On this day: Before the Nuclear Disaster

A_Picture_Of_Prypiat,_pictured_before_the_Chernobyl_Disaster_to_add_Context_to_what_the_city_was_like chornobyl ukraine ussr soviet union 23rd April 1983 Pripyat (Ukrainian При́п'я

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The closed nuclear city of Pripyat (При́п’ять), Ukraine is pictured here on the 23rd of April, 1983, three years and three days before the Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian) disaster.

At the time of the disaster Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and the fallout from the event caused great harm to areas of Ukraine and much of Belarus.

Pripyat was evacuated on the 27th of April, 1986, and today stands as a ghost town.

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Out this month: Mr Jones

mr. jones is a 2019 drama film directed by agnieszka holland. soviet union ussr ukraine stalin's genocide holodomor in ukraine movie poster

Historical film Mr Jones – about a Welsh journalist who risked his life to tell the truth about Stalin’s 1930s genocide in Ukraine – is out this month, beginning with a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Unlike the Holocaust, the Kremlin’s forced famine genocide – known as the Holodomor – escaped the world’s notice mostly because Western journalists, many of them advocates of communism, spent decades denying it.

Conservative estimates of the death toll put it on par with the Holocaust, while others place the numbers much higher; up to ten-million Ukrainians killed between 1932 and 1933. The numbers vary so much because, unlike the Germans who documented every aspect of the Holocaust, the Russian authorities have done everything in their power to hide their crimes.

(It should be noted that the Kremlin committed another genocide, in Kazakhstan, at the same time, killing 42% of their population.)

Gareth Jones, played in the movie by English actor James Norton, saw the Holodomor firsthand, and went against the lead of Stalin-friendly journalists like The New York Times’ Walter Duranty to try and get the truth out beyond the Iron Curtain.

Jones was only twenty-nine when he was murdered, one day shy of his thirtieth birthday.

This film seems incredibly important in this day and age, with people once again reacting to rising fascism by identifying as communists and sympathising with Russia. As this Variety article points out, we live in a similar age to the 1930s, with propaganda and “fake news” dominating much of the press, and most of the world turning a blind eye to atrocities being committed by the Kremlin, and by the regimes in countries like Syria.

Rome: City and Empire

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We visited the Rome exhibition at the National Museum of Australia on Sunday afternoon (a tip: go late in the day and you won’t have to wait in a queue for an hour – but there’ll be some fingerprints on all the glass cabinets!).

Here are a few more shots:

The entrance (with me!).

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The Emperor Augustus, who looks suspiciously like Vladimir Putin!

augustus vladimir putin rome exhibition national museum of australia canberra sonya heaney 20th january 2019

And I was SO happy to see they’d labelled Crimea as Ukraine, despite what Russia is currently up to.

kerch crimea ukraine rome exhibition national museum of australia canberra

Christmas Eve and Koliada

Today is Christmas Eve by the old calendar, and is still celebrated by millions of people around the world, especially in Eastern Europe.

The 6th of January is also the date of the beginning of Koliada, an ancient Slavic winter festival that predates Christianity. The festival is now incorporated into Christmas festivities.

Koliada in the Mogilev region of Belarus at Christmastime in 1903.

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Калядоўшчыкi_Горацкага_павета_,_Магілёўская_губерня,_1903гKoliada in the Mogilev region of Belarus at Christmastime in 1903. X

The festival in Lviv, Ukraine.

Парад_вуличних_вертепів_у_Львові,_початок_2010-х Winter Koliada and Ukrainian Christmas in Lviv Ukraine

75 Years Ago: Kyiv, Ukraine in Ruins.

The Second Battle of Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine concluded in freezing conditions on the 22nd of December, 1943, when the Red Army defeated the occupying Germans.

The first battle took place as part of the infamous Operation Barbarossa in 1941, when the Soviets were defeated, and over 600 000 were killed or captured in the Ukrainian capital. Comparatively, around four-thousand Ukrainians were recorded as dead more missing in the second battle.

This photograph, shortly after the Nazi defeat, shows the major boulevard Khreshchatyk, Ukraine’s most famous street, in ruins.

Kiev_Kreschatik_after_liberation_November_1943 Khreshchatyk Kyiv Ukraine Second World War Two

Russian Orthodoxy – GONE!

ANDRIY BARANSKYY

The Lavra in Kyiv

In a centuries’ overdue move, and one that is going to lead to more Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Constantinople Patriarchate approved Ukraine’s split from the Russian Orthodox Church overnight. It is being called the biggest split in all of Christianity in a thousand years.

Russian Orthodoxy was forced on Ukrainians over several centuries, finishing with the forced conversion of my family’s Ukrainian Catholic villages in the west of the country when Churchill gifted the country to Stalin after the Second World War (thanks for that, Winston!).

What will happen now? Well, in anticipation of this move, the Russian military has already stepped up attacks in Ukraine’s east, with people being killed in record numbers again. It has to be understood that Russia’s Church – in the past decade or so – has become a weaponised political party that effectively runs the country, behind only Vladimir Putin.

Additionally, experts are predicting staged attacks on Russian churches, so that Putin can blame them on “fascist Ukrainians”, and attack and invade even more.

What I’m worried about is attacks on the thousand-year-old Orthodox monasteries and cathedrals in Ukraine, such as the Lavra complex in Kyiv. I sure hope they’ve stepped up security at those locations.

This move removes a major aspect of Russian colonialism from Ukraine.

I’m not sure why Russia never comes up alongside the likes of France and Britain and Spain in discussions about colonialism and cultural appropriation (because people think Russia is romantic?). The Russians were just as brutal as anybody else (see the Holodomor). And – unlike other nations – their behaviour is ongoing (see the annexation of Crimea, the invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine, the ongoing invasion and occupation of one-fifth of Georgia, and the illegal occupation of Moldova).

The next few weeks are going to be chaotic for Eastern Europe.