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Time: What You Should Know About Ukraine

Author: Ian Bremmer
February 21, 2014

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"Sadly, [President] Yanukovych's ouster won't solve Ukraine's larger problem: Its Russian-dominated past exerts a powerful pull and Europe is nowhere near ready to help the country build a more peaceful and prosperous future."

Ukraine is a divided country caught in an increasingly violent tug of war between its past and future.

Begin inside the country. About two thirds of Ukraine's citizens are ethnic Ukrainians whose first language is Ukrainian. About one-sixth are ethnic Ukrainians who speak Russian. Another one-sixth are ethnic Russians, who live primarily in the east and south near the Russian border. This division creates a fault-line beneath the country that potentially pits one group against the other. Following the Soviet Union's collapse, Ukrainians of both ethnic groups feared open conflict, and the new country's stability rested on the promise that no politician could afford to try to win the presidency by playing with these divisions.

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