DID THE SECOND 'RZECZ POSPOLITA' EXPAND TO THE BORDERS OF THE FIRST RP IN CONTEMPORARY UKRAINE AS A RESULT OF POLITICAL CHOICES? - A CRITICAL LOOK
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The paper addresses a peculiar shift in political geography of Ukraine as revealed by the last parliamentary (2002) and presidential (2004) elections. The regions where the democratic pro-European political forces led by Viktor Yushchenko scored a victory over the crypto-Soviet authoritarian incumbents, largely coincide with the eastern possessions of the historical First 'Rzecz Pospolita' (RP) (1569-1795). The victory marks a dramatic change from electoral patterns of 1991-1994 when Ukrainian 'westerners'/democrats overcame the post-Soviet nomenklatura only in the westernmost part of the country, which coincided, again, with the historic possessions of the both First and Second RP (1918-1939), i.e., the territories the least exposed to Russification/Sovietization. The paper would argue that the past, however remote, does matter and the Ukrainian territories exposed historically to Polish influence still substantially differ, in many terms (primarily in political culture and national self-awareness), from the territories that had never been ruled from Warsaw, let alone Wien. The 'West' that has politically and culturally expanded within Ukraine from the westernmost part of the country towards its historical centre, i.e., from the territories of the Second RP to the territories of the First RP, has probably some chances or, at least intentions, to move further east, to the historical 'dzikie pole' (wild steppe), which remains, so far, the stronghold of pro-Russian, pro-Soviet and basically anti-Western political forces. The probable consequences of such an encounter would be discussed in the last part of the paper.
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