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A Federal Model for Ukraine

Published: April 2, 2014 (Issue # 1804)


As Russia consolidates its hold over Crimea, the worlds attention has now turned to the drama beginning to play out in eastern Ukraine. In the last three weeks, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups have taken place in major cities across eastern Ukraine, and many observers believe Putin has infiltrated provocateurs from Russias special forces and Federal Security Service to promote pro-Russian sentiment in the region.

While eastern Ukraine has historically maintained close historical, economic and cultural ties with Russia, support for secession there is not as overwhelming as in Crimea. The key for Kiev to maintain peace, security and stability in eastern Ukraine is moving toward a more decentralized, or federal, political structure is to draft a new constitution.

There is no single best distribution of powers between centralized and decentralized federal models, but here are some guidelines:

1. Above all, Kiev should allow for the direct election of governors rather than having them appointed by Kiev, which is the current practice. At the suggestion of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is running for president in the May election, the new government appointed two Ukrainian oligarchs to govern the regions of Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk. This only alienates people from their local government and exacerbates the political conflict between Ukrainians and Russians in the region.

2. Some economic decision-making, such as taxing and spending, could be granted to the regions.

3. Establish Russian as the second state language. The language divide between east and west Ukraine is sharp, and it could be an explosive political factor if Kiev does not handle the issue properly. The decision of Ukraines parliament to pass an anti-Russian language law immediately after Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev in late February demonstrated a stunning lack of judgment. Any new constitution must reassure Ukraines Russian-speaking citizens that this attempt to execute another language revanche will not happen again.

There are other countries that serve as good models of a decentralized political system for Ukraine. Although some commentators have suggested Bosnia, this is a terrible idea. Mandated by the Dayton accords of 1995, Bosnias constitution established a very loose confederation between a Bosnia-Croat entity and a Serbian one.

Although Bosnias political model has prevented another outbreak of sectarian warfare there, it has resulted in political paralysis, multiple overlapping government responsibilities and the creation of a country that is unified in name only. Implementing a similar structure in Ukraine would be an open invitation to further Russian meddling in the east.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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