Some Context on Ukraine's Citizenship Obsession

In mid-April, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko submitted a bill to the legislature, aiming to take away the citizenship of Ukrainians who vote in foreign elections, or who otherwise 'fulfill the duties that foreign citizenship puts on [them]'. The bill has been widely criticised for the fact that it only serves to alienate the millions of Ukrainians with foreign citizenship - many of whom are the nation's chief supporters overseas - while it fails to achieve its stated purpose of affecting Ukrainians voting in Russian-run elections in Crimea.
It is firstly important to note that it is not strange for Poroshenko's bill to insist that Ukrainians living in the occupied regions of Crimea and the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics should remain Ukrainian citizens (even if it has been justified on this basis). Even where Ukrainians have adopted alternate citizenship enthusiastically and voluntarily, it would only legitimise the Russian invasion to say it has created new states with real citizens, or that it has successfully made some Ukrainian citizens (and territories) Russian. In reality, the citizenship issue in eastern Ukraine is a driving historical force behind nationality law and, indeed, the war in the country today.
Ukraine's approach to dual citizenship is already one of the strictest in the world, with dual citizenship being outright 'not recognised', and in 2014, the legislature even considered a bill to criminalise it. The direct causes of this are derived from the end of the Soviet Union, but more broadly they are founded in Ukraine's historical struggle to ensure its territorial integrity, and even to be recognised as a separate nation.
Along with Belarus and Russia, Ukraine was historically a part of the medieval kingdom of Kyivan Rus', a fact which Russia has used to justify control over Ukraine for centuries. This problem magnified when, after the fall of the Soviet Union, millions of Russian-speaking people found themselves living outside the new Russian Federation, predominantly in Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics. The historian, Serhii Plokhy, discusses in his book Lost Kingdom how the new Russian Federation struggled to develop a clear definition of Russian nationality, in light of the fact that many ethnic Russians lived beyond the borders of the state. Attempts to expand Russian nationality to ethnic Russians in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine was prevented by Ukraine's prohibition on dual citizenship. By refusing to allow Ukrainians to be both Ukrainian and Russian, the Ukrainian government hoped to defeat Russia's claims to Ukrainian territory.
Many Russian writers and politicians considered this to be a sign of Ukrainian chauvinism. Even Russian nationalists like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, opposed to the Soviet Union, were outraged by how the territories were redrawn. In 1994 he described Ukraine's ownership of Crimea as an acceptance 'of false Leninist borders', alluding to the fact that Ukraine was gifted Crimea by Khrushchev in 1954. He accuses Ukraine of having 'set upon a false imperial path', and in the same book, The Russian Question, suggests that the best solution for the titular question is a 'single union of Eastern Slavs'. That is to say, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia ought to be united into a single nation. This fails to recognise the distinctness of Ukrainian culture from Russian culture, and one notes that the prior examples of such unity, the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, had always put Russia in a dominant position. Solzhenitsyn, like many others, was a Russian nationalist, but he believed that the Russian nation extended far beyond the borders of the Russian state.
Today we have seen that the Russian annexation of Crimea was justified exactly on the basis of the nationality question that Ukraine foresaw at the end of the Soviet Union. But the fact that Russian speakers in Crimea were not formally Russian citizens was not enough to stop Vladimir Putin from asserting Russia's claim over the territory on the basis that the people who live there are 'Russians'. Hence Putin's application of Article 1 of the UN Charter to Crimea, an argument that the annexation is in service to peoples' right to self-determination. According to Putin, the people in Crimea and most of eastern Ukraine are Russians, no matter where the present borders lie, and no matter what country they are citizens of.
That said, this background offers some explanation as to why the Ukrainian government is so unusually concerned about dual citizenship. Whether Poroshenko's latest bill is good or bad is beyond the scope of this article, but it is better understood when placed within the context of Ukraine's historical struggle for sovereignty.
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