Russian propaganda is trotting out the tired old idea of “Novorossiya” again, which was last talked up when Russia invaded Donbass in 2014.
The concept of “Novorossiya” is now being used to justify the second phase of the Russian aggressive war in Ukraine, a kind of “cultural and historic cover” for barbaric actions on the territory of Ukraine. Recently, Colonel-General Sergiy Rudskoy, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, said that in general the main tasks of the first objective of Russia’s invasion had been achieved. Russia has said that their main efforts would now be focused on Donbass, where active hostilities continue.
An indirect confirmation of the reorientation of Russia’s strategic goals is the revival of the idea of “Novorossiya” in the public and media space. Russian propaganda is shifting its focus, first of all, towards the historical justification of Russia’s claims to these territories in order to create the impression of “Russia’s ancestral lands.”
The idea of the Northern Black Sea region “conquest” is marked with a red line in propaganda materials. Russia’s leadership has decided to revisit in the 21st century the policies of 200-300 years ago, with the help of brute military force to achieve geopolitical goals. Again, neither the changed world, nor the interests of other countries in the region are taken into account.
The Northern Black Sea region – Mykolaiv, Kherson, Mariupol, and other cities of the region are declared vital for Russia and its history. The idea is being promoted that “Russia comes for its own, for the cities, which it also founded.”
It is difficult for the pragmatic West to understand how one can think along the same lines as 300 years ago, but for the Russian leadership, historical precedents give an impetus to action. Unfortunately, it is precisely this aspect that is often underestimated by analysts in the West, who believe that the Russian elite has a rational approach to the development of the country and the world order as a whole.
The Northern Black Sea region (“Novorossiya”) was conquered by the Russian Empire through bloody military campaigns. Could it be that the current Russian government dreams of restoring the Russian Empire?
Russia founded the regional cities. Isn’t this the reason for the stubborn desire to wipe out a present-day Mariupol and the propaganda media’s statement about the possibility of completely restoring the city. In Kharkiv, where more than 80 % of the housing stock has been destroyed, it is also planned to implement a similar idea. Cities must be destroyed in order to be rebuilt according to a “new Russian empire” model.
The regional propaganda activity of the Russian Federation has pursued the “great mission” – the sacred duty of returning to the state the lands that once belonged to the first Rurik princes. There are many questions about the realization of this controversial mission in the modern world. But given President Putin’s interest in historical parallels, we may end up with a version of a war comparable to mediaeval religious wars with all of their zealotry and fanaticism. Russia is losing mobility on the battlefield, and to compensate may be seeking to give a fanatical colour to its actions.
A historical smoke screen and stories about the “great mission” are needed to cover up what are blatant predatory actions. Russian propaganda channels openly declare that “Novorossiya turned out to be an exceptionally rich and fertile land, and became the main granary of Russia.” This might explain the banal theft of several thousand tons of grain in the port of Berdyansk in Ukraine, which the Russian Army attempted to pilfer.
Pure commercial and financial greed underpins Russia’s desire to seize the industrial centres of the region – sources of coal, metal, raw materials and manufactured products. Perhaps Russia views the region from the perspective of compensating for their own industrial losses inflicted by Western sanctions. In Russia’s gun sights are the ports of Odesa and Mariupol. Propagandists directly call these cities “the main sea gates of Russia to the Black Sea and sources of ever-growing income from the export of grain and coal.” The propaganda description should perhaps be amended to show correctly that the grain and coal exports they are talking about will in fact be stolen.