How the Russian Language Can Undermine Global Stability

Eight years ago, the people of Russian-speaking Crimea voted to ditch “fascist” Ukraine and join Russia. Last week, Vladimir Putin launched the “Denazification” of all of Ukraine, a country he sees as rightfully part of Russia’s imperium. But Russian troops in the rest of the country have gotten a frostier reception.
Vladimir the Great is widely regarded in Russia and Ukraine as the father of the nations. Brought up a pagan, he was determined to modernise Kievan Rus’ by converting to a major world religion. He first favoured Islam, but when he found out that would entail giving up vodka, he opted for Orthodox Christianity.
This map of Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election may as well be a linguistic map. The pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych won, but was overthrown in 2014, precipitating the Russian annexation of Crimea. Fighting over Donetsk and Luhansk (the other two deep red regions; the deep blue ones are the ones that used to be part of Austria and Poland) ignited the current war.
In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev celebrated the unbreakable bonds of friendship between Russia and Ukraine by transferring Crimea to Ukraine. At the time, this was a merely symbolic administrative shift within the USSR, but it would have momentous consequences six decades later.
The USSR vaunted the unity of its peoples and encouraged citizens to seek their fortunes in other republics. All this good will turned rather sour when the union collapsed and people found themselves stranded in foreign states.

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Sam Quillen

Sam Quillen

Former linguistics student; current investment bank analyst who sometimes thinks about something other than spreadsheets