What does “Russian World” mean in Putin’s statements on Ukraine? Global Voices

Screenshot of Ural Live YouTube channel reading Атака на Русский мир в Казахстане (Attack on Russian world in Kazakhstan)

Statements by Vladimir Putin and his top aides on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine frequently include a key phrase: “Русский Мир” (Russkiy mir). This phrase literally means “Russian world”, but it can also be read as “Russian peace”, given the double meaning of the word “mir” in Russian.

The term is used to justify the attack on Ukraine, which in Putin’s parlance is called “Military operations in Ukraine”. With this usage, the Kremlin proclaims itself the defender and master of all that it considers falls within the orbit of Russian culture.

The Elastic Meaning of the “Russian World”

According to a 2014 survey published on the website of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, an organization created in 2007 by President Putin to “popularize the Russian language”, the Russian world is understood as referrer territories populated by people of Russian origin, Russian speakers or associated with Russian culture. This includes Russia itself and extends to places such as northern Kazakhstan, Belarus, the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine, the Transnistrian region of Moldova, South Ossetia South and Abkhazia in Georgia, as well as Serbia and Israel.

The same site too connect the concept from Russkiy Mir to the Russian Orthodox faith:

Согласно патриарху, Белоруссия. В основе его лежит православная вера, которую мы обрели в общей Киевской купели.рели кне Русская культура не умещается в границах одного этноса и не связана с интересодонодонодонономи

According to patriarch (the head of the Russian Orthodox Church), the core of the Russkiy Mir includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It is based on the Orthodox faith, which we found in the common baptismal font of the Kyiv Rus. Russian culture is not limited to the borders of an ethnic group and is not tied to the interests of a state.

The term is first found in 11th century, in religious texts. Tellingly, the definition of patriarch spells out several components of what is sometimes described as Russia’s form of soft power. It includes a geopolitical aspect that presents the three Slavic nations as intrinsically linked, a historical continuity of Kyivan Rus, the civilization that developed from the 9th century from present-day Kiev and included large parts of Ukraine , Belarus and Russia.

In 1996, Russia and Belarus announced the creation of a State of the Union this already indicated Moscow’s ambitions to extend its claim to the territories descended from Kyivan Rus.

The “Russian world” as a state ideology at the service of Moscow’s ambitions

Russia expanded its use of the term Russkiy Mir in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and called for support for the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. That of the Kremlin argument is that the Kiev government had imposed Ukrainianization, prohibiting the use of the Russian language and discriminating against Russian speakers, thus attacking the imaginary territory of the Russian world. Russia’s claims serve as justification for its control of vast populations and territories that it sees as essential to its crafting of Russianness.

These claims have long-term consequences for other regions of the former Soviet space often described, in the language of Moscow, as the “Ближнее зарубежьеor the Near Abroad, where the Russian language remains relevant and where significant ethnic Russian communities live.

Indeed, the same argument mentioned in 2014 is used again by Moscow to justify its attack on Kyiv: a pro-Western Ukraine is portrayed as renouncing its Russian global identity by adopting “foreign values” such as feminism, human rights of the LGBTQI community and denying the status of Russian as an official language. Traditional and pro-Kremlin social media also often use the term “Гейропа” (Gayropa, mixing the words Gay and Europe) to condemn what they perceive as decadence of the western world and one direct threat to the Russian world.

Before invading Ukraine, Putin made a history speech on February 21, to which he dedicated more than half of its own interpretation of the ancient and modern history of Ukrainian and Russian territories and state entities, and declared that Ukraine belongs to the Russian world.

With this verbal sleight of hand, the attack on Ukraine has become a “liberation of ukraine», In the name of the Russian world.

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