As the fascist forces escalate their aggression against the Donbass Republics, many are questioning what the future of the Republic of Ukraine will look like in the medium and long term. The state as presently compromised will not survive but a few more years at the very most.
History is full of states coming and going/changing their borders. The idea that this state will evaporate into the annals of history is not novel. It will be one of many.
1. There is no historical precedent for such a state
The majority of the territory that is currently Ukraine has at various times been ruled by Russia, The Golden Horde (Mongolia), The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ottoman Turkey, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Second Polish Republic and the Soviet Union.
The regions corresponding to post-1991 Ukraine had never been unified as a legitimate state. This is one of the reasons that current state has no cohesive identity, it is merely a mishmash of regions that for most of modern history were Russian. This poor political geography is owed in great part to the foolish Bolshevik map of Soviet Republics which replaced the Tsarist guberniyas, which as regional units, were far more reflective of the realities of local identities.
Because of Russia’s vastness, throughout history, regional identities have often been vastly more important than nation ones.
It is for this reason that many people in the cobbled together, geographically manic Republic of Ukraine, are far more comfortable calling themselves Odessa people, or Kharkov people or even Lvov people than Ukrainian.
The myth of Ukrainianism is a modern invention of an intelligentsia from the Galician region which during the 19th and early 20th century was part of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Empire and after the First World War, part of the Second Polish Republic. The development of the idea of Ukrainianism was an attempt to emancipate peasants who were neither Polish nor Austria and give them an identity during the ‘age of European nationalism’.
This was the basis of the rump-state that emerged from the ashes of both the First World War and the Russian Civil War known as the West Ukrainian People’s Republic. Another Ukrainian People’s Republic later formed in Kiev. Both places had limited international recognition and are best understood as an outgrowth of the territorial and sectarian wars fought in the region after the October Revolution.
Such conflicts include the Polish-Ukrainian War and the Polish–Soviet War, when both powers were competing for influence in the area known as Little Russia.
A state with such shaky foundations is difficult to unite. No such unity has yet to be achieved as the political infighting in Kiev, the coup of 2014 and the war in Donbass demonstrate.
Massacre in Odessa
2. Since 1991 Ukraine has always been divided
Ever since the former Soviet Republic became an independent state, Ukraine’s political map has always been evenly divided between eastern and southern regions which vote for parties that are broadly pluralistic and at times Russophone. Such a party was the Party of Regions from which Viktor Yanukovych derived his support.
Western regions, including those which were only incorporated into the USSR after 1945, always tended to vote for parties that were Russophobic and intended to build a young state on a sectarian basis, in spite of the lack of historical precedence.
This political conflict was the proximate cause of the coup of 2014. The country was split down the middle and the opposition to President Yanukovych was more violent and better funded from abroad than his political allies.
A similar political upheaval took place in the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004/5. A country prepared to split at any moment on political lines, cannot long call itself a country.
3. Russian regions outside of the two Donbass republics will go their own way.
On the 2nd of May 2014, peaceful protesters gathered at Odessa’s Trade Union Hall. They were voicing their opposition to the fascist government which took power in Kiev.
They were met by a combination of mostly non-local members of the neo-Nazi party ‘Right Sector’ as well as far right football hooligans, also not supporters of a local team.
The fascists came to provoke violence and with the authorities doing nothing to help, they achieved their goal.
Many of the peaceful demonstrators, most of whom were very young men and women, were burned alive as the fascists throw firebombs at the Trade Union Hall in which the protesters found themselves barricaded.
Some leapt to an instant death, whilst others who survived were mutilated and beaten to death by the fascist gangs below.
This has not been forgotten. Odessa is a traditionally multi-cultural city, but unmistakeably Russian in character and language.
Odessa along with Mariupol and Dnepropetrovsk and Kharkov in the north will not be so easily reconciled to the idea of Ukraine. As it stands, violence has been commonplace in such places ever since the coup of 2014. Just because unlike in the Donbass republics, there is not out and out war, does not mean things are peaceful.
The regions may well go their own way and sooner than many suspect.
4. It’s the economy, stupid!
Somalia has long been called a failed state due to the weak Mogadishu government’s inability to maintain a functional state.
Likewise, post-Gaddafi Libya is now several states in one, with two factions in two cities (Tripoli and Benghazi) competing for legitimacy. Compounding this are a plethora of tribal factions and terrorist groups including ISIS, who control parts of the country. There is no central economy and resources are constantly being plundered and sold on the black market, often with the help of the Sicilian mafia.
Ukraine too is a mafia state. Corruption in state-owned corporations, lack of any accountability among offices, one of the most corrupt and violent business cultures in the world, difficulty in the government collecting revenue and a thriving black market, has depressed the economy of a state which was since 1991 has never been a picture of economic health.
Unable to pay for its own necessities let alone its war of aggression, the Kiev government is almost entirely reliant on foreign aid.
With the EU states having their own economic and political crises and Donald Trump appearing less and less interested in paying for states like Ukraine, the fascist regime is more than just an aggressive state, it is a failed state.
The combination of regions uncomfortable with ethno-centric and linguistically discriminatory laws with central bankruptcy is a recipe for civil strife. Many of the Russian regions of the country would be more economically healthy if they formed their own federation or indeed returned to Russia.
Many would jump at such an opportunity. They soon will.
5. The EU Problem
Whereas the fascist regime in Kiev is keen to create an identity based on the myth of Ukrainian ultra-nationalism, many of her would be colleagues in a future EU arrangement do not share such views.
Many Poles feel that Lvov (Lwow as they call it), ought to be restored as a Polish centre of culture, which it was even during Austrian rule. Although the city largely lost her Polish population, if what is left of Ukraine, the western rump, were to join the EU, the possibility of Polish repatriation could be a very real possibility due to the EU’s open border policy.
As it stands, I believe in the next few years, all Russophone regions of the country will legally separate from the centre leaving mostly Western Ukraine and maybe some small areas of left-bank Ukraine (possibly not).
This rump state, would have little choice but to beg the EU for membership. Brussels may not be able to stomach the burden of even a small Ukraine. But if it did, that would be the end of Bandarastan. It would essentially mean a state perpetually reliant on the good will of Brussels on the physical periphery of Europe. Good luck with that!