Despite earlier mentions, it was not until Peter the Great’s reign when “Little Russia” was officially co-opted and could be located on a map. The linguistic distinction of Great and Little Russia was also a key part of establishing a separate “Ukrainian” identity. By 1721, the distinctions between Rus’, Russia and all the “Russias” were confused.
Before the 1917 revolutions, “Russian” applied indiscriminately to Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. They were defined respectively as Velikorosy, Malorosy and Belorusy (Great, Little and White Russians). The Soviet regime did away with this but retained and enhanced the traditional notion of “brotherly” relations, with Russians playing the elder brother role. However, in 2021, Vladimir Putin wrote a now famous article on the “shared history” of Russia and Ukraine. In it, he seemingly revived this pre-revolutionary thinking.
December 7, 2022 -
James C. Pearce