Even though Russian officials and commentators have felt free to call Ukraine and Ukrainians other names, the suggestion by Ukrainian writer Larisa Nitsa that Russia should be called Muscovy has sparked outrage among Russians – even though Muscovy is a more historical term for what is now Russia than many terms Russians now use for Ukraine.
Residents of Ukraine should “apply to the Russian Federation the historical name ‘Muscovy’ since the term ‘Rus’ ’ was stolen from the Ukrainians by the Russians,” Ms. Nitsa argues. Moreover, she continues, the tsars had to impose the name Russia on reluctant Muscovites (obozrevatel.com/society/larisa-nitsoj.htm).
“Do you know how they became Russians?” she asks rhetorically. “The Russian tsars first stole the name ‘Rus’ from us. They were at the time Muscovites. Rus’ is ours. It’s as if someone stole the house of your parents and then you say that the owners are those who did the stealing,” Ms. Nitsa continues.
“People in Ukraine are in fact ‘Russians,’” she tells an interviewer. “You and I are Russians; they are Muscovites. The Muscovite tsardom by order of Peter I called itself Rus’. Just imagine if Germany woke up today, and France had issued an order specifying that we now are Germany. This is the same nonsense!”
Indeed, Ms. Nitsa recalls, “the Muscovites continued to call themselves Muscovites,” forcing Catherine II to issue a decree – all Muscovites who call themselves Muscovites will be piteously beaten. This is a historic fact; it can be confirmed in museums. As a result, the Muscovites were called and forced to call themselves Russians.”
Few things anger those who call themselves Russians more now than anyone who calls attention to some of the problematic aspects of their history, their names or the name of their language. And, not surprisingly, Ms. Nitsa’s remarks sparked an immediate and universally negative response in the Russian Federation.
For a sample of these reactions by politicians and commentators, see among many others regnum.ru/news/polit/2436508.html, ura.news/news/1052340035 and velykoross.ru/news/all/article_4393/.
Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/).