Welcome Guest! You are here: Home » Russia Ukraine War

Decoding The Russian-Ukrainian Connection

Political rhetoric may not need to be accurate, but there is no doubt that Russia and Ukraine have long and intertwined historical and cultural affinities

Thursday February 24, 2022 10:59 PM, Vikas Datta, IANS

Russia Ukraine Connection

Just ahead of the military action in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin had, in an address to his nation (and the world), termed Ukrainian statehood a "fiction" and attributed the very existence of modern Ukraine to Bolshevik leaders in wake of the 1917 Revolution.

Political rhetoric may not need to be accurate, but there is no doubt that Russia and Ukraine have long and intertwined historical and cultural affinities. For starters, the first names of both the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents - Vladimir and Volodymyr (Zelensky) - are variants.

And then, guess where famous Russians such as the writer Nikolai Gogol, and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev were born? Or where did Nikita Khrushchev, who can be blamed for a lot of the present-day problems in this connection - handing over the Crimean Peninsula from Russia to Ukraine in the 1950s - begin his career?

Also Read | Russia Ukraine War: Anti-war protest, anthem of Ukraine in Russia as fighting rages

Both Russia and Ukraine can be said to have emerged as independent nations after the on December 25, 1991, but the latter was - along with Belarus (or Byelorussia then) - a separate member of the United Nations from its inception after World War II.

Both of the Slavic race, and the Orthodox Christian Church, Russians and Ukrainians (or at least half of them) have been linked since Kievan Rus emerged in the 9th century, and both claim it as a birthplace of their modern cultures, religion, and language, with the Russian state centred around Moscow only coming up a few centuries later.


After the breakup of Kievan Rus in the 12th century and consequent subjugation by the Mongols, there was no Ukrainian "state" as such till the 20th century.

The historical reality, spanning a millennium of changing religions, borders and peoples, and politics, is much more complex, if not confusing - and explains why the eastern and western parts of Ukraine are different in culture and even religion.

Much of the latter was even a part of Poland - for about 20 years - following World War I, and before that, under the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. The rest was a part of the Tsarist empire - and then the Soviet Union.

Any good history book can tell you about the tortuous fate of the territories that comprise present-day Ukraine, in the last five centuries or so under various empires and regimes, there are some more nuances that need to be explored.

First, despite historically close political and cultural ties, Ukraine was never Russified to the same extent as Belarus (where Belarusian is now spoken only by about 10 per cent of the population).

And then, the Ukrainians are not enthused by the autocratic rule of both the Tsars and the Commissars - especially, Stalin, who is blamed by them for the devastating famine caused by the collectivisation drive in the early 1930s, which is still remembered as the "Holodomor" (death by hunger) that left at least 4 million of them dead.

Also Watch | People are singing national anthem of Ukraine in Warsaw in solidarity

Then, take the name of Ukraine itself - it is derived from "krai", an Eastern Slavic-origin word that can mean both "edge" or "borderland" - still in use in Russia, as in Primorsky Krai - the southeastern-most part of Russia, bordering China and North Korea.

A section of scholars, however, contend that "krai" can also mean "country" or, even, "homeland". Historically, Ukraine was sometimes referred to as "the Ukraine", but this is considered incorrect or even offensive now - as U.S. President George H.W. Bush once learned to his cost.

The problem is rooted in grammar. In Eastern Slavic (both the Russian and Ukrainian languages), the preposition "na" (as in the English transliteration) is used to refer to regions or areas, while "v" (transliterated) is used to refer to proper nouns or definite locations.

Until 1991, Ukraine could be referred to using "na", but most Ukrainians have now switched to "v", but the Russians stubbornly still use "na". This leads to Ukrainians thinking that the "na" user doesn't consider Ukraine a "real" country, although there are some Ukrainians who use "n?" either out of habit, or they just don't see it as an issue.

A complicated relationship, made more so by present events, the Russian-Ukrainian connection seems to keep on being interesting - not to mention impactful - for the wider world.

For all the latest News, Opinions and Views, download ummid.com App.

Select Language To Read in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi or Arabic.

Google News

Share this page

 Post Comments
Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of www.ummid.com