As I always do, I first consulted Wikipedia to find their meaning of “Russification” for the various other Soviet members states besides Russia; 14 republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Wiki mentions the practice of Russification as covering much of the old tsarist territories, going as far back the 16th Century, and even compared it to the way America “assimilated” immigrants from all over the world, most of whom came here by boat, while a large minority…(today a sizeable majority) walked in across our southern borders. The American idea of that era, carried out state-by-state, not federally, I might add, was to pass on the language and the special aspects of what it meant to be an American, under the general assumption that is (was) a generational concept, in which people sort of melted into the same pot over time.
By contrast, Russification was largely directed by language and aimed at the state management class.
I only point this out because in the 1960s, early on in the Vietnam War, in which the Viet Cong were believed to be Soviet proxies, I decided to pursue a minor in Russian History and Politics, including courses in current Soviet history. And in those classes, “Russification under the Bolsheviks” came in for special attention, which Wiki no longer thinks relevant.
But in the context of the Cold War, university scholars taught Russification as a distinctive Soviet practice implemented by Josef Stalin in the 1930s and how it affected the very demographics of those fourteen (14) listed nation states above.
Russification was more than just mandatory-teaching of the Russian language in schools. It was also declared to be those 14 states’ “first language”, the official state language of their communications.
But beyond language, Stalin (a Georgian himself) wanted a heavy Russian presence in each of the republics, so began a program of mandatory re-locations of hundreds of thousands native Russians to the several states. Now, Byelo-Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic may not have seemed so bad, but out in the east…which was (is) very, very ethnically un-Russian, even un-Slav; largely tribal Muslim Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Kazahks, Khyrgiz, and of course the mountainous Caucasus peoples, who have been in a small war with Russia since I was there before the fall of the USSR.
So, Stalin packed up families and moved them to some of the most culturally inhospitable places for Russians, only not in 3-year tours, like our military, but forever. But over the ensuing 60 years they would settle in, not unlike the English in India during the Raj. Places like Tashkent became home. And they would fill most administrative posts in government, and management posts in industry. They had their own social clubs, as I saw in Estonia.
In December, 1991, I left Cincinnati for a four-month stay in Kharkiv (Cincinnati’s sister-city), settling into the apartment of a family relative of a Spetsnaz veteran of the Tigray War in Ethiopia in the 1980s. I visted Kiev a few times and went as far afield as Gorkiy in Russia, but Kharkiv was my home base, all during the winter months, Dec ’91- March, ’92.
In that period, the Soviet Union collapsed and I got to witness it all.
And Kharkiv, population over a million, was one the USSR’s top 5 industrial cities, (tanks, arms, ammunition) and I visited with several directors’ generals of those facilities. (Their meeting rooms are interesting, the boss often sitting a few inches higher than the rest of the group)
(The man showed here is a Russian and oil and gas oligarch, Valentin Suchkov, from Gorkiy, whose group would lose out to Putin’s group, but who was also the only honorable Russian I knew while there. He showed me insider-things of how their government worked I am sure no other American had ever seen. Yeah, go figure.)
No language expert in distinguishing between them, I think I heard only Russian language in conversation, and all the factory managers and politicians spoke to me in Russian and most also appeared to be ethnically Russian, or at least a mix, for pure-bred Slavs and Euro-Ukrainians can often be distinguished.
My general impression of the Ukrainians were based on their generation and status. My host was a bank set up by Gorbachev, using party money, to get into the lending business. And I don’t mean car loans. I had a desk (no phone) and a staff of interpreters, all in their 20s. Nice kids.
In those days they still used “mafia” to define anything and everything that earned money without state license or sanction. It would be awhile before the term “oligarch” would come to my attention, since the internet was still in its infancy. But this bank was a “mafia” asset. And there were Jewish mafias (I went to one of their shows in Kharkiv), while doctors, dentists and car mechanics who worked out of their garage were also called “mafia”. I even met with one mafia lord. God knows what he dealt in, but in was on a small earthen dam over a frozen stream, one way dirt road, and I was in the backseat of small ZAZ surrounded by (I guess) bodyguards for when we saw the lights at the other end of the dam, I heard the click-click-click of lock and loads, (me being the only one unarmed. Then everyone got out of the car, and I and Sergei walked to the other end where a man in fine fox oshanka stepped out of the back seat of a “black Maria” (I called them)
and stood before his headlights, with a body guard. We stepped forward, shook hands then he and Sergei chatted, we shook hands again and both returned to our cars, our car backing up to a turnaround, allowing him to pass as a sign of deference, I assume. (He had only seen me on state television, so simply wanted to get a closer look.) If there was any money to be made. I am sure Sergei made it. A natural pimp.
I had a lot of those visits in those four months.
I did have other telling encounters with several people, mostly academics, university professors, who held the Germans in very high regard. The Germans occupied Kharkiv for the better part of three years, until the tank battle at nearby Kursk in late summer, 1943 turned the Germans back, and changed the course of the war for the Germans. The Soviet counter-tank offensive would not stop until it reached Berlin in the spring of ’45.
Most of those people who thought fondly of the Germans were young, in their 20s-30s, and could not have been around then, and they certainly didn’t hear such fine memories in school. So they must have been repeating tales possibly from around the dinner table, but they spoke of the way the Germans treated Ukrainians…as fellow Europeans and they liked their martial music and the snappy way they dressed and paraded. The Red Army did none of this. One young prof even liked the way the Nazis thought, and brought to me a presentation he would like to have published in America, describing a summer camp/training adventure program for basically Hitler youth (or Young Pioneers) with heavy instruction on the “moral teaching” of fascism.
Feel free to compare.
I paid little attention to this pro-German/Nazi palaver since most was from younger 20-something academics, and we know how easy they are to orchestrate, even without drugs.
But did note they were tolerated by the professors. (I had to ask.)
But knowing of the Ukrainians’ hatred for Stalin for the indifferent starvation of over 3 million of their people so that the grain they grew could go to feed Russians instead in 1932-33, yet they didn’t blame, and continued to embrace Marxist Communism was something of a mystery to me. I was 46 at the time, and the young people I spent most of my time with except in formal discussion with officials, could offer little by way of explanation. I got no hint of dislike for the Russians, except to note that after 60 years, they were no longer thought of as carpetbaggers.
So it does raise questions about the rabid pro-Americanism of the now-retired Army officers, Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman, twins, who came to America from Ukraine when they were only 3, in 1979. After LTC Alexander Vindman had been relieved by Donald Trump from his advisory status it was revealed that one of his senior officers had made an official complaint about him in a note up his chain of command about his obsequious (translation: butt-kissing) conduct toward a Russian senior officer during a meeting having nothing to do with the current Russia-Ukraine kerfuffle…or Donald Trump.
All we know sure about Vindman is that he does not like Trump. Whatever he loves about Ukraine he learned around the dinner table at home. And whatever he hates about Putin or Russia is belied by that simple act of suck-uppery to some Russian officers back in the day.
It’s very difficult to reconcile these contradictions. It’s counter-intuitive to believe that one can both despise a nationality of people, or even a race, and at the same time, obsequiously bow and scrape in adoration before them without people thinking you’re given name is Lindsey. And yes, politicians do this a lot.
The dots simple don’t connect, unless you insert the hole card of competing oligarchies…and one clearly has its hand in the Biden family’s pocket.
Bottom line, whatever the beef between Russia and Ukraine, it is mafia (oligarchy) and money-related. The only problem Ukraine has that Russia doesn’t have, is that Putin doesn’t have to shake people down and Zhelenskyy, not exactly a pro at this sort of stuff, can’t allow himself to not shake them (the Bidens) down.
Besides, Putin doesn’t want money, he wants land, land that historically is not only Russian, but is also Slavic. Much of the eastern Ukraine lands that have just gone into plebiscite status, where the residents decide their own national fate, were never historically Euro-Ukrainian, but rather belonged to the Don Cossacks (consult a map), Slavic, not Euro, which comports pretty much with the Donetz region which has just voted itself into picking their own nation.
Don Cossack territory Modern Ukraine
And Putin likely wants to be able to squeeze an American, any American, since he couldn’t squeeze Trump for four embarrassing years, while the Biden’s are just sitting ducks.
Everything I know about Russian crookedness I learned in Ukraine. I knew about their top-down criminal scheming when they were called mafia. Everyone knew that every state industry; manufacturing, technology, transportation, unions, services, would end up being owned, controlled, and paid into the coffers of the people who ran those operations when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992. The primary oligarchies.
I knew in 1992 that not a single square of foot of what we call “common ground” in either country, or for that matter, the entire former Communist bloc, would actually be common ground, but instead under the dominion of some mafia or another. One Caucasian I recall who wanted to set up a bookstand said, “Oh, I hope I get a good mafia.” This was no different from sidewalk salesmen or organ grinders setting up on a street corner in New York or Chicago. Some mob had to get their cut.
I’ve seen this in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Russia, the Baltics. Only inside walled churchyards could beggars go to beg without having to pay a finder’s fee. I’ve seen this, too. It’s all been a game of musical chairs…and will continue to be.
Human Nature, and Natural Law:
If given a choice between a sonuvabitch who knows it, who inferentially feels he does not have to lie, or one of those who lies the liar’s mouth with a smile, and you know he is indeed lying, and their principal media mouthpieces are backing their play, probably for profit…the wiser choice will be to choose the son-of-a-bitch.
But the wisest choice will be to choose neither and let Nature take its course, without our three cents.