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The Ruthenians were a group of East Slavic people in Kievan Rus that are not what we would call "Russians" today. The term refers mainly to Belarussians and Ukrainians, the two largest groups who had a common "Ruthenian" language.

The two peoples were together as part of the same country under Kievan Rus, the Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuaninan Commonwealth, Tsarist Russia, and the Soviet Union. But when the latter broke up in 1991, they went their separate ways.

Why was that? At what point did their language, culture, or ethnicity diverge to cause their eventual separation?

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Sorry, dowbvote. The question is a hopeless oversimplification and is not really answerable. –  Felix Goldberg Sep 19 '13 at 23:13
    
@FelixGoldberg: Do you mean, unlike "Why did the South try to leave the Union?" there is no clear reason that the historians can put their finger on? –  Tom Au Sep 20 '13 at 13:06
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I mean more like, it's not clear why you select these two people's out of all Ruthenians, it's not clear that Ruthenians is a meaningful category for, say, the 18th century onwards, it's not clear what the "traveling together" entail. –  Felix Goldberg Sep 20 '13 at 17:05
    
@FelixGoldberg: I fixed at least some of these issues by defining them better. Belarussian and Ukrainian were the two largest "Ruthenian"-speaking groups. They shared common governments for most of the past millenium. If they weren't "a meaningful category for, say, the 18th century onwards," when and why did they stop being meaningful earlier? –  Tom Au Sep 20 '13 at 18:20
    
Okay, I'm reverting my downvote. I still think the question is a bit vague but that might be just me. –  Felix Goldberg Sep 20 '13 at 20:07

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Ruthenians were a group of East Slavic people in Kievan Rus that are not what we would call "Russians" today.

Generally the Ruthenians is seen as the people of all the Kievan Rus, and indeed the original source of Russian, Russians and Russia.

The term refers mainly to Belarussians and Ukrainians

And Russians.

the two largest groups who had a common "Ruthenian" language.

And the Russians. The Old East Slavic language spoken in Kievan Rus is seen as the source of Belorussian, Ukrainian and Russian.

The two peoples were together as part of the same country under Kievan Rus, the Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuaninan Commonwealth, Tsarist Russia, and the Soviet Union.

Well, no. There was one people: The Ruthenians, living roughly in the areas and state we now call Kievan Rus. But that state collapse in around the 12th century, and there was much fighting, and Mongols and stuff going on. It ended up split between Russia, Lithuania and Poland.

1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was established to join two separate countries in a Union. But they were still at the least two separate administrative areas, the border going not entirely unlike the modern Ukraine/Belarus border.

When the areas fell under Tsarist Russian rule, this separation continued, but the areas were now called "White Russia" (Belarus) and "Little Russia" (which in the 19th century came to instead be called Ukraine).

After the Russian revolution, both these areas wanted independence from Russia. Exactly why, and why they didn't join together against Russia, can be debated. But it can't be expected that they would join because of some shared heritage from the Ruthenians, because they share that heritage with the Russians that they wanted independence from.

In any case these people did not suddenly popped up into existence in 1917. The split of the Kievan Rus into three (Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) goes back to at least the early 16th century, albeit with differing names and constantly shifting borders.

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OK, so the Belarussians and Ukrainians were not necessarily natural allies against the Russians. And while they may have had a few things in common, it seems like the attractive forces were no stronger, and possibly weaker, than the repulsive forces. –  Tom Au Sep 20 '13 at 23:05
    
"so the Belarussians and Ukrainians were not necessarily natural allies against the Russians" considering history of Belarus the most cruel invaders where russians. If we would arrange all wars that were on the territory of Belarus than the russians will emerge as the most deadly threat to belarusians. There are a lot of people in Belarus who hates Russia from this historic perspective. –  Andrei K. Dec 23 '13 at 6:55
    
@AndreiK. That's quote possible, but note that this by necessity is after Kievan Rus has separated into Russia, Luthuania and Belarus. Otherwise there would be no Belarus to invade. :-) So it's not really relevant for the question. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 23 '13 at 8:49

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