NEW YORK – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that his military invasion and war on Ukraine is to “de-Nazify” the country is malicious and anti-semitic.
Putin’s words imply that Ukraine was persecuting people. The term “de-Nazify” – specifically in the context of Russia – has grave implications due to Russia’s own history with the Nazis.
In World War II, the Nazis ruled Germany and betrayed and persecuted their fellow citizens. They conduced mass murder of millions of Russian people who were part of what was then the Soviet Union.
For Putin to tell Russian citizens – who primarily consume state media – that Ukrainians behaving like Nazis is one of the ways he is trying to justify the invasion and build support for the war.
But Ukraine is a country led by Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jewish man with family members who fought for the Soviet Union in WWII and perished in the Holocaust, according to The Washington Post.
This makes Putin’s reasons for starting this conflict even more nefarious. The words he is using are those of a white supremacist and echo Hitler.
The invasion of Ukraine, and the language Putin is using, is reminiscent of the Nazi’s 1939 invasion of Czechoslovakia based on unfounded claims that the country was persecuting German people.
Russia invaded Ukraine based on similar lies. Putin said before the invasion that Ukraine was persecuting Russian speaking people, which wasn’t true.
This parallel isn’t a mistake or a coincidence as Putin himself likes harkening back to Nazi Germany in his rhetoric surrounding Ukraine.
The actions of the Russian government remind us why history must be taught thoughtfully, and in depth because it can prevent indoctrination.
People who do not learn the multi-layered threads of history and only focusing on a single thread are bound to repeat it.
We are sadly seeing this unfold in Ukraine today.
Chyonika Roy is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She wrote this essay.
Christine Marinho is a Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International. She made the illustration.