You can’t understand Ukraine without acknowledging its deep divisions

Our media insists on telling us that Ukraine is a unified country suffering aggression from its neighbour the Russian Federation. But it is hardly unified. A violent civil war has raged there since the overthrow of the democratically elected government in February 2014.

This civil war arose from deep divisions within Ukrainian society. These divisions and their political effects are one of the reasons for the current war.

Richard Sakwa, in his book Frontline Ukraine, describes these divisions as between “the monist Ukrainian nationalist aspirations of creating culturally uniform Ukrainian-speaking nation, by contrast with the pluralist concept of Ukraine as culturally and linguistically diverse.” With the rise of ultranationalism after independence this was manifest in conflict between ultranationalist political forces and those recognising the fact of cultural diversity in the country and the need for friendly relations with their ethnically similar neighbour, Russia. In the end a conflict between the ultranationalists and the ethnic Russians living in the east.

So, it is no surprise that many people in eastern Ukraine may prefer living in an area administered by Russia. They may be interested in travelling from Ukrainian administered parts of the country into Russian administered parts of the country, even moving there, as indicated in the video above.

But these facts contrast with stories we usually get from our mainstream media.

UN refugee data

The refugee data also conflicts with the mainstream media narrative.

Far from seeing the Russian Federation as a brutal enemy, many Ukrainians that flee the country as refugees go to Russia. In fact, the UN data shows that the country hoisting the largest number of Ukrainian refugees who fled the country since February this year is the Russian Federation. With almost two million refugees, Russia is hosting a much larger number than Poland which has the next highest number of about one and a quarter million.

See the data below which was taken from the Ukraine Refugee Situation on the UN Operational Data Portal.

Beware of simple stories

Understandably, simple stories are promoted in a war situation, and they may well appeal to many people. Understandably and many people “pick sides” and have a desire to confirm their bias.

But simple stories rarely convey the truth of a situation. And in the case of Ukraine one simply cannot understand the conflict of one does not recognize the divisions in that country. In fact, ignoring those divisions means one easily falls into the trap of believing the propaganda from the preferred side and inevitably aligning with that side – no matter how unjustified their position is.

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