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Russian Aggression: Targeting Ukrainian Identity And Culture

The Russian battle against Ukrainian identity is getting more intense. The Kremlin has been trying to use military force to subjugate its western neighbor for over two years now. But as time has gone on, it has become evident that the campaign’s other goal is the complete elimination of Ukrainian identity and culture. To put it another way, Ukrainian sources claim that Moscow has deliberately targeted Ukrainian schools in an effort to attack “soft targets” and sabotage the country’s educational system. The Center for Information Resilience identified more than 350 assaults by Russia against Ukrainian educational institutions, including colleges and schools, in spring 2023. The analysis suggested that these facilities were the “main target of specific strikes,” rather than collateral damage.

Moscow’s Anti-Ukrainian Identity Campaign

Additionally, Russia is destroying the language and cultural legacy of Ukraine. According to The Insider, a Russian opposition news outlet, Russian military actions have “damaged thousands of cultural heritage sites, including those protected by UNESCO.” Russian soldiers have destroyed Ukrainian language textbooks in locations like Kherson, while local Kremlin-approved authorities in Donetsk have completely stopped providing teaching in the Ukrainian language in schools. 

Primarily, Russia has started to expel and retrain a huge number of underage Ukrainians from controlled territory. The Russian government publicly claimed in the middle of 2023 that “more than 700,000″ Ukrainian children had been forcefully moved to Russia; the practice was justified on the grounds that the children’s safety required it. However, Moscow doesn’t appear to be thinking about the purported custody of Ukrainian youngsters. Instead, Russia has come under international criticism for running many “reeducation” camps that aim to foster hate of Kyiv and allegiance to Moscow in the youngest POWs in Ukraine. This is a serious violation of the international norms of armed conflict. 

Cultural Suppression and Historical Revisionism

Furthermore, Moscow is not by itself. The administration of Alexander Lukashenko, the despot of Belarus, who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin, has willingly assisted Russia in its aggression against Ukraine and efforts to eradicate Ukrainian identity. According to a recent Yale University research, more than 2,400 children were deported from the Russia-occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia areas of Ukraine between September 2022 and May 2023; they were sent to nearby Belarus instead of Russia. 

The research claims that at least some of those juveniles underwent military-style training aimed at teaching them “how to behave in extreme conditions.” This raises concerns that Minsk or Moscow may eventually recruit these children to fight against their own country.  The “forceful transfer and Russification of Ukrainian children” has been denounced by the Council of Europe, which has declared it to be “evidence of a genocide.” Additionally, due to their actions in the forced relocation of children during the conflict, the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the warrants, Putin and Lvova-Belova must be detained by the 123 nation state members of the Court and sent to The Hague to stand prosecution should they ever set foot on its territory.

Language Policies and Linguistic Russification

The worst threat to European peace and security since the conclusion of the Cold War is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, justified the next day’s “special military operation” with a long list of grievances in an odd and occasionally insane address on February 21, 2022. The speech focused on a much more fundamental issue: the legitimacy of Ukrainian identity and statehood itself. These grievances included the long-simmering dispute over the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the shape of the post-Cold War security architecture in Europe. 

It mirrored a worldview that Putin had long articulated, highlighting the profound bonds that unite Eastern Slavs Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, who all descend from the medieval Kyivan Rus commonwealth and proposing that the contemporary nations of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus ought to share a common political destiny going forward. The implication of such a perspective is that unique identities in Ukraine and Belarus are the result of foreign manipulation and that the West is now using Ukraine and Belarus as part of a “anti-Russia project,” much like Russia’s imperial adversaries did.

Belarusian Complicity in Anti-Ukrainian Actions

Moscow’s approach to Belarus and Ukraine has been based on the idea that each country’s national identity is manufactured and hence brittle during Putin’s tenure in power. Putin’s claims that foreign adversaries are advancing Ukrainian (and, to a lesser extent, Belarusian) nationality as a means of engaging in a geopolitical conflict with Russia are reminiscent of the ways in which many of his forebears rejected the initiative of common people desiring independence from tsarist or Soviet rule. 


In conclusion, The historically astute Putin frequently alludes to the theories of intellectuals who highlight the inherent unity of the Russian Empire and its people particularly its Slavic, Orthodox core as a kind of what historian Timothy Snyder refers to as the “politics of eternity,” or the conviction that history is timeless.


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