Anyone would think the Soviet Union never went away:
The director of Moscow’s Library of Ukrainian Literature has gone on trial charged with inciting ethnic hatred against Russians.
Natalia Sharina is accused of disseminating banned literature classed as extremist.
First the prosecutor cited a long list of Ukrainian publications that are either prohibited or which she said experts had deemed “degrading” to Russians.
Russia bans books? I confess, I didn’t know that. I could well imagine that publishing something the government doesn’t like would mean you’d be investigated for tax irregularities or some heavies would duff you up a bit in entrance lobby of your building, but I didn’t know that Russia formally banned books.
And what are publications deemed degrading to Russians? There are whole internet memes devoted to degrading Russians, albeit Russians who live in provincial villages and have no political clout whatsoever. If the regime is hiring experts to ferret out literature which might be degrading to Russians then it’s not very sure of itself.
It is well known that civil wars are fought with more bitterness and brutality than those between different peoples, and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine looks to me far more like the former. To an outsider who has some clue about Russians and Ukrainians, I am somewhat baffled as to what differences they’re fighting over.
Without even trying I can name six people I knew in Sakhalin whose surname ended with the Ukrainian -enko. If I rummaged through my memory banks I could come up with another six. Ukraine and Russia were so intertwined in the Soviet era and before that people would move from one to the other interchangeably. The cultures were so similar that one could move to the other and nobody would know you were an outsider. Nikita Khrushchev passed himself off as a Ukrainian for years, even though he was Russian. By contrast, Stalin and Beria remained stubbornly Georgian and Mikoyan Armenian. I would bet that if you were to ask a Russian whether they had a Ukrainian grandparent, relative, or a relative living in Ukraine most of them would say yes. Okay, maybe not most, but a lot. The cultural and physical border between the two was all but non-existent for years.
What about the language? Ukrainian is indeed different from Russian.
However, in September I met a Ukrainian lady from Zaporizhia who was visiting Paris. I asked her what her native language was, i.e. what language she spoke with her parents. She told me it was Russian. I then assumed that she was an ethnic Russian. No, she said, I’m Ukrainian. Both parents are Ukrainian, three out of four grandparents are Ukrainian, and the fourth Polish. She can speak Ukrainian perfectly, but speaks Russian at home to her Ukrainian parents. Go figure.
Apparently, for some, the differences are stark enough that Ukrainian librarians are facing jail for publishing banned books which say mean things about Russians. Me, I think it’s all bullshit.
(Actually, I know what they’re fighting over. But the ethnic and cultural differences are being exaggerated in ridiculous fashion.)