Putin’s superciliousness is not an aberration, it is echoed by public opinion: a recent poll conducted by the Russian Levada Centre found that 49 percent of Russians view Ukraine in a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ way. Ukrainians, according to a concomitant survey, have vastly diverging views; 91 percent perceive their Slavic cousins in a kind light. What is it that provokes indignation in Russians; what has Ukraine – a sovereign nation, free to conduct policy at home and abroad – done to beget such hostility? Jealousy?
Putin recently stoked the political fire by echoing the words of a famous Russian general, Anton Denikin “…no on should be allowed to interfere in relations between us; they have always been the business of Russia itself”. Putin’s sortie into historiography garnered him the title “Vladimir the Historian” in a recent Kyiv Post editorial; yet history can be seen through many prisms; it can be read and, indeed, rewritten to pander to the interests of the historian. What does a different glance through a different prism have to tell us about the two countries?
There have been many historical cataclysms in Ukraine and Russia. Both have endured great hardship. Yet, a country that more readily accepts history for what it is, ‘faces up to history’; tries to right passed wrongs and not just bury embarrassing skeletons, stands today as a greater beacon for good.