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Ryszard Radzik. What Future for the Three Nations of Rus’?

Over the last few centuries, East Slavs developed a sense of belonging to a threefold pan-Russian community, often referred to as a nation. On the other hand, not only Russians, but also Ukrainians (19th century) and Belarusians (early 20th century) formed their own modern national movements. The article explores the nature and characteristic features of these communities and analyses to what extent their members identify themselves with the pan-Russian and the separate national ones. The study is mainly based on the surveys conducted by leading Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian sociological centres. Although the term ‘threefold Russian nation’ (триединый русский народ, triedinyĭ russkiĭ narod) is used by commentators and ideologists rather than academics, the actual meanings the concept includes are in fact widely accepted by members of the three societies in questionIndeed, a considerable proportion of Russians still do not perceive Belarusians and Ukrainians as separate nations. Russian political elites are (quite understandably) trying to develop a sense of community binding the population of the state. At the same time, however, Russians are unable to abandon their traditional approach in terms of the pan-Russian community exceeding the political limits of the state, as can be seen in the Ukrainian conflict which started in 2014. Although Belarusians under President Lukashenka accept their independent political status, most of them display a strong sense of historical and cultural unity with Russians. From the beginning of the conflict with Russia over the Crimea and the Donbas, a considerable proportion of Ukrainians in general, and those in the western and central regions of the country in particular, have distanced themselves from Russia. This process involves a reinterpretation of their history and consolidation of a sense of unity with Europe. In this way, separate national identities and a strong residue of Sovietness are superimposed on the concept of threefold Russian community.