For me, a historian who always analyses historical events through today’s reality, it’s not so difficult to see a consistent pattern in history whereby peoples and nations struggling for their freedom, self-determination and identity finally succeed.
We can see this in different countries and different centuries. But here I would like to talk about our two peaceful countries, Cyprus and Ukraine, whose peoples have never started wars or attacked others to seize territory.
Ukraine – with its rich soil, natural resources and hardworking people – and Cyprus – with its important geopolitical position, favorable climate and extremely hospitable people – were targets for foreign invaders and occupiers for centuries.
Nowadays, both countries are facing again foreign aggression and direct interference in their state affairs. We respect our history, but we are also very optimistic about the future of our countries. Ukraine and Cyprus are sovereign independent states with positive trends of development, and any military, political or informational propagandist presence from abroad is unacceptable.
Everybody is aware of the fact that Ukraine is a young state, but Ukrainian statehood has a much longer history.
This year Ukrainians commemorate the centenary of the Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1921. Taking into account the significance of the consequences we have to learn the lessons of a century ago. We need unity and the army to keep fighting back, because the enemy is still the same.
The Ukrainian revolution and the struggle for independence from 1917-21 are significant events in the history of the Ukrainian nation in the 20th century.
In spite of a long period of imperial subordination and under the most adverse of circumstances, Ukrainians found the strength to launch an impassioned political and armed struggle to defend their right to nationhood.
From 1917-21, the Ukrainian people had a historic opportunity to free themselves from dependence on foreign powers – an opportunity which, for many reasons, could not then be realized. This period brought together several strategic processes, including the consolidation of the Ukrainian nation, the rebirth of national awareness of Ukrainian statehood, and the declaration of Ukraine’s independence.
The period of the Ukrainian revolution developed in three stages, relating to the national struggle for independence and its realization through different concepts of statehood.
The first was the period of the Central Rada and the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) from March 1917 to April 1918. This was followed by the period of the Ukrainian State from 29 April – 14 December 1918, then the period of the UNR Directorate from December 1918 to the end of 1920.
A difficult challenge for the young republic became the armed aggression from Soviet Russia which, in continuing its imperial policy, was not prepared to lose Ukraine from its sphere of influence. The Ukrainian-Bolshevik war dragged Ukraine through bloodshed, ruin and chaos.
On 9 February 1918, the UNR and the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which had a significant bearing on the events that followed.
Under the terms of the treaty, the Central Powers became allies of the UNR in its fight against Bolshevism and guarantors of its independence from Soviet Russia.
The treaty was a major success of early Ukrainian diplomacy – the first serious act of the UNR in the international arena which laid the foundations for international legal recognition of Ukraine as an independent state.
In spite of the great internal and external difficulties caused by political instability, Bolshevik aggression, and the presence in Ukraine of Austro-Hungarian military formations, the Ukrainian Central Rada was able to achieve major steps in forming a national state. It ratified laws governing the national symbol and flag, citizenship, national currency and a host of other important laws, including land ownership laws and the establishment of an eight-hour working day.
One of the most significant events of the Ukrainian national-democratic revolution was the establishment of the Western Ukrainian National Republic in November 1918. On 22 January 1919, the Act of Unification united the National and Western Ukrainian Republics and realized the longstanding aspiration of the Ukrainian people to live in a single sovereign state.
Those historic events are being echoed today. The Ukrainian nation should again prove its desire to live in a unified country with its identity, language and sovereign territory.
That is what millions of Ukrainians have struggled for since the beginning of the Russian aggression in 2014 in Donbas and Crimea.
A three-year-long war with Russia has resulted in the deaths of 10,000 people, the occupation of 7% of Ukrainian territory and the seizure, destruction or theft of 20% of the Ukrainian economy.
Today still, thousands of our soldiers stand in Eastern Ukraine like a solid wall to protect us. In order to win the modern Russian hybrid war against Ukraine we need to unite, just as we did 100 years ago.
We honour all those heroes who gave their all to achieve the independence of the Ukrainian state and the self-determination of the Ukrainian nation a century ago, and those who fight for it today.
The issue of unification is also essential for Cyprus and I understand well the emotions of Cypriots who make so many efforts to prove their desire to be united, free and independent.
The case of the reunification of Cyprus may differ, but it would also be much easier to get the two communities closer without interference from outside the country.
Our nations are adult enough to make their choices and work for a bright future.
Borys Humeniuk is the Ukrainian ambassador to Cyprus