The term Novoròssiya has been much abused by Putinist propaganda. Used in its proper context, however, it is legitimate and meaningful. The first post I wrote about the proper use of Novorossiya, in August 2014, may sound like an angry harangue but I believe it makes the right points.
Over the years, I added more posts trying to explain the history and geography of those regions. At this moment, I believe the two points below sum things up in the best possible way, and the two linked posts would lead to others with more particulars:
- The Russian Empire was largely a settler empire.
- The part of Novorossiya that is now in Ukraine was originally settled mostly by Ukrainian peasants.
In November 2014, I wrote four posts taking apart the claims Putin made in his Valdai club speech in the previous month:
- First, Novorossiya is not a “single region with its centre at Novorossiisk.”
- Second, Kharkiv is part of Sloboda Ukraine, a different region of Ukraine with its own fascinating history.
- Third, the supposedly “Russian” areas that Bolsheviks allegedly assigned to Ukraine ca. 1920 had Ukrainian-speaking majorities at that time.
- Finally, the temporary, buffer-zone Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic was meant to be merged into Soviet Ukraine.
More posts (2016) on the settlement of Novorossiya:
- “The country was mostly settled by Ukrainians from the Poltava and Chernigov governorates, as well as from the Slobozhanschina and the right bank of the Dnieper.”
- “The local Russians are a generation of fugitives, hostile to Russia.”
None of this means that the Ukrainian part of Novorossiya is exactly the same – linguistically, culturally or politically – as the rest of the country. It’s different but it’s part of Ukraine all the same.