Life and know quite a lot in addition to information from the New York Times, I live in Kharkov, eastern Ukraine , I know what’s really going on in the area of ​​counter-terrorist operations of the Ukrainian army, there are fighting my friends. The Russian army entered to Ukrainian territories , please do not believe many Russians they zombified by propaganda on Local TV, which operates in the style of Joseph Goebbels.

  9. Evgeniya
    Posted September 9, 2014 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Dear Steve,
    as you can see, I am from Russia, I have no idea, what our government is planning.
    But I can see only the people, who lost their houses and relatives…
    The only hope to begin from the very beginning was coming to Russia…
    We all are Slavian – the one big family) I prefer to share my love instead of spreading the war)

  10. Leonid
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m from Russia, and I can’t agree with you more. The country has gone completely mad and berserk, and it’s really frightening.

  11. Posted October 14, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Interesting blog on Ukraine and Russia, good read and very informative, and they all speak different languages !

  12. Dido
    Posted October 26, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi Steve,
    I like your site and I watch your videos often, but in my humble opinion you should keep posting articles about things you know like LANGUAGES and not politics. If you watch CNN, FOX and other mainstream media you will be brainwashed. Try to read or watch RT, or other channels on Youtube so you can compare and make conclusions on your own.
    Dido from Japan

    • Posted January 1, 2015 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      I don’t watch CNN or FOX and the little bit I have seen of RT is far worse. Your comments would be more useful if you commented on the issues.

  13. Dr Peter
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I came upon this article only by accident, but I have to say that, as a linguist and an avid reader in Ukrainian/Russian relations, I think you have a good point here. What Russia “did” in the East of Ukraine was do what they did in the West of the country after Lenin: they Russified the language and culture and, yes, even history to make Ukraine into an ideological satellite, as if it the two nations aren’t vastly different. I feel sorry for those who responded to your article with vitriol; they strike me ignorant and shady. I understand that Russian nationals or speakers might be slightly bothered by the point you made here, but, frankly, Ukrainians–and Georgians, and Letts and Estonians and Poles….–were long bothered by Russian propaganda for about 80 years. And it still continues.

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