politics

The division myth

07.02.2014 | Ivan Malyshko

There are no internal reasons for the territorial disintegration of Ukraine because separatists are a priori marginal even in the epicenters of the conflict


The perspective of a split of Ukraine into several parts remains one of the most pressing issues in the discussions of pessimistic scenarios of the current political crisis. The unflattering forecasts of the Yugoslav scenario are given by both representatives of the government and the opposition that blame each other. It reached the point that Premier Mykola Azarov explained his resignation by the need to avoid disintegration of the country. Today, the most important task is to preserve the unity and integrity of Ukraine. This is much more important than the personal plans or ambitions of certain politicians. This is why I took such a decision, said Azarov, commenting on his resignation

However, the dry figures provided by statistics and sociological research indicate that the problem of the country´s split is farfetched and is basically a product of the propaganda machine that churns the information war inspired mainly from the outside. The lack of unity in Ukraine has long been a heated topic abroad, and on the background of the latest events it is mentioned as a fait accompli. Meanwhile, even now, during this extreme moment in history in Ukrainian society, separatists of all hues are not a part of the mainstream and speak outside the socio-political processes as earlier. Neither massive informational support from Ukraines northeastern neighbor nor major financial injections along the same vector can bring them into the center of public debates. However, the Ukrainian elite and society in general will have to respond to this challenge and finally set the record straight, cross all the ts and dot the is.

In the 20th century in Europe, which survived two world wars and the downfall of empires, there were only two examples of territorial disintegration of unified states for internal reasons: the bloody division of Yugoslavia and the peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia. In both cases, the main motives for disintegration were a purely national factor, which is hardly applicable to modern Ukraine. After all, according to the Census 2001, the ethnic map in Ukraine is almost homogeneous: more than 90% of Ukrainians live in 13 oblasts, in six oblasts this figure is approximately 80% and in three oblasts more than 70%.

The most recent figures only confirm this trend the number of ethnic Ukrainians has increased over the years of independence (now the rate is close to 80% throughout all of Ukraine), while the number of ethnic Russians has decreased (the current estimates are 15%).

Crimea is the only region where Russians prevail over the rest of the population. In the early 1990s there were attempts to split the peninsula from Ukraine, which ended in 1995 with the inglorious departure from the political scene of the first and last Crimean president Yuriy Meshkov. Ever since, separatist moods about the autonomy´s accession to Russia have been gradually and steadily declining in Crimea. For example, according to a survey conducted in Crimea in August 2013 by the Rating group, only 18% of the Crimean people believe that Ukraine and Russia should become one state, while 63% of the respondents speak in favor of the existence of Ukraine and Russia as independent states with open borders.

In other parts of the country separatist sentiments are also greatly exaggerated and there is no such notion of Galician separatism at all. The results of another survey by the same pollster show that only 8% of Donbas residents are in favor of separation of the region from the rest of Ukraine and less than 1% of residents of Western Ukraine support the withdrawal of Galicia from Ukraine. Based on these facts one can draw several conclusions based on dry sociological numbers. First of all, there are no internal reasons for the prospects of a territorial split of the country because separatists are a priori outcast even in the epicenters of separatism. The threat and reality of the split exists only in the minds of some experienced crisis managers. Secondly, at this stage even the idea of federalization of Ukraine remains widely unpopular and far-fetched only 7% of Ukrainians support a federal path of the countrys development, whereas 64.5% are for the unitary state. Thirdly, the figures that support the independence and unitary structure of the state (which constitutes two-thirds of Ukrainian citizens) totally coincide. At the same time, there are too many blatant Ukrainophobes that support the idea of Ukrainian federalism.

In modern history, there are no examples of countries splitting on the grounds of any party preferences. However, based on such a principle they have been trying to split Ukraine over the entire 22 years of its independent statehood, starting with the referendum on December 1, 1991, during which, by the way, not only 90% of all Ukrainians, but also 54% of the Crimean population voted in favor of independence. They also tried to divide the country during all the parliamentary and presidential elections, which was colorfully expressed in three categories of Ukraine posters that were put up all throughout the country upon the suggestion of foreign political strategists back in 2004.

Based on the same foreign technology, playing up to this subject reached its apogee in the complicated terms of the current profound political crisis in Ukraine. Indeed, the geopolitical factor may play a role in the split of the state, as it happened in the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic that artificially ended up on opposite sides in the confrontation between the West and the USSR. Internal political factors had nothing to do with this, because after the end of the Cold War the Berlin Wall collapsed immediately and the Germans once became again a united nation. However, it is also incorrect to compare present-day Ukraine with the occupied Germany after the demise of the Third Reich and today there is no Cold War, no matter how desperately certain advocates of the reverse scenario would want to see

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