Little and Greater Russia

On many maps of Ukraine, or actually, the so-called “Ukrainian Ethnic Territory”, we can see that it takes huge lands from Rzeszów in Poland to the Caspian sea. Until today, in almost every history schoolbook in Ukraine we can see, that the “Ukrainian Ethnic Territory” reaches far beyond the present-day borders of Ukraine, encompassing the “Zakerzonie” (part of border land in Poland – behid the “Curzon line”). It also encompasses the Kuban and the Crimea. Promoting regaining Kuban surprises especially in times, when Ukrainians don’t seem to fully control it’s own country, starting from Donbas, and finishing with post-Soviet governors like Saakashvili in Odessa.

Since I began to study the situation in the East, I could not but wonder about one thing: since the Ukrainian territory is almost 6 times bigger than the one held by Ukraine as “ethnically Polish” – how can a situation be possible, where the Polish nation functions in a relative unity, speaks its language and forms a state stronger than Ukraine, which should be a few times stronger than Poland? The truth is not hard to find. It’s enough to focus on the source – in this case, the source of the statistical data on which Ukrainians base their claims about the “Ukrainianian Ethnic Lands”.


On most of the ethnographic maps, Russian or German, we can see that there is no “Ukrainian” territory, especially in the early maps from the 19th century.

On the map above, Poles are marked yellow and to the east, instead of the Great Ukraine, we can see the Greater Russians, Little Russians and White Russians. That’s right – not Ukrainians, not even “Ruthenians” but “Little Russians”. Why the then might Russia allowed for such a great ethnic territory to be marked as the future “Ukrainian” one? It’s obvious – Russians never intended to consider them as Ukrainians, as a nation ethnically different from Russians, but rather as another diversity of the Russian folk. Little, Greater, or White Russians – all were to be Russians.

It can especially be seen on the map above where even the Ruthenians from Halich region are considered Russians – “Halich Russians” – but still, Russians. This naming is continued in the present-day propaganda about the Belarusian-Ukrainian-Russian friendship.



It’s not hard to find out that the credibility of these imperial maps is, to put it lightly, questionable, because this data was manipulated to maximize the moral right of Russia to occupy the vast lands of the Rzeczpospolita (Commonwealth) of Poland. Whether Wilno or Lwow – no Poles are present on these maps although they constituted then the majority in those cities. Despite this, these maps are still used. The colors on the maps are changed for marking the “ethnic lands” and the name of “Little Russians” was changed to “Ukrainians” – and thus you one can continue to talk about the “Ukrainian ethnic lands”.

Since this data is questionable or even false, is there a possibility to still find out the truth in the matter? To find out where if ever the Ukrainians truly existed? The history is what it is. Whether we learn from its lessons or not, it won’t change and it won’t ceize to impact the present day reality. And thus it’s enough to look at the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, or the linguistic map to confront the Russian maps with reality.

The word “Ukraina” means borderland – the borderland of Rzeczpospolita. Yet due to the borders of Poland changing and due to resettlements of the Cossack and Rusyn (Halich) population, the area is not uniform and the identity of people – diverse. Thus the lands unified under the term “borderland” – were partly Polish and partly Russian. The Halich region was where the Polish literary language was born. The land of Lwów (Lviv) was home to Mikołaj Rey, who was the first to write in Polish.


Yet I want to focus now on the lands taken from Poland. I would like to remind us that a large part of Ukraine are the lands that were in Russia for 300 years almost uninteruptedly until the fall of the Soviet Union. 300 years ago, the Ukrainian nation did not exist in this form, which can be seen even in the “Cossack Constitution”, written by a Czech cossack from Lithuania, Filip Orlik (Pylyp Orlyk), where we can read about the Little Russian nation. The same document talks about Little Russia and the language used in it is very far not only compared to the Rusyn language from the Halich region, but also compared to the presend day Ukrainian, which has been under Russian influence already. The Ukrainians thus are fighting nowadays to establish what Ukraine means and try to answer the question asked for centuries. On this path they are trying, of course, to assimilate the Polish and Russian culture that was born on the territory of present day Ukrainian Republic.

The process of cultural assimilation is easier – it’s enough to write a true or false information in a school book, a newspaper or in the internet on a subject, and most people will believe it, because they want to support Ukraine as well as due to the sheer lack of time they could devote to their independent study of history. But it is much harder to assimilate the population, that is, to encourage the population historically Russian to suddenly start to speak Ukrainian. It’s not without significance that the Russian culture is much richer and stands on higher grounds than the Ukrainian one.


What can be perceived in this regard is the following strategy: the Russian speaking population can consider themselves to be Ukrainian and still speak Russian, as long as they support the Bandera-Cossack republic. It’s hard to believe, after all, that an oligarch speaks Ukrainian at home, not to mention the governors of Kyiv or Odessa. That seems to be dangerous because Poland supports Ukraine as a sort of a child of Rzeczpospolita, Ukraine, not Little Russia – a clone or child of Russia.


The languages of Ukraine and Belarus

If you can be Ukrainian, speaking Russian, there is one question remaining: how can Ukraine justify the taking of Lwow or Volyn region from Poland saying that Poland was to polonize them (with Polish population already present there in part), since Ukraine itself does not want to speak its language nowadays? I leave this question open hoping that one day the truth will bring peace and reconciliation in Poland and in Ukraine.

Szymon G Szewczyk