Ukrainians are not Nazis

Today, an inflammatory article made headlines, claiming that a majority of Ukrainians were Nazis and it was therefore justified to kill them.

Clearly, the Kremlin is struggling to manage the PR crisis after war crimes committed in Bucha were widely publicised this weekend.

Ukrainians are not Nazis. Ukraine does not need denazification. The reason why denazification was necessary in Germany after WWII is because Germany invaded other countries and killed millions of people.

Ukraine did not invade any country. Ukraine was minding its own business. As any country, Ukraine has the right to ponder whether they want to join this or that organization, whether they want to adopt this or that policy.

Russia invaded Ukraine. The Russian Armed Forces are killing Ukrainian military and citizens who have taken up arms to defend their country, as well as many civilians who have not taken up arms.

Who would believe this Kremlin rhetoric?

Fighting against Nazis has a strong emotional connotation for Russians. It has made up an important part of Russian self-perception for the past 70 years.

But…

Are the 20-year-olds who were cast to the front lines buying the story about Ukraine? Are their commanders? Are the more experienced career-military men?

I am German and 55 years old. My parents were children during the war. It was an important part of my narrative growing up, and my perception of WWII was shaped by what my grandmothers told me as well as what I learned in high school.

Do my children share that same narrative? No. Do my cousin’s children, who are young adults and living in Germany share this narrative? No. Do my Russian friends’ children, who are young adults and living in Russia share this narrative? No.

Nowadays, different narratives dominate our lives, define what is important to us.

Our impact on climate change, new technology, black lives matter, becoming an influencer, whether to work for a big company or a start-up, LGBTQ rights, work-life balance, whether or not government should be able to mandate vaccinations, how to preserve mental health during COVID lockdowns, etc. etc.…

…these are things that occupy our hearts and minds.

The ‘you-are-a-Nazi-and-I-am-duty-bound-to-kill-you’ rhetoric is an old rhetoric. The rhetoric of 70-year-old men.

Let’s not jump to conclusions too fast. The fact that the Kremlin (probably) hired an intellectual to twist the nonsensical Nazis-narrative into a coherent article says something about the Kremlin. It is flailing.

It need not say anything about the Russian military in Ukraine and about ordinary Russians.

Being successful in war relies on one side feeling that the other side is bad, and therefore it’s ok to kill them. Clearly, many Russian soldiers who were sent to Ukraine did not feel this way. Ukrainians were able to defend themselves, in part because morale on the Russian side was low and Ukrainians clearly are on the good side.

What is happening now is that some forces are trying to turn the enemy into monsters. That is the purpose of the article that the Kremlin just published.

My Russian friends, it is not worth your while to read this long publication, written to bring back the outdated worldview of old men*.

My Ukrainian friends, I weep with your losses. I am horrified with the horrific things you are witnessing. But I implore you…

…in your mind, do not turn the enemy into monsters. They are not. Russians and Ukrainians, they are just people. Some commit atrocities, and they need to be found and brought to justice.

Let us not get riled up by inflammatory media. Let us remember our shared humanity. Most people don’t want to do bad things.

* Hello, sorry, I just wanted to say I don’t like the ‘old (white) men are bad’ rhetoric in general – how can you judge a whole huge group of people like that. But in the context of this article it fits, and we all know which old man we’re talking about here.