Since Ukraine regained independence in 1991, analysts have often described the country as divided between a pro-European west and a pro-Russian east. Over the past two decades, elections and opinion polls have reflected that divide, though with some gradual blurring of the line. An interesting feature of the current political crisis, however, is that while pro-European sentiment grips the western and central parts of Ukraine, no alternate pro-Russian narrative has appeared with any force or passion.
Like many things, the east-west divide in Ukraine oversimplifies. It is not strictly a divide between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. The latter make up only 17 percent of the country’s population, though they tend to live more in the east and Crimea.
The divide more accurately reflects language preference. The west favors Ukrainian, while Russian dominates in the east. But one should not overstate the importance of the issue; Ukrainians are generally very pragmatic when it comes to language.