Why Should Ukraine Not Split? 357

There had never been an Ukrainian nation state until the last twenty five years.  The boundaries of the old Soviet Socialist Republics were never intended to define nation states, and indeed were in part designed to guard against forming potentially dangerous cohesive units.  The Ukrainians are a nation and f they wish are certainly entitled to a state, but that its borders must be those defined, and changed several times, by the Soviet Union for the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic is not axiomatic.

It is not true that there is a general desire for secession for Ukraine on the linguistic and broadly West East split.  It is true that key political attitudes do correlate closely to the linguistic split, with Russian speakers identifying with the ousted government, and favouring closer ties with Russian over closer ties with the West, while Ukrainian speakers overwhelmingly favour EU integration.  But that does not translate into a general desire by the Russian speakers to secede from a Ukraine that goes the other way.  The key to this is that two thirds of Russian speaking Ukrainian nationals view themselves as ethnically Ukrainian, not Russian.  Only a third of Russian speakers, a sixth of the general population, regard themselves as ethnically Russian.  It does appear to be true that among those who view themselves as ethnically Russian, there is a significant desire for union with Russia, and that there is probably a majority in some Eastern provinces for that idea, probably including Crimea.  But the area involved is far smaller than the linguistically Russian area.

Ethnicity is of course a less tangible concept than linguistic identity, and has little claim to objective reality, particularly in an area with such turbulent history of population movement.  But it is futile to pretend it has no part in the idea of a nation state, and is best regarded as a cultural concept of self-identification.

The historical legacy is extremely complex.  Kievan Rus was essential to the construction of Russian identity, but for Russia to claim Kiev on that basis would be like France claiming Scandinavia because that is where the Normans came from.  Kievan Rus was destroyed and or displaced by what historical shorthand calls the Mongal hordes, almost a millennium ago.  Ukrainian history is fascinating, the major part of it having been at various times under Horde, Lithuanian, Polish, Krim Tartar, Galician, Cossack Federation, Russian and Soviet rule.

Still just within living memory, one in seven Ukrainians, including almost the entire intellectual and cultural elite, was murdered by Stalin.  An appalling genocide.  Like Katyn a hundred times over.  That is the poisonous root of the extreme right nationalism that has rightly been identified as a dangerous element in the current revolution.  Pro-western writers have largely overlooked the fascists and left wing critics have largely overlooked Stalin.  His brutal massacre and ethnic cleansing of the Krim Tartar is also relevant – many were forcibly deported to Uzbekistan, and I have heard the stories direct.

Having served in the British Embassy in Poland shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I regard as blinkered those who deny that membership of the European Union would be a massive advantage to Ukraine.  In 1994 there was very little difference in the standard of living in both countries – I saw it myself. The difference is now enormous, and that really means in the standard of living of ordinary working people.  Poland’s relationship with, and eventual membership of, the European Union has undoubtedly been a key factor.  Those who wish Ukraine instead to be linked to the raw commodity export economy of Putin’s Russia are no true friends of the working people. Ukraine’s accidental boundaries include, of course, the great formerly Polish city of Lvov.

Ukraine is an accidental state and its future will be much brighter if it is a willing union.  It needs not just Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but also a federal constitution and a referendum on whether any of its provinces would prefer to join Russia.  That can give an agreed way forward to which Russia might also subscribe, and defuse the current crisis.  It would suit the long term interest of both the Ukraine and the West.  I fear however that the politicians will be too macho to see it.




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357 thoughts on “Why Should Ukraine Not Split?

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  • Uzbek in the UK

    From article on which John Goss is relying in his conclusion that current government in Kiev are Neo-Nazis.

    “Today Japan and Germany are Washington’s puppet states. In contrast, Ukraine was an independent country with a working relationship with Russia. It was this relationship that Washington wished to destroy.”

    One should ask himself how is dependence (or puppetness) of Germany and Japan on Washington is different to independence of Ukraine from Russia? And one should assess working relations which Ukraine (as claimed in the article) had with Russia to (I presume) puppet relations Germany and Japan have with US?

    I am still amused (but I now started getting very angry) about bluntness of hardcore leftie bastards. Day will come when Karimov (or his successors) will (hopefully) be challenged and these leftie bustards (I feel) will support whoever is opposing the west. Be so Russian chauvinists or Chinese Communist (with genocidal attitude towards minorities).

  • angrysoba

    Hmmm…Yanukovych in Rostov-on-Don begging to be allowed back to Ukraine. Strange given that if he was so popular in the East of Ukraine he didn’t have a big support group there. And yes, Uzbek, as you say it’s interesting that he would end up in Russia of all places.

  • angrysoba

    Uzbek in the UK,

    “One should ask himself how is dependence (or puppetness) of Germany and Japan on Washington is different to independence of Ukraine from Russia? And one should assess working relations which Ukraine (as claimed in the article) had with Russia to (I presume) puppet relations Germany and Japan have with US?”

    I think the trick is you are not supposed to test these claims for coherence. The point is “West bad. Anti-west good”.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    When one is looking into NATO expansion one should again consider history as their guide.

    As it happened all presently new members of NATO have served as buffer zones in centuries of wars between Europeans (with whoever) and within Europeans driven by balance of power politics.

    To add to this one should carefully look into 4 decades that followed since end of WWII when all these new NATO members were de facto Russian colonies. It is still unknown how many lives perished during this occupation, but economic stagnation is upfront. One should only look onto Germany (former west and east) to sense wholescaleness of economic failure.

    In fact as many researches and revealed documents show, it was these governments with strong support from their people who asked to be accepted into security club that 1. defended them from future Russian threat and 2. guaranteed that their security is not compromised by western powers since there was no major conflict between western powers since end of WWII.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Breaking News (or something that have been anticipated long ago)

    In his press-conference openly called for Russian support to ensure that “neo-Nazi thugs” are driven out of Ukraine and legitimate (his own arse) government installed.

    He said that Russia cannot stand aside from whatever is happening in Ukraine and must intervene to ensure his return.

    What a bloody bloke this kremlin puppet is. Shooting his own people, leaving country in difficult moment (if his claims of “neo-Nazi thugs” is true then it is difficult moment), surfacing in Russia and calling it to help him to get power back… What a puppet.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    I have omitted that my previous post was related to Yanukovich’s recent press-conference in Russia.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray,

    I think our dream of having Shashlik (Uzbek style shish kebab) in Tashkent will remain to be dream forever lasting.

    I will explain.

    Within CSTO framework Russia has pushed for Central Asian states to agree on rapid reaction force which Russia (as main contributor) will use in case of security challenge posted by either external (or internal – emphasis added) force to any of the members. This is easily interpreted that such forces could be used in time of popular uprising to crush anyone who poses threat to the dictators.

    One small hope is that Uzbekistan suspended its membership in 2012. But for instance Ukraine has never been a member, and looks in all the Russian meddling there.

  • Z

    Uzbek in the UK:

    “Yanukovich is a)independent or b) puppet

    Please vote.”

    Shouldn’t also add :

    “Yats” (you know Yats of course) 1s a)independent or b)puppet

    Just for balance!!

  • Uzbek in the UK


    Sorry, for the silence. I have just seen your post. I think I am over consumed by reading latest developments and anger and the same time.

    Yes, I read the book СТРАНА МОКСЕЛЬ (in internet), hence (and not only because of this book) my reference to start of the Ukrainian oppression from 14th century, when Moscow Kingdom (Velikoe Moskovskoe Knyazhestvo) took over Kiev.

    Spoon fed propaganda about Russian liberators established well in our heads. Russification has also played great role. It takes a lot of reading (of something not written by Russian chauvinists) to realise how poor our knowledge or our own history and culture is.

    If you are Ukrainian I wish you and your oppressed compatriots well. I sincerely hope that this time you overcome this historical injustice and will place seeds of positive modernity (and not the one showered by blood).

  • Uzbek in the UK


    Is “democratically elected” your emphasis? I remember one another man (or more correct his party) which was democratically elected once.

  • Ben

    Uzbek; A suggestion for any (Evgueni) who feel the ignorance wrt to Ukraine or other shortcomings that we are eager to learn from those who have understanding. It would help if links to inertial data were forthcoming rather than bald critique.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    Sorry no idea what Yats means. I find it hard to remember word of literary English – age takes its own tall on the memory.

  • Ben

    Uzbeck; I’m not saying the election was valid. Can we be sure if any are? My point was more valid if legal and prescribed methods were used to remove him from office. There are wheels within wheels operating, and unless one is omniscient, it is difficult to separate the good guys from bad.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    I made many references to the shortcomings (yours and some others) in understanding of Ukrainian crisis and grave mistake to look at it as west vs russia zero-sum game.

    If one starts writing Slavic history from 10th century on this blog, then Mr Murray could well retire and not come back here in 10 years time as there will be no time/space for his thoughts (or of others).

  • Uzbek in the UK

    “My point was more valid if legal”

    Mr Islam Karimov – president of Uzbekistan is being elected (legally) as president of Uzbekistan since 1993. Well, lets follow your logic (and your normative approach (or lack of it)) and wish Mr Karimov WELL.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    I am now biting my tong for wishing Karimov well. Every day he is in power, someone (or many more than one) is dying in prison.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Uzbek in UK

    Ben has responded to your invitation to vote with the following bit of low-grade casuistry:

    “yanukovich; plutocrat puppet democratically elected”

    And that, dear Uzbek, is probably the best you’re going to get out of the Russia-good West-bad crowd on this blog (with the exception of Angrysoba and myself).


    “Life is getting better, life is getting merrier!” J.Stalin, ca. 1932)

  • Ben

    Really Uzbek? I don’t remember you saying anything definitive about who the honest brokers are in the Ukraine. Names or groups who have the best interest of the People? This is your chance to educate beyond stating commentator ignorance.

  • Z

    Uzbek in the UK:

    Sorry no idea what Yats means.

    Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk.
    Ring any bells?

  • Ben

    The pro-Western ‘Yats’ needs to understand that austerity does not work. Japan has been trying it for 20 years.

    They got permanent stagnancy and Fukushima. I think they preferred Fuk.

  • Ben

    I should clarify.

    Austerity can work in a dictatorship or a body politic like a Junta. I meant to say if democratic values are in play, it won’t work.

    The former just reduces the population by the number of opponents, and voila’; success.

  • Kempe

    There’s growing evidence that the armed groups occupying Crimea’s airports are Russian troops. They’re too well equipped and too disciplined to be militia.

    If there was even a hint that they might be US Marines or British Paras this thread would be on its tenth page of outrage and indignation.

  • CanSpeccy

    One insignificant, unexplained Russian navy ship in Cuba, and American commentators go wild about the resumption of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Actually there were three Russian naval vessels visiting Cuba this week.

    And ships or subs are a much more satisfactory base for nuke-tipped missiles and electronic sensing equipment than immobile land-based missiles and radar installations.

    What’s more Russia has announced pending military base agreements not only with Cuba, but also Nicaragua, Venezuela, Vietnam and other countries. So, in fact, Obama has now to face the reality of Russian nukes within 100 miles of America’s southern shore, just as Russia has to face American nukes on its Polish border, placed there in contravention of an understanding between Regan and Gorbachev. And if ‘Barmy thinks that not a strategic threat, he’s more of a fool that most people seem to think.

  • Ben

    CanSpeccy; That’s interesting in it’s global threat capacity, but is the population at large supporting the far right, or are they the tiny squeaking wheel that get’s the grease; kinda like the Tea Party?

    Can any of the Ukraine experts provide some information on the likelihood the People support the extreme right-wing? Still waiting.

  • Phil

    I got an email from a good friend who lives in Kiev. He is a pretty clued in liberal type. Anyway I value his opinion and thought it useful to post it here. Well Clark suggested I did after I put it on Squonk.


    Yes, everyone here is revolting but don’t believe the stuff you read by people like the guy that wrote the article you sent. He’s one of Russia’s ‘useful idiots’ who is connected to RT (formerly known as Russia Today).

    Yes, there are some right wing elements involved in Maidan but it’s hugely overplayed by lazy people who know very little about it and believe the misinformation coming from Putin and co.

    The majority of people in Maidan are not extremists, most of them aren’t connected with any political party, and — contrary to what you may read, and unlike the so-called anti-Maidan protesters — they are definitely not being paid to turn up. They are ordinary Ukrainian citizens, from all classes, all ages, all religions, all ethnic groups, speaking Russian and Ukrainian who have just had enough of being treated like absolute shit by politicians who are quite literally criminals. Criminals in their past lives and criminals now in government, who have shamelessly robbed the country blind and ruined the economy for personal gain.

    This has been brewing for a long time and when Yanokovich decided not to sign that European thing (whatever it was), the shit hit the fan! Not because of the European agriculture policy or the European monetary system but because people hoped that it might make the government reform the crooked courts, the crooked cops, the crooked everything and introduce the rule of law.

    Anyway, I won’t go on. Here’s an article that gives a different view (not the best I’ve read but I can’t find anything else at the moment).


    and there’s some well made video stuff here (In Ukrainian mostly but you get the gist):

  • Ben

    Thanks Phil;

    That email was the personal face I was looking for. To the article’s point I was more familiar with the Armenian genocide than Holodomor, and I don’t know why that event has less public awareness, except maybe that the numbers for Stalin’s genocide are so large that it is incomprehensible and therefore, unthinkable.

    I repeat my earlier point that I hope the maligned far right is not so vocal that they engineer a government that only appears to be democratic. The people of the Ukraine deserve a more representative government.

  • nevermind

    Na Du, or similar, wrote
    “I am not some Anti-EU Little Brit, but to see people on demonstrations waving the EU flag in Kiev screams ‘fake’.”

    Yes it does doesn’t it, why do you say Klitschko is a crook?
    Is it because he served one once, as a debt collector?

    I think your assumption is wrong because people on the ground do believe he is the better of the worst solutions.
    Whether this is to the liking of us or his German connections is not here or there, he has street cred.
    He is also fairly intelligent, despite his fighting lifestyle. That he has Russian leanings is obvious, his dad was Russian.

    But do tell us something we don’t know, please.

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