Graphic by Lucas Olscamp/The Gazelle

Letter to the Editor: In Response to "The Propaganda Surrounding Crimea"

While the Dec. 6 article “The Propaganda Surrounding Crimea” provides a curious perspective about the personal experience of living in Crimea, I would ...

Graphic by Lucas Olscamp/The Gazelle
While the Dec. 6 article “The Propaganda Surrounding Crimea” provides a curious perspective about the personal experience of living in Crimea, I would like to comment on some important aspects of Ukraine that the article does not mention.
I understand the author’s frustration with people in Crimea who do not see the value in maintaining contact with societies in the West. I also agree that propaganda, regardless of the side it comes from, cultivates wrong impressions among populations. However, in light of recent political and social challenges to Ukrainian society, I would like to address a number of important points that the article neglects to mention.
Perhaps my biggest surprise is that the article seems to understand Russian and Ukrainian propaganda as having equal influence. While Ukrainian media certainly has a bias, it is clearly out-balanced by the much more sophisticated mechanisms and, at times, boldly inaccurate information manifested through Russian news channels. We remember too well the photos circulated in the Russian media of the supposedly destroyed area of the Donbas region, when in fact the flames in the image were photoshopped. Or a video supposedly showing the flow of refugees from Ukraine to Russia, which was in fact a recording of daily business at the Polish-Ukrainian border on the other side of the country. Both Ukrainian and international journalists have been seriously invested in initiatives such as Stop Fake and Bellingcat to present truthful information regarding the efforts of Russian channels to misrepresent events. While I do not defend any type of information falsification, it is important to understand that Russia has historically dominated the regional information space, which has left Ukraine at the receiving end with a weak agenda of its own.
Furthermore, I've never heard the news that the original article mentions about masses of people, or even a single person, dying of hunger in Crimea. It is important to verify sources before attributing such bold commentary to Ukrainian media, which I did not see circulate such information.
I also feel sad that the article left readers with the impression of the Maidan as a destructive force hostile to ethnic Russians. The Maidan has never focused on ethnic belongings. The mission of the movement has been to fight corruption and injustice in the country. While the flags of all possible parties were at demonstrations, the Maidan was never driven by ultra-nationalistic motives. Very few people support radical parties in Ukraine; neither Svoboda nor the Right Sector passed the 5 percent threshold to secure seats in Parliament in the 2014 elections. The movement holds nothing against people’s ethnic backgrounds, whether they are Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, Belarusian or anyone else.
Visiting the Maidan protests in my city Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine, I witnessed that Ukrainian citizens who were ethnic Russians actively supported the Maidan. The movement has united Ukraine in a very powerful way. Perhaps the author of the aforementioned article should draw a line between the position of a standalone radical party leader and what the majority of the population actually feel towards one another.
Another phenomenon important for non-Eastern Europeans to understand is that the Maidan movement, standing for democracy and human rights, has naturally proceeded to demolish the remnants of Soviet legacy. The process is indicative of the fact that Ukraine never fully recovered from the totalitarian scars left by Lenin and Stalin. The process of de-communization began long ago in other post-communist countries including Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia. Hence Maidan activists, both in mainland Ukraine and in Crimea, have also attempted to do what should have been done, in my opinion, a long time ago. The statues of Lenin began falling quickly across cities, towns and less so in villages, where changes are slower to come. What the article omits to address is that the process of de-communization has nothing to do with the ethnic identity of Ukrainians. It has to do with the mentality of progressing in democracy and ridding Ukraine of historical scars.
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