Interview with Oleg Odnorozhenko, the deputy commander of the “Azov” regiment for personnel work, PhD in History and heraldist by Olena Semenyaka, coordinator of the Department of International Relations of the “Azov” regiment “Azov Reconquista.”
– Glory to Ukraine!
– Glory to Heroes!
- Mr. Oleg, I analyzed FAQs by the foreign supporters of the “Azov” regiment and readers of the page “Azov Reconquista,” and the first of them concerns the connection between “Social-National Assembly” and worldview of the “Azov” regiment. Are there any ideological elements that were adopted by the latter in its manifests, policy documents, etc.?
– Basically, the “Azov” regiment continues the struggle of Ukrainian patriots and nationalists, which, obviously, started not last year, but much earlier. The initiative of creating the regiment belonged to the leadership of organizations “Patriot of Ukraine” and “Social-National Assembly.” Actually, leadership of these structures at present coincides with leadership of the “Azov” regiment. Undoubtedly, the “Azov” regiment adheres to the patriotic (nationalistic) positions; it’s the right-wing regiment, right-wing military formation. Thus certain continuity exists. Another matter is that in the organizational filed the priority now is development of the “Azov” regiment as the nationalistic and military structure and those structures that are directly connected with it: above all, the Civil Corps which at present rapidly expands and starts its activities in all Ukrainian regions.
- It is well-known that Ukrainian militaries participate in trainings under supervision of American instructors – the question that is addressed to “Azov Reconquista” especially often. In this connection, it would be interesting to find out what is your opinion about assistance of the US, especially in the military respect. Do you approve of such a full-scale support for Ukraine in war with Russia and the pro-Russian forces?
– You know, in the military actions and political struggle one does not particularly choose the allies. Certainly, we totally favor all kinds of support for the Ukrainian state from abroad. Another matter is that we have to be aware of the fact that none will win this war for us, that is, we have to rely, first of all, on our own resources and develop them. Accordingly, we have to properly apply this very foreign aid: if there is assistance of instructors, they have to instruct the best combat units. Surely, we would not refuse from much bigger assistance and support buy other structures, but we need it in order to change everything for the better within our country, so as our army would be more battle worthy, our state apparatus work more effectively, so as Ukrainian society would come to understand that it has to solve all its internal and external problems itself. But every country, certainly, needs foreign aid as such.
- And what if it concerns geopolitics? The next question, which is often associated with the aforementioned: what is the “Azov” regiment’s attitude to eurointegration, possible integration with the NATO, as well as whether it has its own geopolitical priorities or orientations?
– You know, here it is necessary to pose the question more correctly: what does eurointegration mean? If this is interaction with European peoples that adhere to the traditional values, traditional Europe, that is, understanding that European nations have common problems, common interests and, basically, common ways of solving these problems, it is one thing. If by eurointegration one means integration into the EU, it’s completely different thing, because the EU, overall, is a denial of Europe as such, for we do not find in the EU those basic principles which made Europe the European civilization, which are specific for Europe and each European nation. That’s why, surely, we can’t approve of the integration efforts aimed at reinforcing or widening the EU, for the EU, viewed realistically, under current conditions is nothing but the late Soviet Union in which some things are declared, but none of the European politicians and European society really believes in it. Overall, position of the EU, for example, under circumstances of the Russian aggression is ambivalent, to say the least and mildly speaking. That’s why I do not see the perspectives in the EU, whereas I see the perspectives in interaction, alliance of free European nations.
- Thanks. Also people often associate with the “Azov” regiment the idea of Baltic-Black Sea Bloc or Baltic-Black Sea Alliance. What do you think about it in general and are there any concrete projects or orientations regarding its development? Are there any plans for the future?
– Well, undoubtedly, speaking about the interests of Ukraine or other neighboring countries, we see today that the EU and NATO fail to fulfill their tasks. We see that they are impotent. Speaking about the regional security, undeniably, the threats from the east, which are real at present, although not only them, because there are also threats from the south which are often forgotten, – speaking about such a format of regional security, it is obvious that Ukraine should become an initiator and implementer of the idea of creating an alliance of the countries of the Baltic-Black Sea axis, because this is a natural geopolitical union. It is also clear today, when Ukrainian state, which, actually, does not make any serious steps to realize the geopolitical project of this kind, but all the same we see how such Ukraine is treated in Belarus, Baltics, Lithuania, Georgia, Moldavia – Ukraine is considered a natural leader of this region. We can also recall such geopolitical initiatives that were implemented in the 90-s within the bloc of the GUUAM which included Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Moldova, and Azerbaijan. Political elites and establishment of these countries understand that this geopolitical decision is a way to solve their national problems. They view Ukraine as a natural leader, and the fact that Ukraine due to immaturity of its political elites has not suggested yet such an idea and does not work on its fulfillment is temporary, as for me.
At least those people who at present defend Ukraine with arms in hands, who consider Ukraine as a country with big perspectives, who in the near future will be a basis for the new Ukrainian elite – that is, Ukrainian nationalist volunteers – they understand these problems very well, raise and discuss these questions, and I think that quite soon we’ll proceed from the theoretic provisions to their practical realization. Though, in fact, to some extent this practical realization is already present, because in the volunteer formations, the “Azov” regiment in particular, serve as militaries and help as volunteers or by other means people from these countries who, I’m sure, will carry the idea of the Baltic-Black Sea integration with Ukraine as a leader in their own countries.
- Is there any hope for Western Europe in connection with this union? Is it meant to expand to a larger geopolitical perspective and how does it relate to the project “Azov Reconquista,” what is its essence?
Undoubtedly, Western Europe is an integral part of Europe as such, even if there are its particular problems, and the society is in a state of anabiosis. I mean, there is a big level of civil activity, a developed volunteer movement in Ukraine, and in comparison with it Western Europe is in a losing position. Surely, Ukraine under such conditions must set an example. The Ukrainian modern mission, the Ukrainian mission of the XXIst century is to become the country that will be a locomotive among the European nations. And the European nations, despite the crisis in many spheres, – Europeans remain Europeans. In the history we observed many such European crises, but each time the European nations got out of the crisis even stronger than before, and namely this represents the phenomenon of Europe as a civilization. Europe is able to rebuild itself on the march, which we see now in Ukraine, and this is typical of any other of them, that’s why I think that Europe has quite a bright future, it just needs to properly approach the problems and find the right solutions for them.
- Yes, it sounds really encouraging. What about our opponents, critics, enemies, as well, so to speak, the historically ignorant Europeans who often repeat an idea according to which Ukraine and the Ukrainian rightists are kind of the “useful idiots” in service of the Euroatlantic integration, the “Azov” regiment in particular which “separates Ukraine as a country that is traditionally close to Russia, to this geopolitical areal in favor of the West.” So how could comment on this the “Azov” regiment and especially you as the author of works on Ukraine-Rus’ in view of the relation between Europe and Eurasia?
Well, it’s quite a broad question, more precisely, it’s a complex of questions. I think that we’ll talk about it in more detail separately; we can even organize a cycle of programs on this topic, because each component of your question implies rather serious considerations. I can only say that the European right-wingers who express such ideas really surprise me a lot. If similar claims are made by the leftists or liberals, I can understand it and their criticism, for it is based on another worldview. But when the rightists say that we play into the hands of Euroatlanticism or something like that, then it’s ignorance, to say the very least. I have to say that in spite of the highlights of the Western media, Maidan was not a Euroatlanticist project, there were no events that set a goal of eurointegration and the likes of it. At Maidan was waged a struggle against the internal dictatorship that was imposed by the external factors like Putin’s Russia. Accordingly, at Maidan was not solved a problem of how to integrate Ukraine in the EU as fast as possible. Maybe it was a desire of the leaders of opposition, they articulated it in this way, but the leaders of opposition have no relation to revolution as such, they did nothing to secure its victory, moreover, they were constantly obstructing it.
The fact that revolution due to various reasons led them to power does not mean that the Ukrainian society supports such positions, such a course, especially taking into account the ambivalent attitude of the European Union which we witness now. I think that a number of euroskeptics in Ukraine significantly increased as compared to the situation a year or two ago. In Ukraine the majority of a society believes that Ukraine needs to stick to its own position, play its own geopolitical role, that Ukraine may be a center of gravity for other countries, and that Ukraine may be a locomotive of creating such an alternative, including of the EU. For the shortcomings of the EU are visible to the naked eye. What we offer as the geopolitical alternative I consider to be much more promising.
Regarding the assessment of Russia and tearing Ukraine away from the “natural geopolitical Russian space,” as one may often hear, I can tell our European right-wing colleagues only one thing: we, quite the reverse, have no illusions about the EU, NATO and other euroatlantic international structures. Our attitude to them is quite critical and negative. However, at the same time we understand clear enough what kind of a neighbor in the northern east we have, that is the Russian Federation. But, speaking about our right-wing colleagues in Europe, I believe that they do have some illusions themselves. For if they do imagine the drawbacks of Euroatlanticism, the EU and so on, its imperfection, its excessive bureaucratism, and, basically, its civilizational anti-Europeanism as those who live in the Western society, which we see well enough, too, when it comes to the Russian Federation, though, they demonstrate quite big illusions. For some strange reason they often fantasize that Putin is almost a right-wing politician. I can give a single example: in the “Azov” regiment serve a few dozens of Russian right-wingers, nationalists who can persuasively prove, and much better than I, what is Putin’s Russia. It’s not the right-wing project at all; this is the neo-Soviet project that aims to restore the Soviet Union with all its “attractions.”
If the European rightists see it as a kind of the right-wing alternative for Europe and the world, then they can also see it in China of Mao Zedong or in modern communistic China or in Juche of North Korea. Undoubtedly, there is anything right-wing in Putin’s Russia. Undeniably, it’s the anti-national, above all, anti-Russian regime that politically represses, first of all, namely the Slavic population of Russia, builds the denationalized, imperialist and Golden Horde project and has nothing in common with their hopes. It’s true that Putin manipulates the moods in Europe by presenting himself as the alternative of the EU, that he, in fact, bribes the leaders of many right-wing structures as it, unfortunately, happened to the National Front in France with which the structure that was our historical predecessor – the Social-National Party of Ukraine – had quite close relations in the 90-s-in the beginning of 2000-s, whereas now it’s virtually the main mouthpiece of the Kremlin in Europe. It’s a sad phenomenon, that is, it’s the corrupt leadership of the National Front of France and other right-wing organizations; perhaps it’s also a lack of guidelines for the common right-wingers which could explain it.
On the other hand, I hope that European rightists will have enough critical thinking to realize that Putin is no alternative of the EU, just like we, struggling against Putin’s Russia, do not consider the EU the alternative or panacea against Eurasian Putin’s aggression. Likewise, European rightists have to comprehend that they are offered to choose between one leftist project and another leftist project, that is, these are two sides of the same coin. There is no cultural, ideological, overall, essential difference between the neo-Soviet project of Putin and the liberal project of the EU. Thus one has to be aware of it and to choose one’s own path that will lead to a survival and triumph of the Ukrainian and any other European nation.
- The slogan of the Reconquista sounds as follows: “Today Ukraine, tomorrow Rus’ and the whole Europe!” And many Russian volunteers, or Rus’ volunteers, to distinguish between “the Russkiy” and “the Rossiyskiy,” hope that their countries will undergo some changes, too. Is there any place for Russia or at least a part of Russia in the altered geopolitical format – in the new union of European countries in which Ukraine will play a leading role?
Regarding Russia: the reason why I told you that your question has a lot of the subquestions is that a lot has to be said about Russia and the so-called Eurasian space, too, in order to explain many people in Ukraine and Europe, including the right-wingers, what it actually is. Estimating the war of Ukraine and Russia, one has to underline that it is waged not between countries or nations; this is the war of worldviews. In other words, on the one side stand people who adhere to the European values, people who value freedom, people who aspire to decide themselves how they should live and develop their society, and on the other side – a totalitarian society of the Stalinist type which depreciates the human personality, national identity and identity as such and tries to put it all under conditions of the concentration camp.
And now the war in the Ukrainian east, in Donbas is waged namely between those two poles and two kinds of people. On both sides fight people of quite a different origin. As I have already said, in the “Azov” regiment fight not only Ukrainians, but also many Russians, Belarusians, Europeans. But on the other side also fight not only Russians; one could even say that Russians there are in minority. For one may find there the whole variety of the ethnic minorities of the Russian Federation: those of the Caucasian, Yakutian, Buryatian origin, etc. or those from the Volga region. There are many people who favor the nationalist views in Russia, who want the European future for Russia instead of dissolution in the Eurasian space that is hostile to the Rus,’ Slavic identity and melts together all the ethnic features into a single post-Soviet biomass of the Golden Horde. There are lots of such people. We could give an example of Russian political prisoners and see that the vast majority of them, and these are hundreds of people, are namely Russian right-wingers, that is, people who are consciously anti-Putinist, anti-Eurasianist, and anti-Soviet. It goes without saying that these people are the best representatives of their nation. And there are enough of such people in Russia, which in this sense has the future. Besides, the Slavic, European component in the structure of population of the Russian Federation is quite big. I mean, the Russian Federation does not consist of sole “vata.” The population of the modern Russian Federation to a great extent is represented by people who are well aware of the fact that in Putin’s RF happen not those things that are beneficial for the Rus’ (Russkaya) nation and Slavs in general.
- Thank you. A question that is often related to the symbolics of the “Azov” regiment and our sign “Idea of Nation,” which is similar to “Wolfsangel,” is an attitude to the European right-wing tradition as such. And this question inspires many European volunteers who come to the “Azov” regiment namely because they see a possibility and connection both with the tradition and the right-wing movement, which also drew its inspiration from the latter. How would you comment on this?
I have to explain to our European right-wingers that the sign “Idea of Nation” is not Wolfsangel. We are frequently asked this question. Yes, visually these symbols are quite close: in fact, Wolfsangel is a bit differently stylized and specularly reflected “Idea of Nation.” But these signs have different histories. Undoubtedly, they belong to the context of European heraldry, but the Ukrainian heraldry and heraldic tradition had its own peculiarities, as opposed to the Western European.
For instance, why does Wolfsangel stand a bit aside in the European tradition? Because in European heraldry, symbolics usage of the iconic-like and runic symbols is quite common, but at the same time both regionally and chronologically limited. For even in the North German heraldry the percentage of such iconic-like constructions in emblems – of the local gentry, towns, states – are 3-5 %, which is quite ф small number as compared to the total set of European symbols. In Ukraine the iconic-like symbols – “Idea of Nation” or the national emblem of Ukraine “Trident” – are the main component of our heraldic tradition. 90 % of Ukrainian emblems – that of the nobles, cities, kings or states – are represented namely by these signs. Our national emblem is the only one in Europe that has this iconic-like basis. Not a single other European nation uses a thing like that as its national emblem. That’s why “Idea of Nation” is our authentic symbol that has been used in Ukrainian symbolics and heraldry since the middle ages. There is a lot of literature on it, it’s easy to confirm that for Ukraine it’s quite a typical thing.
That’s why for us using the symbol “Idea of Nation” is not so much an appeal to the Western European tradition, it’s an authentic continuation of our heraldic tradition that was formed back in the XII-XVth centuries. But, overall, the Ukrainian heraldic tradition belongs to the general European heraldic tradition, but taking into account that in our country those sings and runic symbols are much more widespread than in any other European country, including Scandinavia, North Germany, and so on. This is the core of our symbolical tradition.
Talking about the symbol “Black Sun,” again, it is very common in the European tradition, but at the same time it has been present since the ancient times in the Ukrainian symbolics, too. This symbol was used by the Goths who lived in the territory of North Black Sea region, back then. This symbol was widely used in the Ukrainian heraldic, symbolic tradition: for instance, the traditional emblem of Scythia in the middle ages (and Scythia was located in the territory of Ukraine) was namely the image of the Black Sun, in a bit different stylization, but this symbolics was constantly present. Which means that for us using these symbols is both a reference to the general European context and an appeal to our own Ukrainian tradition. For the sign “Idea of Nation,” which, as I said, is similar to Wolfsangel, but is not the latter, is a monogram of two letters – “I” and “N,” and such monographic combinations, again, are typical of the Ukrainian symbolics. It precisely reflects our worldview and the grounds of our ideology.
- The question that concerns cooperation with Europe. Is it possible to organize some meetings abroad or participate in the conferences? For we are constantly asked something like that: “Representatives of the “Azov” regiment, please give a speech after Alexander Dugin came to us and told us about the Ukrainian fascists who are preoccupied with eurointegration” and so on and so forth. Are there any perspectives for the future? For the material is very important, I would say even unique, some moments even I hear for the first time (regarding the symbolic, heraldic aspects of the monogram “Idea of Nation”), that’s why it is necessary to bring the correct statement of the questions and concrete information that you gave to the attention of the European rightists and people in general.
Thanks. I think that as the project of Reconquista expands, we will give the comprehensive answers to many such questions. I’m also sure that it will happen in various formats. Currently is scheduled publication of our periodicals and is already regularly published a regimental newspaper; we plan holding the round tables, conferences and seminars. Certainly, we will also be pleased to greet here our European guests; actually, we already see them, even though the large-scale events haven’t occurred yet, for our private communication is quite intense. We will also gladly participate in the events organized by our European colleagues, and the best way to clear up a misunderstanding and ruin the stereotypes that were imposed by the Putin’s propaganda, as for me, is direct communication, so that nobody creates the illusions about Ukraine and Russian Eurasianists.
For if the European rightists listen to Putin, then they can also read Mao Zedong and Lenin, because at the intellectual level Dugin basically continues the same tradition that was developed by the main theorists of Eurasianism who built the Eurasian empire composed of the representatives of various ethnic groups, races, religions, etc., and, above all, at the expense of destroying the European component, the European identity. If we look realistically at what promotes Dugin and other Eurasianists, we won’t find there anything European. Quite the opposite, we’ll find there theories that completely reject Europe as a civilization. If our right-wing European colleagues want to live under conditions of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) or the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), then they may listen to Dugin. But if they still have different plans for the future and regarding the survival of the European nations and Europe as a civilization, they have to be very careful, which concerns even communication about such figures.
- Thank you. Overall, nowadays grows demand for learning the Ukrainian history, the history of Kyivan Rus’, Ukrainian nationalism, Ukrainian liberation struggle, the “first” and “second” one, etc. In this respect I would like to end this extremely interesting conversation with a question of the “Azov” regiment’s attitude to Pavlo Skoropadsky’s figure, the Ukrainian conservative tradition, Hetmanat, for people also wonder how does it correspond with the European conservative tradition and, in general, what are our inspirers, orientations – in ideology, state building, history – taken from the legacy of Ukraine.
You know, I’m a historian by profession, and we respect a lot both ours and European tradition as a whole, but I have to say the following: the “Azov” regiment and the Ukrainian nationalist volunteer movement sets not a goal of repeating some experience, but creating the new truths, suggesting the new orientations. We strive for implementation of completely different state projects that had no analogues in the past. Surely, we may draw some historical parallels, talk about some analogies, including the historical attempts or projects of building the Baltic-Black Sea axis, which were realized, for example, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania or Rzeczpospolita. We may talk about the state of Pavlo Skoropadsky that was based on the traditional social values, but we set much more global objectives.
That’s why all actions, successful or not, of our predecessors we, naturally, accept, we study them, we adopt something, something we recognize as eventually ineffective or as such that is not effective at the current stage and construct completely new maxims. It is obvious for us that Europe, Ukraine may have perspectives, even big perspectives if they will rationally estimate the current situation, correctly choose the guidelines for the future, correctly react on the challenges that appear now in this world. Thus we have a lot of questions the answers to which can’t be found in the past, because these questions are new, they have never been raised before in our civilization, Ukraine, Europe and so on. Certainly, partially these are old questions the answers to which are well-known, but there are also questions for the answers to which will have to search our generation itself. Hopefully, our intellectual, creative, mobilization efforts will be enough to give an adequate response to it. We strive for the great Ukraine and the great Europe, this is the main. And we aspire to such a society, such a civilization that will transcend the one that was before. Therefore, these tasks are rather ambitious. The historical tradition is something really good on which we stand, this is that fundament from which we will grow, but we have to go further, to set much larger tasks and be more demanding of ourselves.
- Thank you for the very informative answers! I hope for continuation of a series of the speeches, interviews and lectures with your participation from now on and that all which you have said will hear our European colleagues, and not only European, and, overall, will start getting involved in the tasks that you have just outlined and solve them along with us. Thank you!
- Thank you!
Photo and video by European Reconquista http://en.whitereconquista.com/interview-with-oleg-odnorozhenko