Sergei Lukashevsky on Vladimir Putin’s controversial article

15 July 2021

In the photo Sergei Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Center, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Russian Service “Voice of America”]

The response to the article by President Vladimir Putin “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” is not dying down.

As a reminder, the large-scale work under the byline of Putin was published on June 12 on the Kremlin website in two languages, Russian and Ukraine, and elicited massive objections from experts, most of all from the community of historians. 

Yesterday, the press secretary of the head of the Russian state, Dmitry Peskov, was forced to comment on it.  As he put it, Putin “is not endorsing the choice of the Ukrainian people.”  Peskov further explained that the president says in the article that “they come to power in Ukraine with certain slogans and promises, and then a different line is followed.” 

The Russian Service of “Voice of America” asked Russian experts for their opinions on the controversial article. 

The Executive Director of the Sakharov Center and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the historian Sergei Lukashevsky, did not focus his attention on the deliberate or unintentional mistakes in the artiсle.  It seems to him that the question is how historical events were interpreted.  “Moreover, what is much more important here is what is not said,” he believes. “Thus, talking about the events of the 17th century, the Pereyaslav Council, Putin interprets the events in the spirit of a classic Soviet history textbook on the unification of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. There exists, however, a well-founded alternative interpretation, according to which Bogdan Khmelnitsky, as the leader of the Ukrainian uprising, was looking for various ways to create and preserve his own state.  Ultimately, after a number of defeats by the armies of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he was forced to agree to what was not the best option, autonomy within the Moscow tsardom.  A significant number of historians think that Khmelnitsky sought independence for his country, not the possibility to join or reunite with someone. Putin also totally leaves out the fact that the leaders of the Moscow tsardom were at not burning with any desire at first to receive into their fold the new territories, since they understood that they would have to deal with a society that was used to freedom, and that to incorporate it into the despotic system of the tsardom wouldn’t be immediately successful.  History is indeed multi-faceted and complicated.”

In point of fact, according to Sergei Lukashevsky, it is not a monograph on the topic of Ukrainian history but an ideological article with a particular goal.  It seems to him that one should start from the premise that the current Russian regime truly lacks a distinct ideology. “And it’s not only about the fact that a state ideology is forbidden by the constitution. If it is necessary, they manipulate the basic document of the land here with relative ease.  The problem is that such an ideology is, in reality, most profoundly lacking,” concluded the human rights defender. 

Translated by Rights in Russia

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