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On Independence Day, Ukraine's Existence Questioned

Published: August 25, 2014 (Issue # 1825)



  • Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, center, at Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 24.
    Photo: President.gov.ua

On Sunday, Independence Day was celebrated for the 24th time in Ukraine — a nation that, in the eyes of many Russians, does not exist at all.

The decades-old question of Ukrainian national identity has reached a fever pitch in recent months thanks to the pro-Russian insurgency's capacity to exacerbate patriotic sentiments in both Ukraine and Russia.

Russian nationalists see Ukraine as a renegade province misled by a handful of Russophobes into viewing itself as an independent nation, distinct from Russia.

"There never was … a Ukrainian ethnicity, a Ukrainian nation, a Ukrainian civilization. Just western Russian lands," Alexander Dugin, an ultraconservative Russian philosopher, wrote on his website Evrazia.org in February.

Having long been relegated to the fringes of society, Dugin's ideas were recently co-opted by Kremlin ideologues, and now enjoy mainstream popularity in Russia.

But historians, even those in Russia, argue that Ukraine is a nation — albeit one that is very young, and very closely intertwined with its former mainland.

"The Ukrainian nation doubtless exists," said Maria Falina, an expert on Eastern European history with University College Dublin. "They're just still working out their own historical narrative."

The Long Road to Independence

In medieval times, the Eastern European Plain housed a tumble of ever-morphing feudal principalities kept in constant upheaval by internal strife and foreign invasion, most notably the German crusaders and the cataclysmic Mongol forces.

"Ukraine" as a distinct region emerged in the 16th century, when the term was used to define the mostly Orthodox Christian territories controlled at the time by the Catholic Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Nov. 26


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee will meet this afternoon in their office in the New St. Isaac’s Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha at 4 p.m.


Zoosphere, an international exhibition focusing on the pet industry, opens today at the Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island. Not only will items such as toys, terrariums and accessories be available for purchase, but animal enthusiasts can also learn about the latest in veterinary medicine and behavioral training thanks to the conferences and presentations that are part of the event.



Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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