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Columns and Articles by Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman

April 15, 2022

Russia and Ukraine: Poisoned History

April 15, 2022
Laina Farhat-Holzman

Ukraine is an old country, with its history perhaps 3,000 years old. Russia is a relatively new country: its Slavic beginnings was in the Ukraine itself. The first people who called themselves "Rus" (meaning red) established a dukedom in what would be today?s Ukraine. But soon, it moved to create a new Russia in Muscovy (today?s Moscow). This took place about the year 1147 AD.

A number of warlords fought each other for power until they finally exhausted themselves and actually took a vote in 1613 and elected Mikhail Romanov, whose dynasty ruled until the Russian Revolution.

The Russians never voted again, until after the USSR fell. Real elections morphed into tainted elections under Putin during his two decades of rule. He is now a dictator, a familiar experience for the long-suffering Russian people.

Compared with the antiquities in Europe, Greece and Rome, Russia was the new kid on the block. And as the older European countries descended from Rome had a renaissance of knowledge, art, and politics, Russia was still enmeshed in the Medieval world. The Western European kingdoms fought internal wars to unseat the unchallenged religious rule of the Roman Catholic Church, and Protestantism was born, bringing literacy, parliaments, and some constraint on monarchs.

Russia languished under the rigid, backward Orthodox form of Christianity which smothered all new ideas until Czar Peter the Great took them on and began the process of modernizing and joining the rest of Europe?s development.

Peter the Great knew that Russia was far behind even Sweden in development. He crushed the conservative nobility, sent their sons to Europe for school, and made peace with the Church: he permitted them to push religion and accumulate wealth but not to challenge the Czars.

The 19th century ushered in the era of great empires: Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands all conquered older countries in Asia, Africa, and the New World. Russia, not a seagoing nation, created its empire by absorbing mostly countries on its borders (except Turkey) and all across Siberia to the Pacific (many from the former Silk Road). They turned Siberia into a vast prison colony to abuse anyone who challenged Imperial power.

A dazzling female Czar, Catherine the Great, tried to convince Voltaire and the other French enlightenment geniuses that she too was enlightened. However, with the stroke of a pen, she unseated the Duke of Ukraine and absorbed that formerly independent country into the Russian Empire. Enlightenment was for show only.

Ukraine never had a chance to join the rest of Europe, with which it had much more in common than autocratic Russia. Russia went to great lengths to keep it that way. When the Russian Empire collapsed, Ukraine enjoyed a brief democratic nationhood. But within two years, the Bolshevik Revolution reabsorbed them as a part of the new Communist Empire, the USSR. Stalin?s first act was to create a famine, taking all of Ukraine?s wheat harvest and letting two million farmers starve. They did this again the next year, killing millions more. The Nazis then added millions more deaths, wiping out most of the Ukraine?s thousand-year-old Jewish population.

The USSR built a nuclear plant in Chernobyl and ran it so badly that the plant exploded, sending radioactive clouds through Northern Europe. Russia kept silent about this, but were outed by European scientists, resulting in one of the two events that eventually brought down USSR: Chernobyl and Afghanistan.

Post-Soviet Russia made an arms reduction deal with the United States and Ukraine. Ukraine surrendered all of its nuclear weapons in exchange for a guarantee of protection by both Russia and the US. Russia did what it has done throughout its imperial history: it lied.

Once more, Ukraine wants to join the EU and be free to develop a genuine democracy. Russia?s current "Czar," Vladimir Putin, is waging a horrific war to force Ukraine back into Russia?s deadly embrace. But this time, the world is watching and is helping Ukraine in its David-and-Goliath struggle to free itself. The much-loved Volodymyr Zelenskyy stands in contrast with the hated Vladimir Putin. In the Bible story, David wins.

686 words

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of "How Do You Know That? Contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.