Referred to as "quite complex," "interesting," "unfortunate" and "senseless," Henderson State University Professor Steve Carter sheds light on the current war ensuing between Russia and Ukraine. While providing a historical context between the two countries since the late 19th century, Carter describes the current war as "Putin's holocaust."
Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, followed by Russia. It is the frontier to Russia and just slightly smaller than the state of Texas.
"The Ukrainian people and the Russian people are very similar to each other," Carter told Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club on Wednesday. "They both belong to the Eastern Slavic ethnic family. They share many of the same customs and history, and most Ukranians and Russians are Eastern Orthodox Christians."
With Russians seeing themselves as the "protectors" of other Slavic people, Carter said they thought of Ukrainians as "little brothers" until the 19th century when Ukrainians began adopting their own identity.
Then came the brutal dictatorship over Russia by Joseph Stalin. In an effort to get Ukrainians to comply by his authority, Stalin used a starvation tactic, which killed 4-7 million Ukrainians from 1932-1933. This was known as the Soviet Famine.
A purging of Ukrainian culture followed the famine.
"So by the time we get to 1940, Ukrainians lived in fear of Stalin and Stalinism," Carter said. "After nearly 25 years of (his) rule, many of the non-Russian ethnic groups within the Soviet Union opposed Stalin."
Then came the invasion of Adolf Hitler during World War II in 1941.
"German soldiers advanced across the Ukraine to invade Russia. Given what life was like under Stalin, the Ukrainians were initially looking at the Germans as liberators."
But despite Ukraine claiming independence from Russia, Germans viewed the two countries as the same, placing them both under Nazi occupation.
"It was not Hitler's ambition to liberate Ukraine. Instead, it was his goal to conquer Ukraine. To drive out Slavic inhabitance, and to destroy the Jewish population so that German settlers can move into the region.
"To this end, German forces brutalized the local populations of the Ukraine. Some of the worst atrocities and earliest expressions of the holocaust occurred outside Kyiv, where Nazi forces shot to death nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women and children at Babi Yar."
The Babi Year massacre was the worst massacre of the second World War. Nazis dug a ditch, placed thousands of people in it, shot them to death and then buried them. A monument was later placed to memorialize the atrocity that occurred. Two weeks ago this monument was destroyed by Russian artillery and rockets.
"The Nazi invasion of Russia, and of course Ukraine, during World War II, left a deep-seated imprint on the Russian psyche, and also on Ukraine, in fear of nazism," Carter said.
"Eighty years after Hitler's invasion, Putin was able to exploit the fears of the Russian people by saying that Ukraine was full of Nazis. And the excuse that he used for the invasion of Ukraine, at least one of the many excuses he's come up with, was to de-nazify Ukraine."
The main point Carter stressed in his presentation was: "This situation in Ukraine has brought with it losses of lives."
"We've seen the pictures of the pregnant women who lost her baby and lost her own life," he said. "We've seen people living down in the metro stations and so forth.
"I've been following one of the individuals ... who lost his life. He was 96-year-old Borys Romanchenko. He was a Russian Jew and Holocaust survivor. His home was demolished by a rocket, and he died. It was said of Romanchenko, he survived Hitler's holocaust, but not Putin's holocaust."