The Idea of a Russian People

The ideas of a “Russian” people is a fairly new (18th century) idea. Ever since the Grand Duchy of Muscovy conquered the Kingdom of Novgorod, the Russian idea has been the annihilation of local cultures and identity for the purpose of uniting disparate peoples.

It is also fundamentally contradictory to the idea of a Ukrainian people.

Ukrainians see themselves as the unlucky but noble inheritors of Kyiv-Rus, who, since the kingdom’s destruction by the Mongols in 1241, have defined themselves with efforts to resist slavery (feudalism) from Moscow, Poland or the Ottoman empire, and cultural invasion from Muscovites. A lot of Ukrainian poetry deals with the idea of a hi-jacked identity. (“What are these Muscovites searching for in our torn-open graves? An ancient parent?”)

Russians see themselves at the cultural descendents of Kyiv-Rus whose political center shifted to Moscow and St Petersburg. They see themselves as the great uniters of slavic (and non-slavic) people.

The Ukrainian ideas can exist without Russia. The Russian idea can’t exist without Ukraine.