Prof. Dr. Dr. Johannes Wallacher, Prof. Dr. Michael Reder und Prof. Dr. Barbara Schellhammer sind an diesem Projekt beteiligt und arbeiten hier u.a. mit dem ukrainischen Philosophen Constantin Sigov zusammen. Dieser ist in seiner ukrainischen Heimat nun der schrecklichen Kriegssituation ausgesetzt. In einem Telefoninterview mit der französischen Zeitschrift Esprit berichtet Sigov von seinen persönlichen Eindrücken und beschreibt die Situation vor Ort im Kriegsgebiet. Er erzählt vom Widerstand seines Volkes, seines eigenen und des seines Sohnes.
Thomas Banchoff, Leiter des Projekts „The Culture of Encounter and the Global Agenda“ am Berkley Center, übersetzte das Interview ins Englische:
You are in Kyiv, you have chosen to stay in Ukraine. How have you been coping with the situation since February 24?
I am a few kilometers from Kyiv, near Vyshgorod. My wife and daughter just left town with our three cats. I have stayed with my son, Roman, who is 25. We decided to be witnesses, to get information out of the country and to tell what we are going through. I give interviews, I describe what I see. I cannot do otherwise and neither can my son. Roman speaks eight languages and accompanies many journalists who are on site. He goes to very dangerous places and risks his life every day. But I cannot stop him, I can only support him and hug him when he leaves.
It is for him, as for me, an inner necessity, that of telling the truth. We are witnessing a real crime against humanity, we are its witnesses. We are not only defending ourselves, we are defending a certain idea of dignity and freedom. If we don't do so, our existence no longer has any meaning.
We have just had a very difficult fifteen days. We hear heavy shelling every night. This week we helped one of Ukraine's greatest composers, Valentin Silvestrov, to leave the country. After three and a half days of travel, he has just crossed the Polish border on foot at the age of 84. It's a terrible image to see this great man, this musical genius, leaving Ukraine under a hail of bombs. I also have no news of one of my former students, an eminent researcher, who had taken refuge in a small village ten kilometers from Kyiv. Her house was three kilometers from an industrial bakery which was bombed, killing thirteen people. She has since disappeared with her six-year-old daughter. My son tried to get to the village with French journalists but did not manage. There are no humanitarian corridors there and we fear the worst. People who managed to flee say that Chechen militias, the notorious kadyrovtsy, are killing civilians coldly in the street, sometimes even in front of children. It’s a real massacre.
Moreover, many apartments in Kyiv have been rented for several months by people belonging to commando groups who have come from Russia to sow terror. The people of Kyiv are trying to identify them. Since the beginning of this war, we’ve all been very active, we’ve been organizing the resistance day and night to be ready when the time comes. As I speak to you, we dread the assault on Kyiv; we are preparing for it.
Finally, as you know, millions of people are fleeing the country. My son was yesterday at the Kyiv tarnation station with the press interviewing people waiting for a train to leave for the West. There were thousands of people and the journalists were surprised to see that everyone remained very calm and very united (solidaire) in the halls and in the waiting rooms. Television in France mainly shows dramatic scenes featuring people rushing for trains as soon as they arrive on the platform. But what’s much more impressive, much more telling, is the look of dignified look of waiting on the faces of children, young people, and elderly – waiting in the core of their being. I think all of whole city of Kiev is currently experiencing this sense of waiting.
On the one hand, there is waiting, but there is also the resistance of a whole people, which commands admiration. What is the deep motivation of the Ukrainians?
Our people are resisting the plan to reconstitute the Soviet Union. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was officially founded almost a century ago, on December 30, 1922. Putin wants to celebrate this anniversary with great fanfare in a few months. The attack on Ukraine owes nothing to chance. It is part of his project to return to the Soviet empire. But it’s a completely dystopian project. The hope of being able to free oneself from the fear and violence of the Soviet regime was the leitmotif of the movement for the independence of our country in 1991. Two fundamental anthropological considerations motivated our approach after 1991: to be able to no longer be afraid of violence and to have the right to tell the truth.
The Orange Revolution in Kyiv in 2004 then defeated the neo-Soviet the revanchist spirit directed against Ukraine. The civic experience gained in the decade that followed helped to distinguish between those who participated in the Soviet narrative and those who wanted another narrative. The “Maidan Generation” not only liberated Kyiv from any neo-Soviet temptation; it also tore away the postmodern masks concealing the archaic type “homo sovieticus.” In late 2013 and early 2014, the “Dignity Revolution” in Kyiv marked a turning point in the historic shift from homo sovieticus to homo dignus. The spirit of our resistance was ethical and today, too, it is rich in this heritage.
Today, our people are totally united. This war transcends particular religious, linguistic, ethnic and social differences. This resistance brings together Ukrainian speakers as well as Russian speakers, Jews and even Greeks. It’s a unanimous resistance in the face of tyranny. There are even unarmed people who have stopped tanks passing through their village. The civilian population is extremely courageous.
We resist for our dignity but also for that of other Europeans. We are fighting for “our freedom and for yours,” to use that famous held up on a banner by a small group of dissidents protesting on Red Square in 1968 against the entry of Soviet tanks into Prague. Putin is waging a war, not only against Ukraine but also against European culture and against democracy. He seeks to destroy the European ethos, which competes with his vision of the world. Isolated in his bunker for two years, imprisoned in his narcissistic stupidity, he thought he could take Kyiv in a few days and install a puppet regime. He never imagined that the Ukrainian resistance would be so strong.
Can Russia lose this war?
Civically and politically, Putin has lost this war.
On the one hand, from what we see on site, his soldiers have been routed, they seem disorganized and demoralized. They thought they would be greeted with flowers, but that's not at all the case. Some didn't even know they were coming to wage war; they believed they were being sent to Ukraine for a “special operation.” We see that the Russian soldiers don’t have mobile phones with them. When they are taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces, they call their families on Ukrainian phones and say they’ve been lied to. They also see that the bodies of those who are killed are not recovered and are thrown into mass graves. The Russian state is doing nothing to return these dead soldiers to their families. It has absolutely no respect for human life, whether that life is Ukrainian, Russian, or European. It shows an unimaginable degree of cynicism and cruelty.
On the other hand, our nation refuses the project of the Russian regime. We are facing radical evil, in the Kantian sense of the term. The aggressor will not be able to hold the country, he will not be able to occupy it or to dominate it. As we resist, the response becomes more and more violent. Our cities are burning under bombs, rockets and Russian shells. This war not only shatters windows but also shatters millions of lives. Just this week, a nuclear power plant near Kharkhiv was attacked. We are not giving way to panic. On the contrary we remain lucid but we are aware of being on the edge of the abyss. Putin has no limits, no brakes. He doesn't care that a nuclear accident could affect his own soldiers or his civilian population. He is locked in his tyrannical bubble. I think he is paralyzed by his fear and that he’s exporting it. That’s why he uses propaganda on a large scale in his country, muzzles the media, and he arrests and eliminates all those who do not think like he does. He’s setting up a dictatorship in Russia.
Have we been naive?
Western awareness came much too late. Yet some people have, for years now, warned about the reality of the Putin regime. Will the war we are going through now change the situation? I don’t know. This week, I was invited to a French television set to bear witness. I was shocked to find myself faced with an interlocutor who did not listen to me and who took up Putin's arguments and vision, calling Ukraine is an “artificial country.” I felt I was being used. My remarks were taken out of context and submerged in a pro-Russian jumble justifying the aggression. These are people who betray Europe, who betray France. They are “collaborators.”
In my opinion, the only question that deserves asking is: Are you for or against this war? If we don’t answer this question, we’re engaging in fuzzy thinking. Everyone must take a very clear position on this subject. Individuals, the media, the cultural and scientific worlds... It's all very well to organize roundtables on Ukraine, to think about peace, to organize ballets and concerts, but in the end it can amounts to a pretty cultural parade that masks aggression. First and foremost, everyone must take a clear position on this question – the question of individual responsibility raised by Hannah Arendt. Once again I want to repeat: this war waged by Putin is not only a war against Ukraine but also against the whole of Europe. We are all on the same boat.
What do you expect from Europeans?
I expect firmness and unity. The first wave of economic sanctions against Russia was a necessary and very important reaction. It is bearing fruit. The Russians realize that the Putin regime is plunging them into stagnation. Many are now fleeing their country. These sanctions are a very good way to weaken the Russian economy and thereby weaken its war economy. And because the press is muzzled and a real wall of silence has fallen over the country, they are the only way to have an impact.
Now it’s important that European leaders and citizens move on to a second wave of measures. They absolutely have to free themselves from their dependence on Russian gas and oil and build a strong and united Europe in terms of energy. It’s also urgent to accelerate the process of Ukraine's integration into the European Union. Finally, everyone must fight side by side against the Kremlin's propaganda, against fake news, and against this permanent distortion of the truth. Civil society must support these actions, protest, and communicate its message by all means. We are at a historic turning point. We must restore our common republic, the values expressed after the Second World War. It is everyone's responsibility. Don't give up, resist wherever you are, whatever your position or profession. Let's resist together.
Zur Person: Constantin Sigov ist Professor für Philosophie und Religionswissenschaft an der Nationalen Universität Kiew-Mohyla-Akademie in Kiew und leitet außerdem das Zentrum für Europäische Geisteswissenschaften. Seine Schriften konzentrieren sich auf die Geschichte der philosophischen und theologischen Ideen.
Hier mehr über das Projekt „The Culture of Encounter and hhe Global Agenda” erfahren.