Toponym and identity wars

Language is one of many fronts in the war that is being waged against Truth, Goodness, and ultimately Reality by the minions of the Evil One. Manoeuvres on that peculiar front pass largely unperceived. Ukraine is a small but symbolically significant sector of that front. Until matters are conclusively settled there, as they must be, light should continue to be shed on the abuses that abound.

An example that deserves particular notice is the deliberate falsification of Ukrainian place names to conform to the requirements of the separatist narrative. It is a phenomenon that has become so entrenched that even critical minds in the West, that are largely immune to most forms of deceit which surround reporting about the current conflict, seem to have succumbed. Deprived of historical perspective and relevant factual knowledge, focused on what appear to be larger issues and not even being able to imagine that anyone would stoop to this level of manipulation, many serious, critical, and otherwise well informed commentators have fallen for the hoax of fabricated Ukrainian place names.

The Ukrainian capital is not properly called “Kyiv” but Kiev, the name of one of regions that recently voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia is not “Luhansk” but Lugansk. Gorlovka is not “Horlivka,” Nikolaev is not “Mykolaiv,” Zaporoshie is not “Zaporizhia,” as even Clayton Morris of the excellent newscast “Redacted” insists on calling it, Krivoy Rog is not “Kryviy Rih,” Dnepropetrovsk (or more properly Ekaterinoslav, as it was known for most of its existence) is not “Dnipro,” Petrovsk or anything else. And the name of river, by the way, is not “Dnipr,” but Dnieper.

These distinctions to the non-Slavic eye may appear trivial and to point them out inconsequential and pedantic. But it is not so. Both the recent comprehensive alterations of place names and the language (more exactly dialect promoted to language) in which they are being articulated are political creations serving an unambiguously political purpose. That purpose is to erect and nurture a linguistic barrier between Ukraine and Russia. Over time it is expected that on the Ukrainian side it will alter the culture and ultimately redefine perceived identity.

The settlement known invariably as Kiev has existed in one form or another for about 1,500 years, during the last millennium of which it has enjoyed prominence as a major Russian city and political and religious centre. For all but the last several decades of that immensely long period of the city’s existence no one had ever called it “Kyiv,” the form that was recently established and is morphologically more in tune with the norms of the Ukrainian dialect. There are no maps or other historical and literary evidence of usage featuring the form “Kyiv” that are more than about a hundred years old. The toponymic neologism coincides with the rise of Ukrainian separatist nationalism, first under Austro-Hungarian and subsequently Bolshevik auspices. Before that neither “Kyiv” nor any of the other cited newly invented toponyms appear.

Consequently, there are no valid reasons to accept the recently concocted changes in Ukrainian place names unless it is being done to affirm the political agenda of Ukrainian identitarian separatism. The ultimate thrust of that artificially generated separatism, it should be borne in mind, is purely negative. It is to construct a radically distinct Ukrainian identity by erecting and multiplying bogus differences to suppress the overwhelming commonalities that make Russians and Ukrainians two variants of the same people.

The very title of Leonid Kuchma’s book-length dissertation, Ukraina ne Rossiia, “Ukraine is not Russia,” published in 2003, on the eve of the first Western instigated colour revolution in Ukraine, illustrates the point succinctly.

The fact that in the West many observers of integrity have fallen for the ruse is not surprising. Given the esoteric nature of the subject they hardly can be blamed for their error. For sound political reasons, from its perspective, the collective West’s relentless propaganda has single-mindedly focused on promoting the narrative of Ukrainian separatism. That is one of the preconditions for the success of the Western project to provoke a permanent and preferably bloody schism between Ukraine and Russia and for using Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia. Without historical perspective and a modicum of specialised knowledge it is difficult for even the most sophisticated foreign observer to sort out the complex layers of this hybrid warfare political deception.

The matrix being implemented in the Ukraine to habituate minds to the abrupt cancellation of historical reality and usage has also been applied with relative success elsewhere. One need go no further than Kosovo to see that the same playbook is being used in both cases to linguistically reinforce the separatist agenda. Initially, the province’s compound name was “Kosovo and Metohija,” the latter part of the toponym referring to the fact that a substantial portion of the territory was the metoh (in Russian, podvorie) or dependency of Orthodox monasteries, thus attesting to its historically Serbian character.  The dropping of the highly indicative element embedded in the province’s name initially served to create much needed ambivalence about the identity of Kosovo’s true proprietors. That was followed by a much bolder step, the never explained sudden replacement of the Kosovo toponym with the supposedly Albanian form Kosova. As with “Kyiv,” the change was small and almost imperceptible but charged with symbolic and ultimately political significance. As in the Ukrainian examples, the purpose of imposing these toponymic subtleties is to mark territory and shape a new identity. The invented name Kosova conveniently serves also to redesignate the concocted identity of the residents, who in the Western media are now being called Kosovars.

The issue is that from the Albanian linguistic perspective neither Kosovo nor Kosova has any significance. The toponym makes sense only from the Serbian linguistic perspective because of the blackbirds which abound in the area, for which the Serbian word is kos. In Albanian, blackbirds are known as either mëllenjë or mulizezë. In Albanian, the word kos means yogurt, something obviously unrelated either to ornithology or to blackbirds in particular.

But the surreptitiously introduced toponymic alterations since the unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 have done the trick. In Western academic discourse the Albanian form Kosova is gaining currency and is undoubtedly intended to ultimately replace the historical Serbian form of Kosovo, which like Kiev goes back at least a millennium, with all the resulting implications.

Like the name of the province itself, under NATO occupation auspices numerous locales within it have also undergone forced political rebaptism. For example, the ancient seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Peć, from which the Serbian patriarch was recently barred, and which again makes linguistic sense only from the Serbian perspective, was arbitrarily renamed Peja, which does not make sense in any language but serves to emphasize the invented new identity, following  the pattern set in the title of Kuchma’s previously cited book. Similarly, the town of Uroševac, named after Serbian medieval ruler Uroš, for perfectly obvious reasons had to be hastily renamed beyond recognition to Ferizaj, as it is currently known officially in Albanian. The list, as in Ukraine, could go on.

For a supposedly autochthonous population, the conspicuous absence of native place name designations older than just a few years is rather embarrassing, to say the least.

But returning to the Ukrainian front of the hybrid war, N. V. Gogol, the brilliant Ukrainian writer predictably declared by the junta a non-person for being also unequivocally Russian, settled the matter best through his  Cossack hero Taras Bulba:

“Infamous bastards have appeared in our land … they adopt Devil knows what kind of barbarian customs. They despise their own language. They refuse to speak to one another. They sell one another like soulless creatures on a cattle market! And for the favour of a foreign king, who is not even a king … who is crushing their faces under his yellow boot. That matters more to them than any kind of brotherhood [1:21 to 2:06 minutes].”

The last liturgy…

Few will remember French novelist Alphonse Daudet’s poignant short story, “The Last Class.” It is about the consequences of the seizure by Germany of the French province of Alsace in 1871, at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian war. Monsieur Hamel, the French language teacher at the local school, rises “pale from his chair… My friends, he said, my little friends… But he could say no more; he was not able to speak the words.”

Monsieur Hamel’s sad duty was to inform his pupils that this would be the last class in French that was allowed to be taught. Starting the following day, it would be in German.

Occupied Ukraine is heading in precisely the same direction. The Kiev Nazi junta is taking decisive steps to eradicate every vestige of Russian Orthodox heritage on the territory it still controls. Besides the already outlawed Russian language, religious institutions are also a principal target. Over the last two months, as the regime’s prospects have turned increasingly precarious and survival uncertain, it has been conducting probably the last but also the most painful of its pogroms. Numerous churches and facilities of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with the Moscow Patriarchy have been stormed by the secret police and priests, monks, and laypeople arrested and harassed. Without even a pretence of legal procedure, parishes belonging to the legitimate Church have been handed over to the unrecognised church entity set up in 2018 for the express purpose of supplanting it, with the connivance of the corrupt and renegade Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople. Quite naturally, one of the main targets of this persecution is the symbolic Kiev Pechersk Monastery overlooking the capital. It is under the jurisdiction of the canonical church.

In November, it was searched by the secret police and its abbot, archimandrite Paul, and the monastics were aggressively mistreated on the pretext of looking for evidence of political activity hostile to the regime. The junta then proceeded to draft a law that would ban church entities suspected of having ties with foreign ecclesiastical centres, a measure clearly aimed at the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is in communion with the Patriarchy of Moscow and commands the loyalty of the majority of the population.

Hesitant to overplay its hand and seize at once Ukraine’s holiest religious shrine, the junta has perfidiously adopted a gradualist approach, choosing instead an intermediate solution that should not alarm unduly the war- and terror-weary public. Arbitrarily and without explanation it has closed off the Monastery’s upper floors, decreeing that December 31, 2022, would be the last day that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be allowed to conduct religious services there. The Abbot of the Kiev Pechersk Monastery, Archimandrite Paul, is now cast in real life in the role of monsieur Hamel in Daudet’s literary tale. His poignant but dignified appeal and the moving scenes of the last liturgy served in the Trapezna church on the upper floor of the monastery complex, which henceforth is off limits to the faithful, have been recorded, for the benefit of whoever has the stomach to watch. It is here:

The circumspect diction and a captive’s stilted body language speak volumes about this oppressed churchman’s true position in the model liberal democracy that is today’s Ukraine. It is now but a matter of time when the entire monastery, upper and lower floors, is handed over to the bogus “church” and the abbot and monastics are physically expelled by the junta’s Tonton Macoutes.

Needless to say, none of these outrages have been noted or condemned by the human rights and rule of law watchdogs of the collective West.  And how could they possibly have been, given that the perpetrators are their own Ukrainian puppets? Public admission of such foul deeds would demolish the mendacious narrative fabricated to misrepresent those thugs as champions of freedom and democracy.

There is a compelling argument that the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is not just a local project but part of a broader scheme, executed in every instance on instructions by the same external decision-making centres. The giveaway is the ultimatum of the Baltic statelets to their local Orthodox churches, which also are in communion with the Moscow Patriarchy, to either sever ties or face repercussions. Such concerted assaults on the freedom of conscience had not been seen even at the height of the cold war. Nor had it occurred to any of the Western governments which were at war with Germany to demand of their local Roman Catholic hierarchies to either sever ties with the Vatican, which was located in the territory of Axis belligerent Italy, or be placed outside the law. But that is exactly what did occur to them now.

As on the day of monsieur Hamel’s last class in French, when “the order [came] from Berlin that no language but German shall be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine,” soon also analogous orders will be handed down in Kiev that in Ukraine religious worship by Orthodox believers shall be permitted exclusively in places under the auspices of clergy aligned with the junta. And such iniquitous orders shall remain in effect until Ukraine is liberated, but not a minute longer.

Having been cast by their tormentors in the role of the French Alsatian schoolmaster who finished his last class by writing on the blackboard, in letters as large as he could manage, “Vive la France!”, Abbot Paul and his superior hierarch, Metropolitan Onuphry, now might as well play out their roles to the letter.

In their next public sermon, let them therefore exclaim truthfully and boldly, “Long live Holy Russia!” Pour épater la galerie of Ukronazi freaks, if their eminences are unable to think of a more cogent reason.

 

 

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