Can Putin understand speaking Ukrainian

Russia and UkraineHow friends became enemies

A shopping center in Moscow. Aleksandr, in his 30s, is sitting in a café and ordering black tea. He lives a few metro stops away, his wife and their one-year-old daughter are at home. Aleksandr comes from the Ukraine, from Kiev. His parents, siblings and all relatives live there. He moved to Moscow four years ago for work. In Moscow he met his wife, a Russian:

"If I didn't have my wife and child here, I would of course leave Russia. It's very difficult. I actually feel like a persona non grata. Nobody told me directly to my face that I wasn't welcome here. But in connection with Russian immigration law has caused a lot of inconvenience for Ukrainians over the past year. They have not been allowed into the country. The law is tough now. If you have violated the traffic regulations about twice in Russia, they can refuse you entry Even illegal parking can have such consequences. "

Aleksandr is a sole trader, he has a small advertising agency in Moscow. In contact with his customers, it does not matter that he is from Ukraine. He tries not to attract attention as a Ukrainian. Aleksandr speaks Russian without the typical Ukrainian accent. His family name is not typically Ukrainian either. As a precaution, it should still not be mentioned:

"It doesn't say on my forehead that I'm Ukrainian. I won't let that hang out, I don't go through the streets with a Ukrainian flag. The mood in society is so electrified now that any small occasion is enough: on both sides, in Russia and Ukraine. If a Russian citizen drives to Kiev and has stickers on the car with words that offend a Ukrainian, it can happen that they break his window or slit his tires there, just as if a Ukrainian is here comes here and behaves incorrectly - maybe it would be even worse. "

"The front practically runs through our family"

Within the family, Aleksandr avoids the subject of politics:

"My wife and her relatives all live here, in Russia, in Moscow. They are old people. My relatives all live in Ukraine. The front practically runs through our family. Emotionally, psychologically, it's very difficult. I'm just lucky because my wife is very smart. "

In the summer, the Moscow and Kiev families even went on vacation together, to Spain: Aleksandr and his wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister and sister-in-law:

"My mother and sister are conflict-shy, they try to evade all ticklish points. And my Moscow family is absolutely apolitical. Everyone understands that the conflict between Russians and Ukrainians was artificially created. We try to avoid politics: That what is happening in Ukraine as well as what is happening in Russia. Because if I criticize Russian politics, for example, it is uncomfortable for my wife. Nobody likes to hear criticism from a stranger. Not even constructive criticism. "

In the eyes of many Ukrainians, there is currently not just one border with the Russian Federation. There is also a front. It runs in the east to the separatist areas supported by Russia. In the south, it is the line that separates mainland Ukraine from the Crimean peninsula.

42-year-old Leonid Schypko is an electrician. As a volunteer, he spends several days and nights on the demarcation line - he checks trucks that want to bring food to the Crimea and searches cars. This is his contribution to bringing the occupier, as he calls Russia, to his knees:

"First of all, Russia must release the Ukrainian prisoners of war, that is my personal opinion. By that I also mean those who Russia arrested in the Crimea even before the annexation. Only when they are free can we even sit down at a table and negotiate. "

"We have something against Russia as an occupier"

Leonid and the other volunteers control the traffic on the peninsula. ( Kellermann) Leonid and other volunteers initially controlled traffic in the direction of Crimea illegally. Shortly before the end of the year, Ukraine officially ceased trading with the peninsula. That's right, thinks Leonid: Crimea is under Ukrainian control again. But then, at the end of a windy winter's day, he surprises his comrades. He pulls out a photocopy, neatly inserted into a transparent cover: a portrait of the Russian film director Eldar Ryazanov, known for his satirical depictions of everyday life in the Soviet Union, who died at the end of November. Leonid hangs the photo at the checkpoint:

"A lot of pro-Russian people pass by here. We want to show them that we Ukrainians have nothing against them as Russians. We have something against Russia as an occupier and against people who don't think about it and submit to Putin's propaganda. We should keep that apart - here: a Russian and there, as we say: a "Watnik" - someone who has cotton wool in his head instead of a brain. "

Leonid comes from Dnipropetrovsk, in eastern Ukraine. His mother tongue is Russian, he has relatives and acquaintances on the other side of the border - they are close to him, even if he hasn't spoken to some of them since the conflict.

Some checkpoint inspectors see their neighbors in the east very differently. In the supply tent is Oleh Bondaruk, who comes from Lutsk in western Ukraine. Russia has no future, the entrepreneur is convinced:

"For that, their mentality would have to change radically. The Russians always need an external enemy, they cannot live without an enemy. No government can survive there without war. The Russians have no idea of ​​further developing their state, so they need it the leader principle, the personality cult. But I cannot see the formation of a real state there. "

"Everyone would first have to kill their own Putin within themselves"

Intellectuals in Kiev see this equally clearly - even those with Russian roots. Andrei Kurkov was born near Petersburg and writes his bestsellers in Russian. But today there is not much in common with the neighboring country. His books no longer appear there. Half of his Russian friends have since left Russia, he says. He can hardly find a common language with many who continue to live there. Can the relationship ever get better?

“First of all, Putin would have to disappear from Russian politics. The Russians would first have to understand what is actually going on and why the whole world is turning away from them. Everyone would first have to kill their own Putin within themselves, and a civilized nation again can arise. "

People in Ukraine who see things differently have withdrawn and no longer speak up. Many associations that dealt with Russian culture in Ukraine have practically ceased their work. This applies above all to those who previously benefited from Russian subsidies. Even Russians who have lived in Ukraine for many years no longer feel as comfortable as they used to. For example, the publisher Polina Lavrowa, who comes from Petersburg:

"A lot of people here want us Russians to apologize and apologize all the time. I don't. But I always think twice about what I say so as not to irritate anyone."

Exiled Russians in Ukraine: "Russian culture as a common heritage"

Polina Lavrowa moved here ten years ago because of her husband, who is an ardent patriot. Both speak Russian, but that doesn't make their relationship any easier. Because she sees the blame for the conflict between the two countries not only in Russia, even if she initially admits:

"Sure, Russia has taken advantage of the very difficult situation in which Ukraine found itself. On the Crimean question, for example. But I always advise looking at the past 20 years that have led to it. The struggle between the Ukrainian oligarchs, Corruption, all of that has weakened the Ukraine. My husband doesn't always want to hear that, so let's look for a neutral topic of conversation. "

The new exiled Russians view the relationship between the two countries very differently. There are likely to be more than 100 people who fled to Ukraine as politically persecuted people in the past two years. Many of them believe that there could one day be much closer, namely real partnership-based relationships for both nations - when both states have developed into democracies. - Olga Kurnosowa, who has lived in Kiev for a little over a year, believes in this future:

"Russian culture is a common heritage. If Ukraine doesn't want to have anything to do with Russia now, then it will behave like a betrayed wife who is getting divorced, leaving everything to the man - the dacha, the apartment, the yacht to live at the station herself. "

Olga Kurnosowa had demonstrated in Moscow against Russia's military engagement in eastern Ukraine. Many of her fellow campaigners are in custody, she was able to save herself. Now she coordinates information campaigns in her native Russia from Kiev. But she also wants to persuade the Ukraine:

"Some say: Live the way you want in your Russia, we don't want to hear anything more from you. The best thing is to break up Russia into individual parts. Then I answer: This is a position that Putin strengthens. He wants to say yes to his citizens. that the whole world is against them. On the other hand, Russia is too big and the Russian-Ukrainian border is too long. If Russia falls apart, it will also be very dangerous for Ukraine. "

Russians and Ukrainians are becoming more and more alienated

Russia's President Vladimir Putin at his traditional annual press conference in the Kremlin. (Imago)
The prospect of the reconciliation that Olga Kurnosova is striving for seems light years away at the moment. Because meanwhile the alienation between Russians and Ukrainians is deepening. The Kiev entrepreneur Aleksandr:

"Actually, relations between Russia and Ukraine have always been tense. In Russia there is an almost traditional view that there is Russia as a big and a little Ukrainian brother, and the little one is constantly taking something that is not his due. Since the early 2000s Since Putin came to power, this way of thinking has come to the fore, and when I came to Moscow in 2011, I often heard immediately from people I had just met: Oh, you - you are stealing our gas . "

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin takes every opportunity to emphasize how close Russians and Ukrainians are supposed to be - and thus even exacerbate the situation. March 2015. An open air concert on Red Square. It is the anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea. President Putin appears in front of his supporters:

"In Russia we have always been of the opinion that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. I mean that now, too."

Finally, a few days ago: Putin's annual press conference. His spokesman called a Moscow journalist, but the president interrupted him and gave the floor to a correspondent from Ukraine.

"Sorry, there is the Ukraine. Our brother republic, I never tire of emphasizing that. Please!"

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko does not believe in this rhetoric, to put it mildly. Instead of the word "Russia", he often just uses the term "aggressor". In September he finally stated:

"The new military doctrine of Ukraine officially states that Russia is our military adversary. By 2020, the Ukrainian army should be fully compatible with the armies of the NATO countries."

Ukrainians as "supposedly not quite full-fledged Russians"

And so at first glance Poroshenko appears to be a splitter, while Putin is supposedly looking for reconciliation. In the opinion of the journalist and linguist Gasan Gusejnow, the talk of the "brother people" is pure propaganda that still comes from the Soviet era. In the USSR, the much-touted friendship between peoples was above all an empty phrase, because:

"The basic motive of the Russian relationship with Ukraine and the Russian state with Ukraine was: 'You are simply not entirely perfect Russians. We just allowed you to wear your embroidered blouses. And to speak your strange village language. But you don't have any your own culture, or just a weak one, you have no statehood. ' This contempt exists. With a great many people in Russia, even with those who at first glance appear cultivated. The contempt for Ukrainians as supposedly not fully fledged Russians. "

Meanwhile, the aversion is also expressed linguistically, mutually. Ukrainians disparagingly refer to the Russians as "Moskaly" - the "tribe of Muscovites" who are actually unworthy of referring to the medieval "Kievan Rus" with the name of their nation "Russians". Or they call Russians: "Watniki". Derived from the uniform Soviet padded jackets. The Russians, for their part, spoil the Ukrainians with "Ukropy", or "Dillköpf" in German, or they disparage them as "Chochly". "Chochol" - this is the name of the traditional braid, a distinctive mark of the Ukrainian Cossacks in earlier centuries. Linguist Gusejnow knows that such nicknames were used in everyday language even in Soviet times. But only now are they considered to be "socially acceptable" and poisoned the climate:

"Worse than these words, however, is the complete unwillingness to accept the attitude of the other side. People live in a discourse of distrust, malice and malice towards 'others' who, as it is said, have 'always' been different. Who should never have been trusted in the past, who have always been traitors. And from the Ukrainian side we hear that nothing is sacred to the Russians, they only uphold power and violence and bring famine. It runs so deep that it is fearful and get worried. "

No more direct flights between Russia and Ukraine

Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport: All direct connections between Russia and Ukraine have been suspended since autumn 2015. (dpa / Maksim Blinov)
Gusejnow travels regularly from Russia to Kiev, where he meets with fellow scientists:

"People in Moscow, civilized, educated people, ask me: Aren't you afraid? They can kill you in Kiev. I said: They can kill you anywhere. That's absurd. I'm going to just as much a European city as I do to Moscow or." to Petersburg. That was an employee of the Academy of Sciences. That is a terrible signal. It means that the man is under the influence of propaganda and has watched too much television. "

The Ukrainian Aleksandr, who lives in Moscow, has long since drawn the consequences. There is a TV ban at his home. Nevertheless, he cannot ignore the propaganda:

"You go to the hairdresser, there is the TV with news about the Donbass. About" Bandera fascists "and so on, totally one-sided. You go to friends, the TV is there too. Russian TV is just too powerful, it does turn people into zombies. "

But Aleksandr has a solution: People just have to go to the other country and talk to each other. A year ago he invited Moscow friends to western Ukraine, Lviv and the Carpathian Mountains. They loved it. But travel and encounters are becoming more and more difficult. As of this autumn, there have been no more direct flights between Russia and Ukraine.

"We don't yet know whether my relatives from Kiev will be able to come to Moscow. One day's journey there, one day back so that we can sit together for a day or two - that's difficult. The other way round is not possible. My mother-in-law no longer wants to go Go to Kiev. I don't know how these two states can ever find each other again. "

The Kiev-exiled Russian Polina Lavrowa is somewhat more confident about the future:

"I have the feeling that the relationships will gradually smooth out. Some say it will take 25 or 30 years. I think it will go faster. Because the economic relationships will remain, and with them the other contacts will be restored growing. In the media and among artists I can feel that at least the pitch has become a bit more relaxed, but so far only the pitch. "