On Ukrainians and Russians as 'One People'

Originally posted on the Fediverse

“Ukrainians and Russians as ‘One People’: An Ideologeme and its Genesis”, by Pål Kolstø, has been published open access last week.

It offers some context on the use of related concepts applied to Russians and Ukrainians (and Belarusians): “triune nation” (mostly Tsarist), “brotherly peoples” (mostly Soviet), and “one people” (both pre-Soviet and present).

Putin himself used all of them, but eventually seems to prefer the “one people” line: Russians and Ukrainians are just one people, i.e. Russians, and expressed this view well before the invasion or his 2021 historical writings.

I would argue that Putin’s view on this matter is really not that sophisticated, and that he hardly sees the difference (outlined in this article and historically important) between the “triune nation”/“brotherly people”/“one nation” concepts. To some extent, it is also a matter of political expediency: referring to Belarusians, he does not quite insist on the “one people” line, even if it is hard to conceive that in his view they should be any less Russian than the Ukrainians.

More broadly, these are all relevant debates, but I am increasingly convinced that, among the identity-related issues that led to the decision to invade Ukraine, the “status affirming” component (reaffirm Russia as a dominant power) has been prevalent over reasserting national unity of the “one people”.


Giorgio Comai
Researcher, data analyst