It does not make much sense for Russia to hold dominion over the Ukrainian people after 70 years or so under the devastations of Russian Communism. Let us keep in mind, for example, the 1932-33 famine-genocide of the Ukrainians, intentionally created by Stalin and his patriotic Russian workers. How many millions of Ukrainians starved to death ? How many thousands of Ukrainian children died day by day ? No, it makes no sense for Ukraine to be politically tied-up with Russia. And I'm not even bothering about issues of mafia interests. What I am concerned about is the Spiritual/Political integrity of the Ukrainian people after decades of Communist devastations. Putin is still unconsciously possessed by Cold War Communist instincts.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SERGEI SUPINSKY, AFP, GETTY IMAGES
Published January 29, 2014
Ukraine's spreading protests are clearly tied to a modern dilemma: Should the country's allegiance lie with President Vladimir Putin's Moscow, or with the European Union? Yet a look back into its history and geography helps explain why that question is hardly new, and how the passions and upheaval of today stem from centuries of battles over Ukraine's precarious position between East and West.
It was a history that created fault lines. Eastern Ukraine fell under Russian imperial rule by the late 17th century, much earlier than western Ukraine. This helps to explain why, after the fall of the Soviet Union, people in the east have generally supported more Russian-leaning politicians. Western Ukraine spent centuries under the shifting control of European powers like Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The western third of Ukraine was even part of Poland for several years leading up to World War II. That, to some degree, helps explain why people in the west have tended to support more Western-leaning politicians. The east tends to be more Russian-speaking and Orthodox, with parts of the west more Ukrainian-speaking and with heavier Catholic influences.
But it's not just about geography or religion. "The biggest divide after all these factors is between those who view the Russian imperial and Soviet rule more sympathetically versus those who see them as a tragedy," says Adrian Karatnycky, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council of the United States.
At first there were no such divisions. In the ninth century, Ukraine, known as Kievan Rus, was becoming the early seat of Slavic power and the newly adopted Orthodox religion. But Mongol invasions in the 13th century curtailed Kiev's rise, with power eventually shifting north into Russia to present-day St. Petersburg and Moscow.
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Over the centuries, Ukraine—with its rich black soil that would help it become a major grain producer—was continually carved up by competing powers. In the 16th century major swaths of the country were under the control of Poland and Lithuania, with Cossack fighters patrolling Ukraine's frontier with Poland.
In the 17th century, war between the Tsardom of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth resulted in more internal divisions. Lands to the east of the Dnieper River fell under Russian imperial control much earlier than Ukrainian lands to the west of the Dnieper. The east became known as "Left Bank" Ukraine and a center of industry and coal. Lands to the west of the Dnieper, or "Right Bank," were to be ruled by Poland. A small part in the west, called Galicia, was allotted to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the last 19th century. The Austro-Hungarian empire ended at the end of World War I, but that small part of western Ukraine remained outside the Russian empire and was incorporated into the U.S.S.R. only as a result of the Second World War.
Under the reign of Catherine the Great, the steppe areas of eastern Ukraine became major economic centers of coal and iron. The Ukrainian language—spoken in rural areas—was twice banned by decree of the tsar, says Karatnycky (and today both languages are spoken in the country). But peace did not last for long. After the communist revolution of 1917, Ukraine was one of the many countries to suffer a brutal civil war before becoming a Soviet Republic in 1920.
In the early 1930s, to force peasants into joining collective farms, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine that resulted in the starvation and death of millions of Ukrainians. Afterward, Stalin imported large numbers of Russians and other Soviet citizens—many with no ability to speak Ukrainian and with few ties to the region—to help repopulate the east.
This, says former Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, is just one of the historic reasons that helps explain why "the sense of Ukrainian nationalism is not as deep in the east as it is in west."
On ecological maps you can even see the divide between the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine—known as the steppes—with their fertile farming soil and the northern and western regions, which are more forested, says Serhii Plokhii, a history professor at Harvard and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard. He says his institute has a map depicting the demarcations between the steppe and the forest, a diagonal line between east and west, that bears a "striking resemblance" to political maps of Ukrainian presidential elections in 2004 and 2010.
With the protests spreading east, says Pifer, the protest "has metamorphosized into much more. This started out to be about Europe, but it's also turning into protests over democracy and the end of corruption." There also appear to be political divisions based on demographics, between younger and older generations, not just geography and a turbulent history.
Whether what is happening today will become a trend or is a short-term change to earlier divisions is unclear, says Harvard's Plokhii. "But the old lines are not applicable to the degree they were even just one month ago."
There are many millions of ethnic spread all over Russia. Historically Ukrainian lands included the the Don east of present Ukraine.
Not all fault lines are the same. Relatively recently the east was also very Ukrainian and nationalistic. There have been a number of Russians settling there in the 20th centuary; but many are still Ukrainian, but Russian speaking. Previous governments have been setting up Ukrainian language schools; but Yanukovich has been closing them.
Just about everyon in Ukraine can speak Russian. But Yanukovich only recently learned, and his right hand man, Azarov could not.
The protesters in Kiev came from all walks of life and probably from all corners of the country. Kiev is mainly a Russian speaking city; close to the east. For sure there were many Russian easterners among them when on one day there were 300,000. Think how many more with the same opinion stayed home. As we see now the protests are spreading to the east and south.
The media made it sound like it was west vs east. But the main point of the protest is to change a very corrupt government and system. Sure Yanucovitch had more support in the east. But it looks like that's quickly changing. Remember that the police attacked first. And at least some of the rioters I believe have been government infiltrators. The anti-protest law was passed with fraud; and I believe it was a deliberate provocation.
Taking into account the insanely massive voter fraud in 2004; I would not put anything past this government.
"A small part in the west, called Galicia, was allotted to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the last 19th century." Incorrect"
Should say: " A small part in the west, called Galicia, was allotted to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 18th century.
Fundamental European values and East Europe.
Notes to the Letter international academic community " Support Ukrainians and they can help us build a fairer Europe" http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/03/support-ukrainians-build-fairer-europe .
About Fundamental European values in the Russian work from 1630 " first Lithuanian town that we passed was a castle Lojeŭ (modern Belarus, on
the Dnieper River)... Archimandrite (originally referred to superior abbot) Elisha met us in Kiev. And Archimandrite Elisha and brothers told me "Here, the land in Lithuania is Liberty: if someone wants to have some kind of belief , faith he has such belief."" «Здесь-де земля в Литве вольная: кто в какой вере хочет, в той и пребывает». (Lithuania this decline - the full name of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russian, Samogitian and other lands. "Russian" here from "RUS`", not Russia, Lithuania in official texts called "LITVA")
In fact, near Lojeŭ (name by UN WGRS) was 100 years the border between Asia represented by Mongol Empire and Europe represented by Grand Duchy of Lithuania, until the reconquest of Ukraine in 1363 by Olgerds. In western Europe, more commonly known Reconquest in Spain. In compliance and Ukrainian national historical tradition is that the Ukrainians in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were not an oppressed nation (but not in Poland). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blue_Waters
See more on the Ukrainian http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Битва_на_Синіх_Водах
See the map of French late 18th century town Lojeŭ a border town of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth with Russian Empire http://www.karty.by/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/0421012.jpg
The border was here 150 years, since the Left-bank Ukraine was in Russia. After Truce of Andrusovo in 1667 Kiev in Tsardom of Russia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-bank_Ukraine
This seems to illustrate a common problem in both the EU and Russia and their minions (as well as here in the US where we try to peddle our "democratic way" to the world). The thought that a "modern" progressive political system can somehow just come in and magically change a generational culture overnight is naive at best and quite often results in bloodshed and destruction of any residual culture with no set alternatives in place (think Syria). The usual chain of events is a race downward to a small scale strong-man criminal style system of rule (often misnamed as some kind of political faction) unless some outside power is willing to step in and hold the existing rulers to some higher level of function. To be successful this must continue for a long time until the over all population somehow get a higher level government together but it almost always causes resentment to the "occupying forces", a lesson we Americans should probably really take to heart after spending trillions of dollars attempt to implement "democratic reform" style of haphazard control in two Mideast countries without success. The big questions for the Ukraine right now is who will stabilize the economy and offer a framework to resolve the differences in favor of the people (I myself would not bet on Russia on this one, and I think the average Ukrainian would probably agree). It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially between Russia and the EU and what is will do with that relationship outside of the Ukrainian crisis for a long time to come.
@Joe Beef "but many are still Ukrainian, but Russian speaking"
Now, I've come across this particular expression in different variations across different portals. Not able to understand why an ethnic Ukrainian would speak Russian if the ethno-political division between ethnic Ukrainians and Russians is so deep. So, when you say 'Ukrainian' who speaks Russian are you referring to a person who is an ethnic Ukrainian (with no Russian roots whatsoever) or are you referring to an ethnic Russian who is a national of Ukraine?
@Joe Beef Yes, the protests are spreading to the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine but the objectives of the protesters in the east and south appear to quite different from those of protesters in KIev and other parts of western Ukraine.
@Joe Beef I am not buying this. All protest leaders are from Western Ukraine. The protests are not spreading either East or South. There's no question the govt is corrupt but those leading the protests aren't freedom fighters of any sort. It's Eastern mafia vs Western mafia, nothing more. The people of Ukraine will loose either way.
@Tom Mengel I don't think you can compare this situation with the middle east. What the media rarely mentions is that Yanucovitch in 2010 said he would sign with EU (still does). Very few believe this major fraudster.
70% want some time or another to sign. Looks like Putin's actions were blackmail. Ukrainians are a very resouceful and resilient people. But with the right government and peoples actions on all levels they can hope for real democracy and an end to massive corruption. I hear US in the 1880's had problems somewhat similar. Canada will support. A large portion of people there are descendants of Ukrainian pioneers.
The Ukrainians are peddling their own democracy, thank you.
@Tom Mengel Fully agree. I am a Romanian and I can tell that many Romanians think that the political fault described in the story above runs across our country, dividing Eastern and Western interrests and policies. This said, I want to point out that we are living „first hand”, right in the usual chain of events you were talking about, i.e. „the race downward to a small scale strong-man criminal system of rule”.
In this situation, I asked myself many times if we could not talk about a so-called social and historic metabolism, that makes a given population, nation or country, to pass through compulsory steps that require a certain amount of time to fulfill a specific type of political organization. History is cyclic, it has its own patterns, and the outside pressures, although positive from a general point of vue (democratic values, let`s say), can bring about a counter local reaction.
Is there anything we can do about it?
Proper education, wide education. However, what we notice now, and not only in Romania, is a progressive collapse of the systems of education. They are too pragmatic and job oriented. In my opinion, this helps on short term only. What we need is sticking to general humanist values - it is the only way in which societies could be built properly with their own, local means.
Local resentment is a big problem, indeed. Things should be solved locally.
@Armand Spenser Also known as the 1%. Bankruptcy is what happens to nations when the 1% have complete control of the economy, the government and the judiciary. Ukraine may be bankrupt but Ukraine is not Broke.
1) Ukraine will continue to depend on Russia for energy supplies so there's no way, currently, to be truly independent as both the current (East-friendly) and previous (West-friendly) govts have nearly bankrupted the country
2) EU agreement resembles the Economic Hitman-esque trade pact where country has to remove all barriers to multinational corporations taking over vital industries and resources. People are naive if they think this agreement will allow Ukraine to prosper as an equal partner in the EU.
It is a sad situation and a struggle between two corrupt fractions in the country, nothing more. It seems, whichever way they go, the people of Ukraine will suffer. It is also quite possible that the country will be split in two. I do hope that further bloodshed is avoided.
@Joe Beef @Sebastian Corn@Tom Mengel The vote in 1991 has nothing to do with current Yanukovich's support in the East. It's still quite strong, but people realize the govt is corrupt. Still, they don't consider Western mafia as an alternative and there is no evidence they're joining the current protests.
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