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The fate of religious freedom in the former USSR, 25 years after its collapse

The fate of religious freedom in the former USSR, 25 years after its collapse | Geography Education |
It's been 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union. How has religious freedom fared in this part of the world?
Seth Dixon's insight:

The collapse of the former Soviet Union was one of the biggest political events of the 20th century with long-reaching cultural ramifications.  The generations of state-sponsored atheism followed by a variety of new political policies has meant that religious freedoms vary greatly in the regions that were once a part of the USSR.  This article gives a good breakdown of all the former SSR’s and the state of religious freedom today in each of them.    


Tags: religionChristianityIslam, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, AzerbaijanGeorgia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan.      

David Stiger's curator insight, October 22, 2018 10:20 AM
For post-Soviet countries, power and fear might be freedom's greatest challenges. On one hand, there is a dominant religious institution -  Eastern Orthodox Christianity - seeking to grow its influence and power. This might be a goal for a religion that is not popular elsewhere around the world (many Americans only know of Protestants and Roman Catholics, completely oblivious to the third major branch). They may see their geographic location as especially important - serving as a home-base of spiritual operations to launch evangelical missions, build coalitions, and influence national policies that shape society in a way their particular brand of Christianity approves of. On the other hand is fear of extremist groups which have resorted to terrorism to achieve their objectives. Countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan have all placed restrictions on minority faiths, such as Muslims and Protestants, requiring these groups to register with the state. Geographically, the Islamic world, which is in a constant state of turmoil, lies directly south of the post-Soviet Union, making Islam a key focus as immigrants and ideas easily flow into the region. This need for state approval is a form of control which clearly hampers independence and freedom of expression.  The irony in all of this is that fear of extremism leads to more extreme measures of security. This toxic process will only sow discord, distrust, and animosity between sub-populations leading to civil unrest.  

Matt Danielson's curator insight, October 22, 2018 5:49 PM
It is not surprising to me as a history major that they is still suppression of religious freedom in many former soviet territories. The more westernized countries have less of an issue than the countries farther from the west. This is partially due to them wanting to join Nato which requires religious freedom for joining. The more Islamic countries to the south seem to have the most difficulties with religious freedoms (as do a majority of Islamic nations). Russia would also have some problems from years of atheism being forced by the communist party. Somehow the Eastern Orthodox religion was able to hold on through out it all, but they seem to be the only;y religion openly accepted in Russia.  
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, November 1, 2018 10:45 AM
After years and years of suppression under the Atheistic USSR, many would not be unreasonable to have believed that when the USSR fell they would be able to practice their religion however they would like. Unfortunately, nothing changes in a day and when fear is a tactic learned from their former occupiers. Many countries still use the growing terrorism in the region to suppress their own citizen's rights to religious freedom.  Countries such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are of great concern where Religious minorities, mainly Muslims, are rounded up and registered, monitored during religious practices or severely restricted. It is not a surprise that this is happening is former-USSR countries, but you must understand it takes time for deeply rooted behaviors to change. 
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Why Ukraine needs Russia more than ever

Why Ukraine needs Russia more than ever | Geography Education |
As the country risks becoming a failed state, Kiev must recognise that economic survival depends on Moscow not the west
Seth Dixon's insight:

This is a politically inflammatory title for an op-ed article, given the recent Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.  Regions and economic regional linkages form and continually reform.  Our most likely business partners aren't necessarily our best friends.      


Tags: op-ed, economic, regions, UkraineRussia.  

othni lindor's curator insight, October 20, 2018 12:16 PM
This article talks about Ukraine's want to be independent from Russia. Ukraine spent one winter without buying gas from Russia but instead from Europe which was significantly more expensive. As much as Ukraine wants to cut ties with Russia, it will be difficult to because for a very long time, Russia has been Ukraine's main trading partner and investor. Recently, living standards in Ukraine have gotten worse. Their economy has also collapsed recently. Ukraine has been borrowing money from Russia for many years. Getting rid of that debt will take some time. The Ukrainian president has plans to end manufacturing and industry in Ukraine and instead focus on promoting investment in information technologies and agriculture. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is the main reason for the economic collapse in Ukraine. 
Stevie-Rae Wood's curator insight, October 28, 2018 3:40 PM
Its said that our most likely business partners aren't necessarily our best friends. Ukraine and Russia have been at odds with one another for many years. Ukraine wants to be completely independent from Russia meaning they want all ties severed from Russia, economically, politically etc. This is very hard for Ukraine to do because Russia has been there main trading partner and lender of money for years. So when Ukraine spent just one winter buying oil from Europe it contributed to the economy of Ukraine to fail. (The cost of gas was much higher than Russia's pricing). Ukraine has also borrowed a lot of money from Russia and this debt is going to take a very long time to pay back. For the time being Ukraine is dependent on Russia as much as they do not want to be.
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, November 1, 2018 10:25 AM
It's interesting to use such a leading title for this article. Whether or not all the numbers used to make their point that Ukraine should still do business with Russia are correct or misleading a fact is that Ukraine's president is allowing his own country's economy to fall out of spite. That is how tense the situation between the two countries are. Because Russia is Ukraine's major trading partner and Ukraine has attempted to cut ties with Russia, they are hurting themselves but does that mean Russia has their best interests?
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Geography textbook changed after Crimea row

Geography textbook changed after Crimea row | Geography Education |
A geography textbook that prompted a complaint from the Ukrainian embassy for showing Crimea as part of Russia is changed.
Seth Dixon's insight:

How we describe and categorize geopolitical shifts matter, and can ocassionally ruffle some feathers.  More important than the ruffled feathers is the fact that how we present the issues helps to shape students' perspectives.  In a somewhat related article, the Russian annexation of Crimea has magnified internal divisions in Kazakhstan.  


Tags: UkraineRussia, geopoliticspolitical, Kazakhstan.

Taylor Doonan's curator insight, March 15, 2018 3:00 PM
This image shows how inaccurate textbooks can be. Winston Churchill said "History is written by the victors" this quote shows that the history that is told in textbooks is not always the most accurate. This case with Crimea shows that the textbook is inaccurate which in this case the textbook company acknowledged and corrected but errors in textbooks so often go unfixed, and if they do get fixed, many children are still learning from the old version of the textbook depending on which school district they are in.  
Douglas Vance's curator insight, March 20, 2018 11:57 AM
This article shows how describing international events like territorial changes can cause significant international backlash should the event in question be described in ways that do not respect the views of the bereaved party. In this case, the textbook failed to provide sufficient context that highlighted the Ukrainian position that the territory was illegally seized by Russia. This show that how an issue is described can shed significant light on which side that person appears to be taking. 
Zavier Lineberger's curator insight, March 22, 2018 11:19 AM
(Russia) The Oxford University Press was forced to revise a textbook because of their description of Crimea. The original edition had an illustration showing Crimea in a different color than Ukraine, explaining that Crimea is owned by Ukraine but voted to become part of Russia. Readers believed this did not reflect the history of Crimea's annexation, when pro-Russian Crimeans took over the peninsula and held an illegal referendum. The new edition spends more time discussing the annexation and explains that Crimea legally belongs to Ukraine but is under Russian control.
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Russia and the Curse of Geography

Russia and the Curse of Geography | Geography Education |
Want to understand why Putin does what he does? Look at a map.

As things stand, Putin, like Russian leaders before him, likely feels he has no choice but to at least try to control the flatlands to Russia’s west. So it is with landscapes around the world—their physical features imprison political leaders, constraining their choices and room for maneuver. These rules of geography are especially clear in Russia, where power is hard to defend, and where for centuries leaders have compensated by pushing outward.

Seth Dixon's insight:

Calling this environmental determinism might be a stretch but so is some of the vocabulary (I take it with a grain of salt because the analysis is sound).  This article though certainly puts Russia's physical geography at the forefront of the geopolitical analysis of Russia's move's in both Syria and Ukraine.  Their strategic interests become much more comprehensible in light of their geographic challenges

Tags: UkraineRussia, geopoliticspolitical.

Diana Morey's curator insight, February 11, 2016 9:24 AM

good reading for political geography

brielle blais's curator insight, March 25, 2018 10:24 PM
This article connects to geography because it shows the importance of the physical geography of a country when it comes to natural defense from invaders. Russia, from at least the south and southeast, are very hard to invade. This is thanks to Ivan the Terrible, who expanded the territory of Russia and gained better natural barriers such as to the east to the Ural Mountains, south to the Caspian Sea, and north toward the Arctic Circle. Now, Russia needs to figure out how to control the flatlands to the west, which is why Putin wishes there were mountains east to the Ukraine.
David Stiger's curator insight, October 21, 2018 12:02 PM
Russia's geographic situation appears to greatly influence, perhaps even determine, the Russian state's political behavior. The world's largest territorial country has a number of geographic disadvantages that have caused Russia to act aggressively in securing its territory. Firstly, it lacks warm-water sea ports as the ones it has access to in the Arctic Ocean freeze for long periods of time. The area of their Pacific Ocean seaport has been commercially dominated by Japan. Secondly, Russia extends across an open European plain which is largely unguarded to the south and southeast of Eurasia. Similar to its southeast region, Russia's western front has few if any natural defenses leaving it wide open to European encroachment. The only natural barriers Russia has going for it are the Ural Mountains cutting down the middle of Russia, the Arctic to the north, and its territorial vastness along with a harsh, cold climate that makes foreign invasion challenging - but not impossible. Geographically then, Russia is highly insecure. Seeing itself as a major world power, Russia struggles to access the sea for trade and is unnerved by its massive open border. This explains why Moscow was very pleased with a pro-Russian government in Kiev but became extremely nervous when Ukraine toppled its government selecting a pro-Western, NATO-loving administration. Even if NATO and the EU did not intent to directly confront Russia, the two organizations certainly planned to transform Ukraine and influence the region - leaving Russia feeling exposed. Despite its aggressive nature, Russia went on the "defensive" and annexed Crimea in order to secure its coveted seaport while also locking down a buffer zone between itself and the West who could march through Ukraine. It was surely brazen and unethical, but the geography explains the logic behind Putin's move.  
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Ukraine's Geographic Challenge

"Ukraine is the quintessential borderland state. The country borders three former Soviet states and four countries in the European Union.  Ukraine sits on the Northern European Plain, the area that has historically served as an invasion superhighway going east and west."

Tags: Ukraine, geopoliticspolitical.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, October 20, 2014 11:58 AM

unit 4

Adam Deneault's curator insight, December 14, 2015 12:58 PM

This video goes to show how great of a country the Ukraine really is, but at the same time how it has downfalls. It is good that they have such a huge agricultural and industrial forms of work, which would be good for it's economics. But unfortunately, it is the walking grounds of countries going from East to West or West to East. On top of that, the Russian gas lines that feed into Europe go right through Ukraine and on top of that, there is the known fighting between the Western Ukrainian Nationalists and the Eastern Pro Russian Separatists. 

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The Putin Factor: Russia, America and the Geopolitics of Ukraine

The Putin Factor: Russia, America and the Geopolitics of Ukraine | Geography Education |

"President Obama came into office promising a 'reset' in U.S.-Russia relations. Six years later, the reset, for all intents and purposes, is dead."

Seth Dixon's insight:

A more informed, globally aware citizenry helps to strengthen U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic efforts; we need citizens with a spatial framework within which to organize political, environmental, cultural and economic information.  This interview with political science professor Michael McFaul is a great introduction to understanding Russia, Putin and today's most pressing geopolitical issue.    

Tags: Russia, Ukraine, geopoliticspolitical.

Bob Beaven's curator insight, February 19, 2015 3:40 PM

Russian-American Relations are always an interesting thing to talk about because of the nations' histories in relation to one another.  It is interesting how Putin views America, in the fact that he thinks that we function like Russia without a strong legislative branch and no freedom of the press.  Putin also seeks to, in a way, rebuild the USSR of old by taking his neighbors over (or having them "join" the Eurasian Economic Region).  The article does point out that tensions from the Russian incursions into the Ukraine won't result in Cold War Era tensions because Putin welcomes American investment, and also Russia is more of a regional power than a world power.  While Russia is a regional power, they are still a very strong and threatening force, and as the article points out, they are not afraid of using their strength to get their way.  Russia, although not as strong as the old USSR, is still a concern for the NATO nations of Europe, as it shows a revived Russian spirit, and Putin is not afraid of using force to get what he wants for the country.


David Lizotte's curator insight, February 27, 2015 5:04 PM

Its interesting reading an article written June 5, 2014 about Russia and the Ukraine. There has been an escalation of events since the article. This article was neat in how it gives the reader a more sound perception of Putin. Mind you though, the source was an American Ambassador to Russia, so he may be a bit biased, although he does a good job covering it throughout the interview. If he had a disagreement or judgment about Putin he said it. Its likely McFaul's ideologies would differ no matter what due to being of Western Influence and Putin... well Putin being Russia. None the less McFaul gave a professional and well-rounded/structured interview in answering the questions in detail. 

I believe Putin truly does believe in a Russia of old coming back under his regime. The past few years have certainly made a good case for that argument. A major country just taking territory from another seems outlandish. Since this article has come out there have been more advancements made into the Ukraine thus spilling bloodshed. Russian backed rebels have been slowly taking important towns and transport hubs in Eastern Ukraine. A ridiculous part of this is Putin claiming Russia is not backing the Rebels/Separatists by providing military and intelligence. Of course he is. Its clear he and his government are more than involved. 

As Russia moves more eastward it does raise the question; what exactly is there endgame? Its scary reading McFaul's opinion being Putin not truly knowing what he wants/how to proceed. Putin is usually very blunt about what he wants, yet in this case no one knows what Putin wants, probably not even Putin. Perhaps since the writing of the article Putin has formed more of a general idea/goal... In any case it is interesting to watch the events unfold. 

There was a conference of some sort just a week or two ago. The President of France, Prime Minister of Germany and Putin negotiated a seize fire and troops from both sides of the battle to pull back. There was still bloodshed after the specified seized arms agreement. This was a reminder of the first agreement made in September and just ignored by the rebels.

Personally I believe Putin to not care about what the west thinks. Rather he wants to keep pushing the limits. Putin wants to become a dominant powerhouse economic force. He also seems to wish for more physical land, like the Russia of old. The more he can have the better. As stated Putin seems to be testing the Western countries. He had no problem ignoring peace deals. He kept moving westward and in the end there are still no Western Military, just Ukrainian troops. The U.S. was not strong in opinion and neither was the U.K.

Sanctions have hurt Russia's economy but they are still finding there way around it. With that being said, Western countries such as Germany for instance have also been hurt economically by the sanctions. Some countries export a lot of goods to Russia, they now can't. This shows what happens when Russia doesn't play nice. They get cut off and other suffer from the consequences as well. But from Russia's perspective they are still claiming more land from the Ukraine. Also, with all this being said Russia is reaching out to week countries whom are criticized within the EU. For example Greece and Hungary, and the island country Cyprus. Russia is working with Cyprus on the debt situation and in return docking naval ships off the coast of Cyprus. No matter the reasoning its the same outcome...Russia is moving westward.

As of now (as in me writing this scoop) there has been 24 hours of non-violence in the Eastern Ukraine. That has not happened in a very long time. But no one truly knows what the Russian backed Separatists/Putin are thinking. They've been winning so far so why stop. All I have to say is don't sleep on Russia.   

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 7, 2015 2:37 PM

"The Bear of the East Strikes Again." It feels like news of Russian military intervention in Ukraine should be a news story of the 80's, and yet it continues to hit headlines as information is leaked of continued aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Why this sudden aggression? Geography of course! The Crimea is a vital seaport, allowing a large, international port in the Mediterranean- something that Russia has craved since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Eastern Ukraine is one of the richest areas in the world in terms of raw materials and industrial centers, which could prove to be vital additions to the Russian economy (if Western sanctions don't inflate the ruble any more than they already have). Despite this authoritarian approach to his foreign affairs, it is Putin accuses the Ukrainian government of fascist tendencies- and of attacking ethnic Russians currently residing in Ukraine. Not only is this laughable in the sense that Ukraine is not only a democracy, but there has been no history of violence between ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in the country, but also when one considers the attacks on Russian homosexuals within Putin's own borders. Putin has disregarded international law for his own purposes, the first time a major power has done so since the world was a lot "colder," and it will be interesting (and terrifying) to see how he proceeds. My heart goes out to the Ukrainians still engaging in guerrilla warfare along their Eastern border.

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Here are three of Russia's military options in Ukraine

Here are three of Russia's military options in Ukraine | Geography Education |
There have been a number of warnings from Kiev and Washington about the possibility of a direct and open Russian military intervention in Ukraine. But what could that look like?
Seth Dixon's insight:

I'm not saying any of these 3 scenarios are going to happen nor am I endorsing them either.  That said, this article/podcast provides a geopolitical analysis (with maps) of Russia's potential military options if they are planning on invading Ukraine. 

Tag: Ukraine, political, conflict.

Jared Medeiros's curator insight, March 9, 2015 5:50 PM

add your insight...I feel like Russia is always up to something shady. I dont understand why Putin wants to move forces into Ukraine. The story makes it seem like the only reason he has interest is because there is a high number of Russians living there. Does not seem like a good reason to attack another country.  This smells really bad and I have a feeling something major could be on the horizon.

Felix Ramos Jr.'s curator insight, April 1, 2015 10:44 AM

Russia needs to tread lightly if they don't want to dismantle the international political progress that they have made since the fall of the Soviet Union over twenty years ago.  If they decide to manhandle and manipulate the government in Kiev, along with the rest of Ukraine, they could have an international boycott and sanction put on everything Russian.  This situation is very important, not only for Russians and Ukrainians, but globally as well.

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 10, 2015 6:31 AM

Putin's military adventure into Ukraine is troubling to say the least.  Putin has made no secret about his desire to recreate the lost Soviet Empire. He is truly a dangerous man on the world stage. Generally speaking, Putin seems to favor the destabilization approach. He has yet to conquer an entire nation. By launching  destabilizing attacks, he probably hopes to create an environment of uncertainty and chaos within the invaded country. Such chaos could lead to the overthrow a anti-Russian government, and the instillation of a pro Russian government. The word will eventually have to face up to Putin.

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The Way Forward in Ukraine

The Way Forward in Ukraine | Geography Education |

"During the meeting in Geneva, the participants agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine and restore security for all citizens.  In a joint press availability with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, Secretary Kerry outlined several of these initial steps."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Geography is never a completed story; the world is in a constant state of becoming.  The geography of a place and region are only glimpses from one historical vantage point as Russia and Ukraine are demonstrating now.  The Head of NATO is saying that Ukraine is not the only part of Putin’s geopolitical ambitions and other experts are describing the current situation as a new Cold War.  Collectively this means that diplomats and government officials everywhere are seeking solutions to stabilize Ukraine and the region.  NATO has expanded into what was once the Soviet Union’s buffer zone as a resurgent Russia is now prepared to exert more regional influence.  As Russia has confirmed moving troops closer to Eastern Europe, many are suggesting a stronger NATO presence on the eastern border of NATO to counter Russia’s moves.    

Question to Ponder: What do you think the United States (or any other country) should or shouldn't do in this region? 

Tag: Ukraine, political, conflict.

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What the loss of Crimea really means for Ukraine

What the loss of Crimea really means for Ukraine | Geography Education |

"In symbolic terms, it's a huge loss. The Crimean Peninsula holds an important place in the region's history, and the inability to prevent the region from joining Russia is a serious test of leadership for the new Ukrainian government in Kiev.

In practical terms, however, what Crimea means for Ukraine is less clear. In an article last week, The Post's Will Englund noted that Crimea may end up costing Russia more than it might like. And what does Ukraine really lose?"

Seth Dixon's insight:

We often view global affairs through our own little prism, considering how it affects us.  So much of the discussion has revolved around Russia and the West in general (and the U.S. specifically), that Ukraine almost gets lost in the shuffle.  All this amid news that the acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister has said that the possibility of war "is growing."

Tag: Ukraine, political, conflict, devolution.

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Crisis in the Crimea: The Showdown Between Ukraine and Russia

Crisis in the Crimea: The Showdown Between Ukraine and Russia | Geography Education |
Seth Dixon's insight:

This StoryMap from ESRI is a nice way to explore the current events in Crimea and this set of maps from National Geographic shows the historical geography of the region.   This issue has many inter-regional connections as well.  Many residents of former Soviet Republics are nervous seeing Russia's aggressive political strategy;  Moscow's previously similar foreign policy that aligned with Beijing's interests are now diverging

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Europe gas level high as prices rise

Europe gas level high as prices rise | Geography Education |

Gas and oil prices have risen amid fears the Ukraine crisis could have a damaging effect on one of Europe's main energy supply routes.  But analysts say high European gas stocks will limit the turbulence.

Seth Dixon's insight:

Russia is Europe's biggest supplier of natural gas, but Ukraine is the key to their distribution network.  Here is a great analysis of the energy implications.    

Jessica Rieman's curator insight, March 5, 2014 4:24 PM

There is a distinct fact that Gas travels into the Ukraine from Russia and Belarus and leaves for Europe. Where as the gas fields are towards the east and they dont venture toward Belarus but more towards Russia and Hungry and Crimea.Gas and oil prices have risen so that it can be distrubuted and taken care of that way where as the transportation costs money. Fears about the Ukraine crisis could have a huge effect on one of Europe's main energy supply routes. But the command will even out the chaos.

Jess Deady's curator insight, May 2, 2014 5:50 PM

Gas prices are rising all over the world. The demand for gas is incredibly high as well since most people are driving their own vehicles to work and such. Cutting transportation down to traveling together and on public systems would help immensely with the gas rising problems.

Alyssa Dorr's curator insight, December 17, 2014 10:21 PM

Russia provides about a quarter of Europe's gas, half of it through Ukraine. Gas and oil prices have risen amid fears the Ukraine crisis could have a damaging effect on one of Europe's main energy supply routes. But analysts say high European gas stocks will limit the turbulence. Gas futures climbed by up to 10% in early trading, while the benchmark price for oil rose by more than 2%. Traders are worried about the stability of supplies from Russia, which provides a quarter of Europe's natural gas, half of it through Ukraine. However, a relatively mild winter has reduced demand for heating fuel, with storage levels at the main gas hubs about 20% greater than last year. In Germany, Europe's biggest gas consumer and Russia's largest customer, stocks are at more than 60% of capacity, capable of satisfying 60 days of demand.

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West warns Russia amid Crimea threat

West warns Russia amid Crimea threat | Geography Education |

"Western nations have called on Russia to ease tensions in Ukraine's Crimea region after armed men seized the local parliament and raised the Russian flag."

Nathan Chasse's curator insight, March 1, 2014 12:17 AM

This article is about the rising tension in the Crimean region of Ukraine. There is a strong pro-Russian sentiment among many in this region and the recent ousting of Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych has caused unrest in Crimea. The former president of Ukraine was removed due to protest of his refusal to partner with European Union. These events highlight the lasting effects of the Soviet Union on Ukraine and the division it has caused in the country.

Stephen Zimmett's curator insight, March 4, 2014 1:59 PM

I've been watching this inernest. I doubt that Russia will invade any further.


Alec Castagno's curator insight, December 12, 2014 1:02 PM

Russia's has attempted to justify their recent aggression as an effort to reincorporate areas with a Russian majority, and at the request of the locals. This article shows all the other areas that are requesting a return to Russia, and shows the opposite side with all the areas under Russia that are requesting independence. It offers a counter to the Russian argument and outlines the hypocrisy of their actions.

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Close-up of Kiev's Independence Square

Close-up of Kiev's Independence Square | Geography Education |

"Protests have centered on the capital's Independence Square, also known as the Maidan, where protesters had set up camp over a number of months. The stand-off turned violent this week as riot police moved in to clear the protest camp.  Security forces had given protesters a deadline of Tuesday 18 February to leave the square, but instead, violence took hold and battles between the demonstrators and police left a number of people dead. Independence Square, which for weeks was the setting for a mostly peaceful protest camp, now more closely resembles a siege, as the remaining protesters attempt to hold their ground."

Amy Marques's curator insight, April 24, 2014 11:47 AM

This close up view of Kiev shows how the geographic location of its independence square was placed serves as a great place to protest. It represents the center, the circle of the city, close to the places of power; the government house, parliament. Its long streets lead to the capital's independence square the center for the country, but what started to be peaceful protests where an important monument stands, is now where violence takes place.

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Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault

Conventional wisdom in the West blames the Ukraine crisis on Russian aggression. But this account is wrong: Washington and its European allies actually share most of the responsibility, having spent decades pushing east into Russia’s natural sphere of interest.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Ukraine is culturally, economically, and geographically connected with Russia. It is a territory that Russia cannot afford to lose as a part of their sphere of influence.  John Mearsheimer, in his article Why Ukraine Crisis is the West's Fault, gives a detailed account of NATO expansion and how it effected the Russian demand for hegemony in East Europe. Ultimately it is his conclusion that it was this expansion that provoked the Russians, and the current crisis is on the hands of the West. The will of a majority of Ukrainians is be begin economically aligning more with EU/NATO countries.  Ukraine decided against Russia, and Russia responded with force.   Here is an article where scholars weigh in and mostly disagree with the author's provocative assessment


Tags: op-ed, Ukrainesupranationalism, Russia, geopoliticspolitical.


Matt Danielson's curator insight, October 10, 2018 7:42 PM
This brings up some good points about a commonly opposed view in Europe and America. Often times we simply put Russia as the bad guy and Putin as its evil leader, but there is more to it then this. It is tough to say Russia's involvement in Ukraine is completely unjustified. To Russia the eastern nations of Europe are their buffer zone to NATO, and would like for them to stay aligned with Russia. When the Pro Russian Ukrainian president was ousted in a popular revolution (or a coup) many in the west simply deemed this as ok because the coup was pro NATO, to Russia this was seen as a threat. Then when Russia got involved the pro Russian "uprising" in Crimea seemed like Russia meddling in other nations internal affairs.  Dont forget that their are many Russians who live in Ukraine, and Russia sees these as their people who they need to protect. Either way this is a complicated situation that gets ignored all too often.
David Stiger's curator insight, October 20, 2018 11:28 PM
A good deal of Ukraine's crisis with Russia is centered around geopolitics. Russia annexed Crimea because of its seaport - a port that NATO had its eye on as a strategic position for keeping Russia in check. The territory of Ukraine as a whole serves as a buffer between Western Europe and Russia. If NATO were to incorporate and pro-Western Ukraine, Russia would feel threatened. As a major power with a history of pride, Russia would never tolerate a direct threat on its border. Making Ukraine into such a threat is not worth the potential political, economic, and military consequences from Russia. Since it is a thin place between two differing ideological powerhouses - Russia and the West - Ukraine might want to consider remaining neutral; even receiving help and assistance from the EU, the United States, and Russia. This route has not been taken because the West, specifically the U.S., has misunderstood Russia as an aging and weak country that would ultimately embrace the good-guy America as a benevolent friend. The U.S. needs to rethink its ideas about Russia and do the sensible thing of giving it a buffer zone and a little deference, just as the U.S. expects other major powers to keep away from Mexico and Central America. 

Matt Danielson's curator insight, October 22, 2018 5:41 PM
This hows a different perspective than the normal western one on the crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Ukraine is more culturally and traditionally connected to Russia than the rest of Europe( historically Kiev was a capital of Russian empires, specifically the "Kieven Rus"). To Russia NATO is a threat, and constantly pushing east towards Russia. Russia wants some kind of friendly buffer Zone out of fears of influence from the west, and possible invasions. Historically Ukraine has been a buffer zone, but with the overthrow of the Russian friendly Ukrainian president and his replacement by a staunch Nato and western supporter Russia feals threaten. Though they denied any involvement at first, in the very least they have been supplying material and training to Crimean and other pro Russian separatist rebels whop are fighting the Ukrainian government in hopes of maintaining some sort of buffer zone.   
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The Chernobyl Disaster: How It Happened

On April 26, 1986, a routine safety test at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine spiraled out of control. Follow the dramatic events that led to the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Today marks 30 years since the worst nuclear accident in history.  The disaster reshaped Ukraine and Belarus as radioactive material spread throughout Europe; liquidators went in to clean up, putting themselves at great personal risk while the Soviet media reports tried to act as if things were under control.  Learn more by reading these articles from the BBC, Global News, and the Washington Post; you can also view videos of an extended academic talk and documentary about the Chernobyl disaster.  Today the wildlife in the regions is surging forward as people are staying out of the region.   


Tagsdisasters, environmentUkraineRussia.  

James Piccolino's curator insight, March 24, 2018 9:38 AM
As a history lover and also a lover of urban exploration Youtube videos, Chernobyl has always peaked my interest. I had heard of the effects that it had on Europe and the rest of the world before but I did not quite know the severity. I also heard about how the Soviet Union tried to ignore it and cover the incident up for a time. Both interesting and terrifying.
Matt Manish's curator insight, May 3, 2018 12:34 AM
From the accidental disaster that happened at Chernobyl, one can see how important it is to keep nuclear reactors running safely an properly. A disaster like Chernobyl can be very costly, not just financially but also in regards to human life and the environment as well. The nuclear plant there still has extremely high levels of radiation. So much so, that the original concrete sarcophagus that was laid on top of the sight to block radiation began to deteriorate over time. A new dome structure has recently been built over the sarcophagus to help block the radiation and is expected to last at least a hundred years. This disaster makes one wonder if the benefits that come from nuclear energy are worth the risks.
Stevie-Rae Wood's curator insight, October 28, 2018 4:05 PM
The Chernobyl Disaster was and still is the worst nuclear accident to happen in the history of the world. It happened because a nuclear reactor at the Soviet Unions nuclear power plant exploded. This was a crazy accident to happen as this particular nuclear power plant because it was one of the Soviet Unions most advanced plants. All this destruction happened because of a routine safety test on the reactor. This explosion of the reactor spewed 8 tons of radioactive fumes into the air. These fumes spread all over Europe so the Soviet Unions accident affected half of the world not just themselves.
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What Borders Mean to Europe

What Borders Mean to Europe | Geography Education |
Europe today is a continent of borders. The second-smallest continent in the world has more than 50 distinct, sovereign nation-states. Many of these are part of the European Union. At the core of the EU project is an effort to reduce the power and significance of these borders without actually abolishing them — in theory, an achievable goal. But history is not kind to theoretical solutions.

Today, Europe faces three converging crises that are ultimately about national borders, what they mean and who controls them. These crises appear distinct: Immigration from the Islamic world, the Greek economic predicament, and the conflict in Ukraine would seem to have little to do with each other. But in fact they all derive, in different ways, from the question of what borders mean.

Tags: borders, political, geopolitics, Ukraine, Greece.

dustin colprit's curator insight, September 5, 2018 3:33 PM
Immigration in the EU could have the potential to change the EU itself. Some countries believe in protecting their borders from potential terrorist threats, but the core of the EU calls for the sanctuary of refugees.. 
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Recent Developments in the Ukraine Conflict

"Stratfor Military Analysts Paul Floyd and Sim Tack discuss how Russia's strategy will maintain options as violence in eastern Ukraine continues."

Tags: Ukraineconflict, geopoliticspolitical.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, February 9, 2015 9:12 AM

unit 4


Jared Medeiros's curator insight, February 18, 2015 6:15 PM

I cant believe the cease fire lasted all but 40 minutes!  Putin and Russia are a bunch of scumbags that are just looking for conflict.  As if Russia is not large enough that they have to scrap for these small areas of Ukraine.  Its going to be because of assholes like this that get other countries involved and many lives end up getting lost.  

Avery Liardon's curator insight, March 23, 2015 9:46 PM

Unit 4 :

Russia beginning to take violent actions against the Ukraine. It is interesting to view the military strategies that countries take, and to see the outcomes of these schemes. 

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How Google represents disputed borders between countries

How Google represents disputed borders between countries | Geography Education |
INTERNATIONAL borders are often tricky to chart on maps. Tangible topographic features can be pinned down by satellite imagery but the boundaries between many states...
Seth Dixon's insight:

I've shared some links in the past that some mapping dilemmas with current events in Ukraine.  Google Maps shows international borders differently and National Geographic maps show Crimea as a part of Russia.  In this podcast we learn that this isn't the only international border dispute that is displayed differently in Google Maps.  Google uses over 30 distinct versions of international borders because there is an underlying geopolitical dimension to cartographyHowever, this article from the Economist is more explicitly geographic in its analysis of the situation and how the discipline(s) of geography/cartography shape the political situation; maps are NOT just a reflection of reality on the ground.  To paraphrase the cartographer Andy Shears, there is a lot of teaching applications and discussion material in these articles. 

Questions to Ponder: Why have different cartography for different audiences?  Why does this small cartographic decision matter? How can maps be used to lie/stretch the truth?  How to governments derive political legitimacy from maps?   Why is Google the cartographic gatekeeper?

Tags: google, Ukraine, mapping, borders, political.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, September 8, 2014 12:36 PM

unit 4

Maria la del Varrio's curator insight, December 13, 2014 3:17 PM

Google is always a step ahead of any other online page so it is not surprising that Google have some countries in dispute because they can see people can see the political status of a country in Google map but that might change the way we see and think about Google and countries with dispute. Google or the Internet will always be a good help for people to be able see what is happening between country's borders.

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Military Mobilizations: Ukraine and Russia

Military Mobilizations: Ukraine and Russia | Geography Education |
An important look at the military reality of the crisis.
Seth Dixon's insight:

We have known that pro-Russian forces have taken control of government buildings in part of Ukraine, and that forces on both sides have been mobilizing along the border.  It is hard to make sense of all the news reports but this map helps to bring the reality on the ground into sharp focus.  

Gorete Queiroga de Figueiredo's curator insight, May 4, 2014 7:30 PM

Infográfico para entender a crise ukraniana

Jim Doyle's curator insight, May 9, 2014 10:56 PM

They have to work something out

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Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks on Ukraine

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry deliver remarks on Ukraine at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on April 24, 2014. A transcript is available here."

Seth Dixon's insight:

If you want to understand the U.S. government's official stance and perspective on the escalating geopolitical tensions in the Eastern part of Ukraine (and Crimea), this speech is a good place to start.  These geopolitical tremors have regional impacts; so how might this situation impact Moldova and the Transdniestria region (breakaway section with pro-Russian sentiment)?        

Tag: Ukraine, political, conflict, geopolitics.

Kaden Schmittner and Jack Rosetti's curator insight, October 12, 2014 3:45 PM

Other countries are breaking the agreement about the Ukrainian war and are getting involved and choosing sides. Could this lead to WWIII?

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The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene

The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene | Geography Education |
84% of Americans are unable to locate Ukraine on a world map; those that can't are more likely to support military intervention.
Seth Dixon's insight:

As I've said before, a more informed, geo-literate citizenry helps to strengthen U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic efforts because they have a spatial framework within which to organize political, environmental, cultural and economic information.  National Geographic recently also produced a video showing how geo-education is important for business professionals as a part of their geo-education community (if you haven't already, join!).  This is one way to combat geographic ignorance.

David R. Perry's curator insight, April 7, 2014 11:38 PM

Beyond sad.

Rach Brick's curator insight, April 13, 2014 10:45 PM

This says so much about ignorance and aggression... Do they even know that they'd have to come up with a catchy name because the Crimea has already got a war names after it?

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Exit polls show Crimea votes for secession

Exit polls show Crimea votes for secession | Geography Education |
Russian media says exit polls show 93 percent of voters elected to join Russia, in a move the West deems illegal.
Seth Dixon's insight:

The vote wasn't a surprise, but it now means there are more questions than answers about the political future of Crimea,  both regionally and internationally (this is the U.S. State Dept's rejection of the referendum).  Also is interest is how this impacts Turkey, which feels kinship with the Crimean Tatar population.  Historically they've been Black Sea rivals and Turkey was a key NATO ally during the Cold War.  However since the fall of the the Soviet Union they've improved diplomatic relations and Turkey is reluctant to damage relations with Russia.  We all know by now that the majority of Crimean residents speak Russian as their native language, but what's the linguistic geography of Crimea look like at a at a different scale?    

Utah Geographical Alliance's curator insight, March 17, 2014 2:30 PM

Seth Dixon's insight:
The vote wasn't a surprise, but it now means there are more questions than answers about the political future of Crimea, both regionally and internationally. Also is interest is how this impacts Turkey, which feels kinship with the Crimean Tatar population. Historically they've been Black Sea rivals and Turkey was a key NATO ally during the Cold War. However since the fall of the the Soviet Union they've improved diplomatic relations and Turkey is reluctant to damage relations with Russia. We all know by now that the majority of Crimean residents speak Russian as their native language, but what's the linguistic geography of Crimea look like at a at a different scale?

Aimee Knight's curator insight, March 19, 2014 9:52 AM

While everybody argues over whether or not the referendum complies with international laws and peace treaties, we have to ask, is it right? Does one country have the right to take control of another? We teach our children not to bully one another, and then Russia goes and bullies the people of Crimea into agreeing to secede. What are we teaching people? What messages are we sending to young people by saying that this is okay?  We are spreading the word that it is okay to threaten others into cooperation. If we allow for acts such as this to go unpunished, how can we guarantee that something much worse will not be in our foreseeable future? 

BandKids13-14's curator insight, April 3, 2014 9:56 AM

Russia is just a big bully. If Crimea joins Russia will Russia want to take over other places in the Ukraine? Will they have enough power then? Why do they even want Crimea? How will they benefit if Crimea goes over to Russian power? Will the Ukraine allow Crimea to ever join Russia?


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“Crimea and Punishment”

“Crimea and Punishment” | Geography Education |

Comments on the Media Coverage of the Recent Events in Crimea

"As was the case 160 years ago, Crimea has once again become 'the tinderbox', potentially ready to ignite a pan-European conflict. Precipitous events in Crimea once again draws public attention to that often-forgotten triangular peninsula jutting into the Black Sea off the underbelly of Ukraine. While the news reports from Russian, Ukrainian, and Western sources have been generally confusing and conflicting, some interesting analysis has appeared in several media outlets."

Jessica Rieman's curator insight, March 5, 2014 4:16 PM

In 1853-1856, there was a power struggle between Russia and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire including France, Britian and Sardinia. This power struggle created a bloody war with countries that would be forced to pick their side of the alliance. Russia  kept Crimea but did not succeed in winning the war between forces. The war revealed inadequacies of its  military and civilian infrastructure and ultimately led to the abolition of the serfs in 1861. Although Crimea served as an independent state it also created a free state to be grabbed up by Russia or any of the other alliances.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, September 11, 2014 2:17 PM

unit 4

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Ukraine’s leader urges Putin to pull back troops

Ukraine’s leader urges Putin to pull back troops | Geography Education |
Ukraine's interim prime minister says the country is "on the brink of disaster."
Seth Dixon's insight:

Many observers fear that Russia's military control of the Crimea could lead to more centrifugal forces in the region.  In response, pundits are discussing what the U.S. response should be; clearly this will be a major issue for the Obama administration.

Elizabeth Bitgood's curator insight, March 3, 2014 9:50 AM

That this could happen at all in this day and age just goes to show that the Cold War may be over but Russia is still flexing its muscles.  As a child of the 1980s, this turn of events frightens me.  I lived my childhood with the fear that there could be a nuclear war at any time always in the back of my mind.  Younger people just don’t understand what it was like living during the cold war and perhaps poo-poo it a bit too much.  But the threat was always there and it was something that was real and did not lesson until the fall of the Soviet Union.  The fact that this event has occurred just brings up the old fears and memories of the tensions between America and the USSR.  I hope that a solution can be found that doesn’t hurt the Ukrainian people.

Jessica Rieman's curator insight, March 5, 2014 4:41 PM

Crimea has been a region whee Russian traditions have been strong throughout the years and will continue t stay strong but if Putin is going to be the President who decides that he wants to isrupt part of Europe by putting the Ukraine and Russia against eachother on a battle field then there are going to be some drastic differences and not just in Crimea.

tyrone perry's curator insight, April 9, 2018 6:56 PM
Putin doesn’t seem to like how the surrounding countries are independent from Russia!  A majority of people in Ukraine favor the independence while a few Russians that reside there are all for Russia to occupy Ukraine.  Also in Russia people who are protesting the occupy are being arrested and others who are for it are allowed to protest.  Putin has been very testy over the last few years.  Trying to over throw the weaker country’s and backing the evil doing countries. 
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A Dictator's Guide to Urban Design

A Dictator's Guide to Urban Design | Geography Education |
Ukraine's Independence Square, and the revolutionary dimensions of public spaces.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This article gives some background on the political purposes behind urban planning and public squares that carry cultural meaning.  While Ukraine is the reason for delving into the topic, the article explores the politicization of public squares in various regional and historical contexts.  The image above shows how monuments, despite their 'official' meaning, can be rearticulated and reinterpreted as other audiences inscribe meaning into the landscape.  

Tracey M Benson's curator insight, February 24, 2014 3:21 PM

Very interesting article about public spaces transformed by public protest.