Ukrainian Russophiles - Ideology


The early Galician Russophile Nikolay Kmicykevich wrote an article in 1834 stating that the Russians were the same people from Western Ukraine to Kamchatka, from the White Sea to the Black Sea, and the language they spoke was the same Russian language. He wrote that the standard Russian language was more acceptable for modern writing and that the popular dialects in Ukraine were corrupted by Polish influence. These ideas were stimulated by the Russian pan-Slavist Mikhail Pogodin, who stayed in Lviv (Lemberg) in 1835 and 1839–1840 and who during this time influenced the local Ruthenian intelligentsia. No longer seeing themselves as representatives of a small Ruthenian nation of under three million people, weak in comparison to its neighbors, the Russophiles now saw themselves as the westernmost branch of the Great Russian people. A Russian orientation also played into the Russophile's elitist tendencies, because the Russian literary language which they tried to adopt (many continued to use the Polish language in their daily lives) set the Russophile priests and nobles apart from the Ukrainian-speaking peasants. Politically, the Russophiles came to advocate the idea of a union between a Galician Ruthenia and Russia.

One of the most active of the Galician Russophiles was the prominent historian, nobleman Denis Zubrytsky, who helped convert many of the Galician elite to his cause. He was also the first to begin writing in standard Russian: as early as 1849 he started his main work, The History of the Ancient Galician-Russian Principality. In a letter to his friend Mikhail Pogodin, Zubrytsky claimed that his stated purpose was to acquaint his Galician people with Russian history and the Russian language. Indeed, the historiography of the medieval Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia was largely begun by Galician Russophiles and served as the basis for their nation-building project (in contrast, the Ukrainophiles at that time focused on the history of the Cossacks). In terms of literature and culture, the Russophiles promoted Nikolai Gogol and Ivan Naumovich in contrast to Ukrainophile emphasis on Taras Shevchenko.

Western Ukrainian Russophiles felt that the people of Ukraine played a special role within the larger Russian nation. The priest Ivan Naumovich declared that the Russian language was derived from "Little Russian" and was only being readopted in Galicia. Indeed, Galician Russophiles wrote that one of the reasons for all East Slavs to adopt the Russian language was that the modern Russian language had been created in the 17th and 18th centuries by scholars from Ukraine.

Despite some democratic elements (such as promoting literacy among peasants) Galician Russophilia tended to be antidemocratic and reactionary, placing it at odds with the democratic trends in 19th century society. For example, the Russophile leader Dennis Zubrytsky defended serfdom both before and after the emancipation of Austrian Galician serfs in 1848.

There were also antisemitic strains in Russophilism. From the 1860s to the 1880s some peasants hoped that the Tsar would come to Galicia and slaughter the Poles and the Jews. During the Russian occupation of Galicia in 1914-1915, a Galician Russophile newspaper spread rumors of anti-Russian Jewish uprisings in order to justify antisemitic pogroms by Russian troops, and Russophiles working within the Russian administration united with right-wing Russian elements in urging the Russian government to solve the "Jewish question" by stripping Jews of Russian citizenship, expelling them to Germany and distributing their property (along with that of Poles) among the local Ukrainian ("Russian") people. The latter appeals were ignored by the Russian military, who did not want excessive disruptions to the local economy during the war. Russophiles who had been installed by the Russian authorities as mayors in some towns proceeded to shut down Jewish schools.

Read more about this topic:  Ukrainian Russophiles

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