The role of professional communities in qualifying and overcoming the consequences of genocide in Ukraine

Continuation of the discussion on the nature of genocide.
Myroslav Lavrynok21 September 2023UA DE EN ES FR IT RU


We have stated earlier that the phenomenon of genocide is already fait accompli. Still, the study and comprehension of this phenomenon, given its multidimensional nature, requires a broad discussion, the results of which will have quite practical application and impact on events not only within Ukraine.

Ukrainian territory often became the scene of genocide crime, and the Kremlin was often its instigator and organizer. Generally, similar tragic ordeals have befallen all non-Russian peoples and nations conquered by the Russians. Raphael Lemkin believed that “the mass murder of peoples and nations that characterized the Soviet Union’s advance into Europe was not a new sign of its policy of expansion. Nevertheless, it was a long-term characteristic even of the Kremlin’s domestic policy, for which the current powers-that-be had sufficient precedent in the actions of Tsarist Russia.” We are primarily interested in the current situation and the future. Still, analyzing the historical dimension of the contemporary genocide of Ukrainians is essential to understanding how the crime of genocide developed over time, what its consequences were, in what historical context it was committed, etc.

While Ukraine and Poland are making great efforts to rectify the consequences of the shameful page of their shared past, contemporary Russia, after a short break, has returned to totalitarian imperial practices. It refused to recognize the acts of the Russian Empire and the USSR as criminal, the successor to which it positions itself. Moreover, given the new opportunities provided by technical progress, the Russian state has improved such practices. It now makes great efforts not only to conceal and distort information about past crimes but also to exert a powerful informational influence. Such influence both contributes to genocide acts by involving a significant number of its citizens in their organization and execution and justifies and covers up such actions by preemptively accusing others of falsifying facts and “Russophobia.” This part of the Russian policy, its methods and tools, the current domestic and international context, the clarification of the motives of genocide require study and extensive coverage, as the Russian Federation continues to threaten not only Ukrainians, but also other peoples, nations and states. Skillfully playing on ultra-nationalist sentiments in the countries of old Europe, appealing to the colonial past of countries with developing economies, and supporting separatist movements and terrorist organizations around the world, Russia is leveling the peacekeeping achievements and agreements of the civilized world, established after the end of the Second World War and decolonization. A significant component of such a policy, which relevant specialists should comprehensively analyze, is the incitement of enmity between different states and social groups, which can serve as one of the prerequisites for genocide.

Studying the preconditions and consequences of genocide and its qualification also needs the involvement of philosophers, culturologists, and psychologists. The modern Russian regime is totalitarian by nature, which implies no doubts about the correctness of the actions of the political leadership. Still, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation had a short history of a flourishing free press, pluralism, attention to human rights, and robust human rights communities. It is essential to understand: how did so many people who had rejected the false ideas of totalitarian communism, in a short time, become supporters of its modified version and, if not active accomplices, then silent witnesses of its crimes? The Russian media and mass culture, educational programs, and private conversations of ordinary people are now permeated with disregard for other nations, devaluation of human life, including the lives of Russians themselves, a culture of total, cross-cutting violence, the “exposure” of liberal values as far-fetched or perverted constructs, the cultivation of brute force as the only source of law and deception as a means of achieving desired goals. Years of living in such a reality have changed the worldview of many Russians, allowing them to deny apparent facts and interpret them in a way that excludes the feeling of guilt. The possible and actual consequences of the practical realization of current Russian ideology in Ukraine should also be studied and corrected since genocide exerts short— and long-term influences on victims and their groups.

The religious component of the genocide phenomenon also deserves special attention. Our initiative has recorded numerous bombardments of sites protected by the Rome Statute, committed between February 2022 and April 2023; many such objects are intended for religious purposes. The Russian Orthodox Church always supports the aggressive actions of the Russian state, serving as part of the propaganda machinery, instilling intolerance on many grounds, cultivating death, and devaluing human life. The Russian Orthodox Church’s actions deny many Christian values. At the same time, it accuses other Orthodox, Christian, and other churches and believers of “wrong views,” "heresy”, and “Satanism,” thereby providing a spiritual basis for the commission of genocide by Russian citizens.

In addition to these components of the phenomenon of Russian genocide in Ukraine, there are its signs, which have already qualified or can be qualified by lawyers as actions defined by international law. Thus, we have already told about the actions related to the deportation of Ukrainian children, which led to the issuance by the International Criminal Court of arrest warrants against Russian President Putin and his authorized representative for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. The fact of the forcible transfer of children from one group to another is the surest criterion that we are indeed dealing with genocide. However, many jurists, following a positive explanation of legal norms based on clearing up the intentions of lawmakers or the objective historical significance of a rule of law at the time of its adoption, take a very cautious stand on this issue. The nature of the Russian war against Ukraine is relatively new and, therefore, difficult to qualify appropriately. The problem is that the Russians, despite the numerous murders and destruction they have committed in Ukraine, do not seek total extermination of most Ukrainians, providing real or perceived opportunities for our citizens willing to give up their national identity in favor of Russian identity. This makes it difficult to perceive the national group of Ukrainians as an object of genocide.

Thus, the study of the phenomenon of the genocide and the proper qualification of the genocide that Russia is carrying out in Ukraine, and, possibly, the future clarification of the norms of international law, requires the involvement of representatives of various professional communities capable of approaching this problem comprehensively. Coordination of such work at the final stage will require the state’s efforts. Still, now, the human rights community, using its broad connections and opportunities, should work intensively to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and create conditions to guarantee the non-repetition of this crime in the future.

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