On April 4th, The Economist Magazine published an article titled: What Vladimir Putin Misunderstood About Ukrainians. The article’s central argument is that Ukraine has struggled to find its identity and place globally. However, Putin and others misunderstood that despite this struggle with their identity, they are not divided as is typically portrayed; although they have internal differences, they’re closer to each other than to other nations because they share this struggle. Recent events support that despite their differences, they have a common destiny and have united in the face of the adversity brought by Russia’s invasion.
The Economist article is reminiscent of a similar piece published by Venezuelan philosopher Arturo Úslar Pietri: Does Latin America Exist? Úslar explains the unique situation of the Latin American man as having been the product of three cultures that interacted and mixed in a melting pot of ideas, memories, notions, fears, legends, customs, and values. He also explains how this unique circumstance defines the Latin American man and causes him to question his role since he does not conform precisely to any of his parent cultures. This concern is what prompted the article’s title; Úslar questions the very existence of Latin America as a whole to show the deep overarching “ontological concern” that defines the region.
Although Latin America faces a unique circumstance, perhaps other peoples are also affected by a confused origin and overarching existentialism. Reading the Economist’s article, I felt that Ukraine had a similar concern given the different empires and peoples (such as slavs, tartars, and Jews) that mixed to conform the Ukrainians and led them to not belong entirely to any of their neighbors or originating cultures.
Of course, despite the fact that the Ukrainian and Latin American peoples seem to share this confused existence, given a varied origin, the Ukrainians have developed over thousands of years. In contrast, Latin Americans (as known today) have only been around for perhaps 500 years. Additionally, whereas Latin America was primarily dominated by either the Portuguese or Spanish empires before independence, Ukraine has been a part of the Russian, Soviet, Polish-Lithuanian, Austro-Hungarian, and Rumanian empires and Ukraine itself. This diversity of rulers is one of the causes of high social organization and cohesion within Ukraine, given their natural distrust of governments.
The Ukrainians, then, seem to be more mature than Latin Americans since they are finally finding their place in the world and history. Their bravery and capacity to organize themselves to resist tyranny serve as a shining example to other nations struggling with this same ontological question and despotic rulers throughout the developing world. In particular for us in Latin America, they have provided a blueprint and inspiration for advancing liberty in our own countries and defining our global role.
This statement is not a simple conjecture: in Venezuela, for example, we were greatly inspired by their Euromaidan protests to lead a similar social resistance movement against the Nicolas Maduro administration in early 2014. Though the movement was ultimately unsuccessful, it marked the first of its kind after years of complacence with the despotic rule of the Chávez and Maduro administrations. It showed the Venezuelan people that they were capable of awakening. It seems that where both Ukraine and Latin America can find meaning and begin to understand their place in the world is through the struggle to achieve strong societies that stand up to tyranny.