At X Lambert St, near Lawrence and Yonge in Toronto, there is a Ukrainian landlord who rents out in a rooming house. The long-term tenant is Russian, and it appears that others are highly transient.
The landlord speaks very fluent Russian with the Russian tenant. This is not strange because many Ukrainians speak Russian rather more so than Ukrainian.
The interesting part starts with her identifying as Ukrainian AS OPPOSED TO Russian, whereas, according to my limited knowledge of Ukraine, the self identification of a Russian speaker in Ukraine is not Ukrainian. A Canadian might believe the statement “I am Ukrainian, he is Russian” for the fact of which country name appears on a passport. But to listen to them speak so fluently together, and then for her to INSIST on this point?
I then joked that, since they were Ukrainian and Russian, they must talk politics together a lot. She laughed, saying no, with a line I recognize as having heard many times before, an often very wise statement to point out that “the differences are between governments, not people”. (This is a common line in defending Americans as decent despite the actions of their government. Thus, it seems particularly likely that an individual from a former Soviet state might take special pleasure in using such a line – although, it would be nice if in fact her intent and meaning were well placed.)
Yet, the revolution in East Ukraine precisely involved mostly people, not government. Especially if you buy the line of the Russian government, which tries to claim that it is people, not governments, involved.
The Russian government says it’s people, not government. The Russian speaking Ukrainian insists that it’s governments, not people. Both are highly contradicted by facts, despite the two statements both themselves being a contradiction.
I also received the thickest, most colourful and glossiest business card I’ve seen in my entire life to rent from a rooming house.
Before leaving, I was enquiring about 100% paper non-digital means of payment. Namely, cheques. I did not want to do an e-transfer. Upon leaving, by the time I got to the corner about 20-30 m away, I heard call of “noia”, intended to be short for “paranoia”.
Russian speaking Ukrainians who insist upon their Ukrainian-ness, while insisting that an underground people-operated discord is between governments, not people (fine, the situation is quite muddy enough to make it unwise to read into it too much), where paranoia is proposed as an explanation for preferring non-hackable and secure means of payment?
Ukraine was a Soviet Republic. As a Soviet Republic, Russian speakers in the provinces were Soviets, even more so than Russian, etc. I am not aware of any specific campaign of nationalization, storytelling, myth building, nation building, etc., since Ukrainian independence, that would explain any notion of a genuine “Ukrainian” attachment on the part of Russian speaking populations in Ukraine. (However, many may see a future in Ukraine as better than, say, Ukraine becoming part of Russia again, even while maintaining essentially Russian identity.)
So, the fact of playing on presumed Canadian ignorance about Ukraine and Russia to suggest that a fluent Russian speaking Ukrainian and a Russian a) are to be highlighted as separate and different and b) the conflict to be specified as between governments, not people, which contradicts facts on the ground …. I dunno, it’s really suspicious. I don’t know what they’re up to, but there is very much a sense of something to hide. I do not think they have enormously MUCH to hide, but the way in which they have this sense to hide something … I think is conducive to concerns about certain possibilities relating to individuals from former Soviet States.
As opposed to Muslims, who may have some loose notion that Allah will win everything for Islam one day, the Soviets have a history where much of the last 100 years was preoccupied with various efforts to bring down rivals. However, “Soviets” is no longer the correct term. It is not clear to me that “Russia” or “Russians” necessarily would be either.
Something to the effect of “post-Soviet manifestations of unlocked loyalty-adherence “preference” “.
This (as a general matter) is not the kind of thing that should distract (excessively) from other things, but reports in the media that some tens of thousands of former “blackmail and brainwash experts” from the former Soviet Republics of Eastern Europe may have been dispersed to the winds tend to legitimize expression of such concerns.
Anecdotally, I tend to observe that those with Eastern European accents tend to be particular overt (nearly as much so as some of the clearly brainwashed youth that “roam” the streets in uncomfortably high numbers) in manipulations in public. There appears to be a belief that the worst that can happen is that they will be sent “back to the home country”. But, these people aren’t like embassy staff who maybe get kicked out for poking their noses where they don’t belong. These are citizens who are committing crimes.
I could share a number of similar stories while looking for an apartment in Toronto. Say, about 50% at least. The vacancy rate in Toronto is 1%, and 45% of the population is foreign born.
The goal may be to cause sufficient disturbance in Canada (and elsewhere) to distract from expansions in regions that have preoccupied Russia for hundreds of years already. The same strategies which are likely to consolidate authority related to personality cults or generally authoritarian systems cannot be expected to have such consolidation effects in freer countries.
Canada has sent several hundred additional troops to Eastern Europe in recent months.
In the meantime, some of the ploys are so patently overt, and amenable to collecting court-relevant evidence against, that I do wonder the extent to which the situation must also be getting played somewhat in the opposite direction, by darker internal forces, those who would have little or no regard to the lives negatively affected by their manipulations, whether targeting domestic or other sources of opposition, towards their expansion of influence in countries which pride themselves on a long history of fighting for freedom.