21 December 2013

'Orange States' and 'Tricolor States' in Post-Soviet Ukraine

The last several national elections have revealed the United States to be nearly permanently divided into “red” and “blue” states, labels originating in the electoral maps posted by television networks as they cover presidential campaigns. But few Americans are aware that Ukraine is similarly, and more intractably, divided along political lines.

In the United States, the red states tend to support the Republican Party while the blue states support the Democratic Party. But, as more than one observer has pointed out, every state is actually a slightly different shade of purple, with blue counties concentrated in the metropolitan areas and red outside these regions. In other words, red and blue appear to represent not so much separate cultures and ideological commitments, but rather a traditional rural-urban split, exacerbated by considerable partisan petulance. While antagonism between Republicans and Democrats has engendered stalemate in Congress, the difference is actually not one of deep principle, opinions to the contrary notwithstanding. Rather, the difference is a contest over who better represents the larger liberal tradition on which America was founded over two centuries ago.

The divisions in Ukraine are even more stubborn. Unlike the United Sates, Ukraine does not have a revered common heritage of founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution. There is no founding generation to be mythologized along the lines of George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. There is no sense of national mission to hold the country together.

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