West London has a sizeable Ukrainian expatriate community . The statue of St. Volodomyr, who founded the country in the 10th century, has long been a focus for expressions of Ukrainian nationalism for expats in the British Capital. Now, with the recent and tragic killings in Kiev, it has become a ‘martyrs shrine’ with floral tributes to those that lost their lives growing by the day.
Ukraine, straddling Europe to the west and Russia to the east has long had a confused identity to outsiders. Witness the conflicting allegiances now being played out on the Crimean Peninsula.
One hundred and fifty years ago the peninsula was the centre of another conflict, the Crimean War, a baffling conflict, this time between Russia and Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire. The war eventually drew in outsiders, Britain and France.
The Crimea is no stranger to East West Tensions. For several centuries it was part of the Ottoman Empire. But by the mid 19th century The Ottoman empire was in decline. Under the pretext of exercising its right to protect all Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule, Russia occupied the Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1853. The Turks, counting on the support of Great Britain and France, rejected the Tsar’s offer and declared war on Russia in October, 1853.
To find out more about the Ottomans, read our study guide by notable historian Julian Davidson.