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27 Jun, 2009 11:22

The Battle of Poltava: a celebration of unity or another reason to have it out?

On Saturday, Russia and Ukraine celebrate the victory of the Battle of Poltava three hundred years ago. The president of Ukraine, however, sees it differently.

On June 27, 1709, the Russian army under Peter the Great ended the Swedish military domination in Europe with the help of Ukrainian Cossacks.

According to the Chief of the Russian President’s Administration Sergey Naryshkin, the Battle of Poltava turned Russia into an important figure on the European scene.

“It is impossible to overestimate this battle,” the official said. “After the Poltava victory, the united Russian state became a major factor in European politics. Since then, nobody on the European continent could ignore Russia’s political will.”

Most people in Russia and Ukraine say the Battle symbolizes the unity of Russia and Ukraine. However, history is once again being rewritten by the Ukrainian president.

Viktor Yushchenko, who has previously honoured Nazi collaborators, now suggests that Russia is a modern enemy of Ukraine.

It’s reported that he wanted to change the name of the holiday to “300 years of Ukraine-Swedish Union”. The idea was widely rejected. Even the king of Sweden refused to attend the celebrations.