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The Road to Ukraine's Independence
An examination of ideas and events that led to independence.
5.5'' x 8.5''
, 157 pages
HISTORY / Europe / Former Soviet Republics
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Former Premier Gorbachev and other Russian leaders were shocked when Ukraine proclaimed independence almost immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reacted by saying that British relationship with Ukraine "can only be the same as those with California or Quebec" and President George Bush cautioned Ukraine against "suicidal nationalism." Even now, as Ukrainian independence is approaching its second decade, their surprise continues to be echoed by the media as if that independence may not survive. Unfortunately, we all have been so conditioned by this misguided perception of Ukraine that a brief review of its history and ideas may be helpful in understanding the forces that led to its independence.
The Road to Ukraine’s Independence
“The Road to Ukraine’s Independence” is a collection of articles by Eugene Melnitchenko and Helena Mann-Melnitchenko. It sheds light on the long history of Ukraine through the eyes of the Second World War refugees who carried on their shoulders the preservation of national identity, traditions, culture and history of Ukraine for more than fifty years. Those were the tortuous years of Soviet occupation and eradication of Ukrainian national identity.
While Russia was enigma to Winston Churchill in the fifties, Ukraine was even a greater mystery to Margaret Thatcher in the nineties. To her Ukraine was a province of Russia, like Quebec in Canada, of California in United States. The Prime Minister of Britain was not alone. That is how the Western World saw Ukraine before the proclamation of its independence in 1991. Just read “The Ukrainians: an Unexpected Nation” by Andrew Wilson. Ukrainian independence was indeed unexpected to him and to the rest of the academic and political elites of the Western world.
They could not have been more wrong as subsequent events demonstrated. The authors describe in an accurate and concise manner that Ukraine, unlike Quebec or California, is a country with more than millennium-long history. Located on the open steppes of the Eurasian landmass and without natural boarders, the country was subject to endless invasions and occupations by foreign marauders from East, West, North and South. These invasions and occupations date well before Christian era. The latest occupier was Russia.
“The Road to Ukraine’s Independence” unveils some of the mysteries of this unprotected borderland between Europe and Asia. Ukraine is hardly monolithic and its people are highly independent in thought and action and resilient in times of adversity. About 46 millions of Ukrainians reside in their home country and over 20 millions live in the Diaspora, some in the former republics of Soviet Union, and others in the West.
The authors describe in some detail the nature and character of Ukrainians residing in the United States. They are ambitious, hard working, and generally try to stay out of trouble. They are hard to stereotype, because there are three distinct groups of Ukrainian immigrants in United States: those who emigrated before the Second World War were mainly driven here by the economical necessity, those who immigrated after the Second World War were largely political refugees, and those who immigrated after the collapse of Soviet Union are primarily searching for a better life in the West. While all of them refer to themselves as Ukrainians, there is little commonalty in their world view or culture. The book characterizes this diversity in an accurate and concise manner and should be a good source of information for those in the United States who try to understand this diverse ethnic group residing in our country.
The book also describes the torturous road to Ukrainian independence that was finally realized in 1991, after centuries of suffering and conflicts, through hard work and leadership of Ukrainian intellectuals, writers, poets, and artists with brief synopsis of each contributions to the Ukrainian national identity and the intellectual and emotional impacts they had on the life of the authors.
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