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Russia attacked neighboring Ukraine on 24 February 2022 after prolonged concentration of forces on Ukraine borders. As the first major military invasion in Europe after WW-II this has divided the world opinion.

International relations scholars have hitherto concentrated mostly on Russian-Ukrainian relations on post-1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. The fragmented description and analysis are mostly based on realpolitik while neglecting the dynamics of long and rich arc of Russian history traversing paganism, monarchy, communism and lately semblance of modernization.

Insofar as Ukraine was once a pivotal constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the dynamics of present conflict necessitate briefly delving into historical-cum-socio-cultural underpinnings of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

This article synoptically comprises of three parts: firstly, a survey of Russian history; secondly, contemporary religious resurgence of socio-cultural norms in under President Vladimir Putin, and thirdly, an overview of Russo-Ukraine conflict and possible termination.

From prehistoric times, migration and settlement patterns in the territories of present-day Ukraine varied fundamentally along the lines of three geographic zones: The Black Sea, the Steppes, and the land from the east across southern Ukraine toward the coast which was for centuries was in the hands of Mediterranean maritime powers.

Beginning in the 7th–6th centuries BCE, numerous Greek colonies were founded on the northern coast of the Black Sea on the Crimean Peninsula and along the Sea of Azov; these Hellenic outposts later came under the hegemony of the Roman Empire.

The formation of the Kyivan state that began in the mid-9th century, the role of the Varangians (Vikings) in this process, and the name Rus by which this state came to be known. This was connected with developments in international trade and the prominence of the Dnieper route from the Baltic to Byzantium for Kyiv.

Trade along this route was controlled by Varangian merchant-warriors, and from their ranks came the Kyivan princes, who were soon Slavicized. In the early chronicles the Varangians were also called Rus, and this corporate name became a territorial designation for the Kyivan region—the basic territory of the Rus; later, by extension, it was applied to the entire territory ruled by members of the Kyivan dynasty.

By the end of the 10th century, the Kyivan domain covered a vast area from the edge of the open steppe in Ukraine as far north as Lake Ladoga and the upper Volga basin. Like other medieval states, it did not develop central political institutions but remained a loose aggregation of principalities —a dynastic clan enterprise.

Kyiv reached its apogee in the reigns of Volodymyr the Great, Vladimir I and his son, Yaroslav- I (the Wise). In 988 A.D Volodymyr adopted Christianity as the religion of his realm and had the inhabitants of Kyiv baptized. Rus entered the orbit of Orthodox Christianity and culture. A church hierarchy was established since 1037 by the metropolitan of Kyiv, who was appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople.

With the new religion came new forms of architecture, art, and music, a written language, Old Church Slavonic, and the beginnings of a literary culture ardently promoted by Yaroslav, who also promulgated a code of laws, the first in Slavdom. Although Byzantium and the Steppe remained his main preoccupations in external policy, Yaroslav maintained friendly relations with European rulers, with whom he established marital alliances.

Before 1000 A.D, Russia was a pagan society. Its Christianization started in different stages in 9 A.D 0when Vladimir the Great baptized in Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize the family and people in Kiev. The latter events are traditionally referred to as ‘baptism of Rus’.

According to the Church tradition, Christianity was first brought to the territory of modern Russia and Ukraine by Saint Andrew. He traveled all over the Black Sea to the Greek colony Crimea, where he converted several thousand to the new faith. Allegedly, Saint Andrew traveled also to north along the Dnieper river, where Kiev would be founded.

North Pontic Greek colonies, both in Crimea and on modern Ukrainian shores of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, remained the main centers of Christianity in Eastern Europe for almost a thousand years. St. Cyril and Methodius were the missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic people in Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia.

By the end of the 10th century, the Kyivan domain covered a vast area from the edge of the open steppe in Ukraine as far north as Lake Ladoga and the upper Volga basin. Like other medieval states, it did not develop central political institutions but remained a loose aggregation of principalities - a dynastic clan enterprise.

Kyiv reached its apogee in the reigns of Volodymyr the Great, Vladimir I and his son, Yaroslav— I (the Wise). In 988 A.D Volodymyr adopted Christianity as the religion of his realm and had the inhabitants of Kyiv baptized. Rus entered the orbit of Orthodox Christianity and culture. A church hierarchy was established since 1037 by the metropolitan of Kyiv.

With the induction of new religion came new forms of architecture, art, music, a written language, Old Church Slavonics, and the beginnings of a literary culture. Strongly promoted by Yaroslav, promulgated a code of laws— the first in Slavdom. Although Byzantium and the Steppe remained his main preoccupations in external policy, Yaroslav maintained friendly relations with European rulers, with whom he established marital alliances.

Later, some Ukrainian writers promoted national consciousness like Taras Shevchenko and Marko Vovchok ushered in Ukrainian realism, depicted village life and contemporary society and some touched on populist themes.

(To be continued)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Dr Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

The writer is former Adviser, Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, Islamabad, former President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, and ex-Head Department of International Relations, NUML University, Islamabad

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