The Arnolfini Archívum’s challenge no. 58 for Mini[e]MailArt is “packages”. And although this motto leaves ample possibilities for artistic interpretations, I felt that the Russian assault on the Ukraine could not be ignored.
This is why:
Russia’s supreme Leader Vladimir Putin calls the war on Ukraine a “special military operation”. Thus, he continues the tradition of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact troops that trivialized the invasions of the German Democratic Republic (1953), Hungary (1958) and Czechoslovakia (1968) as a form of “brotherly help”.
These were the lies in 1956
“On the request of the Hungarian People’s Government the Soviet Government consented to the entry into Budapest of the Soviet Army units to assist the Hungarian People’s Army and the Hungarian authorities to establish order in the town.”
(Moscow Radio, 30.10.1956)
And this was the truth:
Soviet troops started to attack Budapest and other cities on November 4. From shortly after 5 am on the Hungarian radio repeatedly aired an official statement:
“This is Imre Nagy speaking, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Hungarian People’s Republic. In the early hours of this morning, Soviet troops started an attack on our capital with the obvious aim of overthrowing the legal and democratic Hungarian government.”
“Luckily, the Russians came as friends. Just imagine the consequences if they had come as enemies!”(Hungarian underground joke, 1956)
Approximately 2,700 Hungarians were killed during the following days. More than half of them were under the age of thirty. 274,704 Hungarians fled to Austria until April, 1957, and 19,181 refugees sought shelter in Yugoslavia.
Imre Nagy, Defense Minister Pál Maléter and others were executed after an infamous show trial in 1958. For Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev the juridical murder served “as a lesson to all other leaders in socialist countries”.
This was the up-is-down narrative of 1968
“(…) we deemed it necessary to comply with the request of our Czechoslovak friends and help the peoples of Czechoslovakia in defense of the conquests of socialism, and consequently, we ordered our military units to take the necessary measures and grant assistance to the Czechoslovak working people.”
(Letter from the Central Committees of the Bulgarian, East German, Hungarian, Polish, and Soviet Communist Parties, 19.07.1968)
The truth was quite different:
On August 20 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by about 250,000 Warsaw Pact troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Subsequently the number of foreign troops rose to 500,000. They claimed to have been officially called for assistance, an assertion that was rejected by members of the government and Communist leaders alike. The KSČ party even condemned the invasion on their clandestine 14th congress.
“After enjoying great popular confidence after the war, the Communist Party by degrees bartered this confidence away for office – until it had all the offices and nothing else…“Ludvik Vaculik (1968)
People instantly gathered in Prague and other cities and demanded the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops. The Czech delegation at the United Nations declared that the invasion was illegal and threatened the sovereignty of their nation. While Soviet tanks surrounded the building of Radio Prague, a female announcer told the public, “They are going to silence our voices, but they cannot silence our hearts.”
And this is the version of 2022
Putin claims that the Russian forces “will seek to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.”
(Televised speech, 24.02.2022)
The New York Times thoroughly analyzed Putin’s remarks and concluded, “His reference to ‘demilitarize’ is being widely read as a threat to subjugate the Ukrainian state as a whole, neutering its ability to defend itself and therefore its sovereign autonomy.”
“Russia and Putin have united the Ukrainian and Jewish people, the whole world, against them. We have all become victims of the same tragedy.”Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, Kyiv
A lengthy list of scholars of Genocide, Nazism and World War II rejected Putin’s claims as a “cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust” and his “misuse of the history of World War II to justify its own violence”.
There is no way that any person committed to democratic values can accept the goals and deeds of Russia’s dictatorial government. No matter how you look at it, the Ukrainian people are experiencing an imperialist invasion. They are fighting for the sovereignty of their country.