Some weeks ago the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada, reviewed a legislation proposal to officially change Russia’s name. Contemporary Russia is not, in this view, the historically legitimate heir of the ancient Kievan Rus which is considered to be the first Russian and Eastern European state from where Ukraine, Russia and Belarus draw their historical origins. In fact Ukraine (and in particular the current Ukrainian leadership) sees itself as the true heir of the first Rus, the Kievan Rus inheritance, of its culture and its history, so if there is a country which should have the right to call itself Russia, this is actually modern day Ukraine, not what we are used to call Russia. Sounds absurd to you, especially in light of the still creeping conflict between the Ukrainian and Russian nation? Not quite. Actually the country which calls itself Russia today should in reality be called Moscovia, because it originated from the Moscovian principate which liberated itself in the XV century from the Mongol yoke, united the lands of the former Kievan Rus and in the process of fighting the Mongols back expanded so much that it became the largest country on Earth. And Moscovia is actually the most respectful of the possible names, because Moscovia is actually just another name for Mongolia. For some Ukrainian and other Slavic historians the state that was formed under Ivan The Terrible, the first Tsar of all Russias, was not a Slavic state, even if it was formally a Christian nation, but an Oriental barbaric aggressive and dangerous power that did not really repel the Mongols but rather assimilated their customs and their population (in Russia there are large minorities of Turkic etnicities). So should we do justice to history and start calling Ukraine Russia, even if these days, more than ever, Ukraine wants the world to know that it is not Russia and that Ukrainians and Russians are two very very different nations? Is Ukraine the real Russia, even if it is not Russia at all?

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From a history textbook currently in use in Ukraine: one of the founding works of Ukrainian historiography is the anonymous “History of Rusy” (sometimes translated as “History of Ruthenians”), in which under the name “Rusy” it is actually meant Ukrainians.

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In Belarus, which arguably never had an indepedent statehood tradition, I was actually told that to start with, actually Belarus should not be called Belarus at all. Apparently the very name Belarus is the creation of the empirialistic Russian historical traditional that rewrote history according to their wims. Because in reality the independent history of Belarus goes actually back to the Great Lithuanian Duchy, which was Lithuanian in all but name, because the people there were actually modern day Belarussians, who at the time however called themselves Litvini. Sounds confusing? Well, it might be. The Great Lithuanian Duchy was for a while the largest country in Europe and it is generally assumed that the ruling elite was formed by pagan and proud Lithuanians, while the population was mainly Orthodox Christian and Russophone. This, however, is not supposed to mean that the population was Russian, because actually the people inhabiting Belarus today are supposed to be genetically more closely related to Baltic people than to the Slavs. Rather than seeing themselves as a Slavic tribe closely related to the much larger Russian ethnogroup, with whom they share a very similar language, their faith, their customs, their historical tradition and their name, some people in Belarus decided to associate themselves with what was an distant ruling elite who spoke an impenetrable language (although arguably the language of the official documents in the Duchy was, beside Latin, Old Belarusian, apparently the ruling nobility cared more about fighting than about writing) and venerated the sun and the wind as pagan gods. So if Belarus is actually Lithuania, what is actually Lithuania? Answer: Lithuanias are actually Zhmudians …

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