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

Third generation

While the leaders of Russian Provisional Government and White movement, as mentioned above, in the short time of war and revolution simply rejected the existence of separate Ukrainian states in 1917-1920,110 and to a considerable extent repeated the prewar liberal and conservative considerations of Ukraine, the Russian political thought on emigration again demonstrated a new degree of the scholarly and theoretical attitude toward the Ukrainian question.
The Ukrainian problem was very widely envisaged in the studies of the representatives of a well-known trend in Russian political thought - evraziistvo.111
The territory of Russia -the USSR -Eurasians perceived as a special historical and geographical world belonging neither to Europe nor to Asia, as peculiar historical and geographical individuality.112
According to one of the founders of evraziistvo, the son of Vladimir Vernadskii - Georgii Vernadskii (1897-1972), the total Slavic population of Eastern Europe was largely inclined toward unification and making a united Russian people, which would build a united country. Vernadskii gives a general history of the Eastern European population, i.e. Slavs and their neighbours.113 As to the Russian history, he stands on the positions of the old historiography: be it Kiev or Novgorod, Smolensk or Moscow - they are "Russian" towns. "The division of the Russian people into three branches: the Great Russians, the Malorussians and the Belorussians" - he writes - "goes back to a much later period. Until the thirteenth century there was no, more or less, distinct branching."114 To Vernadskii, the understanding by a people of its "place - development" (mestorazvitiia) leads to the establishment of its organic conception of the world. The historical world outlook of the Russian people (or its ruling classes) is far from being always connected with its perception of the "place - development."115 In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, in place of the All-Russian federation, all the members of which used the same constitution, we find a sharp division between the Eastern Rus' (Muscovite - V.P.) and the Western Rus'. In addition, military powers of a new type (the Cossacks) had appeared in the southern borderlands of both of them.116 They had represented old Russian democratic traditions, though these traditions now received a new peculiar form: a military brotherhood. Aristocratic element of the authority had not only been preserved in the Western Rus', but it had been even more intensified under the Polish influence. It was this element that had become the foundation of the Western Rus' (Ukrainian and Belorussian - V.P.) political system.117
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Russian state had come to a vast expansion, and "the Russian people almost in its complete composition had found themselves within a single country." But, after that had been achieved, the attempts of separatist strivings began out of the middle of the Russian nation by a part of Ukrainian and Belorussian activists. The separatists try to ground the state independence of Ukraine and Belorussia by the cultural originality of the Ukrainians and the Belorussians, which, essentially, according to Vernadskii, is a political fiction, since the Ukrainians and the Belorussians are the branches of a single Russian people. The reunification of the seventeenth century had resulted in a movement from Malorussia to Moscow and to increase of the cultural influence of the former on Moscow. "Russians born in Malorussia, - noted Vernadskii, - had worked in all branches of culture."118 In the nineteenth century this process had been even more intensified, since those "born" in the Malorussia not only had been accepted by the All-Russian cultural movement, but they had even headed it for some time. Vernadskii concluded that "the Empire's statehood, culture and language should not be considered as being only of the Great Russians; all this is a product of the whole Russian people."119 The underlying forces in the political make-up of Eurasia were psychological similarity. Though Great Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians, each of whom represents a cultural branch of Eastern Slavs, have some differences, politically and psychologically (the desire of a strong state power, Orthodox religion, and so on) they stand together. Both the century-long westward expansion of the Mongols and the later eastward expansion of the Russians, Vernadskii maintained, were dictated by "geopolitical" conditions and a common striving for the realization of one and the same idea of a Eurasian state.120 The Union of Ukraine with Russia he perceived as the decisive event in the attitudes among the eastern Slavs and Poland, and accordingly of the formation of the Russian empire and Eurasian statehood.
Nikolai Trubetskoi saw fit to argue for the vitality of the "All-Russian" cultural idea while accentuating the unproductiveness of its Ukrainian counterpart. His argument, in summary, consisted of these major points: "It is obvious that Ukrainians participated actively and on an equal footing with the Great Russias not only in the genesis but in the development of this all-Russian culture; and they did so as Ukrainians, without abandoning their ethnic identity... This culture lost over time any specific Great Russian or Ukrainian identification and became all-Russian... It is simply impossible to deny the fact that Russian culture during the post-Petrine era is All-Russian and that it is not foreign to Ukrainians."121
Trubetskoi's reasoning was reminiscent of ideas that echoed in Ukrainian society during 1860s and 1880s: in the 1920s, however, his ideas were a glaring anachronism that went against prevailing Ukrainian cultural self-perceptions. In many respects Trubetskoi was speaking the language of P. Kulish, M. Kostomarov and M. Drahomanov. Like Trubetskoi, the three renowned nineteenth-century intellectuals conceptualized Ukrainian culture in relationship to, and in terms of, all-Russian culture, which, of course, was ubiquitous in the life of every Ukrainian living in the Empire. These men posited Ukraine and Russia as regional societies within a bi-cultural (Rus') state. "A regional and tribal differentiation of Russian culture" - wrote Trubetskoi - "should not extend to the very top of the cultural edifice, to cultural assets of a higher order. There must be no tribal or regional boundaries (i.e., Great Russian or Ukrainian) on the top story of Russian culture in the future... Any new Ukrainian culture would fail because talented people... given completely free choice... will quite naturally opt for the culture of the ethnological whole (i.e. all-Russian culture - V.P.) and not for the culture of a part of that whole (i.e. Ukrainian culture). It follows that the only people who could opt for Ukrainian culture are those biased in some way or limited in their freedom of choice."122
Ideally, the obligation of that bi-cultural (Rus') state was to preserve and cultivate the cultural identities of both Slavic peoples in a fair and equitable manner. In the eyes of Trubetskoi, Ukrainian culture was certainly not a "variant" of Russian (Muscovite) culture, but it was, nevertheless, acknowledged to exist in a complementary and auxiliary relationship within a larger, i.e., imperial (Russian) system that, significantly, was conceived as something (at least partially) "native." Trubetskoi remarked: "However likely it is that a new Ukrainian culture would resolve the problem of conforming the bottom story (low culture - V.P.) of its edifice to its foundations in the people, it will never resolve even partially the other problem: creating a new top story (i.e., high culture) that could satisfy the needs of the intelligentsia more fully than the top story of the old all-Russian culture did. A new Ukrainian culture would be in no position to compete successfully with the old culture in meeting these spiritual and intellectual needs."123 This concept of Ukrainian culture reflected the existential reality of individuals like Kulish and Kostomarov (and before them many other, including Gogol') who played dual roles in the Empire as preeminent contributors to both Ukrainian and all-Russian (Imperial) society. Trubetskoi, like Kulish, Kostomarov and Drahomanov in the nineteenth century was to concede that Ukrainians were generally neglected and "under- appreciated" in the Empire.124
Trubetskoi thought that thus the differences between the Russian (Eastern-Slavic) tongues - Great Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian are not so great as to prevent communication between the speakers of these tongues, it was not linguistically necessary to create a separate Ukrainian literary language.125 To Trubetskoi, in the poetical works of Shevchenko, Kotliarevs'kyi and other better Ukrainian authors the language is deliberately popular, deliberately nonliterary. Stressing that without the link of Ukrainian influence Europeanism could hardly have taken root on Russian soil and that the Ukrainization of Great Russian culture opened the Russia road to Europeanization, he argued that from the other hand Russian literary language naturally became the language of educated Ukrainians.126 Trubetskoi remarked: "A literary language must choose adequate means for the expression of concepts or shades of thought which are alien to the thinking of the uneducated popular masses and for that very reason it is obvious that the popular language must lack the means necessary to express such concepts. The literary language of the majority of educated Ukrainians was the Russian literary language. This, of course, by no means excluded the use of purely popular Ukrainian in works of a certain literary genre in which the author, himself belonging to the intelligentsia, deliberately limits his outlook to that of an uneducated person."127
Trubetskoi believed that in future the Ukrainian language and culture would cease to be the instrument of a narrow national self-restriction and separation but would become the instrument of creating a really great culture, a Ukrainian individuation of the All-Russian culture, equal in rights and value with the Great Russian culture. He wrote that for the Ukrainians he considered as the most proper the following form of self-perception: "for the Ukrainians there is, first of all, the understanding that they are not only Ukrainians, but also Russian, and not only Russians, but also Ukrainians, that there is no "Russian" outside "Ukrainian," as the Russian nation - individuality, actually, does not exist outside, but only within its individuations: the Great Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian."128
The main opponents of the Eurasians - the "Europeanists," being mainly from the camp of Russian historian positivist emigrants - Miliukov,129 Evgenii Shmurlo (1853-1934), Petr Bitsilli (1879-1953), Georgii Fedotov (1886-1951) and others, unambiguously in their geopolitical dimensions of Russian national identity, side with the Euro-Atlantic community, thus continuing the quest started by Peter the Great. They do not much differ from their intellectual predecessors, the nineteenth century Westernizers, who also looked at Russia as, potentially, a normal European power, though somewhat delayed in its development.
Professor of history of Novorossiisk and, later, Sophia University, Petr Bitsilli, remarked, that in the USSR there is a "very funny and awful process of artificial language - made from the dialects of the Russian language - Ukrainian and Belorussian."130 This Ukrainian culture, which is constructed under the coercion "is not a culture, but only its vision."131 Bicilli, believing that if there is no culture, there is no nation and, recognizing the existence of the Ukrainian culture, nevertheless, classified the Ukrainian nation as an underdeveloped one. "For those Ukrainians" - he wrote - "who realize and appreciate their ties with the Russian culture, the Ukrainian language is either "only a dialect," or "the second language," just like, for a ProvenÁl, the ProvenÁl language is: but to no ProvenÁl would ever come to head to renounce, for Mistral's sake, Racine and Balsac. For those Ukrainians, who do not feel and appreciate these ties, the Ukrainian language is the only one (sic by Bitsilli) "native language."132 So, according to Bitsilli's deepest belief, any Ukrainization would have to be carried out by force, since the Russian culture is to that extent powerful that, in the conditions of a free competition, the Ukrainian language is unable to develop close to it. He believes that it is impossible to make the Russified Ukrainians adopt the Ukrainian culture, because the Ukrainian people, if given the freedom of "cultural self-determination" will assimilate with the Russian people. "It is insane to stand in the way of the people's free (sic by Bitsilli) assimilation process... Let us presume that the Ukrainian people had freely and unnoticingly for itself adopted the Russian (i.e. the All-Russian) language. The Ukrainian people would not "lose its identity" by doing this; it would become unified with the Russian people; it would receive communion to "the soul" of Pushkin and Tolstoi, just like, in his time, Gogol' had received communion to it, who, in his turn, had very immensely enriched "the Russian soul."133 Bitsilli viewed the Ukrainians only as an ethnic group. Though he presupposed, that Ukrainians could become a nation in future, he considered the creation of a separate Ukrainian identity as a useless goal, because only with the help of "differentiation without disintegration" Ukrainians could recall and recover their own native culture.134 The notions of Ukrainian "separatists" that every ethnic group can obtain its own state and thus become a nation he called utopian. "In reality" - wrote he - "the mutual attitudes among 'the nation' (culture) and ethnography (narod) - are more complicated."135 Bitsilli was convinced, that Kiev will be never transferred, in contrary to L'vov, into Ukrainian town.136
Historian and philosopher G. Fedotov announced that the representatives of the Russian political and historical thought themselves stressed the way to Ukrainian separatism, because they investigated the Ukrainian question, particularly the legacy of Kievan Rus' without significant background. He considered the attitude to the third of the three capitals, i.e., Kiev, as the phenomenon, which touches on the very essence of the Ukrainian-Russian relationship. "It seems strange to speak about Kiev in our times, - remarked Fedotov. Until very recently, we ourselves used to renounce Kiev's glory and infamy, tracing our descent from (the banks of) the Oka and the Volga (rivers). We ourselves gave Ukraine away to Hrushevs'kyi and paved the way for Ukrainian separatism. Did Kiev ever occupy the center of our thought, of our love? A striking fact: modern Russian literature has completely left Kiev out."137
At the same time, in Fedotov's opinion, "the returning of Russia's image to its rebelling sons" in the USSR during the repressions against the leaders of the national republics was a very positive fact. "In the USSR 'Motherland' was announced as a sacred word!" - he concluded.138