Places in World Most Likely to Secede Ukraine

About Ukraine a place in the world likely to secede from Russia, size, population, and history of conflict.



Size: 231,990 sq. mi. (600,855 sq. km.), slightly smaller than Texas.

Population: 49.1 million.

Meaning "borderland," the Ukraine has been under foreign domination during most of its history. Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Austria, and, of course, Russia all presided over portions of the region at one time or another. In the 16th century, Polish barons reduced the Ukrainians to serfs. Over the next 300 years, however, Russia bit by bit wrested tracts from Polish and Turkish control, until by 1783 most of modern-day Ukraine answered to Czarina Catherine the Great.

A spirit of ethnic pride swept the Ukrainians in the 18th century, spawning an independence movement. Separatists saw their chance during the confusion of the Bolshevik Revolution, and thus, in January, 1918, the Ukraine declared its independence. What followed proved to be one of the most confusing military tangles in modern history. The German presence kept things stable for a while, but upon Germany's withdrawal at the end of W.W.I, the Ukraine became a battleground for four competing interests. Bolshevik troops poured in determined to recover the prodigal republic. Present, too, were White Russian forces under Gen. Anton Denikin out to rid Russia of the Red Army. From the west came the Poles with hopes of adding the rich Ukrainian soil to their empire. And trapped in the middle, taking on all comers, stood the Ukrainians themselves, barely able to sort out their enemies without a program. Ultimately the Bolsheviks carried the day. So, while her sister republics to the north, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, were experimenting briefly with independence, the Ukraine in 1923 became one of the four original republics of the U.S.S.R.

If Moscow ever grants independence to any of its constituent republics, the Ukraine is likely to be among the last to go. The traditional breadbasket of Russia, it supplies 20% of the nation's grain and virtually all the grain reserved for export. Nearly 65% of the Soviet sugar beet crop grows here. Eastern Ukrainians sit atop 60% of the nation's coal reserves; and rich ore veins have given rise to a booming metallurgical industry.

Although the fires of Ukrainian separatism are in no immediate danger of blazing out of control, they continue to be stoked periodically by the federal government's attempts to "Russify" the republic culturally and linguistically. Equally frustrating to Ukrainians is the political domination of Russians over the ethnic minorities. With the notable exception of Leonid Brezhnev of Dneprodzerzhinsk, few Ukrainians hold key government posts.

Ukrainian dissidents recently have assumed the responsibility of monitoring the Soviet government's progress in complying with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki accords. This can be dangerous work, however, as two such monitors, Mikola Redenko and Oleska Tikhy, found out when they were convicted of "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" at a closed trial and sentenced on July 1, 1977, to seven and ten years at hard labor and five years each in Siberia.

Although a part of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine is accorded a separate vote in the U.N. It has always voted the same way as the U.S.S.R.

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