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

The perception of Ukraine by the Russians is important not only as a factor of the tsarist policy, but also as an element of Russian national identity. New works by Paul Bushkovitch and David Saunders specify that Russian political opinion in all political camps in the first half of the nineteenth century, for the most part, regarded Ukraine and the Ukrainians positively.1 Interest in the Ukrainian language, literature and history was considerable, and Ukraine's contribution to common Russian or Slavic culture was generally recognized. Many Russians could even be described as Ukrainophiles, although their attitudes were predicated on the view of Ukraine as different from Russia but at the same time a complement, not a rival, to Great Russian culture and the assumption, that "Little Russian" local patriotism was perfectly compatible with loyalty to the Tsar.2 Studies on the first half of the last century3 arrive at a common conclusion that about 1850 an overturn from romantic Russian "Ukrainophilism" to a complete denial of any manifestations of Ukrainian selfhood had taken place (the first features of Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood's Ukrainian national programme of 1846-1847; an argument between Pogodin and Maksymovych concerning the heritage of Kievan Rus' in 1856). The final overturn is observed after the Polish uprising in 1863, when a clearly marked anti-Ukrainian official policy was launched (Valuev circular of 1863; Ems decree of 1876).4
Since the 1840s and, especially, since the years of 1863-1870 the Ukrainians were discredited by the Russian state and society due to the following reasons: (a) the emergence of the Ukrainian national movement with political claims; (b) the instance of national revolutions of 1848; (c) the growth of Russian national consciousness, which usually included "Malorussians" (the Ukrainians) in the Russian nation that was being formed; (d) the uprising of the "treacherous Poles,” whose image was transferred on to the Ukrainians who for centuries had lived under Polish rule. Those were the reasons that formed the principles of Russian political opinion on the Ukrainian problem.
Elucidating the image of Ukraine and the Ukrainians in Russian political opinion we, in the first place, are interested in the answers to the following questions:
(a) whether the repressive state policy towards the Ukrainians, beginning from the middle of the nineteenth century, and the anti-Ukrainian tendency in Russian political opinion were related;
(b) whether a conception of the existence of an anti-Ukrainian tradition in Russian political opinion, having its roots in the last century and extending up to this day, may be confirmed by studying its main tendencies;
(c) whether the problem of Ukraine in Russian political opinion was considered separately from solving the problem of Russian national identity;
(d) whether the idea of the Ukrainians' ability to become a nation by themselves existed in Russian political opinion;
(e) whether the similarity between general doctrines of Russian political thought and their attitudes to Ukraine really existed.
We want to try to answer all these questions on the basis of comparative analysis of the views on the Ukrainian problem by the representatives of six "generation units” within the framework of three "actual generations"5 of Russian political thought: conservative and liberal nationalists of the second half of the nineteenth century; conservatives and liberals of the first quarter of the twentieth century; Eurasians and Europeanists in interwar emigration. The representatives of all these trends shared accordingly in their chronological dimension a common "space-time location” (to use Karl Mannheim's term)6 and represented diametrically opposed viewpoints on issues concerning one generation in one country and one cultural milieu.