The Causes of the Crisis
From the time of the downfall of the USSR, processes have begun in the post-Soviet region and in the whole world that had epochal significance upon nowadays political and geopolitical events, not leaving Ukraine out either:
- The political influence and role of the USA became absolute. Since the collapse of the USSR the USA as the only superpower with its economic, military and political potential has had no rivals. Moreover, it possesses much more resources for its own in numerous fields, than the G8 countries all together do. The “decisive share” of the world economy, production, consumption, trade, scientific and educational spheres, the quota of the resolutions in international institutes, military expenses and resources belong to the USA and its allies(NATO, EU,Japan, etc.). In this very context, Russia has, in fact, lost its influence upon its former allies and “vassals” (South America, Asian and African countries), as well as upon Warsaw convention countries. Instead, a process to join the international unions and memberships, created by the USA and its allies, for most of those countries started, which was accompanied by vast public support. On the present stage of the above mentioned process, by now, the post-Soviet countries are leaving the Russian area of influence one after another, which takes place because of foreign influence, as well as of social demand.
- Almost all the nowadays existing international institutions and systems entered either the influence area of the USA, or the common one of the latter and its allies.
- Statehood-creating process of then independent post-Soviet countries began. For most of the post-Soviet countries this was not only the first attempt of creating a democratic statehood, but also the first historical event, when the dominant nations became privileged units in those countries. For some nations, it was the first time in their history to acquire an independent, at the same time autocratic statehood covering the majority of residential territories of that ethnic group (e.g. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan): Ukraine is one of them.
Ukraine. Historical Overview
Ukraine and the adjacent territories have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Colonies of ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and later also of Byzantine Empire were founded and considerably developed on the north-eastern shore of the Black sea during the 6th century BC. In the 7th century AD the territory of Eastern Ukraine became the center of the Old Great Bulgaria. At the end of the century most of the Bulgarian tribes migrated taking different courses and as a result most of the territories became Kazaks’ ownership. In the 8th century Russians spreading towards the South little by little from Ladoga and Novgorod deprived Kazaks and Byzantines of these territories and in the 880s occupying Kyiv they created KyivanRus’. During the 10th and 11th centuries the latter became one of the greatest and most powerful countries in Europe, subsequently forming the basis for Ukrainian and Russian nations’ self-consciousness. Under Volodymyr Monomakh (1113-1125) and his son Mstyslav (1125-1132) KyivanRus’ was divided into separate principalities. In the 11th and 12th centuries the constant attacks by nomadic Turkish tribes brought to Slavic people’s mass migration to safer northern forest regions. As a consequence of Mongol invasion in the 13th century KyivanRus’ was emptied and in 1240 Kyiv was completely destroyed. In the mid-14th century the Polish king Casimir the Third subjugated the region of Galicia-Volhynia and Kyiv with its suburbs became the territory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, under Gediminas, after the battle on the Irpin River. Later on, there was a ceaseless rivalry between Lithuania and Poland for hegemony, which ended in Poland’s victory. The aristocracy apostatized, became Catholic and assimilated under the pressure of Polonization. Thus, the ordinary people, being deprived of their kindred supporters in aristocracy, turned to Cossacks who continued remaining Orthodox. As a result, many rebellions agitated Ukraine for several years. Khmelnitsky Uprising(1648-1654) was particularly significant. The rebels willingly entered the Russian sphere of influence under the danger of being defeated and the uprising grew into the Russo-Polish war accompanied by ups and downs for both belligerents. This was mainly conditioned by the circumstances: the inhabitants on the western bank of Dniepr were Polish-oriented, the ones on the eastern bank, Russian-oriented. This very division eventually was confirmed by the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667. The Tsardom of Russia and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth divided Ukraine along the Dnieper River. This was followed by wars and inversions led by Ottomans, Prussians, Swedes and Austrians. Meanwhile, the Russian Empire was continuously fastening and strengthening its trenches. However, later, the collapse of Russian Empire and the two revolutions brought to the ever first independence of Ukraine which was declared by the Central Rada on January 22, 1918. Though very soon the Red army seized the country. The Ukrainian SSR was founded on January 14,1919. Regardless nowadays announced numerous accusations, Ukraine has had many territorial acquisitions (Soviet-Germanic secret appendix) going by way of industrialization, vast construction and scientific-cultural well-aimed development. Ukraine was declared an independent state after the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine adopted by Rada on August 24, 1991 and the Referendum on 1 December 1991. By December 8, 1991 the USSR ceased to exist, though a part of its nuclear arsenal continued to remain in Ukraine. An agreement was signed in Budapest on 5 December 1994. According to the agreement the nuclear war-heads were removed from the territory of Ukraine in return for which the RF, the USA and Great Britain assumed the international guarantee for the independence, the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The Three Levels of Ukraine Crisis
Ukraine crisis, like any other international conflict, can be divided into three levels: surface, manifested by announcements and public attitudes; midsection and objective, manifested by actions and goals; and ground manifested by inmost reasons.
Ukrainian authorities believe that the economic development and stability of the country are endangered and the expected joining to the DCFTA at the Vilnius summit is hopeless. Russia stated about the possibility of reconsideration of the relations with Ukraine trying to protect its own market. EU expressed its willingness to continue supporting Ukrainian people regardless any decision.
Clash of Interests (contrast of goals and actions)
The interests of the two main factions in Ukraine – on the one hand the kleptocratic authorities and the criminal-oligarchic layer absolutely supported by ministers and police, on the other hand the social assets, liberals, nationalists, large, small and medium businesses, intellectuals, priesthood, the population of the western and central regions and the capital – clashed. The clash had rather simple reasons: the oligarchic-governmental flank was trying to maintain its position and the ruling kleptocracy in the country, relying on Russia for the reproduction and security for all of this; and the other social strata were plunged into the vision of a competitive, rightful and legitimate country.
As was mentioned above, Ukrainians became privileged nation for the first time, acquiring independence, after the collapse of the USSR, and the state called “Ukraine”, as it is accepted so geographically today, for the first time appeared on the World Political Map. The formation of Ukrainians’ self-consciousness as an ethnicity began in the 18th and 19th centuries in the connection with the intellectual-cultural development and the creation of intelligentsia (Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, et.). Though the nation-building processes are not completed up to date, those entered a new qualitative stage during UNR and Bandera times. This transitional stage got considerably complicated because of Ukraine’s geographical location. The fact is that Ukraine is on the borderline between two “super-civilizations”. Moreover, the borderline runs through the country. If there are “orientals” (Eastern Armenians) and “occidentals” (Western Armenians) in Armenian reality as well, living under one roof all together without any stratification, in Ukraine those two poles are distinctly discriminated and even antagonized, which makes Ukraine explosive and separated. All this paved a way for a civil war.
On 21 November, 2013 , the Prime Minister of Ukraine, M. Azarov announced that Ukraine cannot sign the free trade agreement and a political association with the EU for economic reasons. Instead, the government decided to sign a treaty and a loan with Russia. In response, people immediately started to gather in public places of Kyiv and other Ukrainian towns, demanding a reconsideration of the decision. Shortly after, leaders of three parties, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Batkivshchyna), VitaliKlitschko (UDAR), OlehTyahnybok (Freedom), passed to the head of the movement. At the beginning, the movement was relatively calm, but the protests entered a stage of escalation after the Eastern Partnership Summit held in Vilnius and the anti-protest laws (restrictions of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly) passed on 16 January, 2014, turning into a revolution. On 19 January the rally in Kyiv was announced to be a public meeting, which was followed by seizure of regional state administration buildings. The government made some concessions: the laws passed on 16 January were invalidated, an amnesty was announced, the government resigned. New demands were followed: change of the presidential-parliamentary system of government intoparliamentary-presidential system. On 15-16 February de-escalation of conflict and some ease of tension were observed, however, on 17 February “Right Sector”, an extremist group, which became one of the main actors, announced a mobilization of all opposing forces. Mass clashes took place and reports were done about the employment of military weapons by both sides during 18-20 February. Official data state about 77 martyrs as a result of the clashes. The situation got out of control especially in Western Ukraine where large quantity of military weapons and ammunition was captured. Rada passed a resolution on 20 February, whereby the forces of law and order were removed from the streets of Kyiv. The following day, on 21 February the president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich displaced the special police force “Berkut” from the center of Kyiv under the pressure of Western countries. The same day a meeting was held between the president and the leaders of parliamentary opposition under the mediation of EU and Russian representatives, and an agreement was signed, which provided for:
- A return to the 2004 Constitution, that is, to a parliamentary-presidential form of government,
- The holding of early presidential and parliamentary elections within December 2014,
- The withdrawal of security forces from downtown Kyiv,
- Surrender of illegally captured weapons by the opposition within 24 hours.
After the meeting Rada confirmed the changes and adopted a law that would free YuliaTymoshenko. However, protestors shouted down opposition members of Parliament, when the latter reported about the accord, negotiated about at the “general meeting”. The leader of the “Right Sector”, Yarosh, taking advantage of the anarchy and factually defenseless situation of the city, undertook the command of the opposition forces and introduced the ultimate condition of Yanukovich’s resignation. Occupation of the governmental district and buildings took place. At the same time Viktor Yanukovich left the city late on 21 February (morning of 22). The next morning a session was held and the Rada illegally impeached the president. The representatives of the government were not present in the session. A few hours later in his televised statement Yanukovich ignored his resignation, defining the events witnessed by the country as a revolution. On its turn the Rada scheduled early presidential elections for 25 May. On 22 February, during the evening, it became obvious that a summit between deputies of the ruling party and forces supporting the authorities took place in Kharkov. The Rada named its speaker Turchynov as interim president on 23 February. The Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov announced that a criminal case on mass killings of civilians had been opened for Yanukovich. Yanukovich was declared internationally wanted. As of 27 February the new government of Kyiv was recognized by the USA and EU countries, at the same time being refused to be recognized by Russia. Yatsenyuk was designated as the Prime Minister and formed a transitional government.
On 27-28 February it became clear that Yanukovish had left for Russia, where he made a statement whereby he announced himself the legitimate president of Ukraine, as well as he was against the “illegal” changes made in the country, which, he believed, were made with the US interventions. Whereas the new government of Kyiv strengthened its power in all regions of Ukraine, except Crimea, where the independence process had already started. At the same time demonstrations were organized also in south-eastern regions of Ukraine.
- Грушевский М.,. Иллюстрированная история Украины, Киев, 1995.
Author: Areg Kochinyan: © All rights are reserved.
Translated by Tamara Sargsyan