Revisionism and Revanchism An Evaluation of Smolensk and Putin’s Motives

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Camryn Reschke


Amidst longtime regional conflict and dispute over Ukrainian territory— fervidly sought after by the Russian Federation— the President of the latter, Vladimir Putin, has made evident his beliefs regarding the supposed fraternal union of the two nations. In his address, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” Putin posits an argument widely held by many nationalists that assumes an unchanging fixed history and identity shared by the nations of Russia and Ukraine. Though they are two separate entities, he cites the medieval predecessor to the Russian and Ukrainian states, Rus’, as proof of their shared history and nationhood. In what he calls the “gathering of Russian lands” by the Grand Prince Vasilii III, this assertion of unity persists.1 Though, upon further examination of one instance of this aforementioned “gathering,” it becomes clear that this revisionist attempt at prescribing a unified identity bears little resemblance to the actual perception of the land at the time, as shown by the document “A Charter Granted to the Townspeople of Smolensk by Prince Vasilii III of Moscow on 10 July 1514.” The prince does not behold the lands of Smolensk, a besieged city, as a land of Russians, nor is there any assertion of a unified and primordially tied identity as the motivation for its capture. Instead, what is shown in this charter is the establishment of a relationship between a Prince and his newly conquered subjects.

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