Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Anna Yaroslavna -- Ukrainian Queen of France and other interesting facts

By Aussiegirl

Well, don't just take my word for the fact that Ukraine has an ancient and great culture that far exceeds that of Russia. Read this from the wonderful journal called The Ukrainian Observer.

Early European Travels to Ukraine

In the Middle Ages, enlightened Europe regarded Ukraine as part of its social, cultural and economic realm. Commerce depended to no little extent on the benevolence of Ukrainians, who at the time were associated with Kyiv and the country called Rus. The traditionally European Mediterranean Sea had been expropriated by stern Arabs and later Turks. So the main trade route between West and East ran north-south along the Dnieper River. This was the legendary path of the Varangians (which is what the Slavs called the Vikings). There was also a land route: Kyiv - Prague - Krakow - Regensburg (a German trade center on the Danube).

European monarchs were perfectly aware of Rus's natural and human resources from reports by merchants and envoys. In 907, Kyiv Prince Oleh gave an unexpected demonstration of his power, when he appeared beneath the walls of Constantinople leading a fleet of thousands of small ships.

The first mail order bride from Kyiv
And there was other evidence of Rus's growing international rating. In May 1049, King Henry I of France married Princess Anna of Kyiv, the eldest daughter of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise. Henry was illiterate, and Anna multilingual. A French monastery chronicler of the time described her as one of "Europe's most educated women," who had come from a country that "has more unity, happiness, power and space than France." After Henry's death, Anna ruled as regent for six years.

An ornament of the Greek world
The best measure of any medieval ruler's wealth and power was always his capital, which would attract visitors from afar, who would in turn spread the word of what they'd seen during their stay. Kyiv was no exception to this rule.

In the summer of 1018, German writer Titmar Merzeburg left the hospitable capital of Rus. His heavy carriage was part of a lengthy trade caravan that had been making its way along a narrow road through a thick Czech forest. Amid the snorting of his beasts of burden and the clatter wagon wheels, he must have worked out how part of his travel book would be dedicated to Kyiv and the land of the East Slavs. The work would astonish Europeans with descriptions of the city's hundreds of domed churches, eight swarming markets and countless population. Kyiv was a northern rival to Constantinople, he wrote.

Merzeburg's book, of course, allows for some inaccuracies. For example, the author most likely exaggerated the number of Kyiv's churches. However, he was obviously impressed by the scale and grandeur of the city, which he describes as "an ornament of the Greek world."

[...]Sitting in his cozy residence in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, British Ambassador Thomas Rowe composed an urgent report to the English crown. In subtle detail, he described a recent attack on Istanbul by Zaporizhzhian Cossacks. It was on 9 June 1624. For an entire day, the Cossacks besieged the gates of the city. Then, at sunset, they rolled up their banners and retired to their ships with their booty. They hadn't achieved a decisive victory; however neither had they suffered a counter attack as they withdrew. This daring military offensive opened Rowe's eyes to two new truths. The Ottoman Empire, which all of Europe had deemed frightfully undefeatable, was entering its decline. And the Ukrainian people, although deprived of a state to represent them, had created a first-class fighting force, the Cossacks, who were not only defending their lands and kin but had gone on the offensive.

Cossacks in Europe
Seventeenth Century Europe was being exhausted by its wars of religion and succession. In the Thirty Years War alone (1618-1648), all the major continental powers and several small principalities took part. These smaller, primarily German, participants were particularly dependent on the arms of mercenaries. Popularly known in Europe as steppe hussars, the Cossacks fought for the side that paid them best. Being Orthodox, the Ukrainians weren't likely to get too involved in the Catholic-Protestant disputes that underlay the conflict.

But their mercantile motives often brought the Ukrainians into reproach. "We fight for our honor but you make war for money," one French general was quoted as telling his Cossack comrade during a campaign in Voltaire's Cossacks under Louis XIV. "Each fights for what he most lacks," the Cossack replied with ease, as he passed a bag of gold coins to his adjutant.

The French general then decides to teach the barbarian warrior a lesson and reports to the French king that the Cossacks are shirking their duties and spend most of their time getting drunk. So Louis XIV ordered a contest between the Ukrainians and other foreign mercenaries, during which the Cossacks showed up both Germans and Swiss recruits.

The first Ukrainian nationalist - an English professor
In 1810, a meeting of European Slavists was held at Cambridge University. The speaker was Professor Eduard Daniel Clark, an avid traveler. The subject of discussion was a travel book he had written, which offended the sensibilities of some of his colleagues. None in attendance denied that the enlightened absolutism of rulers like Catherine the Great was in large part a publicity campaign to mask the military ambitions of the Romanovs. It was argued that the thumping of soldiers' boots had always drowned out whatever poetic verses might be sung in St. Petersburg.

But Clark's work, his opponents contested, bordered on Russophobia, with its panegyrics of Ukrainian honor. In particular, the scholars rejected his view that Ukrainians were an entirely separate ethnic group with their own age-old traditions, unique national character and language that differs from both Polish and Russian. Unfortunately, Clark's views were supported by empirical evidence rather than scholarly analysis. In fact, he wasn't even a Slavicist. His audience couldn't accept his assertions that Ukrainians, with their well-kept houses and neatly hoed gardens, more resembled the Dutch or Norwegians than Russians.

During his travels, Clark was probably one of the last Europeans to see Ukraine as an autonomous agricultural territory on the edge of a vast nomadic steppe. For shortly thereafter, the country was fully absorbed into the poor and slave-like conditions of the Russian empire. Clark was probably also the first to recognize Ukraine's potential to regain that same autonomy, but before that would happen, the country would have to go through the worst throes of Russianization, becoming recognizable only as a province of its bigger brother to the east.


At 10:31 AM, Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Fascinating post, Aussiegirl! I hadn`t known about her.

You`re right; Ukraine was actually the flower of Europe in early Mideval times. Two hundred years of the Golden Horde did irreperable damage, then the rise of Moscovy finished the job on one of the most enlightened societies of their time.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The title of your blog is absolutely perfect.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger BonnieBlueFlag said...

Thanks for sharing that bit of history with us. I sincerely hope that Ukraine can once again become the lovely country it was, now that it is coming out from under the oppressive shadow of Russia.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Pindar said...

I agree with Tim: what a shame that first the Golden Horde, then the Leaden Whore (i.e. Moscovy), put a stop to Ukraine's development...what a different Europe we would have now if it weren't for those two interlopers! And what a beautiful stamp Aussiegirl found to illustrate this very interesting article: delicate lacework around Anna's figure, she holding the Ukrainian trident in her right hand and a stately building, perhaps her castle, in her left...imagine, her husband, king of France, was illiterate while she was multilingual! Certainly a much lovelier stamp than most of our US stamps! Here's my favorite quote from the article: "We fight for our honor but you make war for money," one French general was quoted as telling his Cossack comrade during a campaign in Voltaire's Cossacks under Louis XIV. "Each fights for what he most lacks," the Cossack replied with ease, as he passed a bag of gold coins to his adjutant. All I can say is, some things never change.

At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you invented globus of Ubundia already? Stop rewrighting Russian History you, naturalized punks!

At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this is just plain stupid. At least read Wikipedia before making ridiculous claims. Talking about the separation between Ukraine and Russia at the time is like talking about Anglo-Saxon Native Americans - there WERE NONE!

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this bit of history above is completaly true, i dont think that people that say otherwise just show that they don't know history well enough to say anything about it.

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Ukrainian Aussie is complete fake as well as most of her "true stories" about Ukrain.

I think this blog was written by Kate Tchumatchenko, the "wife" appointed by the CIA to the president Jushenko of Ukrain.

At 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Anna never thoght she was Ukrainian :))))))))))

At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop stealing out gas and history!

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually back that time was no Ukraine, it was Kiev's Russia or Kievskaya Rus. Kiev was the oldest and the first capital of Russia. Name Russia came from Rus or Ros (small river near Kiev) where the first rosichi or russians lived. Anna was Russian princess, and word "Ukraine" means "egde" or "okraina" in Russian. It was later created as separate province (or edge of Russia) in Ekaterina's (German princess originally) time. Whole European history interact between all countries.

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous cheap viagra said...

I think that the people can travel around Europe in a really easy way, the train there is so good, I have been in Europe, I have traveled around many counties such as Ukraine and Spain!!22dd

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous kamagra said...

Very nice blog, I am a Ukrainian too and I think we need more blogs like this one... it's all about good information and critic sense about the human resources and its features. 23jj

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