|Language||Russian, Ukrainian, English|
On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians (Russian: Об историческом единстве русских и украинцев; Ukrainian: Про історичну єдність росіян та українців) is an essay by Vladimir Putin published on 12 July 2021, shortly after the end of the first phase of the currently-ongoing 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis. In the essay, Putin describes his views on Ukraine and Ukrainians.
In the essay, Putin argues that Russians and Ukrainians, along with Belarusians, are one people, belonging to what has historically been known as the triune Russian nation. To support the claim, he describes in length his views on the history of Russia and Ukraine, concluding that Russians and Ukrainians share a common heritage and destiny.
The essay denies the existence of Ukraine as an independent nation. Noting the large number of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Putin compares "the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia" to a use of weapons of mass destruction against Russians.
Putin openly questions the legitimacy of Ukraine's contemporary borders. According to Putin, the modern-day Ukraine occupies historically Russian lands, and is a product of external forces and of administrative and political decisions made during the Soviet Union. He also discusses the war in Donbas, maintaining that "Kiev simply does not need Donbas".
Putin places blame for the current crisis on foreign plots and anti-Russian conspiracies. According to Putin, the decisions of the Ukrainian government are driven by a Western plot against Russia as well as by "followers of Bandera".
Putin ends the lengthy essay by asserting Russia's role in modern Ukrainian affairs.
Several months later, Dmitry Medvedev, the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, also published an article on Ukraine. In it, he agrees with Putin's essay, and declares that there will be no negotiations with Ukraine until the Ukrainian government is replaced.
Vladislav Surkov, the personal adviser (2013–2020) of Putin, also published an article concerning Ukraine and other ex-USSR territories. In the article, he questions the legitimacy of the western border of Russia (including the borders with Ukraine and the Baltic states), and argues that Russia should abolish the "wicked peace" that keeps it confined by the borders.
In a speech on 21 February 2022, following the escalation in the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis, Putin said that "modern Ukraine was wholly and fully created by Bolshevik, communist Russia". Sarah Rainsford wrote in BBC News that Putin's speech was "rewriting Ukraine's history", and that his focus on the country was "obsessive".
The president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized the essay, comparing Putin's view on the brotherhood between the nations with the story of Cain and Abel. The ex-president Petro Poroshenko also sharply criticized the essay, describing it as a counterpart of Hitler's Sudetenland speech. According to the Ukraine's envoy to UN, "fables about the 'one people' ... have been refuted in Donbas battlefields".
According to the Institute of History of Ukraine, the essay represents the historical views of the Russian Empire. The Ukrainian World Congress compares Putin's view of Ukraine "as a non-nation" to that of Joseph Stalin under whose watch at least five million Ukrainians perished during the Holodomor. The analytics platform VoxUkraine described the essay as a "mixture of historical myths, lies about Crimea and Donbas and manipulation of Ukrainian economic data".
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the essay a "historical, political, and security predicate for invading [Ukraine]". The Stockholm Free World Forum senior fellow Anders Åslund branded the essay as "one step short of a declaration of war." According to Foreign Policy, the essay is a "key guide to the historical stories that shape Putin's and many Russian's attitudes". Historian Timothy Snyder has described Putin's ideas as imperialism. British journalist Edward Lucas described it as historical revisionism. Other observers have noted that the Russian leadership has a distorted view of modern Ukraine and its history.
In Romania, a part of the essay caused outrage. The section in question describes how, in 1918, the Kingdom of Romania had "occupied" (and not united with) the geographical region of Bessarabia, part of which is now in Ukraine. Romanian media outlets such as Adevărul and Digi24 commented on Putin's statements and criticized them. Remarks were also made regarding Northern Bukovina, another former Romanian territory now part of Ukraine. Alexandru Muraru, then a deputy of Romania, also replied to Putin's essay, declaring that Bessarabia was not occupied but "reattached" and "reincorporated" following "democratic processes and historical realities". Muraru also commented on Northern Bukovina.
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- Wikisource. On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians (in Russian)
- Wikisource. On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians (in English)