Ukraine – Ten Points To Understand The Crisis

Updated: Mar 22

Every war has deep roots, which can never be reduced to the latest events. Ukraine has always been a borderland, a land of Cossacks, a land of dozens of ethnic groups, which inevitably reverberate in political sentiments. Like Russia itself, a country that lives between European proximity, Slavic culture and eastward tendencies. The analysts of AMIStaDeS and those of the Associazione Italiana di Intelligence e Geopolitica (AIAIG) decided to make their own contribution to trying to understand the crisis.

1. Ukraine, Rus’ cradle: from King Vladimir to present day

by Maria Casolin

Until the early Middle Ages, in current Ukraine lived nomads, but with the arrival of Rus', part of the Norse Varangian, lands were unified and Kiev was named “mother of all Rus' cities”.

The population was also baptized and christianised by order of Vladimir the Great, who thereby abandoned paganism.

After many invasions – among them, the mongolian one, and the later division of the Golden Horde Khanate in three grand duchies – two were Moscovia and Volnya, where there were respectively Moscow and Kiev –, the first one became more important and stronger and put Ukraine under its own control (Treaty of Perejslav, 1654). In the last period of tsarist regime, a work of ucraine lands' russification, above all linguistically, was carried out.

After a long time of civil wars and anarchy (1917-1922), Ukraine became part of the USSR and, when this broke up (1991), the Parliament stated that Ukraine was an indipendent and democratic country.

Relations with Russia were very tense at the beginning, they escalated in the 90s due to relationships between Ukraine and NATO and they got worse in the first years of the new millennium, when Juščenko's reformist government was established, dismissed and then elected again after the so called Orange Revolution (2004), which started after fraud concerns on behalf of Janukovyč, the pro-Russian prime minister. As a consequence, conflicts in the Russian-speaking community of eastern Ucraine increased, while creating the premises of the crisis in 2014.

2. Ukraine, borderland between ethnicities and religiosity

by Maria Casolin

In Ukranian, krajina means “country, land”, whereas for Slavic etymology it means “on the border”: this land, which is the second biggest country in Europe, borders Russia, Moldova, Belarus, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. Plains and steppes (where černozem – literally “black soil” – can be found) are crossed by many rivers, whilst the only mountains are parts of Carphatians and Crimean peaks. As it can cover up to seven times its population's food requirement, Ukraine was often called “world's granary” (it exports sunflower oil, wheat and sugar), and we shall not forget coal reserves and hydroelectric plants on river Dnepr.

Among all ehtnic groups, the biggest one is the Ukranian, followed by the Russian minority which doesn't correspond yet with the bigger Russian-speaking population. In fact, Ukranian is considered the state language, but Russian is widely used, especially in eastern and southern areas: still, it is difficult to define its real spread since many people speak suržik, a mix of Ukranian and Russian.<