“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”
— Matthew 10:21 New International Version
Despite attempts by Ukrainian nationalists to portray themselves as racially pure Viking Aryans untainted by inferior Russian blood, in truth Russians and Ukrainians share the same genetic roots which stretch back to ancient Rus` and the times before that.
Though there is plenty of debate among scholars, the prevailing theory is that the Rus` were the progeny of local Slavic tribes and Viking traders who founded the first cities of Rus` — principally, Novgorod and Kiev.
Novgorod is believed to have been founded by a Scandinavian Viking chieftain named Rurik who arrived in the Ladoga region of what is now northwest Russia, in the year 862. It was he, his descendants and followers, Viking and Slavic, who became known as the Kievan Rus`. They captured a “city on a hill” to the south called Kiy — Kiev — and made it their capital in circa 882.
The Kievan Rus` ruled into the 13th century during a time now known as the Rurik Dynasty, until they were invaded by the “Golden Horde” — the great mounted armies led by the descendants of Genghis Khan. The princes of Kiev, grossly outnumbered and fearing their own death if they did not submit, swore fealty to their new overlords who ruled until they, in turn, were overthrown in the 15th century.
The history of the region is complex. There have been many who coveted the fertile land now known as Ukraine, with its rich, black soil, moderate climate and sunny beaches that lie along the shores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
The very word “Ukraine” is derived from Slavic words meaning “the south” (yug in Russian) and “region” (raion in Russian). The word itself translates as “outlying region” or “southern region.” During the time of the Russian Empire and during Soviet times, Ukraine was the breadbasket where the majority of food was grown, especially wheat, by peasant farmers.
Ukraine was given the status of “republic” during Soviet times, allowing it some autonomy under Soviet rule, and when the USSR disintegrated, Ukraine became independent. But for hundreds of years prior to that, Ukraine was considered a region in Russia. Many Ukrainians thought of themselves as Russian. They often intermarried and had children and, apart from the bitter rumblings of the nationalists, Ukrainians were not thought of as a different ethnicity.
The blood-ties between Russians and Ukrainians are strong. But fascism, it seems, is stronger.
Fascism demands more than blood
“The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
-–Andriy Biletsky, Maidan activist and founder of Azov Battalion.
Inthe years after the bloody Maidan coup which tore Ukraine apart, the Banderites, followers of the Ukrainian nationalist and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, intensified their education of Ukrainian children with the support of the state. They introduced special textbooks in classrooms, such as the one we looked at in part one of this series, and they taught children that Russian was the enemy’s language. Naturally, people living in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas region, were horrified. Most of them are Russian-speakers.
Children were told at school to be ashamed of their parents, who spoke the “language of the oppressor.” And children who spoke Russian or came from Russian-speaking families were bullied by the other children.
The nationalists’ hostility toward Russian-speaking Ukrainians had already been unleashed during Maidan with terrifying brutality and in the years to follow it would grow even uglier. Neo-Nazi militias such as Azov Battalion, operating with full approval from Kiev, began making targeted attacks on civilian populations in Donbas. They shelled schools, hospitals, public markets and critical civilian infrastructure. They raped and murdered people, including women and children. This is what led to the rebellion of the Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine, who founded the breakaway People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
At first, the Banderites were unable to force Ukrainian soldiers to shoot at their own family, friends and neighbors in eastern Ukraine. Many defected and joined the growing militias in Donbas, which fought against the nationalists attacking their region.
Then, in 2015, Ukraine formed the “Special Tasks Patrol “ and filled its ranks with a different kind of soldier. Men like Danyial al-Takbir, a neo-Nazi, former ISIS member and convicted murderer, are praised by the nationalists. Al-Takbir raped some of his victims until they were dead and didn’t shy away from burning people alive. He and his ilk are the legacy of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, eager to perpetrate a Holocaust in Donbas just as their forefathers did seven decades ago.
To understand how this works, one has only to take a look at Germany in the 1930’s, where the Nazis taught children to swear allegiance to their Führer even when their parents did not. Fascism demands a kind of loyalty that supersedes blood ties.
As the war neared its end, Hitler had no qualms about sacrificing these children to prolong his “millennial Reich” for a few more days. He sent Volkssturm (people’s storm) units comprised of children, old men and women, to fight against the Soviets as they closed in on Berlin in the spring of 1945.
Blood is not enough. Only death can suffice.
Dissent is not tolerated
Itwas not only “Russian separatists” in Donbas who were horrified by the way children were (and still are) being educated in Ukraine.
Five hundred kilometers from Kiev, in the city of Dnepropetrovsk (renamed “Dnipro” by Ukraine’s new government), the parents of elementary school students filed a complaint against a teacher who called Russian “the language of the enemies.”
In 2021, the parents of second-graders at school № 137 complained that a new teacher, Viktoria Zhdanova, was telling their seven- and eight-year-old children that “Russians are enemies, they came here and colonized Ukraine” and that anyone “who does not speak Ukrainian is an ‘enemy of the state’ and supports enemies of Ukraine.”
The parents had screen-shots and other evidence, but the school responded that they did not see any crime and would not replace the teacher. You can read a discussion concerning one mother’s complaint about the teacher at this Ukrainian website if you use an online translation service, but the upshot is that the school supported the “patriotic teacher,” the mother was smeared for supporting the Immortal Regiment (a global group of allied WW2 veterans and their descendants which is seen as “pro-Soviet” and therefore against Ukraine), and the children began demanding that their parents speak Ukrainian because otherwise they are “enemies.”
In 2018, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, wrote on Facebook that a lecture about military valor was held in Kiev gymnasium № 315. The students were provided with a “glorious” example of valor: The SS Division Galicia of the Nazis. “This is the latest trend for schools,” Dolinsky wrote, “when valor and courage are taught with examples of [Nazi] collaboration, service in the SS, schutzmanschaft, auxiliary police, and fighting with civilians.”
In 2017, NBC News produced a segment in its series “Left Field” about an Azovets training camp for children, which is sponsored by the neo-Nazi militia, Azov Battalion. In the following clip, you can listen to the kids as they openly chant “death to Moskals!” Moskal, as I’ve written before, is a slur referring to Russians.
The children, gathered around a bonfire, shout and chant, “What is our slogan? We are Ukraine’s children! Let Moscow lie in ruins, we don’t give a damn! We will conquer the whole world! Death, death to Moskals! Death, death to Moskals!”
The video explains how the Azovets children are given paramilitary training. A boy named Smolny, age 9, talks about how the camp is a “dream come true” for him. The children sleep in tents, according to the British-accented journalist who went there, and are often woken up at 3AM by smoke grenades, to simulate war. The “war,” at that time, was with the Russian-speaking people of Donbas. The journalist refers to them as “Ukrainian-born Russian sympathizers,” apparently not understanding that Russian and Ukrainian are really one blood and that the differences between them are political rather than genetic.
One of the instructors speaks, claiming he is not a Nazi but a nationalist. However, the instructors wear Nazi symbols on their clothing or tattooed on their skin, teach children Nazi salutes and tell them that the Nazi mass-murderer Bandera is a “hero of Ukraine.”
“We shall recover Crimea and then Kuban!” one of the instructors shouts, as a group of campers travels by bus. The children pick up the chant: “We shall recover Crimea and then Kuban!” they shout, “And we’ll chase away the Moskal skunks!”
An instructor says off camera, “Today’s generation has to ensure the foundations for the next.”
The journalist doesn’t call out their racism directly, but he does admit that “their ideologies are radical for the rest of Ukraine. They don’t like immigration, they don’t like foreigners.” By the “rest of Ukraine,” he is doubtlessly referring to the Russian-speaking and Romani parts of Ukraine, where the “foreigners” (the non-Aryan Ukrainians) live.
Next, we see children crawling through the dirt as they struggle through a paramilitary obstacle course. In the background, children chant, “Beat the Moskal! Beat the Moskal! Stack the corpses!”
In previous years, western journalists who visited the training camps were often openly horrified by what has now come to be accepted and even admired in Europe, Australia and North America where Vogue published articles promoting Bandera and his followers.
In 2015, journalists from the British publication Daily Mail visited an Azovets camp and observed: “They are an ultranationalist, swastika-loving battalion that openly opposes the truce agreed upon with pro-Russian separatists. Now the Azov extremists are teaching children as young as six how to shoot. This is done in order to lure them into the bloody conflict taking place in the country.”
In those days, western journalists were more honest in their reactions to the training camps.
“Nationalist camp in Ukraine trains kids to kill,” the Associated Press wrote in 2018. “A camp founded by a Ukrainian nationalist group teaches children to use assault rifles to kill Russians and their sympathizers. They are also being inculcated with nationalist ideology, including derision of LGBT rights.”
The Guardian, in 2017, made a film about one of Azovets camps in which it was compared to the Hitler Youth camps of Nazi Germany.
“This is the future of Ukraine,” an instructor says, “So we teaching childrens [sic] to love Ukraine.”
“Slava Ukraine!” Another instructor shouts, “Glory to the heroes!”
“Glory to the nation!” The children chant, thumping their hearts with their fists.
“Ukraine above all!” They chant.
A girl wearing shorts exposes tattoos in English on the backs of her thighs which say “White Pride.”
“Almost all our children come every year,” a female instructor says, “to strengthen their spirit, might, their power.”
The children are shown wearing gas masks as they run an obstacle course.
“We are preparing future warriors,” the instructor continues, “people who will protect and love Ukraine. They need to be prepared for everything.”
Prepared even to kill their own parents, their own family?
With special thanks to Lilya Takumbetova, Lara Demidova, Alexander Zavaly, Dmitry Kuznetsov and Irina Strakhova for assistance with translation.
Edited to add: By the way, I am fairly certain that the man in the SS helmet, in the top photo of this article, is the same man who was seen torturing Russian prisoners of war. Shooting them in the legs and watching them bleed out. He has the same leathery skin, the same duck-bill nose, the same frown, and he cocks his head to his right.
Here is his picture. You can judge for yourself.
Great guy to teach those kids, isn’t he?
About the author:
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.