Saturday, November 12, 2022

There are Four East Slavic Nations Not Three as Putin Insists, Grayevsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 10 – Drawing on the predominant opinion of tsarist times, Vladimir Putin regularly insists that three East Slavic peoples form a single “Russian world.” But he is wrong in a double sense, Stanislav Grayevsky says. Not only do these peoples in the main reject the idea that they are part of a single “Russian world” but there were and are not three but four.

            If the three nations Putin wants to include in a single whole are well known and indeed treated by most in Russia and the West as the only East Slavic peoples, the real situation is different, and a fourth was recognized in tsarist times and may become important once again, the Russian futurologist says (

            Indeed, Putin’s insistence that all these peoples are part of a single “Russian world” may spark a reaction in the fourth just as it has done in the Belarusians and Ukrainians already. And if that happens, then the fourth, which can be designated the Novgorodians, may come to haunt the Kremlin ruler as they take their place in the sun.

            Some might be inclined to dismiss this as nothing but the efforts of a supporter of Russian regionalism to create a separate nation where none has ever existed, but in fact, already in the nineteenth century, Russian scholars like Nikolay Kostomarov spoke about this fourth Eastern Slavic people.

            And Kostomarov went further, arguing that the Novgorodians shared much with the Ukrainians not only in terms of language but psychology, commonalities which set them apart and predisposed them to opposition to the Muscovites who defined the identity of the Russians, Grayevsky says.

            To put things in their simplest terms, the futurologist says, “Kostomarov highlighted the uniqueness of each of the East Slavic peoples while the Muscovite unifiers have always sought to present them as ‘a single whole.” They are thus independent peoples “with their own cultural and political characteristics, not all “’parts’ of some unitary imperial construct.”

            That view, Grayevsky notes, “radically contradicts the common myth about ‘a triune people’ which has been defended by autocrats like Ivan Ilin and that Putin continues to repeat. And this raises the possibility that one of the results of Putin’s failure in Ukraine and the next collapse of the empire will be the revival of the forgotten ‘fourth’ nation, the Novgorod people.”

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