In the geopolitical joust between the West and Russia, Vladimir Putin is increasingly isolating himself. Russian interference since 2014 in the Donbas and the annexation of Crimea – parts of Ukraine ethnic Russian – have fueled Ukrainian nationalism. Ukraine aïene has become more European after 1991. Almost all satellite states of the former Soviet Union want to belong to Europe and its institutions (the EU and NATO). For Putin, this is an undermining of the Russian sphere of influence. He fails to see that the European cooperation model of reciprocity is simply more attractive (because less threatening) for many young Eastern European nations than the Russian power politics of bringing renegade vassal states back to the Motherland, willingly or ill-willed.
Putin is winning the battles in this new Cold War so far, but he cannot win the war himself. Read a good analysis by Ivo van Wijdeven, who appeared in the International Spectator in 2019
and a current update on Olivia Durand’s current situation who appeared on The Conversation yesterday, ‘How Russian is Ukraine’.
From The Conversation:
A political pamphlet published in 1762 described a conversation between “Greater Russia” and “Little Russia”. In the exchange, Little Russia refused to be reduced to a part of Greater Russia and put forward its own unique history and identity. At that time, the name “Ukraine” was not yet used to indicate a state. But the noun ukraina – a word that means “border zone” in several Slavic languages – has already been used to designate the future territory: the vast steppe area around the river Dnipro (Dnieper) and bordering the Black Sea.
The term Little Russia was gradually abandoned in the era of nationalism, when 19th-century Ukrainian-speaking academics and thinkers decided to subvert the old derogatory term in order to develop the modern idea of Ukraine as a nation. But two centuries later, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia is using these historic discourses to justify its own incursions into independent Ukraine. He made his feelings clear in a July 2021 article published on his presidential webpage, when he wrote of Russians and Ukrainians as “one people – one whole”.
The capital of Ukraine, Kyiv (or Kiev), has been repeatedly described as the “mother of Russian cities”. Kiev was the center of Kievite Rus’ (882-1240), an orthodox medieval state to which the Russian leaders – from the tsars to Putin – trace the origin of their country (a lineage also claimed by Belarus and Ukraine) . This claim is often used to support Russia’s claims on Ukrainian territory.
But this is a misconception. While the forerunner of the Russian Empire, Moscow, arose in the wake of the Mongol invasion (1237-40) that marked the end of the Rus, the rulers of Moscow took control of Kiev only 500 years later. The claim of Kyivan origin was a convenient method of denying the Mongol and Tatar elements underlying Moscow’s early development and instead giving Russia an orthodox past, with tsars apparently appointed by God.
Russia’s territorial power over the Rus’ remnants was limited by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795), a bi-federation of the two great powers of Central Europe. Most of the region known as Ukraine remained outside Russian rule until the final partition of Poland in 1795.
Ukraine is one of the largest states in Europe and its geography has been influenced by many more areas than just Russia. Since Ukraine originally meant “borderland”, the territory was the target of several kingdoms – not only Russia, but also the Khanate of Crimea, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires.”
Cover image: https://tinyurl.com/3wvdcrc4
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
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