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Ukraine: Russophobia plus Russophilia

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The population of Western Ukraine, though making up no more than 10-15% of the total, enjoys the disproportionately great ideological influence throughout the country. Ukraine’s national independence ideology hinges on the political views of Western Ukrainians, which is largely at odds with the opinion of residents of eastern, southern, and south-eastern parts of the country.

Western Ukraine can well be seen as a territory where the country has reached its final development as a nation. As for other territories, the country’s development into a nation has been faltering. Residents of Russian-speaking areas are demonstrating disagreement with he laws that suppress Russian culture and envisage restrictions on the use of Russian language. Given the situation, the question that needs answering is what position West Ukrainians currently hold in the ongoing process of the formation of the Ukrainian nation.

Western Ukraine is widely considered the birthplace of the present-day Ukrainian nation. Even so, there is a considerable cultural and ethnic gap between Western Ukrainians as carriers of “a model Ukrainian identity” and the rest of the population. In terms of mindset, an average resident of Kharkiv, Kyiv or Zaporizhzhia is closer to Voronezh or Tambov than to the “model” Ukrainian from Lviv, Ternopil or Ivano Frankivsk. 

It’s no secret that the Ukrainian nation, or what they understand by it, is currently split. And Western Ukraine is not a politically homogenous territory either, divided into two poles – – Galichina and Zakarpattia. The ideological margin is with Galichina, which is the cradle of Ukrainian nationalism and as such, has always been hostile to Zakarpattia, which has been on the defensive. Historically, Galichina exported nationalistic ideas to Zakarpattia, has been adverse to Carpatho-Russians, and advocated its own understanding of “Ukrainians”.

At present, even though residents who consider themselves Russians are in the minority in Zakarpattia, differences between the two regions remain. Galichina views Hungary as a hostile nation over Hungary’s patronage of Zakarpattia’s Russians. Zakarpattia’s attitude to Hungary is much friendlier, even among those who consider themselves Ukrainians. Galichina is proud of promoting the cult of Ukrainian Insurgent Army (banned in Russia), while most residents of Zakarpattia do not care much about it. One cannot but notice the difference between Galichina, which used to be under Polish rule, and Zakarpattia, which used to be under Hungarian rule. In the former case, in addition to nationalism, the Polish presence brought forth such an unscrupulous phenomenon as collaborationism of the times of the First World War and the Great Patriotic War. In the latter case, Hungarian influence did not go farther than Magyarization of the Russian population without injecting it with the aggressive Ukrainian nationalistic ideology.

In general, Western Ukraine has created its own historiographic discourse, which views the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia as playing a key role in the formation of Ancient Rus’ and its statehood. Under this theory, it was the Kingdom of Galicia and Volhynia, and not Kyiv, Chernigov, Pskov and Novgorod, that posed as a spiritual center of Rus’ and executor of geopolitical relations with the West. The theory in question was developed, among others, by Stepan Tomasziwskyj (1875-1930) with a dogged emphasis on the concept of “Ukrainian land” that he introduced into usage. He glorified the West-Ukrainian spiritual type, describing it as “a Byzantine form with Roman content”, which carries substantial ecumenical potential. 

Tomasziwskyj drew a parallel between Galicia-Volhynia and the rest of Kievan Rus’ literally everywhere. In his opinion, Ukraine originated from Galichina and Volhynia, not from Kyiv, while the territory of Galicia- Volhynia  is “the most European remnant” of the Ukrainian people. One of his works was titled “The New Theory of How Rus’ Started” and was written in Polish. Galician and Volhynian descend ants have the right to determine the ideological framework of Ukrainian statehood, bringing it closer to Europe – such a conclusion is made by Tomasziwskyj’s  present-day followers. 

Tomasziwskyj’s theory undoubtedly appeals to Galicians. But they seem to forget that the master did not care much about the territorial integrity of Ukraine. In 1920, as a diplomat of West Ukrainian People’s Republic, Tomasziwskyj was talking western powers into creating a neutral Galician republic which would comprise Galichhina, Volhynia, Zakarpattia, Lemkivshchyna, and some eastern territories of present-day Poland. Under the plan, the Galician republic was to be separated from the rest of Ukraine and was a purely separatist project. Kyiv is struggling with “separatist” Donbass it brought about itself, but is in no hurry to take off the pedestal the real separatist – Tomasziwskyj, who dreamed of tearing   “the cradle and development place of Ukrainian nation” off Ukraine.  

Tomasziwskyj, who was a West Ukrainian Pole, launched his theory of  spiritual supremacy of the Galicia-Volhynia Kingdom in a hidden attempt to write the pro-Polish history of Ukraine in defiance of facts.  Why should the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia weigh on the scales of history “more” than the other kingdoms of Kievan Rus’ with their spiritual and political legacy taken together? Due to geographical location, Galician-Volhynian princes fought and made peace with Polish princes, while the history of Galicia-Volhynia Kingdom, isolated from the rest of Kievan Rus’, turned into a separate history of Polish-Ukrainian relations, which had nothing to do with the  rest of Rus’, including Moscow. For Warsaw, it is a pretty useful geopolitical version.

Polish writer and political publicist Marian Zdziechowski expresses  pessimism about the possibility of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation and recalls the words of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky: “Poland and the world cannot co-exist in Ukraine”. He also acknowledged the existence of discord among Ukrainians as to where they belong – the south-western branch of the triune Russian people, or Ukrainians?

Significantly, Zdziechowski saw Galician Ukrainism as a reflection of pan-Rusizm ideology (a term coined by Zdziechowski), in a belief that Moscow favored a Ukrainophilian movement, as it made it possible to “attract” Galicians and convince them, through Ukrainism, that they make up the westernmost part of the inseparable Russian nation. “Ukrainism becomes a battering ram in Russian hands so that they could deal a blow at Poland”, – Zdziechowski wrote, challenging the basics of Ukrainian nationalism. But Galichina led Ukrainism a different way, transforming it into Russophobian and Polonophobian ideology in one. 

To be a Ukrainian beyond Western Ukraine means adhering to a particular set of ideological views. Ukrainian language, culture, traditions are but an appendix to political convictions. It’s not language and culture that make Ukrainian nationalists Ukrainian – rather, it’s Ukrainian nationalism that makes them switch to Ukrainian language and reject Russian culture. But even if that is the case, far from all Russophobian nationalists in Ukraine deem it necessary to discard Russian language. Paradoxically, many prefer to  hate Russia in Russian. 

Part of Ukrainian citizens grew up amid Russian culture, secretly support Russia, turn down Ukrainian nationalism, vote for pro-Russian candidates, but call themselves not Russians, but Russian-speaking Ukrainians. In present-day political circumstances, the concept “Russian-speaking pro-Russian Ukrainian” has come to replace the word “Russian”, but this substitute is devoid of its basic element – recognition of being Russian. This is partly the result of Soviet ideology, when the authorities considered Ukrainians pro-Russian, but not Russian, people.  

The question arises: how to reconcile the Russian-speaking Ukrainian Russophiles with Ukrainian-speaking West Ukrainian Russophobes?  In an attempt to distance themselves from the Russian World, Ukrainian authorities have become lost in their own theories of ethnic genesis. This means that the current process of the formation of Ukrainian nation is still torn by inner conflict and may thus expect a fragmented transient success, if the ideology of hostility with same-blood neighbors can be deemed success.  

From our partner International Affairs

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Eastern Europe

Lithuania is left in the dust

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The nearly completed Nord Stream 2 is again in focus. It has become known that the U.S. Senate on January 13 failed to pass a bill to slap sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz. The tally was 55 in favor and 44 against the bill that needed 60 votes to pass. Those who voted against his bill said it risked breaking unity in Washington and in Europe. U.S. senators said also Cruz sanctions on Nord Stream 2 could harm relations with Germany which is very important for the U.S. foreign policy and economy.

Top Ukrainian officials, as well as Lithuanian government supported Cruz’s bill, arguing the United States should do everything in its power to halt the pipeline project.

The link is designed to export gas from Russia directly to Germany by bypassing Ukraine, through which Russia has sent gas to Europe for decades. That would deprive Ukraine of lucrative transit fees and potentially undermine its struggle against alleged Russian aggression. The decision will allow the completion of the gas pipeline to Europe without the imposition of further US sanctions. Earlier Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that the a deal between the United States and Germany on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was a “mistake”. It is interesting that the vote came as U.S. and European officials held high-level talks with their Russian counterparts. It is quite possible that the decision about Nord Stream 2 pipeline was the result of these negotiations.

This fact has sparked anger and has become great political disappointment for the Lithuanian officials who view the project as a security threat.

Lithuania, positioning itself as the main Ukraine’s patron in Europe, is confused with such U.S. decision. Lithuania promotes the U.S. interests and support all American initiatives even to the detriment of its own interests. Only this month Lithuania took a number of steps to prove its commitment to US policy. Lithuania even has dared to challenge China, one the main US strategic competitors. It continues to spend millions of dollars on military purchases from the U.S. using the narrative of “the threat from the East”. In December Lithuania signed an agreement with the U.S. to improve military interoperability.

The more so, the Lithuanian government has decided to accelerate its planned purchase of a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) amid Russia’s military buildup on its border with Ukraine. The decision to buy US’ Lockheed Martin system in 2026, two years earlier than Vilnius previously planned.

The country also regularly holds political consultations with the U.S. officials to coordinate its further actions. But the U.S. in its turn does not pay attention to Lithuania’s opinion and makes decision in its favour.

Lithuanian government should gain Lithuanians’ support and pay attention to their needs. The matter is discontent in Lithuanian society is growing every day. Thus, on January 13, the usual commemoration of Freedom Defenders saw loud booing and heckles from the crowd of protesters who called on the government (and the parliament) to resign.

It is obviously that the threat from the East is not so real as threat to be fired due to loss of confidence in near future.

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Eastern Europe

Rebuilding of Karabakh: Results of 2021

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Image source: azerfocus.com

The restoration work in Karabakh entered the active phase in 2021 as several projects had been completed and the foundations for new ones were laid down. The restoration process in Karabakh started right after the November 10th declaration that ended the 44-Day War between Armenia and Azerbaijan. After the war, Azerbaijan liberated its territories that constituted about 20% of the total territory of Azerbaijan and were occupied by Armenian forces in the early 90s.

During the occupation, about thirty years, Karabakh was subject to ruthless destruction and looting by the occupants. As a result, most of the social infrastructure, including residential buildings, schools, and hospitals, were totally destroyed, and most parts of the occupied territories were left empty. Despite the fact that the total destruction in Karabakh makes the restoration process complex and time-consuming, Azerbaijan immediately started the restoration process. For this purpose, the plan for socio-economic development of the liberated territories was prepared, and for the implementation of this plan, “Coordination Headquarters” and 17 working groups on different areas were established. In 2021, $2.2 billion was allocated from the state budget for the restoration process. The same amount of funds is planned to be directed to the restoration process in 2022 as well. The allocation of the necessary financial resources and the establishment of the state bodies for the efficient organization of the recovery process led to the rapid implementation of projects in 2021.

The most notable project that was almost completed in 2021 was the Fuzuli International Airport. The inauguration of the airport took place in Azerbaijan’s liberated city of Fuzuli in Karabakh on October 26. It was the first airport built by Azerbaijan in the liberated areas, and its construction took only eight months. It was built in accordance with the highest international standards, which enables it to accommodate any type of aircraft. A runway with a length of 3000 meters and a width of 60 meters has been put into operation at the airport. The first test flight to Fuzuli International Airport was performed on September 5, 2021, when the largest passenger aircraft of Azerbaijan Airlines, named Karabakh, landed at the airport. Because of its location, the new airport is considered as an “air gate of Karabakh”. Along with Fuzuli airport, the foundations of the other two airports in Lachin and Zangilan districts were also laid down in 2021.

The year 2021 was also marked by the establishment of the Horadiz-Jabrayil-Zangilan-Agband highway. The foundation of this road was laid on October 26, with the participation of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey. With a length of 124 km, it is part of the Zangezur Corridor, the establishment of which was envisioned in the November 10 declaration. The Zangezur Corridor is a very important project that is going to change the transportation architecture of the South Caucasus and its neighborhood. Its proximity to the Karabakh and connection to the main roads in the region will accelerate the restoration and development of the Karabakh.

Within the framework of the restoration process, another important event in 2021 was the foundation of the first “smart village” in Agali village in the Zangilan district on April 26. As of October, the construction work on more than 110 hectares in Agali village was underway. It includes the construction of 200 ecological houses, 4 non-residential buildings, a smart school for about 360 students, and a kindergarten for 60 children. Work on establishing smart agricultural infrastructure on approximately 600 hectares of land is also ongoing. According to the restoration program, it is planned to re-establish cities and villages in the liberated territories based on the “smart city” and “smart village” concepts. Thus, after the Agali village, this concept will be implemented in other areas of Karabakh.

In 2021, the highway that connects the Fuzuli and Shusha cities was also opened. As this highway passes through the territory that was used to liberate Shusha city, it has a symbolic meaning for Azerbaijan, and therefore it is named “The Road to Victory.” The Fuzuli-Shusha highway is part of the Ahmadbeyli-Fuzuli-Shusha highway, one of the main highways in Karabakh. It is 101.5 km in length and reduces the distance from the capital Baku to Shusha to about 363 km. The foundation of another important transport project, the Horadiz–Agband railway, was also laid in 2021 and its construction continues. This railway is 100 kilometers long and has strategic importance as it will connect the mainland of Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s landlocked exclave, through the Zangezur corridor.

Along with the mentioned roads, the opening ceremony of the 28-kilometer highway that connects the city of Tartar with the villages of Sugovushan and Talish took place in 2021. The length of this road is 28 kilometers, and as planned, the extension of this project will include 22 kilometers of highway from Talish to Naftalan. Construction and planning work on various transportation projects such as the Barda–Aghdam railroad, the Fuzuli-Shusa railway, and the Toganal-Kalbacar highway were also continued.

Comprehensive works in the energy sector were also carried out within the framework of the restoration program, based on the strategy for transforming the liberated territories into “green energy” zones and connecting the energy infrastructure in those territories to Azerbaijan’s general energy system. In 2021, with a total capacity of 20 megawatts, “Gulabird”, “Sugovushan-1” and “Sugovushan-2” small hydroelectric power stations (HPS) were reconstructed and put into operation in the liberated territories. In total, nine digital substations were built in the Karabakh and East Zangezur regions. Simultaneously, in the Aghdam and Jabrail regions, the construction of “Aghdam-1,” “Aghdam-2,” and “Jabrayil” substations as well as the Karabakh Regional Digital Management Center has been completed.

The other important project in the energy sector was the foundation of the Digital Station Management Center in Fuzuli. This project, implemented for the first time in the South Caucasus, allows through automation to reduce the impact of the human factor on the operation of the network, increase reliability and reduce losses during the transmission of electricity. All these projects in the energy sector serve to maintain the energy security in liberated territories and to transform these territories into “green energy” zone.

All the mentioned projects show that Azerbaijan has actively worked for rebuilding Karabakh in 2021. It will enable Azerbaijan to fully integrate the Karabakh economy into the Azerbaijan economy and to use its economic potential in upcoming years. As the liberated territories have great potential in sectors such as agriculture and energy, it will also positively affect the development of the non-oil sector in Azerbaijan. Implementation of all projects that were started in 2021 will not only contribute to the economic development of Azerbaijan, but will also transport Azerbaijan and Karabakh to the transport and economic center of the region.

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No borders to struggle against COVİD-19: Solidarity of humanity can help the situation

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Just as COVID-19 does not recognize borders, it is necessary to build the struggle against it on the basis of organization, solidarity, mutual assistance, the use of positive experience, and it should not recognize borders.

2021 was a year of continued struggle against the pandemic and of the emergence of new variants of the virus. The South Caucasus also was not away from COVID-19 and its variants. Azerbaijan continued its effective fight against COVID-19, making the most of the lessons of previous years and the opportunities for rapid response. The vaccination campaign, which was conducted as well as in highly developed countries, is a real sign of performance in this sector. During the year Azerbaijan gave humanitarian and financial aid to more than 30 countries in order to fight the pandemic, made a voluntary financial contribution of 10 million US dollars to the World Health Organization and freely donated 150,000 doses of vaccine to four countries.

The newly appointed head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan, Petr Michako, also stressed the high level of vaccination in Azerbaijan. The capital – Baku is working closely with The European Union in this direction. The European Union and the World Health Organization have supported the fight against COVID-19 in Azerbaijan with the necessary medical equipment. Medical personnel in Azerbaijan have been repeatedly provided with respirators, goggles, transparent masks and overalls for this purpose. All equipment sent for the safety of medical personnel fighting the virus on the front lines was tested for compliance with quality and safety standards. Kestutis Jankauskas, Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, said that his organization, as a “Team Europe”, is helping to prevent, detect and combat the COVID-19 pandemic. “Healthcare workers are at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which increases their risk of contracting the virus,” he said. -They are our heroes and they need protection. “As part of the Team Europe initiative, the EU has launched an individual COVID-19 package with a budget of around € 32 million to support urgent needs and socio-economic recovery.

In 2021, Azerbaijan achieved major progress in combating the pandemic and the global economic crisis and in mutual cooperation. As a chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan put forward an initiative to establish a UN High-Level Panel on global restoration after COVID-19. The member states of the Non-Aligned Movement took a unanimous decision to extend Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the movement for another year, until the end of 2023.

Azerbaijan proposed a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement on equal and universal access to vaccines for all countries and the resolution was passed unanimously in March 2021. This resolution showed Azerbaijan’s stance on the increasing vaccine nationalism in the world and became an international success.

As a result of all measurements now the number of people receiving the second,third and further doses of the vaccine in Azerbaijan has exceeded 40 percent. Azerbaijan is one of the countries in the continent where the number of virus infections is rapidly declining. Azerbaijan is doing its best to observe this trend around the world. Solidarity can help the situation.

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