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Monday, May 24, 2010

Russian MP Calls Ukraine ‘Edge,’ Angers Audience

Україна (Ukrayina) means different things to different people.

To some, it means країна (krayina), Ukrainian for country, region or land.

To others, it means окраина (okraina), Russian for outskirts, borderland or edge.

Naturally, to most Russians, Ukrayina means okraina, not krayina. Ironically, despite this marginalization, it also means a place — the place — from which they trace their statehood.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Konstantin Zatulin. He’s one of those Russians, and a member of Russia’s parliament at that. He’s a veteran crusader who can’t get enough of patronizing Ukraine now that Yanukovych lifted his persona non grata status.

Zatulin: A few years ago, on the program “Where Did Ukrainians Come From?” (it was on Ukraine’s Channel 1), they asked this question, to everyone: Who are Ukrainians? I said: Those are the Russians who live on the edge, and historically it’s precisely how it is. And I want to point out that, in fact...

Audience: Boo!

Host: You see how the audience is responding.

Zatulin: I want to tell you that my relatives and I myself moved out of the Poltava Governorate, Ukraine, two hundred years ago. Living on the edge is a great historical...a great historical advantage. That’s why... And we, too, live on the edge, if you will: in the East, in the West. You don’ don’t have to react like that.

Host: Thank you! Please, please, please, ask your question, pani Hanna, pani Hanna, I'm asking you, please ask your question.

Herman: I want...I want to express...I want to express an official protest to the Russian Federation representative...

Zatulin: [exclaims in dismay]

Herman: ...saying that Ukrainians are the Russians who live on the edge. It is an insult to our people, pan Zatulin.

Host: Let's, let's, please, please, please, your question, please.
Herman: I want you to understand that.

Zatulin: I see...I see that, toward the end of our program, the sense of humor is beginning to fade. OK, let’s say those [Ukrainians] are the Old Russians who live on the edge.

Nice hit-and-run strategy! First, you tell us we’re fringe elements. Second, you sense trouble and soft-pedal. Third, you call it a joke. Hahaha!

Now here’s the real joke. If you call your country Rossiya and trace it to Kyivan Rus (quite a stretch), why in the world would you call Kyiv okraina?

Was Kyiv founded by Muscovy? Or maybe Christianity came to Kyiv via Muscovy?

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lingüista said...

Such things are hard to watch, Taras. And unfortunately, with Viktor 'Stabilnist' Yanukovych as the leader, I'm afraid there'll be more of this to see.

Mykola said...

Just another symptom of Yanukovich's lot sale of Ukrainian sovereignty...Bullies feel emboldened.

Carlos said...

I'm not aware if you've seen this, but here it is anyway. Keep the struggle.


What has long been desperately and hopelessly prophesied by the most perspicacious political Kassandras has come true: the Ukrainian state of Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yushchenko, fell and was replaced by the Russian protectorate of Viktor Yanukovych. Now, if experts will find out who is to bear the bulk of the blame, they can argue until they are blue in the face. The ultimate verdict is to be returned at the Last Judgment of History. Yet even now us witnesses of the dramatic spring of 2010, comparable to Berestechko and Chornobyl in terms of its implications, realize that all of us are to blame, active participants and silent majority alike.

We bear the blame for our voting “against all” and “for” petty leaders, for our democratic delusions, for our servile tolerance of mafia bosses and shady aliens, for our romantically pathetic Ukrainian delusions, for the thievish feudal administrative system which exists at our expense, and for our inborn, treacherous, lazy, and indifferent Little Russian attitude.

akarlin said...

"Now here’s the real joke. If you call your country Rossiya and trace it to Kyivan Rus (quite a stretch), why in the world would you call Kyiv okraina?"

Because okraina was Russia's borderland against the nomadic incursions from the steppe. Kyiv itself after 1240 was either a ghost town or a small city, ruled over by foreign powers.

I don't think it is correct to trace Russian statehood (or modern Ukrainian for that matter) to Kyivan Rus. It is a common cultural legacy, not a direct link.

Taras said...


It’s not Zatulin who surprises Ukrainians. It’s the opposite way around, isn’t it?

He obviously expected a warmer reception from the Donetsk-based channel.


We need to thank Zatulin for expressing the Kremlin’s point of view, loud and clear.


As a Tymoshenko stalwart, Shcherbak heaps scorn on everyone but spares his Fair Lady from any of it.

He doesn’t mention her approval of a gas-for-fleet deal as far back as 2005. Nor does he dissect her 2009 gas deal with Putin and her other adventures.

Therefore, only half of his story makes sense to me.


Ukraine hosted only a fraction of the Golden Horde, most of it spread across Russia and Central Asia.

In 1169, Andrei I Bogolyubsky, son of Yuri Dolgoruki, the founder of Moscow, raided Kyiv and burned many of its churches.

A century later, the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia helped Europe contain the Golden Horde.

Anyway, when Russia monopolizes the Rus brand and calls Ukraine “okraina,” I can compare it to the Thirteen Colonies calling Britain “edge.” (For lack of a better analogy.)

akarlin said...

1. "Ukraine hosted only a fraction of the Golden Horde, most of it spread across Russia and Central Asia."

I meant the period from around 1500 to the conquest of Crimea. The region of (northern and north-eastern) Ukraine was a buffer zone against the Crimean Khanate.

2. Europe didn't "contain" the Golden Horde, let alone Galicia–Volhynia. It sliced through it like a knife through butter and retreated for political-dynastic reasons.

3. Britain doesn't call itself the Edge, nor is it a traditional border of the US against enemies (actually, more accurately it's a huge aircraft carrier that helps the US project power).

4. Russia is hardly the only country to have an "edge" or borderland area. In early medieval period of the German cultural space, the provinces of what are now Bavaria, Austria, Thuringia, Saxony, etc were at various points called the "Eastern March", or Ostmark (of Germany, against the Slavs, Avars, etc).

Taras said...

A buffer zone doesn’t exactly translate into a borderland or wasteland.

In the 16th century, Ukraine was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In the 17-18th centuries, Ukraine projected its own military power via the Zaporizhian Sich.

The Golden Horde would have had a much better shot at Europe had it formed an alliance with the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia and others, right?

I just wanted to say that, for centuries, the Russian state has mistreated and marginalized millions of people.

For Zatulin’s diplomacy to work, his superiority complex should match a corresponding inferiority complex in an “edge”-minded audience.