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May 22, This post originally appeared at Brookings. Four days earlier, nine people from the US had been similarly blacklisted, including John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Reid, then the majority leader of the Senate, and three other senators: John McCain, a long-time critic of Putin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Dan Coats of Indiana, a former US ambassador to Doo.
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I think of myself as a Russophile. I loved living in Moscow in the mid-nineties as dats chief for the Financial Times and have made a point of returning dte over the subsequent fifteen years. My maternal grandparents fled western Ukraine after Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in They never dared to go back, but they stayed in close touch with their brothers and sisters and their families, who remained behind. That dream persisted into the next generation, and in some cases the generation after that. Drawing on her experience as a lawyer in Canada, she served as executive officer of the Ukrainian Legal Foundation, an NGO she helped to found.
My mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany before the family immigrated to western Canada.
Her generation, and an earlier wave of Ukrainian settlers, had been actively recruited by successive Canadian governments keen to populate the vast prairies of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. I made the Russian list of the unwelcome as a three-fer: I interviewed Putin himself inshortly after he took over as president.
- However, Yushchenko then did such a poor job in office that Yanukovych, who had failed to become president by cheating in , ended up being elected fair and square in
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- They are defending their country from foreign aggression.
Until March of last year, none of this prevented my getting a Russian visa. I was, on several occasions, invited to moderate panels at the Ukarine. Then, inMedvedev agreed to let me interview him in an off-the-record briefing for media leaders at the real Davos annual meeting. Russia in those days was also part of the elite global group Goldman Sachs had dubbed the BRICs—the acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China—the emerging market powerhouses that were expected to drive the world economy forward. In his pique, as Putin proudly recalled in a March Russian government television film, he responded by ordering the takeover of Crimea after an all-night meeting.
That occurred at dawn on the morning of Feb. The war of aggression, occupation, and annexation that followed turned out to be the grim beginning of a new era, and what might be the start of a new cold war, go here worse. Russian is roughly as different from Ukrainian as Spanish is from Italian. While the linguistic factor is real, it is often oversimplified od several respects: Russian-speakers are by no means qurtz pro-Putin or secessionist; Russian- and Ukrainian-speakers are geographically commingled; and virtually everyone in Ukraine has at least a passive understanding of both languages.
President Petro Poroshenko is an example—he always understood Ukrainian, but learned to speak it only inafter being elected to Parliament; and Russian remains the domestic language of the Poroshenko family. The best literary account of the Maidan uprising to date was written in Russian: Ukraine Diaries, by Andrey Kurkov, the Russian-born, ethnic Russian novelist, who lives in Kyiv. In this last quartzz, my own family is, once again, quite typical. My maternal grandmother, born into a family of Orthodox clerics in central Ukraine, grew essy speaking Russian and Ukrainian. Ukrainian was the main sate of the family refuge she eventually found in Canada, but she and my grandfather spoke Ukrainian and Russian as well as Polish interchangeably and with equal fluency.
When they told stories, it was natural for them to quote each character in his or her original language. I do the same thing today with Ukrainian and English, my mother having raised me to ukriane both languages, as I in turn have done with my three children. In short, being a Russian-speaker in Ukraine does not automatically imply a yearning for subordination to the Kremlin any more than speaking English in Ireland or Scotland means support for a political union with England.
As Kurkov writes in his Diaries: I do not have Russian citizenship and I do not want it. Immediately after the overthrow and self-exile of Yanukovych, radical nationalists in Parliament passed a law making Ukrainian the sole national language—a self-destructive source gesture and a gratuitous insult to a large body of the population.
However, the contentious language bill was never signed into law by the acting president. Many civic-minded citizens also resisted such polarizing moves. Less than two weeks after the language measure was enacted it was rescinded, though ukraiine before Putin had the chance to make considerable hay out of it. Russians see Ukraine as the cradle of their civilization. Even the name came from there: The blurring of linguistic and ethnic identities reflects the geographic and historic ties between Ukraine and Russia.
But that affinity has also bred, among many in Russia, a deep-seated antipathy to the very idea of a truly independent and sovereign Ukrainian state. The ties that bind are also contemporary and personal. Two Soviet leaders—Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev—not only spent their early years in Ukraine but spoke Russian with a distinct Ukrainian accent.
In selling his revanchist policy to the Hkraine public, Putin has depicted Ukrainians who cherish their independence and want to join Europe and embrace the Western democratic values it represents as, at best, pawns and dupes of NATO—or, at worst, neo-Nazis. As a result, many Russians have themselves been duped into viewing Washington, London, and Berlin as puppet-masters attempting to destroy Russia. Through his virtual monopoly of the Russian media, Putin has airbrushed away the truth of what happened a quarter of a century ago: Moreover, far from conspiring to tear the USSR apart, Western leaders in the late s and early nineties used their influence to try to keep it together.
These policies, Gorbachev believed, would save the USSR. Instead, they triggered a chain reaction that led to its collapse. Their actions radiated from Moscow to the capitals of the other Soviet republics—most dramatically Kyiv then known to most of the world by its Russian name, Kiev. Ukrainian democratic reformers and dissidents seized the chance to advance their own agenda—political liberalization and Ukrainian statehood—so that their country could be free forever from the dictates of the Kremlin.
However, they were also pragmatists.
Bythe centrifugal forces in the Soviet Easay were coming to a head. Putin, in his rewrite of history, would have the world believe that the United States was cheering and covertly supporting secessionism. On the contrary, president George H. Bush was concerned that the breakup of the Soviet Union would be dangerously destabilizing. He had put his chips on Gorbachev and reform Communism and was skeptical about Yeltsin.
In July of that year, Bush traveled first to Moscow to shore up Gorbachev, then to Ukraine, where, on Aug. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ulraine hatred. Listening to Bush in the parliamentary press gallery, I felt he had misread the growing consensus in Ukraine. But Bush was no apologist for Communism. He invoked his maternal grandmother who like mine was Ukrainian; he rhapsodized about his happy childhood in the Kuban in southern Russia, where the local dialect is closer to Ukrainian than to Russian.
Gorbachev was fighting back tears as he spoke. That was November 30, The two of them, along with the president of Belarus, signed an accord that formally dissolved the Soviet Union. Down came the red stars on the spires, up went the Russian tricolor in place of the hammer-and-sickle. Yeltsin took his place in the Kremlin office and residence that Putin occupies esssy. Having broken up the Soviet Union, Moscow and Kyiv both faced three immediate, vast, and novel challenges: Accomplishing all three tasks at once was essential, but it proved impossible.
But along the way they struck deals, most stunningly the vast handover of state assets to the oligarchs in exchange for their political support, which eventually transformed Russia into a kleptocracy and discredited the very idea of democracy with the Russian people.
Enter a bid that is the minimum bid amount or higher. Nearly 70 percent were opposed to the unification of their region of Ukraine with Russia; only Even though the pact between Ukrainian reformers and the Communist Party left the nomenklatura, as the Soviet leadership class was known, essentially intact, it turned out to be remarkably—and do my essay ukraine date quartz at authoritarian governance. The blurring of linguistic and ethnic identities reflects the geographic and historic ties between Ukraine and Russia. The citizens of the capital had suffered the bloodiest conflict on their streets since World War II. Even though the pact between Ukrainian reformers and the Communist Party left the nomenklatura, as the Soviet leadership class was known, essentially intact, it turned out to be remarkably — and mercifully — inept at authoritarian governance. Little Reform, Big Corruption Then came the hard part. You're the highest bidder on this item!
That tactical alliance proved to be both brilliant and doomed. Its value essqy immediate—Ukraine became, as long as Russia acquiesced, a sovereign state. The cost was revealed only gradually, but it was staggeringly high. Once the superpower they had thrived in disappeared, these men, and most of those around them, adopted Ukrainian patriotism, soon proving themselves to be enthusiastic, determined, and wily advocates of Ukrainian independence.
Their conversion was intensely opportunistic—it allowed them to daye, and even enhance, their political power and offered the added perk of huge personal wealth. But because many of the leaders of post-Soviet Ukraine had a genuine emotional connection to their country, they also took pride in building Ukrainian sovereignty, which put them at odds with some of their former colleagues quargz Russia, including, they would eventually discover, Vladimir Putin. The result, in addition to massive corruption, was gross mismanagement of the economy.
But when it came to democracy, the tables were reversed. Even though the pact between Ukrainian reformers and the Communist Party left the nomenklatura, as the Soviet leadership class was known, essentially intact, it turned out to be remarkably—and mercifully—inept at authoritarian governance.
The Ukrainian Communist Party and the KGB, with their formal ties to Moscow severed, were unprepared to act effectively on their own. Instead of closing ranks to rule the country, the power elites broke into competing clans associated with the major cities and regions. Proof of that came in when Kravchuk lost his reelection campaign.
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The very fact that he could be voted out of office was an early but important milestone for a fledgling democracy. It is one that Russia, with its more deeply rooted absolutist political system, has yet to reach. That said, what followed was not exactly encouraging. After serving the constitutionally maximum two five-year terms, Kuchma eate able to rig the election in favor of his dauphin, Viktor Yanukovych, who was prime minister.
But Kuchma and Yanukovych overestimated their power to manipulate the electorate—and they underestimated civil society. In what became known as the Orange Revolution, Ukrainians camped out in the Maidan—the central square in Kyiv—and demanded a new election. Then came a truly tragic irony. He was the champion of Ukrainian democracy. Yushchenko was poisoned on the eve of the ballot. The attempt on his life essaay him seriously ill and permanently scarred, yet he triumphed in the election.
However, Yushchenko then did such a poor job in office that Yanukovych, who had failed to become president by cheating inended up being elected fair and square in Nonetheless, the legacy of the compromise between the democrats and the apparatchiks lived on through the success of at least two of its main goals: When, two years ago, Ukraine celebrated its twenty-second anniversary as an independent state, the longest period in modern history, it had—for all its troubles—at least avoided violent separatism within its own borders, not to mention a war with Russia.
Then, in November of that year, came the first tremors of the cataclysm.
Two Soviet leaders—Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev—not only spent their early years in Ukraine but spoke Russian with a distinct Ukrainian accent. Leonid Bershidsky, a distinguished Russian journalist who was so appalled by what happened in his country in that he left, thinks that for Putin, Feb. Operative in the Kremlin The great irony of Vladimir Putin's intervention in Ukraine, as Chrystia Freeland notes in this essay, is that the world may never have heard of him if not for Ukraine's separation from the USSR in Gorbachev was fighting back tears as he spoke. He was a confidant of Mustafa Nayyem, a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan who was celebrated for launching the protests through a Ukkraine call to action.
A more objective and accurate version is that the unremitting and escalating crisis of the last year-and-a-half erupted in two stages: But that drama has its own origin in Back then, the leaders and many of the people of Ukraine and Russia shared the dream of joining the political West, a choice that was about much more than geopolitics—it meant choosing the rule of law, democracy, and individual rights over authoritarian kleptocracy.
He married a bilingual Ukrainian and, after two decades living there, is comfortable in both Ukrainian and Russian.
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The citizens of the capital had suffered the bloodiest conflict on their streets since World War II. The previous three-and-a-half months had been an emotional whipsaw.
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In the past two weeks alone, the citizens of the capital had suffered the bloodiest conflict on their streets since World War II. They had also watched their reviled president, Yanukovych, flee to Russia, a provisional government take charge, Russian troops assert control over part of their country, and Putin insist on his right to take further military action.
Ukrainians were simultaneously celebrating their eviction of Yanukovych, mourning the victims of the slaughter on the Maidan, horrified by the co of Crimea, and fearful of the possibility of a long, grinding war fanned and often directly waged by their giant neighbor to the north. Some dramatized the complexity of the ethnic and linguistic issue that Putin was exploiting to his own cynical advantage.
In those first days of March, for example, Maksym Emelyanenko, captain of the corvette Ternopil in the Ukrainian navy, was ordered by the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet to hand over control of his vessel. Captain Emelyanenko replied that, although he was ethnically Russian his Ukrainian last name notwithstandinghe had given his oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian state and he would not betray it. An ethnic Russian who was born and raised in Russia, Sobolev was one of a group of young, politically engaged Ukrainians who were the backbone of the Maidan movement starting back in November He was a confidant of Mustafa Nayyem, a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan who was celebrated for launching the protests through a Facebook call to action.
Both men would be elected to Parliament several months later, as advocates of democratic and economic reform. People have learned that the country is them. The capital was, almost literally, grievously wounded. The air was thick with smoke from bonfires, reeking with the stench of burning tires.
The once-elegant Khreshchatyk was a grimy tent city, the avenue itself denuded of its cobblestones because protesters had pulled them up to throw at the armored special forces who were ukrains tear gas and live bullets at them. A steady stream of Kyivites, many of them stylish matrons in long fur coats and high-heeled leather boots, made their way to Institytska, the steep street leading up from the Maidan. Their mission was to lay bouquets on the two-story-high mountain of flowers in tribute to the victims of police and snipers, known as the Heavenly Hundred it sounds less mawkish in Ukrainian.
But Kyiv also felt invigorated and united. Now, in the wake of the Maidan and in the midst of the Russian land grab, Ukrainians had come ukrwine see that both are critical and that they are mutually reinforcing. By early March of last year, as it became glaringly obvious that Ukraine was fighting not just for its political soul but for national survival, support for the esssay of the pro-Maidan provisional government and the sense of solidarity under pressure started to flow south and east—into the very regions that both Putin and simplistic international media coverage had characterized as pro-Russian.
But they are showing themselves to be equally patriotic. They are defending their country from foreign aggression. Fantastical things are happening. Two hand-written signs, taped to the walls of buildings, stood out. Blue and yellow vs. I spent a day in Dnipropetrovsk, a city just miles from the Russian border, whose citizens are largely Russian-speaking and whose industry was vital to the Soviet Union to wit: Leonid Brezhnev was born and educated there, and it remained his lifelong political powerbase.
Gr8 mtng MP Petro Poroshenko today, overlooking Maidan ; Rus-speaker from south, says Rus invasion has united country pic. Apartment buildings were draped in blue and yellow, the colors of the national flag; every second car sported the same colors; many election officials wore shirts worked with traditional Ukrainian embroidery.
In late November, president Petro Poroshenko celebrated the formation of a new government following October parliamentary elections with a tweet that m this point to hisfollowers: But there have been times when Russia might article source laid claim to such an identity, too. To take just one example: But it is the sort of thing said every day in Kyiv.
And that is why Putin is determined to subdue Ukraine. That is why Mr. Leonid Bershidsky, a distinguished Russian journalist who was so appalled by what happened in his country in that he left, thinks that for Putin, Feb. They discovered a lavish complex including grand, manicured parks, a zoo, and a restaurant shaped like a pirate ship. Inside the main residence, a solid gold loaf of rye bread—a tribute to Yanukovych from a petitioner—was found. You can follow it on Twitter at the Russian-language parody account zolotoybaton.
Qquartz all, he and his cronies have palaces, too. There were many bloodier and more dramatic episodes over the past year. But the opening of the gates of Mezhyhirya gets to the essence of what is at stake.
At its heart, however, the conflicts within Ukraine, and the fight Putin has picked with Ukraine, are about post-Soviet kleptocracy, and where and whether there is a popular will to resist it. Last September, I drove out to Mezhyhirya. It had become a much-visited public park. Ky grassy shoulders eo the ewsay country roads were crowded with parked cars. A few couples were having their wedding pictures taken beside the ornate fountains.
Two entrepreneurs were renting bicycles at the entrance to make it easier to tour the vast grounds. Even more popular were the ones depicting Putin. We welcome your comments at ideas qz.