Sunday, March 25, 2018

Putin’s Insistence Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are One People Leading Some Russians to Deny Any Commonality, Ishchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are not three nations by one is increasingly leading not only Ukrainians and Belarusians but many Russians as well to deny they have anything in common, according to Ukrainian commentator Rostislav Ishchenko.

            That this should be so among Ukrainians and Belarusians is perhaps not surprising and has certainly attracted comment, but that such a view is spreading even among activists supporting Putin’s other ideas on “the Russian world” is, Ishchenko says, and has some dramatic implications for the future (

            Russians who reject Putin’s idea about the commonality of the three East Slavic people have “invented for themselves a certain mythical ‘former Russia’ ‘the golden age’ of which saw the triumph of justice on its territory,” he says. “in opposition to this ideal mythical Russia of the past, present-day Russia is declared to be not Russia and contemporary Russians not Russians.”

            Russians who reach that conclusion set themselves apart “not only from Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalists but also from radical Russian ones” who insist that Russia must “ingather” the other Slavic territories in order to be true to itself.  Rejecting the commonality of the three means rejecting that idea as well.

            “Why is this important?” Ishchenko asks rhetorically.  “Because in the course of the development of political processes, the former imperialists and internationalists of Ukraine have come to the very same conception which their ideological opponents profess by recognizing the existence of clearly existing distinctions between various groups of the Russian people.”

            “More than that, it has turned out that from their point of view, this conception not only doesn’t contradict the conception of a single Russian World but can be used for a completely correct description of one of its versions.”

            Ishchenko points out that “if one and the same conception can be used by ideologically different and even opposed trends for the development of their theories, if besides this it does not contradict obvious facts, this means that there is in some grain of truth.” And that makes possible a new kind of conversation among the groups that wasn’t possible before.

            Many may be inclined to dismiss this new position of some Russian nationalists as a vulgar misreading of the past, “but the most vulgar political formulations as a rule are a simplified version” for the masses of a most sophisticated version of the past; and in the course of his long article, Ishchenko offers a reading of Eurasian history to support that idea.

            Some will find what he says persuasive. Others will reject it. But the fact that this is being discussed among Russians now opens the way to the recognition of ever more people in the Russian Federation that Ukrainians and Belarusians and hence Ukraine and Belarus are genuinely distinct nations and countries.

            And to the extent that happens, Russians on the one hand and Ukrainians and Belarusians on the other will have a far better chance to live in peace with each other and perhaps just as important with themselves.

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