I decided to create this small write-up to help my American friends understand what is happening in Ukraine (as of Feb 2014).
Pretty much any major news outlet (European, US, Ukraine or Russia) is spreading distorted information, as Ukraine is in the epicenter of geo-political interests, and elites try to represent everything in the light that is favorable to them.
This text is not a private opinion, but an attempt to explain the situation "as is", without any political bias.
What is happening in Ukraine? Is it fight for freedom? I heard it is a birth of "Ukranian Nation"?
What is happening is (essentially) a part of a drift of the state of Ukraine into the European Union (as part of larger integration into EU of other post-soviet states, such as Russia)
There is some serious argument about a format in which UA joins EU. Not everyone is UA is ready to accept conditions at which UA enters the union.
Because economy of the Ukraine reached the point where in needs help of either Russia or EU: Ukraine is on the verge of default. Whoever "saves" the Ukraine, gets it.
So, if somebody needs to act, the time is now.
OK, but why do they fight?
The short answer is - because the can. The long answer - the executive power in Ukraine had always been weak, unstable, corrupt and cleptocratic since after gaining independence.
Politicians know that with enough support, they can reach any of their greedy goals, so they can afford to go to the very end, because they know the government will not be able to respond with full force.
Also, various political groups in Ukraine were heavily financed by foreign organizations, especially ones that promote integration with the Europe (read - breaking up with Russia). Yes, you guessed it right - pretty much like it was happening in Latin america.
Wait - breaking up with Russia. Whats so good about it?
Europe understands that UA and Russia both will be part of EU at some point, so the question is more about the format of the entry. EU needs cheap and skilled workforce to boost its economy, and this is exactly what Ukraine has to offer, especially in its eastern regions.
Currently, many eastern plants integrated into Russian economy, and departure of these regions to the EU on EU's conditions means closing of these factories and losses for Russian economy, while EU will gain new markets and skilled, cheap workers.
But what about Ukranian people - do they support joining EU?
There is no argument in UA regarding whether or not UA should join European Union. Some people want to have access to jobs (or welfare) in Europe, some afraid to lose their jobs at home.
It is all about the requirements for Ukraine to join EU. Generally, agricaltural areas and white collar urban population support joining EU, blue collar prefer not to do that.
Wait, but is it also about Ukraninans vs Russians or Ukranians vs Tyranny? How about upraising against corruption?
Issue of Ukrainians vs Russians never existed, because ethnically, majority of Ukrainian population is not much different than one in Russia. So, besides knowing Ukrainian language (and many still dont), ethnically, Ukrainians are indistinguishable from Russians regardless what propaganda will say.
The "Tyranny" in UA is currently represented by the president, who was legitimately elected, and these election results were recognized by western democracies. So whether or not this is a tyranny, is a very subjective thing.
Corruption - yes, but new president is no more currupt than any other president before him.
But why news outlets dont explain these reasons?
Probably because the are owned by same structures which (directly or indirectly) finance these groups of people that kill each other right now.
Is current president "Pro-Russian"?
Lets put it this way - he represents (somewhat corrupt) economic elites of the Ukrainian East, which depend on Russian economy.
The president before him was not tied to these elites and was basing his support on Ukranian West Nationalists. At some point (to please his voters) he promoted one of wartime criminals (involved in mass executions of Polish and Jews populations) into "Hero of Ukraine".
So, it is hard to say "who is better". Others before them had other freak stories.
Why no luck in electing presidents?
Primarily, because Ukraine economically and socially polarized. They cannot agree on a president that would satisfy everybody, so for presidents in order to be elected, they need to please the crowd with all kinds of populist incentives, which do not make economical sense. Here is the result - economic collapse.
Why so polarized?
Because Ukraine (in its present borders) was, effectively, created by Bolsheviks in early 20th century to create a model for "World revolution" (the reasoning behind it is out of the scrope of this FAQ).
The country was constructed by joining territories which did not have natural economical or cultural ties to each other. This construct did not bother anyone until the fall Soviet Union (and the reasoning of THAT event is also out of the scope :))
European territories were build because they has a geopolitical or economical sense. Ukrainian territory make sense only as part of a larger empire, and these are not national, but administrative borders.
OK, why not separate peacefully the same way Czechoslovakia did?
And this is precisely the main problem. There are several reasons. First, this is a political suicide. Dissolution of Ukraine means acknowledgement of the fact that it has always been a "virtual" state.
Effectively, separation of Ukraine means shrinking of the Ukraine to the West, while East joins Russia (directly or indirectly). No politicians want to be a head of the (poor and scarcely populated) countryside.
Second, EU and US are not interested in the breakdown. Western Ukraine alone would not contribute much into EU economy - EU is more interested in the Eastern part, which it can only get as part of the entire country.
The conclusion is: Ukraine will always be in crisis at least until it is absorbed by the European Union, when it becomes, again, part of a new "empire". Until then it will continue be a political quigmire, keep losing population and have economy problems.
If Ukraine cannot get into EU as a whole, it needs to split itself in parts and get there that way.