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It should be said, however, that the claim of Russian to be a language of culture was at the time not much stronger than the claim of Ukrainian. After all, Pushkin, the first writer in the Russian language to excite any great interest outside Russia, only died in 1837. Prior to the eighteenth century both among Russians and Ukrainians, there was little idea of the possibility of culture outside the church. From the seventeenth century onwards the most advanced centre of church culture was the Kiev Academy founded by Peter Mogyla. In the Kiev Academy the languages of culture were Latin and Polish but the academy had been established by the Cossacks in imitation of what had already long been established in Catholic Poland. The Cossacks spoke Ukrainian and Ukrainian was the language used when texts were translated for their benefit. Peter I, much concerned with the low level of culture among the Russian clergy, turned to the relatively sophisticated and westernised Kiev Academy. The reorganisation of the Russian Church - the suppression of the Moscow patriarchate and creation of the 'Holy Synod' - was planned by Theophan Propokovich, formerly Prefect, then Rector of the Kiev-Mogila Academy. As well as theology and philosophy Propokovich taught 'poetics', basing his teaching on Polish models. The Orthodox theologian George Florovsky regarded Peter Moghila as promoting within Orthodox an essentially Catholic theology, and Propokovich an essentially Protestant one ('Theophan wasn't close to the Protestant theology of the eighteenth century, he was an integral part of it'). (12) Nickolai Lossky in his History of Russian philosophy  says:

'The centuries of Tatar domination and then the isolationism of the Moscow state prevented the Russian people from becoming acquainted with Western European philosophy. Not until Peter the Great had "cut a window into Europe" was Russian culture introduced to the western culture on a wide scale.' (13)

(12) Georges Florovsky: Les Voies de la théologie russe, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1991, p.134. Florovsky's book is available in an English translation but I only have it in French. This is my translation from the French.

(13)  N.O.Lossky: History of Russian Philosophy, New York, International Universities Press Inc, 1951, p.10.

But the Ruthenians in Galicia and the Ukrainians in 'Little Russia' had been under Polish domination for at least three hundred years. They already had their 'window into Europe.'

Florovsky admits, albeit regretting it, the domination of Ukrainian culture in the early eighteenth century:

'In the history of the Russian school, the Petrine reform literally amounted to a Ukrainisation. For its Great Russian pupils this school [the Academy of the Saviour, established in 1700/01 on the model of the Kiev Academy in the Monastery of the Icon of the Saviour in Moscow] seemed doubly foreign: Latin and Ukrainian. Znamensky in his remarkable work on religious schools in the eighteenth century says that "For the students, all these teachers were really foreigners, coming from a different  country with their own customs, their own way of thinking, their knowledge, their way of talking which was bizarre and barely comprehensible to the ear of a Great Russian. Not only did they not wish to secure the sympathy of the young people entrusted to them, but they despised the Russians, whom they considered to be savages, ridiculing everything which was different from Little Russian whose superiority they asserted constantly." We know that many of these immigrants never spoke Russian well and continued to use Ukrainian. It was only under Catherine that the situation changed ...' 

It isn't however clear what is meant by the 'Ukrainian' language. There were, it appears, three languages in question. One was the Ukrainian version of Church Slavonic which gave way to the Russian version of Church Slavonic. The second was the version of 'Ruthenian', apparently heavily inflected with Church Slavonic used by the Cossacks as an administrative language. We might guess that this bore some resemblance to yasychie - the language favoured by the Greek Catholic Church in Galicia. It seems fairly obvious that the very fact that the Little Russians were so instrumental in the administration both of church and state under Peter I would lead to the languages of both church and administration giving way to the languages used in the Russian state as a whole and this is what is said - I think almost reluctantly - by two writers who obviously regret it from  Ukrainian nationalist point of view:

'Having succeeded in the ‘Ruthenization’ of Muscovy by the late seventeenth century, the Ukrainians as a result of a subsequent russification of their Church and Cossack administration together with the educational system in the eighteenth century, lost impetus to break new ground in their own cultural tradition. Since they still felt themselves to be co-creators of the common Russian literary language which was, ultimately, imposed on them by decrees, bans, and career opportunities, they reluctantly accepted Great Russian as a kind of substitution for a missing member in the former bilingual opposition between Ukrainian Church Slavonic and Ruthenian (prostaja mova - 'plain language'). (14)

 (14) Andrii Danylenko (Pace University, New York, USA) and Halyna Naienko (Taras Ševčenko National University of Kyiv, Kyiv, Ukraine): Linguistic russification in Russian Ukraine: languages, imperial models, and policies, article published online at Not paginated

There is, however, little reason to believe that these civil and ecclesiastical administrators had any notion of breaking new ground in their own cultural tradition or that they were at all reluctant to accept the use of Great Russian to pursue what they would probably have thought of as a civilising mission. 'Church Slavonic' was the language, apparently closest to Bulgarian, used by SS Cyril and Methodius to translate the Greek liturgical texts for the use of the Slavs. It had no particular Ukrainian association. The Ruthenian language would probably have seemed to them little more than a means of communicating with their Cossack overlords, who were themselves becoming incorporated into the Russian system. The languages of culture would still be Polish and German. (15) Indeed, it seems that at the end of the eighteenth century, the Kiev Academy itself played a role in the formalisation of the Russian language as a language of culture. (16)

(15) Ryszard Łużny and Paulina Lewin: 'The Kiev Mohyla Academy in Relation to Polish Culture', Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol.8, No.1/2, The Kiev Mohyla Academy: Commemorating the 350th Anniversary of its Founding (1632) (June 1984), pp. 123-135: 'Stefan Iavors'kyi, the Ukrainian poet who became came "curator of the patriarch's seat" of the Russian Orthodox Church owned almost exclusively Latin and Polish books ... ' Iavors'ky, 'the only writer from the Kiev Academy to be called poeta laureates', wrote in Latin and Polish (pp.126 & 133)

(16) 'Even the famous Kiev Academy - which up to this time provided a general education for members of all social groups - was revamped into a standardized imperial seminary. Metropolitan Myslavs'kyi [Metropolitan of Kiev - PB] launched a campaign at the academy to maintain the purity of the Russian language. Despite these efforts, some of the academy staff confessed to the metropolitan that they were "unable to rid themselves of their Little Russian manner of speech.' - Zenon E. Kohut: 'The Problem of Ukrainian Orthodox Church Autonomy in the Hetmanate (1654-1780s)', Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol.14, No.3/4 (December 1990), p.375.