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Crimea in crisis

Posted March. 01, 2014 08:58,   


"Battleship Potemkin," Sergei Eisenstein`s masterpiece film, is about a mutiny by Russian seamen sympathizing with the 1905 Russian Revolution. At that time, the battleship was anchored at Odessa Port in Ukraine. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was meaningless to distinguish Russia, Ukraine and Belarus from one another. When I was a correspondence in Paris, I made friends with people from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. They were speaking to each other in the Russian language. Ukraine is often referred to as Little Russia, and Belarus as White Russia.

Ukraine and Belarus became independent from Russia after the Soviet Union`s collapse. Since then, there have been trends in the two countries of approaching the Western Europe rather than Russia. The trend was stronger in Ukraine than in Belarus. About 65 percent of Ukrainians speak their own language, while only 11.9 percent of the Belarusians do so. As a result, Ukraine people ousted President Viktor Yanukovych supported by ethnic Russians.

Russia has claimed to be the protector of the Slavic nation and the Orthodox Church. Russia has used the self-imposed role as an excuse for intervening in Slavic issues and expanding its territory eastward. Russia is now being rejected even by Ukraine, which was once its closest neighbor. Despite its outstanding achievements in arts and literature, Russia was distrusted in its political and ethnic values. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in his book "Diplomacy" that Russia`s case was different from that of the United States, who values were accepted even by countries denouncing it.

Although Crimea is Ukraine`s territory, ethnic Russians account for 58.5 percent of the population. At the southern tip of Crimea is Sevastopol Port, the base for Russia`s Black Sea Fleet. Russia`s influence is stronger in Crimea than any other region in Ukraine. In Crimea on Friday, gunmen who appeared to be ethnic Russians have seized Crimea`s regional parliamentary building, putting up pro-Russian banners and hoisting the Russian flag. There are concerns over a 21st-century Crimean War, as Russia might send troops under the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians.

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)