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Zelensky signs decree recognizing some Russian territories as historically inhabited by Ukrainians

by Elsa Court January 22, 2024 2:41 PM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky gives his Unity Day address on Jan. 22, 2024. (President of Ukraine)
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Ukraine will take steps to research, publicize, and protect the histories of Ukrainians living in parts of modern-day Russia that have been historically inhabited by Ukrainians, according to a decree signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Jan. 22.

Zelensky announced he had signed the decree during his address on Unity Day, a national holiday celebrated on Jan. 22 that marks the unification of the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Western Ukrainian People's Republic in 1919 into one independent country.

The decree "On the Territories of the Russian Federation Historically Inhabited by Ukrainians" stipulates that the government should cooperate with international experts to create a plan "to preserve the national identity of Ukrainians" in specific territories of what is now Russia.

The decree listed the regions of Kuban, a historical region to the east of the Crimean Peninsula, Starodubshchyna, to the north of Chernihiv, and northern and eastern Slobozhanshchyna.

Also known as Sloboda Ukraine, Slobozhanshchyna was a significant and semi-autonomous region under Tsarist rule that extended across what is now northeastern Ukraine, predominantly Sumy, Kharkiv, and Luhansk oblasts, and southwestern Russia.  

Krasnodar Krai covers most of what was once Kuban, while Starodubshchyna now lies predominantly in Bryansk Oblast.

The decree also declares that the government should preserve the history of Ukrainians in these regions. Their testimonies on the forced Russification, political repression, and deportations they suffered should be recorded, according to the decree.

More work should also be done to counter "disinformation and propaganda of the Russian Federation regarding the history and present of Ukrainians in Russia" and to develop relations between Ukrainians and other "peoples enslaved by Russia," the decree says.

The government should work with the National Academy of Sciences to develop materials about the "more than a thousand-year history of Ukrainian state formation, the historical connections of lands inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians, and Ukrainian national state formations in various historical periods."

The "true history of ethnic Ukrainians in the lands historically inhabited by them within the borders of the Russian Federation" should also be included in educational textbooks, according to the decree.

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