The Russian World in a Quest for Meaning

9 october 2017

Slavic Countries in the Post-Soviet Space

Alexander Gronsky - PhD in History, is a Research Fellow at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

Resume: In the endless discussions about the Russian World, our analysts have obscured the issue by vague theorizing, but have failed to produce any recognized scientific concept or school that would explain the idea of the Russian World.

The Russian World is a multifaceted notion. Coined in the eleventh century, the concept has survived to the twenty-first century and apparently has acquired a firm place in the vocabulary of politics and scholarly analysis. Academician Valery Tishkov said “we are dealing with a phenomenon that has a long history and which has now acquired new conceptual configurations to become a constituent of the culture of new network communities as well as a factor of government policies and international relations.”

Although politicians, the media, essayists, and researchers widely use the term ‘the Russian World,’ its content remains undefined. The written form varies as well—sometimes it is put within quotation marks and other times not. There is still no clear rule whether both words or only the first one should be capitalized. In this article (except for quotes) both words are capitalized and no inverted comas are used by analogy with Pax Americana.

RUSSIA: GROAPING FOR MEANING

In Russia, the notion of the Russian World underwent a reincarnation in the 1990s. Political scientists first elaborated the idea, but it was soon taken up by other social groups and the Russian authorities. Naturally, the higher a politician’s status, the sooner his statements enter the political agenda and, circumstances permitting, gain a niche in the political vocabulary, media, and sciences. In October 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Congress of Russian Compatriots and he said: “Compatriot is not just a legal category. Nor is it a matter of status or some privileges. First and foremost, it is a matter of personal choice. A matter of spiritual self-identification. This road is not always easy. The notion ‘the Russian world’ spread far beyond Russia’s geographical borders and the boundaries of the Russian ethnos from time immemorial.” Thus Putin linked the notion of the Russian World with Russian compatriots living abroad.

In 2007, he narrowed the “historical geography” of this notion to the Orthodox community and, more specifically, to Russian emigrants of the first wave—“the world that was tragically split as a result of the revolutionary events of 1917 and the Civil War.” Such a formulation implies that the Russian World had existed before 1917. It is noteworthy that in the very same year, 2007, Putin mentioned the Russian World in a broader sense to include “political figures, scientists and teachers, employees of Russian-language media in different countries—everybody who holds dear the notions of the ‘Russian world’ and ‘Russian word.’” In 2006, Putin said that National Unity Day on November 4 “unites not only Russia’s multi-ethnic people, but millions of our compatriots abroad, […] the whole of what is known as the Russian world.”

Writers for the online resource POLITRUSSIA believe that 2006 started the countdown in shaping the concept of the Russian World, because Putin said that “the Russian world can and must unite all people who appreciate the Russian language and Russian culture wherever they may reside—in Russia or elsewhere. Use the phrase ‘the Russian world’ more often.” Russian officials, especially career diplomats at the Foreign Ministry, follow suit in interpreting this term with reference to Russian compatriots living abroad.

Most intellectuals are certain that the Russian World as such is a reality. The problem is what should be included in its content—all people linked with Russia or the Russian language, or Russian culture, or Orthodoxy, or a common historical memory, or various combinations of the above. Others say that the Russian World is an ideologeme used to justify the imperial, superpower, and other ambitions of the modern Russian authorities.

The easiest way to define the Russian World is to describe it as the diaspora or all expatriates from the Soviet Union, modern Russia and the post-Soviet territories, and their descendants. Specifically, the Russian World is commonly thought to incorporate Russian Jews living in Israel (the so-called “Russian street”) and the Eluosizu, a Russian ethnic minority in China.

Opinions clash over the nature of these definitions. Is the Russian World a concept, a scientific term, an ideologeme, a mythologeme, a socio-cultural phenomenon, or something else? Soviet and Russian philosopher and political scientist Valery Rastorguyev says: “The expression ‘the Russian world’ is now a catch phrase for almost all mass media and all politicians, but it has not become more transparent or easier to understand. Still worse, the more a word existing in a language as a very general notion and which has not been scientifically scrutinized is used in the public sphere—in politics or the media where interests clash head-on—the less it becomes meaningful to all and the fewer the chances to foster unity. Moreover, in the endless discussions in recent years about the Russian World, our analysts have obscured the issue by vague theorizing, but have failed to produce any recognized scientific concept or school that would explain the idea of the Russian World.”

Some scholars have made weak attempts to compare the Russian World with other Worlds. For instance, Academician Valery Tishkov maintains that “not all countries and peoples can give birth to a phenomenon on a global scale deserving to be called a World; in other words, a trans-national and trans-continental community is linked with a certain state and its loyalty to its culture. Alongside Russia only three countries possess such worlds: Spain, France, and China. Possibly, the same is true of Ireland and Britain.” But most often researchers compare the Russian World with Pax Americana, although they never go any farther than that.

In addition, the very term ‘the Russian World’ is often criticized as inappropriate and attempts are made to find a substitute. For instance, Vladimir Lepekhin, Director of the EAEU Institute, believes that the term contains an ethnic factor which many find annoying and which even involves problems in addressing some issues abroad. He believes the term ‘Russian civilization’ is more accurate. However, the content of the term ‘the Russian World,’ in contrast to ‘Russian civilization,’ does not allude to a country called Russia, but to the spiritual and non-material, such as the Russian language and culture. As for the Russian World proper, in the broadest sense it is a community of people for whom the Russian language and culture are great values. It is through values (in addition, for some parts of the Russian World, Orthodox Christianity is such a value) that a positive image of Russia is created, not as a state, but as a land where the achievements customarily referred to as Russian culture were made.

Some studies use the term ‘Russia’s world’ (not capitalized, so we will stick to this spelling too). For instance, philosopher Valery Pavlovsky is certain that Russia’s world incorporates the Russian world. But he maintains that attributing those who have command “of their mother tongue and the Russian language (or those studying Russian)” to the Russian world is rather problematic. Pavlovsky sees this as “Russocentrism, a special form of nationalism,” while Russia’s world for him exists in the territory of the Russian Federation (which is quite logical). However, if one bears in mind that the Russian World is generally understood as a community of people living outside of Russia, then Russia’s world is unable to incorporate the whole of the Russian World. Moreover, in this case the Russian World is much broader than Russia’s world.

Despite the numerous studies devoted to the Russian World, scholars have still not come to a consensus on how to use this term. Practically everybody agrees that the Russian World at least denotes Russian compatriots who reside abroad. Opinions differ in other aspects. Are Russian compatriots abroad equivalent to the entire Russian World or only part of it? Is it appropriate to single out Russian compatriots abroad as the Russian World, while ignoring other groups inside Russia and elsewhere? Nevertheless, if proactive efforts are made to form a glossary and study the phenomena recognized as manifestations of the Russian World, Russian scholarship is potentially capable of formulating a coherent idea of the Russian World and its place among other Worlds.

The Russian opposition is critical of the Russian World concept, which is very natural. The term was actualized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom the Russian opposition is at odds. Moreover, both official politicians and most scholars and commentators believe that the Russian World is used to help create a positive image of Russia through the presentation of Russian culture, science, and other achievements, which undoubtedly strengthens the country and, consequently, lends a positive image to its leadership. Moreover, some researchers regard the Russian World as a manifestation or instrument of “soft power,” which Russia employs in its foreign policy.

Hence the skeptical definitions—not “the Russian World,” but “the so-called Russian world.” The BBC is certain that “the liberal mind associates the idea of the Russian world with the ideology of ‘Russian marches.’” For most liberals, this may actually be the case, but that very word combination has already gained a place in political discourse. With the exception of the opposition, all Russian political groups have a more or less favorable or neutral attitude towards the idea of the Russian World. The opposition has to bear this in mind and refrain from antagonizing the Russian World and their own values, and try to reformat its content to make it match their own aims. For instance, oppositionist Alexei Navalny said in an interview that people are coerced into Putin’s Russian World, while Navalny’s Russian World is a group nobody is being forced to join. While referring to Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States, and Kazakhstan as parts of the Russian World, Navalny at the same time voiced a reservation: Belarusians do not want to be referred to as part of the Russian World.

Even those experts who are critical of the authorities do not regard the Russian World as a risk. They believe that the considerable attention being paid to the diaspora is quite typical of countries that have one. Risks arise when certain problems emerge. For instance, Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, is confident that “the phrase ‘the Russian world’ was discredited by its overuse during the Ukrainian crisis…” Moreover, this notion “may appear scaring to the governments of neighboring countries.”

As for ordinary Russians, the majority of them (71 percent according to polls) have never heard of the Russian World. This is not true. The media mention the Russian World very often. Ordinary people are just not very enthusiastic about giving a name to the reality in which they live and which they represent. If the Russian World is described as a combination of Russian culture, the Russian language, and a common historical memory, then the whole of Russia (except for some minor radical groups) should be equivalent to the Russian World. Of those people who claimed they were unaware of the existence of the Russian World, 67 percent said it was a civilizational entity. Part of those polled had never paid attention to the existence of this term before.

The leaders of non-governmental organizations involved in the political narrative naturally use terminology that is frequent in politics and the media. For instance, a representative of the Regional Ethnic and Cultural Autonomy of Germans in the Republic of Crimea said in 2015 that the “ethnic and cultural association and ethnic groups of the Republic of Crimea have always positioned themselves as an integral part of the Russian World.” A representative of the Greek diaspora echoed: “Greeks are aware that they are an integral part of the Russian World.”

The Russian Orthodox Church has a specific position on this issue. It repeatedly states that the term is not political, but cultural and civilizational. Patriarch Kirill said: “The Russian world is a spiritual, cultural, and intellectual dimension of human individuality. Some Russians, even though they might call themselves Russians, may not belong to this world, because the ability to speak Russian or understand the Russian language is not the sole condition for belonging to the Russian world. […] Russia belongs to a civilization that is broader than the Russian Federation. We call this civilization the Russian world. The Russian world is not the world of the Russian Federation, it is not the world of the Russian Empire. The Russian world stretches all the way back to the baptism of Kievan Rus. The Russian world is a special civilization incorporating people who call themselves by different names—Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians. This world may incorporate people who have nothing to do with the Slavic world, but who have absorbed the cultural and spiritual content of that world as their own.” Many hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church point to Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine as the cradle of the Russian World. Potentially they invite these countries to develop their ideas of the Russian World with reliance on the community that has taken shape since Kievan Rus. The Church repeatedly states that the Russian World is not fraught with the risk of ruining anybody’s sovereignty because it is not a political resource, but a cultural and civilizational one. The Orthodox Church insists that the cementing elements of the Russian World are Orthodoxy, Russian culture, the Russian language, and a common historical memory.

Naturally, the Church makes use of the ideas of Russian scholars above all, because it is Russians who are actively working on the scientific conception of the Russian World. But since its canonical territory stretches far beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, it would not be very correct to include the opinions of the Orthodox clergy in strictly Russian ideas.

BELARUS: A DIALECTICAL CONTRADICTION

The Belarusian authorities are relatively flexible in their understanding of the Russian World. Apparently, this is due to ideological reasons stemming from the nature of relations between Belarus and Russia. It is quite telling how Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko uses this term in different situations.

For instance, let us examine what he said in 2015.

On January 29, Lukashenko appeared at a news conference for Belarusian and foreign media in Minsk. Speaking about a hypothetical Russian-Belarusian armed conflict, Lukashenko said: “Will we as Russian people (when I play hockey, I sometimes scold my players by saying ‘Are you Russian or not Russian?’), will we, as Russian people, fight against other Russian people?” In this particular case, Lukashenko used the word ‘Russian’ in the broad sense—not as someone who belongs to Russia’s main ethnic group, but as a bearer of the cultural and historical heritage that was created on the territory of what was once the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union. However, Lukashenko continued with these words: “But if there are some smart guys who think that the Belarusian land is part of what they now call the Russian World or, in fact, Russia, forget about that. Belarus is a modern and independent state […]”. As a matter of fact, in one public statement he said that Belarus is a country of Russian people (in the broad sense), but not part of the Russian World. In other words, the term ‘Russian people’ was used as a cultural notion, while the ‘Russian World’ as a political one.

In his State of the Nation Address on April 29, 2015, Lukashenko reiterated that Belarusians were Russians, but without the Russian World (“The Russian World does not apply to us”), but continued: “On May 8 we will go to the capital of our motherland, our former motherland—Moscow—to demonstrate that we are the Russian world.” After saying once again that “Belarusians and ethnic Russians are one Russian people,” Lukashenko made the following statements: “We are the Russian world. We have been together and we will be together. We are tightly linked with the Russian people, we are brothers.” Once again, two mutually excluding statements were made almost back to back: “The Russian world does not apply to us.” and “We are the Russian world.”

Speaking to the press in August 2015, Lukashenko was unequivocal: “The Russian world is a silly thing somebody has proposed to the propagandists.” He then remarked, though: “I’m certain Russian President Vladimir Putin has never adhered to this idea.”

The Belarusian opposition and organizations sharing its convictions are strongly negative in their attitude towards the Russian World. In fact, their rhetoric is in no way different from that in Ukraine. The Russian World—be it an idea, project, or community of people—is unambiguously detrimental to Belarusian sovereignty and the Belarusian people. Attitudes towards the Russian World grew particularly negative after the 2014 events in Ukraine. The Belarusian opposition saw manifestations of the Russian World’s aggressiveness literally everywhere. For instance, the reaction of an opposition figure to a new monument to Prince Alexander Nevsky in Vitebsk was unambiguous: “This is an act of aggression by the Russian world towards Belarus. It is basically identical to what happened at the beginning of Crimea’s annexation, when they were making up stories that some Russian prince was there at one time.”

Rejection of the Russian World can be seen not only in the attitude towards monuments, but in traditional religious preferences. Post-Soviet Belarus has developed a custom of granting official status to religious holidays. Both Catholic and Orthodox Christmas are days off. So are both Easters. Opposition experts are certain that the reason behind the dual celebrations is a wish to “emphasize the Western civilizational vector for Belarus.” It is also aimed at ensuring extra protection from the “whirlpool of the aggressive project called the Russian world, which has swallowed up part of Ukraine.” Opposition expert Alexei Shein is certain that the Belarusian president wants to control the Orthodox Church in order to resist the ideology of the Russian World. “This requires greater dependence on Lukashenko [regarding the Orthodox Church—A.G.] and less dependence on Putin,” he concluded.

Opposition experts believe that the Russian World threatens Belarusian sovereignty from all sides. Specifically, the Russian segment of the Internet—Runet—has been described as a “major instrument that is being used to restore the Russian-Soviet Empire.” Among other such instruments are the emphases made in newscasts and Russian-language websites. “The Russian World comes to the Belarusians through electronic mail addresses in the domain ‘.ru’,” the experts conclude.

The opposition sees manifestations of the Russian World even in school textbooks written according to the Russian standard, which periodically appear in bookstores, and globes showing Crimea as part of Russia. Apparently, the opposition views the textbooks and globes as a threat, because the article ends with a small chapter called “What Is to Be Done to Fight Manifestations of the Russian World in Belarus?” A comprehensive response is proposed: “Writing complaints, reporting such incidents to the media, and even organizing public campaigns.”

If you ask ordinary Belarusians about the Russian World, they will most probably say nothing, because they never use such terms. Pushkin and Lermontov for them are their poets and they speak to each other in Russian (sometimes only in Russian) daily. If the Russian World is understood as a space for the Russian language, as a positive attitude towards Russian culture, a vision of Orthodoxy as the main religion, and as interest towards Russia—then YES: Belarusians do exist within the Russian World. At the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, an independent pollster based in Warsaw found that 65 percent of Belarusians are certain it is better to have an alliance with Russia than with Europe. The pollster claimed that this result was evidence of Belarus’ informational and economic dependence on Russia and the reluctance of crisis-stricken Europe to send a clear message to the Belarusians that they were highly welcome there. However, the Belarusians tended to lean on Russia at all times, even when Europe was not in crisis. The reasons for such an orientation should be looked for not in European problems or pressure from the Russian media, but in the Belarusian traditional outlook, which shares values that are customary among Russians.

Separate mention should be made of Russian compatriots living in Belarus, especially those who actively look for historical traces of the Russian World in Belarus and Russian traits in Belarusians. The problem is that most of them are amateur historians, whose dilettantism is as great as their enthusiasm. As a rule, the results of their research provide fresh impetus for scientific criticism of their intellectual “achievements,” which causes more harm to the existence of the Russian World than support. The idea of the Russian World is quite organic, and an impartial look at historical events is enough to protect it. In the meantime, officials, too, get into hot water with unpleasant regularity. For instance, a number of events organized by Russian compatriots and the Russian Embassy in Belarus to celebrate the 1150th anniversary of Russian statehood and the 200th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812 produced a great deal of confusion. When the Belarusian president asked the Russian ambassador what the Russian World was, the latter was at a loss for words.

Thus, the idea of the Russian World in Belarus is shared by a majority of the population by virtue of civilizational and cultural identity, but it is so natural that it still has no name. Manifestations of the Russian World (wide use of the Russian language, interest towards Russia, commitment to Orthodoxy, and the sense of belonging to Russian culture) can be seen everywhere. The Belarusian authorities regard the idea of the Russian World as a project on which they still have no definite stance. The opposition views Russia’s aggressive imperialist instrument as something designed to subjugate post-Soviet space. At the same time, Russian compatriots and the Russian Embassy in Belarus sooner create more problems than they provide support for the idea of the Russian World because of the lack of competent scholars and researchers in their ranks.

UKRAINE: THE AGGRESSOR’S WEAPON

In Ukraine, the events of 2014 drew a borderline in many respects, including the concept of the Russian World. In 2011, Culture Minister Dmitry Tabachnik said the Russian World was an “entirely natural phenomenon,” which by no means contradicts the sovereignty of its constituent parts, including Ukraine. Tabachnik also said that the Russian World does not influence the ethnic identity of Ukrainians because this idea does not imply a change of ethnic self-identity. Moreover, Tabachnik claimed that it is possible to be both a Ukrainophile and a patriot of Ukraine at the same time. He said the name Malorossiya (Little Russia) was not derogatory for Ukrainians. It was just a synonym for the name Ukraine. Tabachnik recalled that the territory where the Polish state began to be constructed was called Malopolska (Lesser Poland).

Russian critics had taken a negative attitude towards the Russian World even before 2014. When Patriarch Kirill visited Ukraine in 2012 some said he had come to “stake out ground” where he would build a Russian World. According to one journalist, then President Victor Yanukovich literally jumped out of his skin trying to successfully implement other people’s idea of the Russian World in Ukraine. The Russian World concept is interpreted by such journalists exclusively as a “milder version of the old-time conviction of Russia’s imperially-minded chauvinists that there is a Russian God up in Heaven who in a special way assists even bloody brigandage and treachery of Russian conquerors.” The very same Russian God wants to drive the Ukrainians, with Patriarch Kirill’s help, into the Russian World and create a “Russian mini-empire of three East Slavic peoples where Russia will rule the roost.” Clearly, in this particular case the critical attitude stems from the desire to protect the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate from the Moscow Patriarchate, even more so because the latter enjoyed far greater support with the Ukrainians.

However, starting in 2014, in the wake of the events in Crimea and Donbass, the term ‘the Russian World’ has acquired a strongly negative and politicized tinge. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko is certain that only a madman could consider Ukraine part of the Russian World. In a speech in Kramatorsk, he said: “Nearly 2,500 Ukrainian heroes gave their lives to liberate Donbass and protect it from the so-called Russian world. Nearly 6,500 Ukrainian civilians were killed in that war as a result of an experiment the Russian world wanted to stage in Ukraine.” In 2016, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Alexander Turchinov offered his understanding of the Russian World: “The Russian world to me is a synonym for Russian tanks, Russian multiple rocket launchers, and thousands of dead Ukrainians. Anyone who is ‘for’ this ‘Russian world’ deserves a long prison term or extermination, forgive me for saying so.” Ukrainian politicians are searching for any manifestations of the Russian World, which in their opinion poses a threat to Ukraine. Bogdan Yaremenko, head of the charity foundation Maidan of Foreign Affairs, said: “Russia’s new military doctrine is a component of the Russian world strategy.”

Apart from such unequivocal yet emotionally reserved statements, one can hear claims that would be better described as an anti-Russian manifesto. For instance, in his description of the situation in Donbass essayist Alexander Tverskoy writes: “Ukrainians have put up last-ditch resistance to the bloodthirsty Russian world.” “Those fighting on the Russian side are habitual criminals, outcasts, the jobless, adventure seekers, and alcoholics. It is symbolic that lumpen types defend the ‘spiritual Russian world.’ Also, soldiers and officers have come to Ukraine to kill. But first they retired from military service. They did so in a sneaky way, like mice. First, they took off their shoulder straps. Military honor, don’t you feel that?” “They are money-thirsty gangsters driven by hatred towards Ukrainians. In principle, it makes no difference for them whom they should hate […]”.

Tverskoy further compares the defenders of the Russian World, that is, Donbass militias, with the opponents of that Russian World—Ukrainian military servicemen. “Take a look at the faces of the invaders… Most of them are ugly, the expressions on their faces are devoid of intellect and humanism, their image, their behavior, and their speech is repulsive. They do not respect even their enemy. There is filth in what they say and what they do. They fancy they are everything, while in reality they are mediocrities in the flesh.

“Then look at the fighting Ukrainians. By and large they are educated, intelligent people, well-established in life, who know what they live for and what they fight for. They have not been subjected to brainwashing, they have willpower, and they have a conscience. They have not abandoned their wives to go to war and find new ones. They did not resort to stealing when they failed to achieve something in life. They went to defend their land. Their words, deeds, and eyes are truthful, calm, confident, and good-natured. They love life and they love their country. They are fundamentally different people, who radiate the light of justice. This light is an eyesore for the invaders and killers.” This lengthy quote is essential to understanding that the journalist in his description uses a vocabulary that can be called racist discourse. And if one recalls the notorious volunteer battalion Tornado, whose crimes have been recognized even by the Ukrainian side, it becomes utterly unclear what light of justice they radiate.

Nevertheless, on some rare occasions the Russian World is referred to not only uncritically, but even with the understanding that for certain people and communities it is a positive phenomenon. Popular blogger Anatoly Shariy has filed a lawsuit against the Detector.Media website for an article in which he was slammed as “a mouthpiece of the Russian world.” The website’s lawyers explained in court that for the advocates of the Russian World concept this term is not loaded with a negative meaning. And although the website’s journalists never positioned themselves as Russian World supporters, after such statements their colleagues did that for them. In other words, simply saying that the Russian World may be of value for some people entails accusations of being affiliated with it.

A comprehensive scientific analysis of the Russian World phenomena in Ukraine is unlikely in the near future. As long as the internal conflict goes on, everything will be geared to serving ideological purposes and creating an enemy image. Any calm or even a critical yet balanced study of the Russian World will automatically arouse suspicions of attempts to defend it. Therefore, the announced themes of research into the Russian World issue are expected to bear negative connotations. In the spring of 2017, the Institute of History at Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences approved the research project “The Russian World in Donbass and Crimea: Historical Roots, Political Technologies, and Instrument of Aggression.” It is clear from the title that the Russian World is seen a priori only as an aggressive technical tool.

Nevertheless, the term ‘the Russian World’ is still found in studies by Ukrainian scholars devoted to historical events. Mikhail Padura, a Ukrainian from Lvov, published the article “Beauties of the ‘Russian World’ in a Galician Village,” in which the Russian World is described as identical to actions by Russian troops and authorities in the village of Chernilyavo. As follows from a written account by a local Uniat priest, Russian soldiers dismantled fences (apparently to use as firewood), dug trenches in the fields, cut down trees, grazed their horses on meadows, cut grass for hay, dug potatoes in the church field, and ate apples from the church garden. Also, the soldiers were blamed for a number of thefts. In other words, the Russian world that came to that village behaved in a way any other army of that day would. The priest reported no acts of violence by Russian soldiers against civilians. Repression against Ukrainophiles and Uniat priests was another manifestation of the Russian World in Galicia at that time. But, whatever wrongdoings they may have been responsible for, the Russian authorities merely arrested and exiled its opponents, without ever considering setting up the equivalents of Thalerhof or Terezin. In fact, the Ukrainophiles in those days were rather active in using the Austrian authorities to crackdown on Galicia’s Russophiles, who were either sent to concentration camps and prisons, or sentenced to death and even lynched by their Ukrainian opponents. Of course, the author of the article does not highlight these facts. Padura uses the term ‘the Russian world’ apparently to evoke associations between the Russian army’s presence in Galicia during World War I and today’s militias in Donbass with the aim of persuading his readers that the Russian world is a menace. But applying this term to World War I is inappropriate, because in those days its meaning was different from what it is today.

The attitude of ordinary Ukrainians to the Russian World is obscure. All opinion polls on that score conducted after 2014 are not very informative. For instance, some shuttlebus drivers have been reluctant to let participants in the military operation in southeastern Ukraine ride for free. But whether such behavior is a manifestation of the Russian World or just a clear desire to make money is hard to say. The Russian World displayed itself far more graphically when Ukrainians tried to take to the streets to celebrate Victory Day wearing St. George ribbons. Naturally, a greater number of supporters of the Russian World in Ukraine do not manifest themselves in any way. Yet the daily Russian World.Ukraine continues to be published, although it is unlikely to be found on sale across Ukraine. A study of ordinary Ukrainians’ attitude towards the Russian World may become relevant later, with reminiscences and notes in diaries probably providing the sole evidence.

So, the ideas of the Russian World in Ukraine before 2014 were not very different from those in Belarus. There were both who supported the ideas and those who opposed them. After that the new authorities started seeing the Russian World exclusively in a negative way. It is difficult to determine to what extent this has influenced ordinary Ukrainians.

*  *  *

The three East Slavic countries clearly differ in their understanding of and attitude towards the Russian World. In Russia, the authorities perceive the Russian World positively, while the opposition is cautious, but not always with a negative attitude. Russians tend to support the slogans and ideas of the Russian World without trying to delve too deeply into the matter. The attitude of the Belarusian authorities to the Russian World is purely instrumental, and that of the opposition, critical, while the public at large feels much the same way about it as Russians do. In Ukraine, practically all political forces perceive the Russian World negatively, while those who support the Russian World are reluctant to speak up. The overall confusion in understanding what the Russian World is can be overcome only through its further study and in finding a common definition.

} Page 1 of 5