This morning, a friend sent me a Russian cartoon aimed at explaining the conflict in Ukraine to children in Russia. The opening caption reads: “Show this to your kids: a story of Vanya and Mykola.” Needless to say, it’s a good, consistent story with little basis in reality. And the fact that Russia is making propaganda for children takes my view of the regime in Russia to a whole new level. I’m not sure how popular the cartoon is in Russia, but it looks like it was made professionally by one of the most prominent Russian channels. If you don’t speak Russian, I suggest reading the translation first, then watching the video (it’s worth watching even after you know the script). Pay attention to the kids’ shirts, they are country flags.
It is also worth noting that the line “Where have you been for the last 8 years while Ukraine was attacking the people of Dotensk and Lugansk?”, a version of which appears in the cartoon, is by far the most common opening line of negative emails I received in response to my outreach to academics in Russia.
Once upon a time there were two friends: Vanya and Kolya. They were great friends. Vanya defended Kolya if somebody hurt him, as he was a bit stronger. When they got a bit older, they went to school together, sat at the same desk. But suddenly, Kolya decided to transfer to a different class and asked Vanya to call him Mykola from now on. [For context, “Mykola” is the Ukrainian equivalent of the name “Kolya”] Vanya was perfectly fine with that – this won’t interfere with us being friends!
Mykola met some new friends. He started hurting his previous classmates, hitting them with a stick. Vanya told Mykola many times that fighting is bad, but Mykola didn’t listen. Even though he promised not to hit the other kids anymore, he continued to do it covertly. Vanya ran out of patience and decided to take away Mykola’s stick so that he wouldn’t hurt the other kids. Everyone started yelling that Vanya is bad, that he’s fighting with Mykola and fighting is bad.
“But I’m not hitting Mykola. I just took away his stick so he wouldn’t hurt the other kids,” explains Vanya, but the others don’t hear him because Mykola is screaming very loudly that he is being hit.
“And by the way, why were you silent when Mykola was hurting the other kids?” says Vanya.
This is the kind of story that happened between two brotherly countries – Russia and Ukraine. Centuries of friendship were destroyed by events in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine was oppressing their Russian populations, so the two regions wanted to separate and join Russia. Ukraine didn’t agree and started waging war with these territories. Russia tried to stop the murder of people and solve the question peacefully. [signed papers say “Minsk Agreement”] Ukraine agreed to stop bombing the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk but continued to do so, ignoring all calls to maintain peace. Russia decided to take away Ukraine’s weapons. Some countries starting accusing Russia of starting a war. “I am just destroying Ukraine’s weapons so they cannot be used against Donetsk and Luhansk,” answers Russia. But the West doesn’t hear Russia because Ukraine is telling everyone that Russia wants to kill people.
“And by the way, why were you silent when for eight years Ukraine has been bombing the Donetsk and Lugansk republics?”
Russia still hopes that Ukraine will agree to solve the question peacefully and will no longer violate agreements. Our country always advocates for peace and open discussion of any conflict. [papers say “Let’s discuss everything calmly”] [Flag shot at the end says “Russia for peace!”]