Early Ukraine as part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Heirs of Kyiv Rus

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Quotes below are from “The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999” by Yale Professor Dr. Timothy Snyder published in 2003 (the publishing year should remove possible accusations of political bias connected with the recent events): “Lithuanian grand dukes were the great warlords of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Europe. They conquered a vast dominion, ranging from native Baltic lands southward through the East Slavic heartland to the Black Sea. Picking up the pieces left by the Mongol invasion of Kyivan Rus’, the pagan Lithuanians incorporated most of the territories of this early East Slavic realm. The Orthodox boyars of Rus’, accustomed to Mongol overlordship, could regard Lithuania not as conqueror but as ally. As Lithuanian military power flowed south, to Kyiv, so the civilization of Rus’—Orthodox religion, Church Slavonic language, and mature legal tradition—flowed north to Vilnius.”

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Comment: Even after the Mongol invasion, civilization flowed from Kyiv to the West. Thanks to the Lithuanian forces, Kyiv was free from the Mongols already in 1320, eighty years after the Mongols had captured it. For comparison, the Mongols made Moscow the center of their new province in 1327, which is 7 years after Kyiv was free.

Having annexed Galicia, a former province of Kyivan Rus’ known in Poland as the “Rus’ Palatinate” (“Województwo Ruskie”), Poland also had its share of Orthodox churchmen and Church Slavonic scribes. Having divided the lands of Kyivan Rus’, Poland and Lithuania shared its cultural inheritances”.

Comment: Kyiv was still weak, so Poland annexed Galicia. But together with Lithuania, it got its share of Kyiv Rus’ cultural influence.

“In Muscovy, the state language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which we are calling “Chancery Slavonic,” was called “Lithuanian” or Belorussian.” Although modern Russian historians sometimes call this language “Russian,” at the time Muscovite scribes had to translate the Lithuanian statutes into Moscow dialect for them to be of use to their court”.

Comment: Dr. Snyder is perfectly correct when talking about the Moscovite dialect. The article ‘Russian is a dialect of the Ukrainian language, according to Vladimir Dal‘ provides explanations of the fact. Also, as can be seen, Moscow received the legal statutes from Lithuania which shows the same chain of civilization flowing now into Muscovy which was the most backward province of the Rus’ realm (the fact that many people overlook even today).

“Since Lithuania for a very long time included a majority of Orthodox subjects and most of the Kyivan patrimony, it was called a “Rusian” realm. In unifying his domains with Poland in 1385, (king) Jogaila acted as “Grand Duke of Lithuania and Lord and Heir of Rus’.” In a 1449 treaty between Poland-Lithuania and Muscovy, the former was called “Rusian,” the latter “Muscovite.” After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, Muscovy espoused spiritual and political claims as the seat of Orthodoxy, the heir of Byzantium, and the successor of Kyivan Rus’.”

Comment: That Treaty of 1449 shows clearly that Ukraine, Lithuania, and Belarus have more rights to be called the heirs of Kyiv Rus than Muscovy-Russia. It was only after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, that Muscovy “espoused claims” to become ‘Russian’! But even in 1700Peter I was known as the tsar of Muscovy until he captured Kyiv! Why did the fall of Constantinople trigger such a reaction in Muscovy? Constantinople had for a long time been viewed as ‘the Second Rome’, so after its fall the crazy idea of Moscow becoming ‘the Third Rome‘ became the obsession of Muscovy’s rulers. But for that, Moscow needed the line of succession to Constantinople and only the history of Kyiv Rus could provide such a venue. And it is easy to predict what followed:

“These provided the justification for Muscovy’s wars with their fellow East Slavs of Lithuania, whose grand dukes had regarded themselves for a century as the successors of Kyivan princes. In practice, Muscovy’s claim to be Rus’ pushed Lithuania toward Poland. When Ivan IV (the Terrible, reigned 1530-1584, proclaimed tsar 1547) began the Livonian Wars in 1558, he hastened the Polish-Lithuanian Union of 1569. At that time, of course, Poland-Lithuania also claimed to be Rus’: Zygmunt August’s titles, as listed in the privilege of 1569, were “King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Lord and Heir of Rus’, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogitia, etc.”

Comment: Muscovy needed Kyiv Rus’ legacy so badly that it started the wars with Lithuania and Poland! It has been the case of innumerable other wars Moscow waged from that time on. Read the article explaining that Moscow’s theft of Kyiv’s history was a major reason for the wars Russia wages on Ukraine.

< Kyiv Rus’ borders ca. 1000 A.D.

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