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

First generation

It was not until the times of reforms after 1855 that public opinion developed in the Russian Empire, manifesting itself by a greater number of periodicals, an increasing circulation, the appearance of a daily press, by the first corporate publications of journalists, by the slackening of censorship.7
The representatives of Russian conservative nationalism, which emerged in Russia in the 1860s-1870s8 and became one of the main trends in Russian political opinion, considered Ukraine in the general context of the Russian problem.9
Among the important representatives of Conservative Nationalism in Russia during the 1860s and 1870s, were the epigones of the original Slavophiles -Ivan Aksakov (1823-1886), Mikhail Katkov (1818-1887) and Iurii Samarin (1819-1876). M. Katkov in his views emphasized that the development of national feeling and cohesion was one of Russia's most urgent tasks.10
In his writings Katkov argued that the language of the works by Ukrainian intellectuals (Ukrainophils - V.P.)11 was entirely artificial, and that, in their intention to create the Ukrainian literary and scientific language, these Ukrainian intellectuals were going the wrong way, contradicting the demands and directions of real popular culture. According to Katkov, in order to achieve this goal, one had to go the other way round, following "the writers of Chervona Rus'" (Galicia - V.P.) who, in his opinion, strove to make their literary language more like literary Russian. "The language, used by the South Russian writers in Galicia" -he writes -"is much closer to our literary language than that Malorussian (Ukrainian) dialect, in which our Ukrainian men of letters write. Everyone of us can quite easily read everything written in the South-Russian dialect; just like Russian people in Galicia quite freely and very readily read Russian books. The writers of Chervona Rus' strive mainly to bring their dialect closer to the literary one, not following the example of our Ukrainian men of letters who mimic all the shades and tones of the popular dialect."12 In 1862 Katkov, on the one hand, printed a letter on the progress of serf emancipation in Russian Ukraine which applauded the use of the Ukrainian language in dealings between Russian officials and Ukrainian peasants; on the another hand he claimed that the language spoken in Ukraine differed less sharply from standard Russian than did certain local dialects to be found elsewhere in the Slavic part of the empire, and that such dialects nowhere competed with the general language of the people.13
In 1863, being under a strong impression of the Polish uprising, Katkov uses the words "separatism" and "Polish plot" speaking about the Ukrainian cultural movement. Having begun his article by emphasizing the unity of the "Russian people," and, having registered the development of Ukrainophilism in the last two or three years, he ("all of a sudden, for some reason or other") speaks about the current demands of Ukrainophils and indicates here a Polish plot.14 And, in the end, addressing Kostomarov, Katkov says that he will no longer print the former's appeals for contributions to the publishing of the popular books in the Ukrainian language. "Is it not the high time for those "Ukrainophils" to understand that they are in a suspicious affair, and that they are the instrument of the most hostile and dark plot?"15
Katkov thought that although Ukrainians and Belarussians spoke differently from Russians, they did not possess their own languages. To him, Ukraine has never had a distinctive history, has never been a separate state; the Ukrainian people are a purely Russian people, an essential part of the Russian people, without which the Russian people cannot go on being what it is. "We love Ukraine, wrote he, - as a part of our Motherland, as a most essential part of our people, as a part of us ourselves, and therefore we hate every attempt to bring the feeling of my and your in the mutual attitudes among Russia and Ukraine... Le patriotisme du clocher is a very important feeling, but it must not exclude the wider type of patriotism; the interests of the motherland (rodiny) cannot be opposed to the interests of the patrimony (otechestva).16 He thought that Ukrainians and Russians were one people and Ukrainophilism was a recent construct. Under the Ukrainophils' demands for national autonomy for Ukraine he commented "the foundation will be based on national separatedness."17
Later, in a further polemic on Ukrainophilism Katkov underlines the possibility of a great harm, which, in his opinion, will be done by giving on official sanction to Ukrainophil attempts to create and spread a common literary Ukrainian language. Katkov advised Kostomarov not to publish such works as "Black Council" (Chorna Rada) by P. Kulish: "...nobody reads them, and, when reading, nobody understands them. But the textbooks are designed for students, and the students, willy-nilly, will read them and adopt the language in which they are written, and they will be written in a language that has never existed and which will be made up intentionally for this purpose."18 "No science, -Katkov wrote again, -has yet been expressed in Malorussian. It is necessary, therefore, to create a complete vocabulary and to develop a correct, systematic speech; in a word, a new language must be created. And when, due to the unreason of society, this intentionally composed language is thrust upon the eleven million people, it (this society - V.P.) will come to its senses, it will be necessary by force to eradicate the existing and to fight the invigorating and fortifying evil. A wise, conscious, brisk society prevents evil when it is still in embryo and does not neglect rudiments (nachatkami), notwithstanding how small they may be."19
Ivan Aksakov, who was one of the leading journalists of the time, also contributed significantly to the popularization of Slavophilism among educated Russians. In his endeavor to apply Slavophile ideas to Russian reality, Aksakov often distorted and vulgarized the doctrines of the original Slavophiles.20
As to the Ukrainian problem, Aksakov, more fully than Katkov, expressed the same views of Russian conservative nationalists. He writes to Kostomarov that he sees no possibility for the existence of a separate Ukrainian literary language and refuses to admit any artificial attempts to break the completeness of common Russian development and to lead the Ukrainian writers away from writing in Russian. He finishes with the effective instruction that all the attempts of Ukrainophils contradict life and history. "I do not believe in a possibility" -he writes in one of his letters -"of creating a Malorussian common literary language, except for purely popular works of art, and I do not see any possibility of that, and I do not want and I cannot want any artificial attempts to destroy the wholeness of common Russian development, the attempts to lead the Malorussian artists away from writing in the Russian language. Thank God, that Gogol' had lived and worked before these demands appeared: we would have no "Mertvye Dushi"; you, or Kulish, would have fettered him with a tribal egoism and would have narrowed his horizon with the outlook of a single tribe! But, of course, no one of us has ever wanted or intended to stand in your way. Write as much as you please, translate Shakespeare and Schiller into the Malorussian dialect, dress Homer's characters and Greek gods in a Malorussian free-and-easy sheepskin coat (kozhukh)!"21
Aksakov, for objective reasons, recognizes the right of Ukrainian intellectuals to use their native language, but cannot refrain from the hint about the Greek characters and gods in a Ukrainian sheepskin coat. In comparison with Katkov, Aksakov expresses himself gently and does not deny the right of Ukrainian intellectuals to develop their native language, but, at the same time, he considers a separate Ukrainian literature unnecessary and harmful.
Aksakov's scheme for remodelling a common Russian identity took into account two points: 1. The sacred right of Russian culture; 2. So-called obligations of Russians in their attitude to the junior brothers. He considered, that: "Its attitude to the ancient Russian districts, which are inhabited by our brothers, Malorussians, Chervonorussians, Belorussians, Russia is basing on the most undoubtful right among all the rights -moral right (nravstvennoe pravo), or, to say correctly, the moral duties of brotherhood."22 On the one hand he marked, that "we are standing for the full freedom of life and the development of each people."23 On the other hand, he wrote: "We consider Belorussians as our brothers and think that Russians of all denominations (naimenovanii) must compose one common unifying family."24 These "moral" duties and obligations of the Russians in their attitude to Ukrainians and Belorussians Aksakov underlines as the most important reason for the Russian empire to take part in the partitions of Poland. "If we are at fault anywhere" - conceded Aksakov - "it is perhaps in our indulgence of the ambitious pretensions of our neighbors and our sanctioning the subjection of a free Slavic people to a foreign rule. Speaking generally, Russia was less unjust in the partitioning and destruction of Poland, but being a moral power, it feels the injustice in this affair all the more heavily."25 In another place he noted: "I do not love the Poles, and have excoriated them for their pretensions to Kiev. But I cannot rail at them for their pretensions to Warsaw, Poznan and Cracow."26
"For me a Maloross (a Ukrainian) and a Velikoross (a Russian) are one: Russian" -Aksakov writes again -"and that is why, I do not presuppose any union or federation, etc. here. I am personally acquainted with all the colony of Malorussian "patriots" in St. Petersburg. They are exactly "patriots," but not popular people. They dream about separateness and federation and feel an inclination to the Poles, but these latter are unable to make use of their benevolence and, foolishly, do not recognize Malorussia."27 Because of this, in sympathizing with the cultural striving of the Galician Ukrainians, Aksakov emphasizes their sympathy towards Russia and is very indignant at the article by Chernyshevskii on the literary-elucidative activity of the Galician Ukrainians. When Chernyshevskii published an article in Sovremennik, entitled "A National Tactlessness" (natsional'naia beztaktnost'), where he advises the Ukrainians in Galicia to hold on to their native tongue, their national individuality, Aksakov replied: "This article, abusing the Galicians in their most sensitive, spiritual strivings, condemns their desire to write in the Russian literary language, advising them to hold on to Malorussian tribal peculiarity."28 However, in a similar case, which concerns the cultural development of the Ukrainians in Russia, Aksakov puts forward a certain condition that the national basis of such developments should do no harm to cultural "All-Russian" unity. That is why Aksakov limits independent Ukrainian literature only to public education and, while saluting a publication of the Ukrainian folk legends, looks at the novel "Chorna Rada" by P. Kulish and other literary works in Ukrainian for intellectuals with animosity, because, for intellectual readers there should be only one language, i.e. Russian. There is no need, according to Aksakov, to pay attention to local linguistic peculiarities, since even the Moscow language will, probably, not be well understood, let us say, by a simple Riazan' or Novgorod folk. Aksakov assigns the Ukrainian language, in the limits of the popular use, a great task in the Western Russia in the struggle against Polish cultural influences. "I would advise it (Osnova - V.P.)" - he denotes - "to make use of the Malorussian tribal peculiarity to counteract the Polish civilizational element in the western provinces by raising the locals; exactly as in Belorussia, where a feeling of Belorussian tribal peculiarity should be awakened in the people. All this, of course, is true only for simple people and not for the society, which is armed with all the instruments of the all-Russian consciousness."29
Finally Aksakov insisted that: "the Malorussian question does not exist for Malorussia in general. The Malorussian question does not exist because this question is All-Russian, popular, the question of the all Russian land... Ukraine and Belorussia is not a conqueror land, it is a part of the living body of Russia; here is not a place for the question or for the dispute."30
Iurii Samarin, whose thought was more profound and politics were more liberal than Aksakov's, also contributed to the vulgarization of Slavophile and conservative-nationalistic ideas in Russia. Stressing Russian state interests rather than Slavophile idealism in writing about the nationality question, Samarin was convinced that federalism and special rights and privileges for non-Russians in the borderlands could only denationalize and weaken Russia.31 What about Ukraine? In 1850 Samarin noted in his diary, that the Ukrainians should remember that they had only been able to maintain their religion and identity as a people through their association with Moscow after the seventeenth century. He admitted that the Ukrainians had suffered considerably in one way or another under Moscow but emphasized that it was only through the Russian tsar that they could hope to obtain any improvement of their lot. The Ukrainian people should not forget, he concluded, that "its historical role is within the frontiers of Russia, not outside her, within the general framework of the Muscovite state."32
In 1863 Samarin clearly stated his view of the essential task of Russian state policy in the southwest region in an article published in September of that year in the Slavophile newspaper Den'. Samarin's vision of a Russian supreme power (verkhovnaia vlast') acting positively on the behalf of the peasant peoples in the western borderlands was clearly an ideal type that he used heuristically to determine the actual nature of official borderland policy and to reveal its shortcomings. The Russian state, according to Samarin, had the choice of following one of two conflicting principles in defining the nature of its relationship to the Ukrainians: the Russian-Orthodox principle on the one hand, or the Polish-Catholic one on the other.
His contribution to the analysis of the Polish question was to reduce it to its component parts: 1. The Polish people as a national concept; 2. The Polish state as a political concept; 3. "Polonism" as a cultural concept.33 Samarin's vision of Polonism proceeded on the premise, that the "most dispassionate" Polish historians argued that Poland fell because "Polish honor could not be reconciled with the idea that the Ukrainians and White Russians were equal in rights, and because Jesuitism could not allow the Orthodox Church alongside it."34 As an example of the "new" attitude of the contemporary Poles to the Ukrainian question, Samarin cited "a small group of Poles who had recently asked the Russian government for the Province of Podoliia, despite the fact that they had been saved from peasant axes by Russian bayonets alone."35 Samarin deemed it imperative to localize the political question of Poland within the boundaries of the old Congress Kingdom, by extirpating the roots of Polonism in the western area and in the Ukraine. His suggestions ranged from removing Polish landlords from positions of local power, to the strengthening of the Orthodox clergy and the establishment of popular (narodnye) schools, which would consciously spread an Orthodox-Russian education among the Orthodox masses of Ukrainians and Belorussians. For Samarin Poland was the creation of a Westernized gentry, a liberal intelligentsia and a Latin clergy. It was the renegade vanguard of the Romano-Germanic world against Russia as the leader of Greco-Slavic world. He assumed, that other "nationalities" which possess a different historical past, a set of historically derived institutions and a different idea or outlook of life, such as the Germans, could never be Russian. He stressed that "people who are Germanized through and through are lost to Russia completely."36 Samarin saw the entire purpose of the Polish Catholic nation to convert the Orthodox to one true faith.37 This line of thought meant "Poland is a wedge driven by Latinstvo into the very heart of the Slavic world with the goal of chopping it up into kindling."38
Samarin was consistent in maintaining that two forces opposed Russia: the Latinstvo of the Jesuits and Poles and the Germanism. By virtue of their Christian basis they could Polonize or Germanize the nationalities on the Western borderland, and once this occurred, such groups would be lost to Russia, forever. The Empire would be in the end become a sort of "Hotel Ragatz" in which every group would talk and no one would understand, in which there would be neither consensus nor collective spirit.
Samarin understood that Ukrainians were not Russians, in contradiction to Katkov and Aksakov. He recognized, that all the Slavic peoples were moving in different directions, that they did not have open-hearted, candid feelings to Russia, were looking in the eyes of western countries and always were ready to give ear to their civilizations.39 Samarin understood also that Russia was a multiethnic empire ruled by a tsar whose most trusted advisers came from a narrow social stratum, an elite that consisted predominantly of Russians but included non-Russians and tended to be cosmopolitan rather than national and Russian in its basic orientation. "The interest of the Russian state and of the Russian land, -write Samarin, -are connected with the triumph of the first over the second. The Russian principle is embodied in the mass of the village population, in the common people and in the Orthodox clergy. The Polish -in the landed nobility and in the Latin clergy. On our side, i.e. on the side of the government and Russia, are the strength of numbers and the strength of the nation; against us are wealth and education, the strength of corporate organization and political usage, and the ownership of land as the foundation of social preeminence."40 The elite certainly had an interest in preserving within the empire a leading position for those who were organized corporately, owned land, or who had wealth or education. But the interests of this elite hardly coincided with the interests of the Russian state in a multiethnic borderland controlled socially and economically by non-autochtonous elites in the age of the national state in Europe. For the Russian state, Samarin believed, it was of central importance to bring the peasants in multinational borderlands closer to the rest of the empire, which he thought could be most effectively done by assuring the peasant's right to land and by protecting them from arbitrary treatment at the hands of the local non-autochtonous, landowning nobility, because, "everywhere the masses (in the borderlands - V.P.) gravitate toward Russian nationality, but the false leaders of the masses (pull) in other, various directions."41 In so doing, the government had to act firmly and consistently in pursuing policies that assured the welfare of the majority of the population in these borderlands. Samarin tried to avoid imposing the values and goals of his own social class on the peasants of the empire, Russian and non-Russian alike. He demonstrated a degree of logical rigor and breadth of knowledge not to be found in the writings of Ivan Aksakov and Mikhail Katkov.
The representatives of Russian liberalism42 regarded the problem of Ukraine and the Ukrainians in a somewhat different way.
The leading theorist of nineteenth century Russian liberalism was Boris Chicherin (1828-1904). He strove hard to work out a few practically possible solutions of the national question, but the concept of federalism is not to be found among them.43 Chicherin's views on the national and confessional composition of a state were as follows: the diversity of the national makeup of a state is a retarding factor for introducing and functioning of a representative system; the latter brings political freedom which in turn engenders and fortifies the centrifugal strivings of national minorities, if the cultural status of the dominant nation is not at such heights as to make advantageous coexistence of all nationalities in one political community. Under the influence of Hegel's thought, Chicherin drew a very distinctive line between the nations possessing their statehood and those being stateless, considering only the former the true makers of history. "Independent nations, -he stressed, -are the crown of mankind."44 With regard to Russia, he saw the national question to be reduced to the three following issues: Polish, Jewish and Finnish.
He did not consider the Ukrainians as a separate people, and only as an ethnic branch of the Russian nation. But he was deeply offended that their language and cultural manifestations were persecuted.
One of the best known liberals was Konstantin Kavelin (1818-1885), a well-known Russian scholar, historian, lawyer, professor of Moscow (1844-1848) and St. Petersburg (1857-1861) Universities, also known as the founder of the so-called "theory of ancestral mode of life" (teoriia rodovogo byta) of the ancient Rus'. Kavelin believed that princes of the pre-Mongolian Kievan Rus' considered all lands of Rus' as a common property of their princely family of the Rurik kin. The relations between elder and younger princes were purely ancestral but not the state ones: the eldest of the kin sat in Kiev, and the rest sat at the other tables. This ancestral order began to weaken in the second half of the twelfth century. With the fall of Kiev's hegemony, the northern Vladimir-Suzdal' Rus' appeared in the forefront, which established a completely different kind of relations.45 Especially in the second of his undermentioned works Kavelin recognizes the anthropological, ethnological and cultural-historical differences between the Ukrainians and the Great Russians, explaining them by the assimilation of the Eastern Slavic tribes, which had conquered and colonized the basin of the upper Volga and Oka, with the Finnish tribes.46 Kavelin indicates a great affinity with the Great Russians with the Finns, and on this basis he develops his own theory. Nevertheless, he did not develop his views to the end and did not make appropriate conclusions as to the cultural-historical differences between the two main Eastern Slavic peoples: the Russians and the Ukrainians.
A broader idea of the Ukrainian problem is presented by another Russian scholar and journalist of the liberal trend Aleksandr Pypin (1833-1904). In his autobiography Pypin wrote, that he was familiar with peasant Ukrainian life from childhood. "Meanwhile my father" -he remarked -"lived for a time in the large village of Baland... populated almost entirely by Ukrainians. Ukrainian speech, costumes, practices were kept to the hilt and here for the first time... the physical and moral differences of the two branches of the Russian people struck me."47 In the early 1850s Pypin accepted a concept that had underlain Kostomarov's programme for the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood and that permeated his historical writing (especially his essays in Osnova) namely that Ukraine and Great Russia were equal partners in sharing a common Slavic heritage.
From the one side, Pypin was one of the few figures in Russian political thought willing to push the matter and take up an actual defence of Ukraine. Pypin emphasized the distinction throughout his Ukrainian essays. He attacked "the Moscow exclusiveness of the latest Slavophilism" and the "backward idealism" of the old.48 Pypin said of Kostomarov that he "had little in common with the (Moscow - V.P.) Slavophiles, whose "narodnyi principle" was imbued with "Moscow exclusiveness."49
Pypin condemned the attacks against Ukraine in the Russian press. Just as destructive as government measures, those attacks focused on the phenomenon of ukrainofil'-stvo, while in the years following the Ems decree, the conservative Russian press increasingly denounced Ukrainian separatism, labelling it ukrainofil'stvo. Pypin insisted that ukrainofil'stvo was a feeling to which the Ukrainians were perfectly entitled. Ukrainofil'-stvo, "an awkward, bookish term," was simply "the healthy feeling of a people for their homeland."50 This "simple feeling of attachment to one's homeland" was "a natural human feeling" and "constituted the basis of ukrainofil'stvo."51 Pypin argued that love for one's region is "naturally joined to love for the fatherland."52 When in 1863 Katkov wrote, that the word ukrainofil'stvo meant nothing less than "a Polish intrigue" to cause Ukraine to break away from Russia, Pypin answered, that "the self-professed patriots who... made the famous discovery that ukrainofil'stvo... was a weapon of 'Polish intrigues'... how could there occur this unbelievable discovery?... when all the heroes of Ukrainian poetry and history are the enemies of Poland."53 Pypin, an acknowledged expert on Polish culture, called the accusations "a vulgar absurdity."54
Pypin questioned the assertion that language is a valid test of who is and who is not Russian. He therefore attacked the justification that all Russians "must be restored to the borders of old Rus'." In his opinion, the Eastern and Western branches lived apart for so long and had been subjected to such diverse pressures, that they could no longer be considered truly Russian. He noted that in the language of the seventeenth century Russia, the Little Russians of the South were called the Cherkassian nation, and the White Russians of the West were called the Lithuanian peoples.55
From the other side, many of Pypin's arguments were purely Russian ones. He thought that the contributors of the journal Osnova deserved the right to their own journal because they had done so much for Russian culture. The great collectors of Ukrainian poetry like Kostomarov, Kulish, Sreznevskyi and Maksymovych had gathered "numerous poetical works of unusual beauty that... had excited Pushkin and... inspired Gogol."56 Pypin wrote, that the loss of ethnographer Chubynskyi, "whose work occupies first place in the history of... Ukrainian ethnography" was "a great loss for all Russian ethnographic science."57
The suppression of the Ukrainian language, Pypin argued, was the most harmful policy of all because of the profound debt that Russian culture owed that language in one form or another. He cited numerous instances. For example, without "ancient Kievan writing (pis'mennost')"... Russian literature is unthinkable, both southern and northern."58 In the seventeenth century when Moscow needed scholarly forces for purifying the church, for the conduct of schools, for the decorum of the Tsar's court, scholars came from the Kievan Academy of Petro Mohyla.59 Mohyla's classical philologists represented "the first firmly grounded Russian scholarship" which was "a fully southern Russian cause."60
One of the themes that underlay all of Pypin's Ukrainian essays was the conviction that the "southern Russian people are (themselves - V.P.) a Russian people."61 And again, "the southern Russian people (narodnost') are mostly Russian,"62 "one common root of ethnicity" existed for both peoples.63 Pypin thought, that in order to know themselves, Russians had to know more than the history of state politics; they needed to know the history of all the Russian peoples, which also included the history of Ukrainians. Because of that fact, the fulfillment of Russian self-consciousness (samosoznanie) or self-knowledge depended on knowledge of Ukrainian culture. "The unfamiliarity of our great writers with Kiev and in general southern Russian life closed for Russian literature a whole side of Russian nature and peasant life. If we ignore them "our so-called samosoznanie will remain an empty phrase."64 In even stronger terms Pypin reiterated that without knowledge of the people who "populate the Russian land from Poland to the Caucasus, all talk about national distinctiveness will be empty nonsense."65 In this conclusions Pypin show that he had found his own point of view, a thoroughly Russian perspective, from which to defend and research Ukraine.