Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s cultural property is proof of its intent to commit genocide.

Russia’s state media-spread, government official-reinforced programme/manual/handbook of “de-Nazification [денацификация]”, “de-Ukrainisation/de-Ukrainianisation [деукраинизацией]” and “de-Europeanisation [деевропеизация]” in Ukraine is a programme of genocide. And ‘genocide’ of Ukrainians has been the explicit, publicly-expressed desire of Russian ultranationalist ‘Kremlin ideologist Alexander Dugin’, since 2014 (at the latest).

The plan, which was published in most detail by the reportedly Italy-resident, Russian political strategist Timofey Sergeytsev in Russian state-owned RIA Novosti, has been translated into English by both Center for Civil Liberties and the head of communication projects at the Ukrainian Healthcare Center (UHC), Mariia Kravchenko, and other Ukrainian volunteers. Its nature and intent have since been reinforced by the former president, former prime minister, current deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev.

Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has made a declaration on “the genocide [that is being] committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine [про вчинення Російською Федерацією геноциду в Україні]”. [Since then, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania‘s parliaments have recognised Russia’s actions as genocide.]

As feared, beyond war crimes such as forced military labour of civilians – including children – in occupied territories and crimes against humanity such as non-sexual torture and mass murder, Russia’s unpublished yet manifest policy, which feeds off and feeds into genocidally imperialistic Russian misogyny towards Ukrainian women, also involves systematic gang rape and other mass rape as an instrument of trauma-inducing torture.

To highlight one published plan of specific relevance to archaeology, heritage and history, Russia intends to engage in ‘re-education… ideological repression (suppression) of Nazi [according to Russian state logic, Ukrainian] attitudes [which it specifically characterises as Ukronazism (Укронацизм)] and strict censorship… necessarily also in the sphere of culture and education [перевоспитании… идеологическими репрессиями (подавлением) нацистских установок и жесткой цензурой… обязательно также в сфере культуры и образования]’. In other words, Russia plans the cultural genocide of Ukrainians.

distortion of identity, history, culture, art and science as an instrument of genocide

The Verkhovna Rada’s declaration focuses on systematic practices of:

  • murder, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, torture, rape, as well as… desecration of corpses’,
  • ‘besieging settlements, blocking of humanitarian aid and obstructing the evacuation of civilians; the capture and deliberate destruction of infrastructure that provides for people’s basic needs’,
  • ‘forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to the territory of the Russian Federation… aimed at the annihilation of their self-identification as Ukrainians, as well as the expulsion from their homes and deportation to the territory of the Russian Federation of thousands of persons belonging to the civilian population of Ukraine’ and
  • ‘widespread instances of causing physical and mental harm to the population of Ukraine, representatives of Ukrainian public authorities and local self-government, representatives of non-governmental organizations and other local activists, journalists, clergy and other prominent figures of the Ukrainian society; systemic actions of the Russian Federation aimed at inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about gradual destruction of the Ukrainian nation by means of undermining its economic capacity and security, which is manifested in the destruction of economic infrastructure (damaging granaries, obstructing sowing campaigns, blockading trade routes, destroying electricity and gas transportation infrastructure, etc)’;

Yet, it does note Russia’s distortion and appropriation of Ukraine’s identity, history, culture, art and science, as part of its policy of destruction of the Ukrainian nation as a distinct national group.

destruction of cultural property as proof of intent to commit genocide

Furthermore, the Verkhovna Rada’s explanatory note [пояснювальна записка] highlights that

cases of genocide involving the physical destruction of a protected group are often accompanied by attacks on and destruction of cultural and historical heritage sites, religious sites, and buildings. In this regard, international courts and criminal tribunals consider that attacks on cultural and religious sites and symbols may be legitimate evidence of the intent to physically destroy a protected group.

As such,

The deliberate destruction of Ukrainian museums, historical monuments, places of worship, destruction of Ukrainian books, and the banning of the use of the Ukrainian language in the territories controlled by the occupiers is an attempt to erase cultural, historical, and linguistic features that characterize and unite the Ukrainian nation…. [which] prove[s] the existence of intent to physically destroy the Ukrainian nation.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, more than 200 cultural heritage sites have been confirmed to have been seriously damaged or completely destroyed. According to the head of the governing “Servant of the People” party, MP Olena Shuliak (also transliterated as Elena Shulyak), more than 3,600 sites are reported to have been seriously damaged or completely destroyed.

the definition of genocide

Manifestly, Russia’s programme of violence against Ukraine’s cultural property and other civilian infrastructure as well as homes aims at the “disintegration of [its] political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and [its] economic existence”, through “the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of [its] individuals”.

So, Russia’s programme of violence constitutes a “coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life” of the Ukrainian nation, “with the aim of annihilating” it. So, it fits the original definition of genocide from 1944, by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who founded his understanding of mass slaughter on the horrors of first the Armenian Genocide and later the Holocaust.

This programme of violence could also be characterised as “extreme domicide”, “the deliberate destruction of home… in pursuit of specified goals [in conditions of war or tyranny], which causes suffering to the victims”, and “urbicide”, “the destruction of the built environment” as “the destruction of the conditions of possibility of heterogeneity” to enable “the imposition of homogeneity”.

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