Since the Pereiaslav/Pereyaslav pact of 1654, Ukraine has only experienced genuine independence from Russia at periods of extreme geopolitical upheaval, such as during the closing stages of the First World War and in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The independence of Ukraine now seems to be seen by Russian nationalists as a similar aberration, a result of what Vladimir Putin called the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century: the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Many Russians perceive Ukraine as a phantom limb that has been amputated but is still felt to be present. Some Russians find it strange that Ukraine is considered to be a nation at all.
The misconception that Ukrainian history is only an annex of the lavish many-roomed palace of Russian history is widespread, albeit it is untrue. From the founding of Kyivan/Kievan Rus through the wars against the Poles in the 17th century to the brutal struggle against fascism in the 20th, Ukraine and Russia have shared success and misery.
The perception of Ukrainian history varies between Russians and Ukrainians. Like in all borders, the tangled past’s paradoxes and complexities are repeatedly retold in family histories and personal identities.
There are conflicts in Ukraine involving more than just the nation’s geography. As well as the past of the nation. It will be necessary for Russia and Ukraine to learn to live with each other’s pasts if they are to coexist as polite neighbors.
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