Today, unfortunately, Russians and adherents of the “Russian world” idea, as well as many of our compatriots, continue to believe in the myth of “Novorossiya”, which states that our country's steppes and Black Sea region culturally and historically belong more to Russia rather than to Ukraine. The threat from such myth today, in the conditions of wars with Russia and the Russian-led separatists of “Novorossiya”, is obvious.
Head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Volodymyr Viatrovych has recently stated that it is necessary to “revise” the dates of founding of the Ukrainian cities in southern and eastern regions of the country in order to dispel the “imperial myths”.
Ukrinform cites facts confirming the truthfulness of Volodymyr Viatrovych’s statement.
Mariupol, Kherson and Odesa are much older than imperial dates
The ideas of the “Russian world” in Southern Ukraine, despite the failure of the Kremlin’s attempts to spread "separatist" trends outside the eastern areas of Donbas, remain quite strong - just look at the issues on decommunization, language and attitudes towards Russia. The reason for this is that the residents of these regions often believe that their small homeland was founded by Russia.
But such ideas peddled by centuries of Russification contradict the reality. After all, by the time of the arrival of Russia with its imperial ambitions and "Byzantine project" in the steppes of Ukraine in the middle of the 18th century, Ukrainians and representatives of other peoples had been living in the south for centuries. Cossack settlements were located in the steppes and reached the shores of the Black and Azov Seas.
The residents of Odesa, who love Catherine II and do not love the Ukrainian language, for some reason do not remember that the Lithuanian princes founded a fortress and commercial port on the site of Odesa 400 years before the Russian empress - the first mention of Kotsiubiiv, better known as Khadzhybey, date back to 1415.
The way in which the Russian Empire built Novorossiya
A few minutes of search on Wikipedia are enough to make sure that the Russian Empire cannot carry the palm in the establishment of settlements in the steppes and Black Sea region of Ukraine. On the other hand, it is impossible to deny the tremendous speed of colonization of the south during the time of the Russian Empire. But we should not ignore the fact that deportation, oppressions and crimes, which are usual for Russia, preceded this active colonization dynamics.
The liquidation of Zaporizhzhia Sich by troops of Catherine II in 1775 is a well-known tragic chapter of the Ukrainian history. But far fewer people remember that the empress did not stop after that. After the destruction of the Cossack state, almost six thousand Cossack settlements remained in Zaporizhzhia. The Russian troops methodically destroyed them over the next years, preparing the land for "colonization".
They also prepared Crimea for colonization with similar violent methods. After the war with the Ottoman Empire, in 1778 Catherine II issued a decree, and more than 32 thousand Armenians and Greeks were evicted from Crimea to the steppes, which undermined the Crimean economy and society, and made it impossible to resist Russia’s "colonization."
Everywhere the Russian Empire came it destroyed already existing settlements and communities in order to build new ones and to declare them as “its own”. The myth of the “Russian colonization” stands on the blood and tears of thousands of people whose lives and families were destroyed by the empire.
Ukrainian South has always been Ukrainian
Most of all, adherents of the “Russian world” idea like to talk about the economic successes and the leading role of Russia, Russians and the “Russian world” in the developmental history of the Black Sea region during the empire. But they stubbornly ignore the fact that Ukrainians made up the vast majority of the population of the region during the times of the empire, which means it is their right to claim these successes. At the end of the 18th century, when the region was already fully developed, Ukrainians constituted 74% of the population on the territory of the Azov and Novorossiysk provinces. And despite all the attempts of the Russian empire to "dilute" the Ukrainian majority by colonists - German, Greek and others, this was never achieved. In actual fact, the “Russian world” penetrated Southern Ukraine not through the colonists and city builders, but through Russification and prohibition of the Ukrainian language and culture. And, unfortunately, it penetrated so deeply that we still cannot overcome its impact.
Therefore, when telling the history of the big cities in the South, we must remember that the imperial heritage is very specific, and the emperors more often acted as destroyers. To bring this historical truth to the masses is the task of national security. After all, Russia confidently asserts that the Ukrainian identity of Odesa, Dnipro and Mykolaiv is a kind of historical misunderstanding. Since the "great empire" came and built cities and factories in the wild stepps, then stupid Vladimir Lenin and more stupid Nikita Khrushchev gave it all to Ukrainians.
Every Ukrainian should know that all these propaganda theses are pure fiction. The history of Southern Ukraine began long before the initiatives of the Russian emperors and empresses. Moreover, the steppes and the Black Sea region did not become Ukrainian at some point - as a result of the colonization or some actions of the rulers - they have always been Ukrainian.
Vyacheslav Masny, Kyiv
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