Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has instructed his government to consider renaming Russia as ‘Moscovia’, an unofficial designation used centuries ago. The move comes after a petition insisted that by using the word ‘Russia’, Ukraine is endorsing a “dangerous claim” that its neighbor is a direct descendant of Kievan Rus.
In a statement on Friday, Zelensky said he had turned to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal with a request that the petition, which had gathered the necessary 25,000 votes to be considered, be “comprehensively processed.”
The issue “needs to be carefully worked out both in terms of the historical and cultural context, and from the perspective of possible international legal consequences,” with scientific institutions taking part in the process, the Ukrainian president added.
Commenting on the move, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that it was “further evidence of an attempt to create an ‘anti-Russia’ out of Ukraine.”
The name ‘Moscovia’ dates back to the Grand Duchy of Moscow, one of principalities of Kievan Rus in the late Middle Ages. The modern Russian state formed around this center of power while retaining historic and cultural roots stemming from Rus.
The author of the petition, which was submitted in late November 2022, claimed that the name ‘Russia’ “gave grounds for further encroachment” on the history of Kievan Rus as foreigners often confuse the words ‘Russia’ and ‘Rus’. Many Ukrainian nationalists reject the notion that the two have some kind of historical link, arguing that only Ukraine can be viewed as the true heir of Kievan Rus.
The petition also demands that the word ‘Russian’ be replaced with ‘Moscovian’ and that the Russian Federation be renamed as ‘the Moscovian Federation’.
In recent years, Ukrainian authorities have embarked on a renaming spree, targeting thousands of place names they deemed to be linked to Russia or the Soviet Union. The campaign intensified after Moscow launched its military operation against the neighboring country in February 2022.
In October last year, Kiev officials renamed a street which had honored Soviet Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, who played a prominent role in liberating Ukraine from Nazi occupation. The name of the street now celebrates the “heroes” of the Azov Battalion, which is notorious for its support of neo-Nazi ideology.