Timeline of Ukraina – ‘The Borderlands’
When the West gets behind a cause or a region it is rarely entirely straightforward. Our ‘success’ rate in intervention is rarely entire satisfactory, to say the least. Think Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya . . . and now we have another complex and convoluted crisis.
The ‘fault’ lines in Ukraine’s history run deep. We hope this “timeline” will help you to make more sense of a country that has been so much in our people’s hearts recently. This will hopefully help you to be able to carry the people represented behind the outward information in your heart long after the world’s media attention is caught up elsewhere.
1) By the year 1000 Rus, with its capital, Kiev, had become a mighty spreading empire, reaching as far as Central Europe and the Baltic. When the Viking Prince Volodymyr (Vladimir the Great) became a Christian, churches mushroomed. There were over four hundred of them, for example, in Kiev a century or so later.
2) This Rus(sian) empire was destroyed by the Mongols in the mid thirteenth century. it became known as Ukraina – the borderlands. Many fled to the steppe wilderness to cape oppression – from whence came the Cossacks (which mean free men in Turkish).
3) Eastern Ukraine was under the lordship of tsarist Russia from 1793 until 1918. The Ukrainian language was banned – rather as Ukraine moved swiftly this year to follow the example of countries such as Estonia in downgrading the Russian language when it sought greater independence.
4) As early as 1825 saw a rising in Kiev against Russian rule. In the Briefing of the latest edition of The Week, it features a poet and painter Taras Shevchenko, who wrote of his ‘love for this land of ours that is not ours.’ Many continue to look to him as the embodiment of Ukrainian nationhood.
5) “Seizing objects is never disagreeable to us,” wrote Catherine the Great of Crimea towards the end of the eighteenth century. “It is losing them that we don’t like.” She seized Crimea, then a Ukrainian province, for herself. The thought of losing Ukraine, long considered a jewel in the Russian crown, still hangs heavy in the hearts of many Russians from top to bottom of the nation.
6) The Crimean war was launched by the French and British to check Russian expansion. Click here for a more detailed explanation.
7) An attempt to rise up against Russia in western Ukraine at the end of the first world war was defeated by the Red Army in 1920. From then until 1991 it was a Soviet state.
8) Soviet rule proved utterly repressive, climaxing in the Holodomor – Extermination by Hunger in which something like 4 or 5,000,000 Ukrainians were sealed off by Soviet troops, deprived of food and starved to death.
9) To make moral matters more complicated for the West, nationalism is prevalent in western Ukraine, exemplified by the man they revere as the father of the nation, Stepan Bandera. But Bandera and his (violent) Ukrainian Nationalists not only fought against the Soviets, but, initially, became a German collaborator. His nationalists formed an SS Brigade, the Galician Division, which killed thousands of Poles and Jews. When he turned his back on Germany, he was sent to a concentration camp before finally being assassinated by the KGB in 1959.
10) Because of the number of ethnic Russians living in Crimea, we can more or less take it for granted that it will vote to secede to Russia. the question is where this will leave Europe, at a time when the EU has never been able to move with cohesion and confidence in matters of foreign policy, and America under Obama has downgraded its overseas span of attention, it is ironic that at this time when American foreign policy is less ‘pushy’ than it has been for decades, many nations actually need America to be strong on their behalf.
A good example would be the Baltic States who are very much afraid of Putin’s deeply held longing to restore the Soviet Empire with no concern for the will or wellbeing of the resident populations. (Putin claimed, of course, that the loss of the Soviet Empire was the greatest disaster of the twentieth century, and he has been investing large sums in his military apparatus since then).
America also increased its fighter patrols over the Baltic region as a sign to reassure Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who are concerned that the Russian minority in their countries might also ‘apply’ to President Putin for him to take them back over again. But Lithuania was hit last week by a new computer virus: The Snake. We have always warned that cyber warfare will be a major component in any future conflict.
This issue looks to have some considerable way to run. Pray for right responses at every level by the EU and America; continue to pray for the acting government of Ukraine, and for God to use His servants to touch many hearts at this time.