Ukraine Does Not Want to be ‘Little Russia’

Posted August 21st, 2011 at 8:20 pm (UTC+0)

Over dinner at a Kyiv restaurant, Oksana, a Ukrainian journalist remarks, in Russian, that if she ever had to visit Moscow, she would address people in Ukrainian.

At another gathering, Yulia, a visiting Russian, innocently suggests to Anna, a gallery manager, that it might be useful to have two passports – one Ukrainian and a second Russian. The angry response is a snap lesson in Ukrainian nationalism.

Over at the white columned Ukrainian foreign ministry, when the VOA camera is turned off, a Ukrainian diplomat turns on his Russian counterparts, calling them condescending, bullying, and trapped in the past. The way Russians try to sell a customs union, he says, is to spell out the economic punishments if Ukraine does not join. No mention of the upside.

On Wednesday August 24, Ukraine marks 20 years of independence.

Since 1991, this Central European country almost the size of France has been through plenty of economic and political zig zags.

In the latest political zig, Yulia Tymoshenko, the candidate who lost last year’s presidential election, is now sitting in jail, and, reportedly, suffering from declining health.
In the latest economic zag, Ukraine has recorded 5 percent growth during the first seven months of this year, well above oil rich Russia’s growth rate of 3.9 percent for the same period.

Despite the zig zags, one trend is consistent: the growth of national identity and the generalized acceptance by Ukrainians of their nation. This month, 93 percent of respondents to a poll conducted by the Research & Branding Group said they consider their homeland to be Ukraine.

Much the way that Canadian identity is forged by comparisons to the United States, Ukrainian identity is forged in opposition to Russia.

“What is Russification and Why Does it Lead to Poverty?” headlines a recent cover story in Ukrainian Week.

The satirical cover photo seems to portray the Gopnik family from the mythical — and backward — nation of Lower Slobbovia.

There is Dad, watching TV, grimly clutching Pravda. Behind him stands Daughter, smoking a cigarette, clearly on the road to teenage pregnancy. Next to her is Son, a bullet-headed guy who joyously grips a big bottle of beer. Also seated on the couch is Junior, a precocious two-year-old who already has learned a well-known rude finger gesture. In the middle is Mom, whose frozen smile might indicate she is taking large quantities of tranquilizers.

Inside, the Ukrainian Week authors walk readers through “The Anatomy of Russification” – economic, cultural and socio-political. To illustrate economic Russification, readers are treated to a photo of a stooped old woman in a Slavic shawl trudging past a shiny black Mercedes.

At one stage in my reporting career, I covered Canada. There are intriguing parallels between the Ukraine/Russia relationship and the U.S./Canada one. Both country pairs were once the same entity, sharing the same legal systems and dominant languages. Eventually, the pairs went their separate ways.

Today, United States has nine times the population of Canada. Russia has only three times the population of Ukraine.

Few (sane) people in Washington talk about a US-Canada merger. In fact, to the chagrin of some Canadians, few Americans obsess or think about Canada at all. Many Americans are probably only dimly aware that present day Canada and the United States were all part of the British Empire, until recognition of American independence in 1783.

But Russians have a different, more complicated relationship with Ukraine, a name that is often translated by Russians to mean ‘borderland.’ The forerunner of modern Russia was the Kievan Rus, an Eastern Slavic principality that adopted Orthodox Christianity in 988. For many Russians, the concept of an independent Ukraine is unnatural. How can the mother declare independence from her big, handsome son?

Moscow thought it had finally scored in Kyiv when their candidate , “pro-Russian” Viktor Yanukovych, was elected president last year.

But after 18 months in office, President Yanukovych has made it clear that his ambition is not to return to the czarist days when he would be ‘Governor’ of “Malaya Rossiya” – Little Russia. Similarly, Ukraine’s oligarchs don’t want to be demoted to be managers of subsidiaries reporting to Moscow.

In recent months, Moscow has proposed taking over Ukraine’s aviation, nuclear, and gas transmission companies. The Kremlin keeps proposing that Russia’s Gazprom merge with Ukraine’s Naftogaz. In Kyiv, people compare that proposal to a supermarket “merging” with a kiosk.

At least four times in the last year (I have lost count), Russia’s leaders have publicly invited Ukraine to join a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Some Ukrainians call this Soviet Union Lite. Two weeks ago, Ukraine’s President flew to Sochi to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev. Once again, the Russians invited the Ukrainians to join the customs union.

President Yanukovych’s public response came Friday in an interview with Dzerkalo Tizhnaya magazine.

“The time will come, and in another 10 years or so, (when) Ukraine will be part of the European Union,” the president said in an interview timed to coincide with the nation’s 20th Independence Day celebrations. “We have firmly decided our future. The choice of Europe has become the basis of Ukraine’s foreign policy identity.”
I wonder when Moscow will get it.

James Brooke
James Brooke is the Russia/CIS bureau chief for Voice of America. A lifelong journalist, he covered West Africa, Brazil, the American Rocky Mountain States, Canada, and Japan/Korea for The New York Times. A resident of Moscow since 2006, he was first Bloomberg bureau chief for the region. In 2010, he joined VOA. In addition to writing Russia Watch, his weekly blog, he also does video, radio and web reports from Russia and the former USSR.

57 responses to “Ukraine Does Not Want to be ‘Little Russia’”

  1. Sergey says:

    Russia had been powerful empire for centuries which bossed it’s provinces and neighbors around. In present day people still have little say in ruling of the country and political agenda is shaped by the few. Before there can be equal partner ship of Russia and it’s neighbors… Russian elite most recognize and treat it’s neighbors as sovereign nations, with out trying to cast it’s shadow over them.
    Russian has a lot of potential so does Ukraine. The only problem in Russia is monarchy style leadership and unwillingness to let go of corruption. It’s really nothing new, scars seized to exist a century ago and Communism fell only 20 years ago. Russia is well on it’s way of transformation. The government system is not evolving as fast as it’s public. Soviet and peasant like mentality is long gone, new generations expect their rights secured by their government. If not Russia will loose many of it’s people to other nations. Government is being forced to loosen it’s grip on power.
    As for Ukraine it might be in a better position because it is not governed by longing for imperial past. It is very probable for Ukraine to become part of EU.
    Unless leadership adopts more transcparent

  2. Gennady says:

    1. President Yanukovych’s public response represents just one Ukrainian opinion. Everybody remembers that he won seriously contested election with the Kremlin’s backing. So it looks as a factual treason.
    2. All Ukraine’s industrial and technological knowhow and might was created in the USSR at the expense of Russia’s and other republics’ underdevelopment. Ukrainians became too proud, particularly its western regions. They always hated all Russian. So now Ukraine wants to getaway with all it has accumulated.
    3. All Ukraine’s elite wants is to get unlimited supply of cheap Russia gas, raw materials and a vast market to dump its produce.
    4. With the EU and euro in hot waters some countries are in no hurry to join the EU and euro. So, should Ukraine dive in boiling water? Does the EU really want Ukraine? The EU is over-membered and has its problem with Greece and other weak members. The whole idea of European Union is in jeopardy. But Ukraine is far behind Greece
    5. Certainly the USA wants Ukraine and Georgia in the EU. The only reason is to weaken global position of Russia.
    6. Present day Russia got stuck in the past and its nowadays leaders can’t see any future for the country but to build all kinds of geo-political unions and subsidize Belorussia, Ukraine, Chechnya and a lot more lands, regions and countries at the expense of impoverished population . They don’t fight off Russia’s depopulation, corruption and stagnation; don’t develop Russia’s own technological might and knowhow.
    7. The blog and the VOA are heavily censored and some posts disappear into thin air. I’m not sure in the fate of my present one.
    8. Russia Watch is overloaded by comparing Russia with Brazil, Cuba/USA, Canada. But no prototype fitted Russia as it under PM Putin became too controversial to give one picture.

  3. A.T says:

    Russians have no plans to control Ukraine or hinder it from getting closer to European countries. Ukrainians themselves have wamer links to Russia than to other countries – we speak a very similar language and have hundred year of common history. Many Europeans and Americans polititians only need Ukraine when they want to hurt Russia, not when Ukrainians need Europe. Look how one-sided visa policy is, the same with Ukrainian products. Yes, people talk about mergers but of equality, not to control Ukraine. You need to read the Russian and Ukrainian blogs to know the true feelings about Russia-Ukraine relations.

    All in all, a rather Russophobic article. You will never get it, if you don’t stop demonising Russia.

    • Maria says:

      Stop lying. Most blogs, even those who prefer to speak Russian, do not want to JOIN Russia economically, and neither do the obilarchs and most people in Ukraine, except for the Crimea (which is no big loss, you can have it) and the far east. Deal with it and accept it. You can’t have it, you don’t get to have everything.

  4. Hear! Hear!
    Ukrainians do not have to be Rossians or Moscovites (let alone litle “Russians”) — they were and are Rusian — Ukrainians already.

  5. Ly Thong says:

    It’s said that Russia will never get out of its own trap: if it steps on the path of democracy, it will lag behind other civilized countries, if it remains on its path of dictatorship, it is a world leader. It chooses the latter. It is really difficult for a dictatorship that existed for almost a century to get out of its straight jacket. How and when can KGB-dominated Russia clear itself of this dilema?

  6. Victor Bird says:

    The author must learn Ukrainian (and Russian) history well before adhering to such ridiculous belief as common identity of Ukrainians and Russians.

    Just quick facts:

    1. Kyivan Rus was a Ukrainian state that existed for couple of centuries and became to existence in the end of 10th century ACE.
    2. Name “Russia” was a Greek form of the name of Ukrainian state, Kyivan Rus.
    3. Kyivan Rus collapsed and its lands (along with its people) were incorporated by other nations, including Muscovy or Russia later.
    4. Muscovite’s tzar Peter adopted the name of collapsed Ukrainian state Kyivan Rus in its Greek form, Russia.
    5. Along with adaptation of a name, Peter adopted a history of ones very powerful Ukrainian state of Kyivan Rus.
    6. Ukrainian and Russian languages are far from being similar. Nowadays Russians can hardly understand even 20% of Ukrainian language. Ukrainians can speak Russian fluently because they were forced to learn that language during Soviet times.
    7. Good half of Ukrainians were russified during the time of Russian empire (about 300 years) when half of Ukrainian lands were occupied by Russians. This, however, does not suggest that two nations are closely related.
    8. In modern Ukraine live about 14% of native Russians that are constantly screaming about deep relation between so-called big brothers Russians and little brothers Ukrainians.
    9. Modern Russian history is highly controversial and, based on many facts manipulations.
    10. The author of this article did a very bad homework on a history of two nations.
    11. The author’s statement about common identity of Ukrainian and Russian people is a GREAT ASSAULT to Ukrainians.

    • NDJ says:

      I just wanted to leave a comment here so that readers are aware that Victor Bird’s characterization of history is far outside mainstream here in the western world, and is very radical and nationalistic.

      You can not call Rus “Ukranian”, that is ahistoric and anachronistic. Rus was an East Slavic state that had important territory not only in what is now Ukraine, but also north in what is now Russia and Belarus. The city of Novgorod was one of the main centers of Rus, and is located in today’s Russia. Rus is the predecessor of all three countries, not just Ukraine. Moscow also was established in Rus and headed by Rurikid (the ruling dynasty that established Rus) royalty. Rus split up into independent principalities and duchies, one of which evolved into the Duchy of Moscow. I understand the legitimate grievances many Ukrainian nationalists have with Russia, but to try to exclude them from the common heritage of your two nations in Rus is not only ridiculous but quite offensive. I know that some Russian nationalists take the same approach against Ukraine, and I condemn that as well.

      And just to be clear, I am not Russian. I am an American University student in History specializing in Eastern Europe, so I am pretty familiar with what is mainstream and what isn’t, and wanted to give some more neutral information.

      • Egor says:

        Most things seem to be correct or nearly correct for me as well – except that Russian nationalists never “exclude” Ukraine from the common history – to the contrary, they claim that there is not many differences between Russians and Ukrainians – up to the very radical view of saying that Ukrainians are Russians with outdated “rural” language. Funny that on this point they in a way have the same view as the Ukrainian nationalists.

      • Victor Bird says:

        Have you ever thought that your believes can be based on the falsified information?

        Russians have been writing their history for centuries and, Ukrainians finally achieved their independence only 20 years ago. It is well known that nation that conquered the other nation is writing that other’s nation history. Mainstream believes are often based on falsities.

        Dig deeper.

        I will not post any responses to Russian people, for they are disrespectful toward Ukrainians and, their believes are based on 300 years old fairy-tales. There is no simply no place for discussion with such people.

    • Egor says:

      My dear brainwashed Ukrainian friend, would you please speak about yourself when you speak about a “great assult”?

      Do not speak on behalf of the nation.

      Your knowledge of your own history is appaling. Your knowledge of the Russian history in general is below zero (sine based on myths).

      You seem to have no ideas about Novgorod Velikiy – which was the first republic on the territory of Russia (and one of two (along with Pskov) ever existing until the 20th century) and which people actually founded Kievskaya Rus, or about Vladimiro-Suzdalskaya Rus which came after Kievskaya Rus. O about Tver which long rivaled Moscow. Or about migration of majority of those who survived the Tatar-Mongol invasion from Kiev to North.

      Shame on you.

      • Maria says:

        Your knowledge is not good either. Novgorod never wanted to be part of Moscovy-it was forcibly incorporated via a massacre by Ivan the terrible. And the “migration theory” has long been disproven. Ukrainians are just as much descendants to Kievan Rus (though with less Mongol influence) then Russians. Get over it. Oh, and I got all of this out of a RUSSIAN history book.

        • Egor says:

          Maria, you have to read “the Russian history book” again.:))

          Novgorod was subdued to Moscow in 1471 (I am simplifying a bit since there were some additional, lesser events during the next 3-4 years) by Ivan III, as a result of the Shelon’ battle – during which by the way Novgorodians did not show much willingness to defend their independence (the situation was quite difficult for the republic and most people reliased that they were going to be overtaken either by Moscow (sharing the same Orthodox Christianity) or by the Catholic countries.

          Ivan IV committed massacre in Novgorod in 1570, i. e. in 99 years.

          Too bad, Maria. It looks from the posts of Ukrainians that the history in Ukraine became just part of ideology. Too bad.

          And no, the “theory of migration” was never disapproven – moreover, now it is a common place. Guess, for instance why do we know the byliny (tales) about Ilya Muromets? I bet no one told you that these tales were preserved by oral transition from mother to children through 700-800 years by people in Arkhangelskaya oblast. And by the 19th century all Ukrainian fairy-tales were generating from Poland.

      • V says:

        ahahaha, I accidentally read this comment and it made me laugh. Such arrogance combined with the lack of knowledge of history.

    • Maria says:

      Actually dude, they are related. But that doesn’t give Moscow the right to treat us as they have. US and Canada are related to, but that doesn’t mean US should own Canada. I speak Ukrainian (I live outside Ukraine)-and I’m picking up Russian very easily. And Russians usually have some idea what I’m saying. While I sympathize with the nationalists, I try to take a center course. The main language should DEFINITELY be Ukrainian.

    • A.T. says:

      I’m a linguist. Slavic languages share from 60% of common roots. Even remote languages like Russian and Slovenian become mutually understandable after a short exposure, adjustment to the pronunciation. So you can only lie to someone who doesn’t speak Russian or Ukrainian. Ukraine joined Russia on a free will, it wasn’t forced. Russia doesn’t want to reoccupy Ukraine. You just need to have some warm tea with honey and go to bed, no TV or blogging tonight.

      • VER says:

        Ukraine joined Russia on a free will, it wasn’t forced???
        A.T. stops his education on the soviet school program, newer was in ukrainian village, newer speaks with old people…
        What I can say…Do like Lenin newer says – Учиться! Учиться! Учиться!
        And begin to read the books, naive Linguist!

      • Orest says:

        Another arrogant, uneducated Russian. I’m sick of you people.

        Never Ukrainians wanted to join savage Muscovy willingly. Muscovite tzar Peter the Great Lier massacred the capital of Ukrainian free people, Baturyn and enforced his brutal rule over the Ukrainians who at the time of European kingships already adopted elective democracy.
        Your nation will never prosper if Russians will remain arrogant patriots of never existed history.

        • Egor says:


          Wasn’t the case that Bagdan Hmelnitsky who sweared on behalf of all Ukrainians to be with Russia forever in the mid of the 17th century- i. e. 60 years before Baturin?

          Wasn’t it the case that Mazepa (who was to blame for Baturin) was a traitor who sweared loyalty to Peter the Great and then betrayed him in the most critical moment of war, who was licking the boots of the Swedish king invading Russia?

          Wasn’t it the case that only a small fraction of the Ukrainian Cossaks joined Mazepa and all others, who had dignity and courage, stayed with the Russians and fought against the Sweds?

          I feel really sorry about Ukrainians – you are a very young nation without your own history. But this does not mean that you are entitled to fabricate it by turning and twisting our common history. This is simply dishonest.

          • Orest says:

            Why not to start Russian history somewhere from Byzantine? For it is well known that Byzantine people use to be Russians but, they had to move to Kyiv firs and then to Muscovy.
            And, before Byzantine, Russians use to be indigenous people of Persia, Egypt, China and many other countries.
            I feel so sorry for all people of this planet (except Russians) for the histories of their nations are pitiful fabrications of GREAT RUSSIAN HISTORY and, all those people are nothing more than just VERY CONFUSED RUSSIANS.

          • Roman says:

            Fu Ukraine never wanted to be with Russia that why Russia helped Mongols win ukriane bec the coudint in also in 1933 to 1933 10 million ukriane people die because of russians

  7. roman says:

    I’m sick and tired of all the lies. Everyone knows that Ukrainians are true slavs, and descendents of Vladimir the Great, who was both of viking blood,and slavic blood, and also desend from Vladimir the Great’s grandson, King Daniel!

    Everyone knows this is true.

    And anyone with a brain knows that Russians, and Muscovites all want to be Ukrainian Slavic,

    but they lie about their history! Russia’s mother is Mongolia!

    Russians and Muscovites descend from Gengis Kahn, and a bunch of orgy happy, live goat blood drinking, mongol horsemeat eaters, that did not even know how to ride a horse until the Ukrainians taught them.

    Gengis Kahn, is not Slavic, and neither are the Russians, or Muscovites!

    Take a real look at the history, and the maps,…..and you see that in the time of Kiev-Ukraine, and Vladimir the Great’s Viking-Ukrainian Slavic Kingdom,

    the peoples populating the lands to the NorthEast on the Volga are the Finno-Urgic peoples,…..not the Slavic peoples!

    Russian-Muscovite people are an embarrassment to Europe, and should all be sent back to where they belong in korea, or be nuked by a mushroom cloud, for all their theivery throughout history, which makes the Roma Gypsies look like a people which work harder on this planet then the Japanese people!

    During the 1850s-1920s, there were many waves of immigration from Ukraine, and Poland, to the USA. These immigrants became the backbone of the workforce across the USA and Canada, working in the coal mines, logging industries, and textile mills and sending their hard earned moneys back home to the family farms, and family businesses in Poland and Ukraine! there fore when Russians crossed th eboundaries into Ukraine, and Poland raping and murdering the women, and enslaving people for work in gulags, in Siberia, and selling Polish and Ukrainian women to the turkish sultans as slaves and prostitutes, and stealing anything of value form the Ukrainian and Polish people, …….and when the Soviets did the same in later years,

    these Russian Mongols, and muscovite Jew Soviets were not only stealing from and enslaving, and whoring, and murdering the Polish and Ukrainian Slavic peoples, …..but they were also stealing from the American People, and the USA, and stealing from the Ukrainians and Poles that came to america and broke their own backs in American Coal mines, everyday, and broke their backs in the lumber industry!

    Those lieing, thieving, murdering Mongol-Russian-Muscovite Parasites have a lot of debts to pay to the real slavic peoples on this globe, and the Americans in the USA, and the Canadians in Canada! We, all around the globe don’t have to tolerate this nonsence where letters are sent by Putin to the leaders of Kazakstan, and Britain, demanding that nations around the globe not recognize the holodomor of Ukraine, and Kazakstan, as Genocide, while threatening exorbitent fees for Natural Gas and energy in trade with Russia!

    When Russia gets nuked, the way it deserves, for starting war on Israel, with Iran, and all these imposters into Europe lieingly claiming to be of Slavic descent, when they are not one bit, will not be missed, nor mourned by the rest of the globe! Noone will shed tears, when Chechnya has freedom, and all of Russia is ashes like Nagasake and Heroshima, where Russia has recieved, just what it has been dishing out to the Chechens, and many other peoples for 4 centuries now, while stealing form the American people, and Canadian people as well! Noone will feel the least bit of sympathy for Russia, when she gets what she deserves. And what Russia deserves is endless mushroom clouds, and endless explosions like the one which happened at Czernobyl. their genocides of Chechnya will end, and there will be no more Russians left to kill. Thankyou God for sharing with us through the Book of Revelations the fate of the worthless dogs of Russia claiming to be Slavic Christians, when in truth they are all Pagan Mongols! Amen. You know the endtimes are here, when people in Russia are walking around still hiding from the Radiation clouds, and still referring to Saint Joseph Stalin as the Saint which can save their AntiChrist Muscovite perverted pagan nation from the depths of hell! Amen.

    • Victor Bird says:

      Roman, I can understand your anger, but there is to much of hatred…

      Hate was never the solution for a complex problem of relationship between different nations. In my opinion, Russian people deserve to be enlightened and learn a true history of their nation. It is highly unlikely that it will happen, however, it is our responsibility to provide the world with a true history of our nation.

      No one will ever listen to a weak voice of a weak nation. First, we must get rid of anti-Ukrainian government that rules our nation at the present day and, we must make good order in our Great Motherland. After that, lazy students from Western colleges will not need to spend any time for a good research of East-European history, for the mainstream version of Ukrainian history will not be based no more on pseudo-history of Russia written by Russian pseudo-historians.

      In the end, we all are people and, we all stuck on this little planet. So, the only choice we have is to learn to co-exist. Otherwise we will destroy ourselves.

  8. Kino says:

    Yeah, Ukraine doesn’t want to be “Little Russia” anymore but they want cheap Russian gas/energy and will resort to black mail to get it. Ukraine is like a little child seeking independence but it doesn’t really know how because in reality, it can’t and it never had.

  9. Vadim Massalskiy says:

    Jim, the economic future of the EU is very vague. Especially the perspectives of the Eastern and Southern Europe. The more difficult now to talk about Ukraine’s place in the future EU economic space. The EU does not need is not very cheap but not very good Ukrainian goods. The EU needs cheap oil and gas. It’s Realpolitik 🙂

  10. Pyotr says:

    Ukraine must devide itself. West and East are too far away from each other. And Crimea should be an independent state, independent from both Ukraine and Russia. I think it is best for people living in Ukraine, of course it is not so for polititians who are always using the integrity of a country as a pump inflating their popularity among brainwashed crowds.

    • VER says:

      Ukraine must devide itself??? Who says it? Somebody who dont see that bigger part of Russia begin to be a China? Watch youself!!! Learn chinese! This is you next motherlanguage!

  11. Egor says:

    Mr. Brook shows formidable knowledge of what he is writing about.

    To start with, Malorossia should properly be translated not as “Little Russia” but as “Initial Russia” – and this comes from the historical fact that the first powerful Russian state had its capital in Kiev (but was founded by people who came from Velikiy Novgorod, North Russia).


  12. Oksana says:

    Ha-ha! Jim, I will be more cautious next time talking to you over dinner.
    As for your argumentation in a blog: I wonder why people like to compare Russia with USA and Ukraine with Canada. All comparisons are limping, but this one is particularly weak.
    It would be much more logical to pick another pair, where Russia stands for USA, and Ukraine (former Kievan Rus) stands for Great Britain.
    USA originated from Britain, as well as Russia derived itself from Kievan Rus.
    First Americans left British Empire and settled in a New World. First Russians left Kievan Rus and settled in the woods of the North.
    Americans had much in common with British people. First Russians had much in common with Kievan Rus people.
    But Americans start writing their history from the moment they settled in the Northern America. They don’t start their history from London’s foundation.
    Russia has absolutely no rights for the legacy of Kiev. What a strange idea – to start the history of one state from the territory of another, 900 km away!
    And one more thing, in order to finish with our comparison of countries. USA is also a “big handsome son”, and Britain is a loving mother, but they are perfectly happy being independent from each other. :))
    Jim, your problem in understanding of Ukrainian history is, that you still believe in Soviet myth about “Kievan Rus as a cradle of 3 nations-brothers”. You know, that’s a BS.
    Actually, Russia has little in common with Kievan Rus.
    Look at the map. You will see Kyiv, in the same place it used to be centuries ago. You will see Ukraine the same place where ancient state Kievan Rus used to be. We didn’t go anywher. We still are here. Ukraine is Kievan Rus. Just the title of state, through the ages, has changed.
    And now, look at the ancient maps. You will not see RUSSIA anywhere there. You will see KIEVAN RUS (in a same place), and later, you will see in the North a new land called MOSKOVIA .
    The state named RUSSIA emerged in a place of MOSKOVIA only during Peter the Great. This is beginning of 18th century. At that time, they invented name Russia, they decided to build an empire, and they started seeking for a decent roots for themselves. And they decided to use legacy of Kievan Rus, 900 km away!
    Yes, that’s true, some Kievan princes fled to the North and settled there, in ancient MOSCOVIA, amongst forests and Finn tribes. But is this enough reason to derive the history of their newly-born state from Kiev?
    Americans did not dare doing this with London.
    History of Rome started from Rome, not from Athens.
    As for our (Russia and Ukraine) “closenness” – in fact, we are not so much close. You know, from my perspective, Chinese and Korean people are all the same. :))
    You think we are the same, because you saw only big cities. Right, the difference in big cities of Russia and Ukraine is not so obvious. And this is a result of a special artificial policy.
    But 10 km around Kyiv, and in the vast spaces of Ukraine you will find not a “Russian speaking sea” with lonely Ukrainian voices; you will find Ukrainian speaking sea. Everywhere outside of big cities Ukrainians speak Ukrainian. According to census, over 67% of Ukrainian citizens consider Ukrainian language as their native.
    In that Ukrainian speaking sea big cities stand like islands. People speak Ukrainian not only around Kyiv, but also around Donetsk, Lugansk, Odessa. Just 10 km away.
    BTW, Ukrainian language, though close, is not understandable for Russians. Ukrainian people are bilingual, because they studied Russian in a school. But if you did not learn it, you have problems in understanding, let alone speaking. The same way as Ukrainian and Polish, or Russian and Bulgarian. All Slavic languages are similar, but not understandable without taking classes.
    And if Russians say they understand Ukrainian, that means they never heard real Ukrainian. They heard Verka Serdiuchka in Moscow (do you know this personage?), which is a comical way of pronouncing Russian words in Ukrainian manner.
    So, in order to see a difference between Russia and Ukraine, don’t look at cities at their present post-colonial state. Take villages – the natural springs of national life. Take one Russian village, and one Ukrainian. You will see absolutely different national characters, different cuisines, different costumes, dances, songs, different fairy-tales, different art, different churches, different style in architecture.
    Look at the Kremlin wall or Vasili Blazhenny Temple at the Red Square in Moscow. You will not find anything like this in Ukraine. Don’t you think, this architecture reminds of Mongolia?
    Jim, the point is not that we don’t WANT to be a little-Russia. The point is, we ARE not.


    • Sergey says:

      Yes you will see Minsk (modern day Belarus) Velikih Novgorod(Russia), Smolensk(Russia), Rostov(Russia) Ryazan(Russia), Pskov(Russia) and many others.
      I’m not sure what map your looking at, maybe Yushinko edition of Ukrainian fabricated history lol. Seriously think about it Kiev exchanged hands a dozen of times through the history, even prior to Kiev Rus. Yet Principality of Vilikiy Novgorod always stayed the same.

    • Roman L. Comer says:

      Bravo, Oksana, full agreement here,…..



      I disagree, because you are too kind to the scum of the earth, from Moscow!

      Kill’em all!

      And Koreans and Chinese are not the same. They have uniquely different histories, just as Ukraine has its own unique history!

      But, even though Korea and China, are completely different, in terms of History,

      Russia and Mongolia are still the same in their history!

      Ukraine is not mother of Russia!

      Don’t ever dare to say this! Pox on anyone who says this!

      Mongolia is the mother of Russia!

      And Russia denies it, because Russia wants to be neither daughter of Mongolia, nor Ukraine.

      Russian language is similar to Nomadic Mongolian, but in truth Russians still want to be Aryan Stock, because Russians are Nazi Wannabes!

      Look at how much the NAZI movement has grown in Moscow, and surrounding Russia, and with Putin’s blessing, mind you!

      It is surprising that the Russians ever fought Hitler at all!

      But, no, Ukraine is not mother of Russia! This is because this distinction belongs to Mongolia!

      Bravo Oksana, still very well said! Ciao- dopobachenja!

      • Romka says:

        Ha! You made me laugh!
        Roman, what is wrong with you? Russian language is not even similar to Mongolian, Russian is very simplified Ukraine language, because if you learn the history through out the ages Russian was nearly like Ukraine but in 17th-20th century it was constantly simplified and made easier while Ukrainian was not.
        Ukraine had always lived closely with Russia, it was under governance of Russian Empire and USSR – so what unique history are you talking about? You had the same rullers, so basically Ukrainian History is just a regional hisotry of a region in Russian Empire.
        You also contradict yourselves – We want to be Ukrainians because we want to be Aryan? Ukrainians as Slavs and Aryan is a completely different race. As Russian i also dont meet a lot of Nazi in my country. There is an illegal party and group of terrorist who have Nazi ideology less than 1% of the country supports them. Nazi also has nothing to do with Aryan as Nazism is Nationalism and currently it is you who are being more nationalisitc.
        And no fuck you, Why does everyone think that Russians are the same thing as mongolians, true there was that horde it came, took the money(dan) and returned to centre of their empire. They didnt start a massive orgy on red square after which there were only Mongol descendant left in russia. When the empire finally broke where did they remained in russia? The Golden horde as it was known was mostly on currently Ukrainian territory.
        Russian Architecture has a lot more similiarities with Italian than Mongolian – Asian.
        Ukrainian are wonderful people, i have met a lot and have friends who are form Ukrain but some not far going people are so brainwashed and so retarded – Douh

  13. V says:

    “this Central European country almost the size of France ”

    Ukraine is actually bigger than France, learn geography, it helps.

  14. Sergey Tyagnibok says:

    Dear Author
    You are SO ignorant. Kievan Rus was the forerunner of the Ukraine. It is Golden Hord that was Russia’s predecessor

    • Egor says:

      Thank Russians and Khruschev in paprticular.

      Without Russians, Ukraine would have been populated by the mixture of Slavs and Tatars and would have been a small and undeveloped Eastern region of Poland.

    • Roman L. Comer says:

      Amen to that, Sergey!

  15. Valentin says:

    By territory, Ukraine is not just ‘almost the size of France’ but is ‘the largest country wholly in Europe’

  16. Andrey says:

    Thank you guys for making me laughing tonight, I can’t actually remember the last time I have so much fun =) Having different points of view about the Past, sometimes even opposite, doesn’t let you get closer to the main point of article – the Future. Limitless fights about what the Russian’s predecessor was, how close the languages are, and what the oligarchs want to achieve, blame you. You say Ukraine is not Russia and is not going to be a part of it? So what are you doing outside the country? Come back and do something to make that future real!! You say Russia doesn’t want Ukraine to get incorporated again? All right, then maybe it’s a good chance to stop BSitting and start dealing with your own problems instead? Russia has a lot for now, so you won’t be out of work!

    A few words to the guys saying, ‘let’s break Ukraine down into East, West, and Crimea; that would be better’. May we decide what would be better for _us_ on our own, please?

    • Pyotr says:

      Of course you can decide on your own. It is just my opinion. If you had read my previous posts you would have seen that I suggested the same for Russia. Territory is not the main thing about a country (state). The main thing is people and if people want to separate it would be for everybody’s mutual good to do it, I think.

    • Egor says:

      You made me laugh too.:)

      Don’t you see that you have exactly the same problem that you blame the others for?

      How can you say what would be the best for all Crimeans, Easteren and Western Ukraininas at the same time?

      Come on, be more modest. Speak about yourself not on behalf of all Ukrainians. Don’t tell other people what they should’t say – and they won’t tell you where you should go.

      This does not mean that you cannot express your views, of course.:) And I quite agree that arguing about the past is very counterproductive.

      What I cannot agree with – is the way the modern Ukraine is twisting the common history thus trying to brainwash the younger generations and to make them hating Russia.

      This is disgusting.

    • Roman L. Comer says:

      definately can decide what is better for yourselves on your own, but I recommend you fix, and reup your contract with Tajikstan for natural gas, instead of paying $450 dollars per 1000 cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, while Germany only pays $200 dollars per 1000 cubic meters of natural gas from Russia!

      And next kick Russia right out of Sevastoppel, and Crimea!

      Ukraine has a Constitution, and this constitution says, no foreign militaries on Ukraine’s domain! So, obey your constitution!

      Next, do merge Naftogaz with Gazprom!

      Build up the economy, and employment of Ukraine, because the world is slightly excited about the Euro Cup hosted in Ukraine for 2012, but it may be a let down, if Ukraine is not prepared.

      Finally, people anywhere and everwhere want real justice, be it in Russia, or Mongolia, or Ukraine, or Germany! My point is don’t make people wait 10 years for justice with respect to the Murderers of George Gongadze!

      10 whole years, what a bunch of crappy sham artists Ukraine has operating in government and in the courts!

      10 whole years, later, Ukraine gets a confession out of Pukach, that he recieved orders from Kuchma and Lytvyn, to kill Gongadze!
      What kind of nonsence and hipocrisy is this?

      It is crap! The kind of crap spawned by a bunch of leftover Communists calling themselves a regional party!

      Get real Ukraine! Cut the Corruption, fast, cause if you don’t, you’ve helped Russia, and every other nation cut your own throat, by not doing things the right way!

      10 whole years for the murderers of Gongadze to be brought to justice! Cheeeh! Loosers!

      thank God, Ukraine has hit the world stage by sending some of the world’s best soldiers to keep peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Georgia and Turkey!

      It really is disgusting the way things are done in Ukraine, now, with Doctors, and politicians, and police officers all recieving bribes, and russian thugs payed to murder persons like George Gongadze! Growup Ukraine, and get that shit in order, cause the world needs Christian Democratic Leadership, and while the economy of the US is griping, coughing, and whining, Ukraine has an opportunity, not just like the one with Kazakstan, Turkey, and the EU to help poor famine plagued Somalia out, but to shine Christian light upon the globe, and lead the way the US always has!

      Get moving! May God bless Ukraine. Always! Amen.

  17. Sergey says:

    Wow some of these comments are incredibly incorrect. “Victor Bird” Please know Kiev Rus was not Ukrainian because Ukraine had not existed back then:). There were three ruling or main cities, one of them is Velikiy Novgorod by far the oldest city in eastern Europe. Velikiy Novgorod was also the last city where people utilized runes, for their means of communication. This alone goes to show you it had little to do with modern day Ukraine or it’s geographical position. Kiev Rus was a state spread through modern day Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Please do look at the historic maps and do study some history.
    Also most of the Ukrainians are very pro Russian! I do not know where you get your 14% of Russians from. But it’s the most ridiculous statement I’ve heard. There are select few minorities in Western Ukraine, who do not like Russians. However their history is understandable because those parts of Ukraine belonged to Romanian and Poland prior to ww2. The people of the region are lost and are having identity crisis… That region is known for disliking Russians, Southern Ukrainians, Polish and Jewish ..ect (virtually everybody).

    Russians and Ukrainians are not close because of the language. We are identical people in our culture and understandings, it has been this way ever since formation of Kiev Rus. Unfortunately last Ukrainian president was a complete egocentric nutcase. He brainwashed the young, promoting Russia as evil empire that killed Ukrainian people. They even fabricated history books in schools to promote these lies. Not only it’s not true but it separates people who are completely identical. Also the former president had banned Russian language from many school and removed Russian as official language. Which explain why there are more people speaking Ukrainian now days. Off course his actions did have any affects in places such as Odessa, but rest of Ukraine experienced such changes.

  18. Serge says:

    I have actually seen 12 different history text book from different countries. In my university we examined them and Ukrainian( my countries textbook) was far more different than any other countries text book. Russian 79% close to english textbook and 80% to french, 67% to USA.
    Ukrainian history text book was 49% close to Russian, 37% to USA and 40% to french.
    Thats disgusting how our government falsifies history, and allows neo-communistic groups like sunshine movement to exist.
    Disgusting, this angers me!

  19. p gadia says:

    Instead of focusing from these 2 nations history which can lead to such hatred or mistrust… focus on the future in which both country can prosper & become a good State for their people. We choose our path for the future not for the past, so choose a future that will lead better future for the next generation bcoz the past generation(s) will be just that… the past. People choose their future destiny if they just clear their mind from the hate before & target the future with sound mind.

  20. JAMES MOORSE says:

    Roman,Your comment is the plain truth….past,present,and future!!!! and what a glorious day that will be for God’s earth.

  21. Igor says:

    what pathetic Amerikan propaganda!
    People of the Ukraine are desperate for remerger with the RUssian Fedn.
    The UKraine IS part of Russia, the starting point of it infact.
    My family are from Kiev.This bizarre Cold War agitation is nonsense.

    • Orest says:

      You are a citizen of none-existing city in none-existing country with none-existing history.
      Your believes and world-view is a plain delusion.

      Kiev never existed, but there was great city of Kyiv for more than 1000 years. There was never existing unity between glorious Rus’ (Ukraine) and savage Muscovy (Russia).

      So, keep your delusions for yourself, or go to Muscovy and enjoy the highness of historical idiocy.

      • Sergey says:

        Orest Ive read the comments you have posted, but retsined my self from say ing anything. However this last one has tipped the scales. You sound like a complete idiot, which tree did you fall off. Your statements are of radical individual, filled with anger and foolishness.
        Do you belong to some type of sect/cult? Perhaps your from western Ukraine?
        You call everyone delusional, but it is you who is not in touch with reality.

  22. discjocke52 says:

    At, there are many Ukrainians enjoy the EU taking on the problems Ukraine has, by not allowing this sorry excuse for a president to get near the EU. Not the way he’s going by doing it. They would want to join the EU by its own merits, not by the way some criminal, almost completing having a captured audience is trying to be a part of the EU.

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  24. ukraine says:

    Who needs Ukraine did you ever looked at their gdp its 160 billions, russia has 1850 billion

    so its over 10 times the size despite having around a third of the size of russias population. The country is very very poor now, it used to be the industrial and scientific pioneer in the soviet union but without any recourses and obsolete technology the country has no future.

    And the funny thing is russia are the official soviet union who can still use everything what the ukrainians made. No copy right nothing. All what ukraine has to offer are people but they can still emigrate to russia if russia get more and more richer.

    And the picture is just ridiculous the east where most russian ukrainians live is much richer with its industry than the west.

  25. Robert says:

    The problem is not russian imperialism, but ukrainian nationalism. It caused a chain of problems today.

  26. Sergey says:

    Alright look, Russians and Ukrainians are practically the same. Really the same people. Most of the Ukraine is very pro Russia especially the south. Central Ukraine although enjoys their brand new nation, still value their Russian connection.
    Now West Ukraine is where you have all the idiocy of nationalism. That is the place that’s been in the identity crisis ever since it become a part of Ukraine after World War 2. Probably even before then, during Moscivite/ Polish wars. Please don’t take west nationalism seriously because they do not speak for the entire nation, in fact their a newly founded region is very irrelevant to the rest of the Ukraine.
    They do not like- Russians, the rest of Ukraine, the Polish, the Jews, surely they glorify NAZI heroes. Most of the the Ukrainians have unified perception of that region ” if they don’t like they can break of and live in their own country”.

    To summon all this up, as any other large and influential country Russia has it’s set backs… but as far as the people go there’s very little separation between Russians, Ukrainians or Belarus for that matter.
    In fact majority Russians always welcome their Ukrainian brothers as their own. I’m speaking from factual life experience, not hypothetical analysis.

    • Mark says:

      Grossly distorted world views. I can’t even call it an interpretation of history and/or reality, for what is written is a blunt propaganda of Russian imperialism. Way out of touch with reality.

      This is exactly why many people, including Ukrainians, are hating Russians.



James Brooke is VOA Moscow bureau chief, covering Russia and the former USSR. With The New York Times, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa, Latin America, Canada and Japan/Koreas. He studied Russian in college during the Brezhnev years, first visited Moscow as a reporter during the final months of Gorbachev, and then came back for reporting forays during the Yeltsin and early Putin years. In 2006, he moved to Moscow to report for Bloomberg. He joined VOA in Moscow in 2010. Follow Jim on Twitter @VOA_Moscow.



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