Here at ILP we love both Russia and Ukraine, especially because this is where we got our roots. In the news the past couple of years there has been a lot being said about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. But lots of people don't even know exactly why there is an issue between the two countries, or what the problem is over.
In a very basic nutshell...
Russia and Ukraine used to be unified until the Mongols took over Russia and the Poles and Lithuanians took over Kiev/Ukraine. For about 300 years the two places had very different histories and that leads to many differences in cultures today. That lasted until the mid-17th century when Russia (aka the Soviet Union at that time) eventually absorbed Ukraine into it.
Through various wars in which Ukranians and Russians fought on various sides, and an actual genocide/famine-killing of Ukranian people in the 1930's (which Stalin created), Russia and Ukraine were still one under the Soviet Union.
However, after the Soviet Union broke down in the 1990s, Ukraine became its own country again (1991) during the balkanization of Europe (taking with them Crimea which was originally part of Russia but had been 'given' to Ukraine in 1954). One of the main hot spots of the current 2013-present issues between Ukraine and Russia is Crimea. This is mainly because 60% of its 2 million population are Russian, but Crimea is part of Ukraine...tricky right?
Ukraine is also a historically divided nation. There isn't one cohesive national identity or specific Ukrainian culture. The ethnically Russian and Russian-speaking East want to stay close to Russia (not join them) and Russian ideals, and the ethnically Ukranian and Ukrainain-speaking West want to move away from Russia and towards the European Union.
Today Ukraine has a not so flourishing economy and Russia supports small movements for Russian alignment (Crimea and Eastern Ukraine) which only make the tensions higher between the two nations.
The divisions of national interests, and the history of Russia and Ukraine both play a huge part in the conflict.
International Language Programs has volunteer opportunities in both Russia and Ukraine. Throughout the recent conflict, we've been happy to continue our English education programs there safely. You can learn more about how we keep our volunteers safe here.
Or click below to learn more about how you can help children learn English by spending a semester abroad volunteering in Russia and Ukraine through ILP!