By Paul Goble
A month ago, deputies from the Lviv and Rovno oblasts of western Ukraine called on Kyiv to begin calling the Russian Federation Muscovy. The Ukrainian government took no formal action, but some officials including in the Presidential Administration followed that recommendation.
Now, the debate over the appropriateness and value of taking that step has intensified with each side offering arguments as why its position is justified and what that of its opponents is not (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/lviv-deputies-ask-kyiv-to-call-russian.html and apostrophe.ua/article/politics/foreign-policy/2021-12-28/konets-rossii-kak-deputatyi-reshili-poizdevatsya-nad-agressorom/43664).
Supporters of the change say that calling the state to the east of Ukraine Muscovy “would not contradict existing practice since it is not always the case that the self-designation of a state corresponds to its international name” and that this is an appropriate response to the Kremlin’s insistence that Ukrainians aren’t a nation and Ukraine isn’t a state.
Those arguments have convinced Aleksey Arestovich, an advisor to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, to start referring to the state to the east as Muscovy even though there has not been any official decision (unian.net/politics/zathlaya-moskoviya-sidyashchaya-v-bolotah-arestovich-zhestko-otvetil-na-slova-putina-video-novosti-ukraina-11654353.html).
Many of those opposed to do so say that advocates are drawing on a 2009 book of fiction by amateur historian Volodomyr Bilinsky that argued that Muscovy was not the successor to Kiyevan Rus “but only a typical ulus of the Golden Horde and had nothing in common with the Eastern Slavs.” Many Ukrainians believe that but historians do not.
But the more compelling arguments against making this change now being offered are these: First, referring to the Russian Federation as Muscovy would likely end any chance for talks with Moscow. Second, the Kremlin would exploit it to argue that this is one more justification for not taking Ukraine as a state seriously.
And third, opponents of the Muscovy idea say that taking this tact would reduce Ukrainians to the same level as the worst of the Russians. Ukrainians are better than that and should not become like those they are fighting against.