The deterioration in Russian-Ukrainian relations heightened in 2014 but did not begin then and has deeper roots. Both Russian presidents have had troubled relations with all five Ukrainian presidents irrespective if they were described as ‘nationalist’ or ‘pro-Russian.’ This article is the first to explain why the roots of the crisis go deeper and it does this by investigating three areas. The first is the different sources of elites in 1991 when independent Russia captured Soviet institutions and undertook top-down state building while Ukraine inherited far less and set course with bottom up state-building. The second is divergent Russian and Ukrainian national identities. The third is the resultant different transitions with Russia reverting to great power imperial nationalism and Ukraine quadruple and post-colonial transitions.

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