Victory Day — the foundation of the ideology of the Donetsk and Luhansk "republics", coincides with the main "state holiday" there. In Donetsk, this is May 11 — the day of the "referendum" on separation from Ukraine. In Luhansk, May 12 is the day of announcement of the results of the "referendum". It is the "Republic Day" in both territories.
The sequence of "public holidays" begins in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine in early April and lasts for more than a month. This year on April 12, the head of the Luhansk "republic" Igor Plotnitsky defined by his "decree" April 13 to be "The Day of Victims of Ukrainian Aggression". Right after the "decree" was promulgated, all the “LPR” towns synchronously held some "patriotic" events.
But the culmination still comes exactly on May 9 — the day, which for Luhansk and Donetsk now symbolizes two wars with the "fascist invaders". The published congratulation of Igor Plotnitsky is an example of typical rhetoric of leadership and ideologists of the "republics":
"In the distant 1945, everyone had a firm conviction that the world community, which witnessed the terrible crimes of Nazism, developed immunity against the "brown plague". But less than 70 years later, Ukraine again lit torches in honor of the discarded fascist idols. The newly-born Fuhrers of the "true" Ukrainians, believing in their exclusivity, appropriated themselves the right to decide the destinies of people, dividing them into higher and lower races, deciding what to do, what to believe in and what to be proud of... ".
Highly celebrated "state" holidays are just one example of intensive ideological processing of the population of the occupied territories. For three years, numerous monuments and memorable signs to new heroes and "victims of Ukrainian aggression", museums and expositions devoted to the events of the current war appeared there. Almost non-alternative "ruling organizations" have emerged. Extensive work on "patriotic education" in schools and even kindergartens has been launched. New and developed old chauvinistic myths about Ukraine and Ukrainians were developed.
Heroes and martyrs are what every state, especially the young one, needs. The construction of these "republics" is being done according to all ideological canons and clearly not by the collective mind of local "miners and tractor drivers".
But there is one serious mismatch in this process: the ideologists are building the "DPR" and "LPR", while the idea of joining the Russian Federation is still much more popular inside the "republics" themselves. Even in the "festive" publications one may find a disillusionment with the Donbass policy towards Russia.
At the same time, the interests of the Kremlin and the leaders of the "republics" coincide completely: massive propaganda should maintain hostility towards the rest of Ukraine and justify the existence of two pseudo-states.
The death of Arsen Pavlov (Motorola) and Mikhail Tolstykh (Givi) proved to be advantageous for the Donetsk "republic": they became heroes-martyrs. At present, the cult of both of them is being formed, with transfer of their personal belongings and works of art to museums. The "republic’s" leader Alexander Zakharchenko carried the portrait of Arsen Pavlov in the front row of the "Immortal Regiment" campaign, which paid tribute to the veterans of the "Great Patriotic War" and honored the memory of those who died in the current war. Commemorative tablet for Mikhail Tolstykh has recently appeared on the wall of the school where he studied.
"Today, Donetsk Art and Exhibition Center ArtDonbass presented the exhibition "We will win!", timed to the third anniversary of the formation of the Donetsk People's Republic... — one of the "republican" media reported the other day. — The portraits depict heroes of the DPR: the head of the republic Alexander Zakharchenko, Mikhail Tolstykh, better known as Givi and Arsen Pavlov, known as Motorola. In his turn, the artist from Russia Andrey Plotnikov handed his painting over to ArtDonbass, which he painted on a piece of glass from Donetsk airport, depicting Pavlov’s dagger, his beret and chevron of the Sparta battalion".
The Luhansk "republic" has no new dead heroes. The previously completed series of high-profile murders has eliminated all known competitors of the incumbent leader, who is probably jealous even of the dead. Therefore, he cherishes the Young Guard. This is the name of the youth wing of the "social movement" Peace for Luhansk Region, headed by Plotnitsky. “For young people, the heroes of the Young Guard are a good example of how people at this age should think, what ideals and values they should have".
The commemorative tablet at Mikhail Tolstykh’s school is not the only memorable sign. Over the past two months, more memorial tablets to the dead militants have been opened in the "republics" (mostly in Donetsk).
In addition, military museums began to open in schools. One of these, and perhaps the most famous, is the Museum of Military Glory of Afghan Warriors: schoolchildren from other regions and even other towns are taken to visit it. In the museum, as one of the "republican" websites reports, "exhibits of the war in Afghanistan, the events of the Great Patriotic War and evidence of Ukraine's aggression against the inhabitants of the Donetsk People's Republic are presented".
Lessons of "civic consciousness"
Judging by the reports of "republican" news agencies, work with schoolchildren is one of the main components of the propaganda activities in the occupied territories. In Luhansk, it focuses on Soviet monuments relating to the Second World War. For example, this is what they reported about one event in Perevalsk: "during the month, groups of 30 schoolchildren, accompanied by a museum guide, will visit the memorial sites of the Perevalsky district and lay flowers to the obelisks of the dead compatriots. The excursions will be held at the Perevalsk-Chernukhino-Tsentralnyj-Zorinsk route. All the participants will receive St. George ribbons".
In Donetsk, the lessons "of civic consciousness and political information" or "civic-mindedness and patriotism" became an obligatory part of education. "Patriotic lessons" are conducted not only by teachers, but also officials and police officers. One of the examples from the website of the Donetsk "republic": "Tatiana Storcheus, an employee of the sector for the affairs of minors of the Makiivka Soviet district police department, together with students of 7-11 grades visited military unit in the Starobeshevsk district. Also, the concert program was prepared for the military, dedicated to the Victory Day. Students prepared acts, related to the military theme of the concert, and had time to communicate with the servicemen".
Children write essays on the war and the "republic" topics, draw "patriotic" drawings for various contests. Currently, in the towns that are not controlled by Kyiv, the results of yet another project are presented. Students from all schools had to collect stories, make drawings and photographs for the city's "memory books".
"The project... provides for the students to collect evidences of the events that the residents of the republic experienced during the period of hostilities of 2014-2016. "The Memory Book" will become a letter to the future, proof of aggression and crimes by the Kyiv regime, a reminder of that the ideology of fascism can lead to consequences, and most importantly, it will be the source that will preserve the historical memory of the war in the Donbass", - was said at the presentation of the project in Horlivka.
Lessons of "civic activity"
The above mentioned "ruling organizations" are a separate topic. It stands to reason that people join trade unions, "non-governmental organizations" and "youth movements" not quite voluntarily: there are either added incentives or a threat of repressions. According to the statements from the CDLO websites, 87.5 people are in the Peace for Luhansk Region of Plotnitsky. This "social movement" had allegedly received almost 70 percent of votes in the "election" to the "People's Council" of the Luhansk "republic".
One of the statements of "republican" websites about the activities of this organization was about the appearance of "the fourth detachment of the Young Guard children and youth organization of "the Peace for Luhansk Region" social movement" in Pervomaisk. As it stated, "the event was attended by the acting head of the administration of Pervomaisk Sergey Afanasyev, the head of the executive committee of the local branch of "the Peace for Luhansk Region" social movement, the deputy head of the city administration Sergey Koliagin, the coordinator of the Young Guard children and youth organization Yuriy Diachenko and others… Afanasyev called students to join the ranks of the children and youth organization". That is, two de facto officials had agitated children to join a political organization at the lesson, which shows how much such movements are actually "social" in the "republics".
But Donetsk had drawn out by far even here in promoting the "Donetsk Republic" "social movement", headed by Alexander Zakharchenko and the head of the "People's Council" Denis Pushylin. The "social" "Donetsk Republic" has almost 70 percent of seats in the "republican" "parliament". If what Pushylin said is true, the "social movement" was consistently replenished by ten thousand new members in 2016 approximately every three months. As of the second half of March, their total number of 170 thousand people was called. The story is rather anecdotic. It was reported that the "Donetsk Republic" had recruited 18 thousand members in Makiivka in 2015 in 505 local cells created in the same year.
What this means in practice can be understood from another statement: "25 new employees of the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Communal Services of the DPR joined the "Donetsk Republic" social movement. The ceremony of issuing membership cards and badges took place in the building of the department… The event was attended by the first deputy head of the Central Executive Committee of the "DR" social movement Andrey Kramar and the head of the construction department Sergey Naumets. "About 60 employees of the ministry had initially joined the ranks of the "Donetsk Republic". But as the department continues to be staffed, 25 new employees have showed their willingness to work for the benefit of the Republic through the social movement", — Naumets said".
It was also reported earlier that the "Donetsk Republic" included 35 employees of the "Supreme Court", many more showed their willingness to follow suit in a short time. Mentioned above Andrey Kramar stated in 2016 that the "social movement" even has a plan for how many people its management plans to gather: "We are going to exceed 150 thousand people by the end of the year, although at the moment people enter the social movement, exceeding the schedule".
The plans of the "Donetsk Republic" have obviously expanded recently. "Republican" media began to report on joining the "social movement" by the employees of enterprises that were "transferred to the external management" on March 1 — that is, actually taken away from the Ukrainian owners.
A similar situation is with the local trade unions. "Republican" media has recently reported that 18 thousand employees of such enterprises entered the "trade union organizations" of the CDDO in one and half month.
All this tells of the attempts of the "republics" to put under control virtually every of their residents and achieve total domination over the population. At the same time, the leadership of the CDDLO and individual ideologists make aggressive anti-Ukrainian propaganda in their media, intimidating people in fact. Former "regionalists" — today's Opposition Bloc — and Rinat Akhmetov — all those who the local residents were loyal to until 2014 were declared traitors and "cronies of the bloody president" Poroshenko.
"Republican" media regularly publish pseudo-historical materials with virtually the same set of anti-Ukrainian myths. The reader can learn from these publications, for example, not only that "Ukrainians and Russians are one people", but that the Ukrainian language and "Ukrainism" were invented by the Austrians, Poles and Germans in order to harm Russia and separate "Little Russia" from it, imposing the local residents that they are not Russians. "Ukrainism" has been propagated in "Little Russia" by force for more than a hundred years. Anyone who does not agree to wear the "stigma" of a Ukrainian today being also exterminated by the "local degenerates and traitors" — conscious Ukrainians who are still supported by the West, hostile to Russia and to the Russian World.
Furthermore, the authors of such articles are popular with the idea that Ukrainian language and culture was propagated in "Little Russia" by the Bolsheviks — Nikita Khrushchev and Vladimir Lenin himself. According to another, even more original version, it was Lazar Kaganovich and Izrail Kulik. The last two names are hardly accidental, since they fit the idea of conspiracy against the Russian World, in this case — the Jewish one, understandable on those territories. Antisemitism is also the reality of the CDDLO.
Another common thesis is that New Russia has nothing to do with the Pereyaslav Council and the reunification of Little Russia with Russia because these lands were not part of the Little Russia in the 17th century. New Russia is a territory that historically belongs to Russia by right of conquest. Moreover, New Russia is considered to be the territory from Slobozhanshchyna to Bessarabia, including Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts. So the Donbass has nothing to do with Ukraine and Ukrainians, and now it "returns home" — to Russia.
Russian and Russian-speaking people are still the majority in the "former Ukraine, they "live in the occupation", it is said in some publications. It is possible to release such "occupied" "Russian lands" from the "infection of Ukrainism" only through violence. This is all the more justified that the "Ukrainian regime" is a threat to Russia, especially if Russia withdraws from the Donbass and New Russia. It can come with war already to Russia, if it does not be stopped. The goal of Ukraine which hates everything Russian and exists only to destroy Russia is "to drown the Donbass in blood". Therefore, the existence of "republics" in the east of the "former Ukraine" (with all their economic troubles which are sometimes honestly recognized by the Donetsk-Russian ideologists) justifies at least that their residents are safe from such a Ukrainian "beast" and can freely speak Russian language and follow their "traditions".
At the same time, there is no unified version in anti-Ukrainian publications, how large is the described "evil" and where is its main source. It has been affirmed that population of the "former Ukraine" is suppressed by terror and propaganda. But then the authors begin to contradict themselves and each other. Whether the case is only in the "radicals" and "volunteer battalions", whom even the government in Kyiv is afraid of, or the government in Kyiv propagates its "occupation power" in the Russian-speaking regions, or all those who, being a product of the Austro-German-Polish selection, consider themselves Ukrainian, and not Russian, and who speak Ukrainian language help it in this. At the same time, statements that the majority in the Ukrainian army and among the radicals themselves are Russian-speaking appear from time to time. And also — that "radicals" and "volunteer battalions" terrorize the soldiers of the Ukrainian army. Probably, this is not the matter of writers, but of readers — to cope somehow with contradictions.
The population of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts — both uncontrolled by Kyiv and "temporarily occupied by Ukraine" is called "the people of Donbass" in the "republican" media. "We" - not only the native of these places Andrey Purgin, but also the newcomer Russian militant Pavel Rasta says and writes about himself and "the people of Donbass".
Yuliia Abibok, OstroV