Ukrainian Historian Attacked for “Ukrainophobia” – Part I

Dear Readers:

This story is about the quest for academic freedom, and how Nazis always seem to get in the way of that.

Svoboda symbology: Yellow cartoon hand and slightly disguised swastika

The incident itself occurred on July 7, here is the pidgin English version of the story.  Here is a more grammatical Russian version, along with an extensive interview of the scholar in question.   The interview is very interesting, and  I plan to translate it in full, hence my piece will be a multi-parter.  So please bear with me.

Adolph McPonytail, aka Igor Miroshnichenko

The scholar in question is named Peter Tolochko.  He is an Academician, Ukrainian historian, and the Director of the Institute of Archaeology.  He was presenting his new book, entitled “Whence the Russian Land” («Откуда пошла Русская земля») when, all of a sudden, members of the Svoboda Party burst in and disrupted the event.  Svoboda is a neo-Nazi political party fueled by admiration of Adolph Hitler and Stepan Bandera; along with virulent hatred of everything Russian.  One of the things that really boiled Svoboda’s grits was that Tolochko was presenting his book in the building of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Society.  The Svoboda thugs, led by Igor Miroshnichenko busted into the building, vandalized the building itself, and trashed Tolochko’s books.  They verbally threatened to harm Professor Tolochko, as well as Mr. Konstantin Vorobyov, Director of the Friendship Society.  Thankfully, both men were allowed to walk out quietly, without being physically damaged.  This was a blessing, considering how violent these Ukrainian neo-Nazis can get at times.

In Ukraine, vandals call cops to complain about professor!

In normal country:  When street gang busts in to a book signing and vandalizes stock of books, then professor calls the cops.  In Ukraine, it’s actually the other way around:  Vandals call the cops and complain about Professor’s bad ideas, as encapsulated in his book.  In other words,  Miroshnichenko’s “activists” called the police and ratted out Tolochko, complaining that his book contained “signs of Ukrainophobia”.   The pidgin English version quotes a police spokesperson promising that the security services intend to follow up on this complaint and study Tolochko’s book for signs of “Ukrainophobia”.

Ukrainophobia is a crime in today’s Ukraine.  What is Ukrainophobia?  It is the expression of ideas hateful or disdainful of Ukraine or Ukrainians.  For example, implying that the Ukrainian language is just a dialect of Russian; or that ancient Ukrainians did not build the pyramids — that constitutes criminal Ukrainophobia.  It used to be a big joke, but it’s not even funny any more.  What is the punishment for Ukrainophobia?  Fine or possibly even prison time.  Hence, the gentle white-haired historian Tolochko is at actual risk for going to jail.  Because he wrote this book, of which the Svoboda Party disapproves.

VZGLIAD Reporter Interviews Tolochko

Next I proceed to the translation of the Tolochko interview.  The text is written by reporter Yury Zainashev, who I assume is also the interlocutor during the interview.

Professor and Archaeologist Petro P. Tolochko

VZGLIAD:  Petro Petrovich, since your presentation was disrupted, could you at least now give us an idea what your book is about, and how it differs from your previous books?


Professor Tolochko:  I have written books about the government of Ancient Rus, but it is only recently that I approached the theme of the origins of the Russian state.  In my latest book I delve into the ancient question first posed by the chronicler Nestor:  “Whence the Russian land?”  Over the past 200 years quite a lot of historiographical material has been accumulated on this theme, and there are various points of view.  Two main points of view, if you please.  The first:  the (Russian) state, along with its name, was brought by the Varangians [Russian:  varyag], i.e., the Normans.  The second theory is the “native” one:  That the state coalesced independently, even before the arrival of the Varangians.

Being an archaeologist by profession, I naturally turn towards the archaeological evidence.  Excavations have revealed approximately 15 early towns of the 6th to 8th centuries, hence founded long before the arrival on our soil of Varangians, let alone Khazars.  These ancient towns were quite well constructed centers, showing signs of early state-building.

Because of this, I incline to the opinion that (the Russian) state started developing right here, in place, as a result of the social-economic development of the local tribes themselves, of which, according to Nestor, there were twelve.  Well-developed inter-tribal formations were developed — the Chronicles call them “princedoms”, which developed out of specific settled places, one of which was Kiev.

The Varangians, in essence, inserted themselves into a structure which already existed in Rus.  They themselves became Princes; Mayors (“Posadniki” – Посадник);  Colonels i.e., commanders of 1000 men (“Tysyatsky” – Тысяцкий).  Back in their own homeland they had called themselves “yarly” and “konungi”.  However, in Rus these Varangians did not call their setup a “yarl-dom”, but rather a “prince-dom”.

[yalensis:  I don’t know from “yarly”, but I do know from my linguistic studies that the Viking word “konungas” is one and the same as the Russian word князь –  “kn’az'” – “prince”.  And that the Russian word is borrowed from the Viking word.  Hence I am not sure that this particular example substantiates Professor Tolochko’s point.]

Professor Tolochko [continuing despite rude yalensis interruption]:   And they (the Varangians) very quickly became Slavicized.  Igor was raised in a Slavic milieu and married Olga from Pskov.  Their son was the first prince who bore the completely Slavic name of Svyatoslav.

VZGLIAD:  So, what is the core of your disagreements with the (Ukrainian) nationalists?

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Education, Human Dignity, Russian History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Ukrainian Historian Attacked for “Ukrainophobia” – Part I

  1. Alexey says:

    Funny thing. My acquaintance with Tolochko’s writings on origins of Rus’ left me with strong impression that he often manipulates facts (not necessarily consciously) to promote idea of Kievan origin of Rus’ statehood. Still he had some interesting ideas and wide erudition.

    Yet even this mildly patriotic Ukrainian approach to history is nowadays a crime in “wonderful country”. Funny indeed.


    • yalensis says:

      Interesting…. Thanks for the observation. Is it possible that Russian statehood arose in more than one place at once? That’s what I always assumed, but admittedly not widely read in this matter.


      • Alexey says:

        First of all shame on me. Real shame. I confused Petro Tolochko with his son Alexey. That is his son’s work that amused me so much. And that casts some doubts on my assessment of Petro’s patriotism.

        As for two independently separate states. Nestor basically tells us that there was 2 centers – Novgorod and Kiev though he insists that northern was senior and southern was established by Askold on Ryurik’s behalf. Some historians not without a reason think that both Ryurik’s state and Askold’s state (both names are just for convenience since we can’t be sure if indeed those persons stood at the beginning) arose independently.

        As for my personal opinion – I think they are right in a sense that 2 different clans or different viking bands established 2 different states. But after that in a much honored later tradition northerners kicked southerners arse out of Kiev and took it for themselves since it was choke point for trade.


  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    Tolochko is 100% right that institutions of power rose among the Eastern Slavs long before the arrival of Rus-Varangians. As a newcomers, varangians had to “insert” themselves into already existing structure and work within it.

    But it was them who indeed created the united Russian state, from various slavic and finno-ugric tribes.

    As for Askold and Dihrs “separatism” and the eastablishment of their “state” in Kiev – I won’t call Kiev at the time a state. They basically decided one day to sod off from Ladoaga, showing Rurik and his loyalist very rude Ancient Slavik/Varangian gestures and singing “la-la-la”. Then they arrived to Kiev and captured it by a long extablished tradition of protection racket and feudalism.

    Kiev was still a frontier town, albeit strategically positioned on the “Varangians-to-Greeks” trade route. Attempt of Askold and Dirh to expand their newly captured “realm” were unsuccessful. First, their raid to Constantinopol (ruled at that time by “Commodus-light” aka Mikhail III) was a complete failure (secret Byzantine Orthodox MagicK?!).

    P.S. Maybe it was me growing up in that period, but I always though about the establishment of feudal states (early Russian state included) as of something from “Rough 90s” gangster movie:

    “В год 6393 (885). Послал (Олег) к радимичам, спрашивая: „Кому даете дань?“. Они же
    ответили: „Хазарам“. И сказал им Олег: „Не давайте хазарам, но платите мне“. И дали Олегу
    по щелягу, как и хазарам давали. И властвовал Олег над полянами, и древлянами, и северянами, и радимичами, а с уличами и тиверцами воевал.”

    Aka – “This is our cow – and we are milking it!”


    • yalensis says:

      It was the year 885.
      Don Oleg sent his Consigliere to the Raditichi, asking, “To whom do youse pay protection money?”
      “To da Khazars,” they replied. And Oleg’s henchperson told them: “Don’t pay da Khazars. Pay ME.” And they did.
      And so Don Oleg earned the respect of the Polyani and the Drevlyani and the Severyani and the Raditichi. However, he had to go to war against the Ulichi and the Tivertsi, who disrespected him.


      • yalensis says:

        P.S. – great comment, Lyttenburgh! Just this one thing, though:
        You wrote: institutions of power rose among the Eastern Slavs…”

        I am on a personal quest to get people to stop translating the Russian word “vlast” as “power”. A better translation is “government”.
        For example, when Anglophones say, “X came to power…” it has a meaning more brutal and more sinister than, say, “X formed a new government.”

        This epiphany came to me when I was in the process of writing those previous posts about Lenin’s April Theses.

        All these years and decades, people have been translating Lenin’s slogan as “All power to the Soviets!” Which makes it sound like a total, bloody power grab.
        And all Lenin really meant was “Let the Soviet councils assume governmental functions, INSTEAD OF the Duma!

        There are exceptions, of course, when “vlast” should be translated as “power”. But most of the time, not. Especially when discussing politics and history.
        So, if I can get people, in general, to translate “vlast” as “government”, then I believe this will have some effect in dampening some of the implicit Russophobia in most Western historical narratives.


        • anonym2008 says:

          “And all Lenin really meant was “Let the Soviet councils assume governmental functions, INSTEAD OF the Duma!”

          How is that better?


          • yalensis says:

            It sounds better, and the meaning is different. In English, “power” has a connotation of brutality and arbitrariness. Whereas “governmental functions” sounds completely civilized.


    • Alexey says:

      Speaking about rough 90s and establishment of Rus’. What Tolochko Jr. Did right in his work is likening it to Hudson Bay Company. With all the caveats of such historic allusions it is very insightful way to look at the process of emergence is Russian state.


  3. Cortes says:

    “Yarly” seems awfully close to “Jarl” = “Earl” in English.


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