Geology Drives Geography Which In Turn Drives Cultural Adaptation in Ukraine and Everywhere

Map of active tectonics in east Mediterranean

One article in this series about understanding the forces that have driven the cultural divisions within Ukraine that has drawn quite a few emails is 'How Ukraine's Geologic History Created Perfect Soils and a Target for Capitalism's Vultures'. One or two of the writers have asked big questions that it has taken me a couple days to find big enough answers for...so here goes.

One writer called my thesis in the article 'cultural geology'. Another thought geography was the better term saying, "the landscape a people live in affects the development of its culture". Adding, "If the land is fertile, as in the Ukraine there is agriculture, if there is a substantial river it'll be used as a trade-route, if there is flooding houses are built on stilts - that sort of thing."

While deep in rumination sitting on the deck it occurred me that geology drives geography which in turn drives cultural adaptation in the Ukraine and everywhere. The Dnieper River Valley, for instance, has played a starring role in Ukraine's history in many ways from being the frozen roadway The Golden Horde's armies used to approach, surround and destroy Kiev 1,000 years ago, to how by slowly draining the acid peat bogs at its headwaters and mixing them with the Carpathian Mountain's eroded limestone it created some of the world's most naturally balanced soils.

The valleys in Ukraine are where they are geographically because of geology. The Carpathians are too. They all share a common root in that they are effects created by the forces unleashed by Africa and Arabia's movement northward and consequent subduction under the Eurasian and Anatolian Plates. Africa started it's northern journey long ago when the mid-Atlantic rift opened and started pushing North and South America westward and Africa north-eastward. Africa's path soon-ish turned more north because in that direction there was an existing basin approximately where the Mediterranean now is that was occupied in the Triassic by the Tethys Sea whereas to it east the Arabian was 'block'-ing its path.

Together Africa-Arabia moved north, closing the former Tethys Sea, which formerly separated Africa/Arabia {A/A} from Eurasia/Anatoloia [E/A] and began subducting [A/A under E/A]. E/A reacted by folding and lifting parts into mountain ranges, one being the limestone Carpathians. As time worn on, Africa's journey created ranges and basins from Spain to Kazakstan including the uplifted faulted plains of eastern Europe. Those mountains ranges, as all ranges do, forced the the air to rise over them and, because of the temp gradient, created precipitation that had to get back to the sea somehow or hang around absorbing decaying lifeforms [peat bogs] until it could escape.

The Dnieper River Valley is one of those minor faults created by the massive tectonic subduction of A/A. Some geologists say it's actually a rift valley itself. As the huge ancient valley rifted, it sank in some areas. Those areas allowed the drainage of the acidic peat bogs to run over the eroded basic limestone. Voila, perfectly balanced soil widely distributed during the flood stages in particular.

Because of geology's tectonics Ukraine now possesses 30% of the world's richest black soil and abundant fresh water as part of its geography. That geography in turn created ideal conditions for our ancestor's cultures to evolve from hunter gatherers to pastoral nomads to agriculturalists. Agriculture remains the only major asset in Ukraine that has not been privatized and is a main target of the vulture capitalists who are using their fiat currencies to buy up as much as possible of the globe's limited agricultural land in one of the greatest examples of how disaster capitalism's criminals operate we've seen yet.

As the Tethyian sea closed the Atlantic rushed in through what's known as the straits of Gibraltar, then dried up, going through about 60 different cycles over millions of years until finally it had the new basin dredged enough to permanently become the Mediterranean Sea. The Tethyian didn't totally disappear, it's remnants are the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Due to the compressive forces in the Black Sea basin over time it developed a mostly under water ridge that at its norther terminus is the above water. We call it Crimea. As of today, and for a long time now the area we're calling western Ukraine has been slowly separating from eastern Ukraine along the Dnieper River Rift Valley. Crimea has always been it's own little world geologically too. This last week's dramatic political events have resulted from the long [in human time scales] cultural divisions. Those cultural divisions, if not caused by, at least correlate with, the geographic realities under foot. Those geographic realities are caused by the underlying geology itself.

"If physical geography is the house in which regional culture makes it home, then geology is its foundation, plumbing, and wiring." - Robert Thorson, Professor of Geology UConn. Being a longtime carpenter, i totally agree.