Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Dividing lines in Ukraine?

The division of Ukraine into separate groups: west/east, Orthodox/Greek Catholic, Russian speaking/Ukrainian speaking, is just too easy. The issues are too complex and the dividing line, if there is one, is not fixed. Is Kiev in the east or the west? It is Russian speaking and is the starting point for the Russian Orthodox tradition. Then it must be in the east, but it voted heavily for Yushchenko. Both the Potlava and Cherkassy oblasts went for Yuschenko but they are also heavily Orthodox and Russian is spoken in their cities. Odessa is certainly Russian speaking but it religious traditions are extremely varied with a large historical Jewish population. Odessa went for Yanukovych but Odessa does not fall into any box and will remain unique. It is certainly west of the Dnipro River. How about Mykolaiv? It went for Yanukovych but its voting pattern in the second round smells of fraud. 35% of Mykolaiv voters were treated as “invalids” and another 30% were absentees. If you remove these interesting votes, Mykolaiv might have gone Yushchenko.

If reporters and analysts are writing for headlines then Ukraine is breaking apart right down the line of the Dnipro River. If a more careful review of the social and political makeup of the country is used, there is not easy dividing line.

One note on the move of the Donbas into “Transdniester” condition of non-official, semi-autonomous nation state. Donbas exports a great deal of materials throughout the world. To do this it needs to be recognized in the world economy. “Semi-autonomous areas” do not typically particulate on the world market. Russia alone cannot take in all of the Donbas exports without harming its own industry that directly comletes with the mines and steel-works of the Donbas.

One final sporting note: Sportak Donetsk is a leading football club in Ukraine. It competed in European Champions League this fall. It owners have large plans to build a $200 million stadium very soon. If the Donbas breaks apart, the teams status at an international basis goes away and that stadium becomes a white elephant.

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