In Slon, Leonid Ragozin takes a long and searching look at the twin identities of Ukraine. In the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine he sees a “Better Russia”:
It’s a more peaceful country with a better climate and less abrasive manners than Russia, a country where Russian military personnel and “northern” oil pensioners still go to live out their days as before, and to where – as in Cossack times – the Empire’s more freedom-loving, enterprising and talented citizens escape.
And this alternative Russia, unlike the original, has a chance in our lifetime to become part of a Greater Europe, to achieve its standards of state governance and quality of life. Such a Russia will, more than Ukrainians themselves, be interested in preserving Ukrainian statehood because this will be the guarantee of its survival and success. If you really need a single, albeit diverse, Ukrainian nation, then it is with the help of such a Russia that it will be built.
Instead of relying on a narrow and sometimes intolerant Ukrainian nationalism, Ragozin thinks, the Euromaidan movement would do better to maximize its appeal to this “other Russia”. After all, he points out, the movement’s most prominent leader, Vitali Klichko, is a boxer trained in the Soviet army and with direct experience of the authoritarian and “athletic” mentality typical of the so-called “titushki” who are charged with maintaining support for Yanukovych’s government. If Klichko could extend his influence to this constituency, and even become its leader, Ragozin believes that
there would be no need for the fighters of the Right Sector, the Molotov cocktails and medieval catapults: the Berkut would take him to the Rada and to Bankova.
After reading this the only question that occurs to me is whether the influence of Putin and Great Russian chauvinism may not now be more widespread among Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population than Ragozin is prepared to admit.