MYTH: Modern ukraine was entirely created by communist Russia
THE FACTS: In Feb. 21, 2022, just three days before Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia,” Putin said, lamenting that the communists “gave these republics the right to leave the (Soviet) union without any terms and conditions.”
It is true that today’s Russia and Ukraine, both former Soviet states, share long periods of history. However, they have spent considerably more time apart than together. Russia and Ukraine’s shared heritage dates back more than 1,000 years, when Kiev was the center of the first slavic state, Kievan Rus, a medieval empire founded by Vikings in the 9th century and the birthplace of Ukraine and Russia. The historical reality of Ukraine is a complicated 10-century history of shifting borders and conquest by multiple, competing powers. While parts of modern-day Ukraine existed within the Russian empire for centuries, other parts in the west fell to the control of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Poland, or Lithuania.
Contrary to Putin’s claim that “the Bolsheviks invented Ukraine,” Ukraine had fought for, and gained, independence in 1918 — a status that lasted only a few years. In 1922, Russian Bolsheviks defeated Ukraine’s national government and established the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Ukraine would spend the next 69 years as part of the Union.
Putin’s claim that Moscow “gave” Ukraine the right to become independent of the Soviet Union “without any terms and conditions,” is incorrect because it was the Ukrainians who chose independence in a democratic referendum. In 1991, as the Soviet Union was dissolving, 84 percent of eligible voters in Ukraine went to the polls, and more than 92 percent voted to leave the Soviet Union. Moscow even vowed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty as a condition of Ukraine’s giving up its nuclear weapons — which was memorialized in 1994, in an agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum.
Serhii Plokhii: Casus Belli: Did Lenin Create Modern Ukraine?
February 27, 2022
Vladimir Putin has justified his ongoing invasion of Ukraine on the basis of a bizarre reading of history and accusations that Ukraine is at the same time Lenin’s creation and the homeland of the Nazis.
Much has been said in the last few years to show the fraudulent nature of the “Nazi” claim. But the Lenin theme fully emerged only recently, in Putin’s February 21 speech in which he recognized the “independence” of the two puppet states created by Russia in eastern Ukraine at the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war in 2014. The bizarre nature of that claim is underlined by the fact that at least one of those “republics,” the Donetsk one, claimed at its creation the legacy of an earlier puppet state, the Donetsk-Kryvyi Rih republic, which was formed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 to prevent that territory from being included in the Ukrainian state.
In his de facto declaration of war, Putin stated that “modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russia—by separating, severing what is historically Russian land.” He developed that idea by stating: “Soviet Ukraine is the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy and can rightfully be called ‘Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine.’ He was its creator and architect.”
In Ukrainian social media, reaction to Putin’s statement was almost immediate. Within a few hours, Facebook was flooded with images of Vladimir Lenin surprised to learn that he had created Ukraine. Another montage inserted Lenin into the monument to the legendary founders of Kyiv, the brothers Kyi, Shchek, and Khoryv and their sister, Lybid. Lenin replaced Lybid at the prow of the boat carrying the founders of the Ukrainian capital. The monument expresses Ukrainians’ belief that their country’s roots go back to the Middle Ages.
But what about modern Ukraine, a state that, according to Mr. Putin, came into existence at the expense of historical Russian lands? Even a cursory acquaintance with the history of the Russian Revolution and fall of the Russian Empire that accompanied it indicates that the modern Ukrainian state came into existence not thanks to Lenin but against his wishes and in direct reaction to the Bolshevik putsch in Petrograd in October (according to the Gregorian calendar, November) of 1917. The Bolsheviks tried to take control of Kyiv as well but were defeated, jumpstarting the process of the modern Ukrainian state-building.
Lenin was indeed central to the formation of the USSR, as Mr. Putin has claimed. But Lenin’s main contribution to the history of Russo-Ukrainian relations was not the formation of a modern Ukraine state but the endowment of the Russian Federation—the name under which it entered the Soviet Union—with a territory and institutions of its own, distinct for the first time in centuries from the territory and institutions of the empire that it was seeking to preserve. If anything, Lenin laid the foundations for the formation of modern Russia, not Ukraine. Boris Yeltsin, Mr. Putin’s patron, took that state, the Russian Federation, out of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is over that state, not pre-revolutionary Russia, that Mr. Putin presides.
Modern history of Ukraine
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ukraine emerged as the concept of a nation, and the Ukrainians as a nationality, with the Ukrainian National Revival which began in the late 18th and early 19th century. According to Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Hrytsak, the first wave of national revival is traditionally connected with the publication of the first part of “Eneyida” by Ivan Kotlyarevsky (1798). In 1846, in Moscow the “Istoriya Rusov ili Maloi Rossii” (History of Ruthenians or Little Russia) was published. During the Spring of Nations, in 1848 in Lemberg (Lviv) the Supreme Ruthenian Council was created which declared that Galician Ruthenians are part of the bigger Ukrainian nation. The council adopted the yellow and blue flag (Flag of Ukraine).
Ukraine first declared its independence with the invasion of Bolsheviks in late 1917. Following the conclusion of World War I and with the Peace of Riga, Ukraine was partitioned once again between Poland and the Bolshevik Russia. The Bolshevik-occupied territory became a puppet state of the Communist Party, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
In 1922, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, together with the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, became the founding members of the Soviet Union. The Soviet famine of 1932–33 or Holodomor killed an estimated 6 to 8 million people in the Soviet Union, the majority of them in Ukraine.
Starting out World War II with Nazi Germany and being excluded from the League of Nations, in 1941 the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany and its other allies. Many Ukrainians initially regarded the Wehrmacht soldiers as liberators from Soviet rule, while others formed an anti-German partisan movement. Some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground formed a Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both Soviet and Nazi forces.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state, formalized with a referendum on December 1. With the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, Ukraine now became an area of overlapping spheres of influence of the European Union and the Russian Federation. This manifested in a political split between the “pro-Russian” Eastern Ukraine, and the “pro-European” Western Ukraine, leading to an ongoing period of political turmoil, beginning with the “Orange Revolution” of 2004, and culminating in 2014 with the “Euromaidan” uprising and the Crimean Crisis, in which Crimea fell under the control of the Russian Federation.