(previously unpublished essay)
The national myths of Ukraine and Russia are not just different, they are mutually exclusive, and while Ukraine’s can exist without Russia, the Russian idea plunges into an identity crisis without Ukraine.
Both claim the legacy of Kievan Rus, the mythologized and idealized kingdom is considered a well-spring of Slavic culture and Orthodox Christianity. It was obliterated by the Mongols in 1241. Here, the narratives diverge.
Russian ideologues consider themselves the great uniters and political champions of Slavic peoples. Kiev was the wellspring of their culture and religion, and Moscow has been and remains their natural political center ever since the principality of Muscovy “affirmed itself as a regional hegemon.” A unification, which, in the word of Putin adviser Alexander Dugin, occurred “not by the conquest, but by the genesis of Russian Statehood.” See Alexander Dugin’s “Open Letter to the American People.”
Ukrainian ideologues, whom Dugin refers to as “Western Russians,” consider themselves the unfortunate but otherwise noble descendants of Kyivan Rus whose greatest political expression for the previous several centuries were Kozak uprisings against slavery and feudal structures imposed by foreign monarchs, the Muscovites, an ethnically mixed Finno-Ugric people and latecomers to slavic culture, having been the most aggressive and successful of the oppressors.
The conflict is obvious, and the battle-space includes Wikipedia.
Ukrainian poetry often engages the idea of a hi-jacked identity: “What are these Muscovites searching for in our torn open graves? An ancient parent? Oh, if only they could find that, our children wouldn’t be crying.”
Dugin is correct when he claims “such a State [as Ukraine] . . . never existed in history.” I would describe Ukraine as a culture attempting to defend itself through statehood. It is a remarkably resilient culture having survived centuries of imposed feudalism, Russification, Polinization, merciless Soviet purges of writers, musicians, artists and other cultural figures, Holodomor, and many dozens of laws over the course 400 years forbidding or limiting the use of the Ukrainian language. Its attempts at statehood have been miserable failures, most recently combining all the bureaucratic excess of the over-protective West with the corruption and glacial work ethic of the post-Soviet East. The recent overthrow of the Yanukovych government was a huge accomplishment and had the potential to be Ukraine’s Magna Carta moment. It still might, though the Russian invasion throws everything into question.
Russia, by contrast, is a state looking for a culture. Ever since the Grand Duchy of Muscovy’s conquest (yes, conquest) of the Kingdom of Novgorod, the idea of a Greater Muscovy people, or later, a greater Russian people, has been inseparable from forced cultural assimilation, reaching its barbaric apogee in Soviet times. The joke was that if you beat a Polish man long enough, he becomes a Russian.
The expansionist idea is evident again in the symbol of Dugin’s “Russian Spring” — golden spear points radiating in all directions.
While Dugin invokes a Russian people to describe even 9th century Kievan-Rus, the idea of a Russian people is actually only slightly older than the idea of an American people.
It was in the 18th century that Czar Peter I, formerly of the Grand Duchy of Muscovy told his diplomats to start referring to the Grand Duchy and its conquests as “Russia” — a name taken from the contested legacy of Kievan-Rus.
Though many states can be described as military unifications of more tribal kingdoms, the Russian state was particularly audacious in expanding its myth to encompass Finno-Ugrics, Slavs, Caucasians, Asians, Tartars, and other Turkik peoples.
Once Russia extended its national myth beyond the boundaries of their core population, their problem has been the unification of disparate and unwilling cultures. So it remains.
Long before Peter Sutherland’s infamous statement about “undermin[ing] national homogeneity” through mass immigration, the cultures of the steppe were being undermined by population transfers, mass deportation, language restrictions, and purges of writers, artists, musicians and other cultural figures.
What the Europeanists and globalists only now pursue with a velvet glove (or at least a leather one) has long since been pursued with an iron fist in the steppe.
Thus it is a bit peculiar to witness the alliance between the Kremlin and much of Europe’s far right. As detailed by Anton Shekhovtsov:
International ‘observers’ at the illegal and illegitimate ‘referendum’ held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea occupied by the Russian ‘little green men.’ The overwhelming majority of the ‘observers’ are representatives of a broad spectrum of European extreme-right parties and organisations: Austria’s Freiheitliche Partei (FPÖ) and Bündnis Zukunft, Belgian Vlaams Belang and Parti Communautaire National-Européen, Bulgarian Ataka, French Front National, Hungarian Jobbik, Italian Lega Nord and Fiamma Tricolore, Polish Samoobrona, Serbian ‘Dveri’ movement, Spanish Plataforma per Catalunya. They were invited to legitimise the ‘referendum’ by the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy & Elections (EODE) . . . Presented by Michel as ‘a non-aligned NGO’, the EODE does not conceal its anti-Westernism and loyalty to Putin, and is always there to put a stamp of ‘legitimacy’ on all illegitimate political developments, whether in Crimea, Transnistria, South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Moscow’s money talks. . . .
Front National’s Marine Le Pen now visits Moscow on a seemingly regular basis. . . .
Jobbik’s leader Gábor Vona gave a lecture at Moscow State University at the invitation of Russian right-wing extremist Aleksandr Dugin; according to Vona, it would be better for Hungary to leave the EU and join the Russia-dominated Eurasian Union. Dugin himself gave a talk in the United Kingdom at the invitation of the far-right Traditional Britain Group and wrote a letter of support to Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the now jailed leader of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, whose political programme urges Greek society to turn away from ‘American Zionists’ and ‘Western usury’ towards Russia. . . .
Putin’s far-right government is eager to co-operate with any European ultranationalist party unless it is critical of Russia for historical or other reasons. . . .
On April 9th, Jobbik’s MP Tamás Gaudi Nagy made a 3-minute speech against European democracy wearing a T-shirt saying “Crimea legally belongs to Russia! Transcarpathia legally belongs to Hungary!”
Of course, politics have always made strange bedfellows.
By endearing themselves to the Kremlin, they get financial support. This matters. The risk is a compromised message, and the loss of nationalist movements in in Eastern Europe where the terrifying memory of Kremlin hegemony outweighs any fear of encroaching cultural Marxism.
As observed by Steve Sailor, Ukraine’s revolution had a very nationalist and conservative character, but now that it’s accomplishment is threatened by Moscow, Ukrainians are increasingly willing to embrace whatever it can get from the West in exchange for closer ties and protection, if only economic. Since the government was toppled in February, support for joining the EU has risen from 41 to 53%. (See page 38 of this report.)
With a weakened west and a collapsing empire overseas, Russia has tremendous potential to rise as the military and resource wing of European people. They would need to refocus on their core population and fight corruption whose size, scope and callousness is unique among Europeans.
Rather than seizing this potential, they’ve returned to their failed historic role of dragging surrounding nations and people into this morass of corruption and brutality. Instead of building a foundation for commerce and trade (including trade of military protection), they’ve decided to expand the rubric of a “greater Russian people” by several hundred kilometers.
They will continue to be the Europeans distinguished by their failure at modern civilization.