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The Regional Life of Geopolitical Conflict: The Case of Odes(s)a Oblast

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
Author:
Tanya Richardson Wilfrid Laurier University, trichardson@wlu.ca

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When the events known as the “Russian Spring” began in the aftermath of Ukraine’s Euromaidan Revolution in February 2014, Odessa oblast seemed like it would be particularly vulnerable to separatist activity. This paper offers a tentative explanation for why Odessa oblast escaped war in the 2014–15 phase of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. To do so, it chronicles events in Odessa oblast between fall 2013 and spring 2015 drawing on secondary sources such as news articles, blogs, social media posts, YouTube footage, official statements, and reports. Odessa-based elites’ decision to support Ukrainian sovereignty was an important factor hindering the realization of a Donetsk or Luhansk scenario. However, the weak Oblast Administration in the spring of 2014 and the upcoming mayoral elections created a volatile environment that various individuals (oligarchs, politicians, criminal networks) exploited to maintain or enhance their influence in the region. The internationalization of the conflict in the spring of 2014 presented Odessans with stark existential choices which undermined the city’s violence-avoiding dispute resolution techniques and culminated in the violence on May 2.

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