’ Belong? Essay, Research Paper
The purpose of this paper is to explain my opinion about Hrushevsky’s argument that Kievan history belongs to Ukraine but not to Russia. To put it plainly, I would have to disagree with Hrushevsky in his contention that Kievan history belongs exclusively to Ukraine. On the other hand, neither can I fully support the assertion that Russia is the only true inheritor of Kievan Rus’ culture. From the evidence that has been provided for both cases, I believe that it is reasonable to assume that both Ukraine and Russia could have their roots in Kievan Rus’.
Both arguments have their strong points. Most of these are confident claims about why their respective countries came from Kievan Rus’. For example, Ukraine is roughly the same territory as Kievan Rus’ so one argument is that the indigenous Ukrainian people of the region are descended from the original Rus’. Ukraine also has similar cultural elements to those of Kievan Rus’.
A Russian argument would be that Muscovy had the same political system as Kievan Rus’. Both had a grand prince (or later tsar) with a group of boyars under them. They were also both the center of the Orthodox religion in the state, after the head of the church moved from Kiev to Moscow. Moscow was later the center of the entire Orthodox brand of Christianity, and after Byzantium fell to the Muslims the center of “true” Christianity. One could also argue that there was a common ruling family and a continuation from Kiev to Moscow in that regard.
However, both arguments have significant holes in them. Some of Hrushevsky’s arguments make sense here. The traditional Russian history shows no separation from Kiev to Moscow, while in fact there was a considerable period of time between the waning of Kiev until the rise of Moscow. Another argument along these lines would be that the two regions and peoples are distinct and should not be lumped together. Also, in traditional Russian history, there are sizeable gaps when the Ukrainians are not mentioned. How could one explain these gaps in history, and remain in control? Russian historians claimed that nothing significant happened, because the Ukrainians were little more than uncouth barbarians.
There also remain questions about the Ukrainian rationale. For instance, how can one explain the striking similarities of Kiev to Muscovy? The Ukrainian historian would argue that this was merely a case of transplanting ideas within an empire, that Kiev influenced Moscow but did not pass on its power. Also, how can one dispute a history that has been accepted for so long? The Ukrainian historian would claim that because Muscovy and later Russia came to power, they wrote the history. They could then contend that it was written to a Russian bent and could have many mistakes in it as well as untruths.
Wilson’s article discusses possible reasons that each side might want to use a made up history, or myth. Russia might have chosen to use a history based on the “all Russia” myths, because they could then contend that they had a right to maintain unity. They could also then dispute the freedom any controlled territory, such as Ukraine, had to rebel against them. They also wanted to be seen as the good side, so they would want to project an image of being liberators of Ukraine and others from the hands of the Mongols.
Ukraine, on the other hand, would have the exact opposite reason to use a history based on myths putting forth the idea of separation. If the two regions were separate entities with separate histories, they would have a much stronger case for independence from Russia. They also would project the picture of an oppressed people at the hand of the evil Russians, to gain sympathy for their cause.
While Ukraine and Russia could have both been offshoots from the original Rus’ culture, it is not logical that they developed totally independent of each other. It is not reasonable to insist that Ukraine maintained a sense of nationality without some influence from Russia, and it is equally illogical that Russia did not benefit from some influence from Ukraine.
Therefore, in conclusion, my opinion about Hrushevsky’s argument that Kievan history belongs to Ukraine but not to Russia would have to be one of disagreement. Exclusivity just does not make sense to me in this case. There are too many good arguments on both sides for me to be able to come to any conclusion other than that both came from Kievan Rus’. To what extent each inherited its culture has really been mussed up by all the myths flying around, so we may never know with any certainty who is right.