It isn’t just Putin — Russia vs. Ukraine

From Wikipedia, here is a description of the views of Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky on Ukraine:

According to many historians, despite the fact that Brodsky had anti-Soviet views, for which he was eventually forced to leave Soviet Russia and emigrate to the United States, he, with all that, had pronounced Russian-imperial views, which resulted in his rejection of the existence of Ukrainians as a nation separate from Russians. According to Russian literary critic and biographer and friend of Brodsky Lev Losev, Brodsky considered Ukraine “the only cultural space with Great Russia”, and the Polish historian Irena Grudzinska-Gross [pl] in her book “Milosz and Brodsky” (2007) Brodsky firmly believed that Ukraine and has always been “an integral part of Great Russia”. According to Grudzinskaya-Gross, “Brodsky’s Russian patriotism is also evidenced by … the poem “The People” and another poem “On the Independence of Ukraine”, attacking Ukraine from imperial and Great Russian positions.”

In 1985, even before writing the scandalous Ukrainian-phobic poem “On the Independence of Ukraine“, he entered into a debate with the Czech-French poet Milan Kundera, in which he showed his Russian-imperial views.

The most famous public manifestation of Brodsky’s Ukrainophobia was the poem “On the Independence of Ukraine”, written, tentatively, in 1992. In this poem, Brodsky sarcastically described Ukraine’s independence in 1991 and scolded Ukrainian independence fighters for abandoning the Russian language. Brodsky did not publish this poem in any of his lifetime collections, and, until his death in 1996, he managed to read only a few times at various Muscovite and Judeophile meetings in America. In particular, there is documentary evidence that Brodsky read this poem on October 30, 1992 at a solo evening in the hall of the Palo Alto Jewish Center and on February 28, 1994 in front of a group of the Russian diaspora at New York University’s Quincy College. Through this poem, critics saw in Brodsky manifestations of Russian chauvinism and accused him of Anti-Ukrainian sentiment and racism.

These views are deeply rooted in Russian culture and history.  Here Brodsky reads the poem in Russian.  He is excited.  Here is a 2011 Keith Gessen New Yorker piece on the poem.  Again, ideas really matter!  And not always for the better.


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