War in Ukraine: European imperialism?

Tramor QuemeneurLecturer at Paris 8 and Cergy universities, “Member of the Memory and Truth Commission” Stora report “. He is also a member of the Orientation Board of the Palais de la Porte Doree – National Museum of Immigration History.MNHI). He wrote ten books, the last one Living in Algeria XIXe for XXe century (New World, 2022). Dissertation work conducted under the supervision of Benjamin Stora and defended in 2007 War without “no”. ? Disobedience, desertion and disobedience during the Algerian War (1954-1962).

The Life of Ideas : As a colonial researcher and historian, how would you define the war in Ukraine? ?

Tramor Kemenor: Russian imperialism is fundamentally different from its counterpart in the West in one aspect. As long as Western countries have projected themselves all over the world mainly to colonize territories XVIe for XIXe century, Russian imperialism has always operated by covering the neighboring territories with an oil slick. Poland, Finland, the Baltic countries, Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus countries, even Afghanistan were – or almost were – protected by Russia.

After the territory came under the control of Moscow, an intensive Russification policy began. Thus, the Russian language is introduced, school textbooks are changed (this is already happening in the Ukrainian provinces that recently joined Russia). In this sense, it is indeed a colonial policy comparable to that practiced by the Westerners.

Consider the case of Algeria: XIXe century, the existing educational structures were misused, leading to more than 90 When the War of Independence began in 1954, %% of Algeria’s population was illiterate. After restricting traditional educational opportunities in Koranic schools, the Third Republic failed to provide the educational structures necessary for the education of all children, hence these dramatic statistics.

The Russians have a similar and even more authoritarian policy. In Ukraine, in 1876, books in the Ukrainian language were banned. In Poland, in 1885, education in the Polish language was banned.

The Life of Ideas : During the colonial wars XIXe and XXe century, how mobilization occurs in European armies ?

Tramor Quemeneur: : in France, in XIXe In the 20th century, the system of universal conscription has not yet been introduced, and recruitment is carried out among the poorest sections of the population, and in fact there is no choice. Convicts were also involved in military service. This is especially the case in Africa’s officially “Bat’ d’Af” battalions. African light infantry battalions » (KNOW). In these units there were the most stubborn soldiers sent to the army. pipe cutter but also those who resisted the government the most. It is no coincidence that during the Algerian war of independence, one of the most deserters was in these units.

about XXe We must mention the forced mobilization of colonial soldiers for two world conflicts in the 19th century. Although conscription has just been introduced and general mobilization has begun in Algeria, there are still movements of civil disobedience. For example, in the Tlemcen region of western Algeria, even before the First World War, some Algerians preferred to go into exile rather than do military service. Conscription led to revolts in Algeria and Morocco, especially in Aures in 1916. The mobilization of soldiers from the colonial empire for World War II was similar to the Great War.

The Life of Ideas : How the European Powers Made Soldiers Comply ?

Tramor Quemeneur: Isolation from the original environment is an important component to ensure discipline. But the frame also plays a role. Previously, the fate of the disobedient could not have been shorter: death sentence with or without a trial. Desertion was synonymous with cowardice. This design was still in effect during the First World War. This is the reason why they were shot for example it was more in the first two years of the conflict.

Slovik, the only American soldier executed during World War II, was convicted for cowardice in the face of the enemy. He was especially forgotten by The modern era During the Algerian War. Gradually, over time XXe In the 19th century, desertion became politicized: it came close to the concept of treason. But here too, it has the character of special gravity. To betray the group is to advance in disguise while working for the enemy’s success.

These two concepts – cowardice and treachery – coexist in today’s Russia. Vladimir Putin has for a long time carried masculine values, given the decline of Western democracies, and he has been justified. special operation By fighting an imaginary Nazi enemy in Ukraine. All this explains why Russian defectors were promised a disastrous fate if caught.

The Life of Ideas : There were desertions in the French army during the Algerian war ?

Tramor Quemeneur: Yes. I counted 900 in the Algerian territory, which is not many. But before going to Algeria, we must also consider the desertions that happened. However, these are probably more, which cannot be precisely measured at this time. Finally, other forms of insubordination must be considered, namely conscientious objection (ie, refusal to bear arms) and insubordination, especially failure to respond when summoned.

In total there were 12,000, perhaps 15,000 disobedients. This is small compared to the number of soldiers sent to Algeria (1). about %). Nevertheless, in 1955-1956, large protest movements took place in the army during mass conscription. A little like the mobilization in Russia today.

The second moment of protest occurred a few years later, in 1960, when underground disobedience movements were organized with the support of the intelligentsia. this” Manifesto 121 “, especially Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Signoret, Marguerite Duras, André Breton, etc. This manifesto was a lightning bolt on the political and intellectual landscape, legitimizing the right of disobedience in the Algerian war for the young French.

In today’s Russia, the situation is different, as critical intellectuals are already censored and repressed, while others are part of the regime. organic intellectuals According to Antonio Gramsci’s term. Nevertheless, there are fault lines within the regime that can lead to calls for disobedience, even from outside. This is what happened in the 1960s for the colonial wars that Portugal fought with numerous defiances.

It should be noted that Ukrainians conduct propaganda against Russian soldiers through the Internet, which seems to be effective. Propaganda through tracts during the Algerian War FLN The project for the legionnaires also paid off by creating channels for the repatriation of the legionnaires to their countries of origin (especially Germany).

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