Naimark on the Ukraine crisis: “It’s scary. Things could get a lot worse.”


“What is to stop him next time?” (Photo: John LeSchofs)

“It’s scary. Things could get a lot worse.” That’s how Norman Naimarkan expert on Eastern Europe and author of Stalin’s Genocides, summarized the crisis in Ukraine.

The Stanford scholar was delivering a short, galvanizing talk on the exuberant growth of democracy in the 1990s at the Hoover Institution’s Stauffer Auditorium on Tuesday. In the questions that followed, inevitably someone asked about the Ukraine crisis. And then the situation was like the top pulled off a  bottle of Coke after its been shaken for a quarter-hour. His language was unequivocal and condemnatory: “I think the situation is awful, depressing, and a major challenge, not a minor one, to the international system and how it operates. It’s a terrible thing that happened with the invasion. The real historical analogy is, as Hillary [Clinton] said it, the late 1930s.”


“The Baltics are scared to death.” (Photo: John LeSchofs)

“I think concessions are not going to work, much like the 1930s,” he added, referring to the West’s yielding of the Sudetenland in the 1938, which was followed by other compromises. Despite the analogies with the 1930s, “Putin is not Hitler,” he said, but the international community must nevertheless “show Putin and Russia this will not go.”

 “Crimea is gone,” he said definitively. “The Baltics are scared to death.” Now he said the international community must shore up Ukraine’s Donetsk, Khargiv, and Odessa. “The natural question is: What is to stop him next time?” Naimark was deeply concerned that “we’re not taking charge of actions and steps that will contain the crisis.” He said it was vital to fortify the destabilized government in Kiev.

“We should be there in a big way, and use this opportunity because Putin has broken the rules.” It’s going to have a price tag for the West, in terms of trade, dollars, resources, and alliances, and will require “a serious commitment, a readiness to sacrifice.”

Naimark said he is very irritated by the West’s readiness to accept Russia’s rationale that Ukraine has historically been a Russian territory. Crimea, in particular, has belonged to the Cimmerians, Bulgars, Greeks, Scythians, Goths, Huns, Khazars, the state of Kievan Rus, Byzantine Greeks, Kipchaks, Ottoman Turks, Golden Horde Tatars, and the Mongols. In the 13th century, it was partly controlled by the Venetians and by the Genoese; then the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries. “It was not part of Russia till Catherine took it,” he emphasized.  That would be Catherine the Great in the 18th century.

In one surprising anecdote, he said a visiting Russian scholar recently told him that  “they’re under pressure from their side” not to partner with reputable American institutions.

As a “humble historian,” Naimark said he deplored the ignorance of the press about history and the negligent media coverage. For example, he said, there has been universal press silence about the 6,000 Russian intellectuals protesting the the invasion. Not quite universal; it was reported in Frankfurter’s Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday, in an article entitled “Sorry Ukraine”:


“It’s mine, mine, mine.”

More than six thousand Russian intellectuals, including the writers Ludmila Ulitzkaya, Boris Akunin, Olga Sedakova, and Sergei Ganlewski have signed a protest letter against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, because … it in no way protects the peace, but only makes a bad situation worse.

The demagogic reporting of Russian media reminds one of the publicity policies of Hitler and Stalin before the outbreak of World War II, according the the text, that carries the slogan of “For Our and Their Freedom,” with which Soviet Russian human rights activists already protested the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Also among the signatories are the composer Dmitri Kurliandski, the Architect Evgeni Ass, the liberal Russian priest Jakov Krotov. The writer and publicist Lev Rubinstein directed, in addition, a personal message to “Ukrainian friends” in which he asks for forgiveness because the few Russians not poisoned by imperial poison gas were unable to prevent this “shameful occupation.” Rock musicians produced a video urging Russians and Ukrainians to resist efforts to get them to fight each other.

Only the reactionary Russian writers union spoke directly for the military action to “protect the Russian speaking population.” Sixty authors signed a similar resolution. In addition the businessman Roman Romanenko from Vologda in Northern Russia directed a satirical appeal to Putin to send troops and money to Vologda because the rights of Russian speakers were being abrogated in terms of education, medical care, and honest elections. A group from Tver demanded the same by return mail.


“Ukraine, forgive us.”

Inevitably, there was blowback. In response to the petition of 6,000 names, the competing “reactionary” petition mentioned above circulated with words to this effect, defending Putin: “In the days when the destiny of Crimea and our compatriots living there are being decided, we, the responsible workers of Russian culture, cannot remain indifferent and cold-hearted observers. Our common history and roots, as well as our culture and its spiritual origins, our common fundamental values and language, united us forever. We wish to secure a durable future for the bond between our peoples and cultures. This is why we firmly declare our support for the Russian Federation president’s position in the Crimea and Ukraine.” I’m told the document bears a striking resemblance to Soviet era “letters in support of the Communist Party.”

The list of 86 signatures includes Russian artists and cultural figures, some of them prominent figures who travel around the world with concerts and performances, exhibitions and book tours, participate in film festivals and conferences.

Names are on the breakover page below. Norm said no one stateside is covering this. Well, now I am.

1. Alimov, S.A., Russian National Artist

2. Antonova, I.A,. President of the National A.S. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

3. Babenko, A.O., Russian Honored Artist

4. Babkina, H.M., singer,Russian National Artist

5. Bak, D.P., Director of the Russian National Museum of Literature

6. Batalov, A.V., National Artist of Soviet Russian Federation

7. Baschmet, Yu.A., musician, National Artist of the USSR (sic)

8. Bezrukov, S.V., Russian National Artist

9. Belonovich, G.I., Director of the P.I. Tchaikovsky Museum

10. Bobkov, K.V., Director of the National A.P. Chekhov Literary-memorial Reserve-Museum

11. Bogacheva, I.P., National Artist of the USSR

12. Bondarchuk, F.S., Film Director

13. Bondarchuk, N.S., actress,Russian Honored Artist

14. Bortko, V.V., Russian National Artist

15. Boyarsky, M.S., actor, National Artist of Soviet Russian Federation

16. Bryzgalov, M.A., Director of the Central National M. Glinka Museum

17. Buldakov, A.I., Russian National Artist.

18. Burliaev, N.P., actor,Russian National Artist

19. Burov, N.V., Russian National Artist

20. Busygin, A.E., Director of the National Estate-Museum “Archangelskoe”

21. Butman, I.M., Russian National Artist.

22. Vedeniapina, M.A., Director of the Russian National Children’s Library

23. Vislyi, A. I., General Manager of the Russian National Library

24. Gagarina, E.Yu., General Manager of National “Moscow Kremlin” Reserve-Museum of History and Culture

25. GazmanovO.M., pop singer,Russian National Artist

26. Gergiev, V.A., Artistic Director of the National Mariinsly Academic Theater

27. Govorukhin, S.S., film Director,Russian National Artist.

28. Gordeev, V.M., Russian National Artist

29. Grachevsky, B.E., Manager of the Children’s Newsreel “Yeralash (patchwork)”

30. Gusev, V.A., Director of Russian Museum

31. Druzhinina, S.S., Honored Artist of Soviet Russian Federation.

32. Zabarovsky, V.I., Director of the Great Patriotic War Museum on Mount Poklonnaya

33. Zapashnyi, E.V., Director of the Bolshoi Moscow National Circus in Vernadsky Prospect

34. Zengin, S.S., Rector of Krasnodar National University of Culture

35. Kalnikaya, E.Ya., General Manager of the National Reserve-Museum “Peterhoff”

36. Kara, Yu.V., Scriptwriter

37. Klebanov, I.S., Russian National Artist

38. Kniazev, E. V., Rector of the B. Shchukin Theater Institute

39. Kovalchur, A.N., Chairman of the Russian Union of Artists

40. Konstantinov, A.D., Writer

41. Krok, K.I., Director of the National E. Vakhtangov Academic Theater

42. Kropp, A.A., Russian National Artist

43. Lanovoi, V.S., National Artist of the USSR

44. Levykin, A.K., Director of the National Historical Museum

45. Леонова М.К., Rector of Moscow National Academy of Choreography

46. Leshchenko, L.V., National Artist of Soviet Russian Federation

47. Lesovoi, A.N., General Manager of All-Russian E. Grabar Artistic Restoration Center

48. Lips, F.R., Professor at the Gnessins Russian Academy of Music

49. Lunin, P.C., Russian National Artist

50. Malyshev, V.S., Rector of the All-Russian National S. Gerasimov Cinema University

51. Mayarovskaya, G.V., Rector of the Gnessins Russian Academy of Music

52. Matsuev, D.L., Russian National Artist

53. Melik-Pashaeva, K.L., Rector of the Russian Academy of Theatric Art

54. Melnikovа, A.R., Russian Honored Artist

55. MiroshnichenkoS.V., actress,Stage Director

56. Mikhailov, A.Ya., Russian National Artist

57. Mikhailovsky, S.I., Rector of the St. Petersburg National I. Repin Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture

58. Moguchii, A.A., Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Tovstonogov Drama Theater

59. Morozov, A.V., Director of the National Moscow 1905-Memorial Artistic College

60. Nazarov Yu.V. Russian National Artist

61. Pozhigailo, P.A., Executive Director of the All-Russian Choir Society

62. Pocherenkov, M.E., Russian Honored Artist

63. Rastorguev, N.V., Russian National Artist

64. Rozum, Yu.A., Russian National Artist

65. Senchina, L.P., Russian National Artist

66. Solomin, Yu.M., Artistic Director of the Malyi Russian National Academic Theater

67. Sokolov, A.S., Rector of the Moscow National P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory

68. Spivakov, V.T., violinist,conductor, National Artist of the USSR

69. Stadler, S.V., Russian National Artist

70. Tabakov, O.P., Artistic Director of the Moscow A. Chekhov Artistic Theater

71. Talyzina, V.I., Russian National Artist

72. Taratynova, O.V., Director of the Moscow National Reserve-Museum “Tsarskoe Selo”

73. Telichkina, V.I., actress,Russian National Artist

74. Trofimov, S.V., Russian Honored Artist

75. Ourin, V.G., General Manager of the Bolshoi National Academic Theater

76. Ouchitel, A.E., Russian National Artist

77. Fedorov, V.V., President of the Russian National Library

78. Fokin, V.V., Russian National Artist, Artistic Director of the Aleksandrinsky Theater

79. Furmanov, R.D., Artistic Director of the St. Petersburg Andrei Mironov Theater “Russian Entreprise”

80. KhazanovG.V., comedian,National Artist of Soviet Russian Federation

81. Khomova, O.S., Director of the National Academic Choir of St. Petersburg.

82. Khotinenko, V.I., Film Director

83. Tsereteli, Z.K., sculptor,President of the Russian Academy of Arts

84. Tsiskaridze, N.M., Russian National Artist

85. Chursina, L.A., National Artist of the USSR

86. Shakhnazarov, K.G., film Director,General Manager of the Film Concern “Mosfilm”




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