Scythian-Russians, millennial Ukraine and Bandera-genius. 13 myths about the Ukrainian past, widespread in society
And also the Donbass donated by the Bolsheviks, the teacher of the Sorbonne Ivan Sirko, the “Congress of Kobzars” and the “Constitution” of Pylyp Orlyk.
People who invent and launch historical myths do not always aim for something bad. Perhaps they even seek to help: to overcome the inferiority complex, to interest the citizens of Ukraine in the past of their country, to make them feel proud – for example, for the fact that the Ukrainian language is the oldest in the world. But myths remain myths, and truth remains truth. Not knowing the truth about the past and entertaining illusions is quite dangerous, especially when some of these illusions are created and fueled by Kremlin propaganda.
MediaSapiens was already collecting Soviet myths about World War II . And this time we asked seven historians who study different periods of the Ukrainian past to name the historical myths that, in their opinion, are most common in society. You can learn more about some of these experts by browsing our selection of historical YouTube channels .
State “Kievan Rus”. Professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University Yaroslav Hrytsak says that a state with such a name never existed – this term was coined by Russian historians of the nineteenth century to distinguish Moscow Russia from Ancient Russia. “It is difficult to call Russia a state in the first hundred years of its existence, ” says Yaroslav Hrytsak. ” This is a military trading company that tried to establish its control and collect tribute from a large area between the Baltic and Black Seas .”
Great culture of Russia . ” In terms of art and writing, Russia was very poor,” says Yaroslav Hrytsak. – The number of books that existed in Russia in the XII-XIII centuries was somewhere like in the library of an ordinary Byzantine monastery. An educated Ruthenian in the XVI century read the same books as in the XII . During this period, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Copernicus created in Europe, and Omar Khayyam in Arab culture. There was no such thing in Russia . “
Russia – part of Byzantine civilization . The language of educated Europe was Latin, which was spread by the Christian church. Instead, Byzantium, having spread Christianity to Russia, did not spread the Greek language – it did not become the language of the Orthodox world. She was known to the Greek metropolitans, who were sent to Russia from Constantinople, but not the Ruthenians. ” Russia was cut off from the sources of ancient civilization ,” says Yaroslav Hrytsak. “A European chronicler could freely quote Virgil or Cicero, but no Russian chronicler quoted Aristotle .”
Ukrainian millennium . Heorhiy Kasyanov, head of the department of the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, says that at the end of the 19th century a type of history description emerged that demonstrated the longevity of Ukraine and Ukrainians for at least a millennium. ” It is clear that this was a political project,” the scientist commented. – Ukrainians as a single nation, cultural and linguistic community in the modern sense did not exist then. The most common, generalized idea of Ukrainians as a community (people or nation) emerged in the nineteenth century among the cultural elite. And only at the end of the XIX – beginning of the XX century it began to be broadcast to a wider circle, becoming the basis for the formation of a political and ethnic nation – first in ideas, and then in reality .
Ukrainians and Russians are one people . One of the arguments for proving the thesis that Vladimir Putin loves so much is the alleged existence of a single political, cultural, civilizational and religious space since the days of Ancient Russia. “But a single nation at least needs a common territory, a common language and common ideas about their past and themselves. To imagine all this in the colossal territory of Ancient Russia is fantastic, ”says Georgy Kasyanov.
Cossacks – a state-building force . Volodymyr Hutsul, an associate professor at the Department of Archeology, Ethnology and Cultural Studies at Uzhhorod National University, says that this myth has strongly influenced the formation of Ukrainian political identity. In the 17th century, the Cossacks really formed political communities and not without success sought political rights on the territory of modern Ukraine. ” But it should be taken into account that in the Cossack environment the most active were natives of the nobility of the Commonwealth, ” the historian comments. ” It was they who gave the armed, semi-marginal Cossack community the appearance of a political organism .” A striking example of the “noble basis” of the Cossacks is the career of the Polish nobleman Bohdan Khmelnytsky.
Ivan Sirko is a teacher at the Sorbonne . Vladimir Hutsul calls this fake a textbook. ” There is no historical source of evidence that Ataman Sirko was in France ,” he said. The image of the Cossack ataman lecturing to French students in Latin is fascinating, but it does not cease to be fiction. The icing on this fake cake is the story of the arrival of Charles de Gaulle at the grave of the “hero of France” Ivan Sirko in Kapulivka. The French president did visit Kyiv in 1966, but did not go to Kapulivka.
Philip Orlyk’s Constitution . The document, which is so called, is not the basic law of the state, but an agreement between the hetman and the nobility, which concerned the establishment of relations between different groups of the Cossack elite. “It is wrong to call this treaty a constitution in the modern sense of the word, ” comments historian Georgy Kasyanov. ” It’s called presentism – when modern concepts are transferred to times when they didn’t exist .”
Shot congress of kobzars. In the 1930s, all kobzars of Soviet Ukraine were gathered for a congress in Kharkiv and shot. This story became the basis of the plot of Oles Sanin’s film “The Guide”. Eduard Andryushchenko, a researcher of the archives of the Soviet secret services and author of the KGB Files channel, says that there is no evidence that this really happened. “Most of the documents of the 1930s are relatively well preserved, ” explains Edward. – This congress is described as a large-scale event that has been organized for a long time. There should be some posters, announcements, newspaper clippings. The event was to remain in the memories . ” The historian says that this myth is based on a bit of truth: there was repression against kobzars in Ukraine.
Donated Crimea and Donbass . MediaSapiens analyzed in detail the myth of “gifted” or “exchanged” Crimea. There is also a version about Donbass – they say that this Russian region was originally given to Ukraine by the Bolsheviks in the first years of Soviet Ukraine. ” Even during the Cossack era, part of Donbass was colonized by the Cossacks of the Zaporozhian Sich, ” denies historian Vladlen Marayev, who works at the Research Center for Humanitarian Problems of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. – These lands were officially part of the XVIII century in the Zaporozhian Lowland Army. The other part was part of the Don Army, which retained first independence and then autonomy within Muscovy and Russia. Total Russification of Donbass began in the late XIXcentury. Before the Bolsheviks captured the territory of Donbass, these lands were part of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Therefore, the Reds not only did not give Donbass to Ukraine, but on the contrary – tore off the Taganrog and Shakhtinsk regions from it and joined Russia . “
Crimea is a Russian ethnic territory . It sounds absurd, but the Russians have an argument: they say that the first population of Crimea in the historical period were the Scythians, and the Scythians – the ancestors of the Slavs (and hence the Russians). Historian and publicist Serhiy Gromenko confirms that the Scythians’ stay in the Crimea was recorded by both archeological and written sources. But the claim that the Scythians were the ancestors of the Russians, was established during the reign of Catherine II. “In 1778, Alexander Suvorov, on the instructions of Catherine II, organized the deportation of Christians from the Crimea, ” says the historian. – He counted more than thirty thousand immigrants – Greeks, Armenians, Georgians, Romanians. There were no Russians or other Slavs among the settlers . “
Later, after Russia’s unsuccessful Crimean War, the government began forcing Crimean Tatars to leave for the Ottoman Empire. Already in the 1860s, there were more Crimean Tatars in the diaspora than in Crimea. At the same time, Russians began to move to these lands. ” They became the majority solely due to the administrative pressure of the imperial and later the Soviet government on the Crimean Tatars, ” said Serhiy Gromenko. ” Of the three thousand years of written history in Crimea, Russians on the peninsula have been a relative ethnic majority for only 115 years, and an absolute majority for 72 years .”
Stepan Bandera is a superman . Stepan Bandera was undoubtedly an important figure in Ukrainian history, but was he a genius? There were many myths about the leader of the Ukrainian nationalists. Poles, Germans and Soviets demonized him as a criminal. But the myth of Bandera as an extraordinary leader with incredible abilities, according to historian Georgy Kasyanov, created by Bandera himself and his immediate entourage. ” Bandera was 50 years old when he was killed ,” said the historian. – He spent much of his life in prison, concentration camp or under house arrest. To say that he was an outstanding theorist and organizer is an obvious exaggeration. He was an outstanding builder of the party faction and an outstanding organizer of his own cult . “
Galicians have always been nationalists . ” One of the most common myths about Galicia is the idea of it as a homeland and a stronghold of only one ideology: radical nationalism ,” said Oleksandr Zaitsev, a professor at the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of Ukraine at the Ukrainian Catholic University. In fact, until the early 1930s, Galician Ukrainian politics was democratic and largely liberal. Most of him was in opposition to the Polish state and did not hide his devotion to the image of an independent, united and democratic Ukraine. «Despite the obstacles, Ukrainian parties ran well in the elections and had a fairly strong representation in the highest state bodies. However, the revolutionary path to gaining one’s own state, which was promoted by radical nationalists, seemed to many to be shorter and more effective than the path taken by legal parties and public organizations , ”commented Oleksandr Zaitsev. The Ukrainian National Democratic Union was the most influential political movement in Galicia until the late 1930s. The role of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists has grown dramatically since September 1939, when the Soviet government destroyed all legal national-democratic and socialist Ukrainian parties. Liberals, unlike nationalists, were not ready to work underground.