Semen Pegov: The Sunset of Ukrainian Nationalism

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The founder of the WarGonzo project about the prospects of Yarosh’s “Hitlerjugend” and the recruitment of children in militarised groups…

The Ukrainian militant Yarosh recently blew up the Internet with footage showing small children undergoing combat training seasoned with the ideological sauce of local nationalism. Of course, taking into account specific and fascist inclinations of their “idols” Bandera and Shukhevych, parallels with the “Hitlerjugend” of the Third Reich arise by themselves. This comparison is obvious and is constantly on the lips of Russian Ura-patriots, like saying “look at this nightmare”.

I personally consider that in this case being afraid of historical parallels is not at all necessary – they are primitive, readable, and, thus not that subtle. It is impossible to surprise those who are familiar with this, and, above all, it is impossible to frighten them. However, the topic of the creation of an army of children under the cover of “Right Sector” is much more complicated than it seems at the first and patriotic glance.

In order to understand the essence of what is going on we don’t need turn to the remote past and the experience of World War II: the striking examples of these, if you like, psycho-informational technologies connected to dragging children into frank radicalism, are almost breathing down our necks. Namely, in the deserts of Syria and Iraq – on territories that until recently were controlled by the ISIS terrorist group. Islamists in this sense went much further than the Ukrainian militant Yarosh – their videos showing children aged 7-10 act as executioners, in terms of the level of ideological radicalism, exceed the sensational video propaganda of the admirers of Bandera tenfold.

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The difference is only that ISIS, for the average Russian, seems like something far away and almost impalpable, and these Ukrainian kids – who, with their southern, but absolutely understandable all the same dialect, shout slogans and appeals to throw Russians onto knives – bring these same persons into genuine shock.

I communicated with children from the most known ISIS group “lion cubs”. Of course, it is stupid to compare their mentality with those notions that are now being formed in the heads of Ukrainian boys, but at the same time these two stories have, certainly, a lot in common. And I don’t even take into account the fact that both “Right Sector” and ISIS use terrorist methods while carrying out combat operations. All of this is true, however ideologically speaking there is an abyss between them, and it is stupid to deny this. However, we must pay attention to at least one “but”

Despite the absolutely different mentality, both of them use identical PR technologies and psychological techniques in their work with children: an obligatory neurolinguistic background (slogans and other aggressive recitatives), stylish (if you like, fashionable) designer choice of clothes or military uniforms, physical exercises characteristic for military personnel (shooting and other work with weapons), and, lastly, accented video recordings. All the listed conditions are equally suitable in the case of both ISIS and Yarosh’s adherents.

Now the most important thing for us: to understand at what moment exactly the child militants who were processed ideologically are being pushed forward to the advanced line of the information war. I.e., when exactly these children start forming the agenda of the media instead of adults and experienced politicians.

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If we take ISIS, then strangely enough the terrorists started promoting their “lion cubs of the Caliphate” most actively when the world community decided to combine its efforts in the fight against Islamists in Syria and Iraq. I.e., if to say it simpler, when ISIS started being pressured from all directions and the existence of the radical formation appeared to be under threat.

Think about it – there it’s not just complete fools who are engaged in informationally supporting war. The commanders of militants understood: the adult part of the population will gradually start turning away from them out of the fear of external pressure, and this fear inevitably involves a crisis of ideology. Regardless of how faithful your adherents are to you, when they understand that your days are numbered, they at first will start to ignore you in a soft form, and then they will turn away from you definitively.

As a counter-measure in the course of ideological crisis, radical leaders need fresh blood in order to update the motivation of their followers, or in other words, for the creation of a bright information background with the help of PR technologies. The most effective method of all is to do this with the help of children, after all, nothing provokes such a quantity of emotions in surrounding people as children do. Moreover, emotions equally as strong (but with different colouring) both in the camp of friends and in the camp of enemies.

I.e., contrary to popular belief, the frank radicalisation of the younger generation, along with imposing accompanying videos, isn’t at all a factor in the blossoming of this or that terrorist ideology, but absolutely on the contrary – it testifies to its crisis and the proximity to decline. Children in this situation act as something like sports doping for athletes that have lost confidence in themselves.

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It is precisely for this reason that I consider the attempt of the Ukrainian militant Yarosh to somehow refresh the activity of “Right Sector” via training young recruits is an obvious sign of the sunset of Banderist nationalism. Now Yarosh’s team is most vulnerable, and it is the right time for his ideological opponents to strike a crushing blow on the Western Ukrainian system of values. Another question is whether such forces will be found in Ukraine. Or, maybe, the separatist republics of Donbass will use this chance? We will see.

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