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A Political Split Between East & West Ukraine – Ohhhhh Yes!!

March 29, 2009

Ok……a sensible post……so skip this and go to the other posts of mine if you are looking for my usual juvenile outlook on Ukraine.

Many people ask me why the Ukraine is so politically unstable…….despite being a “democracy” and being classed as “Free” by Freedom House.

Well, the place to start looking is not with the current politicians or governmental actions…….hmmm, in-actions is probably more accurate.

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There are people in Ukraine who are still very much alive…albeit in their 90’s who can say the following:

They were born into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, grew up in what was then Poland…..but is now part of Ukraine, lived under the Nazi’s in during WWII, got married and had children under the USSR regime and became grandparents in an independent Ukraine……….without ever leaving the city they were born in!!!!

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Yeh, and?   Where is the split between East and West I hear you say.

Well, keeping things brief…..or in a nutshell…..west Ukraine, cities such as Lviv, actually joined the forces of Nazi Germany, not only forming standard Army units, but also joined a local Galacian SS Regiment. 

They did this under the belief that Mr Hitler was going to give them an independent Ukraine……and when it eventually became apparent that he would not, they changed sides and joined east Ukraine and the Soviet Machine in fighting the Nazi’s.

This of course, has never been forgotten or forgiven by central and eastern Ukraine……even though the goal of western Ukrainians was for an independent Ukraine……as western Ukraine fought with Nazi Germany against the rest of Ukraine and the then USSR……even if under a honestly held belief of an empty promise.

You can wander around Lviv and in the markets you can buy genuine German Iron Crosses, next to Soviet Medals of Valour on the same stall, even today……which does little to allow some to forget, let alone forgive.

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Yes but that was 65 years ago, your thinking.  Very true……..but it is still within living memory for some and many of the following generation who bore family loss from this are in fine fettale.

Ok, but what has this got to do with 2009?

The legacy of this means that western Ukraine has made it a point to only communicate in Ukrainian……..together with Kyiv…….which is understandable, being the capital of the country.  

The rest of Ukraine still communicates primarily in Russian and has no desire to have to learn a new language……even though it is similar……it is in no way the same.  Here in Odessa, for example, it is extremely rare to hear Ukrainian being spoken and only official documents are written in Ukrainian….for political reasons……..most of the time needing translation into Russian for the Odessian to understand it……I’m not joking!

The current, now extremely unpopular, President went on a personal crusade to dumb down Russian and make Ukrainian supersede it……to the point of banning Russian TV channels at one time……but later backed down on the ban…..although insisting that all Russian programmes were voiced-over or subtitled in Ukrainian……..which is of course a completely pointless move as the whole country understands Russian, even if a small part of it does not use it as the first language.

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We must then add to this, the Ukrainian Presidents drive to get Ukraine into NATO…….despite the promise by all major Ukrainian political parties to the nation of a referendum on NATO.  The current polls state that the population is almost 75% against joining NATO…….although this has not stopped the President continuing to try and force the issue. 

Fortunately the French, Germans, Spanish and Italians threw a spanner in George W Bush’s  attempt to strong arm Ukraine and Georgia into NATO in the Spring of 2008………..particularly fortunate as the Georgia v Russia spat started in August the same year.

Unsurprisingly, the only voice to condemn Russia was that of the Ukrainian President……who was then condemned himself by every other Ukrainian politician, who stated Ukraine should remain neutral……very wisely!!

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The President is primarily backed by western Ukraine.  The “Opposition” is primarily backed by eastern Ukraine.  The “Opposition” do not want to force the Ukrainian language onto the Ukrainian people and see no problem with Russian being widely used for communication………which in reality, of course is still the case.

At this point, it is important to understand that the “Opposition” are not wanting to come under Moscow rule again and want to keep Ukrainian independence…….obviously……as in such a corrupt government, the last thing you want to do is give power to another corrupt government because you lose out on the “black income” you get by personally ensuring some things happen and others don’t.  If you no longer make those decisions…….the money goes to those who do!!!

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It is also unwise to provoke Russia unnecessarily when 50% of your trade is with Russia and 50% with the EU……to lose half of your trade by alienating either has obvious downfalls.

We must then throw into the mix, the fact that many Ukrainians have married, are marrying and will continue to marry Russians…….especially if from the east of Ukraine, and far less will marry Polish if from the west…..  So we therefore have generations of families in Ukraine with direct and immediate family in Russia and vice verse.

So we now have an economy which is 50% east facing and 50% west facing.  We have a political situation where the major parties are all pro Ukrainian independence, but with 50% anti Russian and 50% not anti-Russian…..even if not pro-Russian.  We have a very large amount of Ukrainians with mixed marriages with Russians…..many more so in the east than in the west of Ukraine.  We have west Ukraine and Kyiv speaking Ukrainian and the rest of Ukraine speaking Russian……..and going back, within living memory, we have west Ukraine fighting with the Nazi’s against East Ukraine and the USSR.

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We can then, on top of all this, add the personal corruption of the politicians themselves, who over the years have “acquired billions” through insider dealing, business relationships and outright theft during the period of Soviet collapse and the vacuum it left………many of whom have 50% business partners and interests in Russia and 50% in the west.

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So, with a historical and current east-west split between a country which is a buffer zone between Russia and the EU/NATO countries……..and yet another East – West split, it is therefore not surprising that the country is led by a coalition……which regularly splits.

As for the 2010 elections……..toss a coin!!!

What is probably good for Ukraine is the fact NATO has been kicked into the very long grass by every nation……even if the current President has no got the message yet.

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