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Articles published by the collaborating magazine GEOPOLITICA


Michael KOVAL*

Abstract. The article describes the most significant trends of the humanitarian and economic situation in Europe due to the active phase of Russian Federation aggression towards Ukraine. It also highlights current political and security challenges that directly affect the EU’s current political agenda as well as necessity of further involvement of the EU to the regional stability ensuring, Russia’s aggressive policy counteracting and the prospects of the NATO enlargement.

Keywords: European Union, Russian Federation aggression, Food and Energy crisis, economic and humanitarian challenges

The beginning of an active phase of Russian Federation aggression towards Ukraine within the large-scale military invasion, has determined a long-term political, security, economic and ideological consequences. The article does not contain a detailed description of the current economic and political situation in the EU, providing instead general characteristics of current events and their impact on the prospects of EU development. Thus, the article aims to highlight the most general trends in regional economy and policy, regarding the active phase of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, offering certain theses for further scientific discussion in the context of current events. The general trends in the economic and humanitarian spheres unleashed by Russian Federation war will highly affect the main indicators of the world economy and are already leading to a number of economic and humanitarian challenges. During the pre-war period, “The Economist intelligence unit” projected global economic growth (world GDP) of 4.1% in the post-COVID recovery, and then the agency has downgraded its forecast to 2%. The rise in inflation, which began during the COVID-19 pandemic (as a result of special monetary policy measures), is currently continuing, primarily due to rising prices for energy, raw materials, food, etc. Energy and resource crisis related to “Russian energy blackmail” is also continuing to take place. As an example, the price of Brent oil before the war was at $ 93 per barrel range; now its peak values reach $ 123. All these consequences affected the fuel and electricity prices for individuals and businesses. Similar trends are applied to certain types of strategically significant resources, such as aluminum – before the war the price per ton was about $ 2,900; with the onset of warfare actions, peak values reached $ 3,500-3,800. Such processes also took place in different sectors where the EU economy is still directly vulnerable. Due to the fact that Russian Federation and Ukraine are among the largest exporters of agricultural products, the not only Europe but World food crisis is to take place by the end of 2022. At the same time, Russia (considering all the possible consequences) continues to occupy southern Ukraine and blockade Ukrainian seaports, through which agricultural products were exported before. This is projected to lead to higher prices for wheat, corn and other types of main food products. In addition, a special problem in international logistics was occurred, regarding the inability to use the transit potential of Ukraine, whose territory is a transport hub between Europe and Asia. Responding to growing military-political risks associated with Russian neo-expansion policy, European governments are increasing their spending on security, defense, and other strategic areas of public spheres. In the context of economic challenges and rising government expenditures, this has increased the burden on budgets and has contributed to the accumulation of debts of the European countries. An impact on migration processes is also admitted – primarily the increase in the volume of involuntary migration from Ukraine by the expense of refugees. At the time of preparation of this scientific article (June 2022), military actions in Ukraine are still in progress, but it is appropriate to state that the current volumes of forced migration processes to European countries (about 7 million people) are already exceeded the indicators of the European migration crisis in 2015. In the context of current political and security trends, the following should be mentioned. The European countries, as a part of the EU and NATO, are politically, economically and culturally integrated into a single Euro-Atlantic civilized space. At the same time, they feel considerable pressure from Russia and the impact of its political instability, particularly in the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The issue is both the current: (1) active phase of the Russian aggression towards Ukraine and the Kremlin’s military-political actions that preceded it, (2) the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, (3) the intensification of military presence on its territory, (4) the intensification of military actions on the Donbas region, (5) numerous military trainings near the borders of NATO countries, (6) interference in the internal political processes of neighboring countries, etc. This has led to appropriate actions from the other countries of the region. It is mentioned not only about growing military potential, but also about increasing resistance to the threat of Russian hybrid aggression, e.g., cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns. The hidden policy of Moscow’s appeasement by the so called “EU locomotives” (primarily France and Germany), as well as their efforts in “the Cold War v.2.0” prevention, were separated from security priorities of the CEE countries (especially Poland and Baltic countries). This split was a disturbing sign of the uncertainty of the EU and NATO prospects in the region [3]. The European Union is still consolidated around the military-technical, economic and diplomatic support of Ukraine. At the same time, still there is no unanimity on many issues. Common process of making strategic joint decisions at the supranational level is seriously complicated by individual member states decisions; in particular, it is about Hungary’s foreign policy position. There is a significant public demand for the formation of a new foreign and security policy agenda due to the current challenges. In this context, the European Community and international partners expect the EU, as a supranational institution, to be more actively involved in the European security and political stability agenda establishment. The intensification of the EU at the international level is aimed to respond the military aggression of Russian Federation towards Ukraine, as it may provoke new conflicts all over the Europe. In particular, in the case of potential attempts at illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, the situation in the Balkans may worsen, where mutual territorial claims, interethnic and interfaith conflicts may become the basis for future conflict. Against the background of these processes, there is a noticeable increase in the political weight of intergovernmental associations: the “Three Seas Initiative” or similar prospective bilateral / multilateral alliances. In this context, it is also important to mention the proposal of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson to create an “European Commonwealth” (a possible union of UK, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries) as possible alternative to the EU. Of course, it is not mentioned any concrete decisions on the institutionalization of an “alternative European organization”, but we can say that such ideas are becoming more widespread among politicians. On the other hand, the EU enlargement policy remains an important aspect in modern conditions. Refusal to approve Ukraine’s European integration aspirations (particularly in the issue of granting it EU candidate status) could provoke an even greater crisis of confidence within the EU and increase Eurosceptic sentiments. As an example, one of the arguments about the impossibility of granting can-didate status to Ukraine (as well as to Moldova and Georgia) could be that mentioned countries do not control part of the territories and being at the state of war. As Andreas Umland rightly points out, Brussels’ rejection of the European country’s application, on the basis that it does not fully control its state territory – discredits the EU itself. This will mean that any country achieves an indirect right of veto on the foreign and domestic policy of the European Union with the help of force. Again, this is already mentioned particular risk, given the situation in the Balkans [4].


The theses and scientific analysis presented in the article made possible to draw the following findings:

1.         The economic and humanitarian challenges provoked by the Russian military aggression towards Ukraine (such as economic downturn, crisis of the migration situation, current threats to food and energy security) directly affect the development of the European continent and determine the adjustment of strategic EU policies. 2.         In the context of current political and security challenges, more active involve-ment of the EU to the processes of regional stability, ensuring and countering existing threats (primarily from Russian Federation) is required. This creates the preconditions for possible institutional transformations of the amicable countries. 3.         At the geostrategic level, it is important for the EU to maintain clear prospects for further enlargement. The need for this is dictated not only in view of maintaining the image and international position of the Union, but also in terms of regional stability and security recovery.



Mircea C. MARIN, PhD, Political Sciences and International Relations

Abstract. Our essay considers the function of countries names within the process of nation-states building. While starting from a contemporary debate concerning the use with or without definite article of the name of (the) Ukraine we hypothesize that the etymology of a country’s name is relevant for the success of its entire national narrative both in the eyes of others and the people it addresses. Thus, we postulate that the name of a country is the core of any national narrative – everything that the national narrative says about the nation, the people which are supposed to form the nation, the state of the nation, the territory of the nation, its foes and its friends in the international community. We conclude that, while foreign policy decision are based on cold and hard arguments, being rather insensitive to aspects like the names of countries, human groups are, the study of the etymology of a country name being able to deepen the understanding of facts.

Keywords: Ukraine, Russia, Cossacks, national identity, etymology

Like any human activity, foreign policy is carried with the means of the language. The words, their meanings, their order within a sentence are crucial for the statements and the narratives the statesmen and diplomats make use of when it comes to express their positions and their claims on international matters. Memoirs of diplomats abound in the evocation of episodes of long nights lost with the purpose of negotiating the position of a certain comma or of certain definite or indefinite article, which would have offered to the counterpart the possibility to interpret the text contrary to its nation’s interests. Diplomacyis understood as an art of words. Probably the most sensitive category of words used in international politics refers to the names of countries. It happens so because, basically, the name is a claim – a claim that comprises the territory and the people, which are the very constituent of the nation state. Similar to the names of persons, the names of countries are proper names or, at least, are grammatically treated as so. The lexicon of the international atlas of many languages include names of countries which are morphological proper names (RO: Franţa, Germania) and other that are common names (RO: Ţara Galilor / present in the international competitions, Ţările de Jos). In some of these languages, according to each ones particularity the definite articulation is marked by a distinct part of speaking, see in English article the, or by a suffix that follows the root of the word, as is the case of Romanian. From the point of view of the international law, all names of countries are equal as they identify equal sovereign states, no matter if they are morphological common or proper names, no matter if they are accompanied by a definite article or not. Any intellectual inquiry should end here, in this very point. Yet, what a historian would object is that since the Peloponnesian War the historical reality is shaped by the inequality between states. The member of a realist school (which the writer of this article is) would even say that without inequality between states and without the influence wielded by the more powerful states toward the less powerful ones, international order itself would be unimaginable (as we know from the theory of games about the tragedy of commons, that equal actors would rather fail to cooperate in the achievement of a common good the producing of which require altruistic behavior while favoring individual gains). For the community of states, the most important common good is peace itself – a common good which, as the experience of the human species bears witness, was the result of arrangements designed and enforced by the states that acquired the means of power in greater measure than their counterparts, may be them challenging foes or supportive friends. This inequality between the means of power possessed by states turns them into active α or reactive β making possible their ordering according to a design imagined and resultant of the actions of α. This is the essence of any international order – which historically survives as long as the balance of power between the unique α and the many β is favorable to α.

A part of culture is the language, and part of the language, the words. Few scientists consider etymology as a branch of archaeology and even fewer consider it relevant in the explanation of foreign policy decisions (we are among that do). To the skeptics we would reply that the entire logic of the political correctness system and as a part of it of the cultural, West vs Rest, gender and other related studies rely on the idea that etymology of the words we use explain and predict our views and behavior toward the objects of our universe. Our essays deals with a rare case of political όνομα – (the) Ukraine, hypothesizing that the etymology of the country’s name is relevant for the success of its entire national narrative both in the eyes of others and the people it addresses. We postulate that the name of a country is the core of any national narrative – everything that the national narrative says about the nation, the people which are supposed to form the nation, the state of the nation, the territory of the nation, its foes and its friends in the international community. Our hypothesis was suggested by the polemics triggered by US President Barack Obama remarks in March 2014, when, while answering a question related to the invasion of Crimean Peninsula, he referred to the situation in “the Ukraine”. As Time journalist Katy Steinmetz noted at that moment, his choice made Ukrainian-American cringe, feeling both frustration and abandonment in what concerns their cause. Quoted in the mentioned article, former US ambassador William Taylor (who actually served in Kyiv during 2006-2009) proposed the following explanation for the criticism met by the presidential remark “Ukraine is a country (…) The Ukraine is the way the Russians referred to that part of the country during Soviet times (… ). Now that it is a country, a nation, and a recognized state, it is just Ukraine. And it is incorrect to refer to the Ukraine, even though a lot of people do it”. As Taylor observes, Ukrainians in the Anglophone countries are extremely sensitive in this matter as they “fume” whenever they find in written or verbal context the name of Ukraine introduced by the definite article. This discontent and correction of those that use the name of the country in the form they dislike takes the shape of a political campaign. In this regard, Steinmetz quotes in her article Tamara Gallo Olexy, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, who mentions that “We correct anybody that we’re speaking to”. It is, no doubt, an act of self empowerment – first as they assume to be an instance that has the authority to establish which name is correct and which is not, second because they claim the liberty to disregard objective etymology rules in favor of subjective national feelings. Thus, Olexey, as Steinmetz quotes, admits that etymology or old names are really beside the point “it’s this feeling that you’re part of another country, that you are a territory of somebody else.” This feeling that you are part of another country is in the core of any nations building program, is the very first sentence of any nation building narrative that develops further into to each people a nation state of its own. Indeed, following Gellner, Anderson and other researchers of nationalism and nations building process, objective etymology and history are less relevant than the acts of will of the nations builders. As any modern nation is not organic but engineered, some etymologies and some historical episodes are useful, but some are not – some etymology and some historical episode actually bring you closer to those you want to differentiate from and in this case you must cultivate any trait that makes you particular – from simple phonetics and vernacular language to local folklore, heroes and so on.

Slavic people of today Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have their origin in the Old Rus, a Norse ruled kingdom centered in Kyiv. Most probably Norse ethnonym Rōþrą referred to a people having rowing a distinctive trait (see Old Norse rōþr – “steering oar” and much older Proto-Indo-European *h₁reh₁- “to row”). Norse Rōþrą entered in both Greek as Ῥῶς (Rhos) and in Latin as Rhos as early as the 9th century (see Pseudo-Simeon’s and Theophanes Continuatus Chronicles respectively, The Annales from Saint Bertin Monastery, all three anonymous chronicles). While using Ῥῶς, Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII, in his treaty dedicated to the administration of the state, identifies the Norse / Varangian elite distinct to their Slavic subjects. He uses as well the toponym Ῥωσσία referring to the lands and territories under the rule of those he called Ῥῶς, It was something common for that time, similar examples are France – Francia that takes its name from ruling Franks, Andalusia that preserves its name reminding the Vandals even under Arabic rule, Lombardia that takes its name from Longobards even if the local population was of Roman origin and spoke a Romance language. Constantine distinguishes too a language of the Varangian elite, a Norse idiom he identifies as rhosisti (‘ῥωσιστί’, the language of the Rus) and sklavisti (‘σκλαβιστί’, the language of the Slavs). In the second half of the 9th century, under the regent queen Olga, Rus adopted Christianity in Byzantine rite and consequently the Old Church Slavonic with Kyrilic alphabet as both liturgical and chancery language. The introduction of the Old Church Slavonic as elevated language facilitated the Slavonization of the Norse elites. A difference existed as Old Church Slavonic was different from the vernacular Old East Slavic (Old Church Slavonic was based on the Slavic idiom spoken by the Slavs settled in the East of Balkans in historical Bulgaria), yet it did not prove to set a wall of misunderstanding between the elites and the mass. The toponym Russia entered in the lexicon of political geography as early as the ethnonym Rus. We mentioned its Greek form Ῥωσσία in the 10th century writings of the emperor Constantine VII (it was probably introduced one century earlier), while in medieval Latin some may find Ruscia, Rucia, Ruzzia, Ruzsia, Russia, Rossia, Ruthenia. The latter two, Russia and Ruthenia proved more endurance, surviving beyond the 12th century. Latin forms Russia or Rossia were most probably transli-teration of Greek-Byzantine Ῥωσσία introduced in the Romanic world by diplomats in close contact with Constantinople like Liutprand of Cremona. The forms may be found in documents (chronicles, reports, correspondence) produced in Northern Italy, France and England, surviving the Middle Ages and the Renaissance being assimilated in the modern languages. Latin form Ruthenia, with less specific connection to Norse Rōþrą people (the rowing Varangians, was accepted as early as the 12th century as an alternative for Russia, see early French geography written in Latin mentioning “Polonia in uno sui capite contingit Russiam, quae et Ruthenia”). It is noted, that by the end of the 12th century the documents referring to the lands of the Old Rus issued by the Curia will use Ruthenia as a standard, canceling all other alternatives. Under the authority of the Curia, Ruthenia became as well the form preferred by both royal and ecclesiastical chancelleries and the medieval universitas in Bohemia Hungary and Poland – kingdoms that at the moment already included territories of the Old Rus. The Orthodox Church ensured the survival of the old Rus Русь under the very name of Russia (Greek Ῥωσσία, Kyrilic Россия) after the kingdom ruled by Varagians collapsed and disintegrated following the Mongol Invasion in smaller and distant principalities like Muscovy and Halych-Volhynia (that might have supported distinct ethnonym and identities – see the Muscovites). Thus, Patriarch Callistus I of Con-stantinople identifies Μεγάλη Ῥωσσία (Megálē Rhōssía) – Great Russia and Μικρὰ Ῥωσσία (Mikro Rhōssía) – Little Russia as jurisdiction areas of the metropolitan sees established in 1361 – first with centers in Vladimir later Moscow (today Russia) and Kyiv (today Ukraine) and the second with centers in Halych (today Ukraine) and Novgorodok (today Belarus). By being simply evoked, the names of the two eparchies sketched the referential boundaries of what a Russian state should include, the ideal / absolute cultural, spiritual and, ultimately, the political boundaries of ideal Russia – an essential component of the core of any nation building program, that Kremlin leaders, starting with Ivan III and Ivan IV and continuing with the Romanovs, an onward, pursuit in the long term (en long durée). Starting with the 15th century (see the Council of Florence) till the end of the 16th century (see the Union of Brest), the Orthodox Rus living under the rule of Poland-Lithuania, became the target of Catholic expansionism being in some cases persuaded, but in some, forced to recognize the apostolic authority of the Pope, under the form of the Uniatism. In the new context they were no longer called Rus / Русь but Ruthenians. It is disputable that the latinization of Rus as Ruth / Ruthenianus represented at that moment the production of a label aimed to support a different identity (th being pronounced more like s under the influence of Greek, Russen echoing Rusyn and thus being more similar to Rus and not as a strong t as it happened later under the influence if German). Various sources from political titles to map toponyms suggest that Halych Uniates were claiming the heritage of Old Rus, too.

The differences between the Roman and the Byzantine rites, each of them bearing profound and divergent frameworks of thinking, and the manifest choices they involved between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople and not the use of Old Church Slavonic (which actually was used by both rites) differentiated Slavic Rus from Poles and Slovakians and other Slavs in Central Europe. These differrences gave substance to a broader anthropological rift with reverberation from the level of individual behavior to the one of national politics and geopolitics being labeled and re-labeled under many names – see civilizational battle line between Catholic-Protestant West and Orthodox East, in S.P. Huntington, or as frontier between Mitteleuropa and Eastern Europe, in Friedrich Naumann. Like any ideal, the idea that Kremlin residents had about Russia was a utopian representation, which nourished a national ideology – it fostered mobilization of some, yet, it created opposition of other. The claim of those in Moscow to be recognized as rulers of all Russia and inhe-ritors of Constantinople as Third and ultimate Rome (Ivan IV crowns himself as Emperor / Czar of All Russia as direct descendant of Paleologues through his mother Sophia Paleologina) is contested in Kyiv, in Constantinople / Istanbul, and in Rome. All these three centers had different views on what concerned the legacy of Old Rus. Orthodoxy did not impede discontent, rivalry and competition between the high hierarchs. Thus, Kyiv hierarchs never ceased to claim the old glory of the capital of the Varagian state, being frustrated by the slow but steady shift of influence first to Vladimir, than afterwards to Moscow. Such transfer was perceived as a theft while the claim to rule over all Russia was perceived as a fraud and a usurpation of the legacy of great knyazes of Kyiv, the lawful sovereigns of the Old Rus, whose rule continued, in fact, uninterrupted by the Mongol Invasion, being later transferred to the voivodes of Kyiv, after the integration of the realm in the Duchy of Lithuania. More than anything Kyivians affirmed their autonomy from Moscovites through their choices and orient-tations lenient toward the West in what concerned the major geopolitical matters of the continent. A first example is the rallying of Isidor of Kyiv, metropolitan of Great Russia, indeed a Greek himself, with the Byzantine hierarchs participant at the Council of Florence (1439) in the recognition of the primacy of the Pope, a decision that triggered his deposition and banishment as apostate from the ecclesiastical throne at his return in Russia. A second is the decision of Mykhailo Rahoza, metropolitan, according to his title, of Kyiv, Halych, and All Rusia to accept the primacy of the Pope while concluding the Union of Brest, that finally led to the emergence of the Ruthenian Uniate Church. It is not less relevant for our discussion to mention that Mykhailo Rahoza was enthroned by the Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremias II, himself, the same that enthroned Job of Moscow as first Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The titles conferred to the two hierarchs made echo to old Byzantine practices of granting equal rights to competing opponents for the same claim in order to consolidate a power position in relation to both of them as arbiter of their competition. It was, as well, an expression of the deep but well dissimulated contempt the Patriarchs of Constantinople regarded the claim that Moscow would be the Third and ultimate Rome. In this matter Jeremias II, than in exile, succeeded to acquire the most from his trade with Muscovite regent Boris Godunov granting him an attribute of Empire (let us remember an old political postulate dating from the days of John Assan “Imperio sine patriarchia non est”) and to Polish king Sigismund III Vasa a tool to consolidate the assimilation of the Orthodox Slavs of the voivodship of Kyiv and the Halych-Volhynia within the Polish-Lithuania. Rome itself rebuffed Moscow’s claim of representing the Third and ultimate Rome by encouraging and easing by all means the Union. We may say that by the end of the 16th century all the dramatis personae, that by their clash in the long term (en longue durée) drive the historical and political drama of the Eastern Europe, with their interests, their specific mind set, their basic behavior, their basic political and geopolitical projections, with all that is in their favor or against, are set. First, the Moscovites will assume as central idea the inclusion of all territories and people related to the Old Rus as heart of their state (let us call it Project Russia). This idea involves first of all the projection of their interests beyond the boundaries within their authority is accepted as legitimate and never contested – Kyiv is beyond these boundaries. In such spaces Kremlin rulers would be determined to use excessive force in order to annihilate opposition while confronting with unceasing contestation and discontent from a part of the population – not of all. As definite as the anthropological rift between Central Europe and Eastern Europe there is a definite other anthropological rift represented by the boundaries of acceptance or denial of Moscow’s authority that would essentially be nourished by the clash between the autocratic political culture of the Kremlin rulers and the rather anarchic political culture of local power holders materialized in conflictual positions regarding the control of resources. We see that in the long term (en longue durée) since the Pereiaslav Agreement (1654). The Moscovites confront with two specific situations – (1) These territories are beyond the limits of Moscow’s sovereignty, as they enjoy their own sovereignty – in such case it will claim they represent a zone of exclusive interest in front of other regional or global competitors, and will act to impede them to rally to these competitors while keeping them under its control (in such a situation Kremlin rulers would make use of an inexhaustible paraphernalia of unions and commonwealths, will emphasize symbols that plead for similarity and common identity as the inheritance of Old Rus, the common East Slavic origin of peoples, the Orthodox faith. This stratagem will not be without echo as many actors will play as proxies. While it considers these territories as essentially Russian, Moscow will evaluate the cost of the use of military means to achieve its maximal objectives with same measure as it would evaluate its own territorial defense; (2) These territories are within the limits of Moscow’s sovereignty – in such case it will strive to eradicate opposition, banishing and pushing into oblivion anything that might serve as an anchor for a local different identity as local language, symbols of anti-Russian resistance or of self determination. Second, the Kiyvians will claim that Kiyv is the true continuator of the Old Rus and, consequently, refute the very idea of its restoration – something that never ceased to exist cannot be restored. Moscovy, Halych-Volhynia, Kyiv and so on – are distinctive entities entitled to chose their own organi-zation, rulers, allies and enemies, to define their own vision of what the continuation of Old Rus might mean, being by no means bound to renounce to their identity and sovereignty in order to melt within a new state expressing the vision of another brothereach brother to its own home. Moscow’s claims to rule over the others would be seen as illegitimate and expansionist, its attempts to integrate them unilaterally, as imperial domination, its rule, as foreign occupation. Orthodox faith, East Slavic language and ethnicity, the Rus identity are perceived by Kyivians as common roots and trunk that support different branches – branches with an existence of their own. What is relevant in defining their relation with the Moscovites is by no means what makes them similar, what they have in common, but what differentiate them – parti-cularities of vernacular language, foreign influences (of Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Habsburg and Ottoman origin) and so on. The Kyivans would strongly rebuff any hegemony – not only from Moscow, but as well from other regional powers with imperial projects in Eastern Europe and North Sea. This also will seed a deep feeling of being surrounded by hostile neighbors, which exploit any moment of weakness, any internal dissension, while using them as pawns for sacrifice and their territory with their cities, growing fields and homes as battlefield in their regional competition. The Kyivians at their turn confront with two situations – (1) they fight to regain freedom and independence, while being forced to form complicated alliances with powers that despite their imperial intentions do not represent the occupant of the day, thus they accept to become proxies of the occupants of tomorrow in the larger competition for hegemony in the Eastern Europe and the Northern shore of the Black Sea – this is the situation that leads to the Pereiaslav Agreement (1654): the Cossacks and an important part of the Orthodox clergy and believers rebel against the Union of Brest, and against the increasing limitation of their freedom and expropriation of their lands by Polish slachta, they call Moscow for help, which in fact had same intentions, as ally and protector. Relations with Moscow are more complex and complicated that they appear in the lights of the present events – Moscow is not perceived all the time as the highest threat, in fact, most of time in the long term (en longue durée) is perceived as the least of threats and the tool for the achievement of the most important goals as liberation and restoration of territorial integrity – for most of the 17th and the 18th centuries, Moscow is seen as the power that helps in to chase way Ottomans and Polish, similarly during the interwar period when Moscow is seen as the power that helps in to chase away the Second Polish Republic, the Kingdom of Romania, and Czechoslovakia from the territories claimed by the Ukrainian Popular Republics emerged after the October Revolution; (2) The territory is formally under Moscow’s control – while Moscow cancels most of the freedoms granted by the previous hegemon or simply impose a harsh order after periods of anarchy, they contest it. Contesting Moscow may take form of national uprising, like Pugachev’s Rebellion, of cultural protest, of political activism or simply of passive day-by-day discontent and mefiance toward the Moscovites.

The political vision that might be labeled as Project Ukraine did it more sinuously and lengthy. It is because in the time we had in focus – from the end of the early Middle Ages (9th century) to the end of the Middle Ages (16th century) – Ukraine as a country name, toponym, ethnonym, national identity does not exist. The formal birth certificate is the map of Great Duchy of Lithuania of 1613 (Carta Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae Caeterarumque Regionum Illi Adjacentium Anno 1613). The map of 1613 issued by Willem Blaeu, under his original imprint Guilhelmus Janssonis, in Amsterdam, was engraved by the Dutch Hessel Gerritz from original drafts prepared under direct instructions of Prince Christophe Radziwill by Polish geographer Maciej Strubicz. Prince Radwill commissioned the mapping of its realm to Strubicz in 1586 when Lithuania included Poland and claimed sovereignty over Southern and Eastern territories territories once included into the Old Rus – from Volhynia to Kyiv and beyond. East of Podolia with the river Bug (the natural boundary of the anthropological rift between Catholicism and Orthodoxy as it was set after the Union of Brest, a reference for the drafters of the later Curzon Line) south of Kyiv, and north of the desert fields of this side of Borysthene / Dnipro, the map mentions what some name Vkraine. Ukraine means margin – the notion of the margin it is not new in Eastern Europe defining an extremity of the realm functioning as an advanced defence force that should block or weaken the raids of Ottoman akingi or Crimean Tatar hoards toward the rich monasteries or rich merchant burgs in the mainland – In medieval Hungary this mission was enforced by administrative units with special defensive status called banat, like Banat of Temesvar or by the settlements of Saxon or Szekellys in the closeness of great trans Carpathian passes, in early modern Habsburg Empire there were the margin or border regiments of Serbians, Romanians or Ruthenians. The margin involved granting to local peasant communities a special status an extensive autonomy in exchange of military service. Vkraine as it is mentioned on this 1613 map is clearly not a toponym – it is not a region called so, but a form of organization, a regime governing a certain zone. A latter map, drown loosely on the base of the one of Prince Radzwill at 1684 (Carta de Tartaria D`Europa ouro Piccola Tartaria divisa da Giacomo Cantelli da Vignola ne Tartari Nogai) published by Giacomo Cantelli da Vignola / and engraved by Giacomo Giovanni Rossi mentions actually two Ukraines, the Ukraine of the Cossacks of Zaporoje on Dnipro, and the Ukraine of the Cossacks on Don (Cosacchi Tanaiti) which are subjects of Moscow – later echoing the reality following the Pereiaslav Agreement (1654).

So, what the political history of the word bear witness is (1) that it occurred as common name and used for about five hundred years already in articulated form – as the Ukraine; (2) while it is certainly of Slavic origin it is not sure from which of the Slavic languages is its parent: a) Polish? as it first occurred in a Polish document, b) vernacular Slavic idiom spoken by Cossacks? while in any context it is associated with them? c) Old Church Slavonic? as it is found in Serbian and Croatian as an archaic form for border region? (3) no matter its origin it is certain that the Cossacks adopted to define their organization (4) organization, with its specific – the spirit of freedom, the rejection of any central interference, the unrestrictive landscape of the steppes – defined the collective identity of the Cossacks. These specific elements – the specific social and political organization, the specific landscape, the specific feeling – became the core material for the nation building process – a nation building process of the Project Ukraine. This process is probably one of the most complicated among all European nations. It is beyond any argue that all nation building process, probably with the exceptional cases of lilliputian states, involve on one hand the exacerbation of the differences between the members of the nation and their neighbors, defining otherness and on the other hand, the minimization of the differences between themselves defining commonness. A nation building process proceeds more easily if the neighbors are significantly different, for example if they speak a language of a different family (let us say a Romance language vs a Slavic Language, Finno-Ugric language or German language – see Romanians in Transylvania, a Slavic language vs a Germanic language – see Czech under the Austrian rule, or Poles in East Prussia). On the other hand speaking a same language is not a promise for the success in a nation’s building process. There are other elements like historical experience, the administrative and the political culture and no less the socio-economics that may rise internal barriers – they are so important as in same cases they make some individuals feel they have more in common with the neighbours than they have with those it is asked to consider their own. Once this doubt occurs, the internal solidarity that support the imaginative process (see Benedict’s Anderson definition of the nation as imagined community) fails and the group breaks apart. The building process of the Ukrainian nation faces huge challenges of this sort. We seen that Ukraine as central label itself is associated with the Cossacks – yet the Cossacks are a transnational group whose members with strong identity feelings of difference are to be found from the banks of Dnipro to the shores of the Pacific Ocean – they associate as well with Russia, with the autocratic Russia as they were the repressive force of the Czars. Social-economics of the rural border and of the urban old capital historical capital differentiate between the Cossacks and the Kyivians – the later considering them people of the no man’s land expressing a sort of mefiant superiority and cultural distance. While the nation’s forging process is extended toward West, in what during the Habsburgs was known as Galitsia and Bukowina a strong feeling of belonging to Mitteleuropa and the Catholic World nourish no less perceptible mefiant attitudes toward East Orthodoxy and people that lived under non-Germanic administration. Another complication that appears in the process is the direct competition of a different nation building. Ukrainian and Russian nation building process are concurrent while they base on programs that make appeal to the same vernacular material they alter in order to obtain the modern standard forms. There is debatable how different were the local idioms belonging to East Old Slavic, so they ensure by themselves different linguistic identities. The first assertion of Ukrainian national identity is expressed by Ivan Kotliarevky’s travesty of Virgil’s epic Eneide, in which the eponymous hero is recast as the leader of the Cossaks – while the subject itself echoes the mythical birth of Rome by Trojan refugees that may be seen as a nation building process of Ancient times, the text is written in vernacular language spoken by the Cossacks of the Zaporoje claiming, against Russian academics, that local idioms in the Ukraine are able to express the sophisticated poetical discourse in the same extent as a language of high culture as was considered to be Virgil’s Latin. In doing so Kotliarevky attacked frontally the claim of Moscow that Old Slavic idioms were rustic limited languages while high culture – literature, theology, other humanistic works – needed an elevated language like Old Church Slavonic or latter literary standard Russian. The Russian nation building program asserts that literary standard Russian represented the cultured form for all East Slavic vernacular which are entitled to coexist as dialects. While paraphrasing John Assan a barbaric kingdom becomes a civilized empire when it has a Patriarch of its own we may say that a dialect becomes a language when it is spoken by people that form an army with a flag of their own. Any debate is pointless – and in this respect, it is right – it does not count history and etymology what that counts is political will – as ultimately a process of a nation building and the existence of a nations is a pure act of will. We may imagine nations the members of which spoke dialects so different one from another that speakers of them cannot understand each other but still share the same national idea. Russians suppressed any vector that might have fostered the creation of a parallel nation closing in 1811 Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, a center of Ukrainian reverberation (universities are factories that fabricate standard languages and cultures) but as well social organizations with role in the aggregation and the mobilization like the Orthodox brotherhood Kyril and Methodius and other similar student corporations, in 1843. Several decades later, by Czar’s Alexander decree of 1876, Moscow decides to ban the use of Ukrainian as a living language allowing being use only in the printing of the old documents, being treated as an historical relic of the Russian language. While confronting with social reality of the existence of a large number of speakers of Ukrainian language, the artifice the engineers of the Project Russia chose was to accept its social use as a Russian language – in the Census of the Russian Empire of 1897, Russian language speakers are divided as speakers of three Russian languages: speakers of Great-Russian, speakers of Small-Russian (Ukrainian language) and, finally speakers of Belarussian. In fact this is the essence of the Triune Nation concept proposed by Russian academia and intelligentsia in the second part of the 19th century and reconsider in post soviet times as a narrative of imperial restoration. Despite banishment the idea of Ukraine had champions that defended it with the price of their freedom – like Taras Shevchenko or Pavlo Chubyansky that were both exiled for cultural crimes. While forbidden in the Russian state, the Ukrainian language was allowed in the Habsburg Empire both before and after the instauration of the Austrian-Hungarian in dualism in education and admi-nistration according to the concept of ruling and fostering the development of the subjects of the Emperor in their own language (due to the same practice the process of building the Romanian modern language starts in Transylvania and through patriotic intellectuals that cross the Carpathian mountains in the Principalities of Valachia and Moldova reverberate in all three Romanian lands). The problem is that in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire the term which is used is Ruthenian people and Ruthenian language, and while the people are mostly Catholic of Latin or Byzantine Rites and fell they belong to Central Europe – the Habsburg Mitteleuropa – the cultured language they forged from vernacular in the Universities of Tchernowitz or Lvov pay tribute to German, Polish or Hungarian rather the one forged in Kyiv. A solution imagined by Moscow leaders to preserve the Triune nation idea, after the October Revolution, keeping Bielorussians and Ukrainians under their control yet apart acknowledging their distinctiveness, was to create the Soviet Republics as simulacrum of nations-states a Stalin’s idea following the conclusions of Lenin on the Problem of Nationalities (actually the three Soviet Republics were presented at the creation of the United Nations Organizations as actors different than the Soviet Union). Soviet Moscow adopted Ukrainian idea as narrative to expend at the expense of the Second Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Romania that included territories claimed by the West Ukrainian Peoples Republic. This claims expressed in 1918 in Paris are echoed two decades later within the ultimatum note the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov presented to the Romanian Ambassador Davidescu in Moscow, concerning the disposal of North Bukowina with the city of Chernowitz with the argument that its Unification with the Kingdom of Romania ignored the will of its inhabitants. Moscow’s repressive apparatus helped after the World War II (ended with important territorial gains in the West that were included in Soviet Bielorussian Republic, present Belarus, and the Soviet Ukrainian Republic, present Ukraine) to integrated most of Ruthenians as Ukrainians – in the Polish Census of 1931 there were registered 3.221.975 Ukrainians and 1,219,647 Ruthenian – only in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania some may find today Ruthenians that consider that they are not Ukrainians. Other populations like Romanians living in Northern Bukowina in the proximity of the border close to their kin state were massively deported creating new ethnic proportions favourable to Ukrainians. Since March 1944, under the Moscow’s rule, starts aş well the ukrainization of the given names in the official records – Romanian Elena, Alexandra / Alexandru, Ion, Grigore, Nicolae, Petru, Mihail are inscripted in the identity papers as Olena, Olexandra / Olexander, Ivan, Hlihor, Mykola, Petro, Mikhaylo with Ukrainian resonance strange from their own mother language and national onomastic.

Returning to the issue of the – discussion itself is pointless, first because the Ukraine is not a form used or even preferred by Russians – The ones that used initially the definite form the Ukraine were the Cossacks, themselves, Russians borrowed it from them and while using it they had to accept the failure of an another toponym and identity they would prefer more Little Russia, second, because the foreign policy decisions are insensitive to the names of countries, as they are insensitive to the names of people or the names of languages. On the other hand human groups are not, and ultimately it is them that chose to wear a label under the form of a country or of a people name, and to decide what those really mean to them on how they fell history as a collective experience, which etymology reflects.


Yevhen MAHDA – PhD in Political Sciences, Publishing and Printing Institute of NTUU ‘Ihor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute’, Associate Professor, Ukraine

Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014 and the Crimea occupation have dramatically changed the power balance in the region. The peninsula has been militarized and has become a serious threat not only for Ukraine (as a foothold for the further invasion) but for the whole Black Sea area. Russian occupation of Crimea was legitimized by the idea of the exclusive importance of Crimea for the Russian identity. This narrative has been going for both domestic and international audiences but with considerable differences and nuances of course. In spite of them, the major components of the idea were as follows: 1) Sevastopol is a city of Russian military glory (Crimean war, WWII); 2) prince Volodymyr the Great who brought Christianity to the Kyivan Rus is in fact Russian national hero. This narrative shadows the long and rich part of the Crimean history, which is important for the whole region. I mean the history of Crimean Tatars and their state, Greek and Genova colonization and trade, and the history of other ethnic groups. Shadowing these parts of the Crimean past is important for legitimizing the exclusive right of Russia for owing the peninsula. On the contrary, the unveiling of the history of other ethnicities, of other states (i.e. Crimean Tatars or Karaims) would show the minor and not really pleasant role of the Russian and Russian Empire (and also the USSR) in the history of the region. The Black Sea region has a rich and diverse history that provides modern politics with different symbols and connotations. This leads us to the question of mnemonical security or ontological security from a wider perspective. This is one of the levels of war since the Russian-Ukrainian war takes place on different ones – conventional level of warfare, emotional and psychologic levels, and level of narratives. Also, the symbolic level is extremely important – it marks ontological security. Ontological security means the level of confidence of social actors in the absence of significant threats to their way of life and identity (as Anthony Giddens understands it[1]). Using the ontological security concept helps to explain the choice of attacked and promoted narratives and symbols. For example, the attacked narrative is “Crimea is the territory of Ukraine”. The Russian aim was to show that the Crimean Peninsula is the Russian territory. It was simply ‘a present’ of soviet leader Mykyta Khrushchev to Ukraine. And of course, Crimea should be returned to Russia – due to its extreme importance to the Russian national identity and imperial myth, adjusted and fixed up to the 21st century. It seems, that the modernized imperial myth does not pass the spaghetti test, but it is being still used anyway. During that meeting with historians in 2014, November 5th[3], Vladimir Putin gave a clear signal that Kyivan Rus’ and Russia are identical concepts. Let me remind you that in the spring of 2014, the term “Kyivan Rus’” disappeared in the Russian version of Wikipedia, which has come to replace it as the “old Russian nation.” That meeting predictably turned its attention to Sevastopol, not only the city of Russian sailors, but also the “historical spiritual font.” With the baptism of Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv in Chersonesos Putin also linked it with reference to Russia, with no mention of Kyiv and Ukraine. More recently, he attempted to co-opt another historical figure. In a statement during his visit to Paris in May 2017, Vladimir Putin declared that the marriage of the “Russian” princess, Anna Yaroslavna was the beginning of French-Russian relations. Historians emphasize that such an interpretation is extremely far from the truth, because Anna did not consider himself either Russian or Ukrainian. Anna Kyivskaya (Anna of Kyiv) is the actual inscription on the monument dedicated to her in Senlis which appears to be the closest of her self-identification as the wife of the French king. (Senlis is a town in France where Anna Yaroslavna is buried and where her monument was built with the assistance of the Ukrainian authorities). “Chersonesos? What is this? Sevastopol,” said the Russian President. “Can you imagine what the connection is between spiritual sources and national components. It refers to the struggle for a place for Crimea as a whole, for Sevastopol and Chersonesos. In fact, the Russian people for many centuries struggled to get up from their historical spiritual font. This raises a paradoxical situation: the historians are well aware that the Russian President, to put it mildly, is talking nonsense when trying to adapt a solution for Russia’s geopolitical objectives by using disparate historical facts. One of the most protected narratives is “Sevastopol is the city of Russian military glory” (Crimean war, WWII) aims to maintain the militarization of the Sevastopol and the whole Crimean Peninsula. In fact, Crimean war at the mid of 19th century was a sign of weak state capacity of the Russian Empire. And the sieges of Sevastopol both in 1854-1855 and 1941-1942 ended with its occupation. The heroism of soldiers could not help the whole army’s weakness. Another case is Volodymyr the Great – the prince of the Ancient Rus (9th century). Volodymyr is valued as a historical figure whose identification in the Russian Empire increased significantly in the late 18th century. The revival of interest in the person and work of Volodymyr was among the impetus of joining Crimea to Russia. It is from the Black Sea coast of Kyiv where early Christianity first began. From the Russian point of view, it is here, in Chersonesos – the city of Russian princes – where Russia finds its faith and its history again. In the 21st century, after the annexation of Crimea, Russia once again elevated him to the status of the primary patron saint in Russian history (Lozovyi 2015). One of the signs – the building of huge monument to St. Volodymyr in Moscow in 2015 (Wyatt 2015). The idea is to show Volodymyr as a Russian prince, underline the common past of Ukraine and Russia in medieval times. One example of how this topic is used in modern politics is Putin’s statement that Kyivan Rus was the core of the Russian Empire and since then Russians and Ukrainians have had a common history and culture and mentality, similar languages. Hence the conclusion – Russians and Ukrainians are one people. Such statements are an ideological justification for the right not only to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, but to pursue a policy of its full incorporation into the Russian state (Lozovyi 2015). Significantly, the Kremlin’s «privatization» of Volodymyr the Baptist began in preparation before the start of the aggression against Ukraine. On July 31, 2013, after large-scale celebrations in Kyiv and Sevastopol for the 1,025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, the President of Russia had established a particular working group for the preparation of events dedicated to the millennium of Prince Volodymyr’s repose.

The Russian imperial myth has seriously endangered the ontological security in the Black Sea region. Russian history narrative became the element of aggression’s background. Unfortunately, NATO or the EU did not manage to develop solutions for securing the region in general. Ontological security falls outside the attention of Ukrainian strategic planning as well. Ukraine should have been provided mnemonical security for herself, especially for the Crimea region, which is an extremely diverse and complicated region. Maybe it is time to start talking about mnemonical security. Maria Mälksoo is writing that «genuinely agonistic mnemonic pluralism would enable different interpretations of the past to be questioned, in place of pre-defining national or regional positions on legitimate remembrance in ontological security terms». Maria Mälksoo also claims that memory is an unsecurable thing, but, as the Russian hybrid aggression has shown, is under constant threat. The symbolic level is extremely important – it marks the ontological security. Russia tried to build a monopoly on the past and future of the region, but for now, has completely lost the battle of symbols. The symbolic level of the war is worth separate research, but I would like to point out one anyway. Guided-missile cruiser of the Russian Navy was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. ‘Aircraft carrier killer’ sank in the mid-April as a result of the Ukrainian missile attack – and that is shocking because in the Russian mind Ukraine is a failed state without an army. Moreover, the Ukrainian state managed to privatize even the sanked warship. Now it is the object of the underwater cultural heritage of Ukraine No. 2064. And this means Ukraine is ready to make lemonade from the lemon and appropriate and rethink creatively the awful heritage of the war. Warships with the name “Moskva” are not successful ones in Russian military history. All two of them appeared at the bottom of the Black Sea. The first one – destroyer – sank near Constance port in June 1941 after a few shots. Soviet propaganda claimed that the shots were extremely effective and were worth the loss of the ship. The fate of the Black Sea in the nearest future depends on the fate of the Russian-Ukrainian war. For the moment, the Black Sea has largely lost its trade potential, it has become an arena of hostilities. Hence the Black Sea countries’ perspectives and their alliances seem to be paused. Dozens of mines block trade marine passages and threaten the touristic perspectives of the region. Whenever the Russian-Ukrainian war ends, the Black Sea region is to face the transformations of the economic structure and political orientations. It is obvious that Russian ports would be off the international trade at least for some time. The same is correct also for the Ukrainian ports which could suffer from the lack of staff, ships, equipment, and security. The Black Sea region is to face the new alliances and associations with the new or new-old actors. These new alliances should be grounded on the values of tolerance and respect for diversity. Well-known Blair Ruble’s term – the capital of diversity – could become useful again, but in the political dimension. And remembering the diverse history of the region could become a great background for the new political reality. Rethinking history might become an impulse for the new regional quality of regional security. Common history may provide a ground for the search for a common vision for the new security architecture after the Russian defeat. Unveiling the history and the rights of the Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups in Crimean Peninsula would make the future system of international relations more fair and resilient.

Source:, Geopolitica Magazine no.2 (94)/2022

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