Outlook #1: Analyzing the Impact of Climate Change on Global Geopolitics, Various Nations Strategies and Shaping Indonesia’s Climate Policy

Written by Ardra Mahatma Pratama Sutardi & Muhammad Erza Aimar Rizky 

The ongoing war in Ukraine has shocked the world as it marked the first time since 1945 that conventional warfare occurs in Europe. The two nations, whose history is shared over thousands of years, have now been torn as if they are brothers fighting against one another. The recent events have displaced many Ukrainians from their homeland and sparked the long buried tension between the two people.

Conflicts between these two nations have been a recent phenomenon. It is interesting because as recently as 1990, the people, culture, and governments of both nations were interwoven and closely connected with each other. The recent developments have very clearly taken its toll on the people of both nations with a shared past where it is estimated that every Russian has at least one or two relations in Ukraine. These tensions have eliminated many remaining sympathies that Ukrainians once had for Russia–as a state–and added on the mentality of a united Ukrainian identity apart from one associated with Russia.

This article will explain in depth about the inseparable history of Ukraine and Russia from the founding of Kyiv, the development of both nations during the middle ages, how the modern Ukrainian state was founded and the role Russia has in its inception until the modern day. Reading the article, one may expect to see that they are not that further apart in culture or history. The key reasons for the strenuous relationships between the two nations will also be argued and explained even further.

The Ancestral Tale of Ukraine and Russia

Taking the route of their blood, both the Russians and Ukrainians have descended from the Varangians, the Vikings who settled in the regions of Eastern Europe. Amalgamating themselves with the Slavic population, they formed what is now known as the Kyivan Rus. Furthermore from their capital of Kyiv, the Rus exerted their influence over the entire region and quickly consolidated their own nation by adopting Greek Orthodox Christianity as their religion. This was the fruit of the actions of Prince Volodymyr the Great, who deemed that the Rus needed an identity free from both the Varangians and Slavs (Danylak, 1986).

Moreover, the adoption of the Greek Orthodox Church became the medium for the creation of their new identities and beliefs. They heavily adopted new Greek traditions and customs which can be seen through the style of their churches such as the Golden Gate of Kyiv and the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Monastery. Additionally, their language also was a result of this cultural interaction. Then to further elaborate on what this societal interchange generated, the mixture of the Greek and Slavonic languages has created the Church Slavonic language and Cyrillic script that now has become the ancestor of the modern languages of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and other Slavic States. This inheritance of languages became a defining cultural legacy inherited from the Kievan Rus’ exchange with their southern neighbors (Lukaroski, 2015).

Map of the Kievan Rus circa. 8th century to 13th century, from The Washington Post

Furthermore, soon after the mentioned cultural exchange, the Rus State fell into several princedoms which quickly declined as nomads, such as the Cossacks, pillaged and settled in the lands near the Dnieper River. Then, in the last wave of nomadic incursion, the Mongols–or the Tatars as the Kievan people called them–conquered and vassalized the principalities. This vassalization of Kyiv signified the end of Kievan hegemony over the land, replaced by the Principalities of Galicia-Volhynia and Vladimir-Suzdal which were located in modern-day Lviv and Moscow respectively. They both claimed to be the successor state of Kievan Rus, but they differ in terms of historical progress as Ukrainian historians would portray the former state as the true successor state of the Kievan Rus, whose golden age would end with their conquest on the western bank of the Dnieper (Hrushevsky, 1904).

The Foundations of Ukraine

The Galician-Volhynian population further exiled themselves from their brothers by adopting the Ruthenian (East Slavs) identity, whereupon excluding Russia from their identity. As their replacement, the Ruthenians would intermingle and eventually unite with their western neighbor, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Within these areas, the Ruthenian population preserved their own identity as the local nobility retained their status as landlords, but the encouragement of Polish migration and assimilation of both the local population proved to be lucrative. It encouraged the introduction of Catholicism, the introduction of Polish education, and intermarriages into Ukrainian society which all have helped eliminate some aspects of the local Ruthenian culture. It must be remembered that the assimilation did not mean the end of the culture itself, but rather that its ideas and customs survived and further expanded thanks to these new influences with such examples as the modern Ukrainian language that adopted several Polish vocabularies as well as the creation of an independent hybrid church, namely the Greek Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, the East charted their own course with the Russian Tsardom and enacted their own policies. Where the Polish were lenient overlords, the Russians were not of the same cloth. They pursued a policy of integration and assimilation with the Russian people which eventually led to a clear Russophile identity. It can also be noted that many Russians migrated to the lands east of the Dnieper due to the abundance of mining minerals in the area which formed the areas of Donbass and Luhansk.

In-between said regions lived the Cossacks and the Tartars. Both are descendants of the nomads who invaded and settled the areas inside Ukraine. The latter were descendants of the Mongols and Turks who settled in Crimea, while the former were the offspring of the Cuman people who integrated themselves into Ukrainian society. The Cossacks played an important role in the history of Ukraine as they replaced the local Ruthenian nobility, whose influence diminished as they lost their initial identities. The Cossacks became influential inside the Ruthenian territory by defeating their fellow nomads which are the Tartars.

Moreover, they gained some autonomy from the Poles, such as the re-introduction of the Orthodox Church to the Cossacks and Ruthenians (Vossoedinenie, 1954). Due to these policy changes, the Cossacks rebelled several times which all resulted in failure. The defeat of these rebellions marked the end of any Ruthenian autonomy as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collapsed shortly afterwards (Plokhy, 2012). The Commonwealth was then replaced by the Russian Empire, marking the age of assimilation and integration into Russian society (Kappeler, 2014).


The Modern Identity of Ukraine

These desires of independence held by the forebearers of Ukraine would only be revived when the ideas of constructing a nation-state emerged. Then as the 20th century dawned, the relationship between Ukraine and Russia entered a new era full of constant changes and crises as new ideas appeared to counter that of the old ones. Ideas such as nationalism and communism became a medium for those who sought freedom in those areas. Eventually, due to the events pertaining to the Great War, those ideologies indeed came into fruition.

Later on, the Russian Empire collapsed abruptly in the midst of a state-wide revolution in 1917 after Tsar Nicholas II willingly abdicated himself. Furthermore, power struggle clashes between the communist Bolsheviks or the “Red Army’’ and the conservative Royalists also known as the “White Army” which arose to secure power across many regions including Ukraine and ultimately amassed more than a million casualties. Then in 1921, peace was finally achieved; this period of peace occurred in the newly established Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Soviet Ukraine) followed by state-backed freedom of artistic expression, which made the early stages of this decade one of the most creative and experimental periods in Ukrainian culture with many noticeable brilliant poets, painters, composers, and film directors flourished.

Map of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic circa. 1919–1922, from The Washington Post

Unfortunately, this decade is also marked by a horrific tragedy that has lasting resentful consequences felt by Ukrainians up until the time of writing. This tragedy is named “Holodomor” or also known as the Terror-Famine, which caused widespread famine in Soviet Ukraine and motivated the death of approximately 4 million Ukrainians (Ruane, 2022). In addition, Holodomor was generated due to the agricultural collectivization policies produced by Joseph Stalin (Yekelchyk, 2007). Holodomor is currently viewed by most Ukrainians as an important symbol of struggle in their collective history.

Moving on, in December 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union (USSR), Ukraine voted for independence in a referendum, with the majority of Ukrainians supporting such actions. Aside from that, another cultural symbol of their modern history was the 2004 presidential election where the electoral committee elected a pro-Russian candidate. In response, millions of orange-clad protesters filled Maidan Square in Kyiv and did not leave until the rerun of the second round and victory for the pro-Western opposition leader in January 2005 (Hryb, 2020). It was further confounded when the Russians took over Crimea, Donbass, and Luhansk in 2014 which changed the social and cultural landscape of Ukraine. This is deduced from the schism or separation of its Orthodox church from Moscow, to the election of a pro-Western government and attempts to crack down on pro-Moscow oligarchs.


Relations Between Ukraine and Russia Today

As we know today, the view of the Soviet-era differs significantly between the Ukrainians and Russians. The Russians hold a more positive view of the USSR’s policies implemented in Ukraine than the native Ukrainians do (Krawatzek, 2022). Allegations of fascism in the conception of a modern Ukraine nation are held by the majority of Russians. Furthermore, Stepan Bandera as one of the most prominent figures in Ukrainian nationalism is widely known to have been collaborating with the Nazis in World War II (Snyder, 2010). Ukrainian identity politics and nationalism have been a contentious issue in Russia for centuries. However, Ukraine is still seen by many Russians as their nation’s “little brother” and should behave accordingly.

In the case of the relationship between these two nations, it has been found that countries with shared identities often go to war with each other. In the context of the Ukraine-Russia Conflict, it happens when two countries are culturally similar but differ in their political institutions (Lada, 2014). Vladimir Putin is wary of a culturally-similar country where citizens are becoming more empowered and have a say in how their governments work for the good and the bad which is Ukraine. Moreover, the recent Ukrainian political upheaval in 2014 resulted in a dramatic shift from an authoritarian regime to one with liberal and democratic aspirations in a country that is culturally-similar to Russia. This shows that the conflict of interest fuels the powder keg that has been rumbling and provoked by both sides since decades ago.

The world has been watching for the last month. This development has shaped the international opinion of both the Ukrainians and the Russians. Even though its ethnicities and culture are historically similar, the Ukrainians are now viewed as freedom fighters, the protecting bastion on the frontier of Europe and guardian of democracy. In a paradoxical twist, the Russians have been viewed as an imperialist aggressor and the number one threat to the free world today. It is pretty important to note that not all Russians fully support this “special military operation” against their neighbors, the label is still unjust because it does not wholly represent all populations of Russia. The most hopeful scenario is a ceasefire and permanent peace that will be a precedent for trusting and peaceful relations between these two long-lost brothers.

The state of the Ukrainian crisis has spilled over into the wide array of the world in large, not only as mentioned, it affected the international mentality on democracy and that of Russia. The current crisis will affect the entire world, in terms of economic balance. This tragedy has led to a potential economic crisis where the world’s greatest economies have started to sanction the largest oil producer in the world as they start to invade one of the biggest bread baskets on earth. From this, the world will feel the whole might of the economic powers as they start to act a balancing act of democracy and economic stability. It is concerning that the economic situation would unfold as it is, but one can argue that the ends justify the means. The short struggle that we must endure, that of grain and oil prices soaring, is something that we must accept as it is one way that a tyranny of the few can be overthrown.




Hrushevsky, M. (1986). A History of Ukraine. Connecticut: Archon Books.

Hryb, O. (2020). Understanding Contemporary Ukrainian and Russian Nationalism: The Post-Soviet Cossack Revival and Ukraine’s National Security (Ukrainian Voices). Ibidem Press.

Plokhy, S. (2012). The Cossak Myth: History and Nationhood in the Age of Empires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yekelchyk, S. (2007). Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Journal Articles

Kappeler, A. (2014). Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the Imperial past and Competing Memories. Journal of Eurasian Studies, 5(2), 107–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euras.2014.05.005


Appels, S. (2019). The Legacy of Kievan Rus’: The Memory War Between Russia and Ukraine. Institute for a Greater Europehttps://www.institutegreatereurope.com/single-post/2019/02/18/the-legacy-of-kievan-rus-the-memory-war-between-russia-and-ukraine

Danylak, R. (1986). Ukrainian Catholic Church: Part 1. The Free Library. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Ukrainian+Catholic+Church:+part+1-a030020137

Krawatzek, F. (2022). Ukraine and Russia: two countries whose memories of a ‘shared’ past could not be more different. The Conversation.https://theconversation.com/amp/ukraine-and-russia-two-countries-whose-memories-of-a-shared-past-could-not-be-more-different-175570

Lada, A. (2014). Russia vs. Ukraine: A clash of brothers, not cultures. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/04/russia-vs-ukraine-a-clash-of-brothers-not-cultures/

Lukaroski, A. (2015). St. Klement of Ohrid Cathedral — About Saint Clement of Ohridhttp://www.stclementofohrid.com/religion/st_clement_of_ohrid.asp

Pushkarev, L.N. (2016). Пушкарев Л.Н. * Культурные связи России и Украины во второй половине XVII века * Статья. Вопросы истории, 2000, №7https://rabkrin.org/pushkarev-l-n-kulturnyie-svyazi-rossii-i-ukrainyi-vo-vtoroy-polovine-xvii-veka-statya/

Snyder, T. (2010). A Fascist Hero in Democratic Kiev. The New York Review.https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2010/02/24/a-fascist-hero-in-democratic-kiev/

Tharoor, I. (2015). How Ukraine became Ukraine, in 7 maps. The Washington Post.https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/03/09/maps-how-ukraine-became-ukraine/

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