Ukraine celebrates its 18th independence day

On August 24, 2001 the Ukrainian parliament passed a declaration of independence, establishing Ukraine as a democratic state.

President Victor Yushchenko criticised domestic and foreign detractors on Monday and said Ukraine needed strong institutions to parry threats to its future prosperity.

"I choose a strong state, strength and dignity, to put in their place not only our local feudals but also foreign overlords who want to set down how we should live," Yushchenko said in his 25-minute address. "I choose a full-fledged future for our country in the future of a united Europe."

For the second year running, several thousand servicemen paraded down Kiev’s main thoroughfare, Khreshchatyk Street, and about three dozen aircraft, fighters, bombers and large military transports, roared overhead.

Kyiv Post

Taras (as usual) provides excellent local coverage of the military parade. Also, Putin congratulates Tymoshenko on Ukraine’s Independence Day. Science Centric looks at Russian-Ukrainian inter-ethnic relations 18 years on:

‘One of the main factors that determined Russian-Ukrainian relations abroad was the highly contested issue of national identity,’ Soroka said. ‘The concept of Ukraine was clearly a factor that undermined this idyllic all-Russian wholeness. It was strengthened by Ukraine’s struggle for political independence, which was treated as an act of betrayal.’

While Russians generally think of the revolution in 1917 as a battle among old, monarchist, totalitarian Bolsheviks and new democratic forces, Soroka says Ukrainians regard the fighting as the struggle that led directly to the independence they enjoy today. ‘The revolution changed the relationship between Ukrainians and Russians living abroad from a relatively peaceful coexistence before the revolution to restrictive and hostile relations between the two Slavic groups.’

From this research, Soroka discovered that Russians had a negative attitude towards Ukraine’s independence. He found that Russians and Ukrainians living abroad regard themselves as distinct nationals, compared to when they lived in their respective countries, with Ukraine under Russian-controlled Soviet Union. The threats posed by their new social and cultural surroundings in countries they emigrated to forced them to stick firmly to their communities and oppose initial assimilation.

‘The distinctiveness of the Russian and Ukrainian groups was also cemented by their conscious stance of being cultural ambassadors whose mission it was to preserve their national culture and present it to the world,’ he said.

Ukrainians living abroad, however, were more than just cultural ambassadors. According to Soroka, they had the added task of presenting themselves as liberators, while Russians enjoyed more favour from official circles in European countries.

‘The biggest emigre newspaper, Posledniie novosti, published a speech in 1939 by a French parliamentarian named Retord, who stated that Ukraine was an invention,’ Soroka said.

From BBC’s Day in pictures, soldiers in the military parade:

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