I spend a lot of time working with technology companies to form their international strategies, and often the country of Ukraine is a part of that. Id like to share my insight into what is currently in the news in the West about the country and its people. Let me tell you a bit about my relationship with the country. Most people associate me with Japan because I have established so many successful technology ventures there – but my investment in Ukraine is significant.
Ruslan Zasukhin, my close partner in Paradigma Software, an advanced database and business intelligence reporting tool company is Ukrainian. Some of the Meshbox Design division of Proactive International is located in another (much quieter) part of Ukraine. Since the later 1990s, with the exception of an odd weekend, I typically haven’t gone more than 24 hours without talking with someone in Ukraine .
Historically, Ukraine has had an identity problem – primarily because throughout its history, other powers have coveted it for its bountiful lands, as well as its sea access. Many people in the West know very little about Ukraine, such as facts that Kiev was, at one time, the capital of what later became the Russian Empire. Many things considered Russian in the West are Ukrainian in origin.
With a very close, shared history, and very significant migrations of Russians to Ukraine during the Soviet era, it is hard to completely separate the two countries. While many Ukrainians see themselves as distinctly separate from Russia and Russian thinking and culture, to set a comparison for some in the West, there is a much more significant inter-relationship between Russia and Ukraine as, say, Canada and the United States. Many families are spread across the two countries, and much like in Canada and the US, there are people who commute for work across borders.
The uprising in Kiev wasn’t surprising to me, though its not as simple a story as many in the West would like to make it. There are many who feel that the Pro-EU group that recently forced out Viktor Yanukovych are either being manipulated by or under the direct sway of Western interests, and not simply freedom loving Ukrainians, with the interim manager Oleksandr Turchynov being a paid for puppet. What the EU offered and, Yanukovych rejected for a Russian counter-offer, sparking the current situation, isn’t open and free trade relations that would really benefit Ukrainians economically. Don’t get me wrong – Yanukovych is not good for Ukraine, and he’s a source of a lot of significant corruption. But there were some good reasons for turning down the EU offer. This isn’t a pure black-and-white situation at all.
Right now – the worst trouble is entirely within the capital of Kiev, and the rest of Ukraine is hoping that will be the end of it. The next step is to figure out who is going to run the government until there are official elections. Day to day life outside of Kiev continues mostly as it has.