“An argument between two ignoramuses”


Vladimir Putin is visiting France and meeting President Emmanuel Macron in Versailles on the occation of the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great’s visit to France.

Anna Iaroslavna, Queen of France

However, when Putin pointed out (accurately) that Russian-French relations did not start with Peter I, but much earlier, in the first half of the 11th century, with the marriage between Anna, daughter of Iaroslav, Great Prince of Kiev, and Henri I of France, he started a huge media circus.

Not a controversy. Just a circus.

Any historian of good repute will agree that Iaroslav the Wise, son of Vladimir I, Great Prince of Kiev, was one of the most famous and revered early Russian rulers. There is no doubt, aside from some spurious political and dubious ideological claims, that early history did not differentiate between Russia and Ukraine. Or Belarus. It was just one land.

Seal of Iaroslav the Wise

In fact, there was no “Russia.”

There was “Rus’.” [Русь]

For those who can read Russian, the arguments and controversies over who was first are as ludicrous as the famous baseball skit.

Who’s on first?”


Ukrainian “authorities” point out that Moscow didn’t exist until the 12th century, and then only as a very minor city.

But Moscow isn’t any more Russia than Kiev or Novgorod or Saint Petersburg.

Nor is Paris France, or New York the United States, or even Texas (however much it would like to, big as we are).

If you really want to be picky, the division at the time of Iaroslav the Wise, father of Anna, Queen of France, was between “Rus” and “Novgorod.”

Novgorod Market

A division that cannot even be imagined today. The northern city of Novgorod is utterly Russian in to modern minds.

But back in the 11th century, one went from Rus to Novgorod or from Novgorod to Rus.

The same language was spoken, the same beliefs were shared, the institutions were all but identical – but if you traveled outside the Novgorod lands, you “went to Rus”, and if you traveled north, you “went to Novgorod.”

You can’t rewrite history. You can only be ignorant of it.

Suggested reading (lectures on Russian history by Dr Bruce Holl, Trinity University):

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