02/03/2024, 19.18
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The universal "genocide" of the Soviet people

by Stefano Caprio

Internationally, 27 January is Holocaust Remembrance Day, but in Russia it also commemorates the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. Now for Russians, the Holocaust is no longer about the extermination of the Jews, but as a Nazi crime against various peoples, starting with the Soviets. In Kirill and Putin’s version, Moscow is presented as the bastion against the "hegemonic genocide" of the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko, in St Petersburg to discuss the prospects of a "unitary state" between Russia and Belarus, to which both would also like to add a "denazified" Ukraine.

In this regard, a special ceremony was organised, with the inauguration of a large monumental complex "In memory of the peaceful inhabitants of the USSR – victims of the Nazi genocide in the years of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945", solemnly using the word "genocide" for the first time to refer to the fate of the "Soviet people", the archetype of the unitary state that is now to be restored through "special military operations".

This new idea is also intended to replace all the rhetoric about the Holocaust, which is no longer about the Jews, now in disgrace in Russian eyes as proxies for the Western foe in the conflict with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are associated with the new notion of “genocide”.

In a vision of global confrontation between the different sides in today’s Great War, the Russians claim for themselves the image not only of the heroes of Victory, but also of the "victims in need of Revenge,” as the historian Konstantin Pakhaliuk put it in Novaya Gazeta Evropa.

Internationally, 27 January is Holocaust Remembrance Day, but in Russia, it is also the day of lifting of the Siege of Leningrad (now St Peterburg), a real tragedy and a real act of extermination by the Nazis during World War II, with hundreds of thousands of people killed fighting or from hunger during the 900 days of the blockade of Russia’s northern capital.

If last year Putin met with representatives of Jewish communities, talking about the universal significance of the Holocaust for the Jewish people, this year he did not utter a word other than about the suffering of the Soviet people, solemnly promising to lead the struggle for the eradication of "Nazism in the contemporary world, in every country, whatever it is called”.

The reference was not only to Ukraine, but also to a vision of a worldwide conflict, with explicit references to the Baltic countries, which are coming under increasing Russian pressure every day.

To think that the United Nations picked 27 January in 2005 precisely out of respect for Russia, to remember the day in 1945 when the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp from the Nazi horror towards the Jews.

Today, the Holocaust is no longer seen by Russians as the extermination of the Jews, but rather as a Nazi crime against various peoples, starting with the Soviets. At least, this is the idea voiced recently by the Russian Military-Historical Association and the Institute of History of the Moscow Academy of Sciences, echoed in a speech by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

When Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that "the Holocaust is not only a Jewish tragedy,” she sparked a diplomatic row with Israel. With a quasi-denialist view, she argued that since the Nazis killed people from other nationalities, there was nothing special about the war against the Jews among Nazi persecutions and massacres.

The Russian media, such as RIA Novosti and Izvestia, was apparently caught off guard with respect to this reinterpretation of the "history of genocide", and published instead traditional reports on the history of the Jewish Holocaust.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Moscow government newspaper, wrote that the Nazis exterminated "only Jews and Gypsies on an ethnic basis," and even Z-social media, the most pro-Kremlin war sites, did not mention the "genocide of the Soviet people."

The Russian Jewish Congress held its traditional Holocaust Remembrance Week, with activities at the Holocaust Centre, and President Putin sent greetings to the Jewish Museum, which was not posted on the official website of the Russian Presidency.

Conversely, Russian media ganged up against European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, for her statement that “Allied Forces liberated the concentration and death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau” without mentioning the Red Army, as if it were only a Russian-Soviet initiative.

More and more, the word "genocide" is being used abusively, along with the sidelining of Jewish tragedy.

To justify the special military operation that began two years ago, Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev) first spoke of the “genocide of the Ukrainian people" due to the alleged persecution of Russian speakers in the Donbass.

The patriarch, who celebrated the 15th anniversary of his enthronement on 1 February, has used the term several times on different occasions, especially to speak out against the genocide of Christians forced to flee the Middle East and Syria because of Islamic wars.

Genocide is understood as the "uprooting" of ethnic, national, cultural, and religious groups, to include also all forms of colonial policy that oppress and erase different identities.

Russia, with its imperial and Soviet history, should therefore a top example for “colonialist genocide", while in the Kirill-Putin version of things, the country is described as the bastion against the "hegemonic genocide" of the West.

In their view, the Anglosaksy (англосаксы) claim the right to impose a pre-packaged and homogenised vision of the world and way of life, while the Russians extol the “traditional values" of every people and religion, inspired by the salvific Orthodoxy of the Russian World.

To support this mythological theory, historical revisionism has to be harnessed full time, proposing at each turn of events, a reading that is different from that of the adversaries and their subjects.

The "genocide of the Soviet people" is therefore evident not so much and not only in the sacrifice of so many people during the invasion of Hitler's armies, but also in the forced split between Russians and Ukrainians, which the Nazis tried to do and which the Americans succeeded in doing after the end of the Soviet Union, by creating the "artificial state" of Ukraine subjugated to the West.

The patriarch highlights this temptation to divide, rereading past centuries, together with other top clergy in the Russian Church, something that Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev, now in exile in Hungary ad majorem Kirilli gloriam) has done for years, lashing out at the Greek-Catholic "Uniates" as the true inspirers, since 1600, of the "Maidan coup d'état" fomented by the West.

The demonisation and dehumanisation of Ukrainians go hand in hand with their reduction to scapegoats for the actions of global and collective "Nazis" and "fascists", the new categories by which we can read contemporary reality, which are perfectly associated with the reversed description of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Genocide thus becomes the "call of the wild", the whistle to tame the rabid dog, a term to attract all those who have feelings of resentment towards the masters of the world, who feel marginalised and oppressed, hence, absolutely suited to join the Russian world.

The celebrations of the patriarchal jubilee are a consecration of the "Orthodox" war, understood as a reaction to every attack by heretics, like the 8th century iconoclasts who rejected the depiction of Christ and the saints, and whose defeat is celebrated by the liturgical feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, repeatedly cited by Kirill in relation to the war in Ukraine.

The official website of the Moscow Patriarchate presents "triumphant" statistics of Kirill’s Patriarchate, which began when Putin's Russia started its campaigns against "genocide" in the Caucasian lands, invading part of Georgia.

It proclaims that "the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church includes 16 countries, and its parishes are active in 87 other states, so that the Russian Church is now present in 103 countries of the world.”

The number of eparchies went from 159 in 2009 to 325 today, with three great exarchates in the "far abroad" – Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa – for a total of 62 metropolises and 400 bishops, twice as many as 15 years ago, plus an increase in priests from 30,000 to more than 40,000 – not to mention the monasteries, now over a thousand around the world.

Kirill's Church is the soul of Putin and Lukashenko's Russia, of the "real Ukraine" that is returning to the origins of Rus', of continents "Russified" no only by language and politics, but also by the rejection of "genocide", no longer from the real past, but from an imaginary future – a sacred icon to be painted in the image and likeness of those who will be its masters and exarchs.


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See also
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