After the Russian invasion, the evacuation of children, people with disabilities, senior citizens, and multi-child families from Kyiv. | Photo by Olexiy Samsonov/KCSA via Wikimedia Commons
We have seen and read about the immediate and utter devastation of the Russian War on Ukraine, the exodus of displaced citizens, buildings reduced to rubbles, corpses on the streets, tanks and armored vehicles burned, etc., but there are more sinister and hidden consequences of this heartless and senseless conflict. They will be lurking in the consciousness and brewing deep in the soul of this generation and those to come until they are ripe for another blow-up.
The suffering and trauma unleashed by this war on victims and perpetrators will not end after the dust and clouds of battles have settled. When cruelties are committed, victims and perpetrators alike suffer the fruits of trauma. Truly, there are no winners in war, for though the victors may enjoy short-term gains, the tolls and costs of victory may be a bigger price to pay. The enmity between these people has been stoked and will keep on burning down the centuries.
The Ukrainians will never forget nor forgive the Russians for what they’ve done to them and their country. And the most unfortunate part of this war was Putin’s personal responsibility and how he dragged his whole nation into it. His Stalinisque attitude in perpetrating wanton destruction of a nation has blemished his own people and, as a leader, degraded himself beyond redemption. He won’t be around to see the full extent of the harm he has done.
Putin did not learn from recent history that empire-building and conquest did not accrue long-term benefits for the former Soviet Union. Empires don’t last forever, and when they crumble, they leave more mess, chaos, and untold suffering on people. The fact that none of the former satellite countries of the Soviet Union, who are now part of the European Union, are too eager to embrace him and his agenda sends a clear message. No one wants to return to a repressive regime.
“Putin did not learn from recent history that empire-building and conquest did not accrue long-term benefits for the former Soviet Union. Empires don’t last forever, and when they crumble, they leave more mess, chaos, and untold suffering on people.”
History is littered with accounts of the cruelty of wars, and the price humanity has to pay for them. Not long ago, we saw the tragedy in the Balkans, where ethnic cleansing and genocidal war were perpetrated. The trauma unleashed by the Muslim Ottoman Empire’s conquest of the predominantly Christian Balkans left simmering for centuries among the people in the region. Old grudges pitting one ethnic group against another or Christians against Muslims, who were viewed as undesirables and collaborators, have reached a boiling point and erupted several times in the past. The latest of which was during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. Without a galvanizing leader to keep the country together, all hell broke loose.
The same historical script unfolded in the Rwandan genocidal conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes. It was a fit of tribal jealousy and resentment between the tribes stoked by the colonial conquest of Rwanda by the Germans and Belgians. Decades after the country regained its independence, the majority Hutu tribe kept their grievances and unleashed them on the ruling minority Tutsi, favored by both colonial powers over the Hutus. When the ripe moment came, the Hutu revolted, and the tribal war left countless innocent Rwandans on both sides dead.
The wars of colonial conquest and empire-building of past centuries have reduced many former colonies into marginalized and failed states in modern times. Many countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, ravaged by colonial conquests, have struggled to achieve significant socio-economic development and political stability. These countries are saddled with corrupt governments and populations who suffer economic inequity and the glaring disparity between the multitudes of poor and the small elite, who inherited economic and political control of their countries from their former colonial masters.
“Today, a significant number of both races continue to suffer from poverty, substance abuse, and a plethora of psychosocial issues and other consequences of social iniquities.”
These are symptoms of people whose spirits have been wounded, broken, and dissipated by colonial oppression and repression. The cycle of retraumatization and trauma transmission from one generation to the next continues. The harsher and longer the colonial rule, the deeper the wounds left on the collective psyche of a nation.
One does not have to look beyond this country to see its effects on Native Americans and African Americans who were victims of genocidal war and slavery. Today, a significant number of both races continue to suffer from poverty, substance abuse, and a plethora of psychosocial issues and other consequences of social iniquities.
Wars are an abomination that often brings out the worse among warring parties and inflict suffering on innocent people that lasts beyond a lifetime.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.