In a recent article in the Washington Post, the author, Max Fisher, maintained that an electoral map of Ukraine from 2010 was the “one map you need to understand Ukraine’s crisis.” Here are some extracts from that article.
“What’s happening in Ukraine is about much more than the anger over Yanukovych rejecting the European Union deal and drawing the country closer to Russia. To help explain what’s going on, I’ve put this map together up top. The red stripes show regions where mass protests are surrounding the regional capital buildings. The black stripes show regions where protesters have actually seized the government administrative buildings. The blue regions are where Yanukovych won a majority in the last presidential election, in 2010; dark blue means he won at least 70 percent. Orange regions show where Yulia Tymoshenko, then prime minister and candidate for a pro- European party, won the majority; she won at least 70 percent in dark orange regions.
Here’s why this map is important: There is a big dividing line in Ukrainian politics — an actual, physical line that separates the north and west from the south and east. You can see it in this map and in just about every electoral map since the country’s independence. That divide goes beyond the question of whether Ukraine faces toward Europe or toward Russia, but that question is a major factor. And it’s polarizing.
This map drives two things home: First is that the protests are practically endemic in the half of the country that voted against Yanukovych, which includes Kiev. Second, the protests are not really a factor in the half who voted for Yanukovych. That doesn’t mean that people in the blue areas adore Yanukovych, but they’re certainly not pouring out into the streets to oppose him. It also doesn’t mean that the protesters lack legitimate gripes or that it’s just about their candidate losing. The economy is in terrible shape, and the government recently imposed severe restrictions against free speech, media and assembly rights, which is part of why the protests kicked back up again. ”
While Fisher’s comments and his map are an OK starting point, one really needs to go deeper, and to do that I strongly recommend looking at the series of posts about Ukraine on our sister blog, “GeoCurrents”. Take a look at “Crimea and Punishment”: Comments on the Media Coverage of Recent Events in Crimea”. Here’s the link. As well, look at another recent post by Asya Pereltsvaig here on the ethno-linguistic situation in Ukraine. Noteworthy is her critique of Fisher’s Washington Post map.