This backgrounder explains the significance and risks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See each question and answer included in this backgrounder on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the bottom of this post.

Ukraine is the second-largest European country geographically (Russia is the largest) and seventh-largest when measured by population. If Russia topples the Zelensky government in Ukraine and installs its own puppet government, a Ukrainian insurgency would likely follow, turning this massive geography into one of the world’s largest battlefields.

Vladimir Putin has utilized the frequently used tactic of aggressors in the 20th century and suggested the idea of a distinct Ukrainian people is historical fiction. The truth is more complicated. Ukraine and Russia share roots that date back to a Viking empire in the 9th century. The borders of Ukraine have shifted throughout the centuries, as have the borders of most of the nations of Europe. Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, predates Moscow by several centuries. Russians and Ukrainians claim Kyiv as the birthplace of their own national identity.

Nevertheless, Ukrainian nationalism and identity were present even during the era of the Russian czars, well before the Soviet Union. The first leaders of the Soviet Union tried to crush the Ukrainian identity and nationalism to no avail. In 1991 the collapsing Soviet Union did not grant Ukrainian independence. The Ukrainian people demanded it.

Historically, Ukrainians held a positive view of Russia. Most Ukrainians even speak Russian.That positive view began to fade following the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Growing distrust and distaste for Russian aggression has accelerated in the western part of the country since then, even if the eastern part of Ukraine remains friendlier towards its Russian history. A 2022 survey found 21% of respondents in Western Ukraine held positive attitudes toward Russia, compared to 53% in Eastern Ukraine. But only 11% of all the respondents in that survey believed Ukraine should merge into a single state with Russia.


Learn more about the background and facts behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine through this set of backgrounds and explanations. Subscribe to the blog to stay up to date when new backgrounders are posted.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at