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All You Need Is Lvov

Picture Credit spiridon Cepleanwe

All wars, or special military operations if you must, eventually come to an end.  We can be certain this too will be true of the Ukraine war today. But what might Vladimir Putin want for his “peace”?  How much Ukraine will he take back (now officially in some high-sounding treaty) at the inevitable Peace talks?  And what exactly is Ukraine anyway?  Where is the real Ukraine and where is Russia, and indeed anything else?  None of this is easy to unpick in this part of the world, and I am sure people don’t want the thoughts of an antiquated historian to complicate things with old facts – but here they are anyway.

Ukraine is made, at the moment, of various parts.  Some anti Ukrainians say there is no such entity as Ukraine.  This is known as the “Ukraine is not real” argument.    To support this view we might note there are a huge number of languages spoken there Belarusian, Bulgarian, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian , Polish, Romanian. Russian and Slovak as well as Yiddish.  All support the no Ukraine argument.  .  So, it has some strength. But Putin’s vicious push has cemented the idea of a truly national “Ukraine” and its first existential challenge.   Let’s look at the map above.  I think it accurately represents how he sees Ukraine.

First off let’s take the Crimea, if only because being a purple coloured isthmus it is easy to spot at the bottom.  This was historically an Ottoman vassal state until in was taken over by Russia in 1783.  That was Turkish, OK?  It then remained Russian and was packed out (or ethnically cleared?) with Russians and Russian speaking incomers until 1954 when, extraordinarily, President Khrushchev gave Crimea as “a gift” to the Ukraine people.  To celebrate the 300th anniversary of “Ukrainian reunification with Russia” you understand in “Boundless trust and love the Russian people feel toward the Ukrainian people” (no irony there) sort of all as per the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654.  Well, not really, the Crimea was always a trojan horse, a large Russian packed province there to dilute the essential “Ukrainian-ness “ of Ukraine.

And 1654 is the date the yellow section to the north bordering Belarus was incorporated into Tsarist Russian Empire.  And remember Putin is a Tsar, interested in the old Empire and NOT a soviet!

But Crimea was not the first gift of land to alter Ukraine.  Way back in 1922 (and hey that’s only 100 years ago) Lenin ceded all that huge area in blue.  This is the part that already contains the breakaway statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk. And all the way over to Odessa and the Romanian border.

And, even closer to our times, is the area in green on the left (West) included the old Polish city of Lviv or Lvov, Lemberg, Lemberik, Ilyvo Lvihorod and Leopolis, all depending on if you are Austro-Hungarian, Jewish, German, from Czechoslovakian Trans-Carpathia or just collect stamps. These lands had originally thought of themselves as Polish, Hungarian or Romanian.  But hey to sweeten the deal Stalin gave Poland back a slice of what had been Germany as a sop. Which I suspect left no one happy.

All of which leaves the central orange section as the “original Ukraine”. Not a lot there.

So… we have a feel of the historical construction of Ukraine, and remember this is a simplified one, what will Putin demand?

I think a dead cert is a demand for the entire provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.  This might be seen as an easy “given” in that a lot of Russians live there.  From there Putin is clear that he would wish that the extension of this through Donetsk and Luhansk through Mariupol down the coast to Odessa giving Russia control of both the sea of Azov and access to the Black sea whilst crippling any rump Ukraine from exporting through the Black Sea.  And maybe then on to the borders of Romania from which he might strike later at Moldova (yep put your bet their next. They’re mince but do not know it).  So, these will be definite top demands.

That yellow section with Kiev (Keev) is an interesting one.  Clearly, he needs to control this, and place a puppet regime in charge.  Will he allow this to be a controlled russified “Ukraine”?  My bet is there will be just horrendous ongoing incursions whatever his demands.

Then, last there is the West, that legacy of Stalin, that extraordinary medley of Poles, Romanians and Hungarians as well as Ukrainians.  A really interesting move would be to abandon all of them.  Sell them back to Hungary, Poland, Romania? Or leave a rump, useless state round Lvov?

The sad fact for Putin is that the smaller the state  of Ukraine, the stronger the independent Ukraine he will have to deal with.  Strip out the non-ethnic Hungarians, Russians et al and the greater his problem.  For Putin the best option was (and is) always push for a larger diluted Ukraine.  An option I fear he will not take.

Copyright David Macadam  2022

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