Ukraine — Again

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In recent discussions with TikTok and RT viewers I heard the following arguments against supporting Ukraine against Russia’s war of aggression. They are also repeated in Mr. Putin’s argumentation that Ukraine is an integral part of Russia.

  1. Ukraine is not really a genuine separate nation state. It was always part of Russia and Russia rightfully attempts to claim it back.
  2. Crimea has Russia’s most important warm water seaport, and it is critical to Russia’s ability to project its sea power worldwide. Russia cannot afford to let go of Crimea.
  3. The Ukrainians are actually Russians.
  4. The Ukrainian language is only a Russian dialect, not a genuine separate language.
  5. We are pumping billions into Ukraine to support their military actions, while our own southern border is overrun by illegal aliens.
  6. Ukraine does not deserve to be supported because it and Zelenskiy are corrupt.
  7. Zelenskiy is a NAZI.

Let us analyze these arguments.

Ukraine is not a nation state.

Ukraine is a relatively big country. With a total territory of 233,013 sqm (0.4% of the world’s land mass) Ukraine is the largest country of Europe west of the Russian Federation. It is larger than France, Spain, Germany, Italy, or Sweden. By contrast, Tokelau (12 sqm), Gibraltar (6 sqm), and Monaco (2 sqm) are considered viable nations states and members of the UN. In 2022, Ukraine had 41,167,336 inhabitants, which made it the 36th largest country in the world by population, at par with Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda, and Algeria.

True, Ukraine was a latecomer to nationhood. The principality of Kiev was founded by Scandinavian Vikings or Normans, the so-called Varangians. The term originated from the Norse term “vargengi” and means as much as “true and trustworthy comrade in arms” (German: “wahr” = “true”). This indicates that the Varangians had no uniform ethnic identity. They were a band of knightly Nordic mercenaries trying to conquer new lands.

One group among the Varangians was the “Rus”. They were allegedly called by the people of Novgorod to establish law and order and stop the infighting among them. This was accomplished by the Rus knight Rurik around 860 AD. He was also the first known ruler of the principality of Kiev.

The name Moscow comes from the Moskva River, which flows through the city. The term ‘Moskva’ probably comes from the Finnic term ‘Mustajoki’, meaning ‘black river’. The town of Moskow was taken over by the Kievan Rus shortly after they had established themselves in Novgorod. The first time the name “Moskow” appears in the records was in 1147 AD. Clearly, the Kievan Rus were there first, and the inhabitants of Moscow did not call themselves ‘Russian’ but ‘Muscovites’.

The term “Muscovites” was used to refer to the people of Muscovy, the principality centered around Moscow. The term “Russian” came into use as the principality of Muscovy began to consolidate power and expand its territories in the 14th century. Tzar Ivan the Great was particularly successful in this process of colonial imperialism and laid the foundations for a Russian national state. However, the term “Muscovy” continued to be used in Western Europe during the 16th-17th centuries until Peter the Great officially renamed his realm the “Russian Empire” in 1721, which likely solidified the use of “Russian” to refer to the people of this empire.

The Kievan principality expanded greatly in the early Middle Ages. Rurik’s relative Oleg even conquered Constantinople. But then the Kievans came under the control of the Lithuanians, the Poles, the Mongols, Austria/Hungary, the Turks, and finally the Russians.

In 1917, a civil war broke out in Ukraine, from which the Ukrainian People’s Republic emerged. In 1941, the Germans occupied Ukrainian territory. In 1953, Khrushchev enabled a Ukrainian revival and in 1954 Russia transferred Crimea back to Ukraine.

In the 19th Century, Ukraine’s national consciousness grew. After the 1848 revolutions in several European countries, the Ukrainians established a Supreme Ruthenian Council, which demanded autonomy and published the first Ukrainian language newspaper.

In 1919, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic resulted from a merger of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic. It remained a separate nation state outside the Soviet Union and became a founding member of the United Nations on June 26, 1945. This means that even the former Soviet Union treated Ukraine as a nation state in its own right.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state. On January 21, 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians organized a human chain for Ukrainian independence between Kiev and Lviv. Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country on August 24, 1991. On January 1, 2016, Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the European Union.

Ukraine is not the only nation that became a nation state relatively late. Italy became a nation state in 1861, Germany in 1871, Croatia in 1991, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Eritrea in 1993, Palau in 1994, East Timor in 2002, Serbia and Montenegro in 2006, Kosovo in 2008, and South Sudan in 2011. And nobody questions their right to be a nation state. The claim of the Russians that Ukraine belongs to Russia is nothing but an attempt to reassemble the former Tzarist and Soviet empires.

Crimea belongs to Russia.

Originally, Crimea was populated by the Tauri and the Scythians. Then the Greeks colonized it. Then it became a Roman province protected by the First Italica Legion. Then it was invaded by the Goths, the Huns, the Bulgars, and the Khazars.

In the 9th century, Byzantium took over and made Crimea the center of medieval slave trade. From then on, the peninsula was contested between Byzantium, the Rus and the Khazars, a nomadic Turkish people. Crimea continued to be invaded by steppe nomads like the Tauri, Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Goths, Alans, Bulgars, Huns, Kipchaks, Mongols, and by the Kievan Rus.

After the Tartars helped Timur to achieve a victory with his Golden Horde Mongol army in the battle of the Vorskla River in 1399 over a Christian army led by the Lithuanians, the Crimean Tartars founded an independent Khanate under Melek Haji Girai, a descendant of Genghis Khan.

Genoa maintained trade cities in Crimea, which were eventually taken by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th century. From the 15th to the 18th century, the Crimean Tartars were the dominant component of the Crimean population with the Ukrainian Cossacks making frequent incursions in the mid-16th century.

When the Russians defeated the Ottoman Empire in 1774, the Sublime Porte recognized the Crimean Tartars as independent, which in reality meant that Crimea came under Russian control. By the end of the 19th century, large numbers of Russians had settled in Crimea as a result of the Tsarist Russification policy. But other groups also pushed into Crimea like Jews, Belarussians, Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Roma Gypsies, Germans, and Bulgarians.

The first Crimean war (1853-1856) was lost by Russia. Sevastopol fell in 1855. The Ottoman Empire and its allies, France, and Britain, won. The war devastated much of the Crimean economy and a large part of its non-Russian population fled.

Following the Russian Revolution, Crimea changed hands several times. It was in Crimea, where the White Army under General Wrangel made its last stand in 1920. After Wrangel’s defeat, the Bolshevik government under Béla Kun, a Hungarian Jew, committed one of the worst massacres of the Russian Revolution and many anti-communist Russians fled Crimea for Turkey.

In 1921, Crimea became the Crimean Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic. But autonomy was only nominal. A large influx of Russians and Ukrainians occurred in the 1930s as a result of the Soviet policy of “regional development” (Russification). These demographic changes permanently altered the ethnic balance in the region.

In 1941, the Germans captured Crimea and murdered approximately 40,000 Crimean Jews. When the Soviet Union regained control in 1945, Stalin ordered the deportation of over 230,000 Crimean Tartars and replaced them with Russians and Ukrainians. Crimea was downgraded to the status of “oblast”, a province of the Russian SFSR. On February 19, 1954, the Crimean oblast was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SFSR on the basis of “the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic and cultural ties between the Crimea Province and the Ukrainian SSR”. Hear, hear!

However, steady Russification of the Crimean population had led to Russians now making up the majority. In a 1991 referendum, these Crimean Russians voted for more independence from Ukraine and closer ties with Russia. As a result, the Russian Federation under Putin annexed Crimea in 2010.

I think it is obvious that Russia systematically Russified Crimea for equally obvious reasons: Sevastopol is one of only two sea harbors of the Russian fleet that do not freeze over in Winter. Possession of Sevastopol allows Russia to move its Navy through the Bosporus into the Mediterranean and project naval power worldwide. A loss of Crimea would be a serious blow to the Russian navy.

Putin’s bullyish reasoning behind the annexation of Crimea is: I need this piece of land for my power politics and therefore I have the right to annex it. This is the psychology of a thief or burglar.

The Ukrainians are actually Russians.

Above, I have explained that the Kievan Rus were there first. The principality of Moskow was developed much later by the Kievan Rus and the Muscovites did not even call themselves Russians until Peter the Great degreed it. It is therefore much more logical and factual to say that the Russians are actually Ukrainians than vice versa.

Ukrainian is only a Russian dialect.

The original Varangian Rus spoke Nordic. They gradually adopted the Slavic language of the people they had conquered. The Russians tried to erase the Ukrainian language and script. They prohibited their use first in the Russian orthodox mass and then in schools, books, and public documents.

Under Polish influence, the Ukrainian language and script were revived in the 16th – 18th centuries. In 1798, the Ukrainian poet Ivan Kotliarevsky developed a new Ukrainian literary language. Taras Shevchenko contributed folk language elements to this new Ukrainian language. 1914-1917 the Russians outright prohibited the use of modern Ukrainian.

Among other things, I studied comparative linguistics. I learned Russian at the age of 16 and I was among the first tourists visiting the Soviet Union in 1958. I also own a translation company and I have frequent opportunities to read Ukrainian texts. We even translate between Ukrainian and Russian. And if the Ukrainian language was essentially nothing but a Russian dialect, as Putin claims, why then did the Russians make such significant efforts through the ages to prevent the Ukrainians from speaking it?

Aside from all that, language is not a significant criterium for nationhood. The Austrians speak German, but they have their own nation state. Dutch is more similar to German than Ukrainian to Russian, yet the Dutch have their own nation state. Danish is almost the same language as Norwegian, yet both nations have their own nation states.

We are pumping billions into Ukraine funding instead of securing our southern border and stopping illegal immigration.

Good point. But the real reason why our government does not stop illegal immigration is not lack of money. Our Democrat government does this intentionally hoping to generate a flood wave of dedicated Democrat voters.

We wasted approximately $8 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan. A trillion of “stimulus money” disappeared under Obama. We are wasting enormous amounts of money on illegal immigrants, who are increasing criminality, bring in enough Fentanyl every month to kill the entire US population, and are sucking our social support system dry without ever having paid a penny in taxes. Stopping illegal immigration would probably save us money.

Ukraine support vs. border control is a false alternative. It is not in our best interest to allow the Russian Federation to annex other sovereign nations at will and to threaten Western Europe with its hegemonial aspirations.

Ukraine does not deserve to be supported because it and Zelenskiy are corrupt.

If corruptness were to constitute a right for other nations to invade and annex a country, the Chinese could very well argue that they should have the right to invade the USA. Our government and political system have become totally corrupt. But then, most governments and political systems are corrupt – worldwide. This argument really misses its mark.

Zelenskiy is a NAZI.

Zelenskiy is not a NAZI. He is indeed a Jew. That part of the Ukrainian population collaborated with the Germans during WW II is at least understandable. When I travelled to the Soviet Union in 1958, the train had to switch from the Euro rail standard to the Russian rail standard in Brest Litovsk. During the delay, I tried to talk with some Polish railroad workers. In Russian. They stared at me and did not respond. Finally, one of them took me aside and said in broken German “Russisch Sprach Scheisssprach!”. Meaning “The Russian language is a shit language.”

The message was clear. The Poles hate the Germans, but they hate the Russians even more. And they have good reason for their sentiments. There are similar anti-Russian sentiments all over Eastern Europe.

Many Ukrainians despise the Russians not only for their centuries of oppression of the Ukrainian people, language, and culture but in particular for the Holodomor, the starvation policy of the Russians in 1932-33, when Stalin confiscated all of the Ukrainian grain to feed his Russians, who suffered from famine as the result of the Bolsheviks’ insane forced collectivization of the farmers.

As a result, about 8 million Ukrainians (estimates differ) died from starvation and cannibalism became rampant in Ukraine. The Holodomor was a major motive why many Ukrainians supported the Nazi Wehrmacht against the Russian Bolsheviks hoping the Germans would behave more civilized than the Russians. That, of course, turned out to be an illusion. To blame Zelenskiy for it is pure propaganda.

Any group of people who have a sufficiently strong sentiment of togetherness and the desire to form a nation state should have the right to do so. So should the Ukrainians. And if we stand for freedom and national sovereignty, we should support them.

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