Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thoughts about the Ukrainian conflict

I've been watching the news in Ukraine with interest.  Obviously, as an ethnic Ukrainian I have an interest in what happens to the country.  Also as a Russian history major  I have an interest in how the two countries work out their differences.

Some brief thoughts about the conflict:
-Many Russians consider themselves the same ethnicity as Ukrainians. Ukraine is just another province or state, much like Alaska is for the U.S.  (Or  Quebec is for Canada).  So it's not cut and dry, but many Russians see this differently than Ukrainians.

-History is everywhere with this conflict.  Stalin and the Soviet Union committed genocide against the Ukrainian people. He starved millions of Ukrainians and had armed guards around the granaries.  He punished people for speaking Ukrainian. My great uncle returned to Ukraine in the 1980s as a Ukranian speaker and teacher.

Thanks for nothing Khrushchev!
-Crimea itself was a part of Russia/the Soviet Union until 1954 when Khrushchev gave it back to Ukraine in a political gesture.  This piece of land has been fought over for a long time and has changed hands often.

-In fact, my great-great grandfather lived in the same place in Ukraine but was a citizen for four different countries.  Austria-Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Russia.  The territory has been fought over and changed hands often (as Colbert points out, anyone who plays Risk knows this).

-East vs. West in Russia and Ukraine has been a long standing tension/philosophy.  Most historians agree it started with Peter the Great.  Throughout modern Russian history figuring out that balance of embracing the west and western culture while keeping the unique parts of Slavic culture has been a challenge.  Anyone who doesn't see that tension doesn't understand some of what's going on behind the scenes in this conflict.

-While the Soviet Union was a great geo-political power, that country failed.  The political system failed, for many reasons.  Returning to those days is not feasible.  Both countries need to move forward, to continue to grow and reform.  Sure, lots of older people/pensioners in Russia wish for the day when things were stable and guaranteed.  But that stability was based on the blood of many dissidents and on genocide.  Going back is not tenable. Both countries will need to reform and make changes (some difficult changes) to make things fair and equitable.
Communist rally Moscow 1996

I support de-escalation of the conflict - a diplomatic solution.  There may yet be a diplomatic solution possible.

I don't support countries invading other countries' sovereign territory.  I support Ukraine.

It is in the U.S. interest for both our political parties to work together for a resolution to this conflict - not to let party politics get in the way.

I don't want to see open war between the two countries, and I hope that doesn't happen.  It would be (for me) a little like the U.S. going to war with Canada.  It would be a poor solution and no one would win.

1 comment:

laura said...

Thanks, Aerin, for this succinct outline of a complicated situation. I, too, am hoping there is no war. Enough of those already.