Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lucia Soviet synonymous with Russian - A History

The maximum territorial extent of countries in the world under Soviet influence after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and before the official Sino-Soviet split of 1961 (Source: Wikipedia)

Andrei and I have been having an ongoing conversation about what is going on in the Ukraine with regards to the removal of the duly elected President (who seems more than a little corrupt) and the consequent invasion of Crimea by Russia. Rather than continue in the comments with this, I thought this post important enough to become it's own entity, in response to Andrei saying:

Ukraine as it is drawn on the map today is an accident of history - nobody even called themselves "Ukrainian" until the Romantic movement of the 19th century - Ukraine was a region of Europe where Catholicism meets Orthodoxy - the Western parts of the modern state were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 100 years ago while the Eastern parts were in the Russian Empire and always had been

Anyway by quirks of history Ukraine as a "nation" came into being with its current borders in 1991 and if it was to have any hope of survival and becoming a nation the last thing it needed clueless,idiotic Americans stirring up trouble in the name of "promoting democracy".

However, Ukraine as a nation with different borders did come into being nearly a century ago. From an article I've been meaning to comment on (Eastern Ukraine Is Still Fighting Its Past Life under Stalin's long shadow):

For five years, between the 1917 Revolution and the end of the Civil War, Ukraine had a brief and tumultuous experiment with independence, as did other former Russian colonies and future Soviet republics, like Georgia and Armenia. Those few years of independence gave Ukrainians a taste of national liberation that they would not soon forget and were marked, as now, by lengthy sit-ins in public squares, by rowdy parliamentary debate, and by diverse factions of Ukrainian society jockeying for influence. Then, in 1920, Ukraine—like the republics of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and others—began signing a series of vague military and economic treaties with Moscow that gave shape to what we would come to know as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Then we get to the really interesting bit, which agrees with Andrei's point that the Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire, albeit now a Soviet Empire:

Very quickly, though, the Union became a distinctly Russian entity. According to Soviet historian Geoffrey Hosking, this was no accident. Stalin “wanted to see a political framework which would give expression to the dominance Russia had assumed in the world revolutionary movement,” in which communist patriotism was sublimated into Russian patriotism. Vladimir Lenin was slightly horrified by all this, seeing it, correctly, as a revanchist moment and a return to the bad old days of imperialism. He even prepared a memorandum in protest and was to deliver it at the Twelfth Party Congress in 1923. He demanded that, in the new Union, some form of autonomy be returned to the various national republics.

But Lenin had his third and final stroke before he could go on record with his protest, and Stalin and Leon Trotsky had the memorandum suppressed. (It came out after Stalin’s death.) As a result, notes Hosking, “the new [Soviet] constitution embodied Stalin’s conceptions rather than Lenin’s.” Moscow and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic got to run the show, not just in terms of military and diplomatic matters, but in pretty much everything else. Ethnic Russians made up nearly three-quarters of the Communist Party, and official business all across the USSR was done in Russian. Which is all to say that, when the older respondents of Cherkashin’s poll in Donetsk say they are Russian, what they mean, mostly, is that they are Soviet.

Now, the final sentences above show the importance of "Russian speakers" in Ukraine - it's those who are more likely to identify with Soviet Communism, and not see themselves as part of an independent nation:

In the last tense months, the conflict in Ukraine has been described as a fight over Ukrainian identity—in terms of language, territory, and great-power influence. Maps on television and in newspapers show a country conveniently cleaved in half between Ukrainian speakers in the pro-Yulia Tymoshenko west and Russian speakers in the Yanukovych east. The former love Europe; the latter love Russia. The former have been oppressed for centuries by the latter, who want to see a return to the days of the USSR.

But Cherkashin’s informal office lecture [note by Lucia - it's in the link, as I haven't included it in my post] demonstrated that the truth is more complicated, as it always is. The real split is generational. Unlike Cherkashin, his students were all born after 1991, in an independent Ukraine, and they see their country’s close relationship with Russia very differently than their older professor. In fact, Cherkashin’s own research confirms this division. The younger a citizen of Donetsk, the more likely she is to view herself as Ukrainian. The older she is, the more likely she is to identify as Russian. And this is the crux of it all: What we are seeing today is the reverberation of what happened more than 20 years ago. This is still the long post-Soviet transition. And this is what it’s like to wander in the desert, waiting for the old generation to die off.
Things change.  What defines a nation?  History or a shared vision for the future?  Or force?

Ukraine is no longer Polish, I've let that go, and I'm sure that Poland has too.  There is some long history there of Ukraine being part of the Polish borderlands, but no more.  The Russian Empire no longer exists either, nor does the Soviet Union.  Russia needs to come to terms with her history, but recreating the past is not the way to do it.  Instead, an honest examination of what has been before is needed, and I've not seen much evidence that Russia wants to go there, or will be able to go there in the near future.

Related link: Eastern Ukraine Is Still Fighting Its Past Life under Stalin's long shadow

8 comment(s):

Andrei said...

For five years, between the 1917 Revolution and the end of the Civil War,Ukraine had a brief and tumultuous experiment with independence

Not really - When Poland re-emerged as a nation in the aftermath of WW2 along with other Nations that came into being out of the ashes of the Austro Hungarian Empire it went to war with its neighbours in the East, to redefine its Eastern border. The other new Nations born at the time were fighting with their neighbours as well to define their borders. Lots of little wars were going on

In addition the Russian civil war was raging and in this context Poland grabbed parts of what are today called Ukraine and Belarus.

In 1920 Poland took Kiev and installed a puppet Ukrainian Government, which didn't last because the locals didn't accept it - there was war raging all around with multiple factions (Cossacks, Reds, Whites to name a few) but the Red Army prevailed and pushed the Poles back damn near taking Warsaw in the process. Warsaw survived and Poland survived, while the Red army took and held Kiev.

Poland's borders were redefined after WW2 as were Belarus's, Ukraine's, Romania's, Czechoslovakia's, Hungry's, etc and populations were transferred on ethnic basis. Millions of people all very messy and cruel.

This is were we find ourselves and given the circumstances move on or not as we choose.

The reality is that Ukraine circa 2014 is descending into civil war due to some inept interference in its affairs by Western politicians and some old demons have been awakened.

Vladimir Putin for all his sins has seen fit to secure Crimea which is important strategically to the continued existence of Russia and which will as a result will hopefully avoid the carnage and bloodshed that's about to descend

Lucia Maria said...

I read a book a number of years back about the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-20 (White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-20, and the author's contention was that the push to Warsaw was about imposing Communism on Europe. He called it the "Red Bridge". The Bolsheviks would not have stopped at Warsaw.

Why do you say that the Poles installed a puppet Ukrainian Government? They recognised Symon Petliura as the leader of Ukraine, and as far as I've read, he organised the government of Ukraine. Unfortunately, independence from the Soviets failed at that time. Looks like history is repeating.

Also, Poland just wanted back what was taken in the Partitions of the late 1700's, lands that were historically Polish. Everything was up for grabs at the time as the empires all around who had divided Poland between themselves, had collapsed.

While Crimea may be strategically important to Russia, Putin is going to be the cause of carnage and bloodshed, as no one else really has the stomach for it. Crimean, like many other places, is not Putin's to take.

Andrei said...

Why do you say that the Poles installed a puppet Ukrainian Government?

Everything you wrote, matches what I wrote initially but from a different perspective but in particular from your wikipedia link


Petliura withdrew to Poland December 5, 1919, which had previously recognized him as the head of the legal government of Ukraine. In April 1920, as head of the Ukrainian People's Republic, he signed an alliance in Warsaw with the Polish government, agreeing to a border on the River Zbruch and recognizing Poland's right to Galicia in exchange for military aid in overthrowing the Bolshevik regime. Polish forces, reinforced by Petliura's remaining troops (some two divisions), attacked Kiev on May 7, 1920 in what became a turning point of the 1919–21 Polish-Bolshevik war. Following initial successes, Piłsudski's and Petliura's forces were pushed back to the Vistula River and the Polish capital, Warsaw.

There were multiple factions fighting in Ukraine, each one claiming/seeking to be the legitimate authorities, the Poles recognized Symon Petliura whose faction at different times fought both the Reds and the Whites.

.Józef Piłsudski wanted to reinstate the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, of course and the Poles also fought in Lithuania. The Soviet Union didn't exist yet when all this happened. Very messy. Quite a few little countries came into existence and lasted about five minutes during those times.

Poland got to last because it defeated the Red Army on the Vistula as you know. Who knows what would have happened had the reds prevailed but there wouldn't be a country called Poland today if they had, I'd suggest.

Andrei said...

While Crimea may be strategically important to Russia, Putin is going to be the cause of carnage and bloodshed, as no one else really has the stomach for it. Crimean, like many other places, is not Putin's to take.

Sometimes it is just a matter of realities on the ground - the reality is that Ukraine is bankrupt and sliding into civil war and this is not Vladimir Putin's doing.

On Sunday the people who live in Crimea will vote on whether to become part of Russia or stay with Ukraine (under the 1993 constitutional agreement).

I'd suggest this will be a no brainer for most - not only will going with Russia protect them from the forces tearing Ukraine apart but those who are paid from the Government purse will be paid in Roubles at rates comparable with those elsewhere in the Russian Federation which are substantially higher as will be pensions for those on Government pensions which will be set at Russian Federation .rates.

Whether this is "right" or "wrong" matters not a whit - Ukraine has been broken by yet another USA "regime change", which according to my calculations is about the fifth since Obama came to power and minimizing the damage this clumsy dolt has created in this part of the world is now the order of business.

And hopefully events will not spiral further out of control

Lucia Maria said...


Petlura was not a puppet - he was a diversion. From the book I mentioned earlier (which I decided I should get on the Kindle):

On the Soviet side of the front, the occupation of Kiev caused consternation and bewilderment which quickly passed. It was quite unexpected, as shown by the unprepared state of the XII and XVI Armies, and it's political purpose was far from clear. The Soviets knew that Petlura was a political nonentity, and did not believe that a hard-bitten campaigner like Piłsudski could think otherwise. They soon realised they were faced with some sort of diversion.

And earlier in the same chapter:

Unless one regards Piłsudski as a complete political inaphabete, one must accept the view that he used Petlura merely as a labour saving device. No doubt he would have rejoiced had the Ukrainian national movement succeeded. But he did not count on it. His main intention was to buy some time and space for Poland in the coming life-and-death struggle with the Soviets. This interpretation is borne out by the behaviour of the Polish forces. Having occupied Kiev, they carefully shunned all political distractions. They turned their backs on the Ukraine, and re-formed to face the threatening situation in the north. Śmigły-Rydz's strike force was dismantled. The Second Army was dissolved altogether. The remaining elements of the Third and Sixth Armies and Romer's Calvary Division were merged into a single group under General Listowski. These were not the dispositions of a military command earnestly intent of supporting a shaky political ally in its newly won territory.

William Stout said...

And this is the fault of the clueless Americans, how exactly?

Andrei said...

Because for all the tosh they spout about democracy they actually subverted it in Ukraine which lead to the lawfully elected and recognized Government of Ukraine being replaced by a street mob.

And don't you believe anything about this being to do with Ukraine joining the EU which wont happen in your lifetime and was never likely to even before this happened.

Its as though occupy New Zealand overthrew our Government over CER with Australia and replaced it with a Labour/Green/ Maori coalition while preventing any National MPs from even entering any building anywhere near Parliament and expecting us to accept that

Andrei said...

We don't live in a perfect world Neil and nor do we get to determine our destiny. We live in a Potemkin democracy ourselves - our election this year means no more than American Idol, its just window dressing.

Anyway what do you make of this - a clash of the values promoted by the Godless West and the East.

Why does the West impose this on the East?


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