Skip to comments.Ukraine, Ethnic Division, Decentralization, and Secession
Posted on 03/02/2014 5:43:04 AM PST by Kaslin
Ukraine is in the news and thats not a good thing.
Im not a foreign policy expert, to be sure, but it cant be a positive sign when nations with nuclear weapons start squabbling with each other. And thats whats happening now that Russia is supposedly occupying Crimea and perhaps other parts of Ukraine and Western powers are complaining.
Im going to add my two cents to this issue, but Im going to approach it from an unusual angle.
Look at this linguistic map of Ukraine. The red parts of the country show where Russian is the primary language and most people presumably are ethnically Russian.
Now look at these maps (from here, here, here, and here) showing various election results in the country.
Like I said, Im not overly literate on foreign policy, but isnt it obvious that the Ukrainians and the Russians have fundamentally different preferences?
No wonder theres conflict.
But is there a solution? And one that doesnt involve Putin annexing either de facto or de jure the southern and eastern portions of the nation?
It seems there are two options.
1. Secession - The first possibility is to let the two parts of Ukraine have an amicable (or at least non-violent) divorce. Thats what happened to the former Soviet Union. Its what happened with Czechoslovakia became Slovakia and the Czech Republic. And its what happened (albeit with lots of violence) when Yugoslavia broke up.
For what its worth, Ive already suggested that Belgium should split into two nations because of linguistic and cultural differences. So why not the same in Ukraine?
Heck, Walter Williams has argued that the same thing should happen in America, with the pro-liberty parts of the nation seceding from the statist regions.
2. Decentralization - The second possibility is for Ukraine to copy the Swiss model of radical decentralization. In Switzerland, even though there are French cantons, German cantons, and an Italian canton, the various regions of the country dont squabble with each other because the central government is relatively powerless.
This approach obviously is more attractive than secession for folks who think that existing national borders should be sacrosanct.
And since this post is motivated by the turmoil in Ukraine, its worth pointing out that this also seems to be a logical way of defusing tensions across regions.
I confess I have a policy reason for supporting weaker national governments. Simply stated, theres very strong evidence that decentralization means more tax competition, and when governments are forced to compete for jobs and investment, the economy is less likely to be burdened with high tax rates and excessive redistribution.
Indeed, we also have very strong evidence that the western world became prosperous precisely because the proliferation of small nations and principalities restrained the natural tendencies of governments to oppress and restrain economic activity.
And since Ukraine (notwithstanding its flat tax) has a very statist economic system ranking only 126th in the Economic Freedom of the World index, maybe a bit of internal competition would trigger some much-needed liberalization.
P.S. If youre intrigued by the secession idea promoted by Walter Williams, youll definitely enjoy this bit of humor about a national divorce in the United States.
P.P.S. If you think decentralization and federalism is a better option than secession, the good news is that more and more Americans have unfavorable views of Washington.
P.P.P.S. The tiny nation of Liechtenstein is comprised of seven villages and they have an explicit right to secede if they become unhappy with the central government in Vaduz. And even the statist political crowd in the United Kingdom is considering a bit of federalism.
sounds good to me. It is pragmatic rationality
Good chance of seccession. It’s unlikely that the Ukranian Army wants to have a civil war while the option is so easy and practical.
A federal solution to Ukraine would keep every one happy. Who runs Kiev won’t matter so much because Kiev won’t dictate every last jot and tittle of local policy.
The Ukrainian-speaking West can keep its language and join Europe. The Russian-speaking East would be free to speak Russian and remain in Moscow’s orbit.
And no one would have to fight for the control of the national steering wheel. For Ukrainians the big plus is no enraged Russian Bear to offend.
Federalism is the Goldilocks solution to Ukraine’s conundrum.
Ethnic division....Imagine that.
It will much worse when it happens here. We have very large segment of the population that believes in fairy tales and as a result will be totally stunned when it does.
All of this should be up to the Ukrainians to decide, not Putin.
There are large chunks of the US where Spanish is the predominant language and which were once part of the sovereign nation of Mexico.
Should we allow those areas to return to Mexico?
I had not heard about Walter Williams’ proposal for dividing the USA, but it sounds promising.
Am I missing something here?
There is absolutely no need for the traditional, freedom-loving America to “secede” from a nation they have established and which became the greatest nation on earth in so many ways. It is the statist people who are seceding de facto by rejecting the American way of life and the American rule of law. Secession has been in process since at least 2008 and it is up to us, the people of the US of A, to determine whether we will tolerate it formally. To effect their secession, I strongly suggest that the debt that has fueled their secessionist actions be a major part of the divorce—let em have the portion to which they are responsible (nearly all of it). They will need a new constitution, ours is in need of nothing but normal maintenance. They will need dramatic reshaping of their legal structure to include a system of ruling class people. They will need a new economic structure more akin to that of Argentina’s. And on.
We, the US of A, are fine. Should we allow the statists to formalize their secession?
Apples and oranges...We purchased those areas.
Do you have any clue why the russians settled in the Eastern part of Ukraine?
How about having the russians go back to russia and let Ukrainians have their land?
It'll be interesting how people would like it when that happens in America. It's already happening with religion here.
Listening to OUR news. “Russia is playing chess, Obama is playing marbles”.
Let's hope Putin doesn't get any hare-brained ideas about backing cessionist movements in the U.S.A.
So now immigrants occupying lands of which they were citizens, whose language differs from the original language of the country to which their ancestors immigrated have a right to carve off portions of that nation and unite with their ancestors’ country of origin. Mexico?
Too bad the United States didn't follow that model. It would be wonderful if our Constitution enumerated specific federal powers and specifically reserved all other powers to the sates and to the people.
Then again, they dynamics are a bit different - Mexico isn't ready to militarily take it all.
Oops. “sates” = “states”.
Some problems with the rose-colored solution:
1) During the Soviet period, Russia settled large nubers of ethnic Russian in Ukraine, to “Russify” the country. Space was available, since the Russians murdered, starved, and forcibly deported millions of Ukrainians, then Russia’s “Non-Aggression Pact” allies slaughtered millions more. Russian settlement dominated the areas with natural or strategic resources the USSR wanted to exploit. So let’s reward long term aggression by giving Russia chunks of Ukraine now. Nice precedent.
2) Even if the Russified regions vote pro-Russki now, there are millions of ethnic Ukrainians still living in those areas. Many have relatives in the western side, and long memories. Like the partition of India, this will have ugly immediate and long term consequences.
3) Putin wants to control the whole of Ukraine. This scheme would give him 100% control of east, and defacto control of the weakened west. FDR thought he would gain Stalin’s trust by giving him whatever he wanted, even at the extreme expense of the peoples involved. Worked out well.
4) This is all a result of US weakness and disengagement, and it previews the sort of “justice” the we can expect in a post Pax-Americana world. Not all of that is Obama’s doing, but he has surely accelerated American decline, and done nothing to fill the gap.
I’d be curious as to the history behind the Russian speaking eastern Ukraine areas. Are they that way because Stalin wiped out the Kulak’s via murder and shipped off to Siberia, and then confiscating the food production for years causing mass starvation in the area............and then of course after the population vaccumn was then filled by ethnic loyal Russians, with todays demographics the end result.
Will this same discussion be about America one day?
This is why immigration matters. When you move millions of your ethnicity into an area, you make it “yours” via ownership regardless of the political boundaries.
It would be easier for Mexico to demand large portions of the U.S. now that there are millions of people who identify as Mexican living in border states. And in many counties, they are a majority.
Immigration can change political borders, through sheer dominance.
Good analysis of the situation.
Perhaps, but Putin may have his sights set on Mexico as a satellite puppet regime. And what is our limp wristed girlie man president going to do about that if that happens?
Television and the Internet are radically shrinking the world. TV has in fact killed the Southern accent in Texas so that I hear it only amongst people over 60; I expect TV and the internet to kill most of the world's languages in the next 30 years. My guess would be that languages which will still be in use by 2050 will include:
In particular, I don't see Ukranian surviving another 30 years. There isn't any great opera or literature in Ukranian and anybody in the Ukraine who isn't retarded can speak Russian now. The difference between Russian and Ukrainian is similar to the difference between our English and Chaucer's.
"Do you have any clue why the russians settled in the Eastern part of Ukraine? How about having the russians go back to russia and let Ukrainians have their land?"Many of these Russians have settled and have family ties over hundreds of years, older than the United States itself. What would they go back to? Back to Peter the Great? Its not cut and dry like that.
most of all of Europe follows a model that our Liberals love - a very big central government and weak vassal provincial/U.S. state governments
true federalism - as our founders intended for us, not as it has become, could help defuse things in Ukraine
I somehow doubt that idea will find a majority behind it in Ukraine.
All of the pipelines through Ukraine feeding Europe go through the western part of Ukraine. Partition would not solve Russia’s current gas transport problem. It would actually intensify it because control would pass to the most anti-Russian portion. In that area, you need to speak Ukrainian to fit in. They do speak Russian but they have a habit of ignoring Russian speakers who aren’t from there. Think of them as Slavic French with regard to language.
Keep in mind, many of the demonstrators in Kiev came from the western parts. There’s already been talk of a partisan movement in Ukraine to attack the Russians. Russia is also facing a significant Muslim Tatar community in the Crimea. Many of members of their families were sent to Siberia by Stalin. They have absolutely no love for Russians.
Even though Ukraine has only been a nation for almost 20 years, there is a fierce feeling of nationalism. Russians to a degree look down on Ukrainians as inferior. There is also a significant number of Ukrainians that live and work in Russia. Putin needs a quick end.
If it drags on Putin may be looking a another Chechnya of much larger proportions. The Russian military is great when facing a small foe. One of Putin’s fervent goals is to modernize it. Ukraine will not be a pushover.
Ukraine is not a slam dunk for Putin. I read it as a calculated effort to embarrass this country and to extract additional concessions from Ukraine while the West wrings their hands. The key concession would be giving up the idea of fraternizing with the EU and the immediate agreement to join the Russian led trade federation.
Another example in which the delusion that borders drawn by imperial powers (in this case the Soviet Union) somehow actually create nations upon the break up of the empire, even though they enclose linguistically and culturally hetrogeneous populations will cause more grief and bloodshed.
Africa is full of “civil” wars between different nations in the ancient sense stuck inside one nation in the post-WW I sense, likewise the Middle East.
The Hapsburg Empire never worked, and attempts to replicate it with Austrian and Hungarian (and Czech and Slovak and Serb and...) replaced with Igbo and Hausa (and Yoruba and...) or Sunni Arab and Kurd (and take your pick on how to fill this out to get either Syria or Iraq) or even in the present case Ukranian and Russian (and Hungarian and Romanian and ... ) don’t look likely to work either.
The multi-ethnic democratic polities of the New World Anglosphere (both in North America and the antipodes) work because they have Anglo-Saxon law and the ethnic variety is due to people willingly chosing to join a multi-ethnic society (leaving aside the tiny minority of aboriginal peoples who haven’t really fared much better than tiny ethnic minorities in the Old World, and in former times sometimes worse).
The Russians in the Eastern Ukraine were always there. Long ago, Kiev was the center of Russia — perhaps you’ve forgotten, the conversion of the Rus was accomplished by St. Vladimir, Prince of Kiev.
Portions of Ukraine became culturally and linguistically distinct from Russia during a period when the region was part of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, which also enforce the Union of Brest on its hitherto Orthodox Christian subjects, creating what we Orthodox call Uniate churches (liturgically Orthodox, following Orthodox, rather than Latin canon law, but in communion with Rome). Portions didn’t, and remained Russian.
Later, what is now Ukraine was a province of the Russian Empire, except for a little bit which was controlled by the Hapsburgs.
The Crimea was for a long time part of the Ottoman Empire until the Russians conquered it and settled it, and was only added to the Ukrainian SSR by Khrushchev in 1954. In fact until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the only time there was an independent nation of Ukraine was a short-lived, independent Communist state during the Russian Revolution and Civil War.
Telling the Russians in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine to “go back to Russia” is like telling the Maori in New Zealand to “go back to Polynesia”.
The EU was hoping to redistribute all the wealth for them.
Actually, most people in Eastern Ukraine are Ukrainains, they’re just Russified ones due to years of Russian influence.
The only area of Ukraine that’s mostly Russian is the Crimea. Eastern Ukraine is still mostly ethnic Ukrainian albet Russified.
Should have split in 92, like the Czechs and Slovaks.
Maybe the difference isn't language, so much as general outlook and orientation. People talking now about splitting up the US based on ideology ought to be able to understand how that works and why there might be different countries with different ideas about freedom and different religious ideas.
But actually, I'm not sure all those other languages are going to disappear. While knowing English (or Mandarin, I guess) is advantageous today, so is being part of a group that has its own language that foreigners can't immediately understand or easily learn. Language is one barrier against people from anywhere moving in and changing things -- not an insurmountable barrier -- but still, it does stand in the way of globalization.
Wait to find out whether that's actually true. I don't know how powerful or powerless the federal government in Bern actually is right now. And "relatively" is a tricky word -- the Swiss government is powerless compared to what other governments?
Switzerland's political parties have a power-sharing arrangement at the federal level, something that wouldn't fly in the US, Ukraine, or a lot of other countries. That may be a reason why the Swiss don't squabble (or an unsquabbly nature may keep both the language groups and the parties from fighting).
Cantonal arrangements are always being proposed for troubled countries or regions, but they're rarely implemented. If people outside Switzerland don't really want them, there could be reasons that the article doesn't bring out.
At Yalta FDR tried to get better borders for Poland (especially to have Lwow on the Polish side of the border), because he was thinking of all the Polish-Americans concentrated in states with lots of electoral votes. But he had no leverage—the Red Army was already occupying the territory, and he thought Soviet help would be needed to bring the war against Japan to an end.
Partly true. FDR had Alger Hiss, Stalin’s agent as his advisor. (Were there others like Hiss?)
Thirty years from now today's 10-year-old Ukrainian-speakers will be 40 years old and still speaking Ukrainian by choice.
Henry Wallace, the Vice President during FDR's third term, was a real doozy--if FDR had died a year earlier and Wallace had then won the 1944 election, there would have been no Cold War because Wallace would have done everything Stalin wanted.
Your points are all valid and consonant with mainstream explanations of Yalta. Red Army occupation of Eastern Europe, coupled with FDR’s desire to move along, was the decisive factor there; Putin did not miss the lesson.
Whether it mattered more that FDR wanted to placate Polish-American voters, or he was following Stalin’s advice via Alger Hiss is hard to say. The amazing thing is that Stalin could keep a straight face while pretending it was a concession to expand a Poland he knew he would control. (Perhaps FDR gets the Oscar for acting like he didn’t know every bit of it.)
You have no doubt seen claims that FDR thought he could win Stalin’s trust by giving him everything he could want. I do not know if that was true, but Obama seems to like the concept.
Some of the bad deals at Yalta were a result of FDR's earlier failures to drive hard bargains, going back at least to the Teheran conference of December 1943 (the same month as our traitorous Secretary of State was born).
Obama's weakness is much less excusable--he inherited a position of relative strength, and had the history of the last 70+ years to learn from. Plus at least FDR was getting Stalin's help in beating Nazi Germany--all those Soviet soldiers killed meant fewer Americans had to die in the war. So at least there was a short-term benefit even if it created problems for the post-war world.
If there is partition then ethnic cleansing will follow. Thanks Putin and Obama.
similar, but not the same. Imagine if the US had been colonized by Mexico for 300 years and then the analogy is complete
To understand this, you need to go back to the 13th century. At that time there was Kievan Rus, a group of duchies in what is now ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.
They battled against the Khazars, byzantines, poles, bulgarians etc. but they were destroyed by the Mongol invasion
THAT was the start of the separation of "Russians" (more properly called Muscowites), Belarusyni and Ruthenians (Ukrainians).
Moscow in the 13th century was an outpost of the state of Vladimir-suzdal and got it's prominence by agreeing to be the tax-collector for the Great Khan.
As the Mongol power waned, the Lithianian Grand Dukes (pagans) came to power and took over western Ukraine and Belarus.
Then in 1410 they joined with the POles to form the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth (a multi-national state that was larger than the Holy Roman Empire at that time).
As time went by the BElarusyni were under Lithianian 'control' but really ruled themselves while the Ukrainians merged with the Poles -- the upper classes became polish while the lower stayed Ruthenian (the languages are roughly compatible, roughly like Flemish and English)
Moscow on the other hand grew in power as a tax collector and then 100 years later threw off the Mongol yoke. ARguably they absorbed a lot of the Mongol system of governance while the Ruthenians/Ukrainians absorbed Poland's chaotic democracy.
The Muscowites then, after the fall of Constantinople, decided that they were not only the "third Rome" but they also had the divine task of "the gathering of the Rus" -- gathering all the Eastern Slavs (and then all the Eastern Orthodox) under Caesar/Tsar.
In the 1700s the Cossacks in what is now Ukraine revolted against the Poles but jumped out of the Polish sizzling pan into the Russian fire. They wanted to keep their culture and language intact but Polish culture and langauge was too advanced and culturally compelling. Russian on the other hand was not so advanced but had a state that didn't care about human life.
and that was Ukraine's faith for 200 years, slowly Russified
The "Russians" in the Ukraine are those who speak the Russian language while Ukrainians are mainly just based on language.
Ukraine never had a chance to build up a higher culture as it was surrounded by more advanced cultures...
ah! so Ukrainians are stupid, a bit backward wouldn't you say? Makes sense though since other cultures stole from them.
Unlike what you think, Ukrainians are NOT stupid - by "higher culture" I meant literature, composers, poets etc. -- Ukraine has a lot of diverse and RICH folk culture, and if the Mongols had not invaded, they would have developed the literature etc.
But they didn't get the chance.
"Other cultures stole from them" -- incorrect. The Russian culture see's itself as an extension of, or a greater part of Ukrainian culture -- it is as a whole, Eastern Slavic culture.
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