Russia's War and Ukraine's History of Antisemitism

Karl Marx, in his essay The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, wrote:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historical events and personalities are repeated twice: the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a farce. 

Hegel was wrong.

In a reverse order of Hegel's observation, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky first was a comic actor and then the real president of Ukraine. Zelensky played the hero of the popular movie series, Servant of the People, in the role of a simple teacher who improbably became president of the state, and then became Ukraine's real president, and supreme commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army and a tragic hero in the war unleashed by the Russian Federation on Feb. 24, 2022.

It is possible that the opportunity for a nonpracticing Jew to become president of Ukraine arose only because Zelensky first played the role of president of Ukraine in the popular comic series Servant of the People.

In that role, Zelensky prepared public opinion for his paradoxical election as a member of Ukraine's once-persecuted Jewish people to president of that country. The successful comic actor and film manager became an outstanding performer in the tragic role of the Ukrainian leader and an effective political manager. He was helped in the formation of this new post-Russian Ukraine by the armed aggression of the Russian Federation.

This war began as an attack by a former suzerain, which wanted to regain suzerainty on a former vassal state, the latter of which sought to get rid of even memories of its past servitude.

The war of Ukraine against Russia was a war for its independence, a patriotic war.

It gave a powerful impetus to the crystallization of the Ukrainian nation. What Ukrainians have not been able to achieve for years in forming a coherent state came to them thanks to the terrible and destructive war initiated by Russia.

The Russian Federation significantly accelerated the process of the Ukrainian nation and its independence from the aggressor. 

In Russia, the authorities and many media accused Ukraine of dependence on the West. If the government of the Russian Federation wished to weaken this dependence, its war only strengthened it. Ukraine has since become an important state. Thanks to the war, Ukrainians are becoming a mature nation.

The Russian Federation leaders' mockery of a "laughable" country led by a "clown" turned out to be a serious miscalculation. The "jester" (Zelensky) was smarter than the "king" (Putin), as in Shakespeare's plays. The war unleashed by Russia to prevent Ukraine from joining Europe has had the opposite effect: Ukraine has moved closer to Europe, most of whose countries have sided with it and are giving it assistance.

Russia's attack on Ukraine, on Kyiv, dramatically changed Europe's entire security architecture, turning it against Moscow. Russia fell into isolation not seen for centuries. It wanted to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and has achieved the opposite effect: Ukraine is actually closer to NATO than it was before the war, as it is flooded with Western weapons as never before and capable of harming Russia as never before.

One of the two declared goals of the Russian occupation of Ukraine, "demilitarization," has failed: instead of "demilitarizing" Ukraine, the number of weapons and shells in that country has increased by many orders of magnitude thanks to Western assistance. According to the Russian political elite, Ukraine is a "helpless puppet of its Western masters". But aid came to Ukraine from all sides. Its enormous size was not taken into account by the Russian Federation because of its imperialistic self-confidence.

Russia threatens other countries explicitly and its interests implicitly.

 In French, there is an expression rira bien, qui rira le dernier – he who laughs last will laugh well. It is taken from the fable Two Peasants and a Cloud by the 18th-century French writer and fable writer Jean Pierre Florian.

Russia's mockery of Ukraine's attempts to become an independent country looks like a mockery that has turned the mocker into a laughingstock. Putin laughs at Ukraine's claims to live without Russian leadership. He insists that the state of Ukraine is an artificial entity created by the Bolsheviks at Lenin's whim, a historical curiosity. The Ukrainian people, he argues, do not exist at all, because Ukrainians and Russians are in fact one people.

Is Russia a naturally created state? There are 160 peoples living on the territory of the Russian Federation. Russia's seizure of Siberia, the Far East, Kamchatka, the Caucasus, and Chukotka is referred to in Russian history as the "development" of these lands inhabited by 159 non-Russian peoples. As in the period of the Russian Empire, the "development" and "annexation" of lands by the Russian Federation, i.e., typical imperialist actions of "development," "annexation," and "liberation" of lands that never belonged to the new Russian Federation, formed in 1991, is taking place in Ukraine.

Russian troops have come to return Ukraine to the past, to the former site of an artificial satellite orbiting Russia in Soviet times. One of the main slogans of Russia attacking Ukraine: "Ukrainians are our brothers" most characterizes the aggressive aims of the Russian Federation, because as the Russian state propaganda has it, Ukrainians are our big brothers, so big that there is no difference between us and them, we are one people. 

Since Russians and Ukrainians are one people, as Putin claims, Ukrainians do not need their own state. 

By declaring the purpose of its attack on Ukraine to be its "denazification," the Russian Federation has declared that the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II gives it alone the moral right to determine which country is a Nazi and what "punishment" that country should bear for its "guilt," as established by the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation believes that the victory of another state, the USSR and its allies in World War II, gives it a moral advantage over other countries in any conflict.

According to the English historian Arnold Toynbee, twentieth-century Russia continues to be related to the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire in two ways. The first is the conviction that it is always right, and the second is the institutions of totalitarian power.

The Russian Federation has appropriated for itself the rich inheritance of two empires, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Moscow is the Third Rome. The Russian Federation inherited the Soviet consciousness of absolute rightness and totalitarianism in foreign and domestic policy. The political blindness characteristic of a totalitarian state prevents the Russian Federation from realizing that its costly efforts to weaken Ukraine lead to a stronger opponent. It cannot stop, look back, and realize the destructive nature of its own actions. There is no reverse in the empire's gearbox, just as the Russian Empire had none in the war it lost to Japan in 1905.

In Ukraine, the theme of victory over Russia is often heard encouraging the people.

Russia has done much for this victory: Ukraine has become a quagmire in which the Russian Federation is bogged down. The war in Ukraine is becoming for Russia similar to Napoleon's war against Russia, the U.S. war in Vietnam, and the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan. Thanks to this war, Kyiv has become one of the most important European capitals: it has been visited by almost all the heads of government of the major countries. Destroyed, bleeding Ukraine becomes stronger against the enemy that has imposed war on it.

Servant of the People is the name of the party founded by Zelensky and the TV series in which he played the role of president of Ukraine perfectly before he came to power.

He liked the role to such an extent that he changed his role: from actor and producer, to politician and leader of the nation.

Zelensky's comic past and tragic present have merged into a tragicomedy that can have different scenarios.

One striking manifestation of the tragicomedy is that the main Ukrainian is of Jewish heritage. This is an astonishing phenomenon in a country where for years Jews were unloved stepchildren, victims of brutal pogroms, citizens of an inferior class.

After a series of failures of Ukrainians as presidents of Ukraine, the people of that country elected a Jew as head of state, and a Jew chose the role of leader of the Ukrainian nation. There are many examples in history of Jews trying to save European countries, including Russia, Soviet and non-Soviet, and how nothing good came of it for those countries or for the Jews of those countries.

In 1938, Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in his article "Christianity and anti-Semitism. The Religious Destiny of Jewry.":

I recall that during my years in Soviet Russia at the height of the Communist revolution the Jewish landlord of the house where I lived often said when I met him: "What an injustice, you will not be responsible for the fact that Lenin is Russian, and I will be responsible for the fact that Trotsky is a Jew."

Will Zelensky be the exception to the rule of blaming Jews for the misfortunes of other nations?

Image: Immanuel Giel, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

If you experience technical problems, please write to