Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pace Putin, Ukraine and Belarus Gave Russia Territory Not the Other Way Around, Khokhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 24 – Vladimir Putin has declared that “certain former republics of the USSR received territorial gifts from Russia” and that these “ungrateful subjects of the union” should have returned them when they exercised their right to leave. (On the Kremlin leader’s statement, see

            But the reality was just the opposite: Ukraine and Belarus had far more of the territories on which their titular nationalities lived handed over to the RSFSR than they received in return, a fact that raises the question as to who gave what to whom and who today is the ungrateful participant in such swaps.

            That becomes obvious, Ukrainian commentator Valentin Khokhlov says, if one compares the map of the dialects of the Russian Empire that was prepared by the Imperial General Staff in 1914. (At that time, Ukrainian and Belarusian were considered dialects of Russian, an error only later corrected.) (

If one compares the areals of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian speakers – and language in this case can stand as a surrogate for identity – with the borders of the three union republics as established at the start of Soviet times, the commentator says, one can see that Russia was the recipient of territorial gifts not the source of them.

Indeed, one can say that “present-day Russia (then the RSFSR) did not give anyone anything, at least in its European part. On the contrary, it received from Ukraine truly tsar-like gifts – Taganrog, Rostov-on-Don, the Kuban and part of Stavropol, Belgorod, and Voronezh oblasts.”

“From Belarus, Russia received by the most modest accounts, a large part of Smolensk and half of Bryansk Oblasts; and if one is less modest, then it received all the lands to Kaluga and Bryansk plust as a bonus in the form of Pskov Oblast.” At the same time, Belarus received territory that was Ukrainian from Ukraine but not Belarusian from Russia.

That makes Putin’s claim truly absurd. “The country which did not give anyone anything –the Russian Federation -- shouts more loudly and aggressively than anyone else. It pays the republic which gave it most of all – Ukraine – with black ingratitude.” And now Belarus another gift giver to Russia is at risk as well.

Russia contrary to Putin thus turns out to be not the chief gift giver to the other two but the most ungrateful of the three despite receiving the most, Khokhlov concludes.

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