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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ukraine Portrayed as Naziland on Russian Television (Updated)

If you’re looking for journalism in the mainstream Russian media’s coverage of Ukraine, you’re wasting your time. The glacier of the post-Yeltsin/post-Putin era has confined balanced reporting to a handful of media outlets and a fledgling blogosphere.

Monitoring reports about Ukraine, whether originating on Russian television or in the Kremlin, can be compared to time travel. Welcome to the lost world of Pravda, Izvestia, and programma Vremya.

To the extent that the Western media often cite Russian sources as an authority on Ukraine, they also partake in this smorgasbord of Soviet-style propaganda.

As a result, the public, both in Russia and the West, often consumes a widely circulated mix of silly misconceptions and sinister misrepresentations:

Narrator: Gift-wrapped in black is the hit of spring sales in Ukraine, the Hitler toy. Not a very large toy, about 40 cm in size, but with a wardrobe that even Barbie would envy. The uniform comes in everyday and parade versions, complete with a dark-green leather coat, plus a replacement head made of porcelain, with a good-natured face and a peaked cap with fascist eagles, two Iron Crosses, and, of course, a swastika. It’s everywhere. The manufacturers — the marking says China — obviously did a sophisticated job developing the concept. They captured Hitler in detail, down to his jackboots. The heels are lined with square nails, like those used in the German military footwear of the 1930s. The only mismatch is the eyeglasses: For some reason, they resemble those of John Lennon, imparting humanity to the premier Nazi in the world.

“Buy today. Tomorrow can be too late.” Despite the not-so-childish price of about $250, in Kyiv there’s a whole line of people eager to buy the toy.

Store manager: The toy’s made of plastic. No, it has moving arms and legs. I’m a having a boy…a male customer at the moment.

Narrator: In stores, they tell and show, with pleasure, what the Hitler toy can do.

Store manager: Here come the decorations, orders, a tie, a cane, this thing I don’t know how to call, and gloves. Yes, you can undress him; his clothes are equipped with snap fasteners.

Narrator: This can be a table souvenir but one can also use the Hitler toy to play soldiers. There are no age specifications. The gift is suitable both for children and adults, store managers say.

[Embattled Ukrainophobe] Oles Buzyna: The very policy of the Ukrainian government leads to the resurgence of neo-Nazism in Ukraine. When an officer of the German army, Hitler’s army, gets the “hero of Ukraine” honorary title from Yushchenko, I believe that, naturally, every kid should have a Hitler toy. What else can you play with according to Yushchenko’s rules?

While the Hitler toy hasn’t yet become the dream of Ukrainian boys and girls, as Barbie did in the US, those who remember the deeds of the toy’s prototype are sounding the alarm. But the State Commission on Ethics and Morals maintains peace of mind.

Heorhiy Buiko, chairman of the Anti-Fascist Committee of Ukraine: It’s immoral, immoral from the vantage point of assessing history and the results of the Great Patriotic War for our people, and World War II for the international community.

Narrator: In Ukraine, many still recall the fascism popularization scandal. Last year, in one of the most prestigious private Kyiv schools (even Yushchenko’s kids study there) a foreign teacher offered students to discover positive moments in the actions of Hitlerites. A special commission has been conducting a probe for half a year, but no results have been available so far. In the center of the Ukrainian capital, not far from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, it was only in the runup to Victory Day celebrations that Mein Kampf, Hitler’s book, was taken off newsstands. After all, on May 9 those who defeated fascism will definitely march here.
Vitaliy Kadchenko, Yevgeniy Krivonosov, Elizaveta Tatarinova, Aleksandr Sokhnevich, Channel One, Kiev [Kyiv].

As a Kyivite, I’ve read reports of Mein Kampf being peddled in downtown Kyiv. This ugly phenomenon, while not unique to Ukraine, must not be tolerated.

But the $250 Hitler toy, “the hit of spring sales,” and the "whole line of people" eager to buy it have totally escaped my attention. Where are they?


Well, it appears that the BBC has already picked up the Russian side of the story, albeit with some discrepancies.

UNIAN has done the same, quoting
The Earth Times, which in turn traces the story to
"Zerkalo Tizhden" yet provides no links.

My trilingual "Hitler toy" queries at
Dzrekalo Tyzhnya, branded as Zerkalo Nedeli in Russian and, sometimes, as Mirror Weekly in English, have generated 0 results.

Video uploaded from:


Anonymous said...

While items like the one you have very well written and documented go on in the "media" and continue unabated via written press, Internet, broadcasts, and now NGO's, Ukrainian govt officials in most cases act like ostriches, with their heads down in the sand searching for "business" and "investors', with their nether regions exposed. My only hope is that Ukraine does not go the way of the dodo.

Seventeen years of independence and still mass media relies on Moscow for news on and about Ukraine. And this is also true of Ukrainians living in Ukraine as well as abroad.

Taras said...

The Ukrainian government machinery works poorly and communicates poorly.

After all, Ukrainian officialdom pissed away the immense credibility boost of the Orange Revolution. They live like Western corporate execs, but rarely speak English, or any other foreign language for that matter. Why try harder?

No wonder Ukraine often fails to make her voice heard. That prolongs the Western habit of viewing Ukraine through the Kremlin’s lens.

Hans said...

This is just awful.

And in a way, doubly sad because it distracts away from the legitimate issues of neo-nazism and quasi-fascist groups that are apparently on the rise both in Ukraine and Russia.

Concentrating on a stupid, insensitive piece of war memorabilia and a mishandled homework assignment about propaganda turns the story into manufactured sensationalism. Which is what they're after, of course.

Anyway, asserting it's a "must-have" toy is just idiotic.

Anonymous said...
"Роздягни Гітлера, або Барбіфюрер у подарунок"

could the story be a plant albeit on a real topic? Sure anything is possible. But still nice to know that Russia Today reads Mirror Weekly - always knew it was an extremely influential paper.

Taras said...

You’re right to point out the attention diversion effect.

Had Channel One really cared about the proliferation of neo-Nazism, they wouldn’t have gone that far. Walking the streets of Moscow would have given them plenty of material. As an alternative, they could have done a report on the migration of Russian-influenced neo-Nazism to Ukraine.

What they did is a grossly misleading, deceptive report that goes beyond sensationalism and fits into a pattern of defamation. Thanks to the Western media’s blind faith in Russia as a reliable source of information on Ukraine, the story hit the screen around the globe.

(By the way, in the US, the "Ukrainian Nazi" subject has been exploited before. Many Ukrainian Americans still recall the The Ugly Face of Freedom, the CBS 60 Minutes program which aired October 23, 1994.)

Luckily, I became aware of this Western dimension minutes after I published my initial blog posting — by following up on several “Hitler toy” queries to my blog.

Once I Googled the “Hitler toy,” I posted an update. Thanks to Global Voices and Google, dozens of people curious about the story ended up learning Ukraine’s side of the story. The list of VIP visitors includes the European Commission, the UNDP Kyiv office, the US Coast Guard, the Romanian Embassy in Moscow, and Yale University.

While the Russian side of the story raises the issue of balance, the Western version raises the issue of blowback.

UNIAN (Ukrainian Independent Information News Agency) eagerly jumped at the Hitler toy, linking to an English-language source that quoted “Zerkalo Tizhden” yet gave no link. Doesn’t UNIAN know that there is no such newspaper as “Zerkalo Tizhden” in Ukraine? This blowback of unverified information almost merits a conspiracy theory.

Whether a coordinated attack or not, the Hitlergate proves that Ukraine can be asleep at the switch when it comes to English-language media issues.

Taras said...

Wow! Thanks a lot! So here’s the original report! Argh…too bad I couldn’t find it.

Well, there is a Hitler toy on sale at a certain store in Ukraine.

But is it the “hit of spring sales,” as Russia’s Channel One claimed? Is it manufactured in Ukraine, as the Western media said? Where is that “whole line of people eager to buy” it? Where’s all the fun?

By the way, the BBC seems to have pulled the story off its Web site.

But YouTube still has it.

Others chose to keep it intact on their Web sites. And most of their readers swallowed it. Be sure to check out the commentary section.,2144,3288661,00.html

Here’s a great Russian-language summary of Ukraine’s helplessness in the Hitlergate:

Anonymous said...


Lately ORT (Public Russian Television) presented a story, adding one more link to the chain of typical for the recent Russian news headlines. Vitaliy Kadchenko, ORT’s reporter in Kyiv, Ukraine, sharply and abruptly described the “reality” of a city, captivated by some inexistent fascists.

“As appears that Hitler puppets are a very saleable merchandise here. The doll is wrapped up in a beautiful package – and it is a top spring merchandise in Kyiv” – says the “unbiased and honest” Russian journalist.

The toys are 40 cm tall (produced in China) and each doll is priced at $250. Adolph has 3 suites, a cap; and has a movable jaw. The filming was perfect – black presentation box, golden numbers, and nice set of accessories – boots, leather coat with a bandage, black glasses “a la John Lennon”. A Hollywood blockbuster, in other words!
As one of the viewers said “it’s simply a set of toy dishes, Russian-speaking toy-toddlers and the recipe how to make a soup out of them”
It is more than APPARENT that Russian TV channels went back to early seventies – because even the most prejudiced Ukrainian media looks like British BBC when compared to Russian Television.
But BBC itself acted more then surprisingly. On the 22nd of April the company broadcasted a news report on Hitler-doll. Everything to the tiniest fragment was dubbed and mimicked from the Russian version: the camera perspective of the “Nazi-toy”, a worried voice of the reporter, and even the “expert’s” text, who’s usually getting his “generous” gratuity from the ignorant readers, submitting articles about historical unproven stories to one of Ukrainian papers.
In the BBC report, Jane Hadden starts the report with words “Could this really become the new must-have toy for the children of Ukraine?”
We, of course, will not cavil at every of the hundreds of mistakes in the plot, for example, reporter’s alignment of a small Souvenir Shop in the Mall (“Globe”) selling expensive trinkets and a normal toy store.
Or – how many Ukrainians can afford to buy such a “nazi-foofraw”. They would probably have to cut their budget by 90% to buy it. What would they eat then?
The Video-sequence is very impressive – the dissolve of Hitler’s face into the background picture of Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the bell tower of St. Sophia cathedral. As they say, “mute the TV and try to guess what the story is about”. The cases of mindless copying of somebody else’s reportage are not rare in the industry – slackers-reporters can be found in any country.
A doll in the souvenir shop is an ABSURD, which should have received proper response from local law enforcement authority. Nothing more. Although one shouldn’t see Ukraine as an exception.
If you search the popular online "EBAY" auction for “Hitler”, the query will instantly populate 1799 different offers – post stamps, coins, postcards, magazines, silhouettes, sculptures, gift issues of “Mein Kampf” from 1940 in the mint condition! HALLLOOOOOOOOOOOO?!!!!!!!
And this is just what could be seen on the surface – a shadow European market of Nazi attributes is prospering. Did British prince William make the suit on his own when he arrived to the party in the Nazi dress?
Mass Russian ANTI-UKRAINIAN campaign aiming to disparage and vilify Ukraine in the world’s eyes is fast on its way.
Its purpose is to raise social hostility both within Ukraine and abroad, in order to force the Stalinist propaganda against the weak attempts to reconcile Ukrainians. Just to be able to attack from all sides and angles.
The top idea is probably to draw the EP’s attention to the danger of Nazism in Ukraine. Russia is now squeamish about the means – starting from Yushchenko personification-nazification and going all the way through to the hidden cameras.
Russians expect the hardest blow on May 9th, but so far it’s just the artillery preparation. And the British broadcaster mindlessly plays into Russians’ hand, assisting Russian imperial policy. It is again one of those cases when Ukraine is judged and seen through the eyes of its neighbor’s propaganda.
And it will last until Ukrainians become the source themselves. Somehow BBC doesn’t show the reality of Poland or Hungary using Russian media reports and video sequences, or I am mistaken???
Is that just a journalist’s and editor’s incompetence which has to be immediately disproved followed by a public apology or it is a propaganda to assist the splitting of the country to throw a weak democracy back in the abyss?

Taras said...

Thank you!

I’ve read the original Ukrainian version of this article, titled “Операція ‘Нацизм’” (Operation Nazism).

Andrew said...

It's been retracted!

Hans said...

Just saw this:

"The has withdrawn an article titled “Adolf Hitler Arrives in Ukraine Shops.” The source material that the article was based on was both inaccurate and misleading."

Taras said...

We did it! At least one more media outlet has retracted the story. Thank you for the tip, guys!

However, not all have been as cooperative as The

We need more action to make the Western media embrace higher standards and firsthand sources in its coverage of Ukraine.

Taras said...

We've been working hard to remove the pollution this story has generated from the web.

Let's clean this mess up!


Taras said...

Thank you, Taras! I'm in. I just emailed them.

Taras said...

Deutsche Welle have apologised!

Prominent European media outlets recently circulated false reports of an Adolf Hitler doll being made in Ukraine. Ukrainian journalist Yevgeny Minko said he was disappointed with how the erroneous story was handled.

DW-WORLD.DE was among the European media sources to publish the falsified report on its English site in April 2008. It has since been removed from the Web site. The editors apologize to those readers who were offended by the publication of the article.,2144,3337110,00.html

Taras said...


Thanks to Halya Coynash of KHRPG and to many good people who contributed to the effort, we’ve achieved good results!

More credits here and here.