Is History Repeating Itself?

Should the killings in Ukraine be labeled as genocide?

Max Kukurudziak, Unsplash

Unnamed Road, Ivano-Frankivs’ka oblast, Ukraine Published on August 13, 2019 to

Grace Geddings, Journalist

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group (Merriam-Webster). It is clear that Vladimir Putin has shown no mercy to the Ukrainian people by unleashing devastating attacks on their homeland. Yet, Putin has refrained from labeling these attacks as “genocide,” while others believe it blatantly is so. 

 “The combination of official statements denying Ukraine and Ukrainians the right to exist, and mounting evidence of deliberate, large-scale targeting of Ukrainian civilians, leaves little room for doubt. The threshold from war crimes to genocide has been crossed,” Eugene Finkel, The Washington Post, said.

Seeing attacks on Ukrainian soil and people is something truly devastating. History may be compared to the Terror Famine of 1932 when Ukrainians were starved countrywide under Joseph Stalin. This is the last thing anyone would expect in 2022, but looking at the past could help guide our future decisions.

 “Unfortunately, as a history teacher, history always repeats itself and it’s just a matter of if these sanctions and Ukrainian fighting is going to be strong enough. We already see Ukrainians starving in places like Mariupol”, Jordan Green, history teacher, said.

Many definitions will alter and change for those trying to define Putin’s acts of war as genocide. The word itself is described as “the crime of crimes”, and it takes a lot to persuade someone like Putin that he should be tried for it.

“… genocide is a specific war crime that is bigger than the illegal killing of civilians. The law requires proof of the intent to destroy the group,” Dominic Casciani,  BBC News, said.

US President, Joe Biden, has urged Putin to be tried for war crimes and believed him to be a “war criminal.” Biden also added “this guy is brutal”.

“Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have been sexually abusing women, children, and men since the invasion began, using rape and other sexual offenses as weapons of war,” Tara John, CNN, said.

If Putin is proven guilty of his alleged war crimes (i.e. genocide) then prosecution will obviously be attempted. His nation will have to turn him to the UN for trying, and the unfortunate thing is that is unlikely to happen. It is easier to prosecute the soldier committing the crime rather than the power who told him so. And as a powerful leader, experts are sure Putin has created ways, like blaming his commanders, to tip-toe around being prosecuted.

“Contrary to popular perceptions, shaped by the Holocaust and Rwanda, perpetrating genocide does not require large numbers of victims. The intent and logic of targeting are the keys,” Finkel said.

Though the attacks are brutal, some believe it hasn’t quite reached the point of genocide yet. Sanctions will continue to prevent anything from crossing the line, and no one wishes it will.

“I don’t think it is a genocide. I think it could potentially become a genocide, but at this point, it is not,” Amanda Stiltner, history teacher, said.

Vladimir Putin’s reason for his aggression can be traced back to many reasons. The fall of the Soviet Union is believed to have left a reason for redemption, and his actions clearly justify it.

“I think he was looking to gain land that was once considered to be a part of Russia because Ukraine wasn’t considered an independent country until the breakup of the Soviet Union,” Stiltner said.

It is inspiring to see a nation come together in hard times. Ukraine has truly defeated the odds and stuck out against Russia throughout the attacks. It’s important to be there and help them remember that they aren’t alone.

“People might say things like hold out or you got this but that’s not really going to do much right now, saying stuff like that doesn’t help anybody. Right now, we just have to try to be there and help the refugees; donate as much money, aid, and weapons as possible to help them keep their fight up against Russia,” Green said.