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Why Putin's Ukrainian "New Russia" Could Be an Ungovernable Mess

Pro-Russian protesters gather at the barricades in front of administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on May 3
Pro-Russian protesters gather at the barricades in front of administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on May 3Photograph by Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo

Novorossiya, or “New Russia,” was a swath of what’s now southeastern Ukraine that Russian czars seized from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. Could it now form the core of a new country?

As Ukraine teeters on the brink of civil war, some pro-Russian separatists are suggesting recreating Novorossiya as an independent state. Breaking away from Ukraine could defuse the protests and reassure the mostly Russian-speaking population, their argument goes. And it would avoid a military incursion or annexation by Russia—steps that most people in the region don’t want, according to recent opinion polls.