The Institute of Slavic Studies at Heidelberg University has always striven to remain neutral during previous conflicts within the Slavic world, especially during the wars in former Yugoslavia. However, in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s troops, we cannot remain silent. This brutal attack on a peaceful neighbouring people is a breach of international law and we condemn it most vociferously.
Our institute has spent years researching the National Socialist genocide in Eastern Europe and regularly offers a lecture series on historical myths within the Slavic world. We therefore consider it especially important to refute some of the bizarre propagandistic myths used by Putin to justify his assault. We would emphasize that:
- Volodymyr Zelens’kyj is the democratically elected president of a hitherto free country. Zelens’kyj has Jewish roots and his family was deeply affected by the Holocaust. For Putin’s propaganda to depict him, of all people, as the leader of a supposedly Nazi junta is obscene.
- Zelens’kyj comes from a Russian-speaking region of Ukraine and, as president, has advocated for understanding between the Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking parts of his country. To portray him, of all people, as the protagonist of an alleged genocide against the Russians in Ukraine, as Putin’s propaganda has done, is absurd.
- On December 1st, 1991, the Ukrainians voted in a referendum with a majority of 92.3% and a voter participation of 84.2% for the independence of their country. If Putin’s propaganda now claims that the Ukrainian people were never consulted on the matter of their state, then this is a lie.
- Ukraine voluntarily relinquished its atomic weapons at the CSZE conference in Budapest on December 5th, 1994. In return, the Russian Federation, the United States of America and the United Kingdom guaranteed the country’s sovereignty within its existing borders at that time. For Putin to now invade Ukraine, of all countries, under the pretence that it plans to threaten Russia with nuclear weapons – this is a cynical breach of both contract and trust.
We emphatically state: this war is Putin’s war. The Russian population was never asked for its opinion on this war. Instead it is being subjected to a massive, systematic campaign of disinformation. We declare our full solidarity with Ukraine as it stands under assault. We equally declare it to all Russian and Belarusian citizens who are – often at great personal risk – raising protest against this invasion.
The Institute of Slavic Studies commiserates with all victims of this brutal, senseless aggression.