Monday, March 03, 2014

Identity stretching in Eastern Ukraine

So, if the Russian flag kindly raised on Kharkiv's city hall by a young man from Moscow means anything, Eastern Ukrainians are all now 'Russians', and those bad people in Kiev are 'Ukrainians'. Hang on. A 'pro-Russian' government has only just been ousted, one member of which, the hated education minister Tabachnyk, had a strong view on 'Ukrainians'. For him, the easterners are the real 'Ukrainians', whilst the Western Ukrainians are not Ukrainians at all, but 'Galicians'.

One wonders what Eastern Ukrainians really think of this sudden makeover of their identities. Even the oligarchs have made great play of Eastern Ukrainians being 'Ukrainians'. Two of Ukraine's group games at Euro 2012 were staged in Donetsk, most likely at the behest of the Donbas Arena's owner, Rinat Akhmetov. Clearly people in the east feel closer to Russia than other Ukrainians, but that's still some way off being Russian. How will they adjust to their sudden new identities? Most likely, being habitually ruled by fear, they continue to superficially go about their daily lives and conform to prescribed behaviour from whoever seems to be in charge.

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