by Vladimir Rozanskij
Moscow ( AsiaNews) – The Russian word u – kraina, from which the name of the State in turmoil these days is derived, means “on the margins”, the borderline. In fact, as the first two decades of the post-Soviet area draws to a close, Ukraine as an independent nation has never existed in chronological and socio-political terms.
The territory of the ancient principality of Kiev, homeland of the Eastern Slavs now divided between Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, was never established as a State in itself, after suffering a long Mongol occupation (the “Tatar yoke” of the XIII – XV centuries).
In the modern era, since the era of Great Poland and its attempts to annex all of the eastern territories, Ukraine has always been part of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union, and certainly not an insignificant part. The westernmost part (Galicia) somehow always remained in the Polish orbit, and the capital of this region, Lviv, still today – despite the long Soviet dominance – has all the appearance of a small Central European and Habsburg town, closer to Prague and Budapest than Kiev and Moscow.
On the other hand , the annexation of the Crimea in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine is recent history, courtesy of the Ukrainian Khruschev as a gift to his native region, decided after a night of vodka-induced debauchery. Even the eastern territories, with important industrial cities like Khar’kov , Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk, are an expression of the so-called “Little Russia” , the one area where the Russians arrived en-masse to become a consistent part of the local population, but one which has never fully integrated. These include the Jews, who in turn settled in the great Ukrainian port of Odessa, the city from where ships departed to populate and form the state of Israel.
Ultimately, Ukraine, is nothing more than the sum of the contradictions of Russian history , and much of that of Europe. Contradictions which explode regularly at every epochal change, as is the case recently with the usual riots and the usual fears, that have characterized such events from the seventeenth century to the present day. This means that the entire modern era, has been unable to resolve them .
At the end of the day there are three main contradictions:
1 ) A Europe that still does not know what it is;
2 ) A Russia that does not know what it is not;
3 ) An East and West, that do not know their own boundaries.
In Ukraine’s recent crisis, Europe has clearly demonstrated that it does not know who or what it is, wants, plans to do or where it is going. It has proposed a fragile, hazy, unsustainable model of integration for Ukraine, as indeed is the case for all the other countries that make up the so-called European Union, and now finds itself left with the hot potato and no idea how get rid of it.
Russia has sought to reassert its power, and dominant role, towards a territory that it considers just as Ukraine and towards Europe for which it has no consideration at all. Each new Tsar, like Putin today, want to repeat the march of Alexander I, who defeated Napoleon: enter Paris in triumph, battalions of its Cossacks (Ukrainian) setting up camp on its avenues, and impose the Holy Alliance in the name of Russian Orthodoxy , the only true faith capable of saving the world.
But Putin has had to limit himself to taking back the Crimea, where the local population is almost exclusively Russian, a kind of empty bottle left by Khrushchev .
The East has clashed again with the West, in a place where boundaries are blurred and jurisdictions overlapping even those of the Orthodox Church: in Ukraine there is in fact an autonomous Metropolitan, one loyal to Moscow, a third from Constantinople and a fourth obedient to the Pope, as well as other rather indecipherable sub-schisms.
The country which is itself a borderland, clearly demonstrates that it does not know in which direction to look to view the world , and lays bare the very concepts of East and West, as empty containers of ideals and models that are constantly overtaken by history.
Russia is not really East, just as America is not really West, in this millennium of globalization that is resetting all the certainties and regressing the world to the indefinite proportions of ancient times. America looks to the Ukrainian and European cauldron no longer able to see its way ahead: who is with us, who is against us? The good guy and bad guy division does not work anymore, as we have seen in Syria and all the crises in the Middle East; the twentieth century Afghan lesson should have been enough to put an end to that, where America enthusiastically supported “freedom fighter” Osama Bin Laden …
The Ukrainian crisis puts an end to Putin’s dream of restoring the Soviet Union purified of Soviet ideology in the name of Holy Orthodoxy . It also puts an end to Europe’s hypocrisy that it is the home of all peoples, but a home that people cannot get into or out of.
It also ends the American dream, of drawing Far West boundaries around the world and penning all the Indians up in their reserves .
And maybe, just maybe, the time of men and peoples can now begin, who in Ukraine, in a land of origins and boundaries, have found the desire to write their own story.