Sunday, November 26, 2023

Putin’s War in Ukraine has Frightened Many Ukrainians in Russia But Radicalized Others

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – For decades, ethnic Ukrainians have been the third largest nationality in the Russian Federation, behind only the ethnic Russians and the Tatars, and currently number 3.34 million or about three percent of the population of that country. They have been subject to intense pressure to assimilate, but many still identify as Ukrainians and even with Ukraine.

            After 1991, many ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation organized national autonomies and otherwise promote institutions that would help them preserve their identities. But with the coming to power of Vladimir Putin and then his invasion of Ukraine, the situation has changed dramatically (

            First, there was a wave of as yet unexplained murders of ethnic Ukrainian leaders in the first decade of Putin’s rule. Then, Moscow closed the two largest Ukrainian; and especially after 2014 and then 2022, the Russian government promoted the idea that the only good Ukrainian was one who believed that Ukrainians are a subgroup of Russians.

            These actions have led many ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation to keep silent or even assimilate; but they have also had the effect of radicalizing a significant minority who have recovered their identity and interest in the Ukrainian language and even engaged in protests against Moscow’s aggression.

            Both via the Internet and through contacts with friends and relatives in Ukraine, these people know what Moscow has been doing in their homeland; and they are angry enough to consider leaving Russia for somewhere else. How many these people there are is unknown, but they are certainly numerous enough to worry the Kremlin.

            And the longer the war goes on, the more ethnic Ukrainians are likely to feel this way given the depradations the Russian forces have visited on Ukrainians, a development that is likely to preclude their assimilation to the Russian nation and create a headache for Moscow long into the future.

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