Staunton, Mar. 22 – When something horrific happens to another people, many will identify with it saying as in the case of Ukraine following Putin’s expanded invasion beginning last year “we are all Ukrainians.” But in the case of at least a few Russians, Vasilisa Murasheva says, such declarations have led to an even more fundamental redefinition of national identity.
The Moscow psychologist does not give any figures as to how many Russians have chosen to re-identify as Ukrainians since the start of the expanded war or even since the Anschluss of Ukraine’s Crimea eight years ago, but the numbers involved are at least significant enough to attract her attention (holod.media/2023/03/22/rossiiane-stali-ukraintsami/).
That even some Russians have taken what many other Russians would describe as an unthinkable change in identity reflects at least three things: the weakness of Russian identity, the desire of some to break with Moscow, and the fluidity of the ethnic border between two identities, Russian and Ukrainian.
Moscow writers have routinely suggested that it is no problem for Ukrainians to become Russians. After all, Putin and his team deny that Ukrainians are anything but an artificial community that will dissolve into a larger Russian one; but Murasheva’s findings suggest that the reality is more complicated than that.
And while this may not matter in the grand design of Russian-Ukrainian relations, it is a sign that Russians may choose to reidentify with even their country’s most obvious opponent, something that suggests a shift to regional identities, including those linked to foreign countries, could take place far more easily than many now assume.