Vladimir Putin lobbed in a linguistic incendiary when he denounced the protests in Ukraine as something "more like a pogrom than a revolution" during a visit to Armenia. In doing so he summoned up the tragic ghosts of the tsars, the Stalin purges and the Holocaust.
The dictionary defintion of pogrom is:
n. an organised persecution or extermination of an ethnic group, esp of Jews
[via Yiddish from Russian: destruction, from po- like + grom thunder]
synonyms: massacre, slaughter, wholesale slaughter, mass killing, mass murder, decimation, carnage, bloodbath, bloodletting, butchery, genocide, holocaust, Shoah, ethnic cleansing, mega-death
True enough, Ukraine was at the centre of the tsarist pogrom, the late 19th century strategy employed to divert the rage of the peasant masses on to their many Jewish neighbours, egged on by medieval Christians' Christ-killer dogma.
The Bolshevik revolution brought ferocious pogroms by anti-communist Cossacks (the Russo-KKK), white Russians and Ukrainian nationalists.
A lifetime of incredibe violence and insecurity drove a significant Jewish swathe to feverishly embrace the Communist dream of a "workers' paradise" and the abolition of bigotry, which only served to intensify the hatred against their fellow Jews - aligned or not.
Thus, obscure, toxic anti-Semitic tracts still highlight the Jewish-born commissars responsible for implementing Stalin's agricultural collectivisation that caused mega-starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s. Millions died and cannibalism was widespread, events now commemorated in Ukraine every November as Holodomor or the Great Famine.
Whether it influenced the fury with which the patriotic Ukrainian mob, later organised into auxiliary units of the Nazi death machine to enthusiastically butcher the Jews once the Hitler's Panzers rolled into Kiev, is no excuse.
Mila Kunis faced anti-Semitic abuse from a Ukrainian nationalist politician
Hence, Putin's pogrom jibe at the pro-EU demonstrators in contemporary Ukraine is pretty crude, a smear against pro-Western Ukrainian nationalists that paints them as a reactionary force with an anti-Semitic, tsarist, Nazi lineage, and ignoring the fact that it is the protesters who are being brutalised by the pro-Russian leadership of the country.
That said, the Ukrainian-born Hollywood actress Mila Kunis might disagree. In 2012, a nationalist politician Igor Miroshnichenko claimed that the Ted star was not a true Ukrainian and called her a "zhydovka", which translates as "dirty Jewess". The Ukrainian justice ministry ruled that using the term to describe a Jewish person was legal and turned back a petition demanding that the word be banned from the public sphere.
Putin's hijacking of pogrom imagery is a seedy business for it is he who, surely more than anybody, is seeking to reinvent the tsarist strongman ruling 21st century Russia.
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