Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Invention of the Ukraine

Responding to that Ukraine post, Brad asks:
Where did the Union Republics of the USSR come from? The Czar's empire was not organized in any such way, was it?
He's got a point.  I suppose the answer is: the usual mix of violence and fiction, with perhaps rather more violence than some.  The Russkies had spent a good part of the 19th Century beating up on the "Southern" components, most of which had cultures utterly unrelated to the Beloved Motherland, and knew it. Cf. Tolstoi, Haji Murat and Lermontov, Hero for Our Time, passim.

Ukraine is a more complicated case.  Like just about every state, it's a ragbag --Andrukohovych's point, I suppose. We know that today, part (but not all?) of the Ukraine has a culture that is "like" Mother Russia's, though just what part and just how much like is hotly contested.   We know also that the 19th Century was the great age of national invention. And we know also that, unfortunately for all concerned, the "Ukraine" is part of a great swath of mostly flattish land with few high-saliency physical markers--which is to say,  no defensible borders. where multitudes are often charging back and forth making life miserable for those in their path.   Frank Golsczewski summarizes:
  Historically, the southern areas of today's Ukraine were unsuccessfully claimed by the Kievan Rus' around the ninth and tenth centuries, though they were inhabited by Turkic or other steppe peoples, the Tatar Mongol Golden Horde, and the Crimean khanate, a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.  Only in the eighteenth century were they resettled by Russia (as Novaja Rossija, 'New Russia, using settlers from all over Europe), after the Russian Empire under Catherine II and Prince Potemkin conquered the steppe and Crimea.  
link.  Thus it seems that 19th Century "Ukraine" was a mélange of Russian Empire and Austrio-Hungarian Empire with remnants of the Golden Horde, along with Rusyns and Ruthenians (if and insofar as they are distinct) plus Poles and--oh, yes of course, Jews.    But  the late 19th Century brought about what you might guess if you're familiar with the history of any other European nation--an outbreak of Ukraniophilia with plays, poems, novels, and the inevitable maps purporting to show what "Ukraine" was and ever had been. The principal advocate/culprit appear to be one Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, whose ten-volume History of Ukraine-Ruthenia is said to be devoted to establishing the uniqueness of the Ukranian line.  Here is a modern critique.  It is said that Hrushevsky's own mother was a Pole and that his death in 1934 occurred "under mysterious circumstances."

Bonus extra: for your amusement, I copied the first long paragraph above ("He's got a point") and ran it through Google translate, first in Russian, then in Ukranian (neither of which I can read, though I can usually dope out the alphabet). The reader is invited to judge the degree to which they are "the same."
Он попал в точку. Я полагаю, что ответ: обычное соединение насилия и фантастики, с, возможно, а еще большему насилию, чем некоторые. В Russkies провел большую часть 19-го века избиения на "Южный" компонентов, большинство из которых имели культуры совершенно не связанные с любимой родины, и знал, что это. Ср. Толстой, Хаджи Мурат и Lermentov, Человек без свойств, повсюду.
And Ukrainian:
Він потрапив в точку. Я вважаю, що відповідь: звичайне з'єднання насильства і фантастики, з, можливо, а ще більшого насильства, ніж деякі. У Russkies провів більшу частину 19-го століття побиття на "Південний" компонентів, більшість з яких мали культури абсолютно не пов'язані з улюбленої батьківщини, і знав, що це. СР Толстой, Хаджі Мурат і Lermentov, Людина без властивостей, всюди.

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