Ukraine: a new war with ancient roots

The war between Russia and Ukraine did not start in February 2023, not even in the 2014 coup. Its origin is ancient and has to do with various historical and cultural factors

Aug 25, 2023 - 14:00
Ukraine: a new war with ancient roots
Image by Enrique / Pixabay

The nationalist conflicts in Ukraine are complex and multifaceted, deeply rooted in the country's history, ethnic diversity, and geopolitical context. These conflicts have often revolved around issues of identity, language, historical interpretation, and territorial claims. 

Ukraine has a long history of foreign rule and domination by various powers, including the Mongols, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire. This history has contributed to the development of a distinct Ukrainian national identity.

During World War I, as the Russian Empire weakened, Ukraine sought to assert its independence. In 1917, the Central Rada declared Ukrainian autonomy, followed by the establishment of the Ukrainian People's Republic. However, this independence was short-lived due to conflicts with neighboring powers and the Russian Bolsheviks.

The 1930s saw the devastating Holodomor, a man-made famine orchestrated by Joseph Stalin's Soviet regime that resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. Soviet policies aimed at suppressing Ukrainian culture, language, and identity further fueled nationalist sentiments.

During World War II, Ukraine was a battleground, experiencing brutal occupation by Nazi Germany and subsequent Soviet liberation. Collaborationist movements and ethnic tensions, including between Ukrainians and Poles, led to violence and displacement.

After World War II, Ukraine remained under Soviet control, enduring further Russification and cultural suppression. Dissident movements emerged, and calls for greater Ukrainian autonomy gained momentum.

The early 2000s witnessed the Orange Revolution, a series of protests against electoral fraud and government corruption. This movement was driven by demands for democracy, transparency, and national identity.

In 2013-2014, the Euromaidan protests erupted in response to then-President Yanukovych's decision to abandon an agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. The protests led to Yanukovych's ousting and escalated into the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine, primarily in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, emerged in 2014 as separatist movements sought to break away from the Ukrainian government. The conflict has been fueled by geopolitical tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

Ukraine has various nationalist movements, ranging from right-wing to left-wing, each with different visions of the country's future. Some of these movements emphasize Ukrainian nationalism and identity, while others focus on regional autonomy.

Language has also been a contentious issue. While Ukrainian is the official language, there are significant Russian-speaking populations, particularly in the eastern regions. Language policies have been used as political tools and have triggered debates about cultural and linguistic rights.

Ukraine's history is intricate and often intertwined with the histories of neighboring countries. Nationalist conflicts in Ukraine reflect not only internal dynamics but also external influences, including Russia's historical claims and interests in the region.

Victorio Tomasino EA Global Coordinator