Clues from history on how the war might develop


I believe that we have a year off. Conditionally, a year of break, after which we have to come up with certain new decisions, strategic ones.

We have a new understanding of Ukraine and its place in world history – for me, this is global history. This is my personal conviction. The history I tried to write, published the year before last, is a global history, because I am convinced that only a global context gives a much better understanding of the history of Ukraine. In addition, it is a response to the actual situation because the Ukrainian problem is a global one. This war is a worldwide problem, and we must learn to consider ourselves as such. We need to write history in this tone.

But the second crucial thing is to try to look at history in the long run. Certain factors that did not arise today, not under Putin, not under the Soviet Union, which have a much longer-term impact. This type of history is essential for Ukraine and the whole world. In particular, because the problem of Ukraine is the problem of the world as a whole. And vice versa, someone who reads Ukrainian history from a global perspective can see their own problems, whether they are Chinese, Spanish, or French.

Certain things put Ukraine at the center of the world. In particular, Ukraine is likely to be the homeland of Indo-Europeans, not just Slavs. The domestication of the horse happened here, in the steppes of Ukraine, and other such things.

Ukraine's centrality in the global world is not a factor that has just emerged.

In fact, for certain geographical and historical reasons, Ukraine has been at the center of global processes. The first history book in the world that exists is Herodotus, which partially concerns Ukraine. He has a whole chapter on Scythia. The goal of this project is not only to show, but to understand what this means for us and the entire world.

All countries that we consider prosperous went through something similar to what Ukraine is going through now

As a global actor, Ukraine emerged after the first and then the second Maidan. Because it was very clearly visible, for example, to those abroad. I was in New York in 2004. I remember how Ukraine did not leave the front pages of American newspapers for several weeks. Then we had this during Euromaidan, and now during the war. That is, there is a realization. At least now, there is no need to prove that Ukraine exists. Many Westerners can show its place on the map. This is no longer something that needs to be established. But here, there is a rule, and it is an old rule, that it is much better to prove it to someone who is not Ukrainian but who writes about Ukrainian history. This is a rule that applies to all historiographies. This was the case with Polish historiography after the fall of communism. The Poles were very lucky to have a historian like Norman Davies. We are now fortunate to have Timothy Snyder. Therefore, it is vital to have this effect of attracting not only Ukrainian historians but also non-Ukrainian historians, and first-class ones at that.

People ask me how we can learn the lessons of our own history and how we can avoid repeating it. I am skeptical here. History is a lousy teacher because no one listens to its lessons. As someone joked, humanity rarely makes the same mistakes twice, but mostly three or more times. We are now seeing the same mistakes repeated. So it's not about learning the lessons of history. We need to use history as a prompter that makes suggestions, not tells us precisely what to do, but gives us essential hints that help us think. It clears our brains, clarifies the picture, and provides meaning. This is where history is critical. And then we are responsible for the decisions we make.

The main problem in the Ukrainian political world, and not only in Ukraine but in the whole world, is that most politicians think in terms of one or two electoral terms, that is, in terms that are not historical. A good politician, like Churchill or Adenauer, thinks in terms of 100-500 years. This is very important. Therefore, one of the tasks of applied history is to try to re-educate politicians. So that they stop thinking in terms of short durations, 5-10 years, from election to election, and think in terms of 100-500 years or more. This is very important. We need history. Do we have such politicians? I suppose we do. But there are too few because our politicians mainly focus on their daily interests.

The counteroffensive, which has ended, by and large, without great results, leads to more quarreling. History should say: yes, we should discuss, not quarrel. The vital issue for every country in the event of a war is to form a reasonable consensus that allows the country to win. How will it go further? We'll see. I only understand, and I rely on experts' analysis here, that we are unlikely to have significant changes at the front in 2024. The war will continue to be positional. Neither the Ukrainian nor the Russian army has enough strength to come to a decisive victory. I believe we have a year of break. Conditionally, a year of break, after which we have to come up with certain new strategic decisions. After all, this is what Zaluzhny wrote and demanded in his famous article in The Economist. That is, now is the time to look for new static solutions. This is more than just a matter of politicians because they can hardly do it. What we, the public sector, do afterward is critical.

I do not believe that Putin's regime has a long future. We have many examples from history. These regimes come and go; they do a lot of damage but do not last forever. This is obvious. The question for me is different. What to do with that regime? We assume that it will collapse because the nature of this war leads to the collapse of one side. It will most likely be a Russian collapse. We have just realized that in a situation where the resources of Ukraine and Russia are unequal, Russia will collapse, and Ukraine may collapse twice or even three times. As in the Ukrainian proverb, "Before the sun rises, the dew will eat your eyes out."

I want to see the future of Ukraine as the future of a Central European or even European tiger. Ukraine has grounds for this, although obviously, these grounds depend on how long the war will last and what price Ukrainians will have to pay in this war. This is still not my dream, but a very realistic plan. As a historian, I want to point out that all the countries that we consider prosperous, economically robust, politically stable, and free world countries have gone through something similar to what Ukraine is going through now.

The 20th century saw a period of very intense wars and revolutions that lasted for decades. Relatively speaking, 30-50 years. And we are now seeing something similar in Ukraine. Not that everyone goes through this period, you know, victoriously and with victory, but the fact is that they do. There is a possibility. So I will direct you to this. This is a challenging test, and you must pay a high price. It is a test that looks not like it is inevitable, but like it is repeated in other countries. So, there is no reason to be hopeless. There is no reason to believe this is something unique or something else we must lose. No. Let's accept it as a hard reality and work with it.

We’re bringing the voice of Ukraine to the world. Support us with a one-time donation, or become a Patron!

Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine