Putin Makes Worrying Comments About Novorussia

Russian President Vladamir Putin referred to territories in east Ukraine as “Novorussia,” or “New Russia,” and asserted Russian ties to the area in a televised question-and-answer show.

“Can a compromise be found on the Ukrainian question between Russia and America?” Mr. Putin asked, according to a translation in the New York Times. “Compromise should only be found in Ukraine. The question is to ensure the rights and interests of the Russian southeast. It’s new Russia. Kharkiv, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows. Then for various reasons these areas were gone, and the people stayed there — we need to encourage them to find a solution.”

Novorussia, a term increasingly used by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, refers to an area north of the Black Sea that was gradually conquered by Russia in the late 18th century through peace treaties with the Cossack Hetmanate and the Ottoman Empire. In 1922 it was made part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union.

The area, which has a majority ethnic Russian population today, is currently caught in a standoff between separatists and Ukrainian forces.

Here’s a map of New Russia:

And here’s a map of the vast Russian empire at its height in 1866, when it included Ukraine:

The Russian empire also included Finland, Alaska, and Belarus.

But Americans don’t have to worry about Putin reclaiming Alaksan territory — in the question-and-answer session Thursday, he said: “What would you need Alaska for? We live in a northern country, 70% of our territory is in the north. Alaska’s also the north. So let’s not get excited.”

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