Mariam Naiem Profile picture
Apr 7 28 tweets 5 min read
As a Russian-speaking person of color who was born and raised in Ukraine, I believe that I am in a position to speak on the issue of nationalism and neo-Nazism in Ukraine. A long thread 👇
To talk about Ukrainian nationalism, we first have to establish the context of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. These are not just countries sharing a common border. Our relationship is that of an empire and its colony.
Same as with Russia and many other countries and peoples in Eurasia, BTW. If you want a quick tour of Russian colonialism, this thread is a great start:
The Russian empire erases the culture of its colonies. The captured lands are renamed Russia, ethnically cleansed, and/or forcibly assimilated. For Ukraine, this manifested in several genocidal famines, and a centuries-long policy of elimination of the language and culture.
@EwaThompson1, a prominent scholar and advocate of the post-colonial view of Eastern European history, noted there is a “distinction between imperialistic nationalism, reaching out aggressively to subjugate and exploit potential colonies…
…and defensive nationalism, poised to preserve traditions and identities.” Defensive nationalism is common to peoples whose identity is in existential danger.
For example, the media often mention the ultra-right regiment of Azov. Its founding year? 2014. Date of Russia's attack on Ukraine? 2014. The current rise of the Ukrainian nationalist and far-right movements is to large extent caused by Russia's expansive aggression.
That said, although Ukraine has been oppressed and colonized throughout its history, there are many horrific examples of atrocities and mistreatment against Roma, Jews, Poles, and others, committed by Ukrainians.
In particular, like the rest of the lands of the former Russian Empire, Ukraine is firmly associated with anti-semitism in the Jewish national memory.
Ukraine is not an ideal place. Ukrainian society is not perfect, and there is racism in it. I have personally encountered racism in Ukraine.
We hear about it a lot. What we hear less about is how much Ukraine has improved in recent years. Ukrainians have elected a president whose campaign was based on unity across identities. And this president is of Jewish descent.
Jewish communities also support Ukraine in this war:
jns.org/jewish-groups-…
As I mentioned, I have experienced racism in Ukraine. But, having lived in the US and Europe, I can say that I was much more likely to encounter institutional racism abroad than in Ukraine. In the last decade, I felt safe in Kyiv (before the full-scale invasion of course…)
Now, let us look more at the far-right movement. As in many European countries, there are right-wing parties in Ukraine. But unlike places such as Hungary, Italy, and others, in Ukraine, such parties have tiny support.
statista.com/chart/20094/na…
The most known Ukrainian far-right parties of "National Corps", "Freedom" and "Right Sector" together received ~2% of the vote in the 2019 Parliamentary Elections. Compare with the sobering statistics in Europe:
bbc.com/news/world-eur…
Thus, the actual scale of the far-right problem in Ukraine was significantly overblown by the Western media (and Russian propaganda), especially compared to incredible progress in recent years despite the war raging since 2014
atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainea…
This is not to say that Ukrainian far right is not an issue. I am the last person to defend them. But, its media coverage is overblown, ignores the good things in Ukraine, and fails to put it in the context of European, and, especially relevant now, Russian far-right movements.
Russia wants the world to believe they are “de-nazifying” Ukraine, implying Russia is free of neo-Nazism. But of course, this is very far from the truth.
Russian nationalism is expansive. Quoting Professor Thompson again, “It is directed outwards and its bearers are less aware of their own chauvinism.”
An essential element of such nationalism is the idea of one's own greatness, which becomes a justification for territorial expansion beyond Russia's existing borders.
The modern Russian imperial ideology is deeply rooted in aggressive expansive nationalism.
aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/…
Despite this, I think Russian nationalism is weakly covered in Western media, even when relevant. For several years, Alexei Navalny has been an example of the systemic struggle against the regime in authoritarian Russia. But even Russia's opposition has close ties to nationalism.
Around the 2010s, Navalny was expelled from his party for “nationalist activities”, and campaigned to end subsidies to Chechnya and other non-Slavic regions of Russia on ethnically stereotypical grounds.
Navalny's nationalism is also evident in his stance on illegally annexed Crimea. When asked about Crimea, he replied that "Crimea is not a sandwich", and added: “Crimea will remain part of Russia and will never become part of Ukraine again in the near future."
There are more than 100 neo-Nazi groups in Russia, and the number of crimes they commit is growing each year. It is difficult to find accurate information about them, and they are not of such interest to the Western media as Ukrainian ones.
rferl.org/a/russian_neon…
TL;DR: Western media and Russian propaganda wildly inflate the problem of the Ukrainian far-right. The coverage fails to put the Ukrainian far-right in the larger context. Once done, it's evident that it is a tiny problem compared to Russian and even European right-wing movements
Russia used to be an authoritarian state, but now it has all the features of a fascist state. Totalitarian propaganda & censorship, popular support for violence – all of this is a portrait of modern Russia.
Is Ukraine an ideal country without racism?
No.

Does the Ukrainian far-right have political prospects?
No.

Is Russia an ideal country without racism as they imply?
No.

Does the Russian far-right have political prospects?
It already is a fascist state.

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More from @mariamposts

May 26
These days, we see a robust public discussion about imperialism and colonialism. In this discussion, however, many tend to ignore and even reject Russian (including the Soviet-time) colonialism. Why is that? A thread👇
I am basing this thread mostly on prof. @EwaThompson “It is Colonialism After All: Some
Epistemological Remarks”:
rcin.org.pl/Content/51834/…
As Thompson says, some commentators tie colonialism to overseas conquests, and assume that it is a prerequisite for colonialism to even occur. Proponents of this approach claim that overseas conquests are colonial, whereas the more proximate, overland conquests are not.
Read 12 tweets
May 5
Most Ukrainians abroad now feel conflicted about two simultaneous realities: the war vs. the routine peaceful life in their country of living. These two realities contradict each other so profoundly that we had to develop a coping mechanism consisting of two modes of thinking.
The first mode is Ukrainian. It’s within the reality of a country at war, and the everyday problems of its people. It’s death notifications. It’s fear, and joy that we are together, even in this fear. It’s a feeling that you’re not doing enough. That you're not there.
The second is the foreigner mode. It’s when, while answering the question “How are you?”, you suppress tears and the desire to scream. It’s when during the work meeting you receive a notification of your street being bombed and feel completely helpless.
Read 5 tweets
Apr 21
I made this thread in Russian for Russian people, but many asked for a translation. So here is it: under what circumstances I am ready for a dialog with the Russian people 🧵
I cannot imagine a situation in which I can forgive Russian society. However, I can imagine under what conditions I am ready to talk: when Russian opposition and liberals begin to publicly recognize the imperial nature of their country, culture, and society.
The imperialism which has seeped into all public institutions, into all minds. Which was glorified, cultivated, and did not undergo criticism and reflection. The citizens of Russia themselves are treating it positively.
Read 11 tweets
Apr 20
Я не могу представить ситуацию, в которой смогу простить русское общество. Но могу представить себе при каких условиях готова с ним говорить: когда русские оппозиционеры, либералы начнут публично признавать имперскость своей страны, культуры, общества.🧵
Имперскость, которая просочилась во все публичные институты, во все умы. Которая воспевалась, культивировалась и не поддавалась никакой критике и рефлексии. К которой сами граждане россии относились положительно.
Никто не переоценивает творчество русских писателей в связи с империализмом. Хотя, практически у каждого классика русской литературы есть примеры пренебрежительного отношение к другим культурам. Никто не видит в позиции “старшего” брата существующей веками ничего зазорного.
Read 10 tweets
Apr 20
I'm tired of being silent about this. A thread about why it is wrong at this moment in time to provide a platform for Russians on equal footing with Ukrainians in the news reporting, commentary, art exhibitions, and other public discussions. 🧵
Russian people are now provided with a platform, sometimes on par or even instead of Ukrainians. This depresses Ukrainians and makes us wonder if the world really understands what is happening. Does the world know that the aggressive policy of Russia is caused not only by Putin?
It isn't only Putin who is attacking us; it isn’t even only the victims of his propaganda who are attacking us. The attack on Ukraine is part of Russian society’s imperialist culture and its natural product.
Read 14 tweets

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