Since the outbreak of the war, Ukrainian rhetoric has evolved from resistance to liberation, and now it is the narrative of victory that predominates, observes Marin Gherman, director of the Institute of Political Studies and Social Capital in Chernivtsi.
During an IPN debate, Marin Gherman said that the narratives of the Second World War have re-emerged in both Russia and Ukraine. Both nations utter calls for defending the homeland, but the big difference is that Russia is the attacking side while Ukraine is defending.
According to the expert, humanity is currently “on the verge of an epochal change”. Marin Gherman expressed his hope that in the battle for world order, the norms of international law and the rule of law will prevail. According to him, the rhetoric of World War II has resurfaced and is being heavily used by both Russia and Ukraine.
“Now, on the one hand, we observe in Moscow narratives about the need to defend the country from NATO and the EU, intensively promoted by Russian propaganda. There is a myth being built of Russia being ‘besieged on all sides by American imperialists, supported by Ukrainian Nazis’. After the notion of a ‘military operation’, Russia again resorts to the grand narrative of homeland defense. Putin says we must mobilize to defend our homeland from enemies. It is a new narrative and it justifies the necessity of enlisting men in the military. And Ukraine, too, is now using the historical narrative of homeland defense, mobilizing society. We can see comparisons like Hitler-Putler, Nazist-Russhist appearing there. The same patterns are used, but for different purposes. Russia is the one invading Ukraine and Ukraine is the one defending itself”, said Marin Gherman.
Marin Gherman noted that, after Russia’s attack in 2014, Ukraine finally got rid of nostalgia for the Soviet past. Since 2015, May 9 has been reformulated as the day of victory over Nazism, excluding the phrase “The Great War for the Defense of the Fatherland”.
“Following the negative experiences with Russia since 2014, Ukraine has come a long way, if we compare it with the Republic of Moldova. But there was also nostalgia and nostalgics in Ukraine, Crimea was annexed relatively easily by Russia because Russian propaganda reaped the fruits of nostalgia for the USSR. Nostalgia for the USSR is an element of occupying and invading a state. Putin and Russian propaganda make the most of this nostalgia, creating confusion, as if today’s Russia is the Soviet Union”, said Marin Gherman.
Marin Gherman noted that Ukrainian society is ready for a victory in the war with Russia, the narrative of Russia's defeat being increasingly used in the press and official speeches.
“If at first people were mostly dominated by the idea of resistance, and this word was everywhere in the press and in the president’s speeches, later, Ukraine came out of the resistance phase and entered the liberation phase, simultaneously with armed support from the West, and now the underlying narrative is victory. The trend is positive. That is why Putin is resorting to energy terrorism and nuclear threats, bombing Ukraine’s energy capabilities to minimize the excitement caused by successful counter-offensive operations by Ukraine. It is certain that there are several wars going on at the same time: military, symbolic, energy-related and informational”, pointed out the director of the Institute of Political Studies and Social Capital in Chernivtsi.
The debate titled “Who started World War II and why? Propaganda myths as a source of nostalgia for the USSR” was the sixth installment of the series of debates “100 years of USSR and 31 years without USSR: Nostalgia for Chimeras”. The project is implemented by IPN News Agency with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.