Russia-Ukraine Crisis: The History Behind It

April 12, 2022

Briefs, News, World News

In this image, the Russian flag is on the left, and the Ukrainian flag is on the right.

On February 24th, 2022, Russian President, Vladimir Putin announced, “a special military operation,” to invade their southern neighboring country Ukraine, which took the world by storm. Most were not aware of the history behind this conflict and had no idea what was coming. The question is, what sparked this conflict which has already resulted in thousands of deaths, billions in damage, and a worldwide panic? The history behind this conflict dates back to over 100 years ago.

President Putin claimed his goal in the special military operation was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide while aiming for the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. President Putin has banned the terms ‘war’ and ‘invasion’, threatening journalists with jail time if they use those terms to describe this military operation, this is so he can paint the military operation in a positive light, and strong words like ‘war’ and ‘invasion’ could deter citizens from supporting this action.

President Putin has accused Ukraine of being controlled by extremists since 2014, when Ukrainian pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted due to protests against his rule, this was labeled the Revolution of Dignity. President Putin also accused Ukraine of spreading propaganda against the union of Ukraine and Russia. Last year President Putin stated Russia and Ukraine are “one nation”, during a speech, and has described the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 as the “disintegration of historical Russia”.

Current Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has made it clear that this is more than a ‘special military operation’ or even an invasion, “This is not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules and peaceful coexistence.” stated President Zelenskyy. President Zelenskyy believes President Putin wants more than Ukraine, and that his goal is to destroy important aspects of Europe, in order to increase Russia’s power.  

In 1917, during the heart of the Russian Revolution, the Ukrainian war of independence was fought. This war was fought between many political and military forces and although Ukraine had been a free territory, this resulted in the division of Ukraine between Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and most of the land went to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. A year later the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was absorbed into the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). 

After Ukraine was annexed into the USSR a famine hit causing millions of Ukrainians to starve. Russian leader Joseph Stallin’s solution was to send millions of Russians over to Ukraine to repopulate the east. This is why 40% of Eastern Ukraine has Russian heritage and tends to have pro-Russian views. 

During World War 2, when Germany occupied Ukraine, many Ukraine independence fighters aligned themselves with Nazi ideologies. President Putin still holds this against Ukraine and this is the reason he labeled this current action as ‘denazification’.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 President Putin called it a “genuine tragedy” and “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”  President Putin has continued to make statements along the lines of this throughout his career.  The fact that Russia is more powerful than Ukraine indicates these two nations could never coexist as two separate countries. It is clear President Putin’s intentions were always to take back control of neighboring countries that used to be part of the USSR.

In the end, all conflicts have a history behind them. War is a major conflict that comes as a result of many minor conflicts, and for Russia and Ukraine these minor conflicts occurred throughout history.  This history has led up to the war we are witnessing today.

By: Ben Spradlin, bspradlin@theaskacademy.org

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