Yesterday I was at a funeral. The crowd was well over 500, much more than I originally thought would be possible. It was a deeply emotional event. The man to whom everyone bid farewell was Oles' Buzina, a writer, historian, free thinker, wacky conversationalist, warm friend, a man who identified deeply with both the complex yet incomplete Ukrainian culture and with the multifaceted entity of eastern Slavic Orthodox Russian civilization, a man who would not take sides easily, and would adhere to his lone stand even when death threats started to arrive at his doorstep on a weekly basis.
The event was all over the Russian language news. But there was precisely zero coverage of it in the English-language news. He was murdered at 1:25, Thursday, April 16. There were two masked men waiting for him in front of his house. Five shots were fired, and that was that. It was the third such hit in a span of four days.
At the funeral there were a few reporters from Russia who came specifically for this event. They were polite and talkative. But I noticed something which to me seemed off: yesterday was a profoundly emotional time for all the Kiev residents who made the decision to attend the funeral, and many people were crying openly in the cold wind, for several hours, and not just old women. However, some of the questions asked by the Russian reporters, and some of the things they said, had a mild undertone of Schadenfreude: “Oh, look at you poor Ukrainians, what have you all brought upon yourselves? Now do you see how wrong you were? Do you see where you end up without Russia?”
But of those present—every decrepit old man or woman, every young, unfashionably dressed girl or threadbare-looking young man—all were the kind of Ukrainians who throughout this year of madness have kept in their hearts an earnest, warm feeling towards Russia! They have clung to the idea of seeing themselves as a part of a great singular civilization, as citizens of the once-proud Soviet Union. They don't need Russian condescension!
After this one year, it has become plain that there can be no Ukraine without support from Russia. But it is also true that there can never be a genuine resurrection of Russian Civilization without a resurrection of the Ukraine. It is not a matter of territory; the ties are psychological, emotional and historical. How many among the contemporary Russian public actually appreciate this point? A regular Russian guy sympathizes with Donbass, supports Putin, and despises the USA. But does he consider the Ukrainians to be good-for-nothing losers—possibly including his own brothers who happen to live there?
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And that isn't at all helpful. The combination of clueless American warmongering and disingenuous offers of “integration” from the EU have turned the Ukraine into a disaster area and its population of 40 million into paupers. The nightmarish regime in Kiev, whose brainwashed adherents go around defacing World War II monuments while idolizing and deifying Nazi war criminals, will be finished soon enough, but once it is gone there will be more bloodshed in this deeply self-conflicted society.
The Ukrainian identity and national brand are tarnished beyond all hope. After a prolonged and painful process of de-westernization and de-Nazification, all that will be left of it will be a memory of failure which few will recall willingly or pass on to their children. But to make healing possible, to allow this year (or two or three) of Ukrainian madness to be consigned to oblivion, something else must take its place. And that something can be just one thing: a compassionate, inclusive, supportive, pluralistic Russian identity.