Ukraine: Geopolitics & Identity

The 2014 crisis in Ukraine serves as a reminder that in the quest for strategic advantage, the Western powers will not only exploit popular discontent to carry out regime change, but they also will manipulate currents of nationalism for their globalist agenda. Russian conservative author and publisher Mikhail Smolin shares an in-depth perspective on the origins of Ukrainian nationalism and its relation to the Great Game. Translation by Mark Hackard.

In 1912 the outstanding Russian jurist, professor and doctor of international law Pyotr Evgenievich Kazansky wrote:

We live in a bewildering time, when artificial states, artificial peoples and artificial languages are founded.

In our own age, old historical fictions are again returning from nothingness. One of the most dangerous is “Ukrainianism,” which attempts to give an ideological and historical-political basis for the dismemberment of the Russian body, separating from it the Little Russians, having self-defined them as “Ukrainians” unknown to history. Such “national formations” have no ethno-historical roots; they are a product of the modern era. Before the Revolution the Russian nation was one, and the terms Velikorus (Great Russian), Malorus (Little Russian) and Belorus (White Russian) were perceived as concepts determining the geographic location of origin of one or another Russian citizen of the Russian Empire. National separatists appropriate ethnographic meanings to these names, at odds with the historical reality of their origin.

The appearance of such concepts as Little Russia, Great Russia, Little Russian, Great Russian, etc., must be related back to the time after the Tatar invasion. A united Rus was dismembered by the enemy into Northern Rus, Vladimir-Suzdal, transformed later into Moscow, and Southwest Rus – Galicia-Volynia – which then entered the Russo-Lithuanian state, and after the union with Poland, into the Rzeczpospolita. Yet under these conditions, political life and the life of the Church among the dismembered parts of the one Rus did not cease. The religious authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the Russian Orthodox Church, which then existed as a bishopric of this patriarchate, was recognized both in Northern Rus and in the Southwest. Political relations between both parts of Rus with the Byzantine Emperor also continued to exist. The necessity of communication with a Rus fragmented in two forced the churchmen and statesmen of Byzantium to differentiate one Rus from the other in their documents, having given each a certain designation. The Byzantines applied ready geographical terms of classical antiquity: the little country and the great country. These geographical terms signify that initial metropole of a given people is called the little land, and the lands colonized by the metropole of this people are named the greater lands.

In Greek pronunciation, u was replaced by o, and therefore the Byzantines called the Russian people Ρώσοι, and our country was known as Ρωσσία. Proceeding from that, Byzantine men of letters termed Galicia-Volynia and Kievan Rus Little, and Northern Rus, Vladimir-Suzdal and Muscovy Great. Through Russian scholars, this terminology penetrated to Rus and became natural both in Little and Great Rus. As such, the historical understandings of Little Russia and Great Russia came to us as the cultural property of the Byzantine Empire.

Now let us cross over to the historical roots of Ukrainian nationalism. Whence appeared “Ukrainians” and “Ukraine” in place of the historical terms Little Russian and Little Russia?

We shall begin from the fact that the word “Ukraine” and “Ukrainian” in Russian chronicles are encountered only in the sense of borderlands, not as a land populated by an unknown “Ukrainian” people. The word Ukraina is only another form of the word okraina (borderland).

Researchers of Ukrainian nationalism relate the appearance of the word Ukraina, in the sense of a proper noun rather than common, to the end of the seventeenth century, when after the Pereyaslavl Rada of 1654 and the “eternal peace” concluded in 1686 between the Russian state and Poland (according to which left-bank Malorussia with Kiev went into the eternal possession of the Russian state), the Poles understood what a real danger the common faith and ethnicity among the residents of the Polish borderlands and the Russian state carried. Aiming to suppress the wish of Russian people living in Poland to reunite with the Russian state, Polish scholars directed all their efforts at proving that there were no Russians in Poland, only a special “Ukrainian” nationality. In historiography, there is a most widespread consensus on the role of Polish influence in divorcing Little Russia from Russia and in the formation of a Ukrainophile movement.

Summing up these opinions, we can repeat along with one of the researchers of this question that the Poles “took upon themselves the role of a midwife during the birth of Ukrainian nationalism and a nanny during its upbringing.”

The Twentieth Century

“Anti-Russian Rus,” founded by the Poles in the nineteenth century under the guise of Ukrainophilism for the national end of struggle against the Russian Empire over their lost sovereignty, changed masters a number of times in the twentieth century. Among them were the Austrians, the Germans and the Americans, but the goal of the movement’s existence was always the same: the dismemberment of the Russian nation.

For its part, Austro-Hungary dreamed of creating an allied Kievan kingdom headed by one or another branch of the Hohenzollerns or Habsburgs. Germany, as the stronger power, outstripped in her designs an Austro-Hungary weakened by internal dysfunction, as the latter empire thought sooner how to preserve what was already in her possession.

Germany’s wish to tear away the entire south of the Russian Empire (the coal of Donetsk, the oil of Baku, etc.) conformed to longtime dreams of a breakthrough to the East – here one can recall the project of a railroad from Berlin to Constantinople to Baghdad, and also the choice of allies for the First World War – Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey – again an attempt to create a line from Berlin to Baghdad. Hence the desire to weaken Russia as much as possible before decisive world-scale battles, for which Germany was already preparing over several decades. And so, for example, under the German General Staff long before the First World War, there was organized a section engaged in Ukrainian affairs. This section executed projects and organized disunity inside the Russian nation.

As researcher of Ukrainian nationalism Prince A. M. Volkonsky wrote:

Germany needed to rupture the linguistic ties between the Little Russian and the Great Russian, for having torn away the cultured class of Russia’s south from the Russian literary and academic language, it would be easier to impose her German culture upon the country. The Germans began to support the artificial ‘Ukrainian mova.’ They acted in German fashion, systematically and not losing any time. From the first year of the Great War, Malorussian prisoners were separated into special camps and subjected there to ‘ukrainization’; for the most susceptible, something along the lines of a ‘Ukrainization Academy’ was set up in Koenigsberg. Hundreds of thousands of propagandized prisoners of war returning home to Little Russia in 1918 became the main instrument of spreading the Ukrainian idea in the peasant medium. (Prince A. M. Volkonsky. Historical Truth and Ukrainophile Propaganda. Turin, 1920. Page 129.)

The February Masonic conspiracy of 1917 did not allow Emperor Nicholas II carry out the general spring offensive along the entire front and once and for all break the forces of the exhausted enemy. After several months, Germany was able to bring her protégés to power in Russia – the Leninist Bolsheviks – and Grushevsky’s Mazepites in “independent Ukraine.” Thus Germany received a deferment from unavoidable defeat in the First World War for an entire year.

The south of Russia was vitally important for Germany. Matthias Erzberger, a German minister, said at an institutional gathering:

The Russian question is nothing less than part of a great debate the Germans are conducting with the English over the goal of world domination. We need Lithuania and Ukraine, which should be Germany’s forward positions. Poland should be weakened. And if Poland is in our hands, then we shall close all routes to Russia, and she will belong to us. Is it not clear that only on this path lies Germany’s future?

German statesmen acted completely consciously and systematically on that path, as evidenced by German Chancellor Michaelis in June of 1917:

We should be very careful that the literature by which we hope to strengthen the process of Russia’s collapse does not achieve exactly the opposite end… The Ukrainians still nonetheless reject the idea of total separation from Russia. Open interference from our side in favor of an independent Ukrainian state can doubtless be used by the adversary for the goal of exposing extant nationalist currents as created by Germany.(Zeman, Z. A. Germany and the Revolution in Russia 1915-1918. New York, 1958. P 65-67.)

But all hesitations were cast aside when the question of Germany’s fate became more acute. Hence the notion suggested by the Germans to the ideologues of Ukrainianism about an “independent Ukraine from the Carpathians to the Caucasus without master or servant.” And the Germans considered that from the Caucasus, they themselves could reach the Middle East.

At that time there also appeared ideas of a union from the Black to the Baltic Sea (the restoration of the Rzezcpospolita at a new stage of history?) – the alliance of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belorussia, and Malorussia. This possibility is now foreseen in further plans in the struggle with Russia: the separation of “Asiatic” Moscow from “civilized” Europe by a wall of “second-class” Europeans…

Ukrainian separatism in the twentieth century becomes ever more unprincipled – it is ready to reconcile with any regime as long as it was on its side, i.e. in one or another fashion supported the Ukrainian movement. And so many advocates for independence, headed by M. Grushevsky, finally ended up in the camp of the Bolsheviks, who recognized the terms “Ukrainian,” “Ukraine” and the “Ukrainian language.” In 1923, after the Twelfth Congress, the Communists declared a policy of indigenization, the development of all non-Russian nationalities (and those considered non-Russian), a program expressed in the Ukraine through the ukrainization of the population and the introduction of the Ukrainian language beginning with state and party officials. Having come to power, the Bolsheviks generally created all the conditions for the growth and maturation of Ukrainian nationalism, which upon the death of its Communist overseer shredded the unity of the Russian people, threatening in time to become a forward bulwark of anti-Russian forces in the world.

The modern state of Ukraine adopts in all manifestations of its policies a consistently anti-Russian position. As at the beginning of the twentieth century, Ukrainian separatism is tasked with founding a nation of “Ukrainians” through the formation of a Ukrainian ideological elite, which should fashion a single nation from the ethnographic distinctions of the Malorussian population of various provinces and from the myth of a unified Cossack tribe. An artificial willed ethnogenesis is created in the cauldron of the Ukrainian state. M. Grushevsky would write that “Ukrainianism in Russia should go beyond the boundaries of ethnographic nationality to become a political and economic factor and attend to the organization of Ukrainian society as a nation now if it doesn’t wish to be several generations late.”

Russian history has shown that the most terrible enemies of the Russian people have been of an internal nature. Russians in their placidity cannot fully believe that among their own might be traitors. Therefore the Ukrainian question is so important, for it is a matter of internal unity of the nation and a new gathering of lands that awaits our national-political awakening. So wrote the ideologue of discord, Dmitry Dontsov:

As a rule, the Ukrainian question appears like a comet over Europe’s political skies every time that a critical moment ensues for Russia.

The national goals of peoples who have matured to activity on a world scale are always directed toward the full mastery of their natural territory and influence upon vital lands adjoining the nation. Therefore, on the one hand, the task of the nation consists in defining the natural borders of the spread of its dominion and in the establishment of necessary influence upon vital neighboring regions. On the other hand, it follows to be wary of ideas such as the notion of world hegemony, as they inevitably lead to an extreme squandering of the nation’s energies and do not bring about the desired result.

For the achievement of the set objectives, the spiritual health and internal unity of the nation are necessary. The former is reached through support of the belief that is truth for the nation. Russians confess Orthodoxy, the only true and saving faith, and therefore the preservation of the Orthodox faith is the main task both for the Church and the state and for every Russian. The latter is reached by correct organization and support of the sovereign, social and cultural life of the nation, which it is necessary to protect from harmful outside influences, especially if they are aimed at, for example, Ukrainianism, the schism of the Russian nation.