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kottke.org posts about Ukraine

Garry Kasparov: Stand With Ukraine in the Fight Against Evil

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2022

In an uncompromising TED Talk from a few days ago, Garry Kasparov warns we must confront “true evil” in the world when we see it, in this case Vladimir Putin and his regime.

Actually, my first article of warning was published in “The Wall Street Journal” on January 4, 2001. I saw evil because I heard evil. Putin was telling us what he was. All we had to do was listen. When Putin said that there was no such thing as a former KGB agent, I knew Russia’s fragile democracy was in danger. When Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, I knew Russia’s newly independent neighbors were at risk. And when Putin talked at the Munich Security Conference in 2007 about a return to spheres of influence, I knew he was ready to launch his plan. It was the language from the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 1939. The language Hitler and Stalin used to divide Europe. And a year later, in 2008, Putin invaded the Republic of Georgia. 2014, Ukraine.

It’s a paradox, isn’t it? Dictators lie about everything they have done, but often they tell us exactly what they’re going to do. Just listen. Anyone who is surprised at Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine must not be aware about his long record, beginning with the Second Chechen War in Grozny more than two decades ago. Vladimir Putin has been a war criminal from the start.

When he was talking about the problem with compromising with authoritarians, I was reminded of a phrase I’ve heard in a couple of different contexts recently: meeting a racist halfway on their views is still racism; meeting a fascist halfway on their views is still fascism. As Rebecca Solnit put it in an article about the 2020 election: “Who the hell wants unity with Nazis until and unless they stop being Nazis?” Meeting a brutal authoritarian halfway, Kasparov is arguing, is still tyranny.

How Ukrainians Are Saving Art During the War

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2022

Building on the lessons of World War II, Ukrainians are trying to save their art and other important cultural artifacts from destruction during Russia’s invasion. When an invader repeatedly tries to deny the cultural distinction of a people for decades and even centuries, like Russia has done with Ukraine, saving buildings and statues and paintings can be of great importance.

Because under the 1954 convention, “damage to cultural property means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind”. So attacks on cultural heritage are a considered war crime. But treaties can only do so much. In the years since, conflicts around the world have rendered immeasurable damage to cultural heritage. A lot of it intentional. Like the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan buddhas. And Isis’ attacks on ancient sites all over Syria.

“That cultural heritage is not only impacted, but in many ways it’s implicated and central to armed conflict. These are things that people point to that are unifying factors for their society. They are tangible reflections of their identity.”

And Putin has made it clear that identity is at the ideological center of Russia’s invasion: “I would like to emphasize again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space.”

“He thinks that we don’t really exist and they want to destroy all the signs of our identity.”

BTW, regarding the destruction of the museum that housed works by Maria Prymachenko at the start of the video: according to the Ukrainian Institute, the works were saved from burning by local residents.

The Holodomor: When Stalin Starved Ukraine

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2022

In the early 1930s, desiring the bountiful wheat harvests of its farmlands to sell to Europe and wanting to subjugate its people, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin carried out a genocide in Ukraine that killed millions and hid it behind the guise of food shortages. It’s known as the Holodomor.

In Ukraine, it’s become known as “the Holodomor,” meaning “death by starvation.” It was a genocide carried out by a dictator who wanted to keep Ukraine under his control and who would do anything to keep it covered up for decades.

In the 1930s, Soviet leaders under Joseph Stalin engineered a famine that killed millions as they sought to consolidate agricultural power. In Ukraine, they used additional force as they sought to clamp down on a burgeoning Ukrainian national identity. There, at least 4 million died. As hunger spread among residents, Stalin spearheaded a disinformation campaign to hide the truth from other Soviet citizens and the world. So many Ukrainians died that officials had to send people to resettle the area, setting off demographic shifts that last to this day.

Collecting Bodies in Bucha

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2022

The details of the atrocities committed against the people of Bucha, Ukraine by Russian soldiers are more horrifying than language has words for. Luke Mogelson and photographer James Nachtwey are reporting for the New Yorker from Bucha as loved ones and volunteers try to make sense of the destruction. Note: the descriptions and photos in this piece may be disturbing (but IMO, we cannot turn away from this). This is one of the tamer paragraphs:

On the far side of a stretch of railroad tracks, two elderly women had been killed in their house. One lay in the doorway, another in the kitchen. Both were bundled in heavy winter coats. Neighbors said that they had been sisters, both in their seventies. Their small house was filled with hardcover books, and they did not own a television; it was impossible not to imagine their quiet, literary life together before it was annihilated. In the only bedroom, two narrow mattresses were pushed together and covered by a single blanket.

Update: From the NY Times, Bucha’s Month of Terror.

As the Russian advance on Kyiv stalled in the face of fierce resistance, civilians said, the enemy occupation of Bucha slid into a campaign of terror and revenge. When a defeated and demoralized Russian Army finally retreated, it left behind a grim tableau: bodies of dead civilians strewn on streets, in basements or in backyards, many with gunshot wounds to their heads, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

33 Letters for Ukraine: an Alphabet of Solidarity

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2022

the letter K with sharp teeth

the letter A made from two people hugging

a letterform made from two doves

the letter B made from tiny flowers

a letterform of a character walking, holding a peace offering

A pair of Polish designers have organized a challenge for designers around the world called 33 Letters for Ukraine: to create letterforms of the Ukrainian alphabet “as a sign of solidarity”. Each day until April 6th, a new letter is chosen and featured on their Instagram account — you can see some of the work above. It’s Nice That has a piece on the challenge.

Speaking on the thinking behind 33 Letters, Alina says: “To put it briefly, we have two main goals for the project — promoting the Ukrainian alphabet and encouraging people to donate to organisations helping Ukraine. The Instagram challenge is an essential starting point, and we loved to see so many designers getting involved and expressing their solidarity by drawing the letters. But equally important are tangible results: collecting funds and education.”

To do so, they are hoping to sell original artworks and prints of the letters once the project has finished, and then they plan to exhibit all of the works as part of a fundraiser, though the venue is yet to be confirmed. “There are amazing designers taking part in the challenge, and it would be great to see their work shine also outside of Instagram,” says Alina.

(thx, jackson)

Arnold Schwarzenegger Shares a Powerful Message to the Russian People

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2022

This is really good: Arnold Schwarzenegger recorded a message, subtitled in both English and Russian, directed at the Russian people (and briefly, Vladimir Putin) about the war in Ukraine. It’s a canny piece of media by an exceptional communicator — drawing on his obvious respect for the people of Russia and his father’s experience as a German soldier in World War II, Schwarzenegger tells Russian citizens that they’ve been lied to about the war by their leadership, that most of the world is against their actions, and warns them about the consequences of being economically and socially isolated from the rest of the world.

This is not the war to defend Russia that your grandfather or your great grandfathers fought. This is an illegal war! Your lives, your limbs, your futures are being sacrificed for a senseless war condemned by the entire world.

Ukrainian Stamp Design Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2022

After Russia invaded the country, Ukraine’s post office (Ukrposhta) decided to hold a contest to design a stamp that illustrated “Ukrainians’ determination to defend their land”. Out of 500 submissions, Ukrposhta chose 20 designs as the finalists.

design for a Ukrainian stamp featuring a lighthouse as a raised middle finger

design for a Ukrainian stamp featuring a Ukrainian soldier flipping the bird to a Russian warship

design for a Ukrainian stamp featuring a yellow sword cracking a Russian ship in half

(Paweł Jońca’s illustration would also have made an amazing stamp.) Many of the finalists, including the winning entry (middle stamp above), reference the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island who told a Russian warship “Go fuck yourself”. Ukrposhta is now working on getting the winning stamp printed so that people can use it for postage — because, perhaps unbelievably, the post office continues to deliver the mail & packages throughout much of the country. (thx, @jackisnotabird)

Russian Bear Steps on Ukrainian Lego

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2022

illustration of a giant red Russian bear about to step on a small Ukrainian flag made of Lego bricks

An absolutely fantastic poster by Polish illustrator Paweł Jońca of a giant red Russian bear about to step on a small Ukrainian flag made of Lego bricks. A printable digital download of this poster is available “by paying ANY amount” with all proceeds going to humanitarian aid for Ukraine (specifically to Polska Akcja Humanitarna).

The Colorful Work of Ukrainian Artist Maria Prymachenko

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2022

painting of a peace dove by Maria Prymachenko

Maria Prymachenko is one of Ukraine’s best-known artists. Known for her colorful, expressive, and “primitive” style, Prymachenko won a gold medal for her work at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris and Pablo Picasso is said to have remarked “I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian” after seeing her work. Prymachenko’s paintings featured animals (both real & fantastical), everyday Ukrainian people, food & agriculture, and themes of war & peace.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine announced that the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum had been burned in the Russian invasion and that 25 works by Prymachenko had been lost. Luckily, according to the Ukrainian Institute, local residents were able to save the paintings.

You can find more of Prymachenko’s work below and at WikiArt.

painting of people, flowers, birds, and the sun by Maria Prymachenko

painting of a woman and sunflowers by Maria Prymachenko

painting of a multi-headed blue beast by Maria Prymachenko

painting of a pink beast with two snakes coming out of its mouth by Maria Prymachenko

painting of a flowery boar in the forest by Maria Prymachenko

painting of some women in an ox cart by Maria Prymachenko

Ukrainians Were Prepared to Defend Their Country: “Who Else But Us?”

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2022

In the weeks leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the NY Times did a short series of videos about how average Ukrainians were preparing to defend their country. On Jan 28, video journalists spoke to military and residents in Mariupol:

My main takeaway from this video is that the war in Ukraine has been ongoing for some time; the recent invasion is an escalation — a significant one to be sure, but definitely part of whole series of Russian moves. As Fiona Hill replied in a recent interview when asked if we were on the brink of World War III:

We’re already in it. We have been for some time. We keep thinking of World War I, World War II as these huge great big set pieces, but World War II was a consequence of World War I. And we had an interwar period between them. And in a way, we had that again after the Cold War. Many of the things that we’re talking about here have their roots in the carving up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian Empire at the end of World War I. At the end of World War II, we had another reconfiguration and some of the issues that we have been dealing with recently go back to that immediate post-war period. We’ve had war in Syria, which is in part the consequence of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, same with Iraq and Kuwait.

All of the conflicts that we’re seeing have roots in those earlier conflicts. We are already in a hot war over Ukraine, which started in 2014. People shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking that we’re just on the brink of something. We’ve been well and truly in it for quite a long period of time.

From Feb 8, a visit to a civilian training center, where people learned how to handle weaponry and field dress wounds:

From Feb 22, a profile of a small paramilitary group that’s been fighting the Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country for years now, sometimes in collaboration with official forces:

One of the paramilitaries said:

God forbid, if a full-scale war breaks out tomorrow in Ukraine, there will be tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of volunteers just like me. Just like in 2014.

And on Feb 26, a video of civilians in Kyiv waiting to pick up weapons to help defend the city:

One of the people waiting in line, Hlib Bondarenko,1 spoke about why he was there:

We are in a queue where people are waiting to get their weapons to fight the Russian invaders. There is no reason to believe that they’re going to stop anytime soon. And their objective, at least to me, seems to be the occupation of my entire country and the destruction of everything I love. I’m just a regular civilian. I have basically nothing to do with war or any other thing like it. And I wouldn’t really want to participate in anything like this, but I don’t really have any choice because this is my home.

  1. The video identifies Bondarenko as a computer programmer, but according to LinkedIn and Dribbble, he’s a UI/UX designer.

Why Russia Is Invading Ukraine

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2022

In progress before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and completed as Russian troops began their advance into the country, this video is a helpful overview of some of the geographical, historical, demographic, environmental, political, and economic reasons why, from the perspective of Putin & Moscow, Russia wants to bring Ukraine back into their orbit. (via open culture)

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2022

Good morning, everyone. As you have likely heard, Russia invaded Ukraine earlier today. Here’s the news from Reuters, NY Times, Associated Press, and CNN. From Reuters:

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday in a massed assault by land, sea and air, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

Missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders from Russia and Belarus, and landing on the coast from the Black and Azov seas.

Although I hope I’m wrong, this is not likely to end well for anyone and my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, those in nearby countries, and also with Russian citizens & soldiers who will bear the consequences for the actions of their “leadership”.

So I wanted to get that out there but also to acknowledge that I don’t know how much I will be talking about this on the site, even though it’s potentially such a big deal. There have never been any hard and fast rules about what goes on the site or not. I am not a journalist and I generally don’t cover current events and news here — but sometimes I do. The pandemic has been a massive exception in that regard over the past two years — it felt irresponsible not to talk about it here, link to resources, amplify expert advice & opinion, and attempt to counter deliberate and deadly misinformation. There are going to be much better sources of news, information, opinion, and analysis about the situation in Ukraine than kottke.org, so I’m going to largely leave them to it. Also, I have not been feeling super sturdy lately, and I’m not sure diving into WWIII is the best thing for me to be doing right now.

Again, just wanted to acknowledge that in case you were wondering why I’m not covering “the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two”. Be safe out there, everyone.

Crisis in Ukraine

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2014

Since November, anti-government protests have been happening in Ukraine. A recent truce gave hope that the violence would end, but mistrust on both sides has resulted in the worst clashes yet. The photos from the main fighting in Kiev are unbelievable.

Kiev Protest

Why the protests? Think Progress published an explainer this morning, before the latest round of violence.

The protests began on November 22, after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed course and refused to sign political and trade agreements with the European Union that had been in the works for years after heavy pressure from Moscow to abandon the agreements. Despite a violent police crackdown, protesters vowed to continue blockading streets and occupying public buildings until their central demand is met: the current government, including Yanukovych, must go.

The treaties would have opened the European Union market to Ukrainian companies and could have boosted the Ukrainian GDP by more than six percent over ten years. The country is suffering through an economic depression and lower tariffs and expanded competition could have also lowered prices, “fueling an increase of household consumption of some 12 percent.” Ukraine would have also adopted 350 EU laws, codifying what many Ukrainians saw as a “commitment to European standards of governance and social justice.” To them, the treaty was a way of diminishing Russia’s long-time influence and reversing the trend of persistent economic corruption and sluggishness.

Sand animation of Germany invading Ukraine

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2009

Kseniya Simonova won Ukraine’s Got Talent 2009 competition with her dramatization of Germany’s invasion of Ukraine during WWII, performed with sand on a giant lightbox. Sounds like the cheesiest thing, but this performance is amazing.

Watch until at least 1:06…that’s when my mouth dropped open a bit. The entire audience was in tears by the end. (via @jessicadeva)