On the periphery of most peoples’ awareness, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe by territory, located in the geographic center of the European subcontinent. It is the land, wrote English historian Norman Davies, through which most peoples passed on their way to settle the rest of Europe, and to become the nations and countries that we know today.
In the Middle Ages, the Kyivan Rus’ (not Kyivan “Russia”—more below) Imperial Dynasty was the largest political entity in Europe. Following Kyiv’s adoption of Christianity from Byzantium, the precursor of modern Ukraine became a powerhouse of intellectual discourse, religion, and cultural life. In its size, grandeur and advancement of education (mandatory for women), in its equal rights for women, in the arts and the sciences, Kyiv eclipsed other European cities such as Paris and London. European kings and the English monarchy married into the Kyivan Dynasty. Among them, King Henry I of France married Princess Anna of Kyiv; she signed her name to the marriage document, he used an “X.” The Gospel she brought from Kyiv was used in the coronation of French kings for centuries. The French historian Levesques wrote about the marriage, quoting Bishop Gautier Saveraux who was King Henry’s envoy to Kyiv: “This land is more unified, happier, stronger and more civilized than France itself.” The trident was the official state insignia of Kyivan Rus,’ stamped on its coins, and continued as the national symbol of modern Ukraine through the intervening 1,000 years (the significance of this appears below).
“Russia” at that time did not exist, and had as its antecedents Finno-Ugric tribes that separately evolved into scattered principalities in the north that rejected Kyiv’s dominion. Most telling was their sacking and rejection of Kyiv in 1169 that was not matched until the city’s destruction by the Mongol Horde a hundred years later. The Kyivan Rus’ Empire collapsed with the latter onslaught, but in the process shielded the rest of Europe from the same fate. . . .
On May 31, 1933, Gradenigo, the Italian consul in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv during the height of the man-made famine, reported to the Royal Italian Embassy in Moscow his discussion with a senior OGPU secret police officer who advised that 10-15 million starvation murders were required to tame, in the OGPU’s words, Ukraine’s “ethnographic material.” Not a nation. Not people. Not human beings. Just “ethnographic material.” Hitler’s term was untermenchen.
Reporting further, Gradenigo said the government strived to ensure that “Russians would constitute the majority of the population” in certain regions of Ukraine, and thus assure that potential political difficulties would be removed. The Italian consul concluded: “However monstrous and incredible such a plan might appear, it should nevertheless be regarded as authentic and well underway…The current disaster will bring about a predominantly Russian colonization of Ukraine. It will transform its ethnographic character. In a future time, perhaps very soon, one will no longer be able to speak of a Ukraine, or a Ukrainian people, and thus not even of a Ukrainian problem, because Ukraine will become a de facto Russian region.” It is the offal of that tectonic ethnic cleansing that underlies the “split” in Ukraine, mouthed with such obliviousness as to its cause. . . .
Moscow was ecstatic: “We have annihilated the nationalist counter-revolution during the past year we have exposed and destroyed nationalist deviationalism…1933 was the year of the overthrow of the Ukrainian nationalist counterrevolution.” More: “Acknowledging the great amount of work put…into the fight against Ukrainian nationalist and other counter-revolutionary elements, work which has not ceased and which shall not cease, we must say that of course we gave the nationalists a beating, a good one, as the saying goes, we hit the spot.” Is this the “common history” between the Kremlin and Kyiv that today the media and others put forth as underpinning Russia’s claims to Ukraine?
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