343 - To which Viktor the Spoils? A Tale of Two Ukraines
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Russia is no longer the hub of a worldwide Communist empire, nor the main ingredient of the Soviet Union; but the Kremlin still insists on wielding power in its old sphere of influence, an area of special interest to Russian foreign policy that it calls the Near Abroad.
The most recent – and, to Russia’s other neighbours, most intimidating – example of that insistence was this summer’s brief Russo-Georgian war, in which the Russian Army established final control over Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, eventually recognising their independence.
In the years immediately following the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia was too weak to prevent what it qualifies as EU and NATO ‘encirclement’ (an old Russian geopolitical worry). But now, a resurgent Russia flush with oil money insists on checking what it sees as further encroachment by the EU and(especially) the US.
The term Near Abroad therefore excludes far-flung corners of the worldwide socialist experiment, such as Vietnam or Cuba (although Russia maintains good relations with old-school leftist regimes such as Cuba’s and new ones such as the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez).
It also seems to exclude what used to be called Eastern Europe, states that were independent before 1945 and are again now, almost all firmly lodged in western institutions such as the European Union and NATO (i.e. East Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria; of the former Yugoslav states, only Slovenia is fully integrated).
An interesting twilight zone are the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), in NATO and the EU, but with considerable historical baggage vis-a-vis their giant neighbour to the east – they were independent between the World Wars, but part of the Soviet Union thereafter, and each harbours considerably large Russian minorities.
The Ukraine however, with 45 million inhabitants and about the size of France, is firmly within Russia’s Near Abroad. Its east is ethnically mainly Russian (Ukrainian nationalism tends to be a western thing), and Russia has strategic interests in the Crimea (Russian until 1954, when it was transferred to the Ukraine, but still home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet). The country itself seems divided on whether it is an eastern outpost of the west, or a western outpost of the east.
The 2004 ‘Orange Revolution’, in which pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko successfully contested the rigged results of the presidential election that was ‘won’ by his pro-Russian opponent Viktor Yanukovich, seemed to place the Ukraine firmly in the western camp. Ukrainian politics has however seen several reversals of fortune since that time, proving that Ukraine is unique among the former Soviet republics: pro-western and pro-Russian sentiments are almost completely in balance.
That balance is not spread out evenly across the country. This map shows which of both Viktors was the victor in each of Ukraine’s regions in the (contested) November 2004 presidential elections. Each candidate has won in a remarkably contiguous area – Yushchenko winning the northwestern half of the country, Yanukovich the southeastern part. Both Moscow and the West are eager to have the populous, and potentially prosperous Ukraine in their camp. Will the fault line running through the Ukraine become the front line of a Second Cold War?
We're more dependent on them than we realize.
- Scientists says our survival depends on biodiversity.
- A natural climate strategy we often forget.
- Seeing our place among the Earth's living creatures.
There's a high social cost that comes with lighting up.
While short-term results are positive, there is mounting evidence against staying in ketosis for too long.
- Recent studies showed volunteers lost equal or more weight on high-carb, calorie-restricted diets than low-carb, calorie restricted diets.
- There might be positive benefits to short-term usage of a ketogenic diet.
- One dietician warns that the ketogenic diet could put diabetics at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.