The necrology of the mercenaries is growing so fast that one is unable to follow it. Bednov, Yshchenko, Voznyk, Mozhovoy, Dremov, Zhylyn, Pavlov, Bolotov… By and large, all the main public figures of the Russian intervention have left this world already.
The assassination of Mihail “Givi” Tolstyh has become not just another link in this chain, but also a dead line under the myth about «Separatist forces of the War in Donbas». Exactly under the myth which has been being persistently forged by Russian propaganda machine for the past three years. And that is, frankly speaking, what makes one worried.
The War in Donbas from its first day was the story about instrumentality. And all its heroes also were man-made. We know virtually nothing about the past of their field commanders. It seems that “Motorola” had washed the cars, “Givi”, maybe, worked as a loader, and Zaharchenko allegedly traded poultry. April of 2014 became the bifurcation point. The moment when Moscow decided to create a pantheon of “heroic fighters for the Novorossiya” was the moment when biographies of all these people were reborn.
“Motorola” and “Givi”, according to authors, were to become the role models for the representatives of “popular masses”. The embodiment of success: you were nobody yesterday, but you are the boss today. The dream of a rebel: “You will acquire righteousness through fighting”. To get colonel’s epaulettes, apartments, cars, and glory you need only to raise up from your sofa, follow the calls of the TV and get to Donetsk. Kalashnikov assault rifle is a mean of social mobility here. Moreover, Givi and Motorola were models for different target groups. Arsen Pavlov, the resident of the Republic of Komi, was a role model for the volunteers from Russia’s hinterland. A native of Ilovaisk Mihail Tolstyh was a benchmark for Ukrainian citizens from the occupied territories.
But it is all in the past. The death of both put a full stop under the local “The Truman Show”. And those who write that death will be the pedestal for soldiers are wrong. The history is written by the winners, hence, no matter who wins, in this future there is no place for “warlords of Novorossiya”.
Odd man out
Novorossiya will not exist. First of all, even Moscow doesn’t need it. Kremlin doesn’t need another Transnistria, especially an obedient to Ukraine. And the battle is going on about on whose conditions the occupied Donbas will be returned to Ukraine.
Moscow dreams of turning the Donbas into antidote to Ukraine’s independence, into a vaccine for Ukraine’s sovereignty. To do this they just need to obtain the separate status for the region, amnesty for militants and then legalize both through elections to give the control over the border to already legalized militants. Any of these options cause an allergy in the Ukrainian society, also thanks to the personages who created their biographies through the war with Kyiv. And in order to feed the Donbas to Ukraine, Moscow has to nullify the talks about the “irreconcilable differences”.
“Motorola”, “Givi” and people like them were the main irritants for unoccupied parts of the country. For the past three years of battles they became some kind of the embodied evil, the personal epitome of the armed Ukrainophobia. That is the usual story when the phenomenon is dissolved in a person and the enemy transformes to concrete and palpable from a merely systematic value.
“Peace at all costs” was considered unacceptable, because “Givi” and “Motorola” were to get into Verkhovna Rada. But now are not. Emotionally-logical connection has become just a logical one and makes you clench your fists not as hard as earlier.
And it is not really that important who and what caused the elimination of warlords on the Donbas. Sooner or later, Moscow would have to deal with this issue. To “inculcate” Donbas to Ukraine they need to remove unnecessary irritants. “Givi” and “Motorola” were required to recruit volunteers. The situation has changed since then. The Moor has done his duty, and their replacements will not have forged biographies.
Values and prices
It is the most significant part of this story. Jubilation at the death of the warlords can serve as another proof of how strongly any war is personified. During the last three years Ukraine was not fighting “Givi”, “Motorola” or Mozgovoy and Dremov. On the other side of the trenches sits the Kremlin. And confusing the war for values with the war against certain people would be the biggest mistake.
It doesn’t matter how many warlords the necrology will include. The names don’t matter at all. Zakharchenko, Plotnitskiy, Hodakovskiy – all these people perform the role of buffoons, dolls attached to the fingers of the puppeteer. But what if they are replaced by lovely people with sincere smiles, will this mean that Ukraine won?
The whole story of our today’s resistance is not just about the battle for the independence and sovereignty. This is the battle of the past with the future. The battle of pro-Soviet and anti-Soviet. The battle of the autocracy and the freedom. This is an attempt to replay the lost 1918, the battle for the right to live without asking for permission of the former metropole, the mental battle between the Ukrainian and the malorossian.
And forgetting this would be our biggest mistake.
The original post was published in Russian by Pavel Kazarin, for UP.