Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Russian Ultranationalists in Odessa Go for Whole Enchilada, Declare “Republic of Novorossiya”

It is in eastern Ukraine where the Russian ultranationalist separatists—organized and staffed, beyond doubt, by Kremlin-commanded forces—have grabbed the most headlines: seizing government buildings in more than a score of cities, resulting in lethal standoffs with the Ukrainian military.

But it is in western Ukraine that the pro-Russia secessionists have become most ambitious.  Last week in this blog I discussed the declaration on April 16th of a “People’s Republic of Odessa” in Ukraine’s southwest, bordering Transnistria and Moldova, though at the time it seemed to be mostly an online phenomenon, not yet a street-politics movement, though it was calling for one.  Now Russian media are reporting a rally in Odessa’s Kulikovo Field where crowds are declaring an “Odessa Republic of Novorossiya.”  “New Russia,” or Novorossiya, is the name given in Czarist times to much of what is now Ukraine, but especially the flatlands just north of Crimea, including Odessa and spilling into the areas in today’s southeastern Ukraine that have been declared the independent “People’s Republics” of Lugansk (Luhansk), Kharkov (Kharkiv), and, most dramatically, Donetsk.

Valery Kaurov in 2008, during an anti-NATO uprising around Odessa
One Valery Kaurov has been named the “people’s president” of the Odessa Republic of Novorossiya.  He is currently the head of the Union of Orthodox Citizens of Ukraine.  (Nearly all of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minority are Eastern Orthodox Christians, while most of the country’s Catholics live in the Ukrainian-speaking west.)  Kaurov addressed the rally via Skype, since, apparently, he had fled the city fearing arrest.  More information on the rally, including its size and who organized it, has so far been difficult to find.

Pro-Russian activists in Odessa recently
The new republic also apparently recognizes the “independence” of the Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkov republics as well as a new entity called the Carpathian Ruthenian People’s Republic.  Carpathian Ruthenia, now called Ukraine’s Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia) oblast, which formed the eastern part of Czechoslovakia between the world wars, is home to a minority of Rusyns (Ruthenians) and was the site of an aborted declaration of independence in 2008 that was presumed by Ukrainian authorities to be the work of Russian provocateurs.

One version of the Odessa “national” flag as it appeared online recently
But why Odessa in particular (a question posed not so long ago in this blog)?  Founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 on land just conquered from the Ottoman Empire, Odessa has long been considered a Russian, rather than Ukrainian, city.  And, as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, told the world at his recent press event, “Kharkiv, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in Czarist times, they were transferred in 1920.  Why?  God knows.  Then for various reasons these areas were gone, and the people stayed there—we need to encourage them to find a solution.  We must do everything to help these people to protect their rights and independently determine their own destiny.”  (He has also taken lately to using the term Novorossiya.)  Putin also allegedly mentioned Odessa as a possible site of Russian military intervention as long ago as his early-February phone call with the United States president, Barack Obama.

What’s old is new again: borders in Ukraine in 1918,
during the chaos of the Bolshevik–Menshevik civil war
Moreover, as the Economist recently summed up Putin’s possible next geostrategic moves: “ One possibility is opening up a land corridor to Crimea through Donetsk and Mariupol.  Another is a corridor extending from Crimea to Transdniestria, a pro-Russian breakaway territory in Moldova which is home to a Russian army, by way of Odessa.  A third, extreme, option might be splitting the country along the Dnieper.”  It is of course option no. 2, plowing a corridor to Transnistria (a.k.a. Transdniestria, a.k.a. Pridnestrovia), that would make Odessa key.  Transnistria, which is ethnically about a third Russian, a third Ukrainian, and a third Moldovan (i.e. Romanian), is a sliver of land occupied by Russian troops which declared independence from Moldova in 1991.  Unlike Abkhazia and South Ossetia, within Georgia’s internationally recognized boundaries, it has not become a formal puppet state diplomatically recognized by Moscow.  Unlike Crimea, it has not been annexed.  But it craves either option.  Transnistria’s foreign minister has now repeatedly asked for some version of a Crimea-style path to annexation, starting with formal recognition.  But the Kremlin has been coy on the issue so far, though it has raised alarms about the Ukrainian military’s sealing of the border between Transnistria and Odessa Oblast in order to prevent the further westward flow of Russian matériel or even personnel.

Nina Shtanski, Transnistria’s minister for foreign affairs, has set fashion trends
worldwide on the question of where to position buttons on a power suit.
And, of course, calling everything in between Novorossiya would have the argument of efficiency—eliminating, in terms of symbolism and in terms of groping for and waiting for provocations, the painfully slow process of “retaking” Ukraine oblast by oblast, as was begun in Crimea.  Putin wants the whole enchilada.  And the whole enchilada is called Novorossiya.  Watch this space.

Another view: this image, circulating on the Internet, is said to be of a map produced by the Communist Party of Ukraine.  It shows modern Ukraine divided into (clockwise from upper left: Ukraine, the Dneprovsko-Slobozhanskaia Republic (including Kharkiv and half of Kyiv), the Donbas Republic (Donetsk, Zaporizhia, and Luhansk), the Republic of Crimea, and the Republic of Novorossiya (including Odessa and Kherson oblasts).

Two alternate flags of an independent “Novorossiya”
declared very briefly, and without effect, in 1992

[You can read more about these and other separatist 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 special announcement for more information on the book.]

Thanks to Olga Buchel for directing me to some of the information used in this article.


  1. this is not politics or history but fashion or beauty but lately some eastern politicians seems to be models...



  2. There will be some kind of Novorossia, a republic or a free country, including the eight regions of : Odessa, Nikolajev, Kherson, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozje, Charkov, Donetsk and Lugansk. The only question is in how many weeks and the cost (death toll). Odessa is a russian city just like Charkov, Nikolajev, Zaporozje and so on....

  3. Good greif, this Ukraine crisis is getting wackier and wackier. I hope for peace.

  4. Peace...... It is peace that lead to Status-quo, but it's also peace that lead to prosperity. May peace shall come to ordinary Ukrainian, Russian, Tatars, and everyone who call Ukraine home. No matter what shall be happening, I just hope it ends without civil war, or worst. What happened in Kosovo must not be redone.

  5. Putler = 3rd world war! No peace in the future

  6. Wow, so the freak wich maintains this shitty site considers himself so fair to judge who deserve to be sovereign & who not. Not surprisingly he supports the IV Reich aka "european union" and its puppet Kiev nazi regime... Hail führer Roth!


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