Saturday 31 May 2014

A bad day in Ukraine 1223

Things are a bit dodgy in Ukraine at the moment with Russophone separatists holding key areas of the East and denying access to ballot boxes in the recent Presidential elections.  But Петро Олексійович Порошенко, who made his fortune cornering the market in chocolate, was decisively elected as the head of state of what's left of Ukraine. I've nothing to say about current Ukrainian politics, except to re-iterate that anyone from East of the Dnieper in the Oblast of Dnipropetrovsk is welcome to visit us in County Carlow. Those feckers from Western Dnipropetrovsk can shag off to Kilkenny and bad cess to them. Today is, however, the anniversary of the débâcle on the Kalka River in 1223.  At the time The Golden Horde of Temujin aka Genghis Khan was throwing shapes all over Asia and princes on the periphery of his zone of disturbance were doing their best to push back. It would be specious to call it an Empire at this stage because the Mongols never got off their horses long enough to set up any of the infra-structure of government.

ANNyway, in 1223 the princes of The Kievian Rus cobbled together a levy of soldiers to see off the invaders from the East.  The Rus are an interesting crew and their origins have exercised researchers from the Arts Block since ever there were European historians. Linguistic and archaeological evidence has to take the place of historical documents because the latter are very thin on the ground.  At issue is whether the Rus were roving vikings "Varangians" from Scandinavia or more truly native Slavs from the locality.  Their sense of cultural identity is so important to some people that they are prepared to fight other people about it. What can I say?  Nothing better than "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."-John F. Kennedy and "il n'est rien cru si fermement que ce qu'on sait le moins: Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known." - Michel de Montaigne.  It's clearly time to shed a little blood on the matter (10cc each from 500 willing Ukrainians, please) and do some genetics.  It may well turn out that the Y chromosome data is discordant from the autosomal or mitochondrial information.  Genetics suggests that Iceland was founded by a bunch of Norwegian chaps and some Irish colleens, for example.

Mais revenons nous a nos Ukrainiens!!  The battle of the Kalka River in Southern Ukraine resulted in the defeat of a handful of Rus magnates and their allies and (as ever!) the death of thousands of foot-soldiers. They seem to have been challenged by the limited availability of names back there, then. One could put a case that this was the War of the Three Mstislavs which highlights the limited availability of vowels as well back there, then.

  • Мстисла́в II Мстисла́вич, Mstislav the Bold escaped with his life across the Dnieper.  He was the son of Mstislav the Brave.
  • Мстислав III Романович Старий, Mstislav Romanovich the Old, Prince of Pskov, was captured in the battle and put under a large wooden plate upon which the Mongols danced until he expired.
  • Мстисла́в II Святославич, prince of Kozelsk, died on the field.
These war-lords are not to be confused with Мстислав Ростиславич Безокій, Mstislav the Eyeless, prince of Rostov, who was blinded after his defeat in another battle. or Мстислав Ростиславич Хоробрий another Mstislav the Brave, Prince of Smolensk and Novgorod; or Мстислав Ізяславич . . . enough already! It must be as relief for Ukrainian schoolchildren when, for example, Юрій Долгорукий, Yuri the Long-armed, appears in their history books to ring some changes in the relentless tide of Mstislavs.

No comments:

Post a Comment