Malorossiya: Between Virtual Strategy and Political Future – Part 3


July 28, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

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Continued from Part 2 

Malorossiya vs. Ukraine: Democracy vs. Dictatorship?

The observations presented in the last two installments are of principal importance and, indeed, raise the question of whether it is necessary to correct the state course of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the direction of being more consistent with the principles of democracy and its popular mandate.

Having been engaged in research on public opinion in Donbass (in the DPR and LPR) since May-June 2014, including by means of personally and constantly conducting public opinion polls and expert surveys, I can confidently assert that the people of Donbass will never agree to go back to being part of Ukraine, no matter under what name or government. The overwhelming majority of DPR and LPR residents (and the majority of inhabitants of Ukrainian-occupied Donbass) dream of their region being annexed by Russia. Second place in popularity (by a wide margin) is the conviction that the DPR and LPR must preserve independence, and in third place is the establishment of a federal state of Novorossiya (the historical lands with a predominantly Russian, i.e., Great Russian, population wrested from the Turks by the Russian Empire and subsequently transferred by Lenin to the Ukrainian SSR). Those who support returning to Ukraine, according to the surveys conducted by the author among the population in the DPR and LPR, make up only 2-3%. In accordance with the political moods of the inhabitants of the DPR and LPR, which are undoubtedly inclined towards a maximum distancing from Ukraine and joining Russia, the authorities of the republics do not have the right to ignore these stable aspirations. 

The republics are also faced with a second restrictive factor, namely, the Kiev government’s stubborn refusal to fulfill the Minsk Agreements. A new “big war” with Ukraine is only a matter of time, as war is inevitable insofar as the Ukrainian state in its present form is maintained. That being said, the republics of Donbass can protect themselves in two possible ways: either by joining Russia (which would in fact raise the chances of a war between Ukraine and Russia) or by eliminating the Ukrainian state in its current format. 

For obvious reasons, Russia is not willing to absorb the DPR and LPR (although this position could change relatively quickly if Russo-American and Russo-Western relations deteriorate). Thus, the DPR and LPR are left with no other variants than working to “abolish” Ukraine in its current form. It is probably by virtue of this reality that Alexander Zakharchenko opted for “violating” the basic democratic principle of the republic and violating the outcome of the referendum of May 11th, 2014 when he declared that the DPR would become part of future Malorossiya. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate the above-mentioned contradictions between the democratic character of the DPR state and the principle of security. 

In our opinion, resolving this moral and legal contradiction is possible by means of organizing a congress of representatives of Ukraine’s regions and a subsequent all-Ukrainian plebiscite on the state’s future. This would in turn, however, be possible only after Nazi-oligarchic Ukraine’s military defeat. Let us provide some background to further elaborate this point. 

The ruling regime in post-Maidan Ukraine came to power as the result of an armed coup and the overthrow of the legitimate government. Already with its very first steps, the new regime set out to violate the basic principle on which the state of Ukraine rested, namely, the ensuring of a bare minimum of ethno-cultural and civil rights to the Russian-cultured half of the country in exchange for recognition of the state in its existing borders (including the Russian lands of Novorossiya) by this population. The second step which nullified the state’s legitimacy was the genocide it launched against the population of Donbass in the form of punitive military actions and social and economic blockade. We can also recall another “forgotten” facet of the new Ukrainian government, i.e, the new Kiev authorities’ refusal to recognize the old debts of the Ukrainian state as if their revolution had given birth to a new state free of the debt of the old. In so doing, Kiev essentially spurred a legal collision: the state of Ukraine no longer existed. 

All of this – even before the Ukrainian punitive army’s shelling and bombardment of Donbass – gave grounds to speak of a “former Ukraine.” Hence why I have used this term in my publications since literally the first days of March 2014 following the Maidan coup. 

Thus, the current Kiev regime is: (1) illegitimate, having arisen as a result of the overthrow of a legitimate government and holding presidential and parliamentary elections only with gross procedural violations; (2) criminal, having committed treason in the form of a coup in collusion with a number of foreign states; and (3) genocidal, pursuing the extermination of the Russian population by means of military, financial and economic, and ecological means as well as through forcing them to migrate. This regime violates basic human rights and must be destroyed just like the Third Reich. 

In late March 2014, on the website of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), the author of these lines elaborated his view of the future of Ukraine’s system following the overthrow of the government by Ukrainian Nazis in the following terms: “Ukraine’s future destiny will be decided not in Kiev, but in Donetsk…Ukraine’s future fate is the fate of the regions out of whose bosom this state was given a lease on life. The future of democracy in Ukraine will therefore not depend on the opportunities for its citizens to freely express their will in nationwide elections for the head of state or parliament. Rather, democracy will be realized on the territory of Ukraine only if collective territorial and regional communities will be given the right to decide their own destinies…Either there will be a new social contract providing for the widest possible authority delegated to the regions in the cultural, political, and socio-economic spheres (the model of a subsidiary state system), or the regions will realize their free self-determination outside of the old or new Ukrainian statehood. In both cases, it is the people of specific regions that will decide. Let the population of the regions decide their own fate for themselves – whether to traverse down the path of civilizational divorce with the old Ukraine or, on the contrary, proceed towards concluding a new social contract to form a new Ukraine.” 

In the three years that have passed since the latter article and others were published, only one thing changed: Ukraine began armed aggression against Donbass, a war which drew in hundreds of thousands of citizens from other regions of Ukraine and which has been passively or actively supported by millions of Ukrainians. Nonetheless, the basic principle proscribed in the above-cited article remains unchanged: Ukraine has to define itself. Yet there is no question as to whether it will do so with the existing Nazi ideology, just as there was no question of preserving the Nazi regime and Nazi ideology in defeated Nazi Germany. 

The form of government and principles for creating a future Ukrainian state deserve discussion. The congress in Donetsk on July 18th, 2017 was an attempt at responding to this challenge, but we believe this attempt to be hardly successful and insufficient in meeting the complex problems facing the former Ukraine. This congress would have been quite adequate if it had happened back in March-April 2014 before the territory and population of Donbass began to be subjected to mass-scale genocide by the Ukrainians. In the present-day situation, however, including the Donbass republics in the composition of a Malorossiyan state is politically and psychologically unacceptable. 

A billboard from the run-up to the May 11th, 2014 referendum: “Make your choice!”

Thus, I propose the following correction for the Malorossiya project. The republics of Donbass should aid the former Ukraine’s regions overthrow the illegitimate and criminal regime in Kiev, which is already constantly undermined by its own internal weakness and is already threatened with overthrow from within. Even while not considering itself to be part of Ukraine/Malorossiya, Donbass is nonetheless still compelled to have a stake in Ukrainian affairs given the constant threat posed by Ukraine. Donbass should therefore provide aid not only in the military sphere, but in the political realm as well, including by organizing an all-Ukrainian congress involving representatives from all regions, the anti-fascist forces of the underground, and the political emigration, and proceed to widely promote the resolutions of such a congress to the people of the territories controlled by the Kiev regime (something which was not done with the recent Donetsk congress). Such a congress should prepare and review questions as to the structural and organizational issues of a future referendum on the system of a future Malorossiya. Each and every region should be allowed to freely decide whether it will join Malorossiya directly, form some kind of geo-cultural federation, or seek self-determination from Ukrainian/Malorossiyan statehood altogether. Only through such a democratic method can the people of Donbass protect their main feats – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – and prevent the reincarnation of a Nazi regime on the territory of the former Ukraine. 

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I believe that Ukraine in its current borders, with its current political regime and ideology, is doomed. Already today, the future of this territory in the heart of Eastern Europe with a population of 32-34 million people, five nuclear power plants, enormous weapons stockpiles, and hundreds of thousands of people who have passed through the war against the people of Donbass, is in question. The Malorossiya project voiced in Donetsk on July 18th is, in terms of its intellectual quality and organizational structure, a first and rather incomplete attempt at constructing a future Ukrainian state. We hope that our treatise has shed adequate light on some of this project’s pitfalls and disadvantages, as well as its background and, most importantly, possible paths and solutions for the future. 

Eduard Popov, born in 1973 in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia in Rostov-on-Don. From 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don. He has actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass and has been a guest contributor to various Donbass media, such as the Lugansk-based Cossack Media Group. Popov has been Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016.

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