Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Putin Attempts To Rewrite History: Anne de Kiev, Reine de France

Putin seemingly has no shame.  Putin attempted to make something Russian which is French and originally from Ukraine.  A few hours earlier and Macron would have chewed him a new one, he doesn’t tolerate juvenile delinquents.

It seems like “little boy” Vladimir was caught and is now getting his bottom tanned with a cane. It wasn’t an innocent crime, either. It is part of an ongoing attempt by Russia to consume the territory, the riches, and now the history of all its neighbors.


Paul Goble explains it best:

May 30 – In Paris, Vladimir Putin said that “the enlightened French public knows about the Russian Anna, queen of France, the younger daughter of our Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise who was the wife of Henry I and who made a significant contribution to the development of France being one of the founders of a minimum of two European dynasties.” Dmitry Shimkiv, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, responded on Facebook by pointing out the “my dear French friends, the Russian president has tried to confuse you: Anna of Kyiv, the queen of France, was from Kyiv and not from Moscow.” Indeed, “at that time, Moscow didn’t even exist” ( A Ukrainian writer, Oksana Zabuzhko, went further and explained what Putin was about. He “knows his intended audience perfectly well,” she wrote. The French don’t connect Anna with ancient Kyiv or Rus: they connect her with Russia, the result of long efforts by Moscow to “appropriate” someone who doesn’t belong to it ( Now is the time, she continued, for the Ukrainian government and its foreign ministry to call Putin on this, to point out to the French and everyone else that Putin is prepared to lie and to “cynically” seize a historical personage just as he seized Crimea. “I hope that our diplomats will find an elegant way to do this, she concluded. But a Russian commentator, Dmitry Shagiakhmetov, may have come closest to explaining why Putin said what he did. Putin, the Moscow writer said, “feels himself up to now to be the Communist Party general secretary and the leader of the USSR.” For him, everything that was part of that empire is part of his (


It’s interesting.  When Putin is claiming Russian lineage, Moscow was barely a village.

When Russia tried to consume Ukrainian history, Ukraine responded.

To add to and end this discussion:

Symbolic expansion: how Putin annexes history, not only territories

An engraved portrait of Anna of Kyiv, copied from the collection of the academician Bassen. Created during the late XVIII-early XIX century. Photo: Wikipedia
Article by: Volodymyr Yermolenko

On May 29th, in Versailles, during a joint press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that relations between France and Russia have deep historical roots, referring to Anna of Kyiv, a French queen, and calling her “Russian Anna.” He also said that she was a “daughter of our grand prince Yaroslav the Wise.”

Yet, neither Anna nor Yaroslav have any direct links to today’s Russia. Both of them have relation to Kyiv, the capital of today’s Ukraine. In the 11th century Kyiv was a capital of a medieval state that gave birth to at least three contemporary Eastern European countries, and on which Russia now tries to impose its historical “ownership.”

"Slovian Anne, the second wife of King Henry I." A portrait of Anne of Kyiv based on the murals of the monastery of St. Invent in Sanlis

“Anne of the Slovians, the second wife of King Henry I.” A portrait of Anne of Kyiv based on the murals of the monastery of St. Vincent in Senlis. Photo: Wikipedia

Annа of Kyiv, a French queen who married King Henri I of France, mother of Philippe I of France, was born and raised in Kyiv in the early 11th century. She, indeed, was the daughter of grand prince Yaroslav the Wise, one of the key leaders of medieval Kyivan Rus, a state comprising parts of today’s Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Kyivan Rus was at its most glorious times during the rule of Yaroslav, son of grand prince Volodymyr who brought Christianity to this part of Eastern Europe.

Read more: Anna of Kyiv, the French Queen from Kyivan Rus

Putin’s reference to Anne and Yaroslav as “Russian” matches his earlier attempts to interpret Eastern European medieval history in exclusively Russian terms. This has clear geopolitical implications, as earlier Putin “justified” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 with Prince Volodymyr’s “baptism” in Chersoneses, the ancient Greek city whose ruins you can still find in Crimea, in Sevastopol. (Volodymyr too, was a grand prince of Kyiv, and his actual name, Volodymer, is closer to today’s Ukrainian (Volodymyr) than Russian (Vladimir) pronunciation).

This reference to grand prince’s baptism as a “reason” for the military and political act of Russia’s annexing Crimea in 2014, brought archaic and “sacral” metaphors to politics, later used extensively by Russian and pro-Russian separatists to justify the Russian-provoked war in eastern Ukraine.

Of course, the re-writing of history was used as a political tool during Soviet times, and Putin’s statements seem to reuse old practices. But in fact, they do more than that. Soviet historiography was interpreting Kyivan Rus as a “cradle” of three nations, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the Belarussians (always in this order). This “multicultural” approach was used to mask the predominance given to Russian culture and Russian language in the USSR. But at least it tried to use this mask and to pretend that all three nations have their part in the Eastern European medieval history.

The Kyivan Rus' during 980-1054

The Kyivan Rus’ during 980-1054 covered the territories of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia

Today Putin’s political historiography goes far beyond that. The “cradle” legend is broken, and all seems to fall under a grand Russian narrative. If Anne of Kyiv and Yaroslav the Wise are called “Russians,” this implicitly means that Ukrainians or Belarusians have no political history, no statehood heritage, and therefore are not even nations. A good basis for any future political “annexation.”

Read also: How Moscow hijacked the history of Kyivan Rus’

Indeed, annexing history and the symbolic “expropriation” of the past goes hand in hand with Russia’s notorious annexation of Crimea in 2014 and continuous annexation of Donbas ever since. Pretended “ownership” over the past always leads to aspired “ownership” over territories.

Turning history into a political tool never worked for good.

Nazis under Hitler claimed that the lands of Eastern Europe were “always theirs” as occupied since long ago by “Aryan” tribes and German colonizers – and therefore should be “liberated” from Jews and Slavs. Fascists under Mussolini believed that the Balkans, Greece, and the Adriatic were “historically” Italian, and therefore old Roman imperial territories should be brought back to a new fascist state. All these “historical references” were used to justify wars that took dozens of millions of human lives in the 20th century.

These traps and tragedies should not be repeated. Holocaust is still a warning, reminds Timothy Snyder; and old clichés from World War II that used archaic history as a political tool and justification for military expansion should remain a warning too. History is not an ideological manual; it leaves us with multiple narratives and memories, which we have to study and learn, without manipulation.

Indeed, history is bigger than our interpretations, it is certainly bigger than rulers obsessed with expansion.

When history is annexed and used as a weapon, this cannot be tolerated.



One thought on “Putin Attempts To Rewrite History: Anne de Kiev, Reine de France

Comments are closed.