Ukraine: a Kiev’s view

For much of the time since 1400s the land area we refer to as Ukraine has been controlled by its neighbours – Tatars, Cossacks, Poles, Lithuanians, Russians. Foreign domination was viewed by the Ukrainians as the source of their misery. Three particularly devastating tragedies befell Ukraine in the first half of the 20th century. First, the civil war after the Bolshevik Revolution left 1.5 million dead and hundreds of thousand homeless. The terrible famine of 1932-33, engineered by Stalin to punish the Ukrainian population, led to the starvation of millions. And then the WW2 brought even more destruction.

After the period of untold suffering the retreat of the Germans which started in 1943 presented what many Ukrainians thought was a chance for independence. In the confused time which followed various factions of the Ukrainian nationalists tried to take control over their homeland by fighting the Germans, opposing the Red Army and attacking the minorities – mainly Poles and Jews. Like on many previous occasions this attempt at independence failed and most of Ukraine ended up as part of the Soviet Union, with the Western areas allocated to Poland.

After WW2 the waves of mass deportations shook Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of Germans and Crimean Tartars were forcibly displaced to fulfill Stalin’s mad vision of an ethnically homogenised Soviet Union. Anyone else suspected of anti-Soviet sentiments was also either executed, imprisoned or deported. The extent of suffering the Ukraine was put through by the Soviets goes some way to explaining the animosity and distrust on display today.

Ukraine’s next chance for independence occurred with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990. The land which became Ukraine included Crimea, joined to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954. It had a significant ethnic Russian population as well as other minorities. Due to the complex ethnic make-up and dependence on Russian natural gas Ukraine was never truly able to run its own affairs. While the nationalists gravitated toward the European Union the Russians resident in Ukraine sided politically with Moscow. Putin’s interest in the political and military status of the independent Ukraine was viewed as Russian interference.

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The Maidan Revolution of 2014 ousted the pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych and established in power the nationalists and reformists aligned with the EU political option. Russia reacted by an armed take-over of Crimea and increasing its support for the separatist groups in the Eastern Ukraine. Kiev is now being bullied by a powerful neighbour with imperialist ambitions. Europe and the US, who were actively supporting the Maidan movement, should now do more to stop Putin or else this may become another tragic episode in the centuries long Ukrainians’ fight for independence.

THE END

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