Anno Hellenbroich

Whoever in these days reads and listens to the agitated reactions expressed by some media people or politicians about the ongoing war situation – with opinions that seem to be more attached to militarism than to peace – is getting depressed. Where will the endless calls for weapons, for ammunition in support of the defensive struggle of the Ukrainians lead to, given that there are already so many victims, dead and injured?

Despite the fact that almost 750,000 people have signed in Germany the latest peace appeal by Alice Schwarzer (editor of the women magazine „Emma“) and Sarah Wagenknecht (a parliamentary deputy from the Left) calling for more diplomatic initiatives, this was almost ignored. Other appeals in recent months have mostly been publicly marginalized. German Brigadier General Erich Vad, who also spoke at the big peace demonstration in Berlin two weeks ago, pointed out the danger that the “West” has not clearly defined the war aims in its support for the Ukraine: Some state that there should be “victory” over Russia (the largest nuclear power in the world!), some state that the “Ukraine should not loose” . But such critical voices like Vad are pushed into the background or worse, they get defamed and personally attacked.

In the library of my grandfather, born in 1874, there was an old Reclam edition of the tragedies of the Greek writer Sophocles. In his work “Antigone”, a tragedy between „law” represented in the person of Creon and a “ conscience based action  ”, personified by Antigone (because she violated the order of Creon), we find verses that led to the well-known Anglo Saxon idiom: Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. In a modern Latin collection of quotations, the corresponding passage, translated by Muriel Kasper in 2020, reads in German: Those whom God would destroy, he first strikes with madness (Die, die Gott verderben will, die schlägt er zuerst mit Wahnsinn. ) This saying comes to mind when one considers the current deadlocked war situation and the ongoing public debate.

The present bloody struggle in Ukraine reminds us of the brutality of the “war of position” in World War 1, the „ static battles” in the trenches with its monstrous blood toll suffered by Millions of young French and German Soldiers at the time.

It is hard to imagine how there could be an end to this conflict, that risks to spill over into a world war. Nevertheless, a very knowledgeable writer, Professor Nicolai Petro, dares to give a far-sighted reflection in his voluminous book “The Tragedy of Ukraine”.(*)

“In classical Athens, ‘tragedy’ had a therapeutic and healing function. It enabled Athenians to confront themselves with their deepest fears and hatreds and overcome them by a process of „catharsis“, a change of heart. A “reconciliation commission” could take over the function of the ancient tragedy and influence the development in Ukraine,” he writes in an essay for the publisher de Gruyter.

Thus, serious diplomatic steps that could lead to a ceasefire should be coupled with a reconciliation commission that in the long run helps to overcome the historically grown hatred between the brother nations in this proxy war.

[Petro, Nicolai N. “The Tragedy of Ukraine: What Classical Greek Tragedy Can Teach Us About Conflict Resolution”, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2022. The author Nicolai Petro served under President H.W. Bush as State Department Assistant Policy Advisor on the Soviet Union and as temporary attaché in Moscow. He now teaches at the University of Rhode Island, a professor of comparative international politics, peace studies and non-violence. Marcy Winograd in Hollywood Progressive]

Petro, Nicolai N. “Introduction. The Tragedy of Ukraine: What Classical Greek Tragedy Can Teach Us About Conflict Resolution,” Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2023, pp. XIII-XVI.

More articles by Nicolai N. Petro can be found on his personal website:



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