“There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it. Unlike the Baltic states, it does not have a recent (interwar) memory of statehood. Nor, unlike almost every other post-Soviet state aside from Belarus, does the majority population have a radically different language and culture to distinguish itself from the Russians. In many cases, for these countries, the traditional language suggests a natural political ally—Finland for the Estonians, Turkey for the Azeris, Romania for the Moldovans. These linguistic and cultural affinities are not without their difficulties, but they do give a long-term geopolitical orientation to these countries.
Ukraine has this to some extent in its western part, formerly known as Galicia, which has strong cultural and to an extent linguistic affinities with Poland. But the country’s capital, Kyiv, has much stronger ties to Russia: Russians consider Kievan Rus, which lasted from the 9th to the 13th century (when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols), to be the first Russian civilization. Russian Orthodoxy was first proclaimed there. Most people in Kyiv speak Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and in any cases the languages are quite close (about as close as Spanish and Portuguese). On television, it is typical for any live broadcast—whether it’s news, sports, or a reality-TV show—to go back and forth seamlessly between Russian and Ukrainian, with the understanding that most people know both. Russians too often assume that these cultural affinities mean that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people. There is. But the closeness of the two peoples makes forging an independent path for Ukraine extraordinarily difficult.
Adding to this difficulty has been the Soviet legacy, which in Ukraine as everywhere else is always and everywhere visible. The Ukrainian historian Giorgy Kasianov has written that Ukrainians are forced to exist in several historical and semantic fields simultaneously: the roads they drive on, the factories they work at, the social relations they engage in—all are part of the Soviet heritage. As in the rest of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, this heritage is crumbling, but in Ukraine in particular it remains formidable. As a result, Ukraine has essentially been frozen in time since independence.”
Read on: Ukraine, Putin, and the West
"Never before have officials treated me as violently as in Sochi."
— Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
"If it were not for Putin’s gentle democratic rule, the Cossacks would have torn the Pussy Riot girls into little pieces. It’s only Putin’s sense of discipline that is saving their lives."
— Putin’s trusted aide, Sergei Markov
Yellow ticket"was an informal name of a personal identification document of a prostitute in Russian Empire. The document combined an ID card, a residence permit, a license to practice prostitution, and prostitute’s medical check-up card.”
It was of “additional significance for Jewish women, beyond prostitution. The yellow ticket as a residence permit allowed the holders to live beyond the Pale of Settlement, and according to contemporary witnesses thousands of young Jewish women took upon themselves the stigma of prostitute and the burden of biweekly medical check-ups without actually being prostitutes, for the purpose of escaping the Pale and seeking higher education in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.”