Ukraine's radically different conflict
Financial Times

From Dr Igor Torbakov.

Sir, Much as it is tempting to link London’s National Theatre’s new production of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard
with Ukraine’s present-day chaotic politics, Misha Glenny misses the
point (“Bulgakov is once again our guide to Ukraine”, February 12).

the Kiev of 1918, Bulgakov was witnessing the unprecedented social
upheaval born of the collapse of the Romanov empire and the Russian
revolution. At the heart of it was the violent struggle between various
political forces over the scope of social transformation and over how
to define Ukraine as a political entity. It is utterly misleading to
contend that the messy politics that we are witnessing today is a kind
of repetition of the 1918-19 events.

Today in Ukraine we are
observing radically different social conflicts. Mr Glenny errs when he
sees at the centre of the current political battle the “debilitating
struggle between its two constituent Slav nations, the Ukrainians and

True, the ethno-linguistic cleavages in Ukraine still
exist but the almost 20-year-long period of independence saw the slow
emergence of common identity comprising all Ukrainian citizens in one
multi-ethnic Ukrainian political nation. The struggle that is going on
in Ukraine is not the one between “Russian east” and “Ukrainian west.”
What is really at stake is which social model will ultimately prevail
in Ukraine: a polity based on crony capitalism and oligarchic
domination of political sphere, or a highly institutionalised and
law-governed state of a European type.

I, as an enthusiastic
Bulgakov fan, would suggest that Mr Glenny could do worse than look for
an updated list of sources helping to make sense of Ukraine’s tangled
political process.

Igor Torbakov,
Finnish Institute of International Affairs,
Helsinki, Finland