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IPFS News Link • Secession

Support Ukraine's Independence? Then Support Secession Everywhere

•, by Ryan McMaken

That is, we're supposed to support the idea that Ukraine is a separate state that is politically independent from the Russian state. By extension, of course, the idea that Ukraine is a sovereign state also implies it is separate from all other states as well.

But how did Ukraine get that way? States, of course, don't appear out of nowhere. They generally come into being through one of two ways, or a combination of both. States can be formed out of two or more smaller states through a process of conquest or voluntary union. And states can result when a part of a state secedes to form its own state.

In the case of Ukraine, it is a state that was created out of a piece of the Soviet Union thirty years ago. This occurred via secession. Indeed, Ukraine was part of a remarkable trend toward decentralization and secession that occurred in the early 1990s. These secession movements, of course, were opposed by the "legitimate" central government in place at the time.

Put another way, to "stand with Ukraine" today is to "stand with secession." But don't expect to hear it phrased this way on MSNBC or at the New York Times. No, the "s word" is still a no-no in political discourse in America. Also a no-no is to advocate for the process that brought about Ukrainian secession: to hold an election—against the central government's wishes—as to whether a region will secede.

The Ukrainians did that, and today we're supposed to cheer that and accept that election's outcome. Many American pundits even believe it's worth fighting a war over. But to suggest something similar for a region of the United States? Well, we're told that's just plain wrong.

Ukraine Formed Out of Secession
The modern Ukrainian state was necessarily born out of secession because the Ukrainian state was not always separate nor sovereign. The history of Ukraine is a long history of various territories and polities that were, over time, incorporated into the Russian Empire beginning in the seventeenth century. What we now know as Ukraine more or less only came into being in the late nineteenth century. But then it was subject to the Russian czar and (later) to the Soviet Communists. Consolidated, sovereign Ukraine came into being only in December 1991, when a referendum was held and a majority of the voters voted for independence.

Ukraine soon after enjoyed both de facto and de jure independence because the Soviet State was too weak to do anything about it. Ukraine was not alone. By late 1991, the Baltic states had already declared independence, in moves that were opposed by the Soviet state and deemed illegal. A total of fifteen new states were carved out of the Soviet Union during this time. Secessionism extended beyond even the USSR, with Slovenia declaring independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. In 1993, Czechs and Slovakians both seceded from their state, dissolving Czechoslovakia altogether.