Shouldn’t reporters be expected to know a little history?

The front lines in the vicinity of Kiev and across Ukraine shifted back and forth during the bitter fighting for control of the Ukrainian capital city in the waning months of 1943.

Listen to this guy. He compares Ukraine to Afghanistan & Iraq by suggesting that, unlike those middle-eastern countries, Ukraine is “civilized” and hasn’t known “decades of war”.

Iraq: the cradle of civilization. A modern nation before the US bombed it to hell.

Ukraine: They’ve been fighting Russia for 8 years. Multiple, massive tank battles were fought there in WWII. Kiev (the old name) was occupied by Nazis for 3 years. Ever hear of Babi Yar? I think Ukrainians have experienced a few atrocities, and have fought back bravely.

Maybe he should have simply said what he was thinking: Ukrainians are white, Iraqis are brown.


  1. petesh says

    Well, PZ, you are doing your bit for education (both paid and volunteer). Let’s pay teachers properly. At all levels. And get out of their way. If teachers find that one of their number is teaching fraudulently, I have enough respect for the vast majority to leave the regulation to them.

  2. davidc1 says

    Ah,the front line following the German attack at Kursk in July,and the Russian counterattacks that followed.
    There was a Ukrainian Insurgent Army active during WW2,I think they were fighting The Germans and the Russians,and anyone else who pissed them off, all at the same time.The following year they bumped off the Russian General, Nikolai Vatutin.

  3. raven says

    The Ukrainians have also suffered greatly by the actions of the Russians all through the 20th century. In the 1930s, Stalin decided to collectivize agriculture. One of the main victims was Ukraine. It is estimated that 3.5 million Ukrainians died, mostly from starvation.
    In addition, many were sent to the Gulag prison system over the years or killed in one purge or another.

    Around 3.5 million

    Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by Ukraine and 15 other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet government.

    Holodomor Голодомор в Україні
    Location Central and eastern Ukraine
    Period 1932–1933
    Total deaths Around 3.5 million; see death toll

  4. otranreg says

    Here’s another pertinent bit, Poland claims to have already received over a 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. When it was just a few hundred Iraqi refugees deceived by Lukashenko and freezing in limbo on the border with Belarus a few months ago, Poland built a huge fence and increased their military presence there. That brownness, must be worse than COVID.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Kiev (the old name) …

    Apparently, Kiev was/is the Russian name for that city; pro-Ukrainians should use their name, Kyiv (when using Roman alphabet).

  6. blf says

    @7, The pronunciation is also different (cross-posted from poopyhead’s current [One madman’s war, Pandemic, and Politics] Infinite Thread thread…)

    How to pronounce and spell ‘Kyiv’, and why it matters:

    With Ukraine’s capital under siege from Russian forces it’s only fair that we outsiders get our language right

    Kiev or Kyiv?

    As Russian forces menace the Ukrainian capital and thousands flee, the very least onlookers around the world can do is learn how to say the name of the city under siege.

    The short answer is simple: Ukrainians call their capital “Kyiv” (kee-yiv), the spelling, a transliteration of the Ukrainian Київ. The Russian version is “Kiev” (kee-yev).

    The latter, based on transliteration from the Russian cyrillic Киев, became the internationally accepted name through the Soviet period and into the first years of this century, its recognisability enhanced perhaps by the eponymous chicken dish that became popular in the west in the 1970s.

    But it is now associated with the Russification of Ukraine, and in recent years more and more publications, governments, airports and geographical dictionaries have switched the spelling to the Ukrainian variant.

    “When I meet someone new, I like to pronounce their name the way they want it pronounced in their language, which is why I think it’s right to pronounce it ‘Kyiv’ as close to the Ukrainian as possible,” said Andrii Smytsniuk, Ukrainian language teacher at Cambridge University.

    [… historical background…]

    There are several letters of the alphabet unique to Ukrainian, for example the ї in Київ, and enough differences in vocabulary to make it hard for Russophones to understand Ukrainians when they speak in their tongue.

    Not surprisingly, the Ukrainian government mounted a campaign four years ago to secure international approval for the name of its capital city. There is even a popular Twitter hashtag, #KyivNotKiev.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Given the fight-back so far displayed, “Chicken” and “Kyiv” seems self-contradictory.

  8. flange says

    Yes, Ukrainians have experienced atrocities, and have fought back bravely. However, Babi Yar is where 34,000 Ukrainian Jews were murdered, with the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police ably and enthusiastically assisting.

  9. davidc1 says

    @13 Yes,I was going to mention that some Ukrainians offered the Germans bread and salt in 1941
    when they first came in contact with them.
    The poor people thought adolf and his mob were going to liberate them from the Soviets.
    That didn’t last long.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    flange @13: Among those murdered there were also Ukrainian nationalists, Russians, and Roma.

  11. nomdeplume says

    Most journalist’s knowledge of history extends no further back than their ratings of the previous week. And they are nort required to do any background reading on whatever subject is being presented.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    davidc1 @14:

    some Ukrainians offered the Germans bread and salt in 1941

    There were people like that in every country the Nazis occupied (including the country of my ancestry, Latvia). If UK had been occupied, there would have been Brits who would’ve done the same.

  13. says

    Poland has wannabee authocratic government who sees Putin as the enemy. That’s why we love USA, that’s why polish government spin the propaganda of refugees being part of hybrid war of Lukashenka and Putin (yes, most of refugees were brought to Belarus by Belarussian secret police) but dislike for muslims and brown people was also a factor.
    Ukrainians (and earlier Belarussians who fled Lukashenka after a self-coup backlash) are seen as victims of Putin. Also Ukrainians are part of our history in the same way as Canadianas and Brits are closer to average white american than Iraquis or Somalis.

    At this moment 4 out of 5 posts in my facebook feed are somehow related to helping refugees, organizing help, food, clothes, transport, places to stay inside the entire Poland and basically every side of political and cultural divide in Poland is trying to help Ukraine.

    During “refugee crisis” the society was divided almost exactly along political lines, those who liked government and watched their propaganda state TV were hardly against refugees, those who oppose government were trying to help and were apppaled by what government was doing.

    The interesting thing about Poland is that after WW2 it was forcefully made monoethnic by Great Powers. Ethnic minorities were expelled, Poles from outside of polish borders were forced to migrate. That created extremely monoethnic and monocultural society with over 92% roman catholics and below 2% of other faiths. Also basically everyone is white, what makes state run propaganda scaring with “otherness” pretty effective among pretty high number of people.
    However, the same people who are most vocal against accepting “other colored” people coming to Poland, will be most trustworthy friends of those people when they live among them.

  14. blf says

    davidc1@14, Thank you!

    I myself don’t know the history of Nazi-collaborators in Ukraine, but did find the comment you replied-to odd: That comment was like pointing out the collaborationist occupied France “government” shipped people via the French railways to the death camps. And…??? Yes, we remember, but just what has relatively few historical Nazi-collaborationists (French or Ukrainian or…) got to do with Putin’s personal war on Ukraine / Europe ? Or, getting back to the OP, some appalling reporting on Putin’s attack on Ukraine ?

  15. flange says

    Rob Grigjanis @17
    Yes, and there are hundreds-thousands of Trump collaborators who would happily follow him to the ends of Democracy in the US.

  16. says

    The ignorant bigot also forgets that Russia invaded Afghanistan. It was a relatively civilised country with a rich history but very much underdeveloped with rich resources. That was largely due to centuries of European powers invading it all the way back to Alexander the Great. America decided to turn it into Russia’s Vietnam and funded the Taliban to do it. The rest is history which idiots like this gloss over at everyone else’s peril. So tell me again who is the good guy here?

  17. StevoR says

    Doesn’t the now forever tarred by nazi and white supremacist word ‘Aryan’ actually come from the same derivation and is related to the word for “Iranian” a.k.a. Persian and weren’t they originally from south central (or central south?) Asia?

  18. StevoR says

    “Civilised” = the people whose ancestors used colonial military power imbalance and the spread of disease to committ genocide upon the peoples of many other continents and seize their land, enslave the survivors, kidnap their children, steal and plunder their natural resources, attempt to destroy their cultures and identities.

    “Uncivilised” – those whose ancestors were victims and survivors of those who did that who did NOT invade and occupy other nations and have then been forced to compete in a system rigged and heavily tilted towards the “civilised” imperial colonial powers and the wealthy powerful, still exploitative nations they’ve become.

    Not sure where that economic and scientific powerhouse of invention and I gather at one stage relatively peaceful exploration China quite fits – although given its century of humiliation and the Opium Wars probly more the latter..

    Of course, all this is a huge and probly excessive simplificatiion of things but still.

    Then there’s the famous if possibly apocryphal Mahatama Gandhi quote :

  19. blf says

    StevoR@23, Broadly, apparently, yes, from Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge:

    Aryan or Arya is a term originally used as an ethnocultural self-designation by Indo-Iranians in ancient times, in contrast to the nearby outsiders known as ‘non-Aryan’ [… E]ven in ancient times, the idea of being an Aryan was religious, cultural and linguistic, not racial. […] The atrocities committed in the name of Aryanist supremacist ideologies have led academics to generally avoid the term ‘Aryan’, which has been replaced in most cases by ‘Indo-Iranian’ […]

  20. Rich Woods says

    @Rob Grigjanis #17:

    If UK had been occupied, there would have been Brits who would’ve done the same.

    The Channel Islands were occupied during WW2. There were a number of cases of collaborators and anonymous informers during the five years before liberation, but of all the investigations and prosecutions carried out afterwards only two people were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment; no-one was executed for treason. Most instances were considered too minor (eg, socialising and romantic relationships) to be worth legal redress, and were left to be punished by social stigma.

  21. nomdeplume says

    @26 There is absolutely no doubt about Nazi sympathisers in Britain (and the rest of Europe). Not just uniformed swine like Oswald Mosley and his followers, but many of the aristocracy (from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and through people like Unity Mitford), and many in the Conservative Party.

  22. Walter Solomon says

    garydargan @22

    The ignorant bigot also forgets that Russia invaded Afghanistan. It was a relatively civilised country with a rich history but very much underdeveloped with rich resources. That was largely due to centuries of European powers invading it all the way back to Alexander the Great.

    Vietnam has a very similar story. They suffered a thousand years of dynastic Chinese subjugation, then came the Mongols, the French Second Empire, the Imperial Japanese during WWII, then the Americans. After they kicked America’s ass, they put down the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia for killing 3000 Vietnamese civilians which got them into an 11 year war with the Communist Chinese (79-91). They held their own against China with the war ending in a stalemate.

    Vietnam is a relatively developed country today but this history of warfare has had an impact on its history. It uses a Latin based writing system because it never developed one of its own thanks to all the conflicts it has endured. Furthermore, most of Vietnam’s national heros are war heros from various centuries.

  23. davidc1 says

    @17 You slightly misunderstood me, the Ukrainians who welcomed the Germans had suffered under the Russians.
    In the case of GB, no one had suffered famine,and death.
    I have posted elsewhere regarding blackshirts who while POW’s had joined the SS.
    There were a great many anti semite members of the tory party who would have welcomed the Germans with open arms.
    As for the general public, who knows how many people would have collaborated with the Germans.

  24. Rich Woods says

    @27, 28:

    Yes, there were a lot of Nazi sympathisers before the war, some of whom changed their minds once Britain declared war on Germany. Many of them went straight into internment camps in the first six months of the war, if they’d been members of groups like the BUF. Some, like William Joyce, legged it to Berlin shortly after war broke out. Thankfully we never got to find out just how many of them would have aided the Nazis if they’d been given the opportunity (see my remarks about the Freikorps elsewhere).

  25. birgerjohansson says

    Speaking of Britain and refugees, the under-Secretary for migration tweeted that Ukrainans who wanted to Britain has several options, including applying to be fruit-pickers.
    He deleted the tweet when he realised how stupid it was, but multiple people had taken screenshots, proving how out-of-touch this under-secretary is.

  26. birgerjohansson says

    Kiev/ Kyiv was one of the dominant Russian/West Slav kingdoms until the arrival of the Mongols. The Moscov kingdom only became dominant from the 15th century onwards.
    BTW, to differentiate between somewhat reality-oriented and batshit-crazy Republicans I suggest the former (David Frum, Mitt Romney) may be named non-quisling Republicans while the latter be named Gazpacho Putinistas.

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    birgerjohansson @37: That’s East Slavs. The West Slavs include the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and their predecessors.

  28. davidc1 says

    @35 Yes,and the UK govt also interned German Jewish people who had fled Europe,but on the bright side they packed them off to Australia for a nice holiday.
    A very bitter HAHA.

  29. birgerjohansson says

    Davidc1 @39
    Let’s not forget that many of those ships were sunk en route, killing Germans that had fled Hitler to Britain.

  30. birgerjohansson says

    If the news about all the depressing misery is becoming too much, I have discovered one way to reboot the brain: watch a film that is “so bad it is good”.
    “The Terrible Claw” might be a good starting point. Or “International Guerrillas”. It is like non-painful electroshock therapy for the brain.

  31. whheydt says

    As regards clueless reporters… In one newscast during Gulf War I, a reporter was talking about “tanks like this one” as he pointed to a wheeled armored personnel carrier.

    On the subject of collaborationists, Denmark was a curious case. Because the country was captured in two hours, the royal family and civil government didn’t have time to flee. Because Hitler wanted to present Denmark as an “model protectorate”, a lot was left alone. However, there was a native, Danish, Nazi party. At one point a bunch of them trashed Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The civil authorities went to the occupation commanders and said, “They’re your dogs. You curb them.” The German authorities told the Danish Nazis in no uncertain terms to NEVER do any such thing EVER again. Not long after, they were all drafted and sent to the Eastern Front.

    The king of Denmark (Christian X) did a number of things that ticked off the Germans, but they never dared do anything to him. I suspect the popularity of the Danish monarchy to this day is largely a result of his actions during both World Wars (he was king from 1912 to 1947). The queen was a princess from one of the old German principalities and was more anti-Nazi than anyone.

    Denmark is the only occupied country I know of that managed to have most of its Jews survive the war. About 90% of them were smuggled to Sweden and the Danish government sent a delegation to the camp where the rest were held to determine what they needed (mostly food, clothing, and blankets), then organized relief shipments, which the Germans actually delivered. The Germans insisted, after the war, that any Danish Jews that died in the camp, died of natural causes. They may have been telling the truth about that.

  32. simonhadley says

    Here’s some scary news. We have been at DEFCON 2 exactly three times in our history:
    1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis
    1991 briefly during the Persian Gulf War

    I guess it’s something we have to play with every thirty years or so.

  33. davidc1 says

    @42 Didn’t the Danish King wear a yellow Star of David when the Germans ordered all Danish Jews to
    wear one?

  34. andrei613 says


    The Danish government and king functioned as relatively normal in a de facto protectorate over the country until 29 August 1943, when Germany placed Denmark under direct military occupation, which lasted until the Allied victory on 5 May 1945.

  35. raven says

    defcon 3

    The current defcon level overall is now at defcon 3 today as there is a raised centcom due to a us drone strike on a vehicle near binnish and a raised eucom level due to the united states activating an artillery command in europe as russia amasses troops and artillery near.

    Current Us Threat Level at Level – Fold Magazine

    We are at DEFCON 3 right now.
    The higher the threat, the lower the DEFCON number. DEFCON 2 is not something you want to see.

  36. wzrd1 says

    CBS got CAIR riled up and rightfully so. Nice little things like Ukrainians civilized vs Iraqi and Syrians… Other press outlets have the Ukrainians being middle class, compared to the Syrians and Iraqis…
    The press is making friends all over the planet today! All in a great big hurry to say something, not bothering to plan what they’re going to say, so they say what’s actually on what passes for a mind for them. It ain’t pretty.

  37. birgerjohansson says

    Some good news.
    The Russian author Arkadij Babitjenko (or maybe Arkady Babichenko in Merican) wrote how the failure to achieve a quick victory has crushed the myth of the invincibility of the Russian army.
    A despot can get away with almost anything but not with having his army so publicly humiliated.
    The thing about corrupt leaders is they steal and then cover up the shortcomings.
    I am sure billions have been skimmed off funds intended to go to modernisation of the tanks and other equipment. You can get away with that as long as you don’t use the stuff in war.
    And the ordinary Russians have no motivation för this war which is why teenage conscripts surrender in droves.
    Putin may have screwed over his chance of remaining president för life when he is revealed as just another Mussolini loudmouth with a crap army.
    BTW Sweden has reversed a 70-year principle of not exporting weapons to a country in war, by sending 5000 anti-tank missiles and other military hardware to the Ukraine. This kind of support effort has not been done since the Winter War 1939-1940.
    Germany has also completely reversed its “soft” approach to the Russian regime.
    (Boris is confining his actions to talking a lot. Do not expect Britain to take in refugees)

  38. birgerjohansson says

    wzrd1 @ 48 The Syrians (and the Lebanese) were THE middle cass of the middle east. There were some dirt-poor regions but plenty of affluent ones.
    The attitudes have been revealed as “white Christians good” and fuck the rest of the world. But I suppose we should be glad for whatever altruism people can muster.
    Mitt Romney has condemned the GOPers at the White supremacist meeting in Florida, as well as those praising Putin.
    Back in 2012 I would never have expected him of all people of being a moral beacon inside the Nasty Party.

  39. Rob Grigjanis says

    birgerjohansson @49:

    Putin may have screwed over his chance of remaining president för life when he is revealed as just another Mussolini loudmouth with a crap army.

    And therein lies the danger. What does a psychopath do when he feels power slipping away?

  40. says


    Didn’t the Danish King wear a yellow Star of David when the Germans ordered all Danish Jews to wear one?

    Not quite. He never wore one, nor were Danish Jews ordered to wear one. It seems to be an urban legend. He did however make a habit of riding through the city unguarded and acted as a national focus during that rather trying time. Wikipedia has a pretty good basic summary.

    As a Dane, I can say that the evacuation of Danish Jews is something we take some pride in. We might not have been able to do much, but we did that.

    Incidentally, a movie, The Shadow in My Eye was released last year about one of the other interesting incidents in Danish WW2 history: The bombing of the French school.
    It was intended as a raid on the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, where intelligence records on the Danish resistance was kept, but one plane crashed into the school and the following wave mistook the crash site for the target and dropped their bombs on it, resulting in the deaths of several teachers and children.

    On a more humorous note, several planes had to turn back after collisions with sea gulls. We’re an island nation. Fear our birds!

  41. birgerjohansson says

    The actress Sally Kellerman who had the thankless task of playing major Houlihan in the 1970 film MASH has died at 84.

  42. davidc1 says

    @52 Bugger, another thing I thought I knew bites the dust.
    Yes I know about the raid, and the tragic outcome of it.
    Off topic,but how did fair during the pandemic,which is still going on?

  43. says

    @davidc1 #54
    We’ve done pretty well. There was a lockdown and while some people griped (and a few were arrested), it mostly went down easy. The vaccination effort was mostly smooth and while the omicron variant has given higher infection rates, the hospitalizations haven’t followed. Our hospitals were under pressure, but never overwhelmed. We’ve recently relaxed standards (no mandatory masks on subways, grocery stores, etc.) and we seem to be holding steady.

    It’s still a concern, but not as immediate as last year. Overall, I feel quite positive about our government’s handling of things, despite a few missteps (ask a Dane about mink farms). There’s a good sense of community about it and the nutjobs have been sidelined for a while. Let’s call it a solid B.

    There’s significant public support for Ukraine as well. I’ve found several local initiatives that gather clothes and supplies for refugees. Apparently, there is a problem finding storage space for all the things people donate, until it can be shipped out. Good problem to have, all things considered.

  44. whheydt says

    Re: LykeX @ #52, #55…
    Two of my grandparents were born in Denmark and were US immigrants in the early 20th century (1906 and 1907).

    The Danes have a lot to proud of over WW2. And WW1, for that matter. Took 1000 years, but the back and forth over Slesvig-Holstein finally got settled and the Danes have seen to that it has stayed settled. (The Allies offered to give the whole area back to Denmark after WW2, but–wisely–the Danes said, “No. Put the border back where the plebiscite in 1920 settled it.”)

  45. says

    The Slesvig-Holstein thing is, I think, an example of a sensible settling of a border. We don’t have any desire to reclaim the territory, but the Danish community in Germany is always specifically recognized in the Queen’s New Years speech, along with other expats.

    There are even political parties local to the North of Germany, representing the minority Danes, and the South of Denmark, representing the German minority. I don’t even remember the last time I’ve heard of a problem in this regard.

  46. StevoR says

    On Putin’s nuclear menacing this ABC news article :

    & this one :

    make for interesting reading.

    Also worth watching though just over half an hour long :

    Russian motivations to invade

    Gives some good insights into the conflict highlighting therole GlobalOverheating and the water wars ad fossil fuels aspects are playing here.

  47. StevoR says

    One more good ABC news analysis here :

    Excerpt :

    Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine is still in its early phases, but it has already delivered its main lessons. Vladimir Putin has made three critical misjudgements.

    His first was that he miscalculated his ability to win quickly and cleanly.

    His second was that he thought Ukrainian opposition would swiftly crumble.

    Third, he clearly reckoned the Western response would be fragmented and tokenistic.

    In all of these, he has been proven wrong, which has significant implications for the future course of the war, for Russia’s international standing and for his own political fortunes.

  48. tacitus says

    Putin’s nuclear threat escalation could be a way of upping the stakes to solidify his position back home and give him a pretext for going in even harder against Ukrainian resistance.

  49. davidc1 says

    @55 Hi,thanks for the reply,why wasn’t I born in Denmark?
    Talking of Slesvig-Holstein,my mate and his girlfriend and myself
    had a short holiday in Germany in 1990 on our motorbikes.
    I bought a map of Germany,and up near the border with Denmark
    there was a place named Damp 2000,which tickled my funny bone.

  50. whheydt says

    And in other (bad) news (for the Russians), a Ukrainian sailor tried to scuttle the 160 foot yacht owned by the head of the Russian state arms export company. In court, the sailor said he had no regrets and he’d do it again, given a chance. (There’s an article on the BBC.)

  51. raven says

    I was watching some video of the war in Ukraine.
    It is as bad as you can imagine.

    I watched a minute or so of the Russians shelling the downtown of a city, Kharkov.
    They aren’t really even aiming their artillery and there is nothing in the downtown of military significance.
    It’s all civilians, retail, and apartment blocks.

    It is appalling.

  52. davidc1 says

    @59 According to a report in one British newspaper,vlad only put the Russian Nuclear forces on high alert
    because from comments from liz truss,she does foreign secretary impressions.
    She has also suggested that Britons should be able to travel to Ukraine to help in the fight against the