Ukraine’s East-West Regional Division

  • Abstract:

    Ukraine with its name meaning “borderland” seems doomed to be a country between East and West and therefore to be a divided country. That is quite a spread image of Ukraine. Whether one would talk about Ukraine’s history or the history of independent Ukraine, there is always a place and even impossibility not to describe Ukraine by using the words “divisions” and “divided”. Though the history of Ukraine seems a real patchwork of different regions belonging to different political units, more than 20 years of peaceful coexistence in the independent Ukraine rather confirms the “divide and rule” strategies of the political elites and doesn’t give much reasons for blaming the complicated history and caused by its current ethno-linguistic and cultural differences for the division of Ukrainian society. The principle “divide and rule” has been especially applied in Ukraine before and during the so called Orange Revolution and exploited once again during the so called Euromaidan revolution. Focusing on discourses of various politicians and intellectuals, the paper aims to analyze Ukraine’s East-West division and the construction of regions as peculiar political and cultural spaces in Ukraine. There is a common narrative of “two Ukraines”. From one side there is a pro-European Western Ukraine, which shares liberal democracy values, wants to join the European Union, seeks to “return to Europe” and speaks Ukrainian. The Eastern Ukraine is described often not just different but worse, nostalgic about the Soviet Union, speaks Russian, has close relations with Russia, is hostile towards the West and does not share “western” values. This East-West division is strengthened by the existing regional poles, which are opposed to each other – the Western Galicia (a phantom region), a Ukrainian cultural “Piedmont”, a beacon of Western civilization with its main city Lviv and from another side highly Sovietinized Donbas region in the East with its main city Donetsk, which image is getting even more negative in course of the current war. The myth of “two Ukraines” was turned into differences between two civilizations in the Huntingtonian sense (“Huntingtonization” of the Ukrainian political discourse). The Ukrainian East-West division constitutes a part of the European East-West dichotomy. This dichotomy was well retranslated in Ukrainian settings. The paper aims to deconstruct the myth of the infamous Ukrainian East-West division. Apart from that, taken into the account the current developments, it is important for the author to show how Eastern Ukraine with its region Donbas have been trapped to the stereotypical Orientalism in the political and intellectual discourses and how the notion of Eastern Ukraine have been shifted eastwards in the course of war and reduced to the Donbas region.