Fresh from their conflict over gas in January, Ukraine and Russia are again in the midst of a heated battle — this time, about the countries' shared Soviet past. As Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko this week lamented that Ukraine had become "a hostage in the fight between two totalitarian regimes — fascist and communist" and called for Soviet-era symbols around the country to be torn down, his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev ordered the creation of a presidential commission "to counter attempts to harm Russian interests by falsifying history", Time magazine reports.
These latest salvos represent an intensification of the ongoing war of words between the two countries over their closely linked histories. Political analysts say the disagreement, like the gas conflict, is driven by Russia's desire to stymie Ukraine's attempts to forge an independent future. "It's an instrument that Russia uses to maintain influence in its so-called near abroad," says Valeriy Chaly, director of international programs at the Razumkov Center think tank in Kyiv, referring to the former Soviet bloc countries. "History can be used to create a political nation. It's an important process that brings Ukraine closer to Europe. But Russia wants to stop, or at least control, this process."