Putin’s actions in Avdiivka show he killed his beloved idea of ‘a triune people’ of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, Ikhlov says

A Russian artillery shell went through the roof and exploded inside this home in Avdiivka. January 2017 (Image: facebook.com/MNS.gov.ua) 

International, More, War in the Donbas

Like many Russian nationalists, Vladimir Putin has long insisted that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are not separate nations but a single “triune” people who thus should be part of a single state; but this week, his actions in Ukraine and about Belarus have effectively killed off this chimerical notion for all but the most die-hard of imperialists.

On the one hand, and even more than over the last several years, Russian forces in Ukraine have behaved as they did on foreign territory and in the North Caucasus, using the kind of brutal scorched earth attacks that make any claim that Russia views the Ukrainians as a fraternal people deserving respect and even a kind of deference on that basis..

And on the other hand, Moscow moved to create a genuine border regime between the Russian Federation and Belarus, thus casting doubt on the possibility of any union state between the two Slavic countries and demonstrating that any such state, should it arise, would be a Russian empire in which non-Russians would be treated as second class citizens or worse.

Yevgeny Ikhlov, Russian human rights expert and blogger

Yevgeny Ikhlov, Russian human rights expert and blogger

In a commentary on the Kasparov.ru portal, Yevgeny Ikhlov says that events of the last few days make it possible to “fix with precision the date of the death of the conception of ‘the triune unity of the Russian nation” of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

“A quarter of a century ago,” he begins, “sociologists and historians wrote that rarely in any country has the end of the Middle Ages been fixed as precisely as in Russia on August 22, 1991. The fall of Soviet power and the union (that is, imperial-messianic) idea marked the complete end of the ideocratic (i.e., logocentric) period of Russian history.”

Now, Ikhlov says, “we can set with no less precision the death of ‘the triune unity of the Russian nation.” It occurred over the last few weeks because “the sense of the unity of the nation means not simply a collection of historical myths (in the good sense) but also a feeling of solidarity, commonality and inclusion in some Big Family.”

Two events mark the passing of this idea:

  1. The construction of a genuine border regime between the Russian Federation and Belarus and Moscow’s threatening language when Alyaksandr Lukashenka responded as the head of an independent country;
  2. And the nature of the latest round of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Moscow’s actions toward Belarus “clearly show” the Kremlin doesn’t view the Belarusians as “part of the Russian people” but as “a nation of a different and even hostile state.” And its attacks on Avdiivka in Ukraine, whose population Moscow should, on the basis of its past definition of eastern Ukraine, be treated as a Donbas sub-ethnos and thus worthy of protection, show that Moscow is quite prepared to treat them as a separate and enemy nation.

Instead, Moscow and its proxy forces have treated the people of Avdiivka not as “liberated” territory but as enemy territory that they are free to treat with as much brutality as they like, must as Soviet forces did in East Prussia at the end of World War II and Russian forces did in Chechnya. Neither of those places was ever viewed as part of the “triune” nation.

The death of “the triune nation” idea has not only geopolitical consequences – it presages even greater efforts among non-Russian countries to separate themselves from Russia and to find support in the West against Moscow – it has psychological ones as well because it challenges some of the most deeply held views among Russians.

Recent polls show that a majority of Russians don’t view the former Soviet republics and especially Belarus and Ukraine as truly foreign countries. (On this unfortunate reality, see DSNews.ua and Apostrophe.ua)

Many will now be forced to view them in exactly that way, given that their own government is doing so, and that means that any Moscow moves to seize them must be viewed by people of good will in Russia and the West for what they are: a naked imperial land grab designed to benefit Moscow and the Russians allied with it against non-Russians they take in.

As long as “the triune nation” concept existed, many Russians and some in the West could deceive themselves that what Putin is doing is somehow about “recovering” unjustified losses from 1991 even if they have been unwilling to see that that was exactly what Adolf Hitler was doing with the Sudetenland and elsewhere.

Now, no one has that feeble excuse any longer. By his actions against Belarus and Ukraine and by killing off the “triune” mythology, Putin stands convicted of what he typically charges others of being: a revanchist imperialist who must be opposed before he does any more damage to the international order.



Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    RuSSian barbarity is boundless. Bestiality, homemade vodka, and long winters have produced a race of apes who delight in destruction. The term ” civilization ” has no applicability to this evil subspecies of Siberian hominoids.

  2. Avatar Terry Washington says:

    This idea of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians as a “triune people” is NOT new the 19th century Czars promoted it as “Pan- Slavic Unity”(presumably on grounds of religious unity as well as racial similarity- Orthodoxy was the glue that held them together- significantly the equally Slavic Poles were excluded on the grounds of their fervent Catholicism)!

    1. Avatar Alex George says:

      Indeed. It goes back even further, to the 16th century when Ivan IV was crowned “Tsar of all the Russias”.

      The three Russias referred more-or-less to what we know today as western Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This was the core of the empire that defeated Napoleon, and of the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany in the east.

  3. Avatar Alex George says:

    The core of the Russian empire was always the “three Russias” – Great Russia (the most populous part of the Russian Federation today), White Russia (Belarus) and Little Russia (Ukraine).

    Putin’s incompetent leadership has destroyed the cohesion of this core, which means he won’t be able to hold the rest of the RF together either.

    1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

      The relationships between the three were always that of Master Moscow (or St. Petersburg) and Slave Belarus and Slave Ukraine- it was definitely NOT a relationship of equals. Even “liberal” Dwarfstanians still consider Belarus and the Ukraine private properties of Dwarfstan who have to do whatever Moscow wants. They still neither understand nor accept that the Russian Empire is gone forever, just as the British Empire is history.

      1. Avatar MichaelA says:

        it doesnt matter how it is described

        these three were the core of the empire and putin lost ithem

        1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

          It would be more accurate to say Yeltsin lost them. He agreed to the breakup of the USSR in 1991 because he was convinced that Belarus and the Ukraine would return to the fold after a few years at most (and also to get Gorbachev out of office, an act of personal revenge).
          Didn’t work out that way, though. Not even the dwarf’s closest allies Nazarbayev and Lukashenko want to give up the independence of Kazakhstan and Belarus. And the chance of the Ukrainians doing so was zero from the start- the result of the independence referendum in December 1991 should have made that plain.

          1. Avatar Alex George says:

            Yeltsin didn’t lose them.

            The links between the two countries remained strong, in terms of trade, industry, culture and politics. Popular attitudes towards Russia also tended to be positive in post-1991 Ukraine.

            What made the big difference was the Russian aggression in 2014. Taht is why Yatseniuk government began the process of dismantling the many links between the two countries, because for the first time they had strong popular support to do this .

      2. Avatar Alex George says:

        I don’t think anyone has suggested it was a relationship of equals, but many in all countries took it seriously. Polls taken in Ukraine prior to 2014 indicated that most Ukrainians had a positive view of Russia and had no problem with the many close links between the two countries. That changed dramatically after Putin sent his troops in.

  4. Avatar Xeroi Ato says:

    Fair enough, if Russians aren’t your brothers, time to return Lviv to your Polish brothers, and Odessa, Crimea, Kherson, Zaparozia, Nikolaev to your Turkish brothers.

    1. Avatar veth says:

      And Crimea to Ukraine..

    2. Avatar Murf says:

      Why is it always about stealing territory with you people?
      Poland and Ukraine resolved their territorial boarder with each other years ago.
      All former Warsaw Pacts and Soviet republics agreed to maintain the boarders as they stood.
      Yes even Russia.
      Putin is the only leader seriously trying to make territorial claims on other countries.

      1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

        It’s because Dwarfstanians have a HUGE inferiority complex. Simply having the largest country in the world- which they can’t even manage properly by the way- isn’t enough. They constantly have to add to it, to “prove” tothemselves that they are “great”.

      2. Avatar Tony says:

        Probably because they have nothing else to show for their efforts. No good economy, no liberties, high corruption. It’s amazing that a country in this state that also happens to be world’s largest country, thinks that getting even more land is the solution.

    3. Avatar Brent says:

      How about the Pyatlovsky district back to Latvia?
      Ivangorod to Estonia?
      Transneister to Moldova?
      Konigsberg back to Germany?
      South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Georgia?
      Karelia to Finland?
      The Kuril Islands to Japan?
      Siberia to China?

      All territories RUSSIA STOLE from its neighbors….

    4. Avatar MichaelA says:


      russians were ukrainian brothers but russians decided they did not want that

  5. Avatar Quartermaster says:

    It has been obvious for a long time that Putin is a revanchist. Only the ignorant, or dishonest, have held differently.