Putin’s speech on Lenin and Ukraine: what he said to kick off the invasion, and why it’s the most important in the last 20 years

Of Andrea Marinelli

Putin announces the recognition of the Donbass separatist republics, explaining that modern Ukraine is a creation of the USSR. He quotes Lenin, but also Stalin, Khrushchev and Gorbachev. Behind him, the flag of the Romanovs. Speech analysis

The very idea of ​​Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said in his televised address to the nation, during which he announced the recognition of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, an invention of Lenin. Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, Bolshevik and Communist Russiaargued the Czar of the Kremlin, in a historical rereading defined by analysts as extreme even by his standards, those of a leader who believes the collapse of the Soviet Union the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. This process started after the 1917 revolution, Putin explained. Lenin and his companions carried it forward in an approximate way with respect to Russia, taking away pieces of its historical territory.

In fact, the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are both descended from the Kievan Rus, Slavic, Baltic and Ugrian tribes who in the 9th century created a monarchical entity that included part of the current Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian territory. Russian identity and culture are born then: Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, was founded hundreds of years before Moscow, even though Ukrainian borders, religion and population changed several times over the course of a millennium. When he founded the first socialist state in the world, on 30 December 1922, Lenin effectively prevents the birth of an independent Ukrainian state: during the Soviet era, then, the Ukrainian language was banned in schools and local culture, writes the New York Timescould only be passed on through funny caricatures of the dancing Cossacks.

was therefore the crumbling Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev to allow Ukraine to become independent without conditionsPutin added, calling the decision madness. But in 1991 it was not Moscow that granted independence, but the Ukrainian people who took it: on January 21, 1990 over 300,000 Ukrainians organized a human chain between Kiev and Lviv, then on August 24, 1991 the birth of a Ukrainian state independent from the USSR was declared, and on 1 December the voters approved the referendum which sanctioned the independence of Ukraine. It is therefore not a historical error, as Putin believes, but a political and democratic will. A will that the Soviet Union then undertook to respect, as long as Kiev gave up its nuclear arsenal.

If Lenin was the author and creator of Ukraine, according to Putin too Iosif Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953, was responsible for ceding some territories that previously belonged to Poland, Romania and Hungary, and then Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 took Crimea from Russia and gave it to the ‘Ukraine. And so – Putin stated – that the territory of Soviet Ukraine was formed. This historical reinterpretation actually hides two obsessions of the president: on the one hand, Putin can justify a military intervention, arguing that it would not violate the sovereignty of another state because, in fact, Ukraine is part of Russia; on the other, his words reveal a tsarist ambition, the obsession of that is, to match the borders of his country with those of imperial Russia.

It is no longer important what the Bolshevik leaders thought about tearing the country apart, he wrote last year in a long article in which he argued that Ukraine and Russia were one state. We can disagree on minor details, the background and the logic behind certain decisions. But one thing is certain: Russia was robbedPutin explained, a concept he repeated in Monday’s speech, with which he went back 100 years and which embodies the vision of the Russian president. It is not only the errors of Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, listed almost with contempt, that reveal this Putin’s imperial ambition, but also the scenography and the inconography of the National Security Council broadcast in mock – the participants’ clocks marked a different time – live on television.

With behind the flag of the Romanovs – the one with the golden double-headed eagle and the shield with St. George, the symbol of Moscow, killing a snake with a spear, returned in 1993 after 70 years of rest – the president dominates the large circular hall in the Kremlin.

seated on one side, with his main – and obedient – collaborators arranged in a semicircle about ten meters away who stand up in turn to speak into the microphone and support Putin’s line: those who propose a softer approach, such as the head of foreign espionage Sergej Naryshkin who suggests giving the West one last chanceis humiliated by the Tsar

, bored and impatient; others, such as Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, are relaunching by suggesting that they take all of the Donbass, not just the area in the hands of pro-Russians.

On the far left of the group of the president’s twelve loyalists, then, there is the only woman, Valentina Matvienko, who was deputy to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov – Putin’s great rival – between 1998 and 1999, but who then approached the new leader becoming in 2003 governor of St. Petersburg, or the city of Putin, and then in 2011 president of the Federal Council, the Russian Senate which must grant permission to the president to use the military abroad. Her career, noted in a long Twitter thread Kamil Galeev, fellow at Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, it helps to understand Russian history and political dynamics, but above all the qualities necessary to make way for Putin’s country: unconditional obedience to one’s leaders, whoever they are, and the ability to support any political agenda and then, in a U-turn, the exact opposite.

At the end of the National Security Council, Putin turned to his nation and sternly put in place the mistakes made by the Bolshevik leaders, obliterated Ukraine and brought Russia back exactly 100 years.

The president then signed the decree recognizing the independence – and in fact the annexation, as happened in 2014 with Crimea – of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and sent the army to Donbass, to resolve a humanitarian emergency that only the Russian state media talk about. In the middle of his speech, however, Putin also left another trace, when he talks about the terrible tragedy in Odessa, where peaceful demonstrators were brutally killed, burned alive in the House of Trade Unions. That day, in Odessa, 38 pro-Russian people died and the culprits, Putin says, have never been punished, but we know their names, and we will do everything to bring them to justice. In this passage, some observers have read the Tsar’s next move: get to Odessa, officially to do justice.


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