The long gone past? Using the power of history to justify the separatist conflict in Eastern Ukraine
MetadataShow full item record
This master thesis explores the ways separatist leaders in Eastern Ukraine (specifically Donetsk People‘s Republic) employed historical narrative to justify the violence in the region. The research is based on analysis of video statements by Alexander Zakharchenko and Pavel Gubarev retrieved from YouTube. In this paper I argue that separatists used a certain frame in their statements: "ethnic Russians in Ukraine are being oppressed and therefore have the right to separate". To explain the usage of this frame I relied on the framing as a mass communication theory. To analyse the chosen videos I used the method of discourse analysis, as it focuses not only on explaining meanings behind a textual messages – it also takes into account visual symbols and broader cultural and historical contexts that exist within the society. While analysing selected statements I have summarised three main ways on how separatist leaders in Ukraine use history as an apparatus to prove the righteousness of their actions. First of all, they create an image of credible leaders to make sure that their message is perceived as legitimate; secondly, by mentioning wrongdoings from the past separatist deepen already existing divide in society. But most and foremost history is used as a justification by drawing direct parallels with the present. By using already existing beliefs, prejudices and allegations, separatists brought back controversial World War II figure Stepan Bandera and a concept of Novorossiya – an idea that would unite Eastern Ukrainian regions in a new sovereign state. Hence, both Zakharchenko and Gubarev employ historical narratives to convince society that events of World War II are happening again and people in the Eastern Ukraine are facing a fascist threat just like their ancestors did 70 years ago.