Oleg Bazylewicz is a historian, editor, screenwriter, presenter, translator, scientist, and artist. He is also the son of the famous Ukrainian football coach by the same name.

Bazylewicz is now a defender in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) on the eastern front. From there, he spoke with Kyiv Post about Moscow’s myths and biggest fears, as well as a new style of painting he’s developed during the war.

Firstly, tell us about your role on the front? Where are you now?

I’m currently serving as commander of a motorized rifle platoon. I previously studied military affairs in one of Kyiv’s universities but had no combat experience in the field and I hadn’t served in the army. I'd been in the operational reserve since 2014 but I was never sent to the front.

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This time, I couldn’t stand aside and so I joined the war as a volunteer. I spent two months in the infantry as a soldier before being transferred to the artillery. Now I’m the deputy commander of the self-propelled artillery battery, fighting in the eastern direction.

What would you say is the correct term to describe the enemy?

We used to call them "Russians" or "Rashists," but I don’t believe this is quite right.

It’s also inappropriate to call them "Orcs" because the word poeticizes them to a certain extent as creatures from the world of fantasy. They are not fantasy characters – they are a vile and cruel enemy that came to our land to destroy us.

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Instead, we need to understand who our enemy really is and what they represent. So, the best term comes from Rus. We are Rus and they are Muscovites. Moscow in the Moksha language means "rotten water." So, Muscovites are those from "rotten water."

Why do they hate Ukrainians so much?

There are many reasons for their hatred of Ukrainians. They cannot forgive our cultural and historical primogeniture, nor the fact we christened them and taught them literacy. They cannot forgive us for being fundamentally unlike them nor for wanting to become like them; and they cannot forgive us for having more fertile land and more favorable natural conditions.

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The main thing is that they cannot forgive us for the evil they are doing to us. It sounds distorted, but it’s the perception of a villain who hates the one to whom he has caused harm.

The moment when they decided that they were Russia and not Muscovy [Grand Principality of Moscow] at the beginning of the 18th century was a turning point. Since then, it’s been a case of either us or them, because we cannot both be Rus. And with our natural heritage, it should be us.

This is the whole meaning of our struggle to recapture our land – it’s our heritage and our right to exist. More importantly, it’s the right to our own future – forever – and without them.

Kyiv is the cornerstone of the imperial Moscow project. Controlling Kyiv is a vital necessity for their empire. They clung to Kyiv and didn’t let it go for more than 300 years.

Kyiv is a symbol of Russia's state-building myth. And Russia will die without it.

Are they not aware of what they’re doing?

The consciousness of a Muscovite is the consciousness of an emperor – dark, confused, and generally archaic. It relies on myths. For example, "Kyiv is a holy city and the Russian land came from there" – this is how they arbitrarily interpret our Kyiv manuscripts which, for some reason, they consider to be their own. But there is nothing holy about them. After all, how could they defame and bombard us in the way they do if the city is so holy for them?

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Muscovites diligently "marked the territory" with monuments, street names and churches. All this demonstrated their essence as invaders – to show that everything belongs to them. At the same time, they suppressed what it meant to be Ukrainian in every possible way. This is logical because every Muscovite, even those who are in favor of "friendship with Ukraine," deep down feel a dilemma about whether the right to be Rus is ours or theirs.

Recent public opinion polls in Moscow region revealed that 40 percent of respondents sincerely believe that their "special operation" should end with the "capture of Kyiv." Therefore, the main question of Ukrainian-Russian relations is not the issue "who Crimea belongs to," but "who Kyiv belongs to."

Will separation from Russia (or Muscovy) help to protect us from future threats?

Walling off Muscovy will not work and will not eliminate the threat. The threat is the pervading imperial myth of Moscow that has gone unchanged for centuries. Even if we were to burn down Moscow, the myth and the threat will remain. It will take on new forms and meanings, and our children or grandchildren will soon have trouble again.

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The destruction of the Moscow imperial myth is a large-scale historical task and a topic for important and urgent discussions in Ukraine and around the world.

How can the imperial myth be shaken off?

To understand and neutralize the essence of Muscovy, it is necessary to understand the three fundamental pillars and constants of the state’s formation: terror, lies and aggression.

The state-building constants of Muscovites are as follows:

·       Terror – from repression to destruction of a disloyal population, commonplace from the Moscow princes and tsars to the Bolsheviks, and in today’s actions in occupying other sovereign states;

·       Lies – they began to systematically lie back in the 15th century when they decided to separate and create their own "Moscow Church" which caused a split in the Kyiv Metropolitanate. This act of sacrilege was based on a lie, as was the entire policy of the Moscow state from then to this day; and

·       Aggression – specifically capturing what is someone else's. They have been doing this since they started "collecting lands" whilst still the ulus of the Horde, including acts of bribery, coercion, invasion and conquest.

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They consider it necessary to intimidate people, fool them and then commit a massacre. This has been the unchanged basis of the Muscovite state for six centuries.

 

Oleh Bazylevych.

The Russian Church demonizes Ukrainians and openly calls our president Satan. What do you think is the root of this attitude?

The Russian Orthodox Church is not really a church, but rather a state bureau for fooling the population of Muscovy and an instrument of influence on the population of those lands that Muscovites still want to "collect."

Without the Russian Orthodox Church, the rulers of "rotten waters" would never have managed to intimidate and fool people for centuries and drive them into war.

From the middle of the 15th century, this pseudo-church continuously performed the function of serving the internal and external needs of the Muscovite state. The Bolsheviks initially tried to fight against religion but quickly realized their mistake and reverted to the traditional servile role. This happened in 1943 when the Russian Orthodox Church received its "Tomos from Stalin."

At the behest of the authorities, the Russian Orthodox Church included a number of Muscovy statesmen into their list of saints. It's a pity that believers in Russian orthodox churches in Ukraine still honor "all the saints in the land of Russia." The entire "service" of this pseudo-church is imbued with the imperial Moscow spirit. After all, Moscow priests, for example, still thank the Virgin Mary for her help "in capturing the city of Kazan" in 1553. It was after the massacre the Muscovites in the city that they began to be called "katsapy", meaning killers.

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You have invented a new style of painting. What makes it unique and how did you come up with the idea?

I took watercolor paints, brushes, pencils and paper with me to the war. But a new idea to paint with earth and clay appeared on the front line around the beginning of August when our positions were flooded in the rains. I realized that the properties of black soil and clay from the trenches resemble gouache (a type of thick water-based paint). I decided to try painting with these materials on dense watercolor paper. Soon, the idea came to add ash from firewood.

These materials are not easy to work with, but when you have a command over them, they produce interesting and emotionally rich painting effects. In this restrained, close-knit color scheme, it turns out a little whimsical, a little creepy, dramatic and optimistic at the same time. This is wartime after all, and that's how it probably should be. There is a certain sense in painting the war for our land with our land.

How many works have you already created?

In total, there are now about 40 works and many more ideas being developed.

 

What has the war taught you?

The war has provided me with an opportunity to restore and improve certain skills that I learnt from military training, including supporting skills such as digging, chopping, sawing, carrying, making things etc. After all, being at the front largely consists of all of these things to greater or lesser extents.

But the main lessons of the war are different. I’ve got to know a lot of people, learned how they think, what hurts them, what they dream about, what scares them and what they long for.

Under the difficult circumstances of war, these have developed within me some invaluable, albeit difficult, life skills involving understanding and empathy.

What will you do after our victory?

I would really like to return to documentary and game film projects, as well as writing books and articles. I’ve had to stop these things for now because of the war, but a lot of changes have happened which have given new color and meaning to these types of projects. Many things have finally fallen into place, although it’s a great pity at such a high price.

In the post-war world, we will have to focus firstly on how to avoid repeating the disaster and chaos of war, how to avoid making the same historical mistakes and how to appreciate what we have and love. It will be some time later when we can confront in our minds the evil that has materialized inside Russia.

So, I want to pain in clean transparent watercolors, admire the clouds and look at the sky without thinking that something might come down to attack from there. I want to live. The war brings back the acute feeling of this desire – to live, create and love.

 

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