Staunton, March 27 – After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea, many Ukrainians urged that their country play up the national divisions within the Russian Federation as a warning to Moscow that its efforts to undermine other countries along ethnic lines could end by undermining Russia itself.
These efforts appeared to peak in 2018 and 2019 when the Verkhovna Rada discussed and then passed a resolution urging Kyiv to focus the world’s attention on Russia’s nationality problems (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/05/ukrainian-parliament-calls-for-new.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/12/kyiv-to-focus-attention-on-moscows.html andwindowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/moscow-sanctions-ukrainian-deputy-who.html).
The Ukrainian authorities subsequently made a number of statements on this issue and offered political asylum to ethnic activists from the Russian Federation that Moscow had been persecuting. But beyond raising awareness among Ukrainians about the Ukrainian regions inside Russia, the campaign appeared to be largely stillborn.
Now, there is an indication that that may be about to change. Speaking on a Kyiv radio station, Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, said that he was “confident” that the world will see “a free Ichkeria [Chechnya], a free Tatarstan, and Crimea back within the borders of Ukraine” (idelreal.org/a/31170513.html).
And while he did not predict that this would happen soon, the security official did say that he was sure it would occur “within our lifetimes.” What is striking is that again just as in the case of Poland and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, it is Russia’s neighbors who have experience with it rather than larger powers which don’t that are moving in this direction.
Their attention to these issues means not only that they will give encouragement to the peoples living within the current borders of the Russian Federation but that Ukraine and other neighbors like Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland are going to become ever more important sources of information about regions and republics less studied elsewhere.