Volume 16 (1998)

The Image of Ukraine and the Ukrainians in Russian Political Thought (1860-1945)
Volodymyr A. Potulnytskyi

First generation
Second generation
Third generation

Second generation

At the turn of the century the Russian liberal opposition was enforcing its ideas of individual liberty and the ways of limiting the dominant role of tsar and the state. The opposition was doing it at first through zemstvos and dumas and then through different professional organizations. In the autumn of 1905 the first congresses of legal liberal parties were taking place, and in April 1906 Russia became a constitutional monarchy.
The two foremost theorists of the twentieth-century Russian liberalism were Pavel Miliukov (1859-1943) and Petr Struve (1870-1944). In his first scholarly works Miliukov tried to underline the difference between Kievan period of Russian history from the Moscow one. Three major premises connect the vision of Russian history by Miliukov in his early historical works: the changeability of Russia throughout its existence, due to its own internal dynamic; in decided contrast to this, the external nature of the formative influences on the state order, culture and national ideas; and the fact of the imposition of borrowed culture from above. Also of great importance was the decision to exclude Kievan history from the history of state order and of national ideas, since "in the north-east there were entirely different conditions of historical development than in the south."66 At the same time this statement represents a retreat from his bolder assertion, in the lecture course, that "The ancient Kievan period of our history is separated from more recent times not only chronologically, but actually."67 At that time Miliukov considered that existed some separateness in ethnogenesis reached by Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians as early as the fourteenth century, because feudalism affected only the southwestern part of the country, adjacent to Poland and Lithuania, with which Russia had close contacts.
In his political activity, in contrary to his earlier historical views, Miliukov, particularly on the nationality questions, was found under the influence of preconceived ideas of state structure, which were deeply embedded in him. Therefore he was largely inclined toward unitary and unionist tendencies in the solution of the nationality problem and left partly without attention the existing historical preconditions as well as the movements of national feeling. During his political activity from 1905 till 1914 Miliukov did not touch directly the Ukrainian question.68 Only on the very eve of the war he was quite active in supporting certain aspirations of the Ukrainians. During the famous "Shevchenko debate" in the Russian Duma (February-March, 1914), which continued for several sessions, Miliukov attacked the nationalistic Russian speakers in Kiev, whose attitude towards the Ukrainian question was, in his opinion, unusually injurious to the interests of Russia, and also the attempt, on the part of the Count Kapnists, to show that the Ukrainian movement should be considered as not a popular movement. "In reality, - said he, - we have here to do with a national movement the object of which is autonomy, the rebuilding of Russia on federalistic lines."69
Before delivering his speech Miliukov had made a special trip to Kiev and gone over the whole Ukrainian problem with a group of Ukrainian progressivists. He left convinced that he had persuaded them to give up not only demands for a separate state, but also demands for a Russian federation, and to be satisfied with cultural autonomy.70 "You can clearly understand the significance of this fact, - Miliukov continued, - only when you realize what a dangerous undertaking it is for a Ukrainian village to manifest its national character. The mere obtaining of a Ukrainian newspaper is construed as a manifestation of a treacherous disposition. In spite of this Ukrainian books find their way readily to the villagers while Russian books are rejected... The (Ukrainian - V.P.) movement exists and you can neither suppress it nor alter its significance; the sole question is whether you wish to see this movement as inimical or friendly. That will depend upon whether the movement will regard you as friends or enemies."71 Miliukov told Duma that the real separatists were the Russian nationalists, who were denying the existence of an independent Ukrainian language and literature and encouraging governmental persecution. It was they who had forced the Ukrainian movement to establish its center in Austrian Galicia, where the development of Ukrainian separatism was possible."72 "Shall I mention" - Miliukov wrote again - "those numerous people's educational societies which were established almost without any support from the educated classes and are now mercilessly persecuted; shall I point out the interest in the Ukrainian theater which manifests itself plainly when in February, in weather of unusual severity, the peasants march 45 versts to see a Ukrainian play? All sides of life are penetrated by the national element. The Russian army, the Russian school, the Russian authorities create a national reaction and inflame the national feeling of the Ukrainians. At the same time, the Ukrainian movement is thoroughly democratic; it is, so to say, carried on by the people itself. For this reason it is impossible to crush it. But it is very easy to set it on fire and in this way direct it against ourselves, and our authorities are successful in their work in this direction."73 Miliukov stated, in particular, that the Ukrainian movement, being profoundly democratic in its contents, is no longer a priority of intellectuals alone, but is carried out by the people itself. That is why, it is impossible to stop, but to turn it against the Russian state, by taking away the last hope for any improvement of its situation within the imperial complex, is very easy. Addressing the parliamentary majority, Miliukov warned that, in case of the continuation of such a policy, separatists in Ukraine would be counted not in individuals or dozens, but in hundreds, thousands or millions.74
In May 1917, Miliukov, explaining the Kadet's party programme75 in the sphere of regional reform connected with the national strivings of the peoples of the empire, expressed confidence in the party's ability to find such a decision which, while giving separate areas in Russia the possibility to create regional autonomy based on local laws, at the same time would not ruin the state unity of Russia. Preserving the integrity of the imperial state complex, stressed Miliukov, "is that limit which determines the party's last decision. Decomposition of the state into sovereign independent units is regarded by it as completely impossible."76
Finally, Miliukov protested against the oppression of the Little Russians in a way that showed the danger of the Ukrainian movement to the entirety of the Russian empire. Even in 1918, contrary to his new pro-German orientation, regarding the Ukrainian question, Miliukov remained in the same position. The main task of the Volunteer Army and the Allied intervention, as Miliukov interpreted it, was the "occupation of the Russian South and the elimination of all remnants of Ukrainian nationalism."77 "Our first task" - he explained - "is to oppose disintegration in principle, and to put an end to it."78
The famous Russian "liberal on the right" (former "liberal on the left") Petr Struve (1870-1944) in his perception of the Ukrainian problem thought that as a nation Russia was still in statu nascendi. Unlike Austria-Hungary, which Struve classified as a "multinational empire," Russia should be viewed as a "genuine national empire," because it had the potential to assimilate non Russian cultures. "National unity" was to be achieved not ethnically (as in Austria-Hungary), but culturally.
Richard Pipes characterized Peter Struve's attitude toward Ukraine thus: "The Ukraine was always Struve's blind spot. He would readily acknowledge the legitimacy of Polish and Finnish national aspirations, and he was prepared to grant extensive internal autonomy to both these nationalities... He also abhorred the disabilities imposed by Imperial Russia on its Jewish population. But he stubbornly refused to recognize not only the existence of a Ukrainian... nationality with a claim to political self-determination, but even the very existence of a distinct Ukrainian culture..."79
Already in March, 1905 in the debates on the program, adopted by the third congress of the Union of Liberation, Struve marked that Poland had to be granted the same status as Finland, and such a status was completely inapplicable to such regions of Russia as the Transcaucasus, Lithuania and Little Russia.80 As a result of this, he concluded, the point of the program on regional self-government had either given too little to Poland or had gone too far in respect to the other regions of the country besides Finland and Poland.81
The clue to this uncompromising position is revealed by what Struve said in 1911: "Should the intelligentsia's 'Ukrainian' idea... strike the national soil and set it on fire... (the result will be) a gigantic and unprecedented schism of the Russian nation, which, such is my deepest conviction, will result in a veritable disaster for the state and for the people. All our borderland' problems will pale into mere bagatelles compared to such a prospect of bifurcation and - should the 'Belorussians' follow the 'Ukrainians' - the 'trifurcation' of Russian culture."82
At the beginning of 1911 Struve initiated a discussion of the nationality question by inviting a number of non-Russians to present their views. These problems were discussed in a series of articles in the journal of Russian liberal thought Russkaia mysl'. In the first series of articles Struve began the discussion by calling attention to the fact that the Russians constituted 43 percent of the population of the empire, and that while this was a respectable figure, he argued, no other nationality in the empire possessed a national culture in the true sense of the word: One can partake in the local cultural life of Warsaw and Helsingfors without the knowledge of the Russian language, but without a mastery of Russian, one cannot partake (in the cultural life - V.P.) of Kiev...83 Furthermore, none of the nationalities, according to Struve, possessed the potential for further development without the support of Russian culture. Accepting this support and depending upon it, the alien cultures were voluntarily subjugating themselves to Russian hegemony. "Among the alien people" - noted Struve - "Russian culture reigns supreme, not solely because of the physical superiority and numerical predominance of Russians. This hegemony rightfully belongs to Russia because of her spiritual power and wealth."84 Of course, Struve was willing to agree that the inferior local cultures, theoretically at least, could develop and even eventually reach a high level of Russian cultural development, but to him this endeavor of creating a "multitude of cultures" in Russia would absorb too many valuable human resources, which could be utilized for the enrichment of culture in general.
Concerning the Ukrainian question in particular Struve made no attempt to ascribe its emergence to a foreign intrigue or to the restrictive policies of the tsarist regime. Neither did he try to minimize its significance. The success of the struggle for the preservation and development of Ukrainian culture, which so far had been exclusively the concern of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, hinged, in Struve's opinion, on whether the movement would be joined by the Ukrainian population in general. Struve was confident that this would not happen, in view of the fact that the socio-economic forces operating in twentieth century Russia - such as industrialization, urbanization, the institution of universal conscription, mass education and mass media - were rapidly drawing the Ukrainian public into the realm of Russian culture.
"I am convinced" - stressed Struve - "that beside the Russian civilization and language the Little Russian is only a provincial branch. The position of the latter is conceivable only as a derivation from the former; a change in the status quo is possible only in this matter through a disruption of the political and social body of Russia."85 Precisely because the members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were aware of this fact, Struve continued, they were desperately trying to preserve local particularism. It was primarily due to this consciousness among the Ukrainian intelligentsia that the Ukrainian culture was consigned to extinction that, Struve thought, provided the impetus for the intensity of the Ukrainian cultural revival at the turn of the century. He called for a merciless ideological struggle against Ukrainianhood. "Russian progressive public opinion, - insisted Struve, - must enter into an ideological struggle against 'Ukrainianhood' without any ambiguity and indulgence as against a tendency to weaken and even abolish a great acquisition of our history - an All-Russian Culture."86
In spite of his confidence that the socio-economic forces in Russia were operating in favor of assimilating the nationalities, Struve cautiously pointed out that the unity of the Russian empire would be in danger if local cultures were given an opportunity to evolve into a higher stage of development. Therefore, he most emphatically insisted that Russian must remain the language of instruction in high schools and universities and even in elementary education, unless, for pedagogical considerations, local languages were considered indispensable for the education of the children. By Struve, only one high and dominant Russian culture was to be permitted in the empire, with the Russian language elevated to the status of the koine, comparable to the Ancient Greek koine and German Hochdeutsch. For the Ukrainians, Struve foresaw a modest regional development, a phenomenon whose culture was to be confined largely to elementary education and patois literature. The Ukrainian population of the West Ukrainian lands (Galicia, Bukovina and Trans-Carpathia), according to Struve and the other Russian liberals, belonged to the ethnographic massif of the Russian nationality.87
The another well known Russian liberal and member of the Kadet party, the first President of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Vernadskii (1863-1945) as the basis of his political views considered the notion of Russianness (Russkosti) - a certain supranational phenomenon of the common to all of the people's value, which is higher than simply national consciousness. Vernadskii wrote, that the role of world powers must be played by the so-called "big" peoples (Russians, Germans, Frenchmen), but the "small" peoples (Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians) must enslave themselves from the "accumulations (nanosy), which is calling out by the desires to obtain the world significance."88 Vernadskii, as his intellectual predecessors, the nineteenth-century Russian Slavophiles, dreamed about the unification of all the Slavs under the guidance of Russia. Being Ukrainian by origin, he named himself as a "Russian man" (russkii chelovek) and differentiated among the three, in his opinion, very different notions: Ukrainian, Great-Russian (velikoross) and "Russian" (russkii). "It seemes to me" - he wrote - "that every educated person must make a difference and clearly distinguish among Russian, Ukrainian and Great-Russian." And further: "Russian and Great-Russian - that is the different meanings, and all the people know and feel this difference."89 His indication "Russkii" means Russian person, that is identifying himself personally not by ethnic origin, but by political choice, by the belonging to the state. Such Russians were Theofan Prokopovich, Bezborodko, Gogol', Dostoevskii, Chaikovskii, Glinka, Vernadskii himself and very many others. To him, the Ukrainians were "Germanophiles," the desires to unite with Galicia - "avstrophil'stvo," Ukrainian literary language - artificial dialect (shtuchnoe iazychie), the wish to have a cultural equality-narrow chauvinism, national aspirations - primitive nationalism. From this point of view Vernadskii evaluated the policy of Germany and France in attitude to Ukrainian question.90
In his polemics with Hrushevs'kyi91 on the subject of the necessity to create Ukrainian Academy of Science in Ukraine in 1918,Vladimir Vernadskii perceived the point of view, that Russian scholars on the territory of Ukraine, when working for the Ukrainian culture, will be working at the same time for the true and authentic development (pravil'-nogo razvitiia) of the Russian culture.92 He underlined the possibility for the Ukrainian language and culture to grow and obtain equality during the time span of the equal, not antagonistic development of both cultures in Ukraine.93
The Russian conservative nationalists of that time, whose views were represented, especially in 1905-1917 by so-called Right Parties,94 always drew a sharp distinction between the "Mazepists," i.e. the Ukrainian intellectuals, and the Ukrainian masses, considering the latter to be essentially loyal constituents of the All-Russian nation. The members of the national monarchist organization - the Union of the Russian people considered that when a state does exist, it is to be identified with its dominant nationality. The members of the Union perceived the point of view, that England by its very name indicated that it was the state of the English people. Likewise, Russia was the state of the Russian people, and it was "Russian" everywhere within its political boundaries. "Russia for Russians" made sense, - were said in the words of a Russkoe Znamia editorial, - "not just for the indigenous land of Rus', but for the entire Russian empire, including all the territory of its allied peoples," that is, all those minority nationalities that had been incorporated within the borders of the Russian state. The Russians should predominate over all other nationalities in the empire.95 Since the Poles did not have a state, it was meaningless for them to say, "Poland for Poles." In regard to the Ukrainians and Belorussians they affirmed that both of these peoples were actually Russian, and accepted them as such without criticism."96 The member of the Chief Council of the Union of the Russian People and the founder of the Union of the Archangel Michael, Vladimir Purishkevich (1870-1920) taking part in the above mentioned "Shevchenko debate" in the Fourth Duma in 1914, expressed the attitude of Russian conservative nationalists. The essence of his speech was that in the current conditions the Duma had no moral right to give a permission for the poet's commemoration, because the Ukrainians would, for certain, use the opportunity to form a political movement and would develop ideas, utopian from the All-Russian point of view. For this reason, any attempt to encourage the commemoration of Shevchenko, who "was, in the eyes of the Russian intelligentsia a foreteller of some special theses, a poet, who was a bearer of ideals that have nothing in common with Russian state ideals, for me, a Russian, for our faction, are completely unacceptable."97 Another representative of Russian monarchist circles, the leader of the state Council and former Minister of the Interior in Witte's cabinet, Petr Durnovo (1844-1915) expressed his attitude to the Ukrainian problem in his opposition to the prospect of an anti-German and anti-Austrian war. In his memorandum to Nikolai II, he provided a penetrating insight into the international aspect of the nationalities problem.98 Pointing out that Ukrainian, Polish, Armenian and other minorities weakened Russia's positions vis-a-vis the Central Powers, and opposed the annexation of Eastern Galicia as a Russian foreign policy aim (1912-1914) and Russia's principal war aim (Sept. 1914), Durnovo insisted: "It is obviously disadvantageous to us to annex, in the interests of national sentimentalism, a territory that has lost every vital connection with our fatherland. For together with a negligible handful of Galicians, Russian in spirit, how many Poles, Jews, and Ukrainized Uniates we would receive! The so-called Ukrainian, or Mazeppist, movement is not a menace to us at present, but we should not enable it to expand by increasing the number of turbulent Ukrainian elements, for in this movement there undoubtedly lies the seed of an extremely dangerous Little Russian separatism which, under favorable conditions, may assume quite unexpected proportions."99
Within the broad spectrum of Russian conservative nationalists there also existed the Kiev Club of Russian Nationalists - a political and cultural organization established in Ukraine in 1908 to promote Russian national consciousness in the western borderlands and to defend Russian interests against Polish pressure and Ukrainophilism. The club attempted to raise public awareness concerning the dangers of the Ukrainian movement, which it viewed as a Polish-Austrian-German-Jewish intrigue. Russian conservative political leader and leading member of the Kiev Club Vasilii Shul'gin (1878-1976) named the Ukrainian national movement as a part of a Jewish-Masonic intrigue (zhido-masonskii zagovor) and in his general perception of the national question envisaged Russia divided into autonomous regions with boundaries determined not on the nationality principle but on economic, geographical and other factors.100 In 1907 Shul'-gin's definition of Ukrainians was next: "By nationality they (Ukrainian peasants) were Russian, or as they were called then, Little Russians, now called Ukrainians."101 In 1915 his views on Ukrainians obtained a certain evolution and he began to differentiate among southern Russians (Ukrainians - V.P.) and simply Russians. "For us, southern Russia, - indicated Shul'gin, - in other words, Kiev, is what Moscow is to you Russians, the motherland."102 In 1917 he remarked, that the real Ukrainian (nastoiashchii khokhol) is very cunning, and found even a trend among "Ukrainians" to be unbelievers, socialists and robbers.103
Another active member of the Kiev Club and its founder Anatolii Savenko perceived the Ukrainian movement as "Austrian intrigue." He explained: "Everybody knows that Ukrainian separatism arose and fortified itself in Galicia... How can we fight Ukrainophilism within the borders of the Rus' State if we do nothing about the movement in Subjugated Rus', Rus' irredenta."104 The other organization of conservative nationalists - the St. Petersburg Galician-Russian Society (Galitsko-russkoe blagotvoritel'noe obshchestvo, est. 1902) considered as its main purpose to provide moral and material support to Russians in Galicia, combat the Ukrainian movement in Austro-Hungary and to do everything for the active promotion of an irredentist Russian movement in Austro-Hungary. The founder of the Galician-Russian Society Anton Budilovich fought against official recognition of the very idea of a separate Ukrainian language and people: "This theory" - he wrote - "has greater significance than all the teaching about the autonomy of the borderlands or federalism and its relations to the center because it attempts to split the very nucleus of the Russian state..."105
In 1918 Shul'gin and Savenko again presented their views on the Ukrainian question in a declaration by which they declined to accept Ukrainian citizenship. In the declaration addressed to Skoropads'kyi's government, Shul'gin categorically refused to recognize any historical, ethnic, socio-economic and political basis for the existence of a separate Ukrainian state: "...the establishment not only of a Ukrainian but also a separate South-Russian state, so to speak forever, does not have any foundation whatsoever... We should not forget that the Russian people as a whole achieved their real independence and security only after the unification of the Great Russian and Little Russian people. And no matter what the plans and intentions of our neighboring states are, the north and the south of Russia, artificially separated by a Chinese wall of the twentieth century, will instinctively strive toward unification, and in the end will unite. But the struggle for the unification of the Russian people will lead to new bloody clashes, new tremors of war. Whoever does not wish to contribute to innumerable new hardships, equally onerous for the south and the north, should not participate in the formation of the Ukrainian state."106 At that time Shul'gin argued, that it is possible to solve the Ukrainian question by the division of the Ukrainian territory into "approximately three autonomous regions: New Russia with Odessa as its center, Little Russia with Kiev as its center; and a Khar'kov region with Khar'kov as its center."107 The official language was to be Russian, the government officials were to use the Russian language only, others could speak "even Chinese if they so desired."108 After the civil war, Shul'gin as an émigr-continued to polemicize both with Ukrainians and the Jews.109