It may surprise people to realise that the first region of the prison of nations known as post-1991 Ukraine to secede from Kiev rule was not Donbass. In 2014, prior to the fascist coup, western Galician regions of Ukraine, declared full autonomy under the leadership of Lvov mayor Andriy Sadoviy.
After the far-right political figures who dominate Galician politics were able to take power in Kiev after 22 February 2014, the secessionist movement faded away, but some of the most angry political figures in the country emanate from these regions and many are unhappy that the regime in Kiev isn’t violent enough, perverse though that may sound.
Now though, one of the many ludicrous resolutions to gain approval in the circus known as the Ukrainian Rada, has put all of this into flux. The resolution blames the Soviet Union for starting the Second World War, something no serious scholar in the world could ever abide.
But this is from a country whose former prime minister said that the Second World War began when the Soviet Union invaded Germany….and Ukraine, which wasn’t a state in the 1930s or 1940s. They’re a truly odd lot.
This resolution however also condemns the post-war settlement which re-aligned many European borders including those of the Soviet Union and Poland. The Galician regions of what is today Western Ukraine were between the end of the Polish-Ukrainian war (1920) and the end of the Great Patriotic War (1945), territories of the Second Polish Republic. They were areas in which both Polish and Jewish culture thrived until Hitler’s armies along with self-identified Ukrainian nationalist collaborators slaughtered both by the tens of thousands.
Now though by calling into question the post-war settlement Kiev has questioned its own ‘territorial integrity’. Poland herself put the issue to sleep in 1992 in the form of a treaty with Ukraine which renounced any Polish claims to former territories of her Second Republic. Yet Lvov, known to Poles as Lwow, has always been a city of great cultural importance to Poland, and many Poles still feel that it was wrongly given to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
It is unlikely the mostly symbolic, historically insane and globally irrelevant resolution from the Rada will have any immediate tangible impact on political geography in the region. However it does allude to the fact that Ukraine’s geographical composition is unsustainable.
Donbass has borne the brunt of the fighting from Kiev because its resistance has been the most outwardly heroic, but there are many other regions that have their own culture, their own agenda and seek their own destiny, both those that want to embrace their Russian heritage in the south and east, and those in the far west which want to create something of a political island where neo-Nazis can take refuge from the world and its wider historical realities.
In ten years or less people will largely forget this state of Ukraine. It will cease to exist in its current form, one way or another. It will have split in several directions. So long as this is done peacefully and democratically, it can only be a good thing, even for those on the ultra-right whom I condemn. The only tragedy is that the people of Donbass have had to spill their own blood to prove that the idea of Ukrainian territorial integrity is a mistake of history.