Letter: Two claims to the history of Kiev Rus'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Unfortunately, Professor Marcus Wheeler's letter (10 April) confuses the reader. The correct name for the medieval state in dispute between Russians and Ukrainians is Kiev Rus'. The term 'Russia' was coined by Peter the Great in the 18th century to describe his new empire and to lay claim by Moscow over the medieval heritage and dynasty of Kiev Rus'.

Soviet historiography and nationality policy since the Thirties has followed Russian nationalist historiography by depicting the USSR and the Tsarist Russian empire as the direct descendants of Kiev Rus', with Russians depicted as 'elder brothers'. In the Russian scheme of history, Ukrainians, as Professor Wheeler states, only appear on the scene sometime after the 14th century.

Not surprisingly, Ukrainian historiography refuses to accept this version of history, arguing that Kiev Rus' is a medieval Ukrainian state to which only Ukraine has direct claim. Ukrainian nationalist historiography, unlike Russian, was banned in the former USSR and has only now been rehabilitated. In Ukrainian historiography, Russians originate in the 12th century with their roots in the Vladimir-Suzdal principality, Muscovy and the Tsarist Russian empire.

The attempt to retrace the roots of nations formerly under Communist rule will worsen relations between Russians and Ukrainians, with Ukrainians demanding equal relations in place of the former 'elder/

younger brother' relationship. In extreme cases, this even leads to demands to retain nuclear weapons in Ukraine as the only way to ensure equality between Russians and Ukrainians.

It also deepens the Russian identity crisis in the aftermath of the disintegration of the former USSR, as a large number of Russians find it difficult to come to terms with Ukrainian independence and regard Kiev in the same manner as Serbs look at Kosovo. Consequently, this return to history has greater modern-day repercussions than are at first realised.

Yours faithfully,

TARAS KUZIO

Ukrainian Professionals & Business Persons Association

Harrow, Middlesex

13 April

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