Call for collaborators

16 03 2022

UKR-TAZ compiles materials helpful for understanding Ukraine, with an emphasis on radical democratic (left-libertarian) perspectives. (See here for more.) That makes it an unusual if not rare space on the English-language internet.

To do this well, especially at a time like this, requires help. We are not calling for donations — if you can provide any, please donate to the organizations listed here. Rather, we seek collaborators, who would be willing to collect articles and/or media to be shared here, and potentially contribute original work of an appropriately analytical (or inspirational) nature. If you are interested, please write to the editor, including the words “UKR-TAZ” in your Subject line. Thanks.

Statement on Russian invasion

1 03 2022

UKR-TAZ stands in solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine, who are fighting for their right to live in a sovereign and democratic nation. It condemns the Russian invasion as a morally abhorrent act, and joins with all of those who are committed to ending this violation of civil norms and international law.

For a list of things you can do to support Ukraine and Ukrainians at this time, please see SUPPORT UKRAINE.

Is Russia fascist?

8 06 2022

The question of whether or not to call Putinism “fascism” has popped up repeatedly in recent writing. Historian Timothy Snyder recently presented the case in an op-ed for the New York Times, concluding,

A time traveler from the 1930s would have no difficulty identifying the Putin regime as fascist. The symbol Z, the rallies, the propaganda, the war as a cleansing act of violence and the death pits around Ukrainian towns make it all very plain. The war against Ukraine is not only a return to the traditional fascist battleground, but also a return to traditional fascist language and practice. Other people are there to be colonized. Russia is innocent because of its ancient past. The existence of Ukraine is an international conspiracy. War is the answer.

Others — including political scientists (Taras Kuzio, Alexander Motyl), philosophers (Jason Stanley and Eliyahu Stern), economists (Vladislav Inozemtsev), defense secretaries (Ben Wallace), and other commentators (Tomasz Kamusella) — have agreed, while some (cited here) have so far demured from that characterization.

Most recently, Kyiv’s Visual Culture Research Center director Vasyl Cherepanin has admonished the West for its unwillingness to see the creeping fascism in Putinism, writing:

But it was not the West’s far right or far left that helped to bolster Russia’s fascist regime. It was liberal democracies’ political centrists and financial elites who pumped assets into the Kremlin’s mafia-capitalist system – and became corrupted by it. Even as Putin turned Russian politics into a “special operation” and authorized political assassinations, state censorship, electoral manipulation, systematic repression, and military invasions of other countries, the Western liberal establishment, despite the “values” it claims to uphold, normalized him.

The question will be taken up by a panel, including at least two of the world’s leading experts on the topic (Roger Griffin and Marlene Laruelle) at an online seminar entitled “Rashism/Ruscism: Is Russia Fascist?” organized by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies and the Deutsche-Ukrainische Historikerkommission (DUHK) on June 23. (On the use of the term “Rashism” see here.)

Register for the free event here.

Open Letter to Chomsky

20 05 2022

Since my response to Noam Chomsky elicited quite a flurry of feedback, both pro and con (and occasionally in between), I suspect readers will also be interested in the Open Letter to Noam Chomsky published yesterday by four Ukrainian academic economists.

The authors challenge Chomsky on several premises underlying his arguments concerning Ukraine and Russia. These include his denial of Ukraine’s sovereign territorial integrity (violated by Russia in contravention of several international agreements to which Russia was a signatory), his treatment of Ukraine as a pawn on a geo-political chessboard, the misplaced causality of his argumentation about NATO, and his utter incomprehension of the genocidal and frankly fascist motivations underlying Russia’s invasion. All of these premises are rooted in a selective anti-imperialism that, as I have argued , ignores the multiple forms imperialism can take in order to fight a single imperialism, equated with the U.S.-led West. The risk with such selectivity is that it chooses “strange bedfellows” (since it actually aligns with some fascistic anti-westerners like Dugin and now Putin).

As I argued in my E-Flux piece, the only kind of anti-imperialism that makes ethical and political sense today is a decolonial anti-imperialism, and “Decoloniality is by definition not just an anti-imperialism, but an anti-all-imperialisms. That makes every place in the world an ‘obligatory passage point’ for decolonialism.” Ukraine today is a site for decolonial, anti-imperialist struggle against a force whose cutting edge is the neo-imperial Putin regime, but whose fellow travelers are found around the world (especially, but not exclusively, on the political right).

Read the complete Open Letter here.

Musical politics

15 05 2022

As Ukrainian performers Kalush Orchestra, whose “political statement” was allowed by Eurovision organizers for “humanitarian reasons,” went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest (while Russian performers were banned), and as Vladimir Putin continues to complain about western “cancel culture” (while canceling those who disagree with him), the arts world more generally has come to heavily feature the cultural politics surrounding Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.

Ani Bundel writes that Eurovision has always been “a stand-in” for the political climate, despite organizers’ insistence that it is not. The same thing can be seen in other places on the musical spectrum.

Time’s Andrew Chow writes about how “A Russian DJ’s Silence About Ukraine is Dividing the Electronic Music Scene.” The scene, as Chow writes, is divided between people like Clone Distribution’s Serge Verschuur — for whom “the house and techno scene [has] stood up for” (and been “built by”) “minorities, for the less privileged, for the oppressed” — and, on the other hand, the “toxic positivity” of the ravers who want to “have fun” and not “think about anything.” In contrast to DJ Nina Kraviz are others like Ukrainian DJ Nastia and Russian DJ Buttechno, who urges his fellow Russians “to admit the imperialistic and colonizing approach of Russian culture and politics throughout Russian history.”

And writing in the New York Times, Gabrielle Cornish describes Ukrainian musical modernism and its destruction at the hands of Stalinism. The article quotes Ukrainian-American ethnomusicologist (and my collaborator) Maria Sonevytsky, who perceptively refers to the association of “greatness” with Russian culture as “Russian soft power” — the “kind of exceptionalism that empires produce and make seem virtuous that smaller countries, depicted as the ‘threatening nationalists’ on the border, are denied.”

See also The Conversation on “How Russian musicians are taking a stand against the war in Ukraine,” The Guardian‘s interview with Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz, or my recent interview with David Novak.

Pomerantsev on how to end this war

2 05 2022

Documentarist and disinformation analyst Peter Pomerantsev’s latest piece for The Atlantic, “‘We Can Only Be Enemies‘,” is a brilliant dissection of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the ground, and of what it may take for Russia to be reclaimed by civilized life…

“Putin’s famed propaganda system has always been less about ginning up enthusiasm and more about spreading doubt and uncertainty, proliferating so many versions of “the truth” that people feel lost and turn to an authoritarian leader to guide them through the murkiness. In a domestic political context, these tactics make sense: They keep people passive, unsure of what is truly happening. But they show their limits when you want to move a country toward the rabid enthusiasm required for war.” […]

“Whether Putin has the repressive mechanisms necessary to rule purely through fear is unclear: The prisons are already packed. The endgame in Russia doesn’t involve anything as dramatic as regime change, to say nothing of revolution. All it needs is for people to stop pulling their weight, because they can see that the government is no longer competent or acting in their interests.”

The entire article can be read here.

Kuleba on the third superpower

28 04 2022

It’s the rare minister of foreign affairs who writes about reshaping the world order by referring to its “tripolarity,” with the third pole being the emerging community of digital “netizens.” That is what Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba has just done in a piece published in Foreign Policy, “The Fight for Ukraine Is Forging a New World“:

The world of tomorrow will be tripolar. Two obvious poles will be the United States and China. India will be gaining force as a strong democratic power. But the third, less obvious pole will be the newly emerging, decentralized community of global internet users, and it will be defined by rapid technological development and disruptive innovation.

Some of what Kuleba has to say sounds clunky to me (such as the sentence that follows the quoted one, which refers to the “third pole” “largely” centering on the “metaverse” — seriously?). With its digital utopianism and its references to Zygmunt Bauman’s “liquid modernity” and to “two political models: the communal future and the hierarchical past; the existing political order and the emerging one,” the piece reminds me a bit too much of the pronouncements of the early cyberlibertarians, and, more promisingly perhaps, of the New York Times and Jonathan Schell’s declarations, after the 2003 announcement by the Bush administration of its war on Iraq, that global civil society constitutes a “second superpower.”

Those comparisons aside, Kuleba is correct to point to the role that “netizens,” including the cyberhacker network Anonymous, have been “playing an active part in Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion.”

The piece can be read here.

Khromeychuk: Decolonizing western knowledge of Ukraine

27 04 2022

Olesya Khromeychuk‘s recent University of Cambridge BASEES keynote lecture “Where is Ukraine on the mental map of the academic community?” provides a searing and necessary analysis of the colonial/imperial lenses clouding western knowledge of Ukraine.

A snippet: when asked by a journalist, one time too many, “What exactly is the difference between Ukraine and Russia?” Khromeychuk says,

“Weary of giving a proper answer, starting with Volodymyr the Great and ending with Volodymyr Zelensky, for the umpteenth time, I asked the journalist in return: ‘What exactly is the difference between Ireland and England?’ Instead of an answer, I heard a nervous giggle. We have mostly figured out the inappropriateness of asking such questions related to western empires. But we are not yet as skilled of seeing the same inappropriateness when it comes to other empires.”

The full talk, which is highly recommended, details the results of this imperial blindness among western commentators and scholars. It can be viewed here:

Himka on Ukrainian history

20 04 2022

It’s difficult to briefly summarize Ukrainian history — the best books on the topic clock in at 432 pages (Plokhy’s) and 896 pages (Magocsi’s) respectively — but John-Paul Himka has done that in 10 “turning points” at Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, a web site that is in some ways very kindred to UKR-TAZ. HImka’s piece on Ukraine’s socialist heritage also fills in some of the blanks on that side of Ukrainian history (and shows how the worst thing that ever happened to socialism was Stalin).

Babij: “this is about ground”

17 04 2022

For the next several weeks I will be on the road and likely not posting very much. But occasionally I’ll share bits and pieces that come to me that I don’t find being shared elsewhere. Like this one.

Writer and curator Larissa Babij‘s blog A Kind of Refugee has been providing a kind of refuge of poetic and inspired reflection on the reality of the Russian war on Ukraine. Most recently she writes about spring sunshine in Kyiv and how the “great energy to do something fully in the moment” provides the ground on which Ukrainians stand today.

The choice, she writes,

between subjugation to Russia or obedience to the West was never a particularly palatable one. and so Ukraine just plodded along ambiguously, neither here nor there, but “not dead yet.”

But “under increasing pressure and finding no safe path or protection” Ukrainians began to fight, not out of a rigorously theorized perspective — “Ukraine doesn’t have philosophy,” she provokes — but

Ukrainians have the audacity to do things. without asking. without thinking too far ahead. without mapping out in their imaginations how it will work or endure in the long run.

Matviyenko: nuclear cyberwar

8 04 2022

E-Flux has published an excellent and informative new article by cyberwar theorist Svitlana Matviyenko on “Nuclear Cyberwar: From Energy Colonialism to Energy Terrorism” in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It can be read here.

UCSB talk: Causes & implications of the invasion (2 variants)

7 04 2022

My talk “The Invasion of Ukraine as a Turning Point” tries to make sense of the causes of the Russian invasion and its potential effects on the future of global media, migration and refugeeism, democratic and authoritarian politics, and climate change. It can be viewed here.

For those who don’t have time to watch webinars, I’ve also created a summary in the form of two Twitter threads. The first part is here (or click on the first image below). It continues here (or second image below). Or you can read the continuation as a thread here.

In the intro to the talk, I mention two ways we can learn from (and partially “redeem”?) such events: (1) by understanding their causes so that they can be prevented from arising again, and redirected if they do arise, and (2) by seeing the effects as a range of possibilities, of which some are better (and to be followed) and some worse (to be avoided), with some of the better ones being new and not so easy to see. The third, which must accompany the others, is justice and reparations.

Thanks to Professor Sarah Weld, the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, and the Graduate Center for Literary Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for sponsoring and organizing the talk.

Part 1:

Part 2:


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