Saturday, October 8, 2022

Moscow Now Forced to Argue that Areas within Current Russian Borders are ‘Not Ukraine’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 30 – Putin and his regime have long argued that Ukraine is not a real nation or state and that large parts or even all of it properly belong to Russia and will be “reabsorbed,” and they have ignored or treated with disdain Ukrainian arguments that territories within the current borders of the Russian Federation are in fact Ukrainian.

            Moscow’s claims are well known while Kyiv’s are far less so. (On them and their histories, see,,,,, and

            But what is striking, as Putin’s war in Ukraine enters its seventh month, is that Moscow writers now increasingly feel compelled to make more detailed and at least superficially scholarly arguments that Ukrainian claims on Russian territory are baseless and reflect a complete misreading of history and geography.

            An example of this shift in this Russian response, one occasioned by Ukrainian advances and Russian retreats, is offered by Russian historical writer Igor Vasiliyev in a new and heavily footnoted article entitled “Why the Kuban is Not Ukraine. The Failure of One Ethno-Political Project” on Moscow’s APN portal (

            This new Russian attention to places within the Russian Federation with Ukrainian backgrounds is of course the most important aspect of this story, but there are two others which may become equally important in the future. On the one hand, the more details such articles offer, the clearer it becomes that the ethnic sorting out of these regions was and is complicated.

            And second, the very arguments Russian writers are now using to argue that parts of Russia are “not Ukraine” can be turned around and used by Ukrainians and others to make the case that parts of Ukraine, all Moscow’s insistence to the contrary are “not Russian” but as much or even more Ukrainian than many parts of what is now the Russian Federation. 

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