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Ukrainian Nationalism Is Real and Legitimate, But Needn’t Be Anti-Russian

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The author is a well-known academic historian of Russia and Ukraine, which he approaches from a Christian (Russian Orthodox) and nationalist perspective, arguing that nationalism and Christian Orthodoxy are inseparable. He also writes widely on current affairs. Rare for contemporary Western historians of Russia, he sources original materials in Russian, pulling back the veil on much misunderstanding, ranging from modern history back to Russia’s very beginnings in the Middle Ages.

His personal site has a prodigious number of academic articles on this subject, and he is the author of 8 academic books. His articles on Russia Insider have been very popular because of their solid supporting research and unique perspective. You can find a full archive of them here. Please support him on Patreon, as we do, where he describes his work as ‘An electronic Molotov cocktail thrown into the faculty meeting of the tenured American professor.’ Hear, hear!

His latest book, Ukrainian Nationalism (2019), (Amazon), is the definitive treatment of this topic and is essential reading to understand the current political turmoil in Ukraine. It argues that Ukrainian nationalism is real and legitimate, but needn’t be Anti-Russian, and that Russia and Ukraine are in fact natural allies. Here is his article on Russia Insider explaining some of the ideas in the book. There is no other scholar writing today about Russia and the Ukraine with this extraordinary command of historical detail and meaning. Johnson is a national treasure, and his works are highly recommended. For a fascinating audio podcast discussion of the book by Johnson and Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, see here

If you are so inclined, please rate the book on Amazon, as this increases sales greatly. It is a great way to support the author and help spread the ideas in the book. If Amazon blocks you from leaving a review, please let us know in the comments section below, and/or send an email to [email protected]


For a fascinating audio podcast discussion of the book by Johnson and Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, see here:  


My latest book, Ukrainian Nationalism, (Amazonwas written over several years from 2014 to 2018. It is a defense of the Ukrainian national ideal, an ideal today unpopular among Russians. Part of the purpose is that Ukrainian nationalism need not be anti-Russian. Since the first Orange Revolution in 2004, Ukrainian nationalism has taken an exclusively anti-Russian turn, making it unacceptable to Russians in general.

Gogol, in his “A Look at the Construction of Little Russia” (1835), his unfinished work on Ukrainian history, argued that Ukraine is a separate nation with a separate history from Russia, but her destiny is to remain allied to Moscow. No one denies Gogol’s Russian nationalism and royalism, but this didn’t prevent him from taking a very different view of Ukrainian history. He refused to accept that Ukraine is just an appendage of the old Muscovite empire, as most of Ukraine’s history has been outside its influence. In addition to Russia, Ukraine’s main influences have been Polish, Greek, German and Lithuanian. Gogol makes the case that “southern” and “western” Russia are historically Lithuanian territories and cannot be said to be part of “Great Russia” in any meaningful sense. The solution to the Ukrainian debacle doesn’t lie in denying her very existence and most certainly, doesn’t lie in allying with the decadent, postmodern western morass.

Ukraine undoubtedly is far more westernized than Russia. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. “Western” in this context means medieval and Catholic, taking much from her unpleasant relationship with Poland. This westernization doesn’t prevent Ukraine from retaining her Baroque Orthodox tradition. Her absorption of western thought through the Kiev Academy is an important contribution to Slavic Orthodox theology. 

The Ukrainian national idea has its origin in the Kievan period as well as the Galician state that followed, but it reached its defining moments in the late 16th  and early 17th century struggle against the Uniats and the Polish empire. How strange it is that Catholics have tried to take over the “national” movement in Ukraine when its national culture was forged in the war against the Unia? These are the distorting elements that take a legitimate national idea and make it an excuse to heap scorn on Russia.  

Ukraine’s modern experience with the Russian empire is a mixed blessing at best. It was Catherine II that destroyed the Zaporozhian Sich on the Dniper. It was the Russian empire in the 18th   century that decimated the Orthodox church there. It was Empress Catherine that sided with the Polish slave drivers against the Cossacks during the Koliyivshchyna rebellion of 1768. Under Russian control, parts of eastern Ukraine suffered under heavy taxes, the destruction of Cossack autonomy and the imposition of a feudal oligarchy.  This is what the Sich fought and why it was destroyed.

Worst of all, it was Russia that destroyed Hetman Ivan Sirko as he was about to inflict the death blow on the Turkish empire in the 1670s. Sirko had exterminated no fewer than three large Turkish armies and was headed to Istanbul to destroy it once and for all. Rather than assist him, the Russian empire sent him to prison and crippled his effort. 

The war against the Uniats helped forge the Ukrainian identity as an Orthodox nation. Prior to the destruction of the Hetman state and the Sich, the Kievan church was made up of 22 dioceses, 20 male monasteries and 12 convents. However, by 1799, the Kievan metropolitan had eight titular dioceses and a handful of clergy. Catherine eliminated the Hetmanate, introduced serfdom upon a free people and shut down hundreds of Orthodox churches. In her ignorance, she believed that, since the Sich had few parishes, the Cossacks were “secular.” It merely meant that Cossacks had very few institutions. Few institutions are normal for a nomadic people.

St. Petersburg destroyed the sacred tradition of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. Under the empire, Ukraine’s literacy rate fell drastically, as did its population. Few clergy remained. It was similar to the Soviet destruction of the church and a host of new-martyrs were created. Peter I removed, if not killed, every single major bishop in Russia, replacing them with his friends. He tortured many bishops to death on the rack. Upon taking office in Rostov later under Catherine, St. Arseny (Matseyevich) stated that there were only a handful of priests in Ukraine. In protesting the state’s secularization of church property, St. Arseny was killed in the worst possible way: he was locked in a closet for the rest of his life, unable to move. He spoke of a hierarchy that lived in terror of the Petersburg state. 

In 1797, the Masonic, Enlightened regime in St. Petersburg claimed the title “Supreme Guardian of Doctrine.” The attack on the Kievan church led to the growth of the Unia such that they had, according to the 1771 census, 12 million people. Given the massive purging and institutional instability of the Orthodox church at the time, relations between clergy and people were declining, and anti-clerical groups formed. The clergy were increasingly seen as functionaries, which served as yet another blow to the church in the region. These men were appointed from Petrograd, not elected, and were often Russian speakers.  Petrograd essentially destroyed the church and its relations with the population. 

Zachariah Kopystensky (d. 1627), abbot of the Caves Lavra, was one of the more educated polemicists against the Unia. His Against the Union and Book of Apologetics together are called the Palinodia, written and compiled between 1617 and 1630. Many of these articles are responses to the pro-Uniat work Krevzy’s A Defense of the Church Union.

Firstly, these works are strongly ethnic in tone and again, use a very modern vocabulary to describe the rights of the Ukrainian and Rusyn ethnos. He describes Ukrainians as a freedom-loving people. This derives from the historical experience of the Galician and Volhynian state to which neither the Poles nor the Russians have a claim. This Galician polity is the successor of Kievan-Rus, and, later,  the Cossack Host served as the elite needed to build an independent nation. 

His historical schema is that Galicia and Volhynia are the successors of St. Vladimir’s government in Kiev, and they in turn, along with the very Russian Grand Duchy of Lithuania, lead to the Ukrainian role in the Polish empire. For better or worse, this is the scheme that makes Ukraine quite foreign to Moscow and was essential to the Ukrainian Orthodox at the time. Russia, while an ally, was foreign to the Ukrainian church in many ways. 

Secondly, he uses the term “Ukraine” almost exclusively. Relative to the cultural damage of the Union, he states that the Ukrainian identity will be diluted because the Union will introduce hostile and alien Catholic ideas into the Ukrainian mind. Third, Kopystensky argued that there was a possibility of a Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian federation.

What this means is that the idea of Orthodox Ukraine was a clear ideological and philosophical conception in the early 17th century. Russia played only a fairly minor role. There is much evidence that it was common earlier as well. The school at Ostrog, the Kievan Academy and the monasteries of Pochyaev and Manjava all used a very modern conception of national and ethnic sovereignty in their religious arguments and all saw Ukraine as quite distinct from Moscow. The new hierarchy that came out of the anti-Uniat struggles came from Patriarch Theophanes III of Jerusalem and owed nothing to the Russian state. 

Kopstensky strongly suggested that the Cossacks are both an ethnic and religious phenomenon who have their mission to primarily defend the folk from the elites of both domestic and foreign extraction. Moscow was hardly mentioned here at all. While he sees the Russian Orthodox tradition of Old Lithuania as the main protector of the Orthodox ethnos, this doesn’t justify Ukraine being colonized by the Russian empire, or any empire.

I also argue that Hetman Petro Skoropadsky was one of the best examples of Ukrainian nationalism that fiercely sought independence, but wasn’t anti-Russian in the least. A former imperial officer,  and a graduate of the Page Corps cadet school in Saint Petersburg, the Hetman, during the Russian Civil War, brought Ukraine a level of prosperity she hadn’t experienced in decades. In fact, he reformed the economy to such an extent that he was able to loan General Denikin 10 million rubles. Spurring domestic demand was critical for economic recovery. Grain prices were fixed as an emergency measure and he generally followed a distributivist scheme in land allotments. State revenues increased drastically. He limited the amount of land a single family can own and took measures to eliminate landlessness. He died in Germany in 1945, and was the last hope for Ukraine. He was successful, but was overthrown by the Masonic Directory soon thereafter, bring their motives into question. 

This is the sort of nationalism Gogol was referring to. This is the nationalism that seeks an independent Ukraine with close relations with Russia. The two nations are very different from one another and Russia has no claim on Ukraine, but this doesn’t mean they’re enemies. The shame of the Orange Revolutions is that this has been the message out of Kiev. 

The disturbing events in the first two months of 2014 show the severity of the Ukrainian issue and its significance for the west. To argue that the violent and unopposed protests were arranged and protected by US intelligence is to argue the obvious: no one risks their life for abstract issues such as EU membership. Still, its forced Russian nationalists to completely reject any ethnic claims for Ukraine in general. Ironically, the governments since 2014 have been entirely cosmopolitan and liberal. 

Few deny that the western-imposed “capitalist shock” of the early 1990s was a total disaster, outstripping even the German invasion of 1941 in terms of economic destruction. To think Ukrainians want more of the same is to stretch credulity. Whether Russian nationalist or Ukrainian Banderite, nationalists have no illusions concerning the nature of the postmodern west. To the extent that the west is atomized, alienated and a laboratory of psychological pathologies, Ukrainian “nationalists” reject it. Its laughable to argue that such a group would jettison their entire agenda and lose state independence for the bankrupt and imperial European Union. 

Ukrainian nationalism has a legitimate place in Orthodox thought. Russia has no inherent right to exploit Ukraine’s wealth, but the imperial side of the Russian empire occurred after the distortions of Peter and Catherine in the dark 18th century. Petrograd is more western than Ukraine every was. From Peter onward, Ukraine was a source of wealth for the Petrograd state. So much of the Russian empire was built on capital taken from Ukraine and this is what spurred post-revolutionary nationalism in the first place. She gave far more than she received. Even the most pro-Russian Hetman didn’t trust the Petrograd bureaucracy and they all, including Ivan Briukhovetsky and Damien Mnohohrishny, turned on it. 

Ukraine, from a Russian Orthodox nationalist like myself, has been hijacked by westerners and Uniats who loathe all forms of national assertiveness. Faux-nationalist groups were used in the violent coup of 2014 and then cast aside as embarrassments later. The fact is that the Ukrainian pantheon of nationalist writers, including Bandera himself, were philosophically no different than nationalists anywhere else, seeking to protect a national tradition from imperial states that sought to destroy and exploit it. Unfortunately, they had a good case both under the Petrine state and the USSR. 

Like Belarus, Ukraine should have a strong alliance with Russia. Her goods are wanted there, but the west can barely absorb what it produces as it is. What does Ukraine offer the west? Had Kiev signed the Union Treaty in 2003, she would be far more prosperous than she is now. Ukrainian nationalism, like Georgian or Lithuanian, isn’t inherently anti-Russian. However, the rhetoric from the American-financed coup seemed to suggest otherwise. My book lays out, in detail, the historical justification for that view. 


CHAPTERS AND TITLES

Preface

Chapter 1- Introduction: Ukraine and the “Nation”

Chapter 2- The Hetmanate as the Central Element in Ukrainian Political Ideas: The Background to Ukrainian Social Thought

Chapter 3- From Pereslav to Andrusovo: The Horror of the 17th Century

Chapter 4- Ivan Vyshenskii, Hyhorii Skovoroda and the Philosophy of the Ukrainian Baroque

Chapter 5- Taras Shevchenko: The Prophet of Ukrainian Nationalism

Chapter 6- Shevchenko’s Pupils: National-Anarchism in the Social Theories of Mykailo Kostamarov, Mikhail Drahomanov and Ukrainian National Idea

Chapter 7- The Synthesis of Drahomanov, Shevchenko and Suffering Ukraine: The Political Philosophy of Ivan Franko

Chapter 8- Two Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the 20th Century: Vasyl Lypkivsky and the Kharkiv and Poltava Movement

Chapter 9- The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church under Patriarchs Volodymyr (Romanyuk) and Dmitri (Jarema)

Chapter 10- What Hrushevsky Wrought: An Overview of Ukrainian Nationalism in Second Half of the 20th Century

Chapter 11- The Failure of Independence: From the Second World to the Void, 1990 to 2015

Conclusion

Bibliography

Footnotes

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HSE staff should receive bonus for work during pandemic, says Donnelly

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All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.

Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.

“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.

“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”

The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.

“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.

Advice

Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.

In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.

A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”

On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”

There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.

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Covid-19: More than half of Austrians now fully vaccinated

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With 53,386 vaccinations carried out on Thursday, Austria cross the 50 percent mark for total vaccinations. 

This means that 4,479,543 people are completely vaccinated against Covid-19 in Austria as at Thursday evening, July 29th. 

A further nine percent of the population have received one vaccination, bringing the total percentage of people who have had at least one shot to 58.9 percent or (5.2 million people). 

UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

The Austrian government has welcomed the news. 

“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon. 

Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent). 

The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated. 

Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated. 

The village however only has 230 residents. 

“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister. 

Around one quarter of the Austrian population has indicated a reluctance to be vaccinated, with around 15 percent saying they will refuse the vaccination. 



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6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities

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About the authorFor lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.

He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.

He has an excellent Pinterest page, and you can follow him on Facebook. Here is an archive of his work published on Russia Insider.

He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!


Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”

This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.

However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)

EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL

Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).

Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.

EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON

Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.

It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your headthat was a terrible insult.

EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD

The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”

Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.

EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL

This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”

Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.

Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.

EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN

When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.

The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.

THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN

The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.

Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.

Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.

True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.


Source: Nicholas Kotar

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