Why has Russia invaded Ukraine? Internet readers want to know. What will Ukraine be like after the war? That's a question to start answering, even if the battle is far from over.
KYIV — During the first week of the war in Ukraine, the most frequently searched question on Google was, “Why did Russia invade Ukraine?" In response, a team of Ukrainian communications experts hoping to answer this question posted a large red ‘Why’ button on the official ‘War in Ukraine’ homepage, directing readers to an explanation of Russia’s ideological rationale for invading Ukraine.
Last week, "cholera" and "Peter I" appeared among the top Google search queries linked to Ukraine. The reasons for each are easy to explain. For the first, outbreaks of contagious diseases, including cholera, have been reported in the occupied city of Mariupol. The city itself is deprived of access to clean drinking water and has no access to hospitals and doctors who specialize in infectious diseases.
And the second?
A speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he compared himself to Peter I. Who was this infamous tsar and why does he have any relevance to Ukraine? Readers want to know.
From Nicholas II to Christopher Nolan
In order to understand what is happening in the world today, people are forced to scour the web for information about the past.
In Christopher Nolan's latest film, TENET, nuclear weapons are not the be-all-and-end-all. Instead, the Russians discover a new type of weapon called ‘inversion’: the ability to turn back time, changing both situations and people.
Russia's actions today are not too dissimilar from the events of the sci-fi film, where the state stubbornly and publicly attempts to invert everything: logic (denying its inhumane attacks on Ukrainian civilians), progress (cutting itself off from Western countries and businesses), and — most importantly — time!
When discussing their present or future, the Kremlin consistently turns to the past to justify its actions: from the staples of Russian Orthodoxy and Peter I to the canonized Nicholas II, killed by Communist revolutionaries, all the answers to the "Why" questions about Russia today and the war against Ukraine are rooted in history.
To sustain itself, Russia relies on shadows from its past, things that can be neither resisted nor protested, people and ideas that are dead and buried.
A safer tomorrow
How then can Ukraine, together with its partners, combat Russia's weapons of inversion, its annexation of the past? It must surely drive the debate of its friendship, cooperation, good neighborliness and membership of the EU and NATO into the future.
Instead of focusing on what was wrong yesterday, in other words, it becomes vital to discuss what must be done to make Ukraine stronger and safer tomorrow.
To share a common vision of a prosperous future is to speak a language that is not subject to Russian ‘inversion,’ nor its propaganda or culture, nor one that attempts to justify violence and suffering as the only way, not to happiness, but to the purification of souls. And how many Russian souls have already been claimed by the voracious God of the past? More than 32,000 and counting…
Good overcomes evil
A woman writes down her children's names, as she can't contact them due to lack of internet signal in Severodonetsk, Ukraine.
One question arises, though. How proper is it to talk about the future, post-war reconstruction, what Ukraine should be like after the victory, what will our cities, our education, our roads and taxes be like, when victory is still yet to be had? Wouldn't that distract us from gathering the necessary weapons to survive? Will it mean that Ukraine’s international partners relax their moral compulsion to help, and decrease the pressure put on the Russian state through sanctions?
Will it create the illusion that the situation has stabilized and that Ukrainians are already fantasizing about more pleasant topics, forgetting about cholera in Mariupol, stolen grain in the Kherson region or the imperious Russian tsar still attempting, no less fervently than before, to burn their houses down?
Ukraine is more than war
Working on the image of the future of Ukraine, though, is just as important as gathering weapons and imposing sanctions. Weapons must be the immediate response to ‘Why’ Ukraine is fighting the war. Ukraine is fighting for its life and future. But there is another question that needs to be asked. One that sits between preserving life and building a future in a space of equality and progress: What shall Ukraine become? Because Ukraine is more than a war.
Already today we can and must talk about what kind of Ukraine shall be rebuilt, what it will be like and what it ought never be like. Courage can be shown not only in the defense of land from Russian occupiers, but also in the Ukrainian ambition to implement the most daring ideas in the future.
Light will always overcome darkness, good overcomes evil, and the future is definitely stronger than the past. That is, with one caveat: you must work hard on it.