|Ukraine uprising 2014|
Roughly speaking, about four out of every six people in Ukraine are ethnic Ukrainian and speak the Ukrainian language. Another one in six is ethnic Russian and speaks Russian. The last one-in-six is ethnic Ukrainian but speaks Russian. This map shows where each of those three major groups tend to live. (I'm rounding a bit on the numbers; about five percent of Ukrainians are minorities who don't fit in any of those three categories.)Here's why this matters for what's happening in Ukraine now: Since it declared independence in 1991, the country has been politically divided along these ethnic-linguistic lines. In national elections, people from districts dominated by that majority group (Ukrainian-speakers who are ethnically Ukrainian) tend to vote for one candidate. And people from districts with lots of ethnic Russians or Russian-speakers tend to vote for the other candidate.
His map – click here – shows the number of Ukranians who identified themselves as Russian speaking in a 2001 survey:
Here's the thing you have to understand: Ukraine is divided. Deeply, deeply divided by language, by history and by politics. One-third of the country speaks Russian as its native language, and in practice even more use it day-to-day. The Russian-speakers mostly live in one half of the country; the Ukrainian-speakers live in another.
And here is the map that shows the recent conflicts in Ukraine – note the overlap with the ethnic and linguistic and election results maps:
The overlap is very clear:
In other words, in the European-facing half of Ukraine, the orange half, the protests are even more widespread and severe than you might have gathered from watching the media coverage. But it's important to keep in mind that the other half of the country, the blue half, is much quieter.
How can such deep ethnic, linguistic, historical and political divides be bridged? Ukraine is a unitary state right now. However, there is a strong possibility that a federation would better serve the various peoples in that divided country – one with a relatively weak central government and provinces with strong powers.
Failing that, the division of Ukraine into two separate states is a strong possibility.