By Rostyslav Averchuk
Lviv, Ukraine, Oct 9 (EFE).- Ukrainian and international writers have come together, either virtually or in person, at the Lviv Book Forum to touch on the imperialist nature of the Russian invasion of its neighbor.
The Book Forum used to attract hundreds of publishing companies from the region and tens of thousands of visitors. Today, it is held in the bomb shelter of the Ukrainian Catholic University in the western city of Lviv, with only 100 visitors allowed in for safety reasons.
Noble laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah, Mexican journalist Lydia María Cacho, UK lawyer and writer Philippe Sands, as well as Yuval Harari and Margaret Atwood, joined in a series of discussions on the ongoing war.
Cacho, currently living in Spain after a backlash against her investigative work in Mexico, tells Efe that she is amazed by the Ukrainian society for being able to maintain the freedom of expression and hold events like the book forum amid the Russian attempt to deny its independent existence.
As a Mexican, Cacho says that she understands what it is like to suffer the aggression from a large neighboring country, which seeks to make them “slaves.”
Many Mexicans could relate to what Ukraine is going through, according to Cacho.
“The toxic imperial nostalgia of the populist totalitarian leaders is hurting everyone,” she explains, citing the UN statistics about the number of people in Ukraine in need of help as a result of the Russian invasion, with 6.6 million internally displaced people and 6.9 million others abroad.
“Lopez Obrador and some of his political party members are standing with Russia, however,” Cacho adds.
She says that it was not easy making people understand that Vladimir Putin’s regime is trying to destroy Ukraine and throw its people out of their homes.
Gurnah, the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, addressed the audience digitally.
Many throughout the world “tend to think of colonialism as the European expansionism in the non-European world,” failing to see that other forms of colonialism have also existed, he says
He underlined that many still do not realize that Russia has been colonizing other countries, such as in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, for centuries.
Olena Stiazhkina, a Ukrainian historian and writer, explains that Russia has been engaging in the “ethnocide” of many of non-Russian ethnicities in Russia, such as the people of Buryatia and Dagestan, by recruiting and deploying them disproportionately to go to war in Ukraine.
Russia has tried to make these people, as well as the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainians during the Soviet times, lose their own voice by presenting them to the world as Russians, according to Stiazhkina.
She highlights that the Soviet Union’s policies in Africa, for instance in Angola, never viewed the local population as equals and simply sought to expand the Russian empire.
“Had the Soviet Union succeeded there, Africans might have also lost their voice or even life,” she says.EFE