Ukrainian Democracy and Why Russia Wants to Destroy It So Much

Ukrainian Democracy and Why Russia Wants to Destroy It So Much
Hello! I am Viktoriia, the new content creator for Neuvote. Neuvote believes in strengthening and advocating for democracy, and right now, modern threats to democracy and the sovereignty of the people have never been seen more clearly than in what's going on in Ukraine. Democracy, representation, and freedom of speech are important to me as a Ukrainian, and that's why I am excited to create for Neuvote.

The news is full of information about the events in Ukraine:  Some call it a war, some a conflict, and some a "special military operation."  But the whole world agrees that this is, without a doubt, an attempt to destroy the democracy and territorial sovereignty of an independent state.  For many, this war came unexpectedly, although, in fact, the history of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict dates back centuries.

You cannot understand Putin's recent invasion of Ukraine without first understanding his metaphysical commitment to the era of the Russian Empire, his mythological narrative of Russian-Ukrainian history, and his semi-mystical construction of what constitutes the Russian nation. So, let's try to understand why a democratic and independent Ukraine is like a bone in Russia's throat.

In 2021, Ukraine celebrated 30 years since the restoration of independence. Restoration, not creation.  Three decades is enough to sum up certain results, an opportunity to assess facts that are no longer in doubt.  One such fact is that Ukraine, despite some shortcomings in its development, has emerged as a democratic state, unlike neighbouring Belarus and Russia, as well as most post-Soviet countries.  There is a lot of evidence for this, one of the strongest - the results of the last presidential election in Ukraine. In exploring the existence and sovereignty of Ukraine, and in seeking to understand the modern history of the nation, it is important to start from the beginning.

Where Did It All Start?

It may be difficult to find a specific moment in history that would give an exact answer to this question, but it is worth starting with the emergence of the Ukrainian state and the Russian Federation. It is known that the name "Ukraine" (meaning “border region,” “land at the edge of the principality”) was first used in the Ipatiev Chronicle in 1187.  As a territory, "Ukraine" is present on the map of the Frenchman Guillaume de Beauplan (mid-seventeenth century), thanks to which this geographical name became widely known in Western Europe.

Ukraine on the map of Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan, 1648

While the territory of Ukraine was developing and building international economic relations, the territory of present-day Russia was dominated by forests, steppes, and nomadic Mongol tribes.  Muscovy, as a principality, arose during the Tatar-Mongol rule over those lands, at the behest of Khan Mengu-Timur,  because only the Khan had the right to donate land and allow the establishment of settlements. [1]  The northeastern lands of the former Kievan Rus became part of the Mongol Golden Horde (examples for comparison of the coats of arms of these states).

That is, the formation of the political culture of the Muscovy principality was decisively influenced by the Horde order and tradition, with the glorification of the ruler and complete obedience to him, absolute domination of the state, lack of private property, and communal order.  [2]

In the 13th century, after the Mongol invasion, the historical destinies of the territories of modern Ukraine and Russia finally diverged.  Ukrainian territories continued to develop in line with the European context: democracy, self-government, European law, religious tolerance, and respect for private property.  This determined the political culture of the inhabitants. [2] Most of these features persisted in the Cossack state, or Hetmanate (from 1649 to 1764).

It was during the Cossack era that relations with Muscovy began, namely during the reign of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. In 1648, there was the Liberation War for the autonomy of the Hetmanate.  In the conditions of feudal Europe, Hetman Khmelnytsky could not declare independence.  Thus, autonomy was sandwiched between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzecz Pospolita), the Ottoman Empire, and Muscovy.  Before negotiating with the Tsar, Khmelnytsky tried to unite with the Crimean Tatars, but they betrayed him. The Hetman had to decide with whom to build an alliance to preserve autonomy.  During the Soviet era, this agreement was interpreted as "reunification" with Russia, although in fact, it was intended for the autonomy of the Hetmanate and as an alliance against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire. The "Pereyaslav Agreement" was meant to give the Cossacks a royal guarantee of preserving the state rights of the Hetmanate.  (Spoiler: it will be violated many times.)  After many betrayals, 120 years later, the autonomy of the Ukrainian lands was nullified.

In a few years, the new Hetman Ivan Mazepa attempted to restore the independence of the Ukrainian state through an alliance with the Swedish King Charles XII in 1708.  This meant the betrayal of Russian Tsar Peter I. This episode was the beginning of Russian hatred of both the Ukrainian people and the very notion of independence in the Ukrainian context.  Ivan Mazepa's name was anathematized, i.e. cursed and banned.  Every year in early November, the churches of the Russian Empire cursed Ivan Mazepa, and Ukrainian peasants did not mention his name without the epithet "cursed."  This influential measure was possible due to the fact that the Ukrainian church was subordinated to Moscow.[3]

The next Hetman after Mazepa, Philip Orlyk, went down in history as the creator of the first constitution in history on April 5, 1710.  (For comparison - the US Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787.) This document was the first to describe Ukraine as a fully-fledged state: part of the West, not the "Russian world".

Why Is This Document Important?

Firstly, it was the constitution of the whole of Ukraine, not just the part controlled by the Cossacks.  This document outlines the principles of independence of the Ukrainian state from Muscovy and the Commonwealth;

Secondly, the borders, that corresponded to the borders of the time of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, were determined as official;

Third, a kind of Cossack parliament was introduced.[4]

This Constitution was accepted in part of Ukraine, but certainly not in the part that was controlled by Russia.

The First World War and Another Attempt to Create an Independent Ukraine

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Ukrainians were almost the largest stateless people in Europe, and the Ukrainian lands were part of two conservative empires: Russia and Austria-Hungary. [5]

The fall of one of the empires was the impetus for another attempt to create and declare the independence of the Ukrainian lands. Ukrainians began to create or restore political parties. The Ukrainian Central Rada (UCR) played the most important role in the formation of an independent state.

On January 12, 1918, the UCR issued the Fourth Universal, which proclaimed the independence of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) and extended its power to all nine Ukrainian provinces. The central council actually became a parliament, and its decisions came into effect.

Ukrainians became the second nation in the former Russian Empire to declare their independence. The Finns were the first to do so on December 6, 1917. [5]

The First World War wiped out four empires, but Ukraine found no place among the newly independent states. The lands inhabited by Ukrainians were part of four states: the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.

A Tale About "Fraternal Peoples" and Why Ukraine Has Never Been Russia's "Younger Brother"

Soviet propaganda has always been famous for its power and its absurdity, especially in terms of rewriting history for the needs of the ruling party. Russia "proudly" continued this tradition.

Communist propaganda formed clear patterns for considering the history of Ukraine. First of all, it was to be an appendage of Russian history. Historical events in Ukraine were to duplicate Russian processes. At the same time, it was to be less large-scale, or secondary. But this propaganda had nothing to do with reality. [2]

The imposition of Russia’s ideology, language, and way of thinking took place under the guise of "fraternal people,” "rescue missions," and "Russian peace,” hiding the repression, terror, and extermination of the Ukrainian intelligentsia.

What Other Methods Did Russia Use to Suppress and Destroy the Ukrainian Nation and Democracy?

  • More than 130 laws prohibited or restricted the use of the Ukrainian language.
  • 1783-1861: The enslavement of Ukrainian peasants.
  • 1917-1921 - The Soviet-Ukrainian War and the Red Terror: Russia used violence as an instrument of communist rule. The storming of Kyiv in 1918 by the Red Army, with 2,000-5,000 casualties. Chemical weapons and torture of prisoners were used.
  • 1917-1921: Forced collectivization. Destruction of private property in Ukraine. The return of serfdom, though now it was called collectivization.
  • The Holodomors of 1921-1923, 1932-1933, and 1946-1957: The mass extermination of the indigenous Ukrainian population with signs of ethnic cleansing through the famine. Breaking the Five Ears of Grain Law, a law against stealing property or food from collective farms, could be punished with death. All food was confiscated, and the villages were surrounded by the military so that the people could not leave. According to some sources, more than 10 million indigenous peoples of Ukraine were exterminated in 1932-1933 alone. The destroyed villages were inhabited by Russian-speaking people. Hence, the problem of linguistic stratification of the territory of Ukraine.
  • 1920-1930 - "Shot Renaissance": The destruction of Ukrainian artists, writers, musicians, and playwrights; an attempt to erase Ukrainian culture. In the patterns of Russian propaganda, the most important themes for Ukrainian artists were to be their friendship with Russian masters and focus on Russian models. Everything that did not fit into these patterns was either marginalized or openly discredited.
  • 1932-1939 - War with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN): This organization aimed to fight for the liberation of Ukraine from all occupiers. Meanwhile, Soviet communist propaganda attributed to the OUN all the atrocities that took place in Western Ukraine. Here, for the first time, there was a scenario of "provocation and disguise" of the Soviet military in the form of the OUN army, the shooting of civilians, which started a civil war.
  • 1942-1960 - War with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA): A military-political formation of the Ukrainian Liberation Movement, whose strategic goal was to restore Ukrainian statehood. In September 1949 it was reorganized into an armed underground, which lasted until the mid-1950s. In essence, this army fought against the Soviet Union and then against the Germans, who occupied the western territories of Ukraine. During World War II, Soviet troops (NKVD units) using the uniform of UPA fighters terrorized western Ukraine, thus falsifying the pretext for repression, thus continuing to divide Ukraine into western and eastern.
  • 1930-1950 - "Great Terror": The period of Stalin's repression against political opponents, democrats, nationalists, and ethnic minorities. During this period, more than 200,000 people were convicted, two-thirds of whom were shot. Others were tortured and sent to concentration camps.
  • 1960-1989 - Post-Stalin: After Stalin's death, censorship and oppression diminished somewhat, prompting the emergence of the Sixties, the Ukrainian national intelligentsia, who advocated freedom of creativity and against Russification. They were writers, artists, writers, directors… The Soviet government immediately declared them "enemies of the state." Arrests, torture, contract killings, concentration camps, forced "treatment" of "Ukrainian nationalism". Because they “treated” such a fictional disease, Soviet psychiatrists were expelled from the world community of psychiatrists. More than 1,000 dissidents were repressed.

Russia Has Also Tried to Form a Democracy

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave the world 15 newly independent states, although in reality not all of them remained truly independent of Russian influence. Russia also had a chance to follow the path of democracy, but it ended up in the shooting of the State Duma, which few can remember.

On September 21, 1993, one of the greatest political crises in post-Soviet history, known as the White House Shooting, or the October Coup, unfolded in Russia.

The reason for the execution of the parliament (Duma) was the initiative to implement a constitutional reform, which would limit the influence of the President on the decisions of the Duma, i.e. the creation of a parliamentary-presidential republic.

Then-President Boris Yeltsin could not allow this, so he immediately signed a decree dissolving Parliament. In response, Parliament announced the removal of Yeltsin. After that, Yeltsin involved the army and police in the conflict. That same night, he ordered tanks to enter Moscow; troops opened fire on the White House building. The people's deputies were arrested as insurgents but were later released under a political amnesty. Almost 200 people were killed in this fighting. Another 500 were injured.

Democracy in Russia had been defeated.

An Attempt to Break Ukrainian Democracy, Which Led to the Revolution of Dignity, the Annexation of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk

November 21, 2013

On this day, the Government of Azarov (Prime Minister of Ukraine) announced a decision to suspend the process of preparation for the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. This agreement had been in place since 1998 and was to be signed at the Vilnius summit on November 28. However, after a secret meeting between Putin and Yanukovych (then-President of Ukraine) in Sochi, the Ukrainian authorities refused to sign the agreement. [6]

On the same day, at 10:30 pm, 1,500 people protested on Independence Square (Maidan) in the center of Kyiv. The then-authorities immediately responded to the opposition. The Kyiv District Court had ruled to ban peaceful mass rallies.

During that week, protests swept across Ukraine. The largest opposition rally during Yanukovych's presidency took place on Independence Square in Kyiv. According to various estimates, between 60,000 and 150,000 people came there. People demanded Azarov's resignation, the cancellation of the government's decision to renounce the EU association and the signing of an Association Agreement at the Vilnius summit. At the same time, they called on Western countries to impose personal sanctions on Yanukovych and his government. [6] The world did not listen to Ukrainians.

November 28-29

The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union wasn't signed at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. On this day, Ukrainian students organized a "living Euro chain" between Kyiv and Przemyśl. On the night of November 29-30, 2013 on Independence Square, the militia special unit "Berkut" cruelly dispersed protesters. As a result of the militia attack, dozens of people were brutally beaten, including many students.

The cruel beating of students on Kyiv's Maidan stunned not only Ukrainians but also the world community. The events of November 30 were a turning point in the Ukrainian protests at the end of 2013, shifting the focus of the protests from pro-European to anti-government, as well as adding mass to them.

December 1

One of the most crowded rallies of the Revolution of Dignity took place in Kyiv on this day: half a million people were there. On December 8, one million people protested. On the nights of December 10-11, 2013, numerous units of the Internal Troops and the Berkut made the first attempt to disperse peaceful protesters on the Maidan in Kyiv.

January 16, 2014

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed a package of laws called "dictatorial laws." They were voted in violation of the regulations and were concerned with the restriction of citizens' freedoms.

January 19

The peaceful phase of the confrontation on the Maidan ended. Another bloody page in the history of Ukraine began. Thousands of people, outraged by the adoption of "dictatorial laws," gathered in the People's Chamber. Despite numerous calls from opposition leaders to continue the peaceful protest, thousands of columns marched to the Verkhovna Rada, but faced the Berkut border.

The clashes began, which lasted all night. During the confrontation, protesters pelted police with cobblestones and "Molotov cocktails." At the same time, buses and trucks of militiamen were burned. Berkut used noise grenades and rubber bullets, as well as a water cannon, against the demonstrators.

The protests did not subside. Authorities did not hear the people. The first killings of protesters began.

February 18-22 - The Bloodiest Days in the History of the Maidan.

Armored personnel carriers and other equipment were brought to the battlefield. In the evening, the House of Trade Unions caught fire, where the headquarters of the opposition and the wounded were located at the time. According to official figures, twenty-two people died in the fire, and forty-one were rescued. Meanwhile, talks between opposition leaders and then-President Yanukovych failed again. The patience of the protesters broke down, and they went into an active phase of protests. Unarmed convoys marched into the government quarter, but were shot by snipers stationed on the roofs of buildings. According to official estimates, hundreds of people were shot dead on the Maidan.

February 21

The Parliament approved by an absolute majority of votes (386) the Law "On Restoration of Certain Provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine of 2004.”

On the night of February 21-22, Viktor Yanukovych and his immediate entourage left the country. They all fled to Russia.

The Revolution of Dignity ended in victory. The war with Russia had begun…

While the Ukrainian people were fighting for their independence on the Maidan, pro-Russian rallies began in Crimea. The Russian army entered the territory of the Crimean Peninsula. On the same day, a rally was held in Moscow calling for the division of Ukraine into three parts, sending Russian "volunteers" to proclaim "Malorosiya"* with its capital in Kharkiv. The Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, under the muzzles of Russian servicemen, voted in favor of holding a so-called "referendum on the status of Crimea."

They repeated the same scenario in Donetsk and Luhansk. Therefore, in 2014, the Russian Federation launched an undeclared war against Ukraine. Eight bloody years. Eight years of crying for help. Eight years of "peace agreements and arrangements", each time violated by the Russian side.

*offensive name of the independent state of Ukraine, which is often used by Russian propagandists. Literal translation: "little Russia".


5 am on February 24, 2022: The beginning of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine with the support of Belarus. This was preceded by the so-called "military exercises,” i.e. the movement of troops to the border with Ukraine, mostly in Belarus as well as the proclamation by Russia on February 21, 2022, of terrorist organizations on the territory of Ukraine - the so-called "Donetsk National Republic (DNR)" and "Lugansk National Republic (LNR)" - as state entities, which also gave the "green light" for Russian troops to enter the territory of an independent state. The war began under the slogan "for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” which aimed to capture Ukraine and declare it an "appendage of Russia,” of course with a puppet government in the capital. That meant the complete destruction of the democratic government and the independence of Ukraine. Again.

The war continues. Ukraine is once again paying too high a bloody price for its independence. It is a price higher than the price paid by Russia and the world. Ukraine is fighting on behalf of all democratic values in the world. So far, Russia is violating all international rights and regulations. Therefore, the list of repressions of the Ukrainian people includes, but is not limited to:

  • Murder of 115 children in 25 days of the war;
  • The shooting of maternity hospitals, kindergartens, hospitals, schools;
  • Mining and shelling of "green corridors";
  • Nuclear terrorism, seizure of the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants;
  • The forced exile of about 2,000 Mariupol residents to remote regions of Russia;
  • The bombing of the Mariupol Drama Theater, which hit 1,500 civilians, mostly women with children;
  • The shooting of civilians in queues for bread in Chernihiv;
  • Terror of the local population in the temporarily occupied territories;
  • Deliberate destruction of more than 3,500 pieces of infrastructure, sites of cultural heritage, churches, and monasteries;
  • Order of the Russian authorities on FULL deforestation on the territory of Ukraine to compensate for their material costs;
  • Transformation of occupied settlements into concentration camps where the Russian military starves civilians **
** Depriving civilians of food and medicine is torture, a direct violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The list of crimes is still ongoing.

The war is still going on.