Over three hundred years ago, the Grand Duchy of Moscow appropriated the ancient name of Ukraine, Rus, and along with it, seized Ukrainian history and culture. Since then, Moscovia came to be known as Russia, Moskals became Russians, and Ukrainians were designated as their younger brothers. The essence of this renaming scam was aptly defined by Professor Alexander Brückner in his History of Russia: “A primitive people nurtured by Mongol Khans, with meager Oriental cultural heritage, suddenly transformed into an ancient European nation with a rich legacy.”
Professor Brückner was certainly not the first nor the only one to investigate and write about the scam of renaming Moscovia and Muscovites.
But the empire propagated its main myth for centuries about “Kyiv — the cradle of Russian civilization and fraternal nations,” and as a result, perhaps the whole world believed that it was true.
Even the large-scale barbaric war has enlightened only a few, as recently attested by the statements of the leaders of European states, including the Vatican. In this regard, it makes sense to recall a few excerpts from the works of those researchers who studied the ethnogenesis (origin) of the so-called “Russians.”
German scholars and the doubt of Slavic origin
Let’s start with German scholars Müller, Schlözer, and Stritter.
The story goes like this.
In the 18 century, the Academy of Sciences was founded in St. Petersburg. Due to a lack of Russian scientists, foreigners, mostly Germans, were invited to join the academy.
Over time, the esteemed professors of the history department, namely Müller, Schlözer, and Stritter, began researching the history of Russia.
During their scientific exploration, an unexpected revelation emerged: the German historians suddenly doubted the Slavic origin of Russians. Imperial historiographer Gerhardt Friedrich Müller published a work titled Origines gentis et nominis Russorum (The Origins of the Russian People and Name). In this work, Müller argued that the indigenous population of Moscovia consisted of the Chuds. As a result, his work was immediately banned, and most of the printed copies were destroyed.
Empress Catherine II immediately spoke out against such conclusions: “A secret circular was sent through relevant state institutions, in which the government assured that Russians, namely: Vyatichs, Merya, Muroma, are Slavs and are descended from the ancient Roxolani, that is, scattered peoples, from which, supposedly, the names Russia and Russians originated.” (According to researcher Yevhen Nakonechnyy).
After such a tsarist verdict, the desire for research on the origin of Russians diminished among German and other scholars for a long time.
But not forever.
The “intimate history” of the Russian People
In the 19 century, the renowned figure in Russian history, Professor Konstantin Kavelin of St. Petersburg University, took up the study of the origin of Russians. His conclusions once again shocked the public, as he referred to the Chud tribes (Mordva, Vyatichs, Muroma) becoming Russians as the “intimate, internal history of the Russian people, which still remains somewhat in the shadows, almost forgotten. Yet, it is within this history that the key to the entire course of Russian history lies.”
So how did this “intimate history” of the Russian people unfold?
In the 9-12 centuries, the territory of modern central Russia was a distant, remote province of princely Ukraine-Rus, separated by a vast array of impenetrable thickets (the famous Bryansk forests remain to this day). In Kyiv, this distant territory was called Zalissia until the 15 century. The natural conditions of this land were extremely harsh, and from time immemorial it was inhabited by “pre-Ugric wandering tribes of animal hunters and gatherers” (Professor of Archaeology Yaroslav Pasternak).
Many people in the world and even in Ukraine continue to believe in the myths about the cradle of fraternal peoples and about Rus, as the first Russian state.
During the time of Ukraine-Rus, Slavs gradually penetrated there.
Academician Hryhorii Pivtorak believes that there were never mass migrations of Slavs from the southern regions to the Zalissia, as the traditional agrarian Rusyns on the fertile lands of the Dnipro Ukraine had neither the need nor the desire to leave their native homes and venture into the semi-wilderness, overcoming impassable thickets and swamps.
“In Zalissia, it was initially adventurers, daredevils, and punished criminals fleeing persecution who went there, later followed by warriors, merchants and even later, Kyiv monks, preachers who sought to spread Christianity among the local pagans, often facing strong resistance, persecution, and martyrdom. As a result, a unique population formed in Zalissia, consisting primarily of Slavicized Finno-Ugrics. This community became the basis of the Suzdal-Moscovia nationality,” said Hryhorii Pivtorak.
Already in the 19 century, the prominent historian Mykola Kostomarov reached similar scientific conclusions: “Slavic newcomers mixed with the indigenous people of the East Finnic tribe, and from such a mixture Russian people formed.”
That is why even the luminaries of Russian history, such as Solovyov and Klyuchevsky, affirmed that the Russian ethnic group emerged only in the second half of the 12 century, during the time of Andrei Bogolyubsky.
“Andrei was the first appearance of the Great Russian on the historical stage,” noted Vasily Klyuchevsky, a Russian historian.
Ethnogenesis of the Russian people
Today, scientific research on the ethnogenesis of the Russian people is widely represented in numerous accessible sources. However, many people in the world, including in Ukraine, continue to fervently believe in myths about the cradle of fraternal nations and the Rus — the first Russian state.
“Since the Russian ethnic group appeared on the historical stage no earlier than the 12 century, the claims of official Moscow to Rus as the first Russian state appear absurd. It turns out that the Russian state emerged before the Russians themselves,” Professor Leonid Zaliznyak explained the absurdity of such myth-making.
And the Polish historian Franciszek Dukhinśki went even further, claiming that Muscovites do not belong to the Slavs or even the Indo-Europeans.
Dukhinśki’s arguments were as follows: Muscovites have a non-European, despotic form of governance; they exhibit an Asian-style collective community; there is a tendency towards nomadism… They illegitimately appropriated the name “Rus,” which rightfully belongs only to Ukrainians. According to Dukhinśki, the Russian language is corrupted Church Slavonic, lacking clearly defined dialectical features compared to other Slavic languages.
It is significant that the version of the historian Dukhinśki was very positively received by Karl Marx.
Evidence of the separateness of Ukrainian and Russian cultures
Archaeological, anthropological, and ethnographic materials undeniably testify to the separateness of the Ukrainian people from the Russian people, which has existed at all times.
Here are a couple of vivid examples in the field of ethnography.
Ethnographer Dmytro Zelenin drew attention to the fact that clothing items such as sundresses and bast shoes (lapti) are completely foreign to Ukrainians.
“There was no lapti made from tree bark in Ukraine. Their prevalence among Russians was explained solely by the scarcity of leather and the overall extreme poverty of the population,” wrote Zelenin.
Prince and emigrant Nikolai Trubetskoy, in his ethnographic study On the Problem of Russian Self-Consciousness, claimed that the key components of the Russian folk culture, namely lapti (bast shoes), kosovorotki (Russian peasant shirts), and women’s headwear, are unknown to Romance-Germans and Slavs.
In addition to the non-Slavic lapti, Prince Trubetskoy pointed out the non-Slavic pentatonic scale in Russian folk songs, the absence of spring songs, rusalka cycle, carols, and traditional New Year’s songs (shchedrivky) among the Russians.
Thus, the claims of brotherly ties between Ukrainians and Russians are complete falsehood. Unfortunately, this falsehood has clouded the minds not only of Kremlin propagandists but also numerous Ukrainian institutions, including national museums.
Before the large-scale war, most of these establishments consistently promoted the foundations of imperial history, with specific emphasis placed on figures like Prince Yaroslav the Wise in his kosovorotka shirt. This was done with reliable support and blessing from the Ministry of Culture and Information. The faith of the employees of these state institutions in the cradle of fraternal nations was vastly more powerful than the arguments put by academic historians and the laws of Ukraine.
And evidently, it remains the same to this day. Because how else can one explain the current information on the website of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine: “Rus — the first state of the Eastern Slavs.” And is this any different from the recent statement by Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church about the fraternal relations of the peoples who “were one people of a united Rus”?
Therefore, before demanding knowledge of Ukrainian history from the Pope, Ukrainians themselves need to gain access to it and finally study it. However, to do so, it is crucial to free Ukrainian state institutions, along with the Ukrainian information space, from adherents of the barbaric “Russian world.”
Originally posted by Iryna Kostenko and Iryna Khalupa on Glavcom.ua. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website