Slowly, the never-ending conflict is altering attitudes here, leading to what a perceptive Atlantic Council report has called “the geopolitical divorce of the century”: the separation of two countries that have been part of the same empire for centuries. Trade between Ukraine and Russia, whose economies have been intertwined since the Middle Ages, has plunged, replaced in Ukraine by trade with Europe and the rest of the world. India, not Russia, is now the largest buyer of Ukrainian food. Ancient religious links between the two countries are dying, too: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has now formally split from Moscow. Even personal ties are fading: With travel now limited by bans on direct flights between the two countries, Ukrainians are less likely to live and work in Russia, and more likely to go to Poland instead.
Russian cultural influence, once all-powerful, is also disappearing, partly thanks to official decisions. Ukrainian radio stations — like those in Canada or France — are required to play a certain percentage of Ukrainian-origin songs, and many Russian state television stations are banned on the grounds that they carry war propaganda. Some want to go further: Foolishly, the regional legislature in Lviv recently declared it wanted to ban all Russian books and music, a measure that no one in this profoundly bilingual country will be able to enforce. Russian books were readily available at shops, at street stalls and at the city’s recent annual Book Forum. I asked my own Ukrainian-language publisher what she thought of the ban. She texted back a single word: “Crazy.”