The word “victory” has slowly become banal. It is included in all kinds of greetings, including birthday wishes – “Here’s to your birthday and to victory!” We are, indeed, pining for it and yet we do not quite understand how to achieve it. Many are not even sure what victory should look like.

The most common formula for victory comes from the office of the President and it is clear and understandable – the return of all occupied and annexed territories to Ukrainian control. That will be the restoration of the Ukrainian state within internationally recognized borders, and that means war until the last Russian soldier has left Ukrainian territory.

To achieve this, there will have to be considerable successes on Russian territory, preferably facilitated by Russians themselves, because the Ukrainian army will not go into Russia. Ukraine has never had aggressive imperialist appetites.

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For Russia to stop wanting to fight, the political elite in the Kremlin must change. Its imperialist values must be replaced by democratic ones. Someday this will happen, but obviously not in the near future. Those striving for power after Putin is gone will use the same jingoistic slogans and follow in his path, because the idea that democracy is no good for Russia – that the country needs authoritarian imperialism – is deeply rooted in the minds of Russian citizens.

Georgia has been living with the consequences of Russian aggression for 15 years now and, surprisingly, the country’s leadership has come to terms with the loss of territories and is trying to restore “normal” relations – air traffic and trade deals. Russian citizens enter Georgia, calmly and without visas, to escape from being mobilized for the war in Ukraine.

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Getting used to the consequences of an unjust war pushes aside thoughts of possible victory or revenge. This, it seems, is what has happened in Georgia.

In Ukraine, only one other word can compete with the word “victory” in terms of how frequently it is used. That word is “counteroffensive.” For many Ukrainians, these two words have become almost synonymous. They are sure that the counteroffensive will lead to victory.

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Yet any sober-minded person, while realizing that victory is impossible without a counteroffensive, understands that after the counteroffensive, a new line of contact – a new front line – will be created. Only if this line is the border with Russia, will it be possible to focus on how to make sure that Ukraine’s eastern neighbor does not break in again.

I want to believe that the Ukrainian army will reach the border with Russia, as it did during the liberation of the Kharkiv region. But if this does not happen, Ukraine will have to prepare for a further counteroffensive. Again, we will need to accumulate ammunition and weapons – and all under constant shelling.

The word “victory” in its new Ukrainian meaning is more specific than any of the “Russian” versions of the word. At first, Russia defined victory as the capture of the entire country, then the capture of all of Ukraine except its Western territories, then the capture of Kyiv. Now “Russian victory” means the capture of the ruins of Bakhmut, Maryinka, and Avdiivka.

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From "Victory for Ukraine", an anthology of comics published in September 2022 by Tokyo Pop and now available digitally.

And yet, the Russian army is struggling even with this. They are not ready to lose this war, but they have been losing it for a long time. This is precisely what explains the constantly changing stated goals of the “Special Military Operation.”

Ukraine has already achieved many small victories that work towards a future big victory, and not all of them are directly linked to the Russian aggression. Ukraine will have to defeat itself many times over, and on many domestic fronts – on the front line against corruption and incompetence, on the reform front, and even on the ideological front, inside the country.

After all, a significant part of the population remains in silent opposition to any change. They are seemingly indifferent to the future of their country.

For several months, in the town of Pervomaisk, in the Kharkiv region, they discussed the renaming of the city. What should replace the Soviet-era name which honors May 1 – Labor Day. Young activists proposed a dozen new names and even organized online and offline voting which found the name Dobrodar (Good Gifts) to be the most popular. But the local council decided not to consider the issue. The activists were given to understand that only about 700 out of 30,000 residents took part in the voting. The rest of the inhabitants are apparently satisfied with the old name of the city.

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That is probably how it is. The question now is whether the activists will give up or continue to fight to get rid of the name associated with Soviet history. Knowing the national character, I assume that the struggle will continue and, in the end, will achieve victory for the new Ukraine. But will this happen before the big victory or after it? I do not know.

I do not doubt that these tiny battles inside Ukraine are being carefully watched by Russia, and any defeats for pro-European forces will motivate Russian politicians to fight further. They say that they want to liberate Ukrainians – the ones who sit quietly on their sofas and wait for everything to end and for everything to go back to being as it was. It is they who are being addressed when the Russians promise to return all the renamed Ukrainian cities to their Soviet names, to re-instate “Lenin” and “Marx” in street names.

Inside Russia, they are even going to change the name of the city of Volgograd – reverting to its Soviet name “Stalingrad.” This clearly demonstrates to Russians, Ukrainians, and the whole world the position to which the authorities wish to return the country and all the lands that Russia manages to seize.

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Perhaps justice would be better served by replacing the name Volgograd with Bakhmut, in memory of the destroyed city, the tens of thousands of dead Ukrainian civilians, and this criminal attack on a neighboring country. This could be considered a significant act of repentance.

After that, we could talk about a big, full-fledged victory – after Russia’s victory over itself.

 The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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Comments (3)

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I support
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Nuts

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Paul
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The number of Russian dead will hit 200000 soon when it does, make sure that all international news organizations get that in a press release. Hope that that will filter in to Russia.

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Mike West
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Changing of names should be a low priority. Focus on the future not the past.

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