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Correcting Putin's Version of Russian History Because Tucker Carlson Couldn't

A confused history major getting a lesson from Vlad Putin, in the Kremlin

To quote The New Republic, "Even Russian President Vladimir Putin wasn’t impressed by Tucker Carlson’s pathetic attempts to interview him...Indeed, as Putin claimed, the interview seemed more like a propagandistic history lesson than anything else."

And I can't omit quoting the February 11 New York Times: "Soon after former President Donald J. Trump took office, his staff explained how NATO’s mutual defense obligations worked. 'You mean, if Russia attacked Lithuania, we would go to war with Russia?' he responded. 'That’s crazy.'” I hope my Lithuanian relatives and their friends who still say "I hate his personality but I like his policies" never forget that quote.

As P.T. Barnum said: "You can fool some of the people all the time," like Tucker Carlson, whom you might assume is proud graduate of Trump University -- but no, he has a BA -- in History! -- from Trinity College. Trinity's yearbook describes Carlson as a member of the "Dan White Society," a reference to the American assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. I mention Trinity because its website landing page says "A highly selective liberal arts college in the heart of Hartford, Connecticut, Trinity prepares students to be leaders unafraid of forging new paths." Tucker's chosen path would benefit from artificial intelligence, given that he lacks any natural one.

The Carlson-Putin interview transcript is available online: and I've used the transcript to respond to Putin's view of Russian history, as explained to Carlson in the Kremlin on February 6, 2024 (the translation is sloppy):

Carlson: Let's look where our relationship with Ukraine started from. Where did Ukraine come from?

Putin: The Russian state started gathering itself as a centralized statehood, and it is considered to the year of the establishment of the Russian state in 862, when the townspeople of Novgorod invited a Varungian Prince, Rurik, from Scandinavia to reign.

  • Rather than answer Carlson's (childish) question, Putin launched into an exhaustive history of Russia as interpreted by Vladislav Surkov, known as the Kremlin's Grey Cardinal. According to him, "There is no Ukraine. There is Ukrainian-ness. That is, a specific disorder of the mind. An astonishing enthusiasm for ethnography, driven to the extreme...Ukraine is a muddle instead of a state...But there is no nation.” Putin prefers "Varangian" (the correct spelling of the name used by Eastern Europeans for Swedish Vikings) to "Rus," perhaps because he is uncomfortable admitting that both "Russia" and "Belarus" (White Russia) are named after Germanic pagans who ruled Kievan-Rus beginning in 862. The Rus, Putin claims, were "invited" by the people of Novgorod to reign over them? Much more likely, say historians, is that Viking raiders typically extracted tithes from towns they raided -- protection money -- in Slavic areas, just as they did in England. Can you imagine English or Slavic townspeople "inviting" Vikings to rule over them?

Putin: The next very significant date in the history of Russia was 988. This was the baptism of Russia, when Prince Vladimir, the great-grandson of Rurik, baptized Russia and adopted orthodoxy or Eastern Christianity.

  • A savvy strategic move by the pagan Viking prince, or by the Slavic locals? No -- Rurik accepted baptism, and forced his nobles and Slav locals to get baptized, so he could marry the sister of the Byzantine emperors Basil II and Constantine: Anna. She had offered herself as a bride to Vladimir on the condition that he be baptized. (Sound familiar? A marriage proposal is why the Lithuanian Jogaila agreed to be baptized in 1387, with Polish Queen Jadwiga the prize.)

Putin: Then a unified Russian state began to take shape with its center in Moscow. The Southern part of Russian lands, including Kyiv, began to gradually gravitate towards another magnet, the center that was emerging in Europe. This was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was even called the Lithuanian Russian Duchy because Russians were a significant part of this population. They spoke the old Russian language and were Orthodox. But then there was a unification, the Union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.

  • Kyiv/Kiev "began to gradually gravitate towards...the Grand Duchy of Lithuania"? Vlad: Lithuanian and Polish forces not only captured Moscow from 1610 to 1612, the Grand Duchy conquered Kiev in 1362 and soon conquered additional Ukrainian lands up to the Black Sea:

By "MK" on wikipedia

  • Vlad: "The Lithuanian Russian Grand Duchy" was called that by no one except perhaps your "Grey Cardinal." Unlike the Kingdom of Poland or the Empire of Russia, the Grand Duchy never attempted to force its language or culture on conquered peoples. At the Grand Duchy's greatest extent, current estimates are that ethnic Lithuanians made up only 10-15% of its population, so of course other languages were used by conquered peoples. After the 1569 Union of Lublin created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Kingdom of Poland occupied Ukrainian lands that had been "Lithuanian" for hundreds of years, and held on to them until the Partitions of the Commonwealth, the last of which was in 1795.

Putin: Under the rule of Catherine the Great, Russia reclaimed all of its historical lands, including in the south and west. This all lasted until the revolution.

  • Vlad: whose "historical lands" did Catherine reclaim? Lands controlled by your Swedish Viking overlords? Lithuanian-controlled lands? Polish-controlled lands? History major Tucker Carlson's knowledge of East European and Russian history apparently was zero going into this "interview," so Putin's version of history was never disputed. Carlson could have asked, for instance, after Putin conveniently skipped over the 19th century, why he failed to mention the revolts in Russian-controlled lands:

    • 1831: the November Uprising was an armed rebellion against the Russian Empire. It began in Warsaw when young officers from the Polish military academy revolted. Large segments of Lithuanians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians soon joined the Poles. The Russian patriotic press used the uprising to unify the Russian nation, claiming it was Russia's God-given mission to save Poland and the world.

    • In 1859, 34% of all people in Russian-controlled lands were serfs. Anticipating civil unrest that could lead a revolution, czar Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia with the reform of 1861. It wasn't enough to pacify Russian-controlled populations.

    • 1863: The January Uprising (in Lithuanian: 1863 metų sukilimas) was triggered by Russia's attempt to end the Polish national movement by the conscription of activists into the Russian Army for 20 years. On February 1, 1863, the uprising spread to the pre-1569 area of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Volunteers, weapons and supplies flowed in over the borders of the Empire of Austria and from Prussia. Volunteers also came from Italy, Hungary, France and Russia itself. The Russian army eventually crushed the uprising via public executions and deportations to Siberia. See the map below depicting the locations of battles with the Russian Army in historic Lithuanian-controlled areas, not Putin's so-called historic Russian areas.

January uprising battles in historic Lithuanian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian lands. From 

  • Russification of those supposedly historic Russian lands lasted until World War I (and resumed after World War II) -- with the exception of Ukraine, where Russification resumed soon after World War I, resulting in the Holodomor. Almost 4 million Ukrainians died in 1932-33 (as established in a 2015 study by a team of demographers from the Ukrainian Institute of Demographic and Social Studies, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). Why? Feeling threatened by Ukraine's strengthening cultural autonomy, Stalin took measures to destroy both the Ukrainian peasantry, and the Ukrainian intellectual and cultural elites to prevent them from seeking independence. While the Soviet Great Famine of 1932–33 (caused by collectivization of farms) caused the death of up to 10 million people, mortality rates for Ukrainians were six times higher than for Russians.

Tucker Carlson, why didn't you bring this up with Putin in your "discussion" of Ukraine? You did no preparation whatsoever, probably because the last thing you wanted was to dispute anything Putin would say, following the lead of Cadet Bonespurs, whose new $399 golden sneakers were no doubt designed to take care of the delicate tiny feet which enabled him to avoid the draft.


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