The 2nd of May marks the four year anniversary of one of the most tragic events of the 21st century. In 2014 on what was supposed to be a day of solidarity against fascism, forty-two peaceful protesters were killed in central Odessa when gangs of fascist thugs, most from far outside the region, went on a rampage that can only be described as an unspeakable horror.
Months prior to the events of May the 2nd, peaceful protesters set up camp outside the Odessa Trade Unions House. They were there to show solidarity against the fascist, nationalistic and ultra-right wing forces still gathered on the Maidan in Kiev.
Protests became more numerous after the coup against the legitimate Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych which occurred on 22 February 2014, a day after the coup leaders had reached an agreement with the President. However, it became clear within hours that they did not intend to uphold their end of the bargain and as a consequence, the President fled in the middle of the night.
Yanukovych had the legal authority as President to call in allied states to help him restore order as Syria has done in its fight against terrorism and furthermore could have moved the capital to Kharkov or Donetsk while Kiev remained occupied by thugs. Unlike the Syrian President who remains in power because he mobilised patriotic forces against terrorism with the help of his allies, Yanukovych decided to run rather than try and restore the rule of law. Yanukovych took the coward’s way out, but the protesters did not.
The historic Novorossiya (New Russia) region includes areas north of the Black Sea that were absorbed into the Russian state after a series of 18th century Russo-Turkish wars. By 1764, the Novorossiya Governorate was officially formed in these lands.
The protests that occurred in the winter and spring of 2014 in the wider historic Novorossiya region were wide spread long before the 2nd of May. Anti-fascist demonstrators organised not only in Odessa but in Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Mariupol, Dnepropetrovsk as well as smaller towns in the region. The Novorossiya region was an area won by the Russian Tsars from the Ottoman Sultans during the Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th century. By the late 18th century, the area was firmly under Russian authority.
In the 1920s, in a move that continues to haunt the region, the new Bolshevik government took to re-drawing the internal map of Russia and made Novorossiya part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. This is the only reason that much of this area is today part of the Ukrainian state. There is no greater historical or present day justification for this other than a very unwise move by the Soviet government of the era.
May of 2014
Throughout the winter and into the spring of 2014, the protests in historic Novorossiya were generally peaceful but occasionally turned violent when fascist thugs from western Ukrainian’s former Polish and Austrian regions visited the protests by bus and car in order to rain violence upon the peaceful protesters. Things became increasingly tense in the run up to the 9th of May when Victory Day celebrations are held to commemorate the Soviet victory over fascism.
Knowing that the ethnic and cultural Russians of the region would be honouring their fathers and grandfathers on the 9th of May, the fascist/ultra-nationalist presence in the region grew in early May.
May the 2nd: The Massacre
The 2nd of May, 2014 began as a day like any other, but as the day rolled on it became apparent that fascist thugs from the neo-Nazi group Right Sector, the neo-fascist party Svoboda as well as far-right football hooligans from outside the region had begun to descend on Odessa.
By the afternoon, the fascist gangs had assembled in the town centre and began violently attacking the anti-fascist protesters. As the anti-fascists came under increasingly violent attacks, the peaceful protesters took shelter in the Trade Unions House, eventually barricading themselves inside for protection.
As the afternoon wore on, fascists were seen firing gunshots into the building. Later the fascists began to set the building on fire using a combination of Molotov cocktail and flaming debris.
As the fire raged, the fascists surrounded the front and back of the building, prohibiting escape. Many of the protesters, some in their mid-teens died of asphyxiation. Others jumped to their deaths.
Some who jumped and survived the initial fall were beaten to death. Others were tortured to the brink of death. The authorities did nothing.
The events were filmed and I can personally remember watching as the attack unfolded. It was a barbaric brutality that one had naively hoped had no place in the 21st century, but sadly the kinds of atrocities against civilians perpetrated by the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War were brutally visited upon young anti-fascists in 2014.
Russia immediately condemned the massacre. Russia was joined by Belarus, Armenia and EU member Bulgaria.
The west remained largely indifferent while the western mainstream media did their best to whitewash the massacre.
There was and still is a kind of unspoken racism that was inherent in the west’s coverage of The Odessa Massacre. Had the events happened in the Arab world and under an ISIS flag, things would have doubtlessly got more coverage.
But because the victims were ethnic and cultural Russians, things were interpreted through the prism of two paradoxical but equally potent forms of racism.
On the one hand, European and English-speaking audiences have been racially conditioned to believe that savage atrocities only happen in the Middle East, Africa or Asia. This is of course unfair and insulting to the vast majority of peace loving people in the aforementioned places.
At the same time, Russians, a distinct ethnic group in spite of their generally white skin, are still continually described in a racially inflammatory manner by western elites, western mainstream media and some ordinary Europeans, Canadians, Australians and Americans. This does not generally happen to black Africans, white Jews, African-Americans or Latin Americans in the western mainstream media because these groups have over a period of decades, stood up to forms of prejudice which effect them and have largely exorcised these kinds of hatred from the mainstream western vernacular. But for Russians, discrimination and racial abuse is only growing in western circles.
Odessa had always been a multi-cultural city. In addition to Russians, it historically had vibrant populations of Greeks, Serbs, Romanians, Turks, Albanians, French, Poles, and members of many faiths including many demonstrations of Christianity, Jews and Muslims. That such a fascist atrocity could have happened in such a place, decades after Hitler’s forces were vanquished in the region, seemed inconceivable to many.
Throughout the period when the anti-fascist protesters of Odessa were martyred, protests in Lugansk and Donetsk continued unabated. These places held referenda on becoming independent republics. The votes passed in each. Forces loyal to Kiev continue to assault Donbass, but the militias of Donbass formed in 2014 have thus far managed to keep the young republics free.
The rest of historic Novorossiya continues to be neglected by the impoverished, corrupt and extremist regime in Kiev. Many in these regions wait for the day that they too can form an independent federation or re-unite with Russian homeland.
The 2nd of May remains a deeply tragic event. It is a wound that cannot even begin to be healed until the Kiev regime acknowledges responsibility for unleashing fascism on the country. However, with Kiev’s forces continuing to attack the anti-fascist forces of Donbass on a daily basis, it is unlikely that this will happen any time soon.