Historical and socio-cultural background: Russo-Ukrainian War (2022) — I – Opinion

Russia attacked neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022 after a prolonged concentration of forces on Ukrainian borders. As the first major military invasion in Europe after World War II, it divided world opinion.

So far, scholars of international relations have mainly focused on Russian-Ukrainian relations after the breakup of the Soviet Union after 1991. The fragmented description and analysis is mainly based on realpolitik while neglecting the dynamics of the long and rich arc of Russian history through paganism, monarchy, communism and lately a semblance of modernization.

Inasmuch as Ukraine was once a key constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the dynamics of the current conflict necessitate a brief look at the historical and socio-cultural underpinnings of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

This article synoptically comprises three parts: first, an overview of Russian history; second, the contemporary religious resurgence of socio-cultural norms under President Vladimir Putin, and third, insight into the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its possible end.

Since prehistoric times, patterns of migration and settlement in the territories of present-day Ukraine varied fundamentally according to three geographical areas: the Black Sea, the steppes and the land from the east through southern Ukraine to the coast that was for centuries was in the hands of the Mediterranean maritime powers.

From the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, many Greek colonies were founded on the northern Black Sea coast on the Crimean Peninsula and along the Sea of ​​Azov; these Hellenic outposts later came under the hegemony of the Roman Empire.

The formation of the Kyivan state which began in the middle of the 9th century, the role of the Varangians (Vikings) in this process, and the name of Rus by which this state became known. This was related to the development of international trade and the importance of the Dnieper route from the Baltic to Byzantium for Kyiv.

Trade along this route was controlled by Varangian merchant-warriors, and from their ranks came the princes of Kyivan, who were soon Slavicized. In early chronicles, the Varangians were also called Rus, and this social name became a territorial designation for the Kyivan region – the base territory of the Rus; later, by extension, it applied to the whole of the territory ruled by the members of the Kievan dynasty.

By the end of the 10th century, the domain of Kyivan covered a large area from the edge of the open steppe in Ukraine north to Lake Ladoga and the upper Volga basin. Like other medieval states, it did not develop central political institutions but remained a loose aggregation of principalities – a dynastic clan enterprise.

Kyiv reached its peak during the reigns of Volodymyr the Great, Vladimir I and his son Yaroslav-I (the Wise). In 988 AD, Volodymyr adopted Christianity as the religion of his kingdom and had the people of Kyiv baptized. Rus entered the orbit of Orthodox Christianity and culture. An ecclesiastical hierarchy has been established since 1037 by the Metropolitan of Kyiv, who was appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

With the new religion came new forms of architecture, art, and music, a written language, Old Church Slavonic, and the beginnings of a literary culture ardently promoted by Yaroslav, who also promulgated a code of laws , the first in Slavdom. Although Byzantium and the steppe remained his main foreign policy concerns, Yaroslav maintained friendly relations with European leaders, with whom he forged marital alliances.

Before 1000 AD, Russia was a pagan society. Its Christianization began in different stages in AD 9 when Vladimir the Great baptized at Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize the family and people of kyiv. These latter events are traditionally referred to as the “baptism of Rus”.

According to the tradition of the Church, Christianity was first brought to the territory of modern Russia and Ukraine by Saint Andrew. He traveled all over the Black Sea to the Greek colony of Crimea, where he converted several thousand people to the new faith. Apparently, Saint Andrew also traveled north along the Dnieper River, where kyiv would be founded.

The Greek colonies of the North Bridge, both in the Crimea and on the modern Ukrainian shores of the Sea of ​​Azov and the Black Sea, remained the main centers of Christianity in Eastern Europe for almost a thousand years. Saint Cyril and Methodius were the missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia.

By the end of the 10th century, the domain of Kyivan covered a large area from the edge of the open steppe in Ukraine north to Lake Ladoga and the upper Volga basin. Like other medieval states, it did not develop central political institutions but remained a loose aggregation of principalities – a dynastic clan enterprise.

Kyiv reached its peak during the reigns of Volodymyr the Great, Vladimir I and his son Yaroslav — I (the Wise). In 988 AD, Volodymyr adopted Christianity as the religion of his kingdom and had the people of Kyiv baptized. Rus entered the orbit of Orthodox Christianity and culture. An ecclesiastical hierarchy has been established since 1037 by the Metropolitan of Kyiv.

With the induction of a new religion came new forms of architecture, art, music, a written language, Old Church Slavonic, and the beginnings of a literary culture. Strongly promoted by Yaroslav, promulgated a code of laws – the first in Slavdom. Although Byzantium and the steppe remained his main foreign policy concerns, Yaroslav maintained friendly relations with European leaders, with whom he forged marital alliances.

Later, some Ukrainian writers promoted national consciousness like Taras Shevchenko and Marko Vovchok pioneered Ukrainian realism, portrayed village life and contemporary society and some tackled populist themes.

(To be continued)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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