Putin’s Dangerous Argument Hidden In a Boring Treatise

A Justification For a Ukrainian Invasion Was Written In One Revisionist Letter

1 December 2021

Oksana Forostyna

Marcin Król Fellow

As Russian troops amassed along the Ukrainian border in unprecedented numbers, and it looks like the US and the EU governments are taking the Russian threat seriously as never before, military and economic experts are welcome to take the floor first.

The focus of this analysis is a 12 July 2021 article by Vladimir Putin, ‘On the Historical Unity Of Russians and Ukrainians’. It may at first seem like just another ornamentation of his political ambitions, though back in July, Anders Åslund wrote: ‘In denying that Ukraine has any right to independence, Putin is setting the stage for war.’ Putin’s ‘historical’ opus was reported to have become a part of the Russian military’s curriculum, this has neither been confirmed nor denied by the Kremlin.

In comparison, Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Hrytsak described Putin’s article as ‘incredibly boring’ and not worth a discussion. Published on the Kremlin website in Russian, English, and Ukrainian, it is poorly written and full of obvious errors, and indeed nothing is new for anyone familiar with official Soviet historical narratives often regaled in history courses, children’s books, films and even cartoons.

Familiar Tales

Those who grew up in the Soviet Union remember that these historical narratives even on a visual level: everything ‘Western’ was dark and sinister, even audacious Western heroes (say, Western communists) were inseparable from the grim context. The West always attacked pacifist ‘Rus’ — be it the medieval, the ‘Ancient Rus’ (sometimes called by its 19th-century artificial Russian term “Kyivan Rus”) or the Soviet Union.

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Oksana Forostyna

Marcin Król Fellow

Marcin Król Fellow at Visegrad Insight. Co-founder of Yakaboo Publishing, an editor, translator and writer contributing to publications such as Krytyka Journal (Ukraine) and The European Review of Books. Her focus is on Ukrainian and regional politics as well as disinformation’s impact on societies.

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