Ukrainians Weren’t Around in 1850s

Even in Western Ukraine…

Dwx3pTrXQAARC27.jpgWhat you see to your right is a page from the Ruska Chitanka, in translation “Russian Reader” edited by Vasily Kovalsky. It has been circulating around Ukrainian nationalist Twitter pages, and the name caught my eye. It was published in Vienna in 1852. Kovalsky was a professor at Lvov university, and the book was likely intended to teach literacy to school children.

What it show is that in 1850s, the people in Western Ukraine did not think of themselves as Ukrainians. In fact, many did not think of themselves as Ukrainians all the way into the first half of the twentieth century. A town in Western Ukraine is still named Rava Ruska, which reminds us of those days.

So what happened? Nationalism happened! Somewhere in the latter part of the nineteenth century, activists in Western Ukraine adopted the ethnomyn “Ukrainian”, which was invented by Polish intellectuals. And thus, Ukrainian nationalism began.

I have another book on my shelf, it is called Obrazy z Rus, that is “Images of the Russias”, written by the Czech nationalist Karel Havlíček Borovský. Russias is in the plural because the author means: “Little, Greater, and White Russia”. He clearly doesn’t see a difference in ethnicity between the inhabitants of these lands. In his discussion of Russian culture, he goes into a lengthy description of a Little Russian Cossack, and does not make a difference between his behaviour and the behaviour of people in Greater Russia.

Therefore, Ukrainian nationalism is an ideology, which seeks to alienate an invented community called Ukrainians from their kin. The Ukrainian nation is literally little more than 100 years old. Therefore, when we talk about Ukrainian history, it is this story of how Ukrainians came into being that ought to be the main topic. Any pretences to the history of Medieval Rus’, the Cossacks, the Haydamaks are but historical usurpations.

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