Saturday, April 26, 2014

Donetsk Rebels’ “Novorossiya” Fits Russian Vision of Reshaped Europe in 2035

Ultranationalist demands by ethnic Russians and their supporters in eastern Ukraine have now shifted from talk of Crimea or the Donetsk People’s Republic and are now focussing on creating a larger entity to be carved out of southern and eastern Ukraine to be called Novorossiya, or “New Russia,” using Czarist Russia’s name for the region.  The most high-profile proponent of the idea is Pavel Gubarev, the imprisoned “people’s governor” of Donetsk, whose covertly-Kremlin-backed government-building takeover in that southeastern oblast (provincial) capital last month sparked the uprising and military confrontation in the region.  From prison in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, last week, Gubarev said that “we”—i.e. the Donetsk People’s Republic, which he considers already independent—“want to join the new federative State of Novorossiya, which will build its own relations with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the future.”  The leadership of the neighboring “Lugansk People’s Republicplans to join the Donetsk republic in holding the May 11th vote.  He added that plans were underway—as other Russian-backed rebels have said also—to hold an independence referendum on May 11th in Ukraine’s rebel-held regions.  (Gubarev’s wife, Yekaterina Gubareva, the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic’s “foreign minister,” has since then announced that her husband is on hunger strike to protest the Ukrainian military’s offensive on the northern Donetsk Oblast city Slovyansk.)

Yekaterina Gubareva, foreign minister and first lady of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”
But there is nothing “new” about Russian nationalist dreams of a “New Russia” carved out of Ukraine. Nationalism- and separatism-watchers in Europe were abuzz in late 2012 and early 2013 over a high-level report by Russian security and policy experts on what Europe’s borders would probably look like in 2035.  The accompanying maps offer an unsettling insight into Russian ultranationalists’ hopes and fears—but also, as is now becoming clear, their plans.  The Russians apparently based the projection on Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) and other United States and Russian intelligence sources as well as the writings of American geopolitical experts like Zbigniew Brzezinski (President Jimmy Carter’s Polish-born national-security advisor) and Samuel Huntington (the xenophobic neo-conservative political scientist who wrote Clash of Civilizations).

A pro-independence demonstrator in Catalonia.
Madrid says “don’t hold your breath,” but Moscow thinks she’s got it in the bag.
In 2035 in western Europe, the report envisions, quite feasibly (see map below), independent republics in Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, northern Italy, and even Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.  Less feasibly, a reunified Ireland will become closer to Scotland than the rump United Kingdom is.  Southeastern France’s Provence region is to have become an Arab republic—something that presumably Marine Le Pen will not take lying down.  But in the Russian view this is how the French government will solve the inevitable “multicultural collapse”—by picking a region and sticking all the unassimilable Muslims there.

It takes no expert to suggest that Belgium might divide—it is practically two states already—though it is a stretch to think, as Russia’s expert prophets do, that Flanders will join the Netherlands in a “Holland Union” while Wallonia becomes a tiny land-locked state and Alsace–Lorraine confederates with Germany as something called simply “Lorraine.”  The experts here underestimate not only Alsatian pride but Germany’s appetite for expansion—after all, they already control Europe financially, so why change the map?  Equally comical is the suggestion that Germany will retake Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia from Poland—and, incidentally, from Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast exclave.  Don’t these Russian “experts” realize that no Germans live there anymore?

The Russian map of 2035 in the Balkans (see map above) likewise reeks of Russia’s preoccupation with U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) hidden agendas in the Wars of Yugoslav Succession—especially the Kosovo War, in which Russia resolutely sided—and still does—with Serb nationalists who saw it as a Trojan horse for some sort of Islamization of Europe.  The 2035 map’s whittled-down Serbia feeds the shared Serb and Russian ultranationalist feeling that the West has been cruelling paring down these once-mighty Slavic nations: Albania has swallowed up western Macedonia, Kosovo, and a juicy slice of southern Serbia proper (in reality, Kosovar and Albanian nationalists do indeed openly plan for a united “Greater Albania” within the European Union); Hungary now extends into western Romania’s Transylvania region as well as Serbia’s Vojvodina province; and the disappearance of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state has, quite unrealistically, only meant its near-complete absorption into Croatia, including presumably subject Serbs in the former Bosnian subdivision of Republika Srpska.  (Poor maligned Serbia doesn’t even manage to pull Montenegro back into its orbit.)  Turkey and its bloodthirsty Saracens have also, apparently, by 2035 retaken the Rumelian and Pomak areas in the southeast of proud Slavic Bulgaria.

It is once we get to the former Soviet Union itself (see map below) that things really get wonky.  First of all, the Russian experts see an independent Carpathian Ruthenia emerging from Ukraine’s Zakarpattia (Transcarpathia) oblast.  This is the region—formerly the eastern tail of Czechoslovakia, where Slavic-speaking Ruthenians (Rusyns) are far outnumbered by ethnic Ukrainians—where alleged Kremlin provocateurs staged a declaration of independence in 2008 which came to nothing.  Today, pro-Russian nationalists in Ukraine are envisioning a “Transcarpathian People’s Republic,” though the oblast is so far, in 2014, quiet.  Romania, in 2035, will supposedly have swallowed up nearly all of Moldova, except for the tiny sliver of Bessarabia—i.e., the current Russian puppet state of Pridnestrovia (a.k.a. Transnistria, a.k.a. Transdniestria)—which the Russian geopolitical visionaries see absorbed into the Russian Federation along with Crimea (that part, in 2014, is a done deal) and the south and eastern region of Novorossiya and Donbas (those are, today (April 26, 2014), works in progress).

But not even all that’s left of Ukraine gets to be Ukraine, according to the Russian experts.  They see, by 2035, in what is today far-western Ukraine, an independent Galicia (Halychyna, in Ukrainian—no relation to the Galicia in northwestern Spain), with its capital at Lviv.  This Galician state even takes in part of southeastern Poland, while Romania has also taken Bukovina, also in Ukraine’s west (i.e., Chernivtsi oblast, where the population today is about 20% Moldavian (Romanian).  It seems odd for Russian nationalists to claim on the one hand that Ukrainian national identity is only some post–Cold War figment invented by the West but then assume that a “Galician” national identity (which in the real world barely exists at all) is strong enough to snatch away NATO (Polish) territory with such ease.

Galicia (Halychyna) was its own kingdom briefly during the First World War,
but today’s Galicians mostly want to be in a united Ukraine.
Belarus as an independent state has vanished in the 2035 map, becoming just a big Russian oblast, which actually does seem fairly likely.  Belarus is barely even independent today.  Belarussians never had as strong a national identity as Ukrainians and would never have asked for independence on their own if they hadn’t been handed it on a platter in 1991.  Much less plausibly, eastern Latvia, including its ethnic-Russian-dominated second city, Dagauvpils, has become a Russian oblast called Dvinskaya (Dvinsk is the city’s name in Russian), while Estonia’s northeast, including the Russian-speaking city of Narva, is not even an oblast; it is a raion (district) within Russia called Narvskiya.  Apparently, Russians doubt how seriously NATO takes its mutual-defense pact with the Baltic states.  In reality, a Russian invasion would put President Vladimir Putin on an immediate war footing with three nuclear powers (the U.S., France, and the U.K.), so he will probably leave the Baltics alone, at least territorially (economic blockades and punishments are another matter).

These Belarussians, shown at an independence-day rally last month in Minsk,
stand with Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.  But, in Belarus, they are a minority.
In the Caucasus, there is a mixture of hope and fear as well.  Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia have become split away as the Caucasus Emirate, which is the name that an ongoing Islamist insurgency does indeed want to plaster over the whole north Caucasus.  The Russian puppet state of Abkhazia has been absorbed into Russia, but its sister republic within internationally recognized Georgian borders, South Ossetia, is returned to Georgia as a consolation prize.  The reverse, to my mind, has more logic to it: in reality, Ossetes seem to feel far more Russian than Abkhaz do, and the dispossession and expulsion of ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia has been more extreme.  Plus, just think: annexing South Ossetia puts Josef Stalin’s home town of Gori, in Georgia proper, close enough to recapture as well!  How could they pass that up?

The Caucasus Emirate terrorist group’s map is slightly different.
It is no surprise that Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh and Lachin regions are shown (again, see map no. 3 above) as part of Armenia in the Russians’ map of 2035; those areas are already the unrecognized Armenian puppet state of Artsakh (a.k.a. Nagorno-Karabakh Republic).  Russia has indeed been increasingly building ties with Armenia and making Armenia’s expansionist agenda an ancillary cause to its own Slavic blood-and-soil nationalism.  But a big conundrum for Russian nationalists today is how to fully incorporate Armenia into the Russian geopolitical backyard.  Today, Armenia is slated to join Putin’s envisioned Belarussian–Kazakh–Russian “Eurasian Union” trade bloc—the same one that Ukraine was almost bullied into joining last year, which is how the whole Ukraine crisis erupted in the first place.  But Armenia–Artsakh is currently nearly entirely surrounded by Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, all of them Western-aligned states (Turkey is even in NATO).  The only Russian-allied state bordering Armenia is Iran, but that is a circuitous supply route for a geostrategic partner; plus, Iranians and Armenians regard each other far, far more warily than their shared alliance with Russia would otherwise suggest.  So the solution, in this 2035 map, is a “transport corridor” that bisects Georgia, running from the Russian–Georgian border ’round about Ossetia to northern Armenia.  The coloration on the map implies that Georgia will remain united but become territorially discontinuous, divided into “Western Georgia” and “Kakhetia.”

Russia would like to draw the Artsakh Republic into its sphere of influence.
But why stop there?  Next: Legoland!
One modification missed in the 2035 map is the question of the Armenian minority in the southern Georgian region of Javakhk.  Already, since earlier this year, the Russian consulate has been distributing Russian passports to ethnic Armenians there, which is the kind of thing that was a precursor to the Russian takeovers in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Crimea.  An Armenian-annexed Javakhk would shorten the necessary “transport corridor.”  On the downside for the Kremlin would be the complication that Javakhk is only the eastern part of Georgia’s Samtkhe–Javakheti province; the western part is Meskhetia, a.k.a. Moschia, whose indigenous Meskhetian Turks were deported eastward by Stalin during the same campaign of ethnic cleansing in the 1930s that shipped Chechens, Crimean Tatars, and others to Siberia and Central Asia as well.  Like the Crimean Tatars, Meskhetian Turks were not allowed to return during the repatriations of Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policies, though, like Crimean Tatars, they trickled back in the post-Soviet era.  Any realization of Javakhki irredentist aspirations could reawaken Meskhetian grievances.  Then again, Putin seems to have made an art of “rehabilitating” the Crimean Tatars as an official national minority while still cracking down on their political leadership, so perhaps the Armenian government could learn to perform that dance with its own Turkic minority.  Armenians are quick learners, and their government seems eager to make them solid citizens, as a junior nationality, in Putin’s neo-Czarist Russian empire.  When it comes to shitting all over Muslims, Armenian nationalists have shown an eagerness to learn from the best.

“Greater Armenia” in the Armenian—and maybe also Russian—imagination
Now, it is important to take predictions a quarter-century out with a grain of salt, even when they come from intelligence sources.  After all, the C.I.A. had agents and bureaus in every Arab capital in 2011, and nobody saw the Arab Spring coming.  The way to read these Russian maps is not as a true vision of the future but as a map to the Russian ultranationalist mentality with its hopes, fears, and—as I mentioned above—perhaps its plans.  Be warned: this is not the future, but it is a peek into the madness swirling inside the brains of the Kremlin’s strategists.

The Donetsk People’s Republic’s Yekaterina Gubareva whips out her foreign-policy agenda.
[You can read more about these and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

Members of the Ukrainian feminist political collective Femen demonstrating against Russia outside the Ukrainian peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 17th.


  1. roth, you can see those russian ribbons one i mentioned to you *orange and black stripes(

  2. Those are flags based on the "Ribbon of St. George," a Czarist-era military order which designates Russian veterans of the "Great Patriotic War," and they have become, indirectly, a symbol of the Russian idea that Ukrainian nationalists are somehow "Nazis."

    1. Of course they're Nazis. You don't found, as Svoboda co-founder Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn did, a think tank called 'The Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center' if you aren't one.

  3. ok! a friend of mine told me that many russian in ukraine just only want a better economic status, not nationalist seems that all ukraine has been living a hard life during the last is also said that in spain catalonians are more independentist now for economic the contrary, in the basque country nationalists are not joined in a common strategy so while moderates try to get a better status with madrid, radicals claim for a full independence soon...

  4. Nice work! Any reason you are not part of GeoCurrents?

  5. You are crazy. You dont know the real cause of ucrainian crissis. Ignorant

  6. Thanks for this great article and raising awareness about the Catalan Issue. The girl with the plastic bag in my head and the flag in the back is me. This was photo of the year of the Washington Post and photo of the year by Wall Street Journal. More info here. Many blessings.


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