Perusing the PRSI section, I am a little surprised that nobody has posted anything about what is currently happening in Ukraine.
For what it is worth, I paid a brief visit to Ukraine last February (2013), almost exactly a year ago. During that short trip, I visited the former missile base in Pervomaiskye, Chernobyl, and spent several days in Kiev, visiting museums and just strolling around the place, drinking coffee, having a beer, and getting a sense of the city.
My strong sense was of a country, and a city, on a knife edge, rigid with tension, and not too far off exploding; but not then, or in the immediate future.
I used to teach the history and politics of the old Soviet Union, and of the Warsaw Pact countries (the former central & eastern Europe), and one way or another, have worked in, and visited, many of the countries in the wider region over the past two and a half decades.
For a variety of reasons, Ukraine is by far the most important country (apart from Russia itself, of course) in the post Soviet space, and it is the one country in the whole post Soviet space that - in my opinion - Russia will go to the wire over.
A quick gallop through recent Ukrainian politics & history shows a series of somewhat shaky - but peaceful transitions, which the events of the past few weeks have dramatically altered.
The country managed a peaceful exit from the wreck of the Soviet Union in 1991, and didn't implode into civil war, unlike many of its neighbours, although corruption was (and is) something of a problem.
The first post independence leader, Mr Kravchuk, - who steered the country out of the collapse of the Soviet Union, - was defeated by Mr Kuchma in 1994, who served as President until 2004. Mr Kuchma's (who was viewed as quite corrupt) last Prime Minister was Mr Viktor Yanukovich, who had earlier served as Governor in his eastern power base of Donetsk.
Mr Yanukovich ran for President in 2004, and following vast protests after what were seen as deeply flawed and bitterly contested elections eventually resigned; these protests led to the 'Orange Revolution' and a number of 'western' leaning politicians, such as Mr Viktor Yushchenko (the handsome individual with the ruined face following an attempted assassination using dioxin), and Yulia Tymoshenko took office.
Unfortunately, the outcome was not 'they all lived happy ever after' and internal problems between Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko paralysed the Government, allowing for the eventual political return of Mr Yanukovich, firstly, as Prime Minister, and latterly (in relatively free and fair elections) as President in 2010. Since then, the imprisonment of the main opposition leader Ms Tymoshenko (on very dubious charges), and drastic changes to the constitution and legal code have transformed the governance of Ukraine into something a lot less open.
Of course, the country - as it currently exists - is constructed on an extraordinarily deep political fault line. Borders (and lines on maps) change all the time; sometimes peacefully, sometimes not.
In 1945, Stalin pushed the borders of what was then Soviet Russia several hundreds of miles/kilometres further west, taking chunks out of countries that weren't a part of Russia. In turn, Poland changed shape, (compare what maps called Poland before September 1939, with the cynical and amoral changes imposed after September 1939, and indeed, contrast that with what it looks like after 1945), as did Belarus and Ukraine, as both were pushed several hundred miles further west in compensation. That had an impact on what is now Germany; the old 'east Prussia' is now western Poland. This didn't matter very much when Soviet Russia ruled the lot, but it matters a lot more now.
The point of all this is that what is now a large part of western Ukraine used to be a part of Poland (and further back some of it was even a part of the old Habsburg Empire) and sees itself as culturally, historically, linguistically, religiously, socially and of course, politically, very different from cultural and political identities in the eastern half of the country, where religious, social, linguistic, ties with Russia are far stronger, and where language, interpretations of history, religious identity, cultural identity and preferences, differ drastically.
This is the main fault line in the country, and is replicated politically. Unless the country can accommodate - and somehow integrate - both identities, rather than their tradition of zero sum politics (I win, which means you lose) the country will fracture, and it will be messy.
Quite apart from the ongoing imprisonment of Ms Tymoshenko (who was certainly no saint in a country where saints are rather thin on the ground, but who was most certainly imprisoned on trumped up charges), the recent events were sparked by Mr Yanukovich eschewing an agreement with the EU and accepting a loan from Russia late last autumn.
For a period of a number of years in both Ukraine and Georgia (both of whom had western leaning Governments following peaceful 'revolutions' which came about after huge protests had disputed the outcomes of fraudulent elections in 2003 in Georgia and 2004 in Ukraine), a stated ambition had been to join NATO and - eventually - the EU.
The high water mark was in April 2008, when NATO actually discussed awarding both countries a MAP (roadmap towards possible membership) but deferred taking a decision. The western economic collapse later that year, along with the August 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia meant that this discussion was deferred indefinitely.
Mr Yanukovich had sought to give the impression that he wished to keep lines of communication (and the possibility of agreement) open between both the EU and Russia; Ukraine, of course, was (and is) in dire economic straits, hence a loan from Russia (inevitably with strings attached) was deemed a greater priority than a trade agreement with the EU (which may have served as a prelude to further talks about possibilities in the future).
However, with a quiescent parliament where debates on such matters had become impossible, protests at the Government's actions took a more public, and initially, peaceful form when the streets and squares of the capital were occupied.
The Government sees this as a challenge to their authority which they cannot ignore; the protestors argue that the Government does not have the support of what is - in essence - the western half of the country, and runs the risk of stumbling back into becoming a satellite in an orbit it escaped from over two decades ago.
This is going to get very, very ugly, and is extraordinarily dangerous. Indeed, the very state itself may fracture over this particular fault line, and two versions of Ukraine may emerge from the wreckage, both much weakened.