Nationalism in Ukraine: Complexities and Challenges Amidst the Russian Invasion

Date:

Nationalism in Ukraine

  • Opinion by Editorial Desk AUN News
  • Monday, April 17, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The fact that Russia is not a contender for membership in the European Union or NATO is the other significant distinction.

  • The current dominant strain of official nationalism in Ukraine is fundamentally incompatible with the EU’s primary objective, which has historically been anti-nationalist.

  • The significance of nationalism in the EU and NATO expansion was largely ignored for a long time in the Western rhetoric on “transition to democracy and the free market.”

  • Regarding Ukraine and Georgia, the nature of their nationalism was not a major concern for the EU as long as membership was an impossibly far-off possibility.

  • Ethnic nationalist groups in Ukraine have long been more powerful than most Western reporting and analysis has indicated.

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has given rise to a surge in nationalism in the country, with the desire to motivate and mobilise the citizenry to fight against the invading forces merging with public fury. This rise in nationalism is a direct result of the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. The nationalism and propaganda efforts of the Ukrainian state are reminiscent of those observed in Russia. These efforts include the rewriting of history along nationalist lines in order to counter the fabricated information that Russia is putting out there that doubts Ukraine’s legitimacy as a nation. As a direct consequence of this, Ukrainian society has become dominated by an anti-Russian ethnic nationalist ideology, and hostility has been directed towards the Russian government, military, and population as a whole.

Following in the footsteps of the Russian Orthodox Church, it was discovered through observations made inside the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is committed to fostering state nationalism. The historical displays inside the cathedral portrayed Ukraine as the rightful heir to early mediaeval Rus and as being permanently and fundamentally European. On the other hand, Russians were portrayed as innately barbaric Asian barbarians in the exhibitions. These depictions have contributed to an upsurge in hostility towards people of Russian descent and Russia as a whole.

On the other hand, chauvinist nationalism in Russia and Ukraine diverge significantly on a number of important fronts. Dissatisfaction with representations of Russians as racially inferior savages has arisen as a result of the sizeable minority of Russians and Ukrainians who speak Russian and have intermarried with Russians in Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine’s goals of becoming a member of the European Union (EU) and NATO are fundamentally irreconcilable with the historically anti-nationalist posture taken by the EU. This presents a fundamental challenge for the European Union, in contrast to NATO’s policy of welcoming governments with authoritarian and chauvinist regimes so long as they opposed the Soviet Union.

Nationalism played a significant role in determining whether or not East European citizens would embrace the neoliberal economic and social programmes of the EU, as well as the cultural shifts brought about by the EU. On the other hand, this is something that has been largely neglected in the rhetoric of Western countries on the “transition to democracy and the free market.” Due to the need to back up the Western claim to Russia that joining these organisations would provide safety and dissolve long-standing hatred towards Russia, the significance of nationalism in the expansion of the EU and NATO was not recognised. This was caused by the necessity to back up the claim. This has resulted in challenges to the dominant Western hegemonic discourse of the period, which presumed the universality and unquestionability of Western liberal principles. These challenges have led to a shift in the way the discourse is framed.

Report

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a considerable growth in nationalism within the country as a result of the need to motivate and mobilise the citizenry to fight against the occupying forces. This necessity has combined with public fury as a result of the invasion. During my trip to Kyiv in April, I had the opportunity to examine the effect that this nationalism has had on a variety of facets of Ukrainian society.

One particularly notable example may be found at St. Sophia Cathedral, a historic Byzantine structure dating back to the 11th century that was modified in the baroque style. It was clear that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is committed to promoting state nationalism because historical displays within the cathedral portrayed Ukraine as the rightful heir to early mediaeval Rus and as being fundamentally and irrevocably European. On the other hand, Russians were portrayed as innately cruel and barbaric Asians in the media at the time. One of the displays even made a reference to Andrei Bogoliubsky, who was the prince of Vladimir in what is now Russia. The statement that accompanied the exhibit read, “Just look at that face carefully!” This remark was in reference to the reproduced traits of his facial skeleton, which revealed mongoloid characteristics. This served as a perfect illustration of how Ukrainian state nationalism was advancing a nationalist agenda in the same vein as the Russian Orthodox Church had done previously.

Anti-Russian ethnic nationalism has emerged as the dominant ideology in Ukrainian society as a direct result of the Russian invasion. In interviews and public announcements, Mykhaylo Podolyak provided a peek of the prevalent emotions, which included insults directed against Russians and representations of them as racially inferior savages. The hostility towards Russia, its government, its military, and its people as a whole was clear to see in a variety of different forms of media and public discourse.

The fact that there is a sizeable minority of Russians and Ukrainians who speak Russian and who have intermarried with Russians in Ukraine is one of the most significant factors that sets nationalism in Ukraine apart from nationalism in Russia. This has resulted in dissatisfaction with representations of Russians as genetically inferior savages, and it has produced complications within the nationalist narrative that is being promoted by the Ukrainian government.

In addition, Ukraine’s goals of joining the European Union (EU) and NATO present challenges to the mainstream Western rhetoric that is prevalent at this juncture. It is possible that Ukraine’s nationalism and historical narrative do not align with the EU’s traditionally anti-nationalist posture, despite the fact that the EU and NATO have historically accepted countries with dictatorial and chauvinist regimes as long as they were anti-Soviet.

Nationalism played a significant role in determining whether or not East European citizens would embrace the neoliberal economic and social programmes of the EU, as well as the cultural shifts brought about by the EU. On the other hand, this facet of the situation has been largely neglected in the rhetoric of the West concerning the “transition to democracy and the free market.” Due to the need to back up the Western claim to Russia that joining these organisations would provide safety and dissolve long-standing hatred towards Russia, the significance of nationalism in the expansion of the EU and NATO was not recognised. This was caused by the necessity to back up the claim.

This rise in nationalism in Ukraine in the midst of the Russian invasion has also led to challenges to the dominant Western hegemonic discourse of the time. This discourse claimed the universality and unquestionability of Western liberal ideals, and it was challenged as a result of this rise in nationalism in Ukraine. The emergence of Ukrainian nationalism as a response to the external danger posed by Russia has altered society attitudes and perceptions towards Russians and Russia as a whole. This response has been moulded by historical narratives, which have played a role in the formation of Ukrainian nationalism.

There is a good chance that nationalism will continue to play a large part in determining how the Ukrainian government will react to the Russian invasion as long as the situation in Ukraine drags on. The complexities and nuances of Ukrainian nationalism, its impact on numerous elements of society, and its relationship with the objectives of the European Union and NATO are going to continue to be key topics of discussion and analysis as the crisis continues.

Writer:

Arindam Bhattacharya is the Chairman of Advocacy Unified Network and an International Trade and Corporate Lawyer, Public Policy researcher, and former legislatorHe is a strong advocate of public policy advocacy, governance, and research. Bhattacharya has authored several research papers and is associated with many international non-profit organisations working in public policy advocacy.

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