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Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: SPUTNIK/PAVEL BEDNYAKOV/POOL VIA REUTERS
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: SPUTNIK/PAVEL BEDNYAKOV/POOL VIA REUTERS

Anthony Butler’s most recent column refers ( “SACP romance with Russia blind to its colonial project”, February 24). The author’s idea of Soviet colonisation of Ukraine does not withstand criticism, and represents yet another illustration of how Western propaganda replaces fact-based knowledge with political clichés.

In the mid-15th century papal bulls were issued sanctioning slavery for “enemies of Christ” in Europe and colonisation of Africa — documents for centuries considered a legal justification for the slave trade. As part of colonial expansion Europeans robbed and exterminated indigenous peoples in different continents, and plundered and seized their lands, destroying their culture and history.

Apparently, Butler believes Ukraine had the same fate within the Soviet Union, but the facts suggest otherwise. “Soviet colonialists” in Ukraine built hospitals and schools, founded industrial plants, and developed fundamental science, free education and health care for all. Soviet Ukraine was the second economy among all union republics, and seventh compared to other European countries. It was a cofounder of the UN, and was amply involved in the political, economic and cultural life of the Soviet Union. Two Soviet leaders, Nikita Khrushchev (1953-1964) and Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982), though ethnic Russians, were born in Ukraine.

Africa does remember that our country has never been a colonial power. In the late 19th century we supported Ethiopia against Italian aggression. In the 1900s Russia opposed Germany’s colonial ambition towards Morocco. During the second Anglo-Boer War, Russia helped the SA republics. After World War 2 the Soviet Union was in the vanguard of the decolonisation process, providing assistance to liberation movements worldwide. It is at the initiative of our country that the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries & Peoples was adopted in 1961.

As for the situation in Ukraine, we would advise Butler to study its background and read documents first. Russia’s embassy in SA stands ready to assist.

Alexander Arefiev
Embassy of Russia in SA

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