Russia, Ukraine And The Revenge Of Geography


Getting inside Putin’s head demands the skills not only of a psychologist and historian but of a geographer. Yes, Putin is obsessed with history, but it is maps, not history books, that keep him up at night.

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  1. Ukraine sits squarely on the “European Invasion Superhighway,” linking East and West, Europe and Asia.
  2. Ukraine’s strategically important location means it has been fought over by various empires and regimes: the Ottomans, Nazi Germany, and, of course, Russia.
  3. Ukraine’s topography is mostly flat and rolling. The nation’s one mountain range, the Carpathians, is easily penetrated. That’s good news if you’re a cyclist or, say, an invading Russian army, but bad news if you’re trying to defend your homeland. There is a reason the Kurds have an expression to describe their people’s plight: “No friends but the mountains.”
  4. Ukraine’s history is intertwined with that of Russia but, contrary to Putin’s assertions, Ukrainians have had their own distinctive culture for at least three centuries.
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