Do Russians and Ukrainians really only have a state border in common? / News / News agency Inforos
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Do Russians and Ukrainians really only have a state border in common?

Ukrainian president-elect's rhetoric is insincere but he's spewing it in order to score political points with parliament and the hyper-nationalist populace

Do Russians and Ukrainians really only have a state border in common?
Context:

Ukraine president-elect Zelensky recently said some ridiculous rhetoric about how his country and Russia supposedly only have a state border in common following the fast-moving events that unfolded after the success of the 2014 EuroMaidan coup. Any objective observer knows that this isn't the case since the two countries share a common history, religion, ethnicity, language, and culture, though he probably said what he did in order to score political points with parliament ahead of his inauguration later this month.

There are still influential Poroshenko loyalists and ultra-nationalists in the legislature who could try to make his upcoming term very difficult, and although he won by a landslide, Zelensky is very sensitive to Poroshenko's claims that he's "Putin's man" in Ukraine. He was pretty much just a protest candidate who people voted for to signal their dissatisfaction with Poroshenko and not necessarily because of any unique ideas that Zelensky has other than his very vague promises to "clean up" Ukraine and solve its corruption crisis.

Now that he's won and the electorate is beginning to sober up, he feels compelled to channel some more "traditional" Ukrainian political rhetoric in order to ensure that he can rule as smoothly as he'd like, ergo the false claim about how Ukraine and Russia supposedly have nothing in common with one another other than a state border. His words have enabled him to "look tough" in front of Russia and tap into the hyper-nationalist undercurrent that pervades Ukrainian society nowadays.

It also dispels any notion that he'll be "soft" on Russia and makes him look more "muscular" ahead of his inevitable meeting with President Putin sometime in the coming future. As such, his claim can be said to have fulfilled several important interrelated domestic political purposes, though for as factually false as it is, his comment should still be taken very seriously in one specific respect because it reveals how much the Yugoslavian scenario of externally provoked divide-and-rule identity conflict (Hybrid War) has succeeded in Ukraine over the past half-decade.

Back then, the former Yugoslavia was a federation of several very closely connected mostly South Slavic people who for the most part (but not entirely) shared the same history, religion, ethnicity, language, and culture, though this bulwark of Balkan stability later imploded in a bloody mess that still haunts the region to this day.

Western involvement there was brilliantly explained in detail by Serbian-Canadian film director Boris Malagurski in his famous 2010 documentary "The Weight of Chains", which importantly explored how indirect involvement through international financial institutions deviously catalyzed a self-sustaining process of destabilization that ultimately turned Yugoslavia's formerly fraternal people against one another to the point where these closely connected people nowadays over-emphasize their minor differences and many now believe that they're as separate from one another as Chinese are to Brazilians, for example. Disturbingly, something very similar is taking in the present day between Ukrainians and Russians.

The Ukrainians have been targeted by extensive information warfare campaigns in the years prior to the 2014 coup in order to manipulatively precondition them into believing that they're an irreconcilably distinct people from Russians who must therefore do all that they can to separate themselves from their fellows, exactly as the Croatians were convinced of in the run-up to their violent separation from Yugoslavia.

In fact, Western-based Ukrainian and Croatian nationalist groups played an integral role in these perception management operations, which peaked the moment that their crises moved from the non-kinetic political phase to the kinetic military one because the cascading events that consequently followed catalyzed the self-sustaining process of destabilization and intensified identity conflict between the two closely related neighborly people in each case. That's why Zelensky's words, for as factually false as they are, actually ring true to the ears of many Ukrainians and evoke a sense of "pride" within them.

Regrettably, the damage is done and appears to be irreparable for the time being, meaning that many Ukrainians will continue to aggressively assert their own closely related identity against Russians just like many Croatians do vis-a-vis Serbs, but if there's a "silver lining" of any sort, it's that the Balkan precedent might hint at a comparably better future for Ukrainians and Russians. Over two decades after the end of their conflict, Croats and Serbs are once again entering into pragmatic relations with one another on the international front, specifically pertaining to their economic cooperation with one another.

Political relations will never be the same and the Croats are still convinced that they're an entirely different people from their fellow Serbs, but the animosity they feel towards their neighbors is no longer as visibly apparent as before (even though it still exists). In the future, Russian-Ukrainian relations might also follow a similar path, but it's too early for anyone to get their hopes up that it'll happen anytime soon.

 

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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