Moscow officials often use their propaganda thesis that the Ukrainian and Russian people are “fraternal people” in internal discourse and even on the global stage. The Kremlin uses this narrative to motivate its criminal attempts to conquer Ukraine.
Let’s look why the claim that “the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are fraternal” is a myth of Russian propaganda. It was created in the late 17th and 18th centuries within the framework of the Moscow Kingdom. The Russian Empire, to assimilate the Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples, says Vladlen Marayev, PhD in History, co-author of the History Without Myths channel.
At that time, Muscovy was actively pursuing its expansion, expanding its borders and seizing Ukrainian lands. It needed to somehow “digest” these territories in an imperial way to turn them into an utterly loyal territory with a loyal population.
Therefore, the concept of the imperial regime was that there was a single Russian people consisting of three branches: Great Russians, Little Russians, and White Russians. In 1917, the Russian Empire collapsed. This concept did not justify itself at all. Assimilation did not work. Ukrainians retained their identity, language and culture, although much damage was done.
Instead, the Soviet Union revived this theory. However, it was updated and slightly adapted to the communist totalitarian regime. After the Second World War in the 1950s, when a new wave of Russification within the USSR began, the concept of “three fraternal peoples” was revived: Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian. However, Moscow’s propagandists tried to force people to believe that the Russian people were more senior than the Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples.
This is all nonsense because in the Middle Ages, the early modern era and the Cossack era, there was a clear division between Ukrainians and Russians. Ukrainians were then called Rusyns, Rus or Ruthenians. And Russians were called Muscovites.
It was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially from the second half of the nineteenth century, that the Ukrainian identity prevailed. Because the Ukrainian intellectual elite of the time was motivated to switch to the Ukrainian identity so that it would never be confused with the Russian intelligentsia. They insisted that having a separate language and history from the Russians, they should have a different name at the international level, which would never be confused with Russia. Therefore, the Rusyn name became a thing of the past, but the Ukrainian name won.
In the twentieth century, the Ukrainian identity became clear to all Ukrainians. Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine again proves that any concept of the so-called “brotherly peoples” is an absolute fake.
Russian genocidal war is aimed only at assimilating Ukrainians, reducing their ability to resist Russian aggression and trying to present any aggression against Ukraine on the international stage as an internal affair of Russia – a specific manifestation of a civil war between very similar or even the same people. But it was just an attempt of blatant disinformation and pure propaganda to justify Moscow’s war.
After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on 24 February 2022, it is pretty clear that Russia’s intentions are military occupation and aggression. And there can never be any talk of any fraternal peoples again. Moreover, the concept of “fraternal peoples” does not exist in international relations at all.
There are separate peoples, separate states, each of which has its apparent interests, although they have some joint history and similar languages. But the mentality is entirely different.
At certain moments in history, each state enters into alliances with other states as far as it meets its interests. At other times, it makes alliances with other states, but it is impossible to talk about the existence of “brotherly peoples” or states and fraternal close relations.
Moreover, Putin’s unprovoked, disastrous and cruel war against, which has become a new layer in Moscow’s centuries-long capture and enslavement of Ukrainians, has created hatred between neighbouring peoples for centuries to come.