Russia and Ukraine… still confused?

I still get comments, questions, and various responses to the fact that I don’t live in Russia. When I say that I live in Ukraine, it still confuses some. I remember speaking in a church and, after explaining where I lived and what I did, the youth pastor prayed for me and my work in “that part of Russia.” The hilarious and sad thing was that there were 5 Ukrainians that I met in his congregation in that service.

So, just to clear up some of the confusion, here is an explanation of where I live, where Russia is, why they are different, and a possible answer as to why everyone is so confused. The following are basic facts about both countries, just in case you didn’t know them.

Basic facts about Russia

  • Largest country in the world according to land mass
  • President – Vladimir Putin
  • Capitol city – Moscow, founded before 1100’s AD
  • Population – 143 million (2012 estimate)

Basic facts about Ukraine

  • Largest country in Europe, not counting Russia, according to land mass
  • President – Victor Yanukovich
  • Capitol city – Kyiv, founded 400’s AD (possibly oldest city in Europe)
  • Has been controlled or conquered by other countries since about 1200 AD (i.e. Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria, the Turks, the Mongols, and the USSR). August 24th, 1991 (the Ukrainian Independence Day) was, in fact, the first time that Ukraine has been free in about 700 years.
  • Population – 45.9 million (Estimated 2010)

Much of Ukraine has been Russianized. Most of the inhabitants of Eastern Ukraine don’t speak Ukrainian as their first language, including many in the capitol city, Kyiv.

A friend told me that, often when you meet a Ukrainian in America that is from Eastern Ukraine, when asked, “Where are you from?” they often say, “Russia” rather than explaining, “Well… I’m Ukrainian, (that’s a country in Eastern Europe) and I speak Russian, because I’m from the side of the country that speaks Russian instead of Ukrainian.” It also could be partly because Ukraine has been, partially or as a whole, part of the Russian Empire or the USSR in various parts of their history. Aside the fact that we Americans aren’t usually good at trans-continental geography, this could be one of the contributing factors of why we have such a hard time and ask, “So… Ukraine, right?… is that a part of Russia?”

Please don’t feel too bad – most people in the world aren’t that good at “trans-continental geography.” Ask anyone in Ukraine where Missouri or Maine is, and they’ll usually have trouble finding it unless they have relatives living there or they’ve been there. Isn’t that like all of us?

 

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