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On ethnic identity, Soviet echoes, and the recognition that the Slavic world has much to offer after generations of repression
The words are spicy, but the observation is accurate: "We used to think Russia was the second-best military in the world, and now it's not even the best military in the former Soviet Union." Dr. Kori Schake, who directs the foreign policy branch of the American Enterprise Institute, not only has a way with words; she has a way of seeing the principled order of things. And that order in the eastern half of Europe is changing.
■ In the future, we'll likely regard the period of Russia's terrible war on Ukraine as the turning point when the other Slavic nations decisively divorced themselves, both politically and culturally, from the Russian branch of the broader Slavic identity. In the process, we will someday see this as the turning point when those nations asserted a real, long-denied equality as Europeans.
■ It's obvious how the war is changing Ukraine itself. But it's not merely a political assertion of its right to exist, it's a cultural one. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was raised at a time when the Soviet Union imposed the Russian language on Ukraine, now refuses to treat it as a primary language of his own.
■ But it's not just Ukraine; it's what the rest of the Slavic world sees, and what the world beyond acknowledges. Throughout the Soviet era, the other nations of Eastern Europe were widely ignored, underappreciated, or disrespected. The USSR looked dreary, and it was too easy to assume faults in those countries that were not indigenous to them. They were involuntarily yoked with a bad system, not inherently backwards.
■ As Ukraine's identity is being reassessed, so too are others. Moldova is rejecting Soviet-era impositions on its language. The Czechs just elected a vocally pro-European Atlanticist as president. Poland has been leading Europe's response from the front.
■ Political independence for these countries may have happened on paper a generation ago, but now they are staking claims to cultural and historical identities long denied not just by Russian imposition, but by disinterest or neglect by the rest of the world. The changes are big and they are noteworthy. And the world more generally will be better off for them.
Dall-E’s interpretation of a Czech village