black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             

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

[photos: NYT]

The Kiev municipal health authorities reported that 39 people had been killed on Thursday, bringing the total number of dead in three days of mayhem to at least 67. There were unconfirmed accounts that 70 protesters in Kiev had been killed and hundreds wounded on Thursday by gunfire in a confrontation with the police. Either figure made Thursday the deadliest day in the conflict to date.

Short of calling in troops it looked unlikely that Mr. Yanukovych could restore his battered authority and regain control of the capital, Kiev, as a growing number of once-loyal members of his ruling Party of Regions, including the mayor of Kiev, announced they were quitting the party to protest the bloodshed.

About the only thing that was entirely clear by Thursday afternoon was that protesters had reclaimed and even expanded territory in the center of Kiev that they had lost just two days earlier when police launched a bloody but unsuccessful assault on Independence Square, the focal point of protests since late November.”

Fears Rise That Ukraine Will Use Troops | YT

"The United States condemns in the strongest terms…"

“We have been watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters.”

"There will be consequences if people step over the line. And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”

President Obama on Kiev

©2011 Kateoplis