Ukraine protests are about RussiaPublished 11:57am Thursday, January 30, 2014
Over the last month, I have fielded numerous questions from co-workers and patients about the dangerously escalating protests in Ukraine. These individuals just want to understand why this is happening in Ukraine. Being that I am of Ukrainian descent, speak its language and have traveled the country extensively, I am a logical person to ask.
One has to understand Ukraine’s past to appreciate the present situation. The one word that best explains Ukraine’s troubles is Russia. Russia has always meddled in Ukraine’s affairs and over different time periods has occupied it. The most recent occupation was when it forced Ukraine into its Soviet Union.
At various other times when Russia occupied Ukraine, it outlawed the use of the Ukrainian language and prohibited Ukrainian language, history and culture to be taught in its schools. The most horrific damage inflicted on Ukraine and its citizens came from Joseph Stalin and the Russian communists when in 1932-1933 they forced Ukraine into collectivization by orchestrating a man-made famine (Holodomor) that resulted in up to 7 million deaths. One-third of those who died were children. Many of my own relatives starved to death that year. Afterward, the communists deported 1 million Ukrainians who survived to Siberian concentration camps and replaced them with Russians in Ukraine. This was their way of Russifying Ukraine. Currently, Russians constitute 17 percent of the ethnic population in Ukraine. Their allegiance is to Russia, and they want to see a permanent union between the two countries.
This is where today’s problem lies. This past November, Ukraine was ready to sign a cooperation agreement with the European Union. Its current president, Viktor Yanukovych, who comes from the eastern part of the country where most of the Russians live, made a last-minute secret deal with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, to bring Ukraine into Russia’s sphere of influence. Putin has said that Ukraine is not a nation and that Ukraine is Russia’s brother country. The current protests in Ukraine are the Ukrainian peoples’ way of saying: It’s time to disown our meddling brother and join the European Union.
Leonid Skorin Jr.