“Learning from maps and history: The case of Ukraine

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 3/4/14

I’m a map person. I think maps help us visualize the abstract. I found this one particularly interesting, from Dave Schuler, “The Ukraine Crisis in Three Maps,” Outside the Beltway, 3/1/14:

Ethnolingusitic_map_of_ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For the percentages, see the map in Springtime of Nations.)

European countries like Ukraine (the largest country lying entirely in Europe) achieved ethnic diversity by spontaneous or forced migrations and by accretion of once independent or isolated areas. We see those factors, to some degree, in Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska.

One underlying question on some people’s minds is whether Putin is a crazed fascist. He is, in fact, using the same argument to occupy Crimea as Hitler did in occupying Czechoslovakia: basically, “The Russians / Germans there are being threatened by a foreign people.”

We used the argument ourselves in 1983, when president Reagan invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada, ostensibly at the request of a deposed Governor General and to protect a few hundred American medical students there, but in reality to overthrow a newly installed Marxist government. The invasion was condemned by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 108-9, but of course the US vetoed a similar resolution in the UN Security Council. History is written by the winners, as they say.

Multi-ethnic states always have a potential point of weakness. Japan could have argued in World War II that the US and Canada were sending people of Japanese origin to concentration camps. They were, but Japan didn’t have the means to send an army to liberate the prisoners. And, fortunately, most of them survived, unlike in the German and Russian versions. Don’t be shocked by the term; concentration caps were used by the British during the Boer War in South Africa and their history is much older than that.

As the map above shows, there is ethnicity and there is language. People don’t always speak the language associated with their ethnicity. A lot of Americans of Hispanic or Japanese origin don’t speak Spanish or Japanese. However, 77% of Crimean residents indicate Russian is their native language, and 90.6% in Sevastopol, according to a map in “2014 Crimean crisis” at Wikipedia.

Another way to figure out what people are thinking is how they vote (in countries that vote in a relatively transparent manner). …

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