The fact that foreign textbooks equate Kyivan Rus’ with russia is nothing more than russian narratives and financial incentives

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Kyivan Rus

“At the end of the last century, everyone in France and Europe knew well how to distinguish Rus’ from Muscovy,” wrote Théodore-Casimir Delamarre, the owner and editor of the French influential magazine La Patrie, in 1869.

History cannot forget that before Peter I [Peter the Great], those whom we now call Rusyns were called Ruses or Ruskys, that their homeland was the Rus’ka land or Rus’, and the present-day Ruses were then Muscovites and their homeland was Muscovy,” Delamarre wrote. Antonina Malei writes for

It was Muscovy, then it began calling itself Rus’

Even in the century before last, the world knew what Muscovy was. Now, thanks to powerful russian propaganda and massive financial incentives, the situation has changed radically, and the history of russia has turned into a caricature. Think about it: russia created this ginormous fake narrative and forced the whole world to believe it!

Kyivan Rus
From the book ‘What’s where on Earth. History atlas’ [fully revised and updated new edition]. Dorling Kindersley Publishing House, 2023. It is symbolic that in the “completely revised and supplemented new edition”, as stated on the cover of this historical atlas, “Kievan russia” appeared

I live in London, and I’m used to the fact that people abroad usually don’t know what Ukraine is, instead, the concept of russia is mythologized. The other day, I took part in a discussion with a Frenchman, which made my hair stand on end. Most foreigners really believe that modern russia is the direct heir of medieval Rus’ with its center in Kyiv. Because the name sounds similar!

It turns out that they do not distinguish between these two states at all, and most of them have never heard that Peter I, the moscow tsar and a sadist with great ambitions and sentiments for Europe, in October 1721 made a cunning rebranding of his state: he renamed the “moscow State” to the All-russian State empire, which used to be the Muscovite Kingdom, and even earlier – the Muscovite Principality.

Kyivan Rus
‘Timelines of everyone’ Dorling Kindersley publishing house, 2020. Peter I is mentioned in connection with the russian kingdom, which never existed. It was the moscow state, as stated in moscow documents of the time, moscow newspapers, and on moscow money
Kyivan Rus
On this day. A history of the world in 366 days, Dorling Kindersley publishing house, 2021. The same story as with Peter I. Ivan IV was the Tsar of moscow

But if it is so important to mention his title, then why not write here that he became the first tsar of russia and Bulgaria? Why modestly leave only a mention of Rus’, which he did not possess at all, but was not against capturing? At that time, the lands of the former Rus’ together with Kyiv were under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later, after the Union of Lublin, they were under the Polish crown.

Kyivan Rus
A map from the book Usborne Encyclopedia of World History – a typical example of a medieval map from children’s books, where instead of Rus’ there is only russia, and everything is mixed into a pseudo-historical mixed salad when countries from different time periods exist together

In the imagination of an average European, the following picture is formed: there once was a mysterious Rus’ [which in English is often called russia] somewhere in Kyiv, and then once, all of a sudden, all of Rus’, together with people and cultural heritage, have moved to moscow and settled there.

How Ukrainians appeared on our territories and who we are in general is a mystery to them. Suspecting that the key to such a distorted history should be found in children’s books and school textbooks, I went for a walk through London bookstores and libraries.

In a week, I looked through the mountains of children’s books. Almost all of them are new, expensive encyclopedias and publications devoted to history. Luxurious infographics, bright illustrations and photos. Many books from 2022 and 2023, brand new. They are bright and attractive, but their content is sometimes shocking.

After several hours of research, my head became dizzy, and rage and anger gripped me more and more: these books were like a mirror in which russian propaganda was reflected, which, since the time of the russian Empire, draws a fictional “historical” line from Rus’ to russia and passes off legends as facts. Everything that contradicts this, that concerns the glorious Ukrainian history or is related to Ukraine, has been deleted altogether.

So what can we learn from these books? That russia existed, if not always, then somewhere immediately after the dinosaurs. On the maps next to ancient Constantinople and Persia, it is written – russia.

Slavs and Muscovites

As for the Slavs, they appear to have originated on the territory of modern russia. There is no mention of the fact that modern historians, archaeologists and anthropologists consider the area between the Vistula and Dnipro rivers to be the homeland of the Slavs [which can be seen, for example, in Harvard University professor Serhii Plokhy’s book ‘The Gate of Europe’, in the book ‘Birth of russia’ of Professor Borys Rybakov, who devoted his whole life to the study of this issue], which is the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.

There is also no information about the fact that before the arrival of the Slavs on the territory of russia it was inhabited by Finno-Hungarian peoples.

But thanks to children’s books, a false impression is imprinted that it is modern russia that is the homeland and center of Slavism.

How Novgorod was attributed an “extra” century

As for the chronology, according to all the rules of russian propaganda, Novgorod appears in the 9th century. But according to scientific data, Novgorod appeared almost in the middle of the 10th century, when Prince Igor already ruled in Kyiv. Archaeological excavations in Novgorod under the leadership of Professor and Doctor of Historical Sciences Valentin Yanin, didn’t discover the cultural layer before 930-940 years.

Kyivan Rus
In “Timelines” from Usborne, Novgorod is called the ancient capital of russia [obviously, Rus’ was what they meant]. When and where is Novgorod mentioned as a capital except by russian propaganda?

Rurik, Oleg and “Kievan russia”

Let’s talk about Rurik. Let me remind you that he is a chronicled prince of the 9th century, supposedly the father of Prince Igor, supposedly the founder of the Rurik dynasty. It is interesting that in “Words about Law and Grace”, the theological treatise of the 11th century by Metropolitan Hilarion of Kyiv, Rurik is not mentioned at all. In this document, the metropolitan praises the Kyiv princes Yaroslav the Wise, Volodymyr and his father Svyatoslav and grandfather Igor the “old” in every possible way. And he is not mentioned anywhere else, in any document. This is a fictional character, which even russian historians, such as Igor Danylevsky, actually agree with. We can let it slide as a kind of fairy tale, but it is worth noting that this is not a historical fact.

However, according to these books, the legendary Rurik and the equally semi-legendary Oleg first settled in Novgorod, which, let me remind you, did not yet exist archaeologically, or in Staraya Ladoga, an ordinary Scandinavian settlement, just another stop on the river route of the Vikings in search of profit. Oleg is also the hero of “Tales of Bygone Years “, which cannot be verified in parallel sources. Staraya Ladoga never became a city, but it is very important for putin’s propaganda to create a pseudo-historical myth around Ladoga in order to overshadow the importance of Kyiv as the “decision-making center” of Rus’. And from these imaginary “first capitals” it seems that legendary characters came to the Dnipro cliffs to found not just bussia, but Kievan russia! This new construct is simply a splendid example of modern Muscovite propaganda.

Kyivan Rus
Knowledge Encyclopedia. The past you’ve never seen before. Dorling Kindersley Publishing House, 2019. Here Rus’ is early russia, and the territory of Rus’, it turns out, is what we now know as russia.
Kyivan Rus
There is also a section about Cossacks [in Ukraine, where this term originated, those people were called Kozaks], in which Ukraine and the Ukrainian Kozak state are not mentioned at all, and the famous Ukrainian proverb “Be patient, Kozak, and you will one day be a chieftain” is presented as russian

It is very interesting, what sources the authors base their texts on, and who helps them create such caricatures? After all, there must be some creative team responsible for such narratives. I wrote letters to the publisher (most historical children’s books are published by Penguin and Usborne) with these questions, but all I heard back was: “We will investigate.”

After looking through all the shelves of bookstores and libraries, I found the only book where “Kievan Rus'” was written on the map – it was the history of Norwegian King Harald, husband of our Princess Elyzaveta Yaroslavna, published by the British Library. So, British children’s books claim that the Vikings came to russia. And then everything that the great princes of Kyiv did was labeled as what russia did: russia destroyed the Khazars in the 10th century, russia adopted Christianity.

Kyivan Rus
Timelines of World History, Usborne, 2016
Kyivan Rus
Timelines of World History, Usborne, 2016. There is no beating around the bush with terminology here at all. The actions of the Grand Dukes of Kyiv are presented as what russia was doing.

“All of Rus'” and “russian kingdom” that never existed

After the destruction of Kyiv by the Golden Horde, there is no mention of the Kingdom of Rus’ in the west of modern Ukraine and of Prince Danylo Romanovych, who was crowned by the Pope in 1253.

No, their history immediately gallops to moscow tsars “of all russia”, such as Ivan III. Because he and later his grandson, Ivan IV, added to their title “All of Rus'”. And although their titles also mention that they are Bulgarian tsars, for some reason no one calls Bulgaria “russia”.

It is also not mentioned that the titles “King of Rus'” and “Grand Duke of Rus'” were held by the kings of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita). But the title is not only about reality, but also about a claim on land that you do not own. To illustrate what titulary is, it may be mentioned that the title of the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, states that he is the lord of all the fish and animals on earth. It sounds posh, yes, but in reality, it never happened.

When the books talk about Peter I, neither Muscovy nor the moscow State, as his possessions were called at the time, is mentioned anywhere in the text, which can be easily verified in numerous moscow documents, moscow rubles, and world maps of that time. They call it the russian kingdom, which was and still is a purely russian term that was coined much later in an attempt to rewrite history.

The romantic era of the Ukrainina Kozaks is not covered in these books in any way. When the Kozaks are occasionally mentioned somewhere, there is no connection to Ukraine, no facts about the Ukrainian Kozak state, the Zaporozhian Sich or the Hetmanate.

Kyivan Rus
Explanatorium History, Dorling Kindersley. I would like someone to explain to the explainers that Peter I in 1682 became the tsar of the Muscovite state, and not of russia. And he renamed his Muscovy to the All-russian Empire only 39 years later

Of course, having received knowledge in such a presentation, foreigners have no idea that Rus’ is an inseparable part of the history of Ukraine. That the events took place on our territories, with the center in Kyiv.

That russia’s history starts in the confluence of the Oka and Volga rivers, and that this history is the history of Muscovy, the history of their claims, and their wars of aggression. russia continues to write its own alternative history, but why russian propaganda narratives have such wide access abroad?

After all, this terrible situation with russian propaganda in children’s books concerns not only Britain, but also the whole world: while I was writing the article, friends sent me photos from libraries where in French books Ukraine is generally part of a “russian region”. The problem is that it is precisely such short “encyclopedic” statements that are remembered and become the basis of our ideas about the world from childhood.

I am very concerned about this question. Why is Ukraine ignored in the modern Western world, which is extremely attentive to post-colonial traumas? We are either presented against our will in the context of the “russian world” and parts of russia, or simply thrown out of the text, forming some sort of historically mixed salad. And this is when wonderful books and lectures about Ukrainian history have already appeared for adults. Timothy Snyder, Serhii Plokhy, and Anne Applebaum, among others, have already lit a candle of enlightenment in this moscow darkness.

The Embassy of Ukraine in Great Britain should play an important role in the fight against russian propaganda. editorial office has already written a letter with questions and is waiting for their response.

I am convinced that today, when russia once again unleashed a bloody war with the intention to destroy Ukraine and finally appropriate our historical and cultural heritage, it is time for the civilized world to finally do a deep cleaning in the dusty closets, to review the old imperial fairy tales, to separate reality from the russian fairy tales and throw pro-moscow narratives into the trash.

What historians say

“Rus is our umbilical cord”

Oleksandr Alfyorov, candidate of historical sciences, researcher at the Institute of History of Ukraine, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine:

Indeed, this is a huge problem. European historians use terms that came to them from the Soviet Union and from the time of the russian Empire. These terms are mainly russian-language, so we often see not just substitutions of concepts like Rus’ and russia, but a terminological war that russia is very actively waging.

During the time of the USSR, the subjects of Rus’ and Byzantium could be studied only in the metropolises (moscow and Leningrad). Ukrainians, in fact, were not allowed to work on this topic at all.

Rus’ is our umbilical cord, it is the beginning of our state-building processes. Even at the time of Independence, Ukrainian historians on the topic of Rus’ often remained carriers of the russian historical myth. Muscovites themselves, describing the history of their state, really take away our national memory from us, Ukrainians.

British children are not taught the history of Britain, starting with Rome, although there were Roman colonies in what is now Britain, but everyone understands that it was simply the dominance of the Roman Empire at a certain time.

Ukrainians do not begin their history with Athens and Greek culture, which was transferred to the Ukrainian Black Sea region. Both we and the English begin the study of our culture from our own historical periods.

And only russia is starting to learn its history from “Athens” and “Rome” — that is, from Kyiv. The Muscovite lands, where the Muscovite kingdom was later formed, were the periphery of our Ukrainian medieval state of Rus’, which later came under the rule of the Golden Horde, and the Kingdom of Rus’, Regnum Ruthenorum, was formed on our lands, about which the russians are silent, because it is an evolutionarily higher category of principality.

One of the many examples of historical manipulation is the attempt to prove that russia had its capital in Novgorod in the 860s and 870s with the non-existent Rurik. But it has been scientifically proven that Novgorod was founded only in 930-940.

The whole story with russia and the scam with the replacement of concepts is a story about stolen identity.

“russians violate the principle of writing history”

Vitaliy Oleksandrovich Dribnytsia, historian, history teacher at the college, author of school textbooks on history:

Only with the appearance of the Ukrainian Studies Department at the Harvard and Alberta Universities, it was joined by Ukrainians by origin (such as Omeljan Pritsak, Serhii Plokhy, Serhy Yekelchyk). The whole world looks at the history of Eastern Europe only through the eyes of russian historians. This must be fought, but it must be through the state’s interest and funding.

The fact that foreign textbooks equate russia with Rus’ is nothing more than russian narratives and financial incentives

Historical Rus’ is located on the territory of modern Ukraine, which is why the term “Rus’-Ukraine” has taken root in Ukraine since the 19th century, with the light hand of Hrushevsky (Ukrainian academician, politician, historian and statesman who was one of the most important figures of the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century – UT). Because this is not russia. russian historical mythology is based on absurdity.

As for the title “Prince of All Rus'” of Ivan III, it did not reflect the objective reality, because for Europe, the lands of Rus’ were the lands of modern Ukraine and Belarus. But since at the end of the 15th century Muscovy waged a war for Smolensk region, for Ivan III it was an important claim on the lands that belonged to the Lithuanian principality. He dreamed of capturing these lands and demanded ambassadors to address him in such a manner.

The original text was abridged during translation to avoid misunderstanding.

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