Depending on a stereotype, Ukraine is either a split country or does not exist at all. It is allegedly split or torn into two halves – the West and the East, Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking part.
It has no right to exist as a nation, for example, historian Jörg Baberowski or former federal chancellor Helmut Schmidt claimed this. Ukrainian culture relies only on peasant culture without internationally significant works. Kazimir Malevich belongs to the Russian avant-garde.
Many Ukrainian writers, for example, Nikolai Gogol or Mikhail Bulgakov, wrote their works in Russian, this happened for various, often opportunistic and commercial reasons. And the works of the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko are practically unknown abroad.
“If there is no literature, there is no state,” the daughter of a Soviet officer, who greeted me with a Nazi salute, told me recently in Poltava. Her 17-year-old son considers himself a Leninist or a Trotskyite after years of watching Russian TV shows.
She recognizes only her hometown as a homeland, and she wants a "Russian world" to be in Ukraine. She has never been to Russia, but she believes television programs that say that in Russia everything is much cleaner and more beautiful than in Ukraine.
Of course, some people in Ukraine yearn for the old days, when there were no free trades when lawyers were just not needed, and all good orders came from above. Millions of people have relatives or friends in Russia; they often don’t even talk to each other because they live on different planets.
People in Russia are surprised and seriously indignant at the fact that Ukraine calls Russia an aggressor every day. They believe that this is a satire, they seriously think so.
There is countless evidence of the presence of "tourists from Russia" who fought and died on the Ukrainian territory, but "they is not ours", there are no "our people" there! Grotesque, but true. “They have vata (vatnik is Russian jingoist and a supporter of Putin's politics, - ed.) in their heads,” their Ukrainian relatives say.
Russia does not recognize equal relations with Ukraine but wants submission.
Most Ukrainians want to live in peace in their own country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, 91% of Ukrainians voted for the independence of their country, even in the supposedly pro-Russian Donbas this share was 84%.
When Russia began a hidden war against Ukraine in 2014, about 80% of the population from the occupied territories decided to move to Ukraine, not to Russia. Of course, they had some practical reasons, like obtaining a pension, in order to avoid burdensome bureaucratic procedures in Russia.
For Ukrainians, as well as for all people all over the world, their homeland is often considered their own environment. Family, home, village, nature, dialect, region, that is, sensual experiences. And only then the state, the continent or humanity come.
People in Poltava
Just as many in Bavaria feel like Bavarians, so many people in Poltava feel like Poltavians.
They love traditional dishes - Poltava dumplings or Dykanka beer, regional holidays, such as the famous Sorochyntsi Fair, the Vorskla Valley, a special mentality, love for black humor. Anyone who wants to see a miracle, for example, must go along the Dnipro and see the belltowers of the city or skeletons floating in the air because half of the cemetery has gone under water.
People from Poltava laugh and wonder at the diabolical intrigues and crazy coincidences in everyday life, what is called “Gogolism” in honor of Gogol, who for two years had been studying at the gymnasium here and smoked his first cigarettes.
Everywhere they are proud of their myths, no other Ukrainian city, except Kyiv, has produced so many geniuses. This is the cultural capital of Ukraine, the heart and center of Ukrainian culture. At the same time to the border with Russia is only a day by bicycle. But nowhere else you can here such pure Ukrainian, perhaps only in Lviv and Zakarpattia, local residents say.
If a foreigner wants to take a ride around the country and chooses Poltava as his target, then he is tapped on the shoulder and congratulated. Poltava is what Ukraine would like to be, say people who have never been to Poltava.
Fighters for freedom and independence
The history of the city is truly unique because there is not a single city like Poltava. Dishes from Poltava were already exported to China when Moscow did not yet exist, and there was a swamp in its place.
Some residents of Poltava region are sure that the Argonauts came to the region of Poltava, tried and praised the local wine. Cossacks practiced basic democracy here when Germany didn’t even know what democracy was.
The monument to Hetman Ivan Mazepa, among other things, reminds of the battle of Poltava lost. It was kept in stock for several years after creation, and only two years ago, the monument was opened by President Petro Poroshenko.
It should have been presented in 2007 when the 300th anniversary of the battle was marked. But the then government party under President Yanukovych took into account Russia's sensitive attitude to this issue.
Russia considers Mazepa a traitor, and Ukraine sees him a fighter for freedom and independence. He was the last freely elected leader of the Ukrainian Cossacks. At first, together with Peter I he fought against the Turkish and Swedish troops in the framework of the "Slavic Union."
But when the Russian emperor increasingly began to treat the Cossacks as vassals and gave them orders, Mazepa entered into an alliance with Sweden.
It was the same conflict like the one that led to the current war in Donbas. Russia does not recognize equal relations with Ukraine but wants its submission. Ukrainians do not longer want to give up their freedom and their self-determination, and therefore are looking for allies in the West.
Read the original text at Neue Zürcher Zeitung