03 March 2014


“Now we see through a glass, darkly . . .” (1 Cor 13:12)!

The Russian TV and press have been presenting the Ukrainian revolution as a brazen coup

d’etat led by “neo-Nazi nationalist thugs”. Because Ukrainian nationalists were present and

could be more easily seen at the forefront of violent clashes with riot police, certain producers

have filmed documentaries, complete with interviews, which purport to show the all-

encompassing “true nature” of the anti-Yanukovich protests. “Who do you hate?” asked one

Russian interviewer. “Russians, Jews, and Poles,” answered the activist. Therefore, goes the

line, the Ukrainian revolution was of the exact same spirit as Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. Only

unlike Hitler, these Ukrainian neo-Nazis who gathered “in mass” on Maidan square in Kyiv,

actually forced Victor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s “legitimately elected president”, from power.

How accurate are these Russian media accounts? Whether true or not, they are

overwhelmingly convincing. I have been in several discussions with Russians who can see it

only this way. When ousted President Yanukovich spoke in Rostov-on-Don, he said Euro-

maidan was the work of “right wing thugs”. “We will not let these fascist bullies from Maidan rule

our lives!” cried the fully equipped soldiers in masks and unmarked uniforms who raised the

Russian flag over the government buildings and airports of Crimea. Naturally, their cry finds

resonance in the majority ethnic Russian population of Crimea, many of whom welcome

Russia’s invasion with open arms.

What is wrong with these so-called “anti-Maidan” presentations?   Three things.

First of all, they employ emotional hot-buttons which rouse nationalist hostility and resentment.

“All Ukrainians are so-and-so’s.” Similar arguments were sometimes employed during the

protests to provoke anger against Russians: “We will not be ruled by those Russian so-and-sos

(fill in the blank)!” In order to sound more reasonable, one Russian Christian told me, “You are

like MOST Ukrainians who think such-and-such.” Of course, people who think “such-and-such”

are always wrong-headed, aren’t they?

Secondly, these arguments ignore the factual account of events as they occurred. In November

2013, when President Yanukovich rejected the associational trade agreement with the EU,

“who” first came down to Kyiv’s Maidan to protest? Go back and review the videos and news

accounts. You will find that they were mostly university-age students. Where were the Nazi

symbols? Where were the nationalist slogans? Why were there so many young faces and so

few middle aged people with families? When the riot police attacked them in the pre-dawn

hours, did they offer resistance? Who then came to Independence Square to protest, almost a

million strong? Were they at all concerned about Europe or were they angered at the violent

attack on young people from their own government? “Euro-Maidan” was a convenient label at

the start, but pro-European or anti-Russian sentiments had already given way to the larger

issues of theft, corruption, and abuse of power in the current administration. These are factual

issues which burst the hot-air balloons of propaganda. Nevertheless, the propaganda continues

on both sides and sadly, it seems to work.

Thirdly, these arguments employ a common device used in media and politics, the “straw man”

fallacy. You take your opponent’s legitimate issues, in this case anger at Yanukovich’s

corruption and abuse of power, and present them as ridiculous, obviously absurd, and evil.

“Look at these neo-Nazis who hate Russians and Jews. Is this the kind of government you want

in Ukraine?” That is a classic “straw man” fallacy. “Regardless of the facts, regardless of the

true nature of things, if you hate Nazi’s then you should hate the new Ukrainian government.”

I do not have to convince people of the “true nature” of things, which are always more complex

than I can fully understand. Lord grant that we remember to love our enemies and pray for

those who abuse and persecute us. May we remember to dress in the “full armor of God”,

putting on the belt of truth. May we never find comfort or justification in false accounts, because

they never bear the good fruits of love, peace and liberty, but rather provide a covering for

abusive control, corruption, and theft. As you pray for peace in Russia and Ukraine, forgive in

advance any remarks made in anger by those who have bought into the propaganda of one side

or another.

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