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History Shows Putin’s Claims to Ukraine are Dubious

History Shows Putin’s Claims to Ukraine are Dubious

From Dr. Rathnam Indurthy, Retired Professor McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA

Asserting that Ukraine had no existence as a state and that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, out of hubris, Vladimir Putin ordered an unprovoked and unjustified invasion of a sovereign country, Ukraine in utter disregard of international law. But historians do not agree with Putin’s claims to Ukraine.

It is true that Kievan Rus, as a loose federation of Russia, Ukraine, and had existed in the medieval ages. However, with the Mongolian empire, it was fragmented into principalities. For the next four hundred years, these territories comprising present Ukraine were ruled by Poland-Lithuania. The Orthodox East Slavic people in these lands developed their own distinct identity and language under Mongol and later Muscovite rule. And from the 16th to 18th centuries, these East Orthodox Slavic hosts of peasant warriors, known as the Cossacks, formed their own de facto statelets. 

In 1552, Ivan the Terrible conquered the Mongolian Khanate of Kazan, and later the eastern parts of Ukraine including Kiev, that were under Polish-Lithuanian control were ceded to Moscow in 1667. However, supported by Sweden, the Cossacks fought the Russians in the Great Northern War (1700-1725) during the reign of Peter the Great but lost and Russia emerged as an empire. With three partitions of Poland as a result of regional wars, the remainder of modern-day Ukraine was absorbed by Czarist Russia except for its extreme western part which came under Austria.

For the next 120 years, Ukraine was a part of Russia which suppressed its people’s identity, culture, and language. In the civil war following the October 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Ukraine enjoyed a quasi-independence but was partitioned between the Soviet Union and newly independent Poland. But by December 1922 the two parts of Ukraine were joined to become one of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics under Lenin. In Joseph Stalin’s regime (1924-53), as Ukrainians had resisted his forced collectivization, he ruthlessly starved them causing deaths between 3.5 to 5 million. He however, permitted Ukraine to be a separate member of the newly founded United Nations in 1945.

It was Nikita Khrushchev a Ukrainian himself, who in 1954  made Crimea as part of Ukraine. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, President Boris Yeltsin (1990-99) let Ukraine declare itself as an independent nation and recognized it as such. Historically, Ukrainians have sought to be independent contrary to what Putin claims. Putin refuses to recognize Ukraine’s existence, and in 2014, he annexed Crimea and has been supporting the Russian rebels in the Donbas region.

Putin desires to restore the former Czarist empire with him being a ruler for life.

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