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Words for War – You Don’t Understand, George

The original uploader was J2thawiki at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR. The book is “Words for War,” an anthology of Ukrainian poets edited by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky.

Seven months before opening this phase of a long war, seven months before the invasion of February 24 one year ago (2022), Vladimir Putin, as author, wrote a prelude to justify his next round of war. ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“ is a long rambling document, 6,885 words, more than 20 pages when pasted into Word, dated July 12, 2021. Putin starts out denying the independence of Ukraine, “… when I was asked about Russian-Ukrainian relations, I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole.”

He says almost nothing about NATO. Two mentions in one short paragraph, 94 words of the 6,885 words, 1.37% of the paper. He does not go on about NATO expansion. He talks identity - as history.

This is what is actually happening. First of all, we are facing the creation of a climate of fear in Ukrainian society, aggressive rhetoric, indulging neo-Nazis and militarising the country. Along with that we are witnessing not just complete dependence but direct external control, including the supervision of the Ukrainian authorities, security services and armed forces by foreign advisers, military “development” of the territory of Ukraine and deployment of NATO infrastructure. It is no coincidence that the aforementioned flagrant law on “indigenous peoples” was adopted under the cover of large-scale NATO exercises in Ukraine.

That 1.37% of his cause-of-war document is all the space Putin gives to NATO.

In 2008 Putin told President George Bush, "You don't understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us." - Putin (Time Magazine wrote in a 2009 article)

About 1,800 words down Putin says, “I am not going to idealise anything. We do know there were the Valuev Circular of 1863 and the Ems Ukaz of 1876, which restricted the publication and importation of religious and socio-political literature in the Ukrainian language. . . I should add that works of fiction, books of Ukrainian poetry and folk songs continued to be published.”

The Valuev Circular, 1863, that Putin referred to, outlawed the Ukrainian language for common use. The Circular says “… a separate Little Russian language has never existed, does not exist and cannot exist, and that their dialect, used by commoners, is just the Russian Language, only corrupted by the influence of Poland; Note “little Russian” (Malorussian) is a slur on Ukraine.”

“…the approval of books,” it says, “in the Little Russian language of a spiritual nature, as well as educational books and those intended for the initial reading by the commoners, is suspended.” (1863, Valuev Circular)

The poets say, “I am Ukrainian.”

Again, the soldier poet, Boris Humenyuk in a work titled “Seagulls”

These seagulls over the battlefield - They’ve long fed on the flesh of warriors They don’t care whose flesh.

… pigeons They’re accustomed to rummaging through human trash Even when they happen to use hair They pulled from bloody shot-through skulls To line their nest with I understand them

You might be able to put together a person - Friend or enemy - If only we could find someone to bring him back to life.

You can’t dig a grave for just one Torn off finger.

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club

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