WAR PROPAGANDA: Russia defends its historical province, Novorossiya, against the threat of Nazism

A visitor walk past pictures of soldiers during a press review of the exhibition 'Novorossiya' at the Moscow State Historical Museum at Red Square in Moscow, 05 September 2023.
© EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV   |   A visitor walk past pictures of soldiers during a press review of the exhibition 'Novorossiya' at the Moscow State Historical Museum at Red Square in Moscow, 05 September 2023.

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Russia is protecting the inhabitants of Novorossiya, a Russian historical territory occupied by Ukraine, against neo-Nazism, according to propaganda theses that are again reiterated into public space while Putin is preparing for his reelection.

Propaganda: Ukraine needs to recognize the goals of the “special military operation” in order to survive as a state

NEWS: Putin said a country’s main expression of sovereignty is its self-sufficiency. THe Russian leader has again raised the topic of Novorossiya, a territory whose inhabitants are threatened by the neo-Nazi leadership and need Moscow to come to their aid. […] In the context of the special military operation, the Russophobia and ethnocide of Russian-speakers in Ukraine will breathe new life into the so-called Novorossiya project.

[…] Russia is forcing Ukraine to abide by democratic principles and act accordingly. Neo-Nazi Ukraine is running out of options: it will either miraculously survive the war against Russia, it will change and appease Moscow by taking the path of denazification and demilitarization and restoring its neutrality, or it will collapse and disappear as a sovereign state.

NARRATIVE: Russia is saving Ukraine through the denazification and demilitarization of Novorossiya

Fact: Novorossiya, used by the Kremlin to justify the invasion of Ukraine and the distortion of historical facts.

BACKGROUND: The narrative about Novorossiya, a term used to describe territories in southern Ukraine, has been used by Vladimir Putin as early as the first attack on Ukraine, in 2014. It has now been reiterated in the context of the election campaign in Russia, where the Kremlin’s objective is to create the impression Putin and his war enjoy widespread popular support. On January 31, Vladimir Putin said Moscow needs to contribute to the “rebirth of Novorossiya” (New Russia) by means of the “special military operation”. In December 2023, the Kremlin leader had claimed Odesa has always been a Russian city, whereas southern Ukraine favors its annexation to Russia. Putin accused Kyiv of spreading historical falsehoods when claiming the region had been inhabited by Ukrainians before Russia’s arrival in the region.

Moreover, Russian propaganda tries to justify a possible resurge of hostilities in southern Ukraine by invoking the need to carry on the Novorossiya project in order to defend the civilian population there against Kyiv’s neo-Nazi policies. Novorossiya stems from the geopolitical theories advanced by Aleksandr Dugin, one of the top ideologists of Putin’s regime, who claims Odesa and the entire Ukrainian south represent a completely separate region in historical terms, which rightfully belongs to Russia.

The Novorossiya narrative is mixed with theses on Ukrainian Nazism, which in turn have been used since the outset of the war in 2014, and have been rehashed and amplified following the full-scale invasion of February 2022.

WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: Novorossiya does not represent, nor has it ever represented, a historical area outside of Ukraine. The name Novorossiya was given to southern Ukraine by the Russian Empire in the second half of the 18th century, in the context of the Russo-Turkish wars. Prior to this moment, these territories had been inhabited by Zaporozhian Cossacks – peasants from the western and central Ukrainian territories, who were looking for a life of freedom and independence from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The term Novorossiya did not take root in the collective Ukrainian mindset. The area existed for only four decades as a governorate within the Russian Empire, being dissolved in 1802. The capital of the governorate was not Odesa, but Novorossiysk (present-day Dnipro). However, the term Novorossiya endured in Russian history as a symbol of the occupation of southern Ukraine and of the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

Russian historiography and pro-Kremlin politicians deny Ukraine’s presence in the area after the establishment of the Zaporozhian Sich, made up of Old Ukrainian-speaking Cossacks who defended the southern borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for two centuries. Cossack churches, houses and cemeteries, bearing inscriptions in the Old Ukrainian language, were flooded and destroyed as a result of the Soviet Union's creation of reservoirs and hydroelectric power plants. The USSR erased all traces of other cultures and nations from southern Ukraine, endorsing the idea that there had never been any settlements in that area before the Russians’ arrival.

The thesis about the population currently living in southeastern Ukraine arguing in favor of the region’s annexation to Russia is equally false. The supposedly Russophile population in the Russian-occupied southern territories of Ukraine mounted enormous resistance against Russian troops and staged a series of street protests in the spring of 2022 when the Russians occupied part of the south. Seeing that the local population was welcoming the “liberators” with arms wide open, Moscow turned to persecution. At least 20 torture chambers were operated directly by the Russian FSB in Kherson in order silence any anti-Moscow movement. With respect to Nazism, in 2015 Ukraine banned Nazi and communist ideologies by law. Moreover, since the proclamation of the independence of the Ukrainian state, no Nazi party or candidate has ever enrolled in elections.

The denazification and demilitarization Russia pursues are not meant to save Ukraine, but to destroy this nation. Such notions hide Russia’s military aggression launched against a sovereign and independent state, as well as its war crimes on Ukrainian territory. In March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an international arrest warrant in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s name for war crimes. The UN General Assembly has repeatedly asked Russia to withdraw its invasion troops, calling for “a just and enduring peace”.

Veridica has debunked a number of false narratives circulated by Russian government media about the Kremlin’s right to occupy territories of Ukraine. Russian propaganda wrote that Odesa and southern Ukraine belong to Russia, whereas Kyiv authorities have allegedly given up Donbas and Crimea. According to Kremlin-linked media, Russia is waging a war of national liberation, arguing that Russia has a claim to Ukraine under international law.

  • Publication / Media:
    ukraina.ru
  • Date of publication:
    05/02/2024
  • Target audience:
    The Russian-speaking population in Russia, Belarus and other ex-Soviet republics, as well as in Russian-held territories of Ukraine
  • Amplification:
    SMI TODEY, SMI2.UA, the Telegram channels of Russian media outlets
  • Political affiliation:
    The Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    Russia defends its historical province, Novorossiya, against the threat of Nazism

EBOOK> Razboi si propaganda: O cronologie a conflictului ruso-ucrainean

EBOOK>Razboiul lui Putin cu lumea libera: Propaganda, dezinformare, fake news

Marin Gherman

Marin Gherman




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