A Splintered Ukraine
№3 2007 July/September

A sovereign and independent Ukraine
only appeared on world and European maps fairly recently, after the
disintegration of the Soviet Union. No one in Europe had prepared
the event and no one was prepared for it. No one understood the
nature of the Ukrainian nation either. The Europeans did not have
any experts on Ukraine or even Ukrainian translators, although the
same is true for Kazakhstan, Belarus and Moldavia. The West only
had Sovietologists, Kremlinologists and Russia specialists.
Europeans could much better understand the independence of smaller
countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and even Armenia and
Georgia. Ukraine suddenly became the biggest European country in
terms of territory. It had a smaller population than Germany,
France, Britain and Italy, but larger than Spain or Poland. Yet it
was way behind Europe in terms of economic might, living standards
and the maturity of national consciousness. As far back as in the
mid 1990s, several European foundations sent researchers to Ukraine
to produce a clearer picture of the past, present and future of the
new neighbor, which had sprung up so unexpectedly. The research
proved to be immensely complicated as the results of polls differed
tremendously in Kiev and Odessa, Kharkov and Sevastopol, Lvov in
the country’s west and Donetsk in the east. The problem was that
the differences affected basic values of national history and
religion, as well as Ukraine’s relations with Russia and Western

Yet the West did not have any special
interest in Ukraine: there was a general decline in attention
toward anything related to Russia and the former Soviet Union in
the 1990s. The number of university students studying Russian
dropped by dozens of percent, and only a few showed interest in
studying Ukrainian, Georgian or Kazakh. Interest in Ukraine
skyrocketed all of a sudden only during the ‘orange revolution’ in
November and December 2004. That event propelled the names of Yulia
Tymoshenko and Victor Yushchenko to worldwide acclaim. When
Yushchenko addressed a joint session of both houses of the U.S.
Congress as the newly elected Ukrainian president, U.S.
representatives and senators welcomed him as a hero, with more than
a hundred of them lining up to shake hands with him.

However, later developments puzzled and
disappointed Western political analysts and policymakers. Over the
past year, the Western mass media dropped virtually any comments on
what was happening in Ukraine. Russian newspapers, too, drastically
cut their Ukrainian coverage. The Ukrainian equation has proven to
be overly complex due to the presence of many unknown elements in

The authoritarian regimes of the former
Soviet Union and the Russian Empire had many more drawbacks, apart
from checks on openness, but while they shackled progressive
processes, they also weeded out the seeds of discord scattered
around the Imperial lands. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, those
seeds sprouted out in the South Caucasus, North Caucasus, Central
Asia, and Ukraine. The latter avoided an armed conflict, but the
acute contradictions that surfaced in Ukrainian society continue to
threaten its stability and are slowing down the country’s


Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko
made a critical address to the nation when he called for unity
between Left-Bank Ukraine and Right-Bank Ukraine. At the same time,
Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich promised to build a policy taking
account of “Ukraine’s three cultural and economic spaces – the
European, Eurasian and Mediterranean.” Former President Leonid
Kuchma had claimed that Ukraine has twelve clearly shaped and
distinct historical regions – the Sloboda region, Polesia, the
Middle Sub-Dnieper region, the Dnieper Rapids region, the Donets
Basin, Podolia, the Black Sea Littoral Area, the Crimea, Volyn,
Galicia, Transcarpathia (known as Subcarpathia in the West – Ed.)
and Bukovina (Leonid Kuchma. Ukraine Is Not Russia: A Return Into
History, Moscow, 2003, p. 19. – Russ. Ed.).

I personally see no grounds to disagree
with Kuchma on this classification, yet as a historian I would put
these regions in a different order and specify the different paths
that they followed over the past thousand years.

The historical destinies of Galicia, as
well as neighboring Transcarpathia and Bukovina, are very specific.
These parts of western Ukraine were the least affected by the
Tatar-Mongol invasion compared with the other principalities of
Kievan Rus. In later centuries, they were regions of the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania, Rzeczpospolita, Hungary, and Austria-Hungary.
They were never subordinate to the Russian Empire and during World
War I conscripts were drafted there to fight in the
Austro-Hungarian army, not the Russian army. The Treaty of
Versailles split these lands among three countries – Poland,
Romania and Czechoslovakia. They were incorporated into Soviet
Ukraine de facto only after 1945. The people in these regions have
always felt a strong influence from the Roman Catholic Church, but
both the Polish Kingdom and the Hapsburg monarchy regarded them as
provinces. People in Galicia did not know anything about Alexander
Pushkin, yet equally enough they knew nothing about Taras
Shevchenko, the prominent nineteenth-century Ukrainian poet. Thus,
the nationalist idea that budded there at the end of the 19th
century was centered on obtaining autonomy for Ukraine within the
Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Sloboda region (whose name is
derived from the Russian word ‘sloboda’ – a non-serf settlement of
peasants and/or craftsmen) is historically a part of Russia. The
border separating the Russian state and Rzecz Pospolita at the
beginning of the 17th century was far to the west of the modern
cities of Izyum, Kharkov, Sumy and Rylsk. This underdeveloped area
attracted peasants from Rzeczpospolita, who were fleeing
oppression, as well as fugitive Russians. Russian servicemen
settled there, as well as Cossacks from Ukraine who had lost
battles to Polish troops. The Russian government would deploy the
new Cossack regiments there that would make up the Belgorod defense
line protecting Moscow from incursions by the Crimean Tatar khans.
Kharkov, founded in 1656, developed as a Russian city. After the
Bolshevik revolution of 1917, it was the industrially advanced
Kharkov that became the first capital of Soviet Ukraine. It
remained the capital until 1934. According to a census taken in
1989, ethnic Russians accounted for up to 30 percent of the
population in the Sloboda region of Ukraine. Ukrainians made up
another 65 percent, but most of them spoke Russian as their native

From the historical, ethnic and
cultural point of view, Ukraine’s foundation was formed out of
three historical regions that were officially called Malorossia
(Little Russia) in the Russian Empire. Today this area encompasses
the City of Kiev, the Zaporozhye, Zhitomir, Vinnitsa, Kiev and
Kirovograd regions on the right bank of the Dnieper, and also the
Chernigov and Poltava regions on the river’s left bank. The Russian
classical novelist Nikolai Gogol, the linguist and ethnographer
Vladimir Dahl, as well as numerous other Russian and Ukrainian
writers devoted their writings to Malorossia. The word was included
in the full title of the Russian emperors.

In the mid-17th century, hetman Bogdan
Khmelnitsky led a national revolt for the liberalization of the
Ukrainian people in this region. By 1650, the three districts had
singled themselves out of the whole territory and had formed a
state ruled according to the habits and traditions of Cossack life.
In 1654, when these lands joined Russia, their aggregate territory
was even smaller than it was originally. The areas that can be
called Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s Ukraine went over to Russia only after
the Andrusov Treaty of 1667 and the so-called ‘treaty of eternal
peace.’ As a nation and state, Ukraine took shape around this
central territory. Only a part of Malorossia was integrated into
the Malorossian General Governorship. Soviet-era historiography
discarded the term Malorossia as capitalist and nationalistic,
while today’s nationalists condemn it as an asset of “Russian
imperialism.” The common people did not reject it, however, and
even Zaporozhye Cossacks mention “our Malorossian fatherland” in
their documents. Ukrainian publicist Leonid Berest said: “Yes, we
are Malorossians, Little Russians. The so-called national democrats
hate the word bitterly. But what’s so bad about it? It was here in
Kiev, in Malorossia, that Rus, which was destined to become Great
Russia, took its origins. Malorossia is called this way because it
is the original Russia. Contrary to the fantasies of our
nationalists tormented by the inferiority complex, the name does
not humiliate anyone.” (2000 weekly, October 6, 2006, p.

Novorossia, which incorporates the
regions of the Black Sea northern littoral area, is another large
and very special part of the country. Most of the territory lies
within the so-called ‘Wild Field’ zone of southern steppes, from
where the Crimean Tatars and Turks made incursions into Russia and
Rzeczpospolita. Russia acquired this area under peace agreements
signed with Turkey in 1739, 1774, 1791 and 1812. One of the first
cities founded by Catherine II in the area was Yekaterinoslav
(currently Dnepropetrovsk). It was meant to become the capital of
the entire new territory, but its actual development only began in
the 19th century when railways and industrial facilities were built
there. At the same time, the coastal cities of Kherson, Nikolayev
and Odessa developed at a fair pace. The resettlement of people to
Novorossia only began after its annexation to Russia, with a
population made up of Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Jews,
Bulgarians and Germans. Nationalistic ideas have never been very
popular in Novorossia. As journalist from Odessa said, his hometown
is “a commercial center, where the majority of people consider
money to be the matter of primary, secondary and tertiary
importance. This is the way it has always been there, even during
the Soviet era. Odessites may hold the Ukrainian state in
disrepute, but they will never be so desperate and irrational as to
instigate any sort of revolution against it.” (Russia and Ukraine,
Moscow, 1997, p. 240).

The Donets Basin (Donbass) plays a huge
role in Ukraine’s current political and economic life. Development
there began much later than in other parts of the country. Coal
deposits were discovered there as early as at the beginning of the
19th century, yet the production of coal only began after the
Crimean War, when the first railway lines were built. The discovery
of giant iron ore deposits in Krivoy Rog gave a huge impetus to the
region’s development. Coal production in Donbass stood at around 25
million tons a year in 1913 and iron production was around 3
million tons. The region turned into an “all-Union steamshop”
during the Soviet era. Ethnic Russians and native Russian speakers
dominated its population. Even after the Soviet Union’s
disintegration, Miners’ Day is still a major holiday there. The
Donetsk and Lugansk regions have a combined population of 8
million, making them the most densely populated regions in Ukraine
and they have the biggest concentration of the working class in the
post-Soviet Union.

The Crimea stands apart from all other
areas of the country. Its formal integration into the Russian
Empire took place in 1783 and the city of Sebastopol (Sevastopol)
was founded the same year. Soon after that the Crimea became part
of the Tauride province, with its capital in Simferopol. Throughout
the 19th century, the authorities conducted a policy of pressuring
the indigenous Tatar population to leave for Turkey. Tatar
emigration to the Ottoman Empire reached its peak during the
Crimean War from 1853-1856 and afterwards. To replace the Tatars in
the Crimea, the czarist Russian authorities resettled Russian and
Ukrainian farmers, German and French colonists, Jews, Bulgarians
and Greeks. The southern coast of the peninsula soon turned into a
seaside resort for the Russian aristocracy and wealthy people. A
territory known as the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
emerged as a region of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist
Republic (RSFSR) at the end of 1921. Its entire population was a
mere 720,000 at the time, including about 144,000 Tatars. It is
well known that the Tatars were deported from the region in 1944.
By the end of the Soviet era, the Crimea had a population of 2
million, 67 percent of which were Russians and 26 percent were
Ukrainians. The Tatars began to return to the peninsula after the
disintegration of the Soviet Union. Their number has now reached
250,000, but they do not have a clear legal status. The Crimea has
again become an autonomy – this time inside Ukraine, to which it
was administratively subordinated in 1954.


Throughout the 19th and the 20th
centuries, the Ukrainian economy was built as an element of the
overall Russian imperial or Soviet economic system, and that is why
horizontal links between Ukrainian regions were rather weak. The
bulk of resources and heavy industries were located in the
country’s east – in the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, Kharkov and
Dnepropetrovsk regions. As a whole, these regions make up the
Industrialized East. Ukrainian national capitalism, represented by
the Donetsk clan and the Dnepropetrovsk clan, took shape there
after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The capital Kiev and
the central regions around it do not have a precise economic
specialization, boasting a variety of industries and a developed
agricultural sector. The economy of the Black Sea littoral zone has
always been determined by its closeness to the sea. It is a very
good area for developing seaside resorts and international

The western zone is the most
economically backward part of the country. Even the agricultural
sector there is less productive than in central or eastern Ukraine.
Six western regions – Volyn, Lvov, Transcarpathia, Chernovtsy,
Ternopol and Rovno – only accounted for six percent of the nation’s
total industrial output in the period from 2000-2005. Foreign
investment has practically bypassed western Ukraine.


In 1991, Ukraine had only one canonical
denomination of Eastern Orthodoxy – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
which reported to the Moscow Patriarchate. A non-canonical
denomination, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that was
set up in 1927, but which was outlawed in the Soviet Union,
re-emerged by its side in 1989-1990. It has parishes in western
Ukraine and in Belarus today. A new split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy
occurred at the very end of 1991 under pressure from Leonid
Kravchuk, the first president of an independent Ukraine, and at the
initiative of Metropolitan Philaretos, as a non-canonical Ukrainian
Orthodox Church reporting to the Kiev Patriarchate. It took away
about 30 percent of all Orthodox parishes. Philaretos was issued an
anathema in Moscow and excommunicated from the Church, but he was
declared a patriarch in Kiev.

President Victor Yushchenko believes
Ukraine has one more denomination of Orthodoxy – the Greek Catholic
Church (its disciples are otherwise known as Catholics of the
Eastern Rite – Ed.) that has a vast presence in western regions.
This Church came into being in 1596 under strong pressure from
Roman Catholics and the Polish authorities. It kept the Eastern
Orthodox rites and the Old Church Slavonic language, customary for
believers in Eastern Europe, but assimilated Catholic dogmas and
defected to the jurisdiction of the Holy See. Following the
Soviet-era ban on its activity, it rose up in the early 1990s and
demanded a return of all the church buildings that had been taken
away from it. Leonid Kuchma, then the newly-elected president,
seemed lost and did not know what to do about it. “The summaries of
incidents that I found on my desk every morning resembled
battlefield reports,” he wrote about it later. “This battle
involved more than a thousand parishes. Priests’ houses were set
ablaze, and crowds assaulted and seized church buildings and even
whole villages. I got an impression at times that this was a war
where everyone fought against everyone else, although each fighter
knew perfectly well who his foes were. The continuing struggle for
churches and parishes turned into a big stumbling block in
relations between Kiev and Moscow.” (Leonid Kuchma. Ukraine Is Not
Russia: A Return Into History, Moscow, 2003, p. 481. – Russ.

These splits, which have still not been
fully eliminated, weakened the Orthodox Church and the Christian
faith in general to the degree that after the mayoral election of
2006, businessman Leonid Chernovitsky, a member of the Embassy of
God sect, became Mayor of Kiev. The sect appeared in Nigeria and
its father superior, senior pastor Sunday Adelaja, moved to Kiev
after that. The city’s Orthodox community was appalled by the fact
that a sect of some sort would have power in a city where the Grand
Duke Vladimir baptized Great Rus in 988. A campaign is underway in
Kiev to replace Chernovitsky through a referendum.


The lands of Kievan Rus and,
subsequently, all principalities which were ruled by princes
descending from the Rurik dynasty and which had Orthodox churches,
had a common language. It was used in the first ballads and
chronicles, and the first literary work of Kievan Rus, The Lay of
Igor’s Campaign, was also written in it. The formation of the
Golden Horde and Rzeczpospolita, and pressure from German orders
and the Ottoman Empire, left dramatic imprints on the fate of the
Eastern Slavs. However, sometime in the 16th century they would
perceive themselves – and would be perceived by others – as a
single nation with a common faith, a common language and common
literature. Monasteries and churches were the centers of writing
and knowledge at the time, and the authors of handwritten books,
copyists and readers identified them as Russian centers. The first
Russian printer, Ivan Fyodorov, began working in Moscow in 1564 and
then continued in Lvov where he printed, apart from a new edition
of the Acts of the Apostles, the first Russian ABC book. The
Mogilyansky Academy in Kiev, set up in 1631 by Metropolitan Peter
Mogila, played an important role in the promotion of Russian
literature and writing. It was the first institution of higher
learning in Malorossia and reported to Kiev’s Cave Monastery. In
the 17th and 18th centuries it was probably the largest education
center in what is now Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Undoubtedly, differences appeared in
the spoken and written language over time, yet these were
differences between dialects of one language, not separate, fully
developed languages. The first attempts of writing literature in
the Ukrainian language were only made in the early 19th century,
and all encyclopedias point out a play by the playwright Ivan
Kotlyarevsky called Natalka-Poltava, which was staged in 1819.
Vassily Gogol, the father of Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, also
wrote vaudevilles and poetry in Ukrainian to attract audiences in
the town of Poltava. His son, who had much more expansive
ambitions, wrote on Ukrainian topics, but in the Imperial Russian
language from the very start. He dreamed of a literary career and
of seeing his books become popular all over Russia. One of the
pillars of Ukrainian poetry, Taras Shevchenko, came from a serf
family. He excelled as a painter and was bought out of serfdom by a
group of Russian painters. He started writing poems and ballads in
Ukrainian, thus laying the foundations for the contemporary
literary Ukrainian language. However, he was still not able to
completely break out of the realm of the Russian language and wrote
his diaries, novels and stories in Russian.

All public schools in Malorossia only
taught in the Russian language in the 19th century. The authorities
of the Russian Empire would persistently turn down demands from
Ukrainian democrats to allow the use of their native tongue in the
education system. It was only in the early 20th century that the
Russian Academy endorsed a decision to recognize Ukrainian
(‘Malorossian’ as it was called then) as a separate language and
not a dialect of Russian, as had been officially declared before.
However, Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin’s government ignored the

The first schools to teach in Ukrainian
appeared during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). This innovation
was supported by nationalists and Bolsheviks alike. There was an
intensive development of Ukrainian public schools and language in
the 1920s, and one of the would-be closest aides of Joseph Stalin,
Lazar Kaganovich, did much to bolster this process. In 1930,
schools that used Ukrainian as the main language of instruction
accounted for 85 percent of the school system. The waves of
‘Russification’ and ‘Ukrainization’ alternated over the next
several decades in parallel with the change of leaders. But Russian
still dominated on the streets of Ukrainian cities. In 1989, the
Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic came up
with a constitutional amendment that declared Ukrainian the only
state language on the republic’s territory. The decision produced
numerous practical problems in the work of organizations of the
then ruling Soviet Communist Party and state agencies in the last
two years of Soviet history.

After the Soviet Union was gone, the
language conflict grew to a degree that prompted observers to speak
of a linguistic war. The acuteness of the situation was aggravated
by coercive measures on the part of the government. As an
independent Ukrainian state was formed, Ukrainization became a
segment of the official government policy conducted by the
country’s first president Leonid Kravchuk. The same policy
continued during the presidency of Leonid Kuchma, although he was
less active in that sphere.

There is no need to recount the details
of the hasty Ukrainization of the 1990s. The policy bumped into one
mishap after another. The progress of openness, freedom of the
press, a market economy, the general IT revolution, globalization,
and freedom of travel created a booming use of Russian rather than
Ukrainian in a most paradoxical way. The Russian language was much
more convenient and instrumental in business, since 75 percent of
Ukraine’s population were fluent Russian speakers versus 60 percent
who were fluent speakers of Ukrainian. Most businessmen preferred
to advertise in Russian. Nationalists pressured the authorities
into passing a law that banned advertising in unofficial languages.
This was an anti-market legal act, since a market economy with its
competitive environment must squeeze out weak players. The problem
is that newspapers, books, magazines, television series and other
mass media products are also assets of a market economy. During the
Soviet era, each town and district could publish newspapers in both
Russian and Ukrainian and regulate their circulation. But as market
relations set in, the number of Ukrainian newspapers in circulation
had fallen 80 percent by 2000 from 1990, while the number of
Russian-language magazines and newspapers had considerably grown.
The situation with the printing and sale of books was the same.
This situation on the free media market caused panic among radical
nationalists. The poet Pavlo Movchan, a member of parliament
representing the nationalistic movement Rukh, told Voice of Russia
radio that “the Russian language and Russian culture are more
powerful than missiles.” “The situation in Ukraine demonstrates
that the Russians are victors even without a war. Nothing is being
done today to put Ukrainian into a dominant position, into the
position of an official language, which it is under the

The government forcibly reduced the
number of schools that taught in Russian. Their number can be
counted on two hands today in western Ukraine. Only five such
schools were left in Kiev by 2004. A huge number of schools were
even closed in eastern Ukraine, where native speakers of Russian
make up most of the population. This policy has had a telling
impact on the overall literacy of the youth who do not know either
Russian or Ukrainian properly. Attempts to change documents at
industrial facilities and research institutes into Ukrainian have
also been a disaster. And can anyone actually gain anything from
making lecturers teach surgery in Odessa or space study in
Dnepropetrovsk in Ukrainian instead of Russian?

The ‘orange revolution’ pushed the
language conflict even deeper into the quagmire. A decision was
made in 2005 to impose Ukrainian on all agencies of law and order
and the judiciary. It also prohibited students trying to enter
university to write their entrance exams in Russian even if they
had been educated in Russian. The government attempted to introduce
quotas for imports of Russian books, thus running into a problem
with the European Charter for Minority and Regional Languages that
had been ratified by the very same parliament and had gone into
effect on January 1, 2006. Regional and city councils in Donetsk,
Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Sevastopol, Lugansk, Odessa and many other
places used the Charter as a basis for adopting regional laws
declaring Russian as an official language and giving it equal
status on their territories with Ukrainian. Changes in the
government in August 2006 have scaled down the acuteness of the
language problem, but this conflict, which deals a blow to Ukraine
as a country, is far from over.


Ukraine’s history intertwines with the
history of other countries – Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Hungary
and Russia, among others, – and this gives endless headaches to
Ukrainian historians. Unlike many neighboring nations, the
Ukrainians proved unable to establish their own state in the Middle
Ages or in later periods. The Ukrainian nation did not have its own
kings or princes or patrimonial aristocracy. It never waged wars in
Europe, minted its own coins, set up parliaments or wrote laws.
Different parts of the nation lived through their history in
totally different ways, in different countries and amid differing
systems of values. So, can the situation call forth the creation of
a national history, “integral and transparent in everyone’s eyes” –
something that President Yushchenko demands? To do this,
mythologizing and even outright falsifications come in

One of the bluntest myths suggests that
the Ukrainian nation began to form in the 6th-7th centuries rather
than in the 16th-17th centuries. This leads to the conclusion that
the history of Kievan Rus belongs entirely to Ukraine and is its
‘golden age,’ that Kiev is not a common cradle for the Ukrainian,
Russian and Belarusian nations. The nationalistic movement Rukh was
extremely displeased with the unveiling of a monument to Kievan
duke Yaroslav the Wise in the Russian city of Yaroslavl on the
Volga in 1993 and, in particular, by Boris Yeltsin’s presence at
the ceremony. The nationalists discerned an anti-Ukrainian intrigue
in it. “He was our prince, not yours.”

The Ukrainian 5-hryvnia bill depicts
the portrait of hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the 10-hryvnia bill
portrays hetman Ivan Mazepa. Official Ukrainian historiography
proclaims both men as heroes. No doubt, Mazepa betrayed Russia and
Tsar Peter the Great who had supported his ascent to the hetmanate,
but historians allege he did not betray Ukraine. He presumably
sought to create an independent Ukraine, which exonerates him of
any guilt in the nation’s conscience. However, Russian historians
have not changed their views of Mazepa.

New ideas about Ukrainian history say
nothing about the destiny of the Ukrainian people during their
almost 260-year-long association with the Russian Empire. Next in
line in textbooks after hetman Mazepa is Simon Petlyura, who helped
establish the Directorate of Ukraine in 1918 and then presided over
it. German troops pulled out of Kiev after Germany’s capitulation
in World War I. Hetman P. Skoropadsky fled the city together with
the Germans. Petlyura entered Kiev with a small army on December
14, 1918. The Directorate tried to pool together the hastily formed
Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West-Ukrainian People’s
Republic that arose out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire. An act on their unification and on creating a “free state”
was signed on January 22, 1919. Since 1990, Ukraine has celebrated
this date by a variety of gala events as “Community Day,” although
no real Ukrainian national state was set up in 1919. The
Directorate held out for several months. Once it was driven out of
Kiev by the Red Army, it fell under the crushing blows of the army
of pro-monarchist General Anton Denikin, who was fighting the
Bolsheviks. Petlyura fled to France, where he was killed on a
street by a young Jewish watchmaker. The killer said that he had
done away with Petlyura in an act of revenge for all the Jews who
had fallen during pogroms in Ukraine. However, after examining the
materials of the case, a French court found the young man not

One more horrifying page in history
that Ukraine’s neo-nationalists itch to bring up again is the
famine in the winter of 1932-1933 in which millions died. That
famine was the product of Stalin’s criminal policies, not any kind
of drought, and it spread throughout all the grain regions of the
Soviet Union, including Kazakhstan, the Volga area, the basins of
the Don and Kuban rivers, and Ukraine. But Ukrainian historians
seek to magnify the impact of the famine in 1933, disastrous as it
was by itself. They pass it off as an act of genocide, as a
campaign targeted precisely at the Ukrainian nation. They also
describe Stalin’s rule as “the regime of Russian Communism.”
However, such interpretations of that calamitous event have
absolutely no grounds.

Probably the most painful heritage that
the 20th century left to Ukrainian historians and politicians is
the activity and fate of Stepan Bandera and the Organization of
Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) that was set up with his active aid
and later turned into the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). OUN was
hammered together by young Ukrainian émigré radicals in
1929 and its headquarters opened in Berlin in 1934, which naturally
means it cooperated with the National Socialist Party and the
Gestapo. When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941,
OUN combat units marched in the footsteps of the Nazi armies. OUN
proclaimed on June 30, 1941 in Lvov that the Ukrainian People’s
Republic had been restored – “in cooperation with the National
Socialist Great Germany” and its Fuehrer Adolph Hitler. The Germans
did not recognize that act, however, and arrested Bandera, who
spent the rest of the war in jail on the Eastern front. His
associates set up the UPA in 1942 and gave command over it to Roman
Shukhevich. UPA units did not conduct any operations against the
German occupation, though. The period of its combat action falls in
the years from 1944-1947 when it fought against units of the Soviet
Army and security services. Various Ukrainian military and police
formations also took part in punitive actions against the Jews and
Poles. Bandera was killed in West Germany by a KGB agent. The
secret services carried out the assassination.

Victor Yushchenko submitted a bill to
the Verkhovna Rada on several occasions from 2004-2006 to recognize
the OUN/UPA as a party of war, which would automatically put the
former militants on a par with Soviet veterans of World War II. The
bill was never endorsed, but in spite of this, the OUN/UPA is still
trying to organize parades, manifestations and “military patriotic
games.” It has a huge influence in western Ukraine.


Ukraine only has two big neighbors
today – the European Union in the west and the Russian Federation
in the north and east. Russia is moving toward integration with
Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in the format of the Eurasian
Economic Community (Eurasec) and is expanding its ties within the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Even a large country like
Ukraine cannot develop successfully in today’s world if it does not
make a strategic integration choice. Ukraine has not made any such
choice however, and now it finds itself at a geopolitical

The willingness of the majority of
Ukrainian politicians to move along the road toward European
integration is easy to understand, but after absorbing twelve new
countries over the past three years, the EU should take a long
break now to carry out complicated and costly procedures of
bridging the gap between Eastern and Western Europe. Turkey, a
country with a population of 70 million, has been next in line to
join the EU since 1963. It has made great achievements toward
integration already, to say nothing of being an official candidate
for joining since 1987. It is believed that Turkey will eventually
get EU membership in 15 years. Only after that will the EU be able
to accept an application from Ukraine. At this time, it is neither
an associated member nor a candidate country, and nobody has
promised anything to it. Ukraine has not fully formed as a state
entity or a nation yet. Its economy is not self-sufficient even in
the smallest degree. It has close economic relationship with Russia
and other former Soviet republics, but not with the West. There are
no obstacles to Ukraine’s development in the direction of the CIS,
since the transition mechanism of the Common Economic Space is
already in place. And yet Ukraine has stopped halfway, thus sinking
deeper and deeper into geopolitical isolation.

This geopolitical impasse has had
serious repercussions for Ukraine’s economy. Projects slated for
the long term are being frustrated. There are problems with imports
of Ukrainian products. Since Ukraine was not a Russian colony, the
two economies developed as parts of an integral economic unit for
over 300 years. One cannot simply take a scalpel and cut off the
territorial, economic, cultural, historical and religious life of
Ukraine from a common economic, cultural and information space that
still exists and then attach it to the European Union, the eastern
part of which is still in formation. This kind of surgery might end
up in death due to loss of blood.

The West would
undoubtedly be unenthusiastic about a broadening of ties between
Russia and Ukraine. The Western preferences were quite obvious
during the ‘orange revolution.’ But the West is not ready to pay
for all the excesses of Ukraine’s westward drift. As European
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso summarized the difficult
talks on Ukraine’s accession, he said in plain terms that the
accession – so much desired by the Ukrainians – was not acceptable
for the EU. When asked about the reasons for such a position,
Barroso said with a note of irritation it was because Ukraine was
not ready, in the first place, and the EU was not ready, in the
second. German political expert and economist Conrad Schuller wrote
in commenting on this situation in Die Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung on October 31, 2006 that Ukraine urgently needs prospects
in the West if it wants to continue developing in the same
direction and does not wish to feel Russia’s iron grip sooner or
later. Something should be done immediately so that the territory
from Galicia to the Donets coal fields with its huge pipelines
pumping Russian and Central Asian oil and gas to Europe is not
lost, Schuller claimed. He indicated that if Ukraine cannot aspire
to a place in the Brussels condominium, it should at least be
admitted to a welcoming arrivals lounge where it could wait for ten
to twenty years while the doors for it are kept open.
Financial Times said on October 13, 2006: “We need only one
thing… to know and to feel through written agreements that there
are prospects for Ukraine in Europe, so that we can see the
horizon.” While Yushchenko is obviously ready to wait for fifteen
or twenty years, Pyotr Talanchuk, the director of the Open
International University of Human Development will wait for thirty
or even fifty years. “We won’t get away from the EU anyhow,” he
said. (Zerkalo Nedeli, Kiev, November 30, 2004). But do the people
of Ukraine agree with a prospect like that?


What we said above makes it clear that divisions
inside Ukrainian society are deep, they are spreading in different
directions and intricately crossing one another. Ukrainian citizens
do not want to speak the same language, they go to churches of
different jurisdictions even within the same denomination, they
diverge in the assessment of their own historical events and differ
in the estimation of current politicians and public figures, as
well as the politicians who lived fifty, one hundred, two hundred,
five hundred, or even one thousand years ago. People living in
different parts of the country do not have a feeling of being
members of one nation with a single system of cultural and national
values. Nonetheless, the vast majority of them would like Ukraine
to keep its sovereignty and independence. None of the reciprocally
bickering regions would like to join Poland, Romania, Hungary,
Turkey or Russia again – the countries they used to be integrated
into seventy, one hundred or four hundred years ago. This situation
is undermining Ukraine’s development, complicating peoples’ lives,
generating risks, obstructing the normal functioning of political
institutions, and bringing about frequent changes of the powers
that be and ruling elites. For an observer, the pace of affairs in
Ukraine is an equation that has many more known elements than
unknown ones. But what is the way to solve the equation and can it
be solved at all?

One of the suggestions on how to do this shows up in
the mass media more often than others. It is to turn Ukraine into a
federation. There are many proponents of federalization. They cite
numerous arguments to substantiate their proposals. One of the most
popular and sober politicians, Yevgeny Kushnaryov, who died fairly
recently, wrote that “federalism provides the only way out for
Ukraine now.” “If we don’t assimilate the principles that will
underlie the European philosophy of state administration in some
thirty years’ time, we will lag behind others irreparably, in which
case the economic, social and political losses will really be
great.” (2000, April 14, 2006, p. B2). Kushnaryov proposed
beginning the federalization process in three to five regions first
and then spreading it to the entire country in fifteen to twenty
years from now.

Self-styled federalization is already in progress.
The weakness and instability of the government in Kiev simply
compels the local authorities to take charge of resolving the most
pressing problems. But formal federalization requires impressive
changes to the Constitution, and this does not seem possible given
the current alignment of political forces in Ukraine. Since world
practice does not offer a common model for a federation, Ukraine
must design one on its own. There is no way to do it by commanding
and administering. First, one must unite the country somehow and
look for ways of rational federalization only after that.

Efforts to unite Ukraine around the ideology of
Ukrainian ethnic nationalism have proven futile. That the ethnic
idea does not work was recognized during the presidency of Leonid
Kuchma. The complete fiasco of the ideas of Rukh was quite obvious
way back in the 1990s. The phenomenon of Victor Yushchenko, who
tried to give nationalism a new lease of life, rests on support
gained from external forces, first and foremost, and also on
support given to Yulia Tymoshenko’s populist movement that
harvested votes in the cities and districts where an overt ethnic
nationalism would not have had any chances otherwise. But today
Yushchenko’s star is fading, and odious personalities like Borys
Tarasyuk or Petro Lutsenko are dropping out of the political

The Russian Federation itself does not have a clearly
shaped national and state ideology yet. It is also true, however,
that Russia has no problems with language, geopolitical choice, or
national and historical self-identification that would be as huge
as the ones Ukraine is struggling to resolve now. But Kazakhstan
could be viewed as an illustrative example in this case, though. It
faced very much the same and even more complex problems from
1991-1999. But immediately after the first disappointment, Kazakh
President Nursultan Nazarbayev said firmly to his opponents: “The
economy first, politics next.” He picked the root cause out of a
multitude of problems and managed to pull his country out of a deep
crisis. One can pool Ukraine together and eliminate splits between
its regions only through economic development and a rapid advance
toward an affluent and comfortable life. It would be reasonable for
Ukraine to stop gazing into the past, which differs from region to
region. The country must look into the future, which alone can
unite all of its citizens. The only way to solve the Ukrainian
equation is to ensure a radical and rapid enough economic growth.
Ukrainians are very tired from poverty, unemployment and an
exhausting struggle for survival. Instead of the European choice,
the language situation, NATO membership and even democratic
problems, any sensible Ukrainian politician must push to the top of
his agenda living standards, livestock breeding, the rehabilitation
and development of industries, and employment for everyone willing
to work. If the economy grows, it will itself show which of the two
ways – to the EU or to the Common Economic Space – is shorter and
more lucrative. The new Ukraine does not have any historical
enemies. It is surrounded by countries and peoples that wish
Ukrainians the best and Ukraine should make the most of this
advantage. It does not stand in anyone’s way and no one will stand
in its way toward success.