Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Many citizens of modern Ukraine perceive the territorial sizes of their country as something self-evident and given once and for all. Not many of them know how over time the territory of Ukraine grew and thanks to what historical events it has the territory that it has – without Donbass and Crimea. It isn’t a coincidence that Poroshenko never speaks about this, even on Victory Day or the Day of grief and memory of the victims of wars in Ukraine.
In brief we will note: Malorossiya, which became a subject under Moscow’s governance in 1654, was almost five times less in size than modern Ukraine. Gradually all of Malorossiya, except its Western part, was gradually liberated from the Polish dominion by the forces of the Russian Empire.
In the 20th century the first large territorial acquisition of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became possible thanks to the inclusion in its structure of Donbass, as well as the Nikolaev, Kherson, and Odessa regions as a result of the disbandment of the Novorossiya governerate.
After the revolution of 1917 V. I. Lenin, the monuments to who are today being dismantled by Ukrainian nationalists, understood the inviability of the newly created Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It remained an agricultural region and couldn’t economically exist as a certain subject of the Soviet state. In order to strengthen its viability industrial regions with seaports (Odessa, Mariupol, Nikolaev) were also attached to it.
Ukraine was a part of a larger State project – the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, and the re-designing of the internal borders didn’t cause a stir. The USSR was a uniform political and economic space regardless of the territorial and administrative belonging of its regions.
In the pre-wartime of the 1930’s the situation near the borders of the USSR was restless. Paris, London, and Berlin signed the Munich pact on the partition of Czechoslovakia, and Warsaw separately agreed with the Third Reich about the direct participation in this action. Hitler’s armies were pushed closer to the Soviet borders.
Soviet intelligence knew very well about the desire of Poland to participate in an attack on the USSR together with the Nazis. Stalin made a knight’s move – a non-aggression pact between the USSR and Germany was signed. The opportunity appeared to return Galicia and Volyn, which weren’t attached in 1654, to Ukraine.
The Polish campaign of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army of 1939 was an excellently performed operation, thanks to which Ukraine and Belarus acquired lands in the West. The military personnel of different nationalities, for who all the Soviet Union was a Motherland, participated in returning these lands. And they fought for Ukraine in the same way that they would for their small Motherland.
1940 – the Romanian campaign of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. Ukraine receives Bukovina, captured earlier by Romanians.
1944 – the Red Army returns Transcarpathia, which was under the Hungarians, into the structure of Ukraine.
1954 – Crimea is transferred in the structure of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as a sign of eternal friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian people and the 300th anniversary of the reunion of Ukraine with Russia.
After the disintegration of the USSR everything went on the contrary. The nationalist sentiments that prevailed in Ukraine brought a split in society, having deprived it of an ideologically monolithic character. Division into “us” and “them” led to the fact that “them” ceased to feel like a part of Ukraine. Kiev didn’t speak about friendship with Russia anymore, and considered the reunion of 1654 as a negative event in Ukrainian history. Having felt like a stranger, Crimea left. Together with Donbass.
The territorial integrity of Ukraine is now under a big question, because both the Transcarpathian Hungarians and the Bukovinian Romanians are dissatisfied with the nationalist regime in Kiev. Kiev places a stake on their aggressive assimilation. Kiev doesn’t consider it necessary to take into account the specific features of this or that national group, and approaches everyone with the same measure, suppressing their culture and ethnic consciousness.
Having lost territories, Ukrainian politicians now reproach the West for not observing the guarantees of the Budapest memorandum of 1994. Both Leonid Kuchma and Leonid Kravchuk spoke about this: in exchange for Kiev’s abandonment of nuclear weapons, the US, Great Britain, and Russia undertook the obligation to be the guarantors of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And, according to Ukraine, they violated their obligations.
The former ambassador of the US in Ukraine Steven Pifer immediately found an excuse: it is Russia who violated the provisions of the memorandum, but Washington in 1994 warned Kiev that it won’t be able to support the integrity of Ukraine using military means. Both Ukrainian politicians and the former ambassador Pifer pretend that the US and Great Britain aren’t involved in the organisation of the coup d’etat in Kiev in 2014, which broke the fragile balance of forces in Eastern Europe and was initially conceived as part of a plan to disrupt the process of Eurasian integration by kindling a series of local conflicts on the perimeter of the Eurasian borders.
US bases in Crimea and the deployment of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine was supposed to become the West’s prize from changing the regime in Kiev to a more nationalist one.
London and Washington, having thereby violated the spirit of the Budapest memorandum, started the processes that threatened the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Having become more nationalist, Ukraine started losing territories. A direct relationship is seen in this: the more dense nationalism is, the more angry it looks at representatives of other nationalities, and the less these nationalities want to live with such a nationalist regime in the same country.
The Ukrainian governments, one after the other, ineptly guzzled the Soviet economic heritage. Now practically everything has been eaten, and the building of Ukrainian statehood, which remained for many years without due repair, gives the first cracks and crumbles.
It’s not the Budapest memorandum that must be the main instrument for keeping regions inside the structure of Ukraine, but the government of Ukraine abandoning the suffocating nationalist ideology that suppresses ethnic variety by the force of a fist and a knee. It is very simple to stop the centrifugal tendencies in Ukraine – it is sufficient enough to show respect for regions and their cultural specificities.
But London and Washington have their own plans for Ukraine. And the integrity of the Ukrainian State in these plans is given less of a place.
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