Sunday, August 12, 2018

Russia is Ukraine’s ‘Younger Brother,’ Moscow Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 12 – Russians are so used to employing terms that slight the standing of those around them, be calling all former Soviet republics their country’s “near abroad,” or by referring to non-Russians nations as Russia’s “younger brothers,” terms they would find it hard to accept when applied by others to themselves.

            But, of course, all countries have just as much right to call their neighbors “the near abroad” as does Russia and many for historical and cultural reasons have an even more compelling case to call others their “younger brothers” than do the Russians with respect to non-Russians in and around them.

            Unfortunately, Russian use of these terms is so common that it isn’t news, but non-Russian use of them is – and especially so if a Moscow expert says that a non-Russian nation has the complete right to employ them regarding Russia.  That has now happened, and not surprisingly, Russian media have treated it as worthy of a headline.

            Viktor Mirnonenko, the head of the Center for Ukrainian Research of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that “beyond any doubt” Russia is “the younger brother of Ukraine. I say this as an historian … and am absolutely certain of this” (

            According to the scholar, who traces his origins to Ukraine’s Chernihov, “Kyiv bears great responsibility for its ‘younger relative,’” given that “the main intellectual inflow into Russia from long ago has occurred via Ukraine.” In this, Ukraine plays a role for Russia similar to that which Great Britain plays of the United States.

            Not surprisingly, many Russians are outraged by Mironenko’s suggestion even though they themselves are quite happy to describe Ukrainians as Russia’s “younger brothers” and Ukraine as part of Russia’s “near abroad.” Indeed, they appear to view these terms when they use them as entirely natural.

            The reaction of Moscow commentator Grigory Pavlodubov is typical.  He says that the Ukrainian historian’s words are in the first instance “an attempt to strike at the self-identification of residents of the Russian state and the kind of speculation” one would expect from Ukrainian nationalists (

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