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Children of Rus’

Children of Rus’: Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Children of Rus’
    Book Description:

    InChildren of Rus', Faith Hillis recovers an all but forgotten chapter in the history of the tsarist empire and its southwestern borderlands. The right bank, or west side, of the Dnieper River-which today is located at the heart of the independent state of Ukraine-was one of the Russian empire's last territorial acquisitions, annexed only in the late eighteenth century. Yet over the course of the long nineteenth century, this newly acquired region nearly a thousand miles from Moscow and St. Petersburg generated a powerful Russian nationalist movement. Claiming to restore the ancient customs of the East Slavs, the southwest's Russian nationalists sought to empower the ordinary Orthodox residents of the borderlands and to diminish the influence of their non-Orthodox minorities.

    Right-bank Ukraine would seem unlikely terrain to nourish a Russian nationalist imagination. It was among the empire's most diverse corners, with few of its residents speaking Russian as their native language or identifying with the culture of the Great Russian interior. Nevertheless, as Hillis shows, by the late nineteenth century, Russian nationalists had established a strong foothold in the southwest's culture and educated society; in the first decade of the twentieth, they secured a leading role in local mass politics. By 1910, with help from sympathetic officials in St. Petersburg, right-bank activists expanded their sights beyond the borderlands, hoping to spread their nationalizing agenda across the empire.

    Exploring why and how the empire's southwestern borderlands produced its most organized and politically successful Russian nationalist movement, Hillis puts forth a bold new interpretation of state-society relations under tsarism as she reconstructs the role that a peripheral region played in attempting to define the essential characteristics of the Russian people and their state.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6926-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    OVER THE COURSE of the long nineteenth century the Russian empire confronted one of the most powerful legacies of the French Revolution: modern nationalism. The Revolution had given birth to the ideal of the civic nation, proclaiming popular sovereignty the universal basis of state power. Exported across Europe in the course of the Napoleonic wars, national ideas galvanized and divided populations. From west to east, scholars, artists, and intellectuals demanded popular sovereignty for people who shared a common language, common physical traits, and a common cultural heritage. Proponents of this ethnic reinterpretation of the civic nationalist ideal looked to revise...

  8. Part One The Little Russian Idea and the Russian Empire

    • 1 The Little Russian Idea and the Invention of a Rus’ Nation
      (pp. 21-57)

      FROM THE BEGINNING of their recorded history, the fertile lands surrounding the Dnieper River played host to a diverse array of peoples speaking different languages and professing different faiths. For most of the early modern and modern periods, the region found itself on the periphery of two sprawling multiethnic states: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Russian empire. Both states instituted socially stratified estate systems to cope with their heterogeneity, enlisting a diverse cast of local elites as partners in governance. The Polish kings guaranteed citizenship and self-governance rights to the Polish Catholic szlachta, Orthodox notables, and Jewish, Armenian, and Lutheran...

    • 2 The Little Russian Idea in the 1860s
      (pp. 58-86)

      IN THE EARLY 1860s, imperial bureaucrats faced their most daunting challenge yet in the western borderlands. By late 1861, it had become clear that the szlachta across the region was conspiring to launch a new assault on the imperial state. In the southwest, Polish Catholic nobles organized open demonstrations in district cities and rural areas; police confiscated countless French, Polish, and Ukrainian-language pamphlets that called on both the educated classes and the narod to rise up against the tsar.¹ The intensified agitation in the borderlands unfolded amid a series of crises—peasant revolts, student strikes, attempted assassinations, and mysterious fires...

    • 3 The Little Russian Idea and the Imagination of Russian and Ukrainian Nations
      (pp. 87-114)

      In the 1870s, developments on both sides of the Russo-Austrian border created new challenges for the Little Russian lobby. Over the course of that decade, a radical populist movement emerged in Russia, which saw educated youth fan out across the countryside to acquaint themselves with the needs and desires of peasant communities. Unlike the Little Russian activists who conducted agitation in rural areas, however, the all-Russian populist movement of the sixties and seventies strongly defined itself against the imperial state; some activists turned to terrorism and violence in an effort to topple the tsarist order.¹ Meanwhile, in Austrian Galicia, criticism...

  9. Part Two The Urban Crucible

    • 4 Nationalizing Urban Politics
      (pp. 117-149)

      WHILE LITTLE RUSSIAN activists portrayed the southwestern borderlands as the spiritual center of an Orthodox, East Slavic nation, social, political, and economic processes unrelated to the de-polonization campaign were transforming everyday life in the region. The 1860s marked the beginning of several decades of rapid urban and industrial development across the empire, spurred by new state incentives encouraging investments in trade and manufacturing as well as the emancipation of the serfs, which compelled many peasants to leave their communes in search of wage labor.¹ In the southwest, a new capitalist elite coalesced in the regional center of Kiev, acquiring property...

    • 5 Concepts of Liberation
      (pp. 150-178)

      In the first years of the twentieth century, contacts between Russia’s progressive nobles, zemstvo activists, socialists, and urban liberals continued to deepen. As diverse groups of imperial subjects joined together to demand political reform and the creation of a rule-of-law state that would offer all citizens equal rights, observers came to speak of them as constituting a unitary Liberation Movement.¹ By 1905, liberationist activism had evolved into a full-fledged revolution that saw protesters of all social stations and ethnoconfessional backgrounds take to the empire’s streets demanding fundamental political reforms. In October of that year, liberationists achieved a remarkable victory, wresting...

  10. Part Three Forging a Russian Nation

    • 6 Electoral Politics and Regional Governance
      (pp. 181-210)

      THE POLITICAL SYSTEM that emerged from 1905 permitted the ideological conflicts that had polarized Kiev residents during the revolutionary upheaval to harden into sharp partisan divides. Liberationists and their “truly Russian” opponents continued to debate each other on university campuses, on shop floors, and in city streets, but they also enjoyed a new venue in which to compete: multiparty electoral campaigns in which many peasants and workers could vote. This chapter follows Kiev’s warring political camps through three hotly contested elections in 1906–7—two to the new imperial Duma and one to the Kiev city duma.

      Kiev’s liberationist forces...

    • 7 Nationalizing the Empire
      (pp. 211-243)

      IN JUNE 1907, Prime Minister P.A. Stolypin dissolved the second Duma on the pretext that its Social Democratic deputies had participated in illegal agitation. Shortly thereafter, he announced alterations to electoral laws, which would be implemented in time for the fall 1907 election of a third imperial Duma. The new laws reduced the electoral power of urban residents and peasants and enhanced that of the largest property owners, who in most locales strongly supported rightist parties.¹

      The so-called Stolypin coup is usually seen as a conservative measure intended to reduce the power of liberationist parties, roll back the social and...

    • 8 The Limits of the Russian Nationalist Vision
      (pp. 244-273)

      IN MARCH 1911, less than a week after Stolypin instituted the western zemstva under Article 87, children playing in Kiev’s Luk’ianovka district—the neighborhood where the “truly Russian” movement had secured its earliest mass following in the 1905 period—made a horrifying discovery. In a cave on the property of a brick factory they found the body of a young boy. Clad only in underwear, the corpse displayed multiple shallow wounds; it was surrounded by school notebooks and the boy’s torn clothes. Police soon identified him as Andrei Iushchinskii, a resident of a shanty settlement on the sandy left bank...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 274-284)

    WITHIN MONTHS OF the collapse of the Russian nationalist coalition in the southwestern borderlands, Russia plunged into World War I, and Russian troops marched west to engage German and Habsburg forces. In the first weeks of the war, the opposing camps that had emerged from the Russian nationalist lobby were swept, like the rest of Russian society, by patriotic fervor. Despite his criticism of the government in the months before the war, V. V. Shul’gin volunteered for military service and was sent to the Austrian front. There he was joined by the fellow volunteer V. S. Golubev, one of his...

    (pp. 285-314)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 315-330)