President Volodimir Zelenski has signed an executive order that called for research and protection of the legacy of ethnic Ukrainians who have lived on territories incorporated within the Russian Federation today.
Zelenski announced the existence of this decree during a Unity Day address on 22 January, the day when 105 years ago the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Western Ukrainian People's Republic scattered the Russian Empire’s rule and formed one independent country – a fact largely contested by Moscow today.
The decree, titled "Regarding the Territories of the Russian Federation Historically Inhabited by Ukrainians," instructs the government to cooperate with international experts in crafting a plan for preservation of Ukrainians’ national identity in Russian regions that had been once under Ukrainian control or have Ukrainian-speaking residents.
Among those, Ukrainian historians refer to Kuban, to the east of the Crimean Peninsula, Starodubshchyna, which is north of Chernihiv, and northern and eastern Slobozhanshchyna.
The latter, also known as Ukrainian Sloboda (liberty), had been a large autonomous region under Tsarist rule, with a sizeable Ukrainian population.
The Krasnodar Krai (region) covers nowadays most of what used to be Kuban, while Starodubshchyna now lies predominantly in the Bryansk Oblast (region too).
Research which Zelenski has commissioned refers to the recording of testimonies on forced russification, political repression, deportations, and other crimes committed against ethnic Ukrainians. The findings will be used to combat the Kremlin’s disinformation and propaganda designed to picture Ukrainians as monsters and profiteers, and to show an example “to other enslaved peoples in Russia.”
The Academy of Sciences in Kyiv will take the lead in this process, making sure that the facts fit in the scientific truth rather than political interests.
Ukraine has not claimed officially any territories in the Russian Federation. However, its history books portrait the Muscovite Principality – from which Russia has grown – as a splinter land from the once mighty Kievan Rus. The empire, some historians and politicians in Kyiv assert, still holds swaths of Ukrainian land in illegal possession.
Russia, on the other hand, claims that the whole of Ukraine belongs to it. This is Moscow’s official stance.
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