Beginning tomorrow (Friday), people living in eastern Ukraine will vote to decide if they prefer becoming Russians.
The four ‘oblasts’ (provinces) of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are each holding a referendum from Sept 23 to 27.
The referenda will settle the matter of secession from Ukraine and accession to the Russian federation.
Russia President Vladimir Putin views the four referendums as a means for the “liberated” (or “occupied”, depending on your point-of-view) territories in Ukraine to exercise their will and “decide their destiny”.
“And we will support the choice of future made by the majority of people in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions,” said Putin in his nationally televised address yesterday morning (Sept 21).
The four musketeers
ONE: Leonid Ivanovich Pasechnik, head of the Luhansk People’s Republic, is requesting Russia to consider LPR joining the federation as promptly as possible following the referendum outcome. Pasechnik said this in a recorded speech published in his Telegram channel, it was reported today.
TWO: Denis Vladimirovich Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Tuesday that DPR residents living in areas still under the control of the Kiev (i.e. President Zelensky’s) government will have an opportunity to cast their referendum ballots too.
Luhansk and Donetsk – located in the Donbas basin – have their own independent parliaments. They declared their breakaway from Ukraine after years of fighting a separatist war.
THREE: Yevhen Vitaliiovych Balytskyi, the governor of Zaporizhzhia, also announced his oblast’s immediate readiness to hold the “reunification” (ala the Taiwan-China situation) referendum. “Technically, we are ready. Security of polling stations is ensured,” Balytskyi is quoted as saying.
FOUR: Volodymyr Vasylovych Saldo, who heads the military–civilian administration in Kherson, said on Tuesday that his oblast is going ahead with the referendum this week.
Saldo said on his Telegram that following the referendum, he hoped Kherson would become “a part of Russia”.
BELOW: Are the areas shaded orange eastern Ukraine or western Russia?
Ready, willing and able
Are Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Crimea all Russian souls unhappily trapped in a Ukrainian physical body?
The map above is illuminating. Note the location of the five areas including Crimea (in red) which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
The two republics, LPR and DPR, both have land borders with Russia. Zaporizhzhia and Kherson have a sea border with Russia.
The Crimean peninsula is directly connected to the Russian mainland by a 12-mile bridge over the Kerch Strait.
Bahasa jiwa bangsa
Even more illuminating than the previous provinces map is the language gradient map above.
Putin regards the majority Ukrainian population in this swathe of dark blue mapped territories as nonetheless a part of the Russian ‘nation’.
Why? Because three-quarters (75%) of the Donetsk population speak Russian as their mother tongue.
In Luhansk, seven out of every ten (69%) inhabitants cite Russian as their first language. The figure is highest in Crimea, featuring 77 percent Russian native speakers.
Meanwhile, close to half (48.2%) of the people in Zaporizhzhia have Russian as their mother tongue as well.
BELOW: The generation lost in translation … some refugee children from Ukraine are Russian native speakers
‘Nation’ is people sharing a language
“The word ‘nation’ can also refer to a group of people who share a history, traditions, culture and, often, language – even if the group does not have a country of its own,“ says an explainer by the National Geographic.
Putin regards the eastern region in modern Ukraine as being actually historical western Russia and thus to the motherland “bound together by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and – after the baptism of Rus – the Orthodox [Christian] faith”.
Putin also calls the people in Ukraine’s conflict regions “our kin and kith”.
The ‘Russkiy Mir’ or Russian World ideology is Putin’s genuinely held political belief which additionally receives religious blessing.
Read ‘President Putin’s war is also Patriarch Kirill’s crusade’, a 31 Aug 2022 essay by the Zentrum Liberale Moderne, a Berlin-based think-tank.
Patriarch Kirill is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church who backs Putin’s war.
The Russkiy Mir narrative holds that present-day eastern Ukraine comprises “the historical lands of Novorossiya” (in Putin’s words). The term ‘Novorossiya‘ literally means “New Russia”.
Therefore in Putin’s reckoning, the territories now successfully occupied by Russian forces belong to the wider Russo civilizational world. After all, modern Ukraine is a country only created in August 1991.
Following this advance of the Russian aggressor army, people in the conflict areas who have not yet fled are being given the option of choosing either Ukrainian or Russian nationality.
We shall know the results of the four referendums in a few days’ time.
BELOW: Nato ganging up on Russia … Infographics produced by ‘Business Insider’ in Sept 2014
Since then, Nato is looking at a further planned expansion with the fast-tracked inclusion of Finland and Sweden.
For the record, Putin’s list of grievances prior to his invasion of Ukraine in February
• They (the Russophobic West) encouraged groups of international terrorists in the Caucasus
• They moved Nato’s offensive infrastructure close to Russian borders
• They nurtured a hatred of Russia for decades
• They designed Ukraine to become an anti-Russia bridgehead and in the process making Ukrainians cannon fodder
• They unleashed a colour revolution in Ukraine in 2014
• They organised terror operations against Russian speakers who refused to recognise the Western-installed, post-coup Ukrainian puppet government
NEXT: Is China’s claim on Taiwan weaker than Russia’s claim on the Donbas?