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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

Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the opportunity to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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