The vocabulary of fear

Back in March I wrote a piece for the Risk Management Lab on the Electronic Warfare against Ukraine (from today’s vantage point, most of it seems antiquated). One of the things I tried to research for that article was the chronology of usage of the terms, used in Russian and Ukrainian media to frame the “conflict”. An interesting, while predictable finding, was that the vocabulary of fear-mongering (such as the usage of “fascists”, “banderovcy” and the like) had a tendency to appear in Russian media, and then seep into Ukrainian (Russian-language) media with a delay of about a week or so. You may remember this graph, for instance:

: fascists-ua

Indeed, in practically all cases, the use of terms creating a convenient context of fear and hatred to define the pro-European sentiments amongst the large swathes of the Ukrainian population came from specific Russian media.

For example, I tracked down the original use of the scare-mongering “banderovtsi”. It was in an article in the Kremlin-adoring tabloid “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, all the way back in December 2013. The word is included in the headline “Everyone is protesting, but the ones coming to power are ….the banderovtsi” (the ellipsis appropriately emphasizing the novelty of the term at the time)


But what I had not discovered earlier was the origin of the use of the two most frequently used terms from Kremlin’s arsenal: “fascists” and “каратели” (literally, “punishers“, or more broadly “repressive punitive forces”, used to describe the anti-terrorist activities of the Ukraine army). I tracked the original usage of these terms back to November 2013, but in a very unexpected context.

“I cannot make political statements. That’s why I will comment Berkut only. The peaceful demonstration was not chased away, but liquidated, destroyed, after they surrounded and deprived the peaceful civilians from the opportunity to escape”,

wrote the Ukrainian General Council in Turkey, Bogdan Yaremenko, on his own Facebook page on November 29th, 2013.

“This is how punishers and occupiers act. This is how fascists acted.”

The following day Yanukovich fired the free-speaking Yaremenko.

His legacy remains, though.

Unfortunately, not the way he intended it.


One thought on “The vocabulary of fear

  1. Did you had enough time to write this piece? The Kremlin uses indeed the words “fascists” and “Kiev” in their own historical context to keep repeatedly victomizing the legal administration in Kiev after the escape from Viktor. This is their strategy to keep their own population “informed” in the historical awareness of world war II. The Kremlin uses what happened in Ukraine during the Nazi occupation gratefully, but wrong in this political constellation.

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