Sep 23 2022 6:12 p.m
An analysis by Vladislav Sankin
In 2014, when thousands of citizens took to the streets in many major cities in south-eastern Ukraine to demonstrate against the nationalist coup government and for the federalization of the country, the code word “Novorossiya” was used in Russian patriotic circles. Novorossija, ie New Russia – that was the name of this spacious area in the time of the Tsars, which covers almost half of today’s territory of Ukraine. It was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the second half of the 18th century and has been the fastest growing flagship region ever since, well into the Soviet era. It was attributed to central Ukraine by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as a proletarian “germ cell”.
The spark of the Crimean referendum spread to neighboring southern Ukraine, and there was hope in Russia that the Kremlin would also take action on this territory and support the secession of historically Russian lands from Ukraine in the name of historical justice. For the time being, however, secession was limited to Crimea. A federalization of Ukraine with autonomy rights for the Russian population of this part of the country would have been an acceptable compromise for both Ukraine and Russia.
But the rulers in Kyiv had a different plan and in 2014 finally cleared the way for the establishment of a tight-knit ethnocracy based on the model of the Baltic States, where Russians would either have to assimilate completely or emigrate. Russia’s intervention was limited to supporting the Donbass rebels, and the pro-Russian population throughout south-eastern Ukraine had to submit to the repressive Ukrainian state.
It has voted in elections and paid taxes for all eight years since the coup. There were no protests against the increasingly aggressive de-Russianization due to violence and repression. On February 24, the special military operation to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine began, immediately branded in the West as Russia’s “criminal war of annihilation against Ukraine.”
But at least in “Novorossiya” many see Russia’s actions as liberation, and the longer Russian troops are stationed in these areas, the more this realization grows. Within a few weeks, the Russian troops, coming from the Crimean peninsula, were able to take control of most of the Cherson and Zaporozhye areas. Crimea’s water supply, cut off by Ukraine, was quickly restored.
As Crimea flowed from the Dnieper, Kherson, Novaya Kakhovka, Melitopol, and Berdyansk saw Russian currency, Russian pensions and supplies, administrative staff (usually from exile), and school programs. The best pupils and students were selected from among the local youth and sent to the Crimea for educational holidays. Economic interdependence with the peninsula and the neighboring Donbass republics developed immediately, the historical region with thousands of connecting seams quickly began to grow together again.
Not everyone in this region welcomed the Russians, and many pro-Ukrainians fled. On the other hand, there were quickly many high-ranking local politicians and administrators who were determined to side with the Russians. For example, Vladimir Saldo, who was mayor of Kherson from 2002 to 2012 and later a deputy of the Ukrainian parliament Verkhovna Rada and the city council of Kherson. In May 2022, he became the head of the Provisional Military-Civil Administration (MCA) of the Kherson region.
Or Yevgeny Balitsiki, a well-known entrepreneur from Melitopol, a former member of the Party of Regions, who was a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada after the Kiev Maidan in the term of office between 2014 and 2019. He became the MZV head of the Zaporozhye region. As one of the first official acts, the two announced integration with the Russian Federation, with accession to Russian territory as the ultimate goal.
Ukraine could not prevent this, and the campaign of intimidation began, which quickly turned into a terrorist hunt for “collaborators”. To date, more than a dozen officials and public figures and their families have been killed in attacks in both regions. They were blown up, shot, hanged, stabbed by saboteurs hired by the Ukrainian secret service. Shelling of civilian infrastructure and residential areas has also increased, with locations in the Kherson region in particular suffering from shelling.
This drove the remaining population out of any remaining sympathy for the state of Ukraine – as far as it still existed. In the end, safety and protection of life by Russian security forces were the ultimate argument for remaining under Russian custody, especially for many who were undecided.
This week, events rolled over backwards. A region-wide congress of citizens of the Zaporozhye region was held in Melitopol on Tuesday, at which the participants adopted an appeal to the MZV calling for a referendum on the territorial affiliation of the region. Balizki then published a corresponding appeal to the Russian President. There was a similar procedure in Cherson, a day earlier such decisions were made in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, i.e. those regions that split from Ukraine in 2014.
Putin speaks again of “Novorossiya”
Vladimir Putin welcomed in his Anprache this decision on Wednesday. The President stressed that he was aware that “the majority of people living in the areas liberated from the neo-Nazis, especially in the historical areas of Novorossiya, do not want to be under the yoke of the neo-Nazi regime”. This was the second time Putin had put “Novorussia” in his mouth. This first happened in 2014. In between was the time of the Minsk Agreements, which gave Ukraine the chance to become a country of peaceful coexistence. But Ukraine – as one of the signatories now admits, ex-President Pyotr Poroshenko – had no intention of fulfilling this UN decision from the start, but wanted to use the time to militarize the country.
The peaceful coexistence of two closely related peoples, who differ little from each other like Saxony and Bavaria, was the opposite of what Kyiv practiced in its nationalities policy in those years. Russians who are sympathetic to Russia should leave for Russia, said Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in 2021.
A student stressed at the citizens’ congress on Tuesday:
“All these years, the people living on our territory have seen nothing but empty promises and fomented nationalism from the previous authorities. Our region is a rich granary that has been dug up and neglected. And such examples abound. I believe that “Everything will change for the better after joining Russia. I’m still waiting for that. People believe in it, young people believe in it. For us, the youth of Zaporozhye region, it’s very important.”
At the end of her performance, she appealed to the Russian President to include her home region in the Russian Federation. For this she received frenetic applause from the hall. She comes from a village; that she is a “Kremlin agent” is very unlikely. regional media spread Videos in which the youth of the region clearly speak out in favor of joining Russia, “because Russia is the land of opportunities”.
Almost 90 percent are in favor of joining
Nationalism brings backwardness – the young people in the region summed it up with this formula. Zelensky wanted “Pro-Russians” to leave the country. Now the tide has turned and they want Ukraine to leave their country. The last VTSIOM survey in the whole region indicates a clear picture of the mood: in the Cherson region, 89 percent of those questioned were in favor of joining Russia, in the Zaporozhye region 87 percent. Two percent in both areas were against it. These are the votes of those who want to take part in the referendums, which are 69 and 80 percent respectively.
There are many reasons why people in this vast region vote for Russia, but the most important is a desire for civil peace, a state of affairs that has not existed in Ukraine for decades. “In our history books, and teachers can see for themselves, there is no aggression against Ukraine, Europe or other countries, as was unfortunately the case in the Ukrainian textbooks of the Kiev regime,” stressed the Russian Minister of Enlightenment Sergei Krawzow handing over school books during his visit to the region.
That is why Ukrainian statehood in its current form has no long-term prospects for the future. Now Ukraine exists in the form of a military dictatorship that mobilizes its people to fight against the “invaders” through repression, intimidation and propaganda. As soon as Ukraine loses control of one region or another, to lose the citizens of this region also have the desire to defend this state.
It depends on Russia
In this situation, then, what matters is the political will of the Russian government to continue the military operation and fight for the territories of historic Russia, rather than Kiev’s ability to defend territory controlled by it. The political, moral and economic effect of the simultaneous accession of the four former Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Lugansk to Russia may soon trigger a domino effect including the absorption of further regions throughout south-eastern Ukraine.
Without these areas, however, the rest of Ukraine will no longer be able to survive. And there is a good chance that other territories will follow the example of “New Russia” based on the common historical heritage.
more on the subject – The Ukraine conflict – referendums as a way out? Part 2
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