Crises have led several generations of Russians to move away from Russia, and the war in Ukraine is yet another crisis. As soon as Vladimir Putin threatened to wage war in Ukraine, Russians left, and tens of thousands followed in their footsteps. It’s an exodus. Opponents of the war in Ukraine who have spoken publicly and have been imprisoned are also very likely to leave Russia after they are freed. Russia will lose some of its population. They will join Russians who settled abroad after the collapse of the USSR. Vladimir Putin, who seems to be Putin alone, tramples on the freedom of two people who have close ties, making the war even uglier. Earlier, after the 1905 Revolution and the Revolution of 1917, other countries welcomed Russians. Many went to France. Most Russian aristocrats spoke French. When I lived in France it suprised me that so many of the French I met had Russian ancestry. Their family left Russia at different points in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Ukraine was once called be called une petite Russie. Une petite Russie may be an area abroad where Ukrainians have chosen to live. There are numerous petites, including petites Cadies and petits Canadas, small Acadies and small Canadas. My father was brought up in a small town in the Eastern Townships where French-speaking Canadians lived in a p’tit Canada. These areas were called Canadas because English Canadians were les Anglais. But la petite Russie (Le Figaro) I am referring to is Ukraine. Ukraine is located on the shore of the Black Sea, which has been a coveted area. Russia is inland, a geographical drawback. It has compensated by being “toutes les Russies,” all the Russias, a country so large that it suggests conquests.
La petite Russie was located on the shore of the Black Sea and allowed Russia to have a navy. Russia’s port was the port of Arkhangelsk, located far to the North. Russia wants ports, which the annexation of Crimea in 2014 reflects. History repeats itself.
Kievan Rus’, the Tsardom of Russia, and the Russian Empire
- Kievan Rus’ until 1574
- 1574-1721 Tsardom of Russia
- Ivan IV (self-declared Tsar)
- The House of Romanov (Michael of Russia, appointed Tsar…)
- 1721-1917 the Russian Empire (Peter the Great…)
Kievan Rus’ (les Russes de Kiev) is a remnant from the past (Kiev is Kyiv). Kyevan or Kyivan Rus’ ceased to be in 1574 when Ivan IV, Ivan the Terrible, the Grand Prince of Moscow, declared himself Tsar of Russia or the Tsardom of Russia or Muscovy. The first tsar of Russia was Michael of Russia, Tsar of the House of Romanov after the Zemskiy Sobor of 1613 elected him to rule the Tsardom of Russia. He was the son of Feodor Nikitich Romanov. The Tsardom of Russia was a centralized state (Moskovy) that lasted until 1721, when Peter the Great founded the Russian Empire. Under Peter the Great, the Tsardom of Russia or Tsardom of Muscovy gradually ceased to be a centralized Russian state. Expansion began.
1793: the Division of Ukraine
In fact, both Russians and Ukrainians are Slavs, a large number of people who speak Slavic languages and inhabit several countries. The modern nations of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus’ as their cultural ancestors. (See Kievan Rus’, Wikipedia). But, eventually, Ukraine became a petite Russie as the former centralized Tsardom of Russia expanded into the Russian Empire. Ukraine was divided following a war waged in the 17th century between the Tsardom of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The east was controlled by Russia and the west fell under Polish control splitting Ukraine between the east, which was controlled by Russia, and the west, which fell under Polish control. splitting Ukraine between the east, which was controlled by Russia, and the west, which fell under Polish control. This divide existed until 1793, when the Russian Empire annexed western Ukraine, plunging the country into a century of “Russification.” For Russia, they claimed this was “reunification” of the Kyivan Rus’, but for Ukrainians, it was another subjugation. (See The Contentious History of Russia-Ukraine history)
The Mutiny of the Battleship Potemkin
I will tell a story that may exemplify the relationship between the petits Russes and the grands Russes. It is the story of the mutiny on Potemkin. Potemkin was a Russian battleship that sailed on the Black Sea after 1793, but perhaps earlier, when Ukraine had been annexed to Russia. The Russian Empire now had a port south of Moscow, but the petits Russes of Potemkin rebelled against the ship’s officers.
In early June 1905, Afanasy Matyushenko and Potemkin crewman Grigory Vakulenchuk joined with other disgruntled sailors in plotting a fleet-wide mutiny. Their audacious plan called for the rank and file to rise up and strike a concerted blow against the officers. After commandeering all the navy ships in the Black Sea, the conspirators would enlist the peasant class in a revolt that would sweep Czar Nicholas II from the Russian throne.
Potemkin was commandeered under Afanasy Matyushenko, and Grigory Vakulenchuk after conscripted crewmen were served borscht crawling with maggots. Captain Evgeny Golikov ordered crewmen to eat the borscht, which some did, but the “hard-liners stubbornly held their ground.” (See History.) Golikov called his marines, but a few men went to a turret and grabbed weapons. Golikov killed Vakulenchuk, but the crewmen, numbering 763, commandeered the ship after 30 minutes. Golikov was hiding in a stateroom. He was shot and died as soon as he was found.
Potemkin headed for Odessa, and Matyushenko showed Vakulenchuk’s dead body. When Nicholas II heard of the mutiny, he ordered his military to quell the revolt. The following day the military started firing at people standing near the shore, and mounted Cossacks went down the Richelieu steps killing civilians with their sabres. It was a massacre: a thousand Odessans died.
Potemkin went to Romania and surrendered the ship in exchange for political asylum. Most mutineers went into exile. These were petits, Russes, Ukrainians.
It is now as it was then. Petits Russes, Ukrainians, are fleeing their country. Could a modern-day “Tsar” want ports on the Black Sea, crushing peaceful Ukrainians? And will he then conquer other lands? Where does he go if he does not pull out of Ukraine? He has done considerable harm in Ukraine and many have suggested he is already a war criminal, which he seems to be.
Who would have thought that thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the President of the Russian Federation would compel Ukrainians, humble Russians, the Grinbergs, and tens of thousands of other Russians to leave?
- The Art and Music of Russia (Page)
Love to everyone. 💕
© Micheline Walker
1st April 2022