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Ukraine Is Not Russia

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Photo: The purpose of Russia's lies is obvious: to justify Russia's right to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian identity. Source: Collage the Gaze.
Photo: The purpose of Russia's lies is obvious: to justify Russia's right to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian identity. Source: Collage the Gaze.

"Ukraine never existed". "Ukraine was created by Lenin". "The Bolsheviks gave Ukraine, which they created, lands with a Russian population." These theses are broadcast to the world by Russian propaganda and, in fact, by the Russian government in the person of its dictator Vladimir Putin. Thousands of "fighters of a special cultural operation», as Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage, called Russian artists, museum workers, and historians, convey these thoughts in various ways to Western audiences as if they were unalterable. This is an unequivocal and irrevocable lie. Ukraine existed independently of the pseudo-scientific constructs of Putin and company. Rather, we should be talking about the significant Ukrainian influence on the formation of Russia in every respect at a time when it was just emerging as an empire. 

The purpose of Russia's lies is obvious: to justify Russia's right to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian identity. Because according to the Russians, they are artificial. These Kremlin theses have been repeated many times on various platforms by authoritative speakers. Therefore, in Russia, they are perceived as an axiom. The world is also accustomed to them, although, in fact, they do not stand up to the slightest fact-checking. The thesis about "lands with Russian population that were given to Ukraine" seems to be particularly fundamental. But in reality, it is too shaky, although Russians rely on it like a rock.  

Looking for "Russian Ethnic Lands" in Ukraine

For decades, Russian propaganda has been trying to prove that Ukraine has a lot of territories that are allegedly ethnic Russian lands. It is usually said that Ukraine received them from the Bolsheviks as a gift. It is interesting that those who promote this thesis do not see any logical errors in their statements. Because at the same time they say that "Ukraine and Ukrainians were created by Lenin." Ukraine here is a Soviet republic within the USSR. In this statement, Ukrainians are seen as part of a single Russian people, related to Russians. 

But then the statement that ethnic Russian lands were annexed to a republic with an artificially created people looks absurd. After all, this recognizes that there is a significant difference between Russians and Ukrainians. And obviously, this difference is not artificial, if Russians believe that the annexation of the lands could have been painful. The fact is that this is also a lie. There are, of course, territories in eastern Ukraine with a Russian population. But these are not the gigantic areas of hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, with numerous settlements, that Russian propaganda portrays. 

The main argument used by Russians when they claim that eastern Ukraine has an entirely Russian population and should belong to the Russian Federation is the alleged widespread use of the Russian language by local residents. However, such a linguistic situation developed only after World War II. Yes, Russian was indeed spoken in industrial areas before, but it was not completely dominant. This is a consequence of the USSR's deliberate policy of Russification of the population. The education system was actively used for this purpose. In other words, Ukrainian schools were transformed into Russian ones.

Moreover, the linguistic picture of eastern Ukraine was deliberately defamed by Russia. The north of the Luhansk region remained Ukrainian-speaking, as did a significant number of rural areas of the Donetsk region. Moreover, in many places at the end of the Soviet Union and already during Ukraine's independence (since 1991), one could witness a linguistic bifurcation. The older generation still spoke Ukrainian, while the younger generation switched to Russian as a more socially prestigious language. But the fact is that, at the same time, to the east of the Ukrainian border on the territory of what is now the Russian Federation, there are areas that historically constituted a single inseparable mass of Ukrainian population with the territory of Ukraine. Against this backdrop, Russia's territorial claims to Ukraine look brazen, immoral, and downright stupid.

Russia not only lays claims to Ukrainian lands, but has been waging an aggressive full-scale war since February 24, 2022, aimed at capturing either all or a significant part of Ukraine. Moreover, the Russians have already announced the incorporation of a number of regions occupied by them as a result of their aggression into the Russian Federation. Ukraine, on the other hand, proceeds from the principle of territorial integrity and has never had any claims to Russian lands. Despite the fact that Russia includes a number of territories that at various times were part of Ukrainian state entities or their Ukrainian ethnic population sought to do so.

Finding Ethnic Ukrainian Lands in Russia

Let's talk about the Ukrainian lands bordering Ukraine's border: Starodubshchyna, which is now part of the Bryansk region of the Russian Federation, Eastern Slobozhanshchyna, which is divided between the Kursk, Belgorod, and Voronezh regions, and Taganrog, which is now in the Rostov region. 

I could also mention the Kuban. But this territory is still somewhat remote from Ukraine proper and has certain peculiarities. Ukrainians have lived there in large numbers only since the late eighteenth century in the form of the Black Sea and then the Kuban Cossack armies. For a long time, they maintained mental unity with Ukraine. But at the same time, they acted as an instrument of the tsarist government in the Caucasian War and the Circassian genocide. During the destruction of the Russian Empire in the early twentieth century, there were indeed certain aspirations for unity with Ukraine. But all this is history.

Starodubshchyna is a part of the Ukrainian state formation of the Hetmanate (Zaporizhzhia Army, which had autonomy within the Russian state) that existed in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the Russian Empire, Starodubshchyna was part of the Chernihiv province, which was Ukrainian by population. After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1918, it was part of the Ukrainian State of Hetman Skoropadskyi. But after the Bolsheviks seized Ukraine, they voluntarily included Starodubshchyna in the Gomel province, which was later transferred to the Belarusian SSR, but Starodubshchyna remained in Soviet Russia. 

Eastern Slobozhanshchyna was formed in the seventeenth century on deserted lands that belonged to Moscow. The Ukrainians who settled there served to guard the Russian border, preserved their Cossack system, but were subordinate to Russian leaders. There were attempts by hetmans to unite these territories with the Hetmanate, but they proved to be in vain. In 1765, Russian Empress Catherine II abolished the autonomy of Slobozhanshchyna (at the same time she eliminated the autonomy of the Hetmanate, and the protests were suppressed by the Russian authorities). 

After the collapse of the Russian Empire, the entire Slobozhanshchyna sought to become part of the newly formed Ukrainian state. A part of it, with the cities of Bilhorod and Hraivoron, was part of it. However, the victory of the Moscow Bolsheviks meant that only the part of Slobozhanshchyna that was in the former Kharkiv province of the Russian Empire ended up in the Ukrainian SSR. The Bolsheviks in Moscow ignored numerous appeals from the population of Eastern Slobozhanshchyna and the communist leaders of the Ukrainian SSR to join these regions to the Ukrainian SSR. They also ignored their own principle of an "ethnographic border." 

Moscow's voluntarism is especially evident in the situation with Taganrog at the time. The Taganrog district had more than 70% Ukrainian population. The city and the district had been part of the Ukrainian SSR, created by the Bolsheviks, since 1920, including its Donetsk province. However, on October 16, 1925, the Presidium of the USSR Executive Committee adopted a resolution "on the settlement of the borders of the Ukrainian SSR with the RSFSR and BSSR." According to this resolution, Taganrog was ceded to Russia. No one in Moscow paid attention to the weak protests of the Bolsheviks from Kyiv.

***

In the Ukrainian ethnic lands of the Russian Federation, the Russian Bolsheviks and their descendants killed Ukrainian cultural and social life. They are preparing the same for other occupied territories. They justify their seizures with false narratives about the allegedly "unjust border" with Ukraine. It was indeed drawn unfairly by Moscow, but at the expense of Ukrainians, whom Moscow divided to make it easier to assimilate. The world needs to know about this Russian lie. The truth will not allow Russia to justify its aggression with history and the "defense of justice."


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