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“Rus’” does not mean “Russia”

Aug 11, 2022 | News, Featured

The Petro Jacyk Education Foundation

The further invasion of Ukraine by Russia and its mass disinformation campaign denies the existence of Ukrainians based on declaring the medieval Rus’ state centered on Kyiv as Russian and the people who lived in it as Russians. In fact, Rus’ was the name of a medieval state centered on the city of Kyiv that encompassed many diverse Slavic, Finnic and Baltic peoples.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky’s scholarly and extensive History of Ukraine-Rus’ (which is now available in an academic twelve book English-language edition) clearly shows Ukrainians to be a distinct people from Russians as are others in eastern Europe such as Slavic peoples like Poles, Czechs, Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats and Finnic peoples such as Finns and Estonians, etc. With his broader understanding of history, which included culture and society, Hrushevsky was able to demonstrate the continuity of the development of the Ukrainian people in the Ukrainian lands over many centuries beginning in the Rus’ state in the 9th and 10th centuries. He demonstrates that the Russian people originated only from the 12th and 13th centuries and only in the north-east periphery of that state.

The intentional historical inaccuracy of mixing up modern Russia with medieval Rus’ continues despite the voluminous scholarly literature available that challenges such revisionist acts. Indeed, some 19th century Russian scholars had tried to connect the Russians to the legacy of early Rus’ by arguing the people of old Rus’ migrated to the Moscow area from Ukraine. The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin’s imperialist, colonialist approach and his own quasi-historical musings can best be combatted by careful scholarship and the scrupulous use of proper terminology.

With the University of Alberta’s publication of Hrushevsky’s monumental history in English, fully completed in 2021, the field of Slavic Studies and Eastern Europe can begin the process of decolonization and fruitfully examine the links between early Rus’ and modern Ukraine. One needs to be made more aware of such reputable historical works.

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