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Russia's Genocide Against History

As the world learns more about the lives lost to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of the war’s greatest casualties remains overlooked. While Western news outlets show visceral images of the destruction of Ukrainian villages and the wounded lives of residents, the West has yet to appreciate Russia’s concerted campaign to destroy memorials to the Ukrainian past. In Yale historian Timothy Synder’s Bloodlands, a sweeping history of Eastern Europe under the wrath of Hitler and Stalin, we see how Putin’s treatment of Ukraine reveals a deeper philosophy of authoritarian thought: “When meaning is drawn from killing,” Synder explains, “the risk is that more killing would bring more meaning.” The primary purpose of Russia’s assault on Ukrainian history is precisely this: to kill the Ukrainian identity so that Russia can remake the country in its own image.

The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that one of Russia’s principal military targets is the history of the nation. As The Smithsonian Magazine explained in one of their issues, Russia has used psychological warfare to alienate the Ukrainian people from their history. In the image below, the blue dots represent the cultural sites affected by Russian attacks. If readers were to count these blue dots, they would amount to 28,000.

Through primary sources like satellite imaging, we see how Russians are also stealing artifacts of interest. In Kherson, museum staff reported that over 10,000 artworks were secretly loaded on board trucks destined for the Russian-occupied Central Museum of Tavrida in Simferopol, Crimea. Through the removal of Ukrainian artwork from the nation’s soil, we see how Russia is attempting to create a tabula rasa upon which Russian history may be superimposed.

Satellite imaging tells a story about how many important monumental buildings in Ukrainian culture are completely decimated.

This image shows a local history museum located in Ivankiv, a town located just north of Kyiv and had large historical significance to the town of just 10,000 people. Satellite imaging shows what the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum looks like just under 2 weeks later.

This museum was home to over 20 art works by a local Ukrainian folk artist named Maria Prymachenko. The artist had this to say “Another one of the irreparable losses of the historical-cultural authority of Ukraine is the destruction of the Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum by the aggressor in these hellish days for our country,”. The destruction of this important historical building in Ukrainian culture was confirmed by Vlada Litovechenko. “Numerous historical and architectural monuments and archaeological sites are under threat of artillery shelling and uncontrolled movement of heavy military trucks,” Litovechenko explained on Facebook.


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