Ukraine – why Russia is unpopular

Thursday, 31 March 2022

It’s now been well over a month since Vladmir Putin despatched his incompetent army to invade Ukraine. We already knew Putin was a murderer – innocent English bystanders when he decided to poison people in Salisbury, innocent Australian tourists (and 9 other nationalities) when he decided to shoot down an airliner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Now we have positive confirmation that he’s also a bungling, inept murderer.

I managed to visit Ukraine twice in the past six years. In 2016 I flew in to Kiev (more correctly Kyiv these days) and continued on to take a daytrip to the site of another Russian disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear site.

Then in 2018 I travelled by bus from Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, via the curious Russian-supported sliver of an artificial nation called Trannistria (capital Tiraspol) to Odessa on the Black Sea. A truly beautiful city Odessa has, so far, managed to escape the destruction the Russians have rained down on Kyiv and other cities around Ukraine.

There’s considerable concern that the Russian assault is going to inflict great damage on Ukraine’s cultural heritage and Global Heritage Fund, which I’m associated with, has teamed up with Europa Nostra to launch a campaign to crowd fund heritage protection. You can donate via Global Heritage or via Europa Nostra. Headquartered in San Francisco Global Heritage will even take donations made in crypto-currencies!

▲ It’s not as if the Russians don’t have form when it comes to heritage destruction in Ukraine. In Kyiv St Michael’s Monastery church was built in 1108 but destroyed by Stalin in 1937 and rebuilt by the Ukrainians in 2001. From the Bell Tower at St Sophia’s Cathedral this is the view over the Bohdan Khmelnytsky statue in Pl Sofiyska and down proyizd Volodymyrsky to St Michael’s Monastery.

▲ In Odessa the Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration Cathedral) was founded in 1794, destroyed by Stalin in 1936 and not rebuilt until 1999-2003, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Stalinist Russia was very enthusiastic about destroying cultural heritage, in the 1930s they devastated cathedrals all around the region as well as in Russia itself. So Putin is certainly following familiar footsteps.

◄ If you need more proof why the Ukrainians should be unenthusiastic about Russia’s current war head to the Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, dedicated to the victims of Stalin’s Ukraine famine of 1932-33. Just like Mao’s Chinese famine in the Great Leap Forward it was deliberately inflicted. Underneath the memorial there’s a subterranean exhibit, but for non-English speakers it’s down to a computer screen story and a short very angry doco. The Russian-inflicted famine killed about 3.5 million people.