Are Russians and Ukrainians the Same People?
To justify his meddling in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has claimed Ukrainians as Russian people. Is he right?
In the last few years Vladimir Putin has surprised many observers of the international scene not only by his actions, but also by his words.
In the middle of the Ukraine crisis, while the Russian media was vilifying the new government in Kyiv as nothing less than a “fascist junta,” he repeatedly went on record claiming that Russians and Ukrainians were one and the same people. What it meant in practice was demonstrated in March 2014, when the Russian troops took over the Ukrainian Crimea, which Putin declared a historical heritage site common to the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians and the place where his namesake, Prince Vladimir (Ukr. Volodymyr) of Kyiv, had been baptized. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea made this allegedly common site an exclusively Russian possession.
The view of Ukrainians as constituents of the Russian nation goes back to the founding myth of modern Russia as a nation conceived and born in Kyiv (Kiev) in the tenth and eleventh centuries during the times of St. Vladimir. It was first widely disseminated in Russia by the Synopsis of 1674, the first printed “textbook” of Russian history, compiled by Kyivan monks seeking the protection of the Muscovite tsars.