My Ukrainian Identity

By Ilya Shambat

First bloody riots; then a terrorist act; now mutual sanctions. In a period of a few months Ukraine went from a stable democracy to a conflict zone. While Russians and Americans are hitting each other with sanctions, neighbors continue to kill each other and innocent people. As America is accusing Russia of expansionism, pro-Russian separatists are accusing America of fascism and an attempt to impose itself upon Ukraine.

There is a solution to this problem – a peaceful, intelligent solution. That solution is letting Ukrainian people decide for themselves what country they want to be a part of. Poroshenko should call a referendum in which Eastern Ukrainians, who look toward Russia, and Western Ukrainians, who look to the West, can decide on separating the country into two. It worked for Czechoslovakia, which like Ukraine was a made-up country with no common history. It should work for Ukraine.

At stake is most certainly the destiny of 50 million people. At stake also is the character of the parties involved. Solving this problem in a peaceful and wise way will give credit to people of Ukraine and show them to be intelligent, civilized, peace-loving people. If the military clashes are to go on, Ukrainian and Russian people will be regarded as brutes.

In 1990s, two made-up countries – Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia – ceased to exist. One decided its destiny through a referendum, and the other through a nasty war. Czechs and Slovaks made themselves out to be much better people than did the Serbs. Both countries were pride of the Communist bloc; but they wound up in very different places. The Serbs have a long way to go before they convince the rest of the world of their goodness. The Czechs and the Slovaks have already done so.

How this is resolved will therefore be demonstrative of the character of the Russian and the Ukrainian people. Will Ukraine go the way of Czechoslovakia, the way of Yugoslavia, or come up with its own solution? I advise the best-case scenario: A peaceful separation of Ukraine into the East and the West. The two populations have very little in common with one another and would be better off without each other in their own countries.

Whether this is done peacefully or through a military conflict, will determine who Ukrainian people are. It will decide whether Ukrainian people are peaceful or brutal; wise or foolish; civilized or barbaric. More than that, it will decide whether Ukrainian people can solve their own problems. The Czechoslovakia scenario is vastly better than the Yugoslavia scenario. And the more Ukrainian people take that step, the more stands to be said in favor of Ukrainian people.

Poroshenko: Call a referendum on splitting Ukraine peacefully into two. Demonstrate leadership, wisdom and a civilized and intelligent frame of mind. Let people who want to look up to Russia go to Russia, and let people who want to look up to Europe go to Europe. Let Ukraine go the way of Czechoslovakia and become two peaceful, prosperous, livable countries.