Bishop Spiridon’s Myth of “Older Brother” about “Kyivan Rus”

19 September, 2019

On September 14, 2019, Facebook page “Stalin” released extracts from one of the sermons of Bishop Spiridon (Abuladze) of Skhalta, where he refers to the Russians and the Ukrainians as one nation, naming “Kyivan Rus’” as their original state.  

Bishop Spiridon of Skhalta: “As far as you know, Russia began its existence from Kyiv. Initially, it was Kyivan Rus and later, after this nation got reproduced, some moved to the north, others to the northwest, creating the Grand Duchy of Moscow there; this is just where present-day Belarus was established. But this is one nation; it was “Kievskaya Ruska,” which was then divided into parts: it is Moscow’s Russia “Bolshaia Rossia;” then “Belaia Rossia,” Belorussia and “Malaia Rossia,” which were called Kyiv districts. So, they were one nation, one people. Therefore, it is painful when certain forces, third forces, non-Orthodox insidious forces are encouraging fratricidal war there.” 

Bishop Spiridon uses the term “Kyivan Rus’” propagandistically, thus misleading the parish and trying to legitimize Russia’s aggression against Ukraine through falsification of history. 

Kyivan Russia, Kyivan Rus and Moscow 

The new state established in the 10th century was actually called not Kyivan Russia, but Kyivan Rus (Киевская Русь). Kyivan Rus had relations with France, Sweden and other states of that period. They developed laws, which applied to each and every citizen and created quite a successful state. 

Moscow was a minor trading outpost on the borders of Rus with indigenous Finno-Ugric tribes living there, who were significantly lagging behind Kyivan Rus in terms of development. As known, Kyiv sent priests, laborers and settlers in an attempt to civilize the people living there. In contemporary histories written by scribes, it was merely called “the Land beyond the Forests.” 

Up until the early 1700s, most maps, government documents and all other records throughout the territory of present-day Russia proclaimed themselves “Moskovia” (Muscovy). All the people considered themselves Moskovites (initially Moksel). 

Herberstein map, where the territory is referred to as Moscow. 16th century

In the 13th century, the territory of Moscow was invaded by the Mongol army and later it fell under the rule of Golden Horde. The Finno-Ugric culture and language merged with the Mongolian; so, in most of today’s Russia, the names of cities and rivers hardly have Slavic roots, but rather a mixture of Finno-Ugric and Mongolian names.

Obedience to Mongol Khan 

A 2013 study supported by grants from the Russian Academy of Sciences (A.V. Khrunin et al.) revealed a “new pole of genetic diversity” in northern Europe, reasserting that northern Russians exhibit a substantial presence of Finno-Ugric genotypes. 

Myth of “Older Brother” 

The territory of Moscow has never fallen under the borders of Kyivan Rus. Today, Russian leaders call themselves “older brothers” in respect of Ukraine. This narrative was also strong under the Soviet rule and it aimed at promoting the notion about Russia and Ukraine being “brotherly nations.” But history makes it clear that Kyivan Rus was outrunning Moscow by civilization, development and statehood. 

It is absolutely groundless to talk about “an older brother,” because neither Russia, nor Russian people existed until the late 15th century, whereas Kyivan Rus emerged as far back as the 9th century. During the entire history, Russia was constantly trying to portray this fact in a propagandistic manner, labeling the Ukrainians as “Little Russians.”  Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Dashkevych notes that “this is the way the ‘older brother’ forced the ‘younger brother’, the ‘Little Russians’, to live in the savage ‘embraces of love’.” 

Russia has stolen the name “Rus” 

Following Moscow, a term “Russia” was introduced in the 17th century. Moscow means “swampy or dark waters” in the Finno-Ugric language that may be one of the reasons for searching a new name. However, as noted, Moscow decided to create a great empire and it needed important history for this purpose. Moscow decided to use the identity of Kyivan Rus and distort history. 

The first signs of propaganda and fabrication of history emerged in the letter composed by Russian monk Philotheus (Filofey) of Pskov, which took a significant place in Russia’s history: 

“Two Romes have fallen. The third Rome - Moscow stands. And there will be no fourth.” 

The idea of Moscow, as the third Rome, was later promoted by Neo-Eurasians and it takes an important place in modern Russia’s geopolitical doctrines. 

It is worth noting that this historical attempt was also assessed by Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch Kyrion II in the 20th century

“All more or less educated people of Russia set to work, squeaking with their pens. Everyone was insistently looking for the ground to justify this great role allegedly played by Russia. Great plans were outlined even in narrow monastic cells.” 

During the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible) Moscow grasped not only after the inheritance of Kyivan Rus, but now also the Byzantine Empire. Their fabrications are built on the legend about the cap of Kievan Prince Volodymyr Monomakh

According to the legend, it is the cap handed over to Volodymyr Monomakh.

This cap was considered the symbol of the transfer of power from Byzantium to Kyivan Rus. According to the legend, Kievan Prince Volodymyr Monomakh later handed over this cap to his sixth son, Yurii Dolgorukii. The latter was the first prince of Suzdal and the conqueror of the so-called ‘Beyond the Forests Land.’ The appearance of this cap in Moscow was a ‘proof’ of the legitimacy of the Moscow rulers not only to the Kyiv Great Throne, but now also to the inheritance of the former Byzantine Empire. This was all fiction. In reality, “Monomakh’s Cap” was a gold ‘Bukhara tubeteika,’ which Khan Uzbek presented to Ivan Kalyta (1319-1340) who maintained this cap in order to further his fame

Peter I played the greatest and the most decisive role in the destruction of facts and development of alternative history. In 1701 he issued a decree to eliminate from all subjugated peoples all their recorded national historical artifacts: ancient chronicles, chronographs, old archives, church documents, etc. This was especially directed at Kyivan Rus.  Peter I needed more important past than Moscow’s history to establish a Great European Empire.

On the basis of these falsifications, on October 22, 1721, Moscow proclaimed itself the Russian Empire, and all Moskovites were now to be – Russians. In this manner, Peter I stole from the legitimate inheritors of Kyivan Rus, the Ukrainians, historical name of Rus. 

Empress Catherine II intensively took on the tasks launched by Peter I. On December 4, 1783, Catherine II issued a decree, creating a ‘Commission for the Collection and Organization of the Ancient Russian History.’ The principal task before this commission was to ‘find’ new chronicles, rewrite others, and create new collections of archives and other similar falsifications. 

This is not the first time when Bishop Spiridon of Skhalta promoted Kremlin’s messages about Ukraine and the Ukrainian church. He said during a church service that Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret had not been even baptized. The Myth Defector has already focused attention on this disinformation in one of its earlier publications. 

Prepared by Irakli Iagorashvili 
Myth Detector Lab’s Regional Network