Sunday, July 16, 2023

Ukraine War, Power Dynamics, and the Challenge of Identity

The conflict in Ukraine has brought power dynamics and the complex issue of identity to the forefront. By examining regional power dynamics and the enigmatic challenge of identity, we can gain valuable insights into the ongoing war. This post builds upon a publication by Russian foresight analysts in 2009 and explores cultural dynamics that could shape an independent and distinct identity for Ukraine.

The 2009 publication by Russian foresight analysts offers a glimpse into the power dynamics of the time, calculating integral power indicators (IPI) for each country, identifying Ukraine as a regional power and Russia as a great power. 

Although the world has changed considerably since then, it is important to evaluate the parameters used in these calculations and assess their potential evolution.

Russia's concern about regional powers along its south and west borders is evident. Russia might expect ongoing power struggles among countries like Iran (IPI:3.80), Turkey (IPI:3.41), and Saudi Arabia (IPI:3.48), which can weaken each other through competition. However, the lack of anticipated tension or competition between Ukraine (IPI:2.98) and Poland (IPI:2.80) may have influenced Russia's decision to annex territory.

The scenario of Poland emerging as a significant influencer and a rising regional power was also highlighted by George Friedman in 2009. He explores this possibility while delving into the geopolitical futures of the next 100 years.

At the heart of the current war in Ukraine lies a fundamental struggle over identity. Throughout history, Russia has annexed territories from the Ottomans (today Turkey) and Persians (today Iran) in regions such as the Balkans and Caucasus. Yet from the Russian perspective, the modern nation-states in the Caucasus and the Balkans are more or less recognized as having separate or alien identities.

However, the case of Ukraine is unique. According to Petro Sukhorolskyi, a Ukrainian foresight scholar, Russia refuses to acknowledge Ukraine as an independent, distinct, or separate entity with its own identity and nation. To gain further insights into this matter, Sukhorolskyi recommends reading the book Towards an Intellectual History of Ukraine: An Anthology of Ukrainian Thought from 1710 to 1995. Specifically, he highlights the significance of the 1861 article Two Russian Nationalities written by the renowned Ukrainian and Russian historian Mykola Kostomarov (refer to pages 122-135).

Sukhorolskyi emphasizes that this book also contributes to a better comprehension of the profound disparities between Ukrainians and Russians, which can be regarded as the primary source of the ongoing conflict.

Similarly, the situation with Poland, not entirely foreign to Russians, remains perplexing. The fact that Poland is referred to as Le(c)hStan in Persian language, rooted in the ancient Lech nation, suggests a deep attachment to a distant past, possibly influencing Russian perceptions. 

Stan, Persian suffix for land of people, is also used in AfghaniStan, KurdiStan, KazakhStan, UzbekiStan, TajikStan, KyrgyzStan, PakiStan, MagarStan, the land of Magyar (Hungary), ArabStan (Saudi Arabia), BulgariStan (Bulgaria), SerbiStan (Serbia), ArmeniStan (Armenia), GorgiStan (Georgia), DageStan, EnglStan (England), HinduStan (India), etc. and keeps track of the ancient identity in several modern nation-states and countries.

The designation of LechStan, derived from the term "land of the Lech nation," highlights the enduring cultural connection between Poland and Russia. This attachment to a shared historical origin myth, documented in the founding legends of Lech, Czech, and Rus', influences Russian perspectives. While nations in the Caucasus (ArmeniStan, GorgiStan) and the Balkans (BulgariStan, SerbiStan) are recognized as having separate identities, the distinct identity of Ukraine continues to be denied by Russians. This raises questions about the deep-rooted cultural dynamics shaping the region's identity struggles.

Beyond political ideologies and attitudes reflected in polls and surveys such as increasing advocacy for liberal democracy values, championed in EU and NATO, we should note that cultural dynamics play a crucial role in Ukraine's pursuit of an independent alien identity from Russia. The cultural heritage, distinct traditions, and historical narratives of Ukraine contribute to a sense of separate identity. These dynamics, along with the collective efforts of the Ukrainian people, shape their distinctiveness and their ongoing quest to differentiate themselves from the Russian identity.

The Ukraine war is not solely about geopolitical power dynamics but also about the profound challenge of identity. The conflict highlights the struggle between recognizing separate and alien identities versus the desire for assimilation. While political agreements and military alliances may provide superficial solutions, they often fail to address the deep-seated cultural dynamics at the core of the issue.

Understanding the cultural dynamics is crucial in comprehending Ukraine's quest for an independent alien identity. By embracing their unique cultural heritage and history, Ukrainians are shaping an identity that transcends mere political ideologies. Recognizing and addressing these cultural complexities will be essential in forging a path toward a peaceful resolution and ensuring a sustainable future for Ukraine, its relationship with Russia, and its place within the international community.

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