In May 2014, soon after Russia had launched an open aggression against Ukraine, President Putin signed a Russian State Duma-passed law, which he said was aimed against the falsification of history. It provides, among other things, for a three-year prison term for “denying the facts contained in the ruling of the International Military Tribunal” and “deliberately spreading false information on the USSR’s activities in the years of World War Two.” Well before that, “struggle against the falsification of history” (not only during World War Two but in general) had become by far the highest priority for the Russian public and political elite. It is hardly possible to speak of a free and independent historical science in these conditions. But what lies behind these claims? It may well be fear, the fear of your own past and present.
Nevertheless, you can still find historians in Russia, who are guided by an aspiration to know the truth – for example, on the island of Sakhalin. There, in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinks, lives Vladimir Kravtsov, Candidate of Sciences (History), Russian historian and political journalist, former dean of the School of History at the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk State Pedagogical Institute, whom Den/The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna met in Facebook.
In spite of the current state of affairs, he remains as unbiased as possible in his scholarly and journalistic publications. In an interview with The Day, Mr. Kravtsov shared his thoughts on how the citizens of Russia could come to know their true history and on what consequences this may have for their mentality and the country’s sociopolitical system.
Mr. Kravtsov, judging by opinion polls, there are not so many Ukrainophiles in Russia. How can you explain your benevolent attitude to Ukraine, of which the content of your Ukraine-related publications is the proof?
“Firstly, I would caution against unconditionally trusting the Moscow version of opinion polls. Russian sociological services have long been under complete control of the Olympus of power and usually show results to the benefit of the customer. So, I am not exactly the only one in this attitude to Ukraine. Secondly, I always try to write my journalistic works on a scientific basis. Therefore, my pro-Ukrainian stand is not a result of politicking. I have formed it by impartially studying the materials on both the past and the present, to which I have access. Thirdly, my genealogical roots also have an impact. Formally, I am Russian by father, but my mother, Olga Boiarchuk, is a ‘true Ukrainian’ of Cossack stock who was born and raised in Konotop, Sumy (previously Chernihiv) oblast. I also grew, spent my childhood, formative and teen years, and went to secondary school there. Then I studied at Kharkiv State University. So my world outlook was shaped in and in favor of Ukraine.”
It follows from your publications that, throughout its dramatic history, Russia has tried to look what it has never been – a Slavic state, the successor of Ancient Rus’, etc. But in reality, as you say, modern-day ethnic Russians are much closer to Mordvinian, Finno-Ugric, and other non-Slavic tribes, and the current social system of Russia has its roots in the Golden Horde rather than in Kyivan Rus’. Russia in fact is trying, to quote our editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna, to illegally take over Ukrainian history. What do you think are the underlying, primary, causes of this erroneous self-identification? Have there been any similar precedents in world history? Is it likely that the people of Russia will revise their history and come to know their true origin? What is the role of Ukraine here? What kind of impact can this step have on the self-identification of Russians and the country’s sociopolitical system?
“You asked very interesting and thorny questions. I can’t answer them in a ‘yes-no’ style. Let me begin with some preliminary remarks. The claim that ‘modern-day ethnic Russians are much closer to Mordvinian, Finno-Ugric, and other non-Slavic tribes’ is not my discovery. I am only one of those who think so. The same applies to the idea that ‘the current social system of Russia has its roots in the Golden Horde rather than in Kyivan Rus’.’
“I thank you for such a capacious and apt turn of phrase as ‘illegal takeover of Ukrainian history.’ This term is usually used in the business field, but I think it is quite applicable in this case to the field of historical knowledge. I even feel like taking this subject for my next article. I will perhaps do so, but age is a serious obstacle. I still think I will manage at least to outline it (the subject). Is it possible, in principle, ‘to illegally take over the history’ of Ukraine or any other country? History should be treated as both a process and a science. The two sides are of a subjective nature in terms of execution, for it is people who create and study the process. But there is a crucial ‘but.’ A real process vanishes into the past for good and cannot be brought back to the present. This is why they say history has no conditional mood, i.e., it is irreversible. What has happened is an irrevocable part of the past. But anyone can treat history as a science as he or she pleases. It is even possible to deprive it of this status and turn into a banal set of myths, tall stories, and lies by way of lying, twisting, and falsifying.
“Now that I’ve made these preliminary remarks, we can concretely and adequately discuss the question. It would be wrong to believe that Russia is only now trying, as you say, to illegally take over Ukrainian history. These attempts have also been made before, since the times immemorial, since Muscovy became aware of its strength. But it was not until the period of military expansion and Peter I’s reforms that the takeover of Ukrainian history assumed a more or less systematic nature. The association of Muscovy with Rus’ and imposing the names ‘Russia’ on the former and ‘Russians’ on the Muscovites (which Catherine II decreed as mandatory) are glaring examples of this kind. The one who, so to speak, took the bull by the horns in the 19th century in solving the problem of taking over Ukrainian history was Mikhail Pogodin, a Russian linguist, historian, political journalist, publisher, etc. He offered a very simple formula: Rus’ rose and ‘moved’ from Kyiv to Moscow. This conclusion was so groundless, primitive, and outlandish that even the politically committed Soviet historians roared with laughter over it. But, by all accounts, the rulers quite liked their compatriot’s absurdity which is still alive. The proof of the latter is that Russia’s ‘guarantor of the constitution’ declares that there has not been such thing as the Ukrainian people, the Russians and the Ukrainians are the same thing, the Ukrainian language is an artificial formation, there is no self-sufficient Ukrainian culture, etc. I would not call transferring the history of another country (in this case Ukraine) to Russia as erroneous self-identification. There is not a shadow of an error here. This has been done quite deliberately since a long time ago. Where is this aspiration from? From the ‘Mongolian steppe,’ the Golden Horde attitudes, and the permanent desire to conquer all and everything – not only territories and peoples, but also all the forms of their heritage, including history. In the long run, this follows from the unquenchable desire of Muscovy to preserve the ‘Empire’ that has roots in the same ‘Mongolian steppe’ and the ‘Horde.’
“You are asking if there have been similar precedents, i.e., illegal takeover of somebody else’s history, in the world’s history. I can’t recall anything of the kind at least in Europe, although there were a lot of conquests and aggressions there. Take, for example, the conquest of England by the Norman French Duke William the Conqueror. The local king was defeated, and there was a change of the royal dynasty and, in modern parlance, the political elite. At first glance, why not seize the opportunity and usurp the history of a conquered country and nation? But this did not occur. The history of England did not turn into that of the Duchy of Normandy or France. It still remains the history of England.”
“UKRAINIAN ACADEMICS SHOULD STUDY RUSSIA MORE ACTIVELY”
“In the question whether the people of Russia are likely to revise their history and become aware of their true origin, I would replace ‘people of Russia’ with ‘ethnic Russians.’ ‘People of Russia’ is a smart trick, akin to the ‘new historical community – Soviet people’ about which ‘our dear Leonid Brezhnev’ told the world in his speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the USSR. It is ethnic Russians who ought to revise their history and become aware of their true origin. Potentially, they can do so. But the question is whether they will seize this opportunity. Lying behind this question is a number of topics worthy of many bulky monographs to be written by bona fide historians and specialists in other scholarly disciplines. It would be a good idea even to resurrect and invite to cooperate with us the clairvoyants Nostradamus and Vanga. Also of benefit would be Russian Orthodox Church saints, such as the Blessed Xenia of Saint Petersburg, Seraphim of Svarov, Matrona of Moscow, and others.
“As for my modest capabilities, all I can do is look into some key points of this very complicated and multilateral problem. Yet I will discover nothing new here. Is it new that it is absolutely necessary to turn Russia into a genuinely democratic country to counterbalance the current imitation in the shortest possible time before it is too late? Is it new that the main obstacle on this path is the concentration of power at all levels in the hands of the security agency which is supposed not to rule the country but provide security against foreign threats (instead of shadowing the compatriots)? Is it new that this agency must be stripped of executive power at all levels by legitimate means? Is it new that Russia badly needs a real division of the branches of power rather than the existing fake? Is it new that Russian society is gasping for a really independent judicial system that can eradicate the ominous ‘telephone justice’? Is it new that Russia’s leadership should consist of the people who do not suffer from imperial ambitions? Is it new that Russian citizens must be urgently saved from the poison of Kiselyov’s propaganda and the latter should be replaced with a system of true information, which would breed genuinely human qualities in people? Is it new that Russia badly needs a radical transformation of the system of an education that would instill in students a high intellectual level, an ability to think independently and critically, and not to make important decisions under somebody else’s diktat? Is it new that Russia needs to create at last a true historical science, which should honestly study the history of the emergence and development of the Russian people?
“I could continue this list, but what I have said is enough to see a dire necessity of carrying out comprehensive and profound reforms in Russia. The question is how they can be carried out under the current system of government. It is here that Ukraine should play a proper role, for it has already shown on the legendary Maidan that a mass-scale peaceful protest can force the authorities to reckon with the will of the people. It is useless to expect radical reforms in Russia unless the national democratic opposition duly studies this experience and steps up its actions. The current leadership will not do this, for it is busy doing anything but what the people need. Ukraine must withstand at any cost the aggression of Moscow and continue to move successfully in the European direction. Should this occur, all kinds of brilliant results won’t take long to appear. This will be an illustrative example for the peoples of Russia of how to fight for an efficient leadership of the country and choose an optimal way of development, which produces the results you need.
“Ukraine has been traditionally distinguished for its historical and other liberal arts schools, the figures of historians, linguists, demographers, etc. With due respect for the professional sovereignty of Ukrainian academics, I have no right to give them any recommendations. I can only outline my vision of the actions they can take about the current problem. It is obviously and absolutely necessary that they intensify research into the problems under discussion here. It is also extremely important to bring home the results of research not only to the national, but also to the international public, to the broad circles of readers. Therefore, it is important to publish them not only in specialized scholarly journals, but also in the general mass media. It is important to receive support from the international academia in the struggle against Russian falsifications. What could also contribute to this are international conferences, symposiums, workshops, etc. It would be utterly naive to think that the Russians will ‘revise their history and become aware of their true origin’ in a flash. It is not so easy to de-enslave a nation that has been held in slavery for centuries on end. This will take a long time and strong purposeful actions.”
“MOSCOW HAS ALWAYS VIEWED UKRAINE AS A THREAT TO ITS MONOPOLY IN THE EMPIRE”
You argue that Moscow has been committing direct and indirect acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people since the October 1917 revolution. What do you think are the ulterior motives of this crime? What is it being committed for? How can we resist it?
“As is known, in the very first days of the notorious ‘reunification’ of Ukraine and Russia under Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov, Muscovy began not only to forcibly append its ‘younger sister’ to its already huge territory, but also to squeeze all things Ukrainian out of Ukraine and Ukrainians. And the fact that those efforts failed to produce the expected result testifies to the viability of Ukrainian people. Yet, in spite of hostility to the Ukrainians and Ukraine, the tsarist authorities never resorted to genocide.
“The Russian Empire collapsed after the Bolshevik-led armed coup d’etat in October 1917. Signing the decree on granting independence to Finland, Lenin pretended to be firmly upholding the right of nations to self-determination. But no sooner had the ink dried on his decree than the Bolsheviks tried to launch an armed seizure of power in Suomi, now ‘free’ of Russian domination, – luckily, without success. Having spilled oceans of blood in the Civil War, Moscow suddenly recalled that sovereign Poland had recently been a tasty morsel of the Russian Empire and started a war, only to suffer a crushing defeat for which ‘Comrade Stalin’ was also to blame. That was the ignominious beginning of the restoration of a collapsed empire. But the restoration continued. Moscow was aware that it was unrealistic to make Finland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia part of the emergent Soviet empire in the near future. This raised the importance of the other ‘splinters.’
“Ukraine had always been of paramount importance in the empire for many – territorial-geographic, natural-climatic, geopolitical, demographic, military, economic, etc. – reasons. At the same time, the First Capital City also regarded it as a danger to its monopoly in the empire. Firstly, Ukraine was the immediate successor of Kyivan Rus’, while the Russian rulers bestowed this honor upon their country and created a myth about Russia’s dominant position in the Eastern Slavic world. Secondly, by force of its pro-Western attitude, Ukraine hindered Russia from going the eastern way of development and dragging other nations along. Thirdly, Ukraine was capable of putting up stiff resistance to Moscow’s diktat, which was dangerous for the Kremlin itself and as an example to the others. All this aroused concern among the Muscovite rulers in all the times – especially among the Bolsheviks. It is no secret that the Ukrainian people, particularly peasants, used to take an anti-Bolshevik attitude. Suffice it to recall the way Nestor Makhno was officially reviled in the USSR (as well as in present-day Russia): a damned anarchist, an enemy of the Soviet (Russian) people, a dishonest man, a bandit… But it was not mentioned that the main reason why Leninists and Stalinists took a negative attitude to Makhno was that he had led an anti-Bolshevik armed resistance of Ukrainian peasants.
“The authorities believed that what could put an end to the peasants’ anti-Bolshevik attitudes was Russification – both linguistic and mental – of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine. Assimilation was a reliable method, but the Bolsheviks did not like to wait for so long. They preferred not to ‘wait for favors from nature.’ They were accustomed to taking everything here and now. Obviously, this caused the leadership to opt for genocide against the Ukrainian people – first of all, against the peasantry as the main bearer of the national gene pool. Famine was chosen as one of the most effective ways to achieving the goal. This produced especially tragic results in Ukraine in 1932-33. Kyiv justly considers this national tragedy as an undisguised act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. Moscow maniacally denies the obvious, claiming that there was also famine in other regions of the USSR. The cynicism of this ‘excuse’ is outrageous – all the more so if you take into account that, as the famine was spreading and intensifying, freight trains laden with grain and other farm produce kept running to seaports, from where this cargo was shipped abroad. In reply to our indignation, we are told that the ongoing industrialization was in need of machinery and equipment. But we will say this: Stalin needed urgent industrialization for purposes that are very far from people’s interests.”
He wanted to arm to the teeth as soon as possible what he called ‘Brothers of the Sword’ (the Bolshevik party) in order to fight on for world supremacy. In this situation, most of the grain-loaded trains were running from Ukraine. Had a part of this plenty been left behind, there would have been no famine. Moreover, can there be a famine on a land where, figuratively speaking, you can drive a stake in the ground and a tree will grow up? Not only grain was being taken out of Ukraine. Security forces blocked villages to prevent the famine-stricken peasants from leaving their places – in other words, to guarantee their death. They were even forbidden to catch marmots and other living creatures to be used as food. This was not done in the other famine-stricken regions. So, can you call this tragedy of Ukraine other than genocide deliberately organized by Stalin and his gang? Whole villages, districts, and even regions died out. As a result of the manmade famine, Eastern Ukraine, mostly populated by Ukrainians from time immemorial, became almost desolate.
“To replace the Ukrainians, the criminal Bolshevik government brought in lumpens from Russia. The Russians were also resettled in other Ukrainian lands. This is why Russian-speaking villages, districts, and even regions appeared on the map of Ukraine. Today, these areas, particularly the Donbas, are populated by the Russian reactionary parasites who have unleashed an aggression against the Ukrainian people under a false pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking populace whom Kyiv allegedly oppresses.”
“THE AGGRESSION IN CRIMEA AND THE DONBAS IS CONTINUATION OF THE POLICY OF GENOCIDE”
“What can also be considered an act of genocide against Ukraine is the attitude of ‘Victory Marshal’ Georgy K. Zhukov to the Ukrainians mobilized to the front in the 1941-45 war. Here is what he allegedly said before our troops began to cross the Dnipro in the fall of 1943: ‘Why are we, friends, racking our brains here? Why the hell should we arm and equip these khokhly? They are all traitors! The more we drown them in the Dnipro, the fewer we will have to banish to Siberia after the war.’ I am not going to confirm or deny the authorship of this phrase – it is not so important. I will only note that I prefer to trust those who crossed the river rather than those who defend Zhukov’s immaculateness. Here is evidence from the writer Viktor Astafiev, a WWII participant: ‘25,000 soldiers went into the Dnipro on the one side, and not more than 5-6 thousand came out on the other side.’ Out of the 380,000 men who died there, about 300,000 were those unequipped, unarmed, and militarily inexperienced Ukrainian conscripts. Among those who found their last refuge in the river were 16-17-year-old youths whose ears were still ringing from their mothers’ farewell cry ‘They are still children!’ and adult men who had never served in the army. I have not a shadow of a doubt that it was a deliberate elimination of the Ukrainian people’s procreators. Also in this line is deportation to the USSR’s remote areas of the Ukrainian men who had lived on the occupied territories. Many Ukrainians fell thus victim to the criminal incompetence of the ‘genius of all times and nations’ Stalin and the ‘great military leader’ Zhukov. It is through their fault that the Germans seized our territories, sometimes for years on end.
“This is obvious and deliberate genocide of the Ukrainian people. Moscow is continuing it today by committing an aggression against Ukraine. You are asking how the genocide of the Ukrainian people can be resisted. The answer is unambiguous: to resolutely fight against Moscow’s aggression, i.e., to do what Ukraine is doing today. But this face-off should be of a more consistent and resolute nature.”
The Day’s FACT FILE
Vladimir S. KRAVTSOV was born on June 29, 1936, in the village of Besedino, Besedino district, Kursk oblast. His father, Sergey Kravtsov (Oct. 8, 1914 – Nov. 11, 1973), was an accountant. His mother, Olga Kravtsova, nee Boiarchuk (Jan. 22, 1913 – May 31, 1973), was a kindergarten principal and then a housewife.
In early 1937 the family moved to Konotop, Sumy oblast, where Olga Kravtsova had been born and raised. Still living at the time were her father Nikolai Boiarchuk, a descendent of Zaporozhian Cossacks, who was very proud of this and was instilling this pride in his four sons, and her mother Anastasia Boiarchuk who came from a serf family. Vladimir Kravtsov spent his childhood, teen years, and some of his youth in this Ukrainian city. He finished a general secondary school here in 1955 and entered the History Faculty of Kharkiv’s A.M. Gorky State University. Now it is a national university justly named after its founder Vasyl Karazin. Upon graduation from the university in 1960, he went to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, where his parents lived. He still lives in this city.
Over the past 55 years, Kravtsov has worked as a general secondary school teacher of history, a teacher and full-time department head at a secondary technical school, and, mainly, at the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk State Pedagogical Institute. Referred by this institute, he did a full-time Ph.D. course at the Institute of the History, Archeology, and Ethnography of Far Eastern Peoples, affiliated to the Far Eastern Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where he wrote, under the supervision of Prof. A.I. Krushanov, and successfully defended a Candidate of Sciences (History) dissertation. At the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk State Pedagogical Institute, he rose from a department instructor to an associate professor and the dean of the History Faculty. He established and chaired the History Department of the Sakhalin Oblast In-Service Teacher Training Institute. Then he worked as advisor to the plenipotentiary representative of the President of Russia in Sakhalin oblast and as assistant to the mayor of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Vladimir Kravtsov is the author of a large number of historical and sociopolitical publications. Some of them (in co-authorship) were included into the book The Future Belongs to Right-Wing Liberalism, the first part of which was published in 2006. The second part is still to be published, but sponsors are not exactly hurrying. The manuscript of the book By the Right of a Contemporary and an Eyewitness. Honestly about Myself: from Communism to Liberalism is in the final stage of preparation for printing. This book is unlikely to be published in Russia due to its political vector, and there are no funds to have it published abroad.
Now retired, Vladimir Kravtsov still actively works as political writer in history.
To be continued