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Words from Winterbilt

Ukraine Ė who can you trust?

Shannon Bohrer

(5/2014) In July of 1990 a new parliament adopted a Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. Just a month earlier, the Russian Parliament adopted a Declaration for State Sovereignty of Ukraine. Since both parties agreed, Ukraine moved forward and in 1991 they held their first presidential elections and adopted an Act of Independence, declaring Ukraine as in independent democratic state. The state of Ukraine included Crimea, where the Russians had military bases. Thirteen years later, what happened?

Ukrainian history is long and complicated. First settled over 44,000 years ago, the territory is known for being the center of Indo-European language. The country has a long history of conflicts with contested ownership and has been ruled and divided numerous times. Under Catherine the Great, Russia formally annexed Crimea in 1783 and it remained there until the Crimean War. The Crimean war occurred from 1853 until 1856 with an estimated 750,000 killed. The Crimean War was between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France and Sardinia. Although Russia lost the war they held onto the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. In the early part of the 20th century there was a Russian revolution, after which there was a war between Russia and Ukraine. That war established Russian control over Ukraine once again. Who can be trusted?

The dislike and hatred of the Ukrainians was both from the east and the west. In 1932 and 1933, Russia actively and publicly repressed the Ukrainian culture and language. The term Holodomor refers a Ukrainian genocide that included mass killings and deadly deportations and a created famine that killed millions. Under Stalin, there were executions and deportations that included political, religious and cultural leaders. It was documented and reported that in 1933, while Ukraine was under production of food quotas for Russia, the rural population was dying at a rate of 25,000 a day, half of them children.

The genocide really started in 1929 and continued well after 1933. Stalin wanted to teach the "Independent Farmers" a lesson because they resisted collectivization and they did not want to give up their land and livestock to the state. The Soviet Union exported enough grain from Ukraine to feed the entire population of Ukraine. To this day there are denials that the famine and resettlements existed. However, there are monuments to the victims of Stalinís great terror in the Bykivina mass graves, near Kiev.

And from the west, in late 1930 and before World War II, Hitler said he was concerned about the Sudetenland, which were area(s) in Czechoslovakia occupied by German speaking people. Hitler believed the German speaking people were being discriminated against. Sound familiar? To correct this injustice the Munich Pact was created, which allowed Germany to go into the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, for the protection of the Germans. Sound familiar again? The Prime Minister of England; Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact agreeing to this, allowing Germany to enter Czechoslovakia.

After Neville Chamberlain signed the agreement he returned to England and was hailed a hero, since he preserved the peace. The following spring, in 1939, Hitlerís German army took over the whole Czechoslovakia country, which apparently was the plan before entering the Sudetenland. Neville Chamberlain status then changed from as leader that prevented war to someone who allowed an invasion of a sovereign nation.

As we all know Germany continued invading other countries during World War II and they occupied Ukraine. During the occupation a holocaust killed an estimated 3,000,000 Ukrainians and non-Jewish victims. The Nazi extermination policies also killed an estimated 875,000 Jews who also lived in Ukraine. And, another 2,000,000 Ukrainians were sent to Germany for slave labor. Hitlerís German plans were simple, kill and starve most of the population and then send the rest to Germany as slave labor. And then replace the populations with other ethnic groups and Germans. Germany probably used the Russian model for Ukraine - and just changed the names.

What may surprise some is that during World War II there existed a Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both the Germans and the Russians. During World War II, there were many small countries that picked a side, hoping the side they picked would win and if so after the war they would be left alone. Apparently that did not matter as many of the small countries were divided up by the victors as spoils of war. In many instances the countries were divided with agreements made before the war even ended. Who can you trust?

Winston Churchill is often cited, and rightful so, as a real leader in World War II, especially in comparison to Chamberlain. Chamberlain did misread Hitlerís intentions. But a case could be made that Churchill also misread Stalin. We know from Churchillís writings that he mistrusted Stalin, but we also know that he signed off on the breakups of territories and states before the end of the war. The spoils of war after World War II helped to create a buffer zone for the Soviet Union (Russia) and with the new territories and states we then had a cold war. Who can you trust?

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has lost its buffer and apparently wants it back. Should the world allow this? What about Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia, and Lithuania, just to name a few. Their history is very similar, and sometimes worse than Ukraineís. How do these border counties view the incursion of Ukrainian? Youíre a small country that boarders or is close to Russia and you have a large population of Russian speaking people, what would you be thinking? Have you see any news coverage of these countries and how they feel?

The invasion of Crimea is not the old world order; it is a continuation of a world order where power prevails. Problems that were created in history and are hundreds of year old do not have easy solutions, and history does repeat itself. The surrounding and neighboring states are very interested and watching, to see what the world does. The quick solutions offered from talking heads and politicians may not be the answer, but then again, a solution that is the answer for all involved parties may not exist.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer