Recently I read interesting post about Russia from Max Skibinsky. In general it is seems like a well written article. But then the author started discussing Ukraine and Ukrainians in "Ukrainian Valor" section. In this post I would address some facts from the original article that I find controversial or incorrect.
The differences between "Ukrainian" and "Russian" people are cosmetic. The distance between Kiev and Moscow is about same as Sacramento to San Diego.
In my opinion saying that difference between Ukrainian and Russians is cosmetic and refer to Ukrainians as "Russians" is at least impolite. Can you say that Danes are "Swedes"? Can you say that Croats are "Serbs"? Can you say that Canadians are "Americans"? Can you say that Macedonians are "Bulgarians"? Can you say that New Zealanders are "Australians"? At the very minimum it’s very rude to call one nation with the name of another. It’s disrespectful to the culture, to the people.
Max refers to the distance between Kyiv and Moscow as indicator of equality between two nations (and gives distance between two US cities as an example). Just for the record distance between Kyiv and Moscow(851.8 km) is bigger than between Kyiv and Warsaw(772.6 km), Paris and London(449.9 km), Warsaw and Berlin(566.8 km), Lisbon and Madrid(625.2 km). In general, applying US (American, African, Asian) absolute distances to Europe never works because Europe is much more compact.
He didn't even bother to spell the name of the Ukrainian capital correctly.
Max refers to Novgorod Republic as the “the last group of Russians who were not ruled by khans, czars, communist chairmans or KGB generals”.
That is why him describing differences between Russian and Ukrainian being cosmetic is scandalous. Ukrainian history is very different from the Russian one.
Ukrainians do have very democratic pages in our history during the past 1000 years (and those events, periods are unique to us, not other Eastern Europeans).
First of all we had cossacks in Ukraine at least during period of 1492–1775 - people who became known as members of democratic, semi-military communities. Those people were building very progressive type of society for several centuries. They had very democratic process: hetman was the head of the state and he was elected together with other members of the government. Go read about it, it’s fascinating, think about what was going on in the world during the same period!
Cossacks are the big part of Ukrainian identity. Their love to freedom and justice are celebrated by our poets and writers. Learning about cossacks is a big part of Ukrainian school program - from history to literature. We also had another type of rebels in the Ukraine called "haydamaky". And again those people were very similar to cossacks and were fighting for the better and more fair life.
In 1710 the leader of the cossacks (Pylyp Orlyk) created constitution. It was even before US Constitution was written! This constitution declares some rights and values unimaginable for that time.
In 1917 after collapse of Russian empire Ukraine was able to create democratic state - Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) - that existed for almost 4 years. It was invaded by Russians several times and destroyed. What is interesting is that UPR had parliament and President - Mykhailo Hrushevsky. It was very unusual for both place and time. The most impressing thing is that Mykhailo Hrushevsky was smart, educated and well-respected person - he was academician and historian.
Not to mention that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 we already had two revolutions and 5 elected presidents (realistically Russia had just two of them in the same period). We had these revolutions because people were against of usurpation of the power by one person or group of people.
In the most recent history of Ukraine we declared international policy very different from the Russian one. We were very neutral country, gave up nuclear weapons and didn’t participate in wars. That is why I doubt, that Ukraine was a satellite state.
Check for example how Ukraine and Russia voted on different international questions in the United Nations. E.x. check votes on Kosovo, Georgia and so on.
Ukraine was independent for almost 23 years now. Basically everyone under 30 years got their education in Ukrainian schools and universities (not Soviet Union or Russian). To put it in perspective: in schools we almost don’t study Russian history or Russian literature anymore (it's just a part of regular world history and world literature classes). The greatest people (most celebrated) in the history of Russian state (Peter I, Ekaterina II, Lenin, Stalin) are considered biggest enemies of Ukrainian nation and state. Those "leaders" were responsible for genocides and repressions of Ukrainian bright minds and ordinary people.
Russian classic literature is not required subject in schools anymore. We don’t study Pushkin or Dostoevsky as much as our parents. In fact we study them in the same quantities as other world writers and poets. We do study our own writers, who wrote about our own heroes and our own values, much more.
During my adult life I didn’t see many people of my generation (and younger generations) who associated themselves with Russians. When I went out of the country I was embarrassed, when someone would ask by mistake if I am "Russian". A lot of Ukrainians do speak Russian language. But that doesn’t make them Russians. Canadian and Americans speak English. But still two countries have very different values. Same is true about Ukraine: we do have our own values, culture, traditions, cuisine, heroes, land and history.
Also I have an opinion about difference in mentality between Ukrainians and Russians. But it is the topic for the future opinionated post. Here I just tried to show some factual mistakes in the Max's post. I don’t comment on other parts of the post from Max. I found them interesting but I can’t verify if they are correct. I have never been to Russia and I don’t have enough facts and information about that country. That is why I don’t try to make statements on Russia and Russians in this post. I wish Max did the same in his original post.
We have this belief in Ukraine: even the most democratic or liberal Russians stop being democratic and liberal when they start speaking about "Ukrainian question". Sadly it’s so rare (but not impossible) to find Russians that are tolerant to other nationalities (specifically Ukrainians).