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[Ukrainian Statehood in the Twentieth Century: Historical and Political Analysis. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1996. pp. 343-351.]

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The Ethnopolitical Dimension of Statehood

Leonid SHKLYAR



The historical experience of Ukrainian state-building shows that geopolitical factors have always been of paramount importance for it. Ukrainian ethnopolitics are specific in their having been traditionally bound up with geopolitics. From this flows the lack or insufficient understanding in mass consciousness of a territory as a residential area of the Ukrainian nation, the missing knowledge in a great number of Ukrainian citizens of the history of her statehood, the absence of a relevant substantiation of legitimate foundations of national state-building for some social strata and ethnic groups of the Ukrainian population. Hence also the sensation that current events, when a sovereign Ukrainian state is being established, possess a certain ephemeral quality, expectations of the past returning, the Soviet Union reviving, that former Soviet republics, now sovereign states, are doomed, according to a radical scenario, to the role of tsarist guberniyas or something like Russian counterparts of American states.




1. Ethnic Minorities as a Factor of Geopolitics


Another fact testifying to a close connection of ethnoand geopolitics in Ukraine is the presence in Ukraine of numerous ethnic communities which traditionally were not treated as ethnic minorities. In the past years, when the /344/ geopolitical map of Europe looked otherwise, some of these communities formed part of the ethnic nucleus of other countries, like, e.g., Rumanians and Moldovans of Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia before World War II. The same is true of the Polish population of Western Ukraine and the Slovaks of Transcarpathia, let alone the Russians of South-Eastern regions and the Crimea. The radical change of Europe's geopolitical map caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Ukraine have essentially changed the political situation of many ethnic groups in Ukraine primarily in terms of their self-awareness, self-assessment, etc. These changes of identity make themselves felt, especially in a complicated socioeconomic situation, which compels many to see independence and economic reforms as the primary cause of the crisis. All this disintegrates society along socioeconomic, political and ethnic lines, thus threatening ruin of our very statehood.

Speaking of geopolitical factors of ethnopolitics, the potential of their influence on Ukrainian state-building, one cannot avoid the problems of the titular nation, the Ukrainians. Here arise a whole series of questions connected with ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious orientation and identity, for the very structure of the Ukrainian nation is today still in the process of reconstituting, modernizing, and in an ethnopolitical sense integrating itself. It is clear that this will be rather a long process, and its results depend largely on the relationship between the titular nation and ethnic minorities, because it is these relations that do and will identify Ukrainian statehood as a certain ethnopolitical system for a long time.




2. The Ethnopolitical Reality of Ukraine


To outline the set of problems connected with this aspect of political science analysis, one can use the notion of "ethnopolitical reality" which reflects the modern condition of interethnic relations in the state as well as indicates such /345/ essential parameters in the life of ethnic communities as numerical composition, the nature of population (compact or disperse), the type of population (rural or urban) and religious orientation.

Ethnopolitical reality is a multitude of ontological and political features which help create an integral image of ethnic orientation toward certain values of ethnic, public, and political existence.

To understand an ethnopolitical reality, it is extremely important to characterize the ethnopolitical map. There is no common opinion among Ukrainian academics concerning the truth of official statistics on ethnic groups in the 1989 census. Some academics seriously criticize these indices and, above all, those relating to the numerical strength of the Russian ethnic community as the largest and most influential one in the Ukrainian ethnopolitical spectrum.1

The statistics about the number of ethnic groups in today's Ukraine also seem to be mystified. Some authors use data about 120 different ethnicities residing now in Ukraine, while others have counted as few as 90. However, accuracy does not matter in this case, for there is a more essential question: is Ukraine a multinational state?

The point is that the structure of Ukraine's population, excluding the most numerous Russian ethnic community, contains about 5% of non-native ethnic groups which cannot always be described in terms of generally accepted characteristics (quantitative, socio-cultural, religious, traditional, behavioral).

According to official statistics on the population of individual ethnic communities in Ukraine, these are clearly divided into several cohort groups. The first, entirely separate one, is composed of Russians who constitute a true ethnic minority. Their total number is today about 11.2 million or roughly 22% of Ukraine's total population. The next cohort is ethnic groups numbering under one million but over one hundred thousand. There are eight such ethnic groups in Ukraine: Jews, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tartars, /346/ Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, and Rumanians. Together they make up about 4% of the state's whole population.

The third cohort is composed of ethnic groups surpassing the fifty-thousand point but not reaching one hundred thousand. There are four such ethnic groups in Ukraine: Greeks, the Kazan Tartars, Armenians, and Germans. Their total weight in the structure of Ukraine's population is

about 0.6%.

The fourth cohort are ethnic groups numbering over ten-thousand point but under fifty thousand. There are only three such ethnic groups in today's Ukraine: Gypsies, Gagauzes, and Georgians. Their share in the national population structure is about 0.2%.

Finally, one more cohort is represented by ethnic groups under ten thousand but over one thousand each. There are at least six groups of that kind in Ukraine. Their share in the national structure is only about 0.07%. True, these statistical data may vary in any direction but not so essentially as to affect the general picture. This is connected with ever-intensifying migration processes, i.e., departure and arrival of the representatives of some ethnic groups. Operational data of the Ukrainian migration service show that Ukraine already has numerous ethnic communities composed of several thousand persons. However, the latter cannot be part of the overall account of Ukraine's ethnodemographic structure of population due to the absence of permanent citizenship.

Also taking into account other aforesaid constituents of the ethnopolitical reality, namely, the nature of settlement of the above ethnic communities, the prevailing type of population, and the dominant religious orientation, let us try to reproduce from all these indices an ethnopolitical reality as a comprehensive table which deals only with ethnic minorities, without the title ethnic groups.

The data in Table 1 show that the largest ethnic communities of Ukraine mostly reside compactly or are regionbased. They are predominantly Orthodox-oriented, with a /347/



Table 1.


Ethnic group

Total strength

Nature of settlement

Type of population

Religious orientation

Russians

11,2 mil.

mostly disperse

88% urban

Orthodox

Jews

486,000

disperse

almost 100% urban

Judaism

Belarusians

439,900

disperse, bu with compac rural settle ments

mostly urban

Catholic Orthodox

Moldovans

324,900

mostly compact

mostly rural

Orthodox

Crimean Tartars

280,000

compact

mostly rural

Muslim

Bulgarians

232,800

compact

mostly rural

Orthodox Uniate Catholic

Poles

218,900

disperse but regionally based

urban

Catholic

Hungarians

163,300

compact

mostly rural

Catholic Protestant

Rumanians

134,700

compact

mostly rural

Orthodox


/348/ largely rural settlement pattern, but the urbanized population of Ukraine's most numerous ethnic communities still dominates quantitatively. As we know, compactness and urbanization are more conducive to politicization than the disperse and rural type of settlement.

Let us now consider the next cohort with a strength not more than one hundred thousand but not less than five to ten thousand persons. These ethnic groups may be called more than average strength ethnic groups.

The data in Table 2 show that ethnic groups of morethan-average strength display compact and dispersed residential patterns equally. The urban type of population prevails, while Christian orientation dominates various non-homogeneous faiths. The data also indicate still-existing Muslim and emerging Protestant orientations. Unlike the previous cohort, this one lacks communities having direct contacts with their historical homelands, which, of course, deepens the feeling of isolation from their ethnic nucleus



Table 2.

Ethnic group

Total strength

Nature of settlement

Type of population

Religious orientation

Greeks

98,600

compact

rural and urban

Orthodox

Kazan Tatars

90,000

disperse

mostly urban

Muslim

Armenians

60,000

disperse

urban

Armenian Gregorian church

Germans

above 50,000

mostly compact

mostly urban

Protestant



/349/ but allows, however, the preservation of their ethnic identityUkraine also has ethnic groups belonging to the medium cohort and numbering from ten to fifty thousand persons. There are only three such communities.

Table 3 data indicate a prevailing dispersion of their settlement with a balance of urban and rural types of population, with certain denominational differences and Christian orientation dominating. This cohort includes two peculiar nations: the Gypsies who created their own social organization, the traveling camp, and, if living among a foreign ethnic population, accept the latter's religious orientation as their own; and the Gagauzes, one of the four autochthonous ethnic groups in Ukraine (together with Ukrainians, Karaites and the Crimean Tartars), for the ethnogenesis of Gagauzes occurred primarily on the territory of their permanent residence.

Finally, there is one more cohort of ethnic communities numbering from one thousand to ten thousand persons.



Table 3.

Ethnic group

Total strength

Nature of settlement

Type of population

Religious orientation

Gypsies

+/50,000

disperse but there are regional compact settlements

hard to identify

mostly Orthodox

Gagauzes

+/30,000

compact

mostly rural

Orthodox

Georgians

25,000

disperse

mostly urban

Georgian autocephalous church


/350/ These ethnic groups are less-than-average size in the structure of Ukraine's population.

Table 4 shows that this ethnic cohort is dominated by a disperse nature of settlement with a mostly urban type of population. A Catholic-Protestant orientation is prevailing here. This cohort is also special in having the Karaites, an ethnic group of autochthonous origin featuring a clear ethnic identity, language, anthroponyms, and specific form of the Judaic faith.

As to the nature of settlement of the most numerous ethnic communities, Ukraine combines the dispersion of some and the compactness of others, high urbanization with the domination of the rural settlement pattern, both proximity to and remoteness from historical homelands.



Table 4.

Ethnic group

Total strength

Nature of settlement

Type of population

Religious orientation

Slovaks

+/-10,000

compact

mostly rural

Catholic

Czechs

+ 9,000

disperse

mostly urban

Catholic

Latvians

+/- 7,000

disperse

urban

Lutheran

Lithuanians

+ 5,000

disperse

urban

Catholic

Estonian

+/- 5,000

disperse but with regionbased settlements

mostly urban

Protestant

Karaites

+/- 1,500

mostly compact

urban

Judaism



The above tables represent far from all ethnic groups. They do not include the so-called small-size (mostly numbering several hundreds or even dozens of persons) ethnie groups still to be studied by ethnology and political ethnology. We have to note such phenomenon as particularization of ethnic interests, fragmentation and separation to one's own liking, which creates a unique alternative to processes of consolidation.







1 See: Yaroslav Dashkevych, "Ukrain'ske Vidrodzhennia i Natsionalni Menshyny" in: Materialy Naukovoyi Konferentsii Respublikanskoi Assotsatsii Ukrainoznavtsiv, (Kyiv, 1990: in Ukrainian), p. 51.





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