Nobody dares ask the question; Just what was it that drives the Ukrainian hatered of the Russians? Instead of asking us to understand how the Russians think, maybe we should try to understand what it does to a people to see nearly 5 million of their family members deliberately starved to death. Maybe we should conceive that this leaves deep scars and breeds the trap of believing the "enemy of my enemy is my friend".
The Ukrainians, like many Eastern European populations, Poles, Romanians, Slovaks, have to one degree or another frequently been used as political footballs in the geo-political games of oppression and conflict between there larger more powerful neighbors. Not only does this not create a great deal of political sophistication but more often paranoia, and an attitude of revenge and hate. This becomes an open door to what ever form of tyrant is willing to seize it and manipulate those feelings (whether they be justified or not) to their own advantage.
There you have the present day Ukrainians with there long simmering resentments against the Russians, the Serbs in the 1990's caught between various Muslim factions and the Western powers of NATO, the Slovaks of the late '30's turning to the Germans caught between the Poles and the Hungarians both slicing off pieces of territory (as well as ages old oppression by the Hungarians.) The Romanians caught between a collapsing Ottoman Empire and an expansionist Russian one. The Poles trapped in a three way tug of war between Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarians.
It's a story oft repeated. The parameters of the love/hate relationships, revenge and violence don't really change, just the name tags the participants are wearing and the date on the calendar.
The unwritten rule for Europe since the end of WW II has been that the era of changing national borders via military force is over. That precedent has held until Putin and his neo-Tsarist ambitions came along.
Yes some 12 million Russians died in the fight against the Nazis and their various allies. But we also need to understand that that was in part a tragedy of their own making. Maybe if Stalin and Molotov hadn't been so damned anxious to make deals with the Germans so as to seize eastern Poland, the independent Baltic states and large swaths of Finland and Romania, it might have been a different story.
The story we often hear is that Putin and his gang think that Russia was treated "unfairly" in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Really? Really? What a bad distasteful joke piled on top of an outright and naked lie.
Truth is the Russian communists were scared shitless that the Western powers were going to hold them and communism itself accountable for their 70 some years of tyranny and criminality. But it never happened, Bush 41 treated them with kid gloves. (Gorbachev's own transcripts from them Malta summit show this.)
After WW II we tried and executed the Nazis for their crimes against humanity. But we conveniently ignore that that horrible war started with a deal between the communists and the Nazis.
Maybe someone can tell us how many communists went to the gallows for the decades of throwing their own people into the Gulag. Just where were the individuals and communism held accountable for the slaughter of the Polish Officer Corp in the forests of Western Belorussia or the 60,000 Polish civilians who were marched into the labor camps in 1940 never to return? So tell us who was held accountable for the slaughter in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. How many Eastern Europeans disappeared into unmarked graves during the nearly 50 years of Russian military occupation? Where is the justice for them?
If the Russians so consider the communist period such a "black mark" on their history why do so many former KGB and party apparatchiks hold positions of power today? Why do journalists and artists who dare question Putin and his thugs end up in jail, dead or simply disappear? Why do statues of Lenin and Stalin still dot the landscape? Why does a military honor guard still stand at the entrance to Lenin's tomb? Why is his tomb even still there?
The communist period was just a different form of Russian imperialism with Tsars and Dukes replaced with Commissars and political officers. Putin is now just trying to do the same thing with his own batch of oligarchs armed with 21st century propaganda and technology.
The Russians didn't get treated "unfairly," they got handed a "get out of jail free card".