Putin aimed to sink Ukraine into the larger nation of Russia, harking back to the Soviet era. But instead of breaking its identity, he has shone a light on it.

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Though it’s hard to know all of Vladimir Putin’s intentions in the invasion of Ukraine, one thing is for sure: he intended to destroy Ukraine’s independent identity as he subsumed the sovereign nation into a rose-tinted reformulation of the Soviet Union.

But of the many apparent blunders and miscalculations in this campaign, this failure may be the greatest. Instead of destroying Ukraine’s identity in the minds and hearts of the global community, Putin has overwhelmingly enhanced it.

Protests have broken out around the world in solidarity with Ukraine, even in Russia, where at last count over 3000 people have been arrested voicing their outrage at their government’s actions. People and nations, TV stations and politicians the world over are calling in unison for Ukraine’s freedom. The proud nation’s national anthem has been heard more than it ever would have been without the invasion.

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The flag. The colors. The people—citizens and politicians alike. The cities. The maps. The history.

And the name. Even the name! We now know it is not “The Ukraine” but simply Ukraine. The Ukraine refers to the region as it was within the Soviet Union, whereas Ukraine is the modern sovereign country.

If you didn’t already know that, you do now.

I know it because a viral meme (one of a torrent) hit Facebook in response to the invasion.

Everything in the news and on social media is about Ukraine. The country is on everyone’s lips, in everyone’s thoughts, and (rather less impactfully) in many people’s prayers.

The national colors of blue and yellow have adorned buildings around the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, shining sympathetic foreign lights on the nation.

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Putin must be raging. Burning on the inside like an out-of-control nuclear reactor.

I recognized the name, but thought it not possible, and now know for sure that the huge boxer I knew as Vitali Klitschko is the Mayor of Kyiv.

Which is Kyiv, not Kiev, as in Keev and not Kee-ev.

See what’s happening? My knowledge of Ukraine is expanding as fast as the rouble is collapsing. I know where the main cities are, now understanding its geography in the context of the larger geopolitical region. I have listened to more people talk about their own Ukraine with beaming pride than I have any other person about their own country in years.

Ukraine is on the map. Of my psyche. And I’m clearly not alone in this.

And in that, Putin has shot himself in the foot with a TOS-1 multiple rocket launcher.

That’s gotta hurt.

Problem is, an injured bear fights even harder, especially when its pride has been hurt.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...