01/27/2024, 09.12
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Ukraine between Lenin and Putin

by Stefano Caprio

Russian state media depict Lenin as "the inventor of Ukraine", therefore the real culprit of the ongoing conflict, as opposed to the enlightened leadership of Stalin. In reality, Putin is the inventor of a new mythological Russia, who rereads ancient and recent stories in his own way to impose a new empire.

The centenary of the death of Vladimir Uljanov, known as Lenin, is being remembered these days not only in Russia, but throughout the international press, as he was one of the figures who determined the course of events throughout the 20th century.

The century following his death is once again confronted with his legacy, in a context of repeated wars that reflect some of the motivations of the revolution and the civil war between Russia and Ukraine.

In them the leader of the Bolsheviks had to express the concept of nation and socialism, leading to the proclamation of the Soviet Union in 1922, shortly before being debilitated by a stroke which left him to the attentive care of Stalin, and finally to his death.

In the current rhetoric of Putin's war, the founder of the communist empire is remembered in very different ways from the myth of Soviet times, which canonized him in the mausoleum still present on Red Square, increasingly grotesque and cumbersome by now.

In the state media, in the comments of propagandists and in the statements of the leaders of today's Russia themselves, Lenin is represented as "the inventor of Ukraine", therefore the real culprit of the ongoing conflict, as opposed to the enlightened leadership of Stalin, who tried to remedy the errors of his predecessor.

It was Putin himself who used this argument on February 21, 2022, two days before crossing the Western borders with his entire army, stating that Ukraine was born "as a result of Bolshevik politics", and that the current Kiev state "is can rightfully call the Ukraine of Lenin, who was its author and architect, as documents show, and now his descendants are tearing down monuments to Lenin, for what they call de-communistization”.

Starting from this judgment, the new myth of an artificial Ukraine without historical foundations arises, being in reality nothing more than a part of Russia occupied today by the Westerners, which therefore must be de-Nazified and reunited in the original sobornost.

The truth of the post-revolutionary events tells us rather that Lenin had to invent a new Russia, putting together the pieces of the tsarist empire that he himself had brought down, and that indeed he was forced to recognize a Ukraine that he had not imagined, and that he never wanted to.

In fact, in 1918 the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) was proclaimed in Kiev, which the Bolsheviks tried in vain to take under their control. To recover those territories, Lenin understood that he would have to recognize the independence of this state, and make many concessions to the specificity of the Ukrainian language and culture, putting an end to the centuries-old Russification that was imposed by the empire of the tsars, even with bloody repression.

Socialist Ukraine occupied most of the current territories, including Donbass, and Leninist Russia then waged a ruthless war against it, which also included the extermination of the population of the capital Kiev.

Thousands of Kievlians fell victims of the Bolsheviks, including many members of the Orthodox clergy, starting with Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogojavlenskij), killed during the assault of 7 February 1918 and whose remains are found in the Kiev Cave Lavra.

After this attack by the Russians, the leaders of the UNR managed to return to Kiev only two months later, with the support of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies, but already in April 1918 the democratic Tsentralnaya Rada was replaced with the authoritarian regime of the hetman Pavel Skoropadskij, with the blessing of the Austrians.

At the end of the year, with the exit of the Germanic troops, the People's Republic was restored and survived only until 1920, when it was disintegrated by enemies from all sides: the Bolsheviks, the counter-revolutionary White Armies, the armies of Poland and of Romania.

When Lenin finally "created" Ukraine in 1921, the country was divided into various parts and various identities, starting from the socialist one of the UNR and the dictatorial one of Skoropadsky, with which the Bolsheviks had had no relationship.

Lenin had declared war on the Rada since 1918, but at the time of the capitulation of Brest, on 3 March of that year, towards the European central powers, he was forced to de facto recognize the independence of Ukraine.

In 1921 the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (RSFSR) therefore had to recognize the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in the context of the signing of the Riga Peace Treaty with Poland, also signed by the Ukrainians as an independent entity.

Only in 1922 was the Soviet Union finally proclaimed, which also included the already existing USSR, which was not invented by Lenin. It was not the Bolsheviks who established the territories and borders of Soviet Ukraine, but it was the Ukrainians who conquered and defended them, even agreeing to join the new State then collapsed in 1991, causing all claims among the Soviet republics themselves to fall, beyond biased historical reconstructions.

The UNR, which later became USSR, had been invaded by the Germans and Austrians with the consent of the Bolsheviks, but the Ukrainians at the time had not considered it an occupation, as it is defined today, because their presence effectively imposed the recognition of a Independent Ukraine.

It was the so-called materikovaja, "land" Ukraine, which to the west bordered Poland on the banks of the Zbruč river in Galicia, and included the eastern lands now invaded and "annexed" by Russia and even further, up to the city of Taganrog in Russia southern.

It was a large territory which did not include Crimea, which in turn in the turbulent years after the revolution had established itself as an independent republic, and other western parts that remained under the Austro-Hungarian empire, which in turn was dissolved in November 1918 , and reunited with Ukraine in the Treaty of Riga in 1921.

It was not Lenin at all who composed Ukraine, indeed before succumbing to illness and death, the revolutionary leader attempted to oppose the "Great Russian chauvinism" of the rest of the party, then supported by Stalin and today revived by Putin, who imposed different readings of history and territorial divisions.

If anything, it was Stalin himself who added territories to Ukraine when he invaded Poland in 1939 with Hitler's consent, taking back the parts of Galicia and Volynja that had been granted to Warsaw in the peace treaty.

The territorial fullness of Ukraine was therefore thanks to Lenin's successors, including the gift of Crimea which was decided by the Soviet secretary (of Ukrainian nationality) Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, with the aim of Russifying Ukraine itself a little more.

The Soviet policy of divide and rule actually extended to almost all the territories of the fifteen republics, which were divided and "shared" according to the purposes decided by the Politburo with the aim of controlling the various ethnic tensions, both in the Baltics and in the Caucasus and in 'Central Asia.

Not to mention the territories of European and Siberian Russia itself, where today the identities of many minor peoples and different historical-cultural traditions are reborn. The truth is that all the states made independent since the end of the USSR mutually recognized their borders on 31 December 1991 with the Belaveža agreement, despite the uncertainties and tensions still ongoing especially in the Caucasian and Asian areas, and the Russia recognized Ukraine.

Lenin was not the culprit, at least as far as Ukraine is concerned, but Putin is the inventor of a new mythological Russia, who rereads ancient and recent histories in his own way to impose a new empire, applying mental schemes of clearly Soviet derivation.

The memory of the revolutionary leader instead serves to distinguish the influences of "ideology" - communism invented by Westerners and reinterpreted by Lenin - from the "tradition of moral and spiritual values", existing from the origin of Rus' in the Baptism of Kiev to the end of first millennium, and preserved by all subsequent Russias, including the Soviet one.

The definition of Ukraine thus becomes a crucial element for the self-awareness of Russia, which has lost itself in the meanders of history, and needs to assert itself through opposition, no longer having its own reason to exist.

The war on Ukraine, a young and complex state, but proud of its identity and full of hope in its future, is the declaration of the end of Russia, which dissolves in the claim of Victory, when in reality it has left history.


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