Despite the ongoing conflicts we see between Russia and Ukraine today, the disagreements and fights between the two countries are nothing new. Russia and Ukraine have had their fair share of disputes in the past. However, it was not until recently that these altercations became a full blown conflict, affecting not only Ukrainians and Russians, but the world as well.
A tumultuous past:
While it may seem like the controversy between Russia and Ukraine started a few months ago, their feud dates back at least a thousand years. The two countries had a common heritage from the beginning of their rulings; Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, was at the center of Kievan Rus, the birthplace of both Ukraine and Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin saw this to his advantage and declared that Ukraine and Russia were meant to be a single country ever since A.D. 988, when Vladimir I, the pagan prince of Novgorod and grand prince of Kyiv, accepted the Orthodox Christian faith and became baptized. (Graphic/Kayra Dayi)
However, Kievan Rus has not had an easy time over the years. The capital experienced invasions, leading Ukraine to separate into two. The “Left Bank” was ruled by Ukranians and the “Right Bank” was led by Poland. However, the Russian Empire took over the “Right Bank” and completely banned the Ukrainian language and culture. In 1922, Ukraine was formally absorbed into the Soviet Union and under their rule, suffered a famine in the 1930s.
All of these events resulted in permanent divisions between the people. Due to the eastern part of Ukraine coming under Russian rule before the west side, the people in the east were more supportive of Russian leaders. Those in Western Ukraine were Catholic and had managed to retain most of their language and they desired to be independent again.
In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine finally became an independent country; yet the struggles were not over yet. Due to the differing opinions of the west and east side, uniting the country proved to be a difficult task.
“The biggest divide after all these factors is between those who view the Russian imperial and Soviet rule more sympathetically versus those who see them as a tragedy,” Adrian Karatnycky, a former journalist and expert on Ukraine said.
Russia took over Crimea in 2014. Not long after, the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass wanted to seperate from the western side. This led to the declaration of the Russian-backed People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. The tumultuous past between Russia and Ukraine led to the attacks of Russia today.
What is going on today?
Russia officially began their Ukrainian invasion Feb. 24. Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that his attacks were because Russia could not feel “safe to develop and exist,” because of Ukraine, whom he has viewed as extremists since 2014 when Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted from office during the Revolution of Dignity, which was caused by the government suspending the signing of the association agreement with the European Union.
As a result of the invasion, the United States, as well as some other countries, have placed sanctions on Russia. These sanctions include the banning of any oil or gas from Russia, freezing Russian banks’ assets, putting sanctions on wealthy Russians, suspending big companies such as McDonalds and Starbucks from trading with Russia, kicking Russia from the World Cup by Fifa and much more.
Freshman Kat Fateev, who is Ukrainian and deeply invested with what is going on, said, “I don’t believe the sanctions are enough to end the invasion, but I do think they are a start. Although there is an argument to be made that they are ineffective and unfair, they are the best the United States and other countries can do without militarily getting involved.”
Activism on a local level:
On a more local scale, Freshman Katerine Fateev, sophomore Anastasia Smolentseva sophomore Max Kochkin and sophomore Myron Murmanov, have formed a group to fundraise money outside of school by selling items such as chocolate around their neighborhoods. Currently, all proceeds go to the charity Razom which works to get humanitarian aid to people throughout the country. For Fateev, these attacks affected not only her private life but also her academic one.“I think all of us can agree that what is going on is terrible, but being personally affected by it changes the whole dynamic. While others can shut off their thoughts about what is going on, I can’t. For the past few weeks, I could not focus at all.” Fateev was even forced to miss school. “In a way, I almost feel guilty because I am not the one that is going through it,” she said.
Anastasia Smolentseva is deeply worried about her family in Russia, who is being cut off from contact with her. “I grew up in Krasnodar, a city very close to the front lines, so all of my family and friends are under great risk,” she said, “My grandfather, who has severe health issues, is in a small town a bit south of Krasnodar. My brother and his wife are in Kaliningrad, the chunk of Russia in Europe.”
“None of my friends or loved ones are doing great, and every single one of them is angry at our government. As for my family, I could not contact my brother for eight days due to contact methods being cut off by the Russian government. Before my father got on one of the last flights to the United States, I hadn’t heard from him in four days. Those four days, which I spent not knowing whether or not my father was alive, were gruesome,” she said.
Even those far away from the fighting are experiencing the effects of these attacks.
“While my family and I currently live a thousand kilometers away from the conflict zone, we are still directly affected. My father’s business, which generated the large majority of income for my family, is in Odessa and is currently closed,” said Myron Murmanov. “This has brought a lot of economic hardship for us, as we had to conserve food, water and electricity, to save as much money as possible and try to get through this situation. None of us know when life will finally be back to ‘normal’ again.”
How you can help:
Max Kochkin suggests a few ways people can help Ukraine. “As of right now, the most effective action is raising awareness,” he said. “Our biggest priority is to inform and educate every last person we can.”
Smolentseva suggests donating “whenever and whatever you can.” “Money that goes directly to Ukrainian refugees will help no matter what,” she said. “If you can’t donate, then work on shifting your mindset.” Smolentseva, being Russian, wants people to acknowledge that the Russian people have no say in what is going on with the attacks. She points out that Russians cannot and should not be blamed for something out of their control.
Lastly, these students want to thank anyone willing to help and listen to them. “I appreciate the school newspaper reaching out and working with this issue. I think it’s an intricate topic that requires a lot of caution, and I’m glad the school will be aware of what is going on,” Kochkin said.