NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Community News Network

January 30, 2014

9 questions about Ukraine you were too embarrassed to ask

(Continued)

WASHINGTON — 4. Wow. How did Ukraine get so divided?

Ukraine was conquered and divided for centuries by neighboring powers: the Polish, the Austrians and most of all the Russians. But Russian rulers didn't just want to rule Ukraine, they wanted to make it Russian.

The Russification of Ukraine began 250 years ago with Catherine the Great, who oversaw Russia's "golden age" in the late 1700s. At first, she controlled only eastern Ukraine, where she developed vast coal and iron industries to feed Russia's expansion. Though she later took the west as well, she and subsequent Russian rulers focused overwhelmingly on the east, which also happens to be some of the most productive farmland in the world.

 The director of Harvard's Ukrainian Research Institute, Serhii Plokhii, recently told National Geographic that the country is divided between a super-fertile steppe in the east and forestland in the west - an ecological split that lines up almost perfectly with the linguistic-political line.

So many Russians swept in to Ukraine's southeast - a number of them troops, to fight the neighboring Ottoman Empire - that it became known as "Novorossiya," or "New Russia." Russian leaders, hoping to make the territory permanently Russian, banned the Ukrainian language.

Then came Joseph Stalin. In the 1930s, the Soviet leader "collectivized" peasants into state-run farms, which led several million Ukrainians to die of starvation. The governments of Ukraine and the United States consider it a deliberate act of genocide, though historians are more divided. In either case, after the famine, Stalin repopulated the devastated eastern farmlands by shipping in ethnic Russians.

Today, Ukraine is only about one-sixth ethnic Russian. But the cultural imprint goes much deeper, and not just because so many Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. When the Western-oriented, Ukrainian-nationalist politician Viktor Yushchenko became president, in 2005, "about 60 percent of TV programming was in Russian and 40 percent in Ukrainian," according to the Christian Science Monitor. By the time he left office in 2010, "that ratio [had] been roughly reversed." Most magazines and newspapers were still in Russian. This came after five years of "Ukrainianization" so aggressive that, even though he spoke fluent Russian, he would only converse with Russian President Vladimir Putin through an interpreter.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network

Offbeat
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans