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February 26, 2022

Should Ukraine own Russia?

hkyiv.jpg

From the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv

I can't keep up with the reports of what is going on in Eastern Europe. How about you? I have some understanding of the history of the region, but maybe a little refresher on Ukrainian history might be useful as events unfold. Plus a map.

History of Ukraine

From Britannica:

From prehistoric times, migration and settlement patterns in the territories of present-day Ukraine varied fundamentally along the lines of three geographic zones. The Black Sea coast was for centuries in the sphere of the contemporary Mediterranean maritime powers. The open steppe, funneling from the east across southern Ukraine and toward the mouth of the Danube River, formed a natural gateway to Europe for successive waves of nomadic horsemen from Central Asia. And the mixed forest-steppe and forest belt of north-central and western Ukraine supported an agricultural population (most notably the Trypillya culture of the mid-5th to 3rd millennia BCE), linked by waterways to northern and central Europe. The marshlands of these zones were frequent areas of both military conflict and cultural transmission.

A variety of groups came and went before the Slavic people we thinks of as "Ukrainian" even got there. Other ethnic groups came, too. Especially in the West. They didn't always get along.


The history is way too complex to include here. You'll have to click over to read it. Keep in mind that some of the subheadings refer to history that was taking place in different parts of Ukraine at the same time.

I noted that the Left and Right Banks of Dnieper River were often ruled by different groups. Kviv is on the river. You will recognize some other place names here, too.

ukraine-ma.gif

The formation of the Kyivan state that began in the mid-9th century, the role of the Varangians (Vikings) in this process, and the name Rus by which this state came to be known are all matters of controversy among historians. It is clear, however, that this formation was connected with developments in international trade and the new prominence of the Dnieper route from the Baltic to Byzantium, on which Kyiv was strategically sited. Trade along this route was controlled by Varangian merchant-warriors, and from their ranks came the progenitors of the Kyivan princes, who were, however, soon Slavicized. In the early chronicles the Varangians were also called Rus, and this corporate name became a territorial designation for the Kyivan region--the basic territory of the Rus; later, by extension, it was applied to the entire territory ruled by members of the Kyivan dynasty.

By the end of the 10th century, the Kyivan domain covered a vast area from the edge of the open steppe in Ukraine as far north as Lake Ladoga and the upper Volga basin. Like other medieval states, it did not develop central political institutions but remained a loose aggregation of principalities ruling what was a dynastic clan enterprise. Kyiv reached its apogee in the reigns of Volodymyr the Great (Vladimir I) and his son Yaroslav I (the Wise). In 988 Volodymyr adopted Christianity as the religion of his realm and had the inhabitants of Kyiv baptized. Rus entered the orbit of Byzantine (later, Orthodox) Christianity and culture. A church hierarchy was established, headed (at least since 1037) by the metropolitan of Kyiv, who was usually appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople. With the new religion came new forms of architecture, art, and music, a written language (Old Church Slavonic), and the beginnings of a literary culture.

I went to a Russian Orthodox service once. There was a Polish woman in our party who could understand most of the Old Church Slavonic in which the service was given.

So, should Russia belong to Ukraine? Or since Ukraine is old enough to have already gone through "The Ruin" once, is this just another cycle of destruction?

Both Russia and Ukraine have some corrupt oligarchs. Which ones should be favored?

Back to history:

Part of Ukraine was under Lithuanian, then Polish control for a while. Peasants did better under the Lithuanians.

OK, I didn't know that the Cossacks started out in Ukraine:

In the 15th century a new martial society--the Cossacks (from the Turkic kazak, meaning "adventurer" or "free man")--was beginning to evolve in Ukraine's southern steppe frontier. The term was applied initially to venturesome men who entered the steppe seasonally for hunting, fishing, and the gathering of honey. Their numbers were continually augmented by peasants fleeing serfdom and adventurers from other social strata, including the nobility. Banding together for mutual protection, the Cossacks by the mid-16th century had developed a military organization of a peculiarly democratic kind, with a general assembly (rada) as the supreme authority and elected officers, including the commander in chief, or hetman. Their centre was the Sich, an armed camp in the lands of the lower Dnieper "beyond the rapids" (za porohy)--hence, Zaporozhia (in contemporary usage, Zaporizhzhya).

The Cossacks defended Ukraine's frontier population from Tatar incursions, conducted their own campaigns into Crimean territory, and, in their flotillas of light craft, even raided Turkish coastal cities in Anatolia. The Polish government found the Cossacks a useful fighting force in wars with the Tatars, Turks, and Muscovites but in peacetime viewed them as a dangerously volatile element.

The Cossacks later developed a noble class. Some of them were given high positions under Catherine the Great, who really came down hard on many aspects of Ukrainian culture, outlawing the language, etc. Ukrainians were considered to be "Little Russians".

Putin has echoed the theme that Ukraine has no culture of its own recently. But some Cossack culture has been integrated into Russian culture.

Queen Elizabeth watches a Cossack performance

Jews in the empire were restricted by Catherine the Great to a certain part of Ukraine. This probably increased later hostilities with neighboring Ukrainians, to the great detriment of the Jews living there.

Last night, I again listened to a few minutes of NPR so you didn't have to. Caught part of the Moscow Correspondent's remarks. A red meat address by Putin in which he called upon the military in Ukraine to overthrow their government is included. Oh, and Putin is working on shutting down Facebook. He doesn't seem to like his people sharing their own views about the war.

Anyway, this goes to our historical theme:

RASCOE: Charles, in about the minute that we have left, I wanted to circle back to something you had said earlier - Nazis. For months, Putin has said this invasion is about two goals - demilitarizing Ukraine and de-Nazifying Ukraine. What does that mean?

MAYNES: Yeah. You know, Putin has directly compared NATO's expansion towards Russia's borders to Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II. And, you know, Putin has embraced the power and pain of those memories when he talks about genocide and fascism in Ukraine today. Some of it is clearly propaganda and, frankly, nonsense. President Zelenskyy, for example, is Jewish. And he said, you know, how can I be a Nazi?

But this is complicated history. There were forces in Ukraine that actively worked with the Germans against the Soviet Union. They saw the Nazis essentially as liberators. And today, there's a strain of Ukrainian nationalism that's unrepentant about that. It's a tiny minority, but it's a voice that exists. And the Kremlin propaganda machine exploits that at every turn.

RASCOE: NPR's Moscow correspondent Charles Maynes. Thank you.

After the Holomodor, the replacement of dead Ukrainians by Russians, destruction of the country as the Nazis advanced along with shooting political prisoners, etc., many Ukrainians really did see the Germans as liberators for a short time. Some even helped the Nazis round up Jews. But then, the Nazis started killing off their leadership, rounding them up and shipped 2.2 million of them off to slave labor in Germany. Among other hints that they were not liberators. Hence, the vast majority of Ukrainians today have no love for the Nazis.

Putin's narrative ignores all this. He echoes the behavior of some other "thought leaders" in the West.

Short Takes, related or not

In today's EMT, Vic linked the latest political cartoon from Michael Ramirez. If the West was not serious about Putin's incursions into Eastern Europe earlier, why now?

He also has up a remembrance of PJ O'Rourke:

Don't Vote, it just Encourages the Bastards, All The Trouble in the World, Peace Kills, Bachelor Home Companion, Modern Manners, Give War a Chance, CEO of the Sofa, On The Wealth of Nations, Republican Party Reptile, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut... Just a few of the treasures by PJ O'Rourke.

I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing.

He was a brilliant satirist with a sharp wit who could expose hypocrisy and dispatch the grandiloquent dissembler with a stroke of the pen... and leave them laughing about it.

PJ was a satirical genius... I was one of his biggest fans, along with millions of readers.

His columns were funny AND POWERFUL.

PJ demonstrated that substantive discourse could be engaging, persuasive, dynamic, compelling, memorable and devastating by its sheer entertainment and the hilarity of his writing. . .


Melissa Mackenzie:

I read this fascinating article on architecture and how in Russia, everything is oversized to make people feel small.

Look at the scale. Huge table. Huge door. The wainscoting is so high. Everything huge. Makes the people feel tiny.

State = huge. The human = small.

Music

Heroic Polonaise

Hope you have something nice planned for the weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs

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posted by K.T. at 11:19 AM

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