Staunton, August 7 – “Paradoxically,” Vatslav Lisovsky says, ethnic Russians who have come to Ukraine are often viewed much more favorably by Ukrainians than the residents of the Russian capital are seen by the rest of the population of the Russian Federation, a reflection of both history and current behavior.
In a blog post, Lisovsky points out that until the time of Peter I, there was no such place as “Russia.” Instead, the state was called the Great Principality of Moscow or the Kingdom of Moscow. Indeed, as late as 1703, Peter himself referred to his status in a treaty with Poland as “the Moscow monarch” (nr2.com.ua/blogs/waclaw_lisowski/«moskvich»-–-brannoe-slovo-dazhe-v-rossii-77379.html).
Only in 1721 did Peter having broken through his “window on Europe” by building a new capital at St. Petersburg did people begin to call Muscovy Russia and those who lived in its “Velkorossy” and later simply “Russkiye.” That country’s nearest neighbors, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Poles, “as before called the Russians ‘Moskaly’ or ‘Muscovites,’” albeit with no negative connotation.
The word “Muscovite” [“Moskvich”] appeared only somewhat later, Lisovsky writes, and referred not to the residents of all Muscovy but “only those of the city of Moscow.” One of the reasons for the change to Russia, he argues, is that Peter I did not like Moscow either as a city or as a capital. (He even at one point thought of moving the capital to Kyiv, Lisovsky says.)
Over time, Moscow became associated strictly with the regime and Muscovites with the regime even if many of them were oppressed by it as well, the blogger writes. People in the provinces came to view Muscovites as a group in a very negative way, and “therefore when travelling into the Russian backwaters … it is better for a Muscovite not to advertise who he is.”