George Shevelov wrote the article “Moscow, Maroseika” in 1954 in Boston. At the time, the USSR was pompously celebrating the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine with Russia. Shevelov did not doubt that celebrations of the Treaty of Pereyaslav would come to an end some day. His analysis showed that Ukraine had not yet lost everything. One should only know their main enemies. He called them Moscow – Kochubei-style attitudes – provincialism.
Has anything changed since then?
Here, on this Moscow street, in a quarter populated by blinniki, Russian pancake bakers, there were Hetman’s and Little Russian coaching inns in the late 17th century. Newcomers from Ukraine used to put up here, and the very name of this street is a corrupted form of the word Maloroseika” (now Maroseika is called Bogdan Khmelnitsky St.). This street saw a lot of human dramas and events that had caused quite radically changes in 17th-century Russian culture. That was the bridgehead from which, after [the Treaty of] Pereyaslav, Ukrainian culture launched an onslaught on the Muscovite one.
It was back in the late 16th century that the Ukrainian intelligentsia conceived a brilliant and grandiose plan of the cultural conquest of a sprawling and militarily strong Moscow. It is not without this plan’s influence that the sliding of the literary language towards the vernacular was stopped and the literary language’s Church Slavonic sources were restored by the efforts of Lavrenty Zyzany, Pamva Berynda, and, above all, Meletius Smotrytsky. It is for the sake of this plan that Kyiv intellectuals created a myth about two – Little and Great – Russias and supported the theory of political and administrative continuity between the old Kyiv and that-time Moscow. For this purpose, Hetman Sahaidachny, the conqueror of Moscow, offered the latter an alliance in 1620, Lavrenty Zyzany brought the manuscript of his Catechism to Moscow in 1626 and Kyrylo Tranquilion Stavrovetsky the manuscript of his Instructive Gospel in 1627, and Metropolitan Petro Mohyla sent Ihnaty Starushych in 1640 to propose founding Moscow’s first school by the efforts of the Ukrainian clergy.
A true field of activity was opened after [the Treaty of] Pereyaslav. Pereyaslav was the precursor of a Ukrainian cultural invasion. Kharlampovych assessed that there were seven monasteries fully populated by Ukrainians and Belarusians in Moscow alone in the late 17th century, with one of them being placed under the Little Russia Office’s jurisdiction in this connection. Ukrainian newcomers left a deep imprint on the culture of that-time Moscow. They changed many things and essentially enriched it.
Patriarch Nikon’s famous reform, which shook the Russian church vigorously, was in fact carried out with participation of the Ukrainians who had graduated from the Kyiv Academy. The Moscow Academy, founded in 1685 and known later as Slavic Greek Latin, was in fact taken over by the Ukrainians in 1700, after a short period when it was run by the Greek brothers Lichud and then by nobody. In the next 64 years it had 19 rectors, including one Greek and two Russians, while the rest were Ukrainian alumni of the Kyiv Collegium. The faculty was of a similar composition.
After the death of the last Russian Patriarch Adrian, the Ukrainian Stefan Yavorsky was placed at the head of the Russian church. As assessed by the aforesaid Kharlampovych, there were 70 Ukrainian-born bishops in purely Russian lands in the period of 1700-62. There were times, when the Russian church was entirely in Ukrainian hands. Let us not forget that in the 17th century the church was often synonymous with culture and culture with the church. Something new and thitherto unheard-of flowed into the conservative Moscow through the Little Russian Inn on Maroseika.
It is not with an easy heart that Ukrainian intellectuals used to come to Moscow. They knew only too well what Moscow was. Lavrenty Zyzany’s Catechism was published without the title page for fear of likely heresies.
…Kyrylo Stavrovetsky’s Instructive Gospel was pronounced heretical and burnt down. Still fresh in memory were the first decades of the 17th century, when Ukrainian priests and monks were not considered baptized and were forcibly re-baptized according to a different rite. An instruction was issued in 1632, when a group of Ukrainian monks had arrived: “Do not let them into the church, hear them singing at the refectory or on the church porch, do not give them any sacral things, never bless them with the exalted cross, nor let them kiss the latter.” In 1652, two years before [the Treaty of] Pereyaslav, strangers were deported from Moscow to the German Neighborhood. Incidentally, a Little Russian was the same as a Lithuanian, a Pole, or a foreigner in general, in the Moscow of that era.
A contemporary wrote in 1666: “The Little Russians do not fear death as much as they do being sent to Moscow.” A summons to Moscow cost Dmytro Tuptalo a nervous breakdown. Appointed to be the Riazan bishop, Stefan Yavorsky ran away from Moscow’s Donskoy Monastery, only to be held there in custody later. People continued to feel alien in a strange Moscow world until the very death. Even Feofan Prokopovych, Peter I’s close associate and chief ideologue of the newborn Russian Empire, thus summed up his lifetime in his last days:
I can see no light of day from any side,
All things are gloomy.
There is no hope,
And my happiness is full of woes.
Happiness full of woes – can one assess more exactly the happiness of a person who has climbed up the highest rungs of the social ladder. He is being envied and, after all, feels alien to everybody and everything.
It would be wrong to reduce this movement to career-seeking. It was also an ideological movement. Although they knew what Moscow was, they opted for Pereyaslav and moved towards Moscow. Maybe, they were moving there because they were aware of a much lower cultural and everyday-life level of Moscow. For this was or at least seemed to be a precondition for conquering Moscow. We picture Pereyaslav, from a trilateral perspective, as the beginning of a great tragedy. This is right. But, in the conditions of 1654, the development in this direction was in no way certain. On the contrary, contemporaries regarded Pereyaslav as point of departure for a great expansion. Having lost almost nothing politically (Ukraine preserved complete internal independence and almost complete independence in foreign relations – the treaty only obliged it to accept a Muscovite voivode and garrison in Kyiv and to inform Moscow about missions to Poland or Turkey and the elections of hetmans), Ukraine seemed to be entitled to military assistance and, what is more, this paved the way to the cultural conquest of a fearsome neighbor.
The 17th century was an era when nation states were formed in the West, even though universalistic concepts prevailed in ideology. Kyiv, a revived nucleus of Ukraine, was a second Jerusalem in the eyes of that-time Ukrainians. It was a center of religion and, hence, of culture. It was supposed to shine a light on the entire Christian world. The enemy was the Turks who had enslaved the Greeks and the Christian Middle East. Moscow was to be an instrument, I repeat, an instrument for exalting Kyiv, a second Jerusalem. Moscow’s military might was to have helped the Ukrainian intelligentsia to carry out is program. The never-ending calls for fighting the Turks and Tatars in the sermons of Galiatovsky, Baranovych, and all 17th-century Ukrainian preachers, including Yavorsky, was not a generality, as it may seem today, not the result of Tatar forays on Ukraine, but, first of all, a manifestation of this universalistic Christian ideology.
In addition to this subjective ideological side, the matter also had an objective historical side. I said that the 17th century was an era of universalism in ideology, but in fact it was the era of nascent nation states. A new state can only emerge by defeating its neighbors. Suffice it to recall the making of Germany in the 19th century. It took wars in the south, north and west to unite German lands. “And sabers on fours sides:” Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s Ukraine needed to overpower at least Poland, Turkey, and Muscovy, which it was in fact doing. It competed militarily with Poland and Turkey. It was an act of political wisdom to try to conquer Moscow by other means. We know only too well today that wars are waged by various methods, that they can be hot and cold, and that they can still go on even when a peace treaty has been signed or when it is impossible to sign such a treaty. So why will we not understand this, as far as the 17th century is concerned?
Even militarily, Pereyaslav was not the end of a struggle. After signing this treaty, Ukraine routed Moscow near Konotop in July 1659 and was defeated on Poltava hills in July 1709. Moreover, cultural struggle was going on.
Ukraine suffered a defeat in this sphere, too, not because of the Treaty of Pereyaslav but, first of all, due to the factors inherent in that-time Ukrainian life. Politically and militarily, Pereyaslav was the beginning of the defeat because various Ukrainian circles were drawing Moscow into Ukraine, trying to use it against their internal enemies. A full understanding of this has been ascribed to Mazepa. Shall we also recall the calls of Innokenty Gizel, Lazar Baranovych, and many others to send Moscow soldiers to Ukraine? Or the fact that when Demian Mnohohrishny veered off Moscow, he was arrested not by Moscow but by a group of Kyiv senior officers who went so far as to ask changing the hetman for “a boyar of Great Russian people?” It is only the Kochubei-mentality complex that enabled Moscow to win more and more positions in Ukraine. The growth of this complex forced Mazepa to ensure strict secrecy, which did not allow him to get prepared militarily for the Battle of Poltava. It is the Ukrainian Kochubeis, not Peter I, who won the Battle of Poltava for Russia. It goes without saying that Peter and Russia promptly took advantage of this and other – quite numerous – similar opportunities. It is up to historians and psychologists to discuss the sources of the still-living Kochubei-mentality complex.
Culturally, Pereyaslav was the beginning of a defeat caused by deeper factors. It is possible in principle that the defeated nation culturally conquers the winning nation. Defeated by Roman legions, Greece once culturally conquered Rome. The Germanic tribes in Italy, France, and Spain were culturally conquered by Rome, which resulted in present-day Romanic peoples. However, the precondition for a cultural conquest of the winner nation is cultural advantage of the defeated nation all over the battlefield, i.e., in the entire culture. Ukraine’s 17th-century culture lacked this precondition.
The baroque era is one of the golden periods of our culture. The Mazepa-time architectural styles, sermons, early theater, woodcarving, painting, and early engraving have left a legacy for centuries to come – even now they are impacting Ukrainian art. But they also had their own ceiling. The baroque-era Ukrainian culture was of a purely religious nature. Culture was under the church, so the church and culture were synonymous.
As long as it was so in Russia, Ukrainian culture was on the offensive. We saw it conquer the church, the linguistic and theological education and science, and the religion-related arts. But this was not enough for the 18th century, the time of the secularization of science, art, and culture as a whole. While Europe no longer lived by church culture, Peter I still used Yavorsky and Prokopovych as church figures. But he was still looking at the West in order to steal the required elements of a new technical culture. Disguised as a carpenter, he traveled “to the Lutherans” to learn the secrets of technology. Nowadays, lower-ranking people are performing these functions, but the essence remains the same: to use Western technological culture for strengthening the barbarian foundations of their state. We will find a lot of Germans, Russians, but not Ukrainians, among “the bids of Peter’s nest.” It is the Ukrainian Kochubeis who won the Battle of Poltava for Peter. But Peter really won the battle in the cultural battlefield by fencing Ukraine off the West. The newly-built window, or rather a trapdoor, into Europe was not in Kyiv but in Saint Petersburg. Meanwhile, the Kyiv Academy was left more or less the way it used to be, for it was safe. He who does not march forward lags behind. Ukraine lagged behind hopelessly. While Russian culture complemented its religious side with a new, technological and secular, one, Ukrainian culture remained behind at the old place. Thus it became old-fashioned. To be old-fashioned means to be ludicrous. Ludicrousness kills culture.
The last figure of this culture, in its virginity, was Arsenii Matsievych, the Bishop of Rostov, in the 1760s. He defends, with surprising stubbornness, the lost cause – independence of the church from the state. For him, the world is confined to church life. Funny and bothersome, he stands the trial of bishops on Catherine II’s demand and is sentenced to monastery confinement, but he never calms down even there. In 1767 he was transferred to a Tallinn fortress, where he, deprived even of his own name, lived for the rest of his lifetime. On Catherine’s orders, the inmate is called Andrii Vral (“liar” in Russian – Ed.) – a step that even Soviet police would not have thought up. Quite tellingly, the date of Matsievych’s incarceration coincides with that of the abolition of the hetman’s rule. That was a simultaneous termination of the Ukrainian onslaught launched in Pereyaslav – politically in Ukraine and culturally in Russia.
The Pereyaslav concept of a Ukrainian cultural invasion of Russia kept echoing even much later. Another thing is the tragedy of Nikolai Gogol who decided to conquer Russia for the Ukrainian moral code, for the Ukrai-nian idea of art, whose morality play about dead souls was interpreted by people like Belinsky as condemnation literature, whose Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends, to which Gogol devoted all his soul, were derided and rejected? And hence – the natural consequence of a tragic misunderstanding – Gogol’s burning of his manuscript and almost a self-immolation – so close to Maroseika, on Moscow’s Nikitsky Boulevard, and so close to the 200th anniversary of Pereyaslav – in February 1852.
Or take the attempt of Ukrainian communists early in the revolution to “enter” the Russian-dominated Communist Party in order to “drown” it. The same thing: a universalistic concept, a hope for one’s own forces and advantage, the limitation of this advantage by the provincial condition in which Ukraine is being kept – hence the defeat and the tragedy.
But in the depths of a most crushing defeat, when Ukraine lost the remnants of political independence, when Russian became the literary language of Ukraine and, say, Kapnist and the author of the History of the Rus’ wrote in it, and that Sovoroda tried to write in it, the Pereyaslav concept began to be revised. Kapnist started it with his protest against the Russian state in the name of Ukrainian man:
Under the heavy yoke of the state,
Bloody sweat if flowing like a stream.
And life is fiercer than death…
History of the Rus’ revives some elements of Ukrainian statehood. The comes Taras Shevchenko who synthesizes these elements and combines then with new universalism – the Cyril and Methodius pan-Slavism centered in Kyiv (any sound-minded movement wants to assume some features of universalism, the only question being that it should not sacrifice his own for the sake of this). The readers know the further history – it is written day by day.
The three fearsome enemies of Ukrainian renaissance – Moscow, Ukrainian provincialism, and the Kochubei-mentality complex – are still living. Mykhailo Drahomanov’s virulent hatred failed to eliminate Ukrainian provincialism. Dmytro Dontsov’s virulent hatred failed to eliminate Moscow. Viacheslav Lypynsky’s virulent hatred failed to eliminate the Kochube-mentality complex. They domineer today and are solemnly celebrating the Pereyaslav anniversary.
Moscow emphasizes “Russian-Ukrainian cultural ties.” Let us not reject them. They were and still are there. Are soldiers on the two sides of a front line not tied up with one another? They are tied up in life and death. The history of cultural ties between Ukraine and Russia is the history of a great and continuing war. As any war, it is full of attacks and retreats, defectors and captives. The history of this war must be studied. Why not publish a serious collection of works on Ukrainian-Russian cultural links the way they were rather than doctored by Moscow or our own provincialism?
There is no reason why we should celebrate [the anniversary of] Pereyaslav because it was the beginning of the people’s great tragedy as well as endless individual tragedies. But, equally, there is no reason why we should be ashamed of Pereyaslav. It was supposed to occur, it exposed our drawbacks, but it also showed the depth of our viability.
It is the enemies of Ukraine who are celebrating the Pereyaslav anniversary today. I can remember 1913, when the entire Russia was solemnly celebrating the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov – loudly and pompously. What happened to the House of Romanov four years later is common knowledge.