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Can Democracy Take Hold in Ukraine?

Certainly, the diversity of forms of governance used over the centuries by Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and Austria-Hungary when they ruled what is now Ukraine make creating a classic "nation state," with one dominant culture, difficult to imagine. Consider, for example, the robustness of the Russian language and the strength of the Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate - in Donetsk that is in eastern Ukraine and the robustness of the Ukrainian language and the influence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Lviv in the west.

Yet Spain, India, Belgium, and Switzerland are all consolidated democracies that do not fit the classic model of the nation state. Indeed, multiple but complementary identities are the norm in all four countries.

These multiple identities emerged because the democratic state provided a "roof" of equal rights above all citizens, whatever their religion, language, or culture. This helped develop a strong sense of identity with the statewide political community. These profoundly pluralistic countries are not classic "nation states," but rather what I call democratic "state nations."

During the recent presidential election, many suggested that reconciling the "two Ukraines" was impossible. But polarization has not been a constant factor in the history of independent Ukraine. On the contrary, Ukraine is closer to being a "state nation" than many people think. Moreover, its prospects for becoming a consolidated democracy are enhanced by the fact that its political elites - and most ordinary Ukrainians - have eschewed the idea of being a classic "nation state."