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Is There One Ukraine?

The Problem With Ukrainian Nationalism

A protester in Kiev, Ukraine Courtesy Reuters

Images of toppled statues notwithstanding, “revolution” has never been the right word to describe recent events in Kiev. Ukraine, after all, has been here before. At the heart of the country’s present struggle is its resistance to any "strategic partnership" with Russia and its understanding of Europe as a potential economic and political savior from corrupt government. But the tensions between East and West -- both psychological and geographic -- are deeply rooted in Ukraine's national identity. Those Ukrainians most concerned about their country’s future would do well to recognize that identity’s inherent fragility. The original generation of Ukrainian nationalists suffered precisely for their failure to do so. 

Prior to the twentieth century, there were no “Ukrainians” to speak of -- at least not in an official sense. Tsarist Russia built its national identity on the idea of Slavic unity, of which Ukraine was a fundamental and

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