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This question (When did Kievan Rus' rulers become culturally Slavic?) has become subject to a comments war because of a Russia tag added and/or removed. I have created a tag kievan-rus in order to avoid this. (By the way, there is a medieval-russia tag that was added but there isn't yet a medieval-ukraine tag.)

In my opinion neither Russia, nor medieval-Russia are fit there. I don't think that a kievan-rus tag is useless, it even can contribute to avoid such dilemmas.

— Just as medieval-russia tag relates to a sub-category of the larger category tagged russia, and can only be used about Russia if a question is about its medieval period, because a specific tag cannot be applied to a question too general for it, a tag referring to "Russia" (medieval or not) should be seen as too specific when the question is very generally about Kievan Rus (like the above is).

That should depend on the question, of course, and for that very reason, considering the specific question linked above, I argue that it is too general for tags like "Russia" or "Ukraine", be they medieval or not.

I maybe should have asked here before creating that tag, but better late than never.

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    It would be nice if the edit war hadn't happened. However, a lot of stuff gets done around here by people taking the initiative and fixing things that look wrong to them. So personally I don't fault the "fix it yourself, and if someone complains then go to meta" workflow (as long as you had a reasonable supposition that the "fix" might be generally considered acceptable).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:14
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    Can we get a rundown on how many existing questions theoretically ought to have the proposed tag? Often the number surprises people (and changes opinions).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:15
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    @T.E.D. - We can expect such problems on many questions present or in the future touching the more or less common history of Russia and Ukraine and Kievan Rus more specifically. I am trying to articulate a sort of rule on how a tag could be preferred to others. What do you think about my argument?
    – cipricus
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:18
  • @T.E.D. - Or as I replied in the chat room: "France" tag cannot be used for Roman conquest of Gauls, unless we give to the "France" tag a very generic meaning, which I don't think it has. Or, about "Britain": you can use a such tag to a question referring to a period when Ireland was British, but not to one referring to - let's say - christianization of the Irish.
    – cipricus
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:19
  • @T.E.D. - Of course, tags can be defined or re-defined as to become very generic. But that generality can become polemic, like I find on Russia tag: Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite... the medieval state of Rus ...the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. The Grand Duchy of Moscow...came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. That is a rather "Russian" info there!
    – cipricus
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:29

2 Answers 2

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I do think it's a bad idea to blindly equate with the "Kievan Rus". There are some situations where the former might apply on a question about the latter, but in the general case it would be anachronistic (which is technically bad), as well as playing into a certain country's nationalist propaganda (which is morally very bad).

So the issue here is really that we are getting questions about the area (which is now of great international interest due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war) and our available tag selection is a bit weak.

I'm not sure what the right answer is, but I can run down some options I see.

  • : A term that can be used geographically or to identify a state.

This tag already exists (so this is a status-quo/retagging option), and has 46 questions on it. However, its just as anachronistic in the general case as .

  • : A peoples/culture based term, usually equated with Vikings/Norse who went East rather than West.

The plusses are that it would pair well with the existing .

The drawback is that there is a 200+ year temporal hole between where the Kievan Rus state wasn't really Norse at all anymore, and its destruction at the hands of the Mongols. So while it theoretically could be useful in the example, it won't be useful in the general case of questions about the Kievan Rus.

I found 5 existing questions that used the word and 19 answers, which doesn't quite scream "this needs a tag", but it wouldn't be ridiculously niche either.

This would nicely give us temporal coverage for about 400 years over the areas and peoples that immediately afterwards could sport and .

The drawback here is it leaves a lot of those Varangian questions uncovered. In particular, I'd say 2 of the 5, with 2 more being debatable.

I found 7 questions containing this phrase, and 30 answers.

  • : A people/cultrual based term.

This is more talking about the people, but that means its temporal coverage is much greater than if we were merely tagging the Kievan Rus' state. It could arguably be applied to almost all Varangian questions as well. With a bit of stretching, it could probably be pressed into service for linguistic questions about the Old East Slavic language.

The big drawback I see here is that this tag is likely to confuse both users and our tag completion software, since we already have a . "rus" already has 13 possible suggested completions (7 of which are Russia-adjacent).

I found 23 existing questions that used the term (17 open), and 22 answers. Rather a lot of these at first glance look like they would be considered mis-tagged (anachronistic uses of or , using nation-based tags for peoples, etc.) I'm not sure if that's an argument for or against this as a tag.

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    I'd like to think more about this, but currently I kind of like the option of having both rus and perhaps also varangian. I could see the confusion factor with rus being a problem though. However, don't really see anything wrong with having a kievan-rus. State tags are A Thing, and tts sort of got enough exemplars to justify it.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 14, 2023 at 20:22
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    @RodrigodeAzevedo - Honestly, that one (tag: medieval-russia) I find particularly problematic. It should rightly only be used on questions that cover the time period after kievan-rus state was destroyed by the mongols, and is if anything a subset of russia. There are probably (I haven't checked) enough such questions to justify its existence, but it would be wrong to apply that term to the Kievan Rus in general.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 14, 2023 at 21:15
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    Even worse, its wrong in a way that comports with the goals of modern Russian propaganda denying the existence of a "Ukranian" identity, culture, or language, which is being used to justify war crimes.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 14, 2023 at 21:25
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    @RodrigodeAzevedo - The word "Russia" did not exist in the name of any state before 1547. The Russian language split from Old East Slavic considerably earlier (after roughly a century of drift following the Mongol invasions), but the tag we have isn't posed in a linguistic way, and even if it were that would be anachronistic to apply to the pre-Mongol invasion Kievan Rus. Even if we had a medieval-Russian tag (which we don't) there's a very little period to which it would validly apply (Our current Middle-Ages tag wiki would give it about 100 years).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 14, 2023 at 21:44
  • I'm thinking a lot of this discussion about the proper definition of the existing russia tag (and by implication its subset tags) ought to move to the meta Q about it....
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 14, 2023 at 21:54
  • The effort you have put into this answer is commendable. Long may you continue to find the time and dedication to be a model moderator! Sep 19, 2023 at 15:21
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There are two problems here that make this issue tricky to solve.

  1. The origins of Ukrainian national identity do not correspond with the creation of a country called "Ukraine" yet must be acknowledged (if only to push back against the modern Russian political project to deny it)

  2. Our tags for Russia right now are a mess.

The missing Tsardom

Starting with the second issue first: the solution of is not bad because it covers the period between the end of the principalities and the rise of Muscovy after the Mongol Yoke without needing , , , etc. It will pop up when people search for "Russia" as a tag. However it misses the distinction between "Russia" and "Ruthenia" - Halych and Volhynia belonged to Kiyvan Rus, but never to any country that called itself Russia.

The tag chronology continues with - which means that we have a gap between 1547 when the Tsardom of Russia is proclaimed, and 1721 when Russia is upgraded to an empire (as an aside, is completely unnecessary). As the 1547-1721 period is well within the Early Modern Era, "medieval Russia" doesn't really fit it, and thematically the Tsardom and the Empire fit under one "Russia" umbrella anyway. Afterwards of course we have (while technically not Russia, I don't think we should encourage an RSFSR tag).

The trouble is that is used by question-askers to refer not only to the Russian Federation, but all of these as well. And while there is something to be said for accuracy, the tags need to fit the average asker's mental model to some extent or they simply won't get used.

What the heck is a Ruthenia?

While Ukrainian national identity dates back to the Zaporizhian Sich, there was no such thing as "nationalism" until the 17th century; compared to for example Belarus (for which a national movement does not appear until the 19th century) this is getting in on the ground floor.

But the conditions for this identity emerged much earlier: the kingdom of Ruthenia rose out of the Galicia and Volhynia principalities of the former Kyivan Rus. After being levelled by Mongols, runaway Lithuanian serfs and Tatar slaves would seek freedom in these "wild fields" and eventually become the Cossacks.

The area may have been painted in the color of one empire or another, but before the 18th century crackdown by the Russians, it was essentially autonomous due to its sparseness and remoteness.

What does this mean for the tags?

We want the tags to be both accurate and usable (discoverable, understandable, and few). Tag synonyms are a great tool for this. So here is what I propose:

  • Russian chronology: for the pre-Mongol era, for the Mongol Yoke and the period of Muscovy's consolidation of the independent principalities. Use for the Tsardom and Empire eras, and make a synonym (yes we have tags for the British and French Empires but it's used to talk about colonies and most of Russia's colonization of Siberia happened during the tsardom period). Delete .

  • Ukrainian chronology: for the pre-Mongol era, add for the Mongol and Lithuanian periods (with as a synonym for discoverability), and to refer to the period from the formation of the Sich to the modern state. Using also solves our "medieval Belarus" problem.

I'll leave this up for a while before implementing to see if there are any objections, but it seems like this solves our problem handily.

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  • Don't disagree with anything in here, but probably should also cover the pre-kiev era There currently isn't any tag along the lines of "varagians", and even if there were, logically there's about a 200 year hole between the two.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    May 3 at 18:29
  • I don't think we need a Varangian tag - Rurik's heir Oleg immediately sets up shop in Kyiv and kicks off Kyivan Rus. Within 80 years the Varangians are assimilated. Recorded history before Rurik is so unreliable that it's more of an archaeological topic; I don't think we actually have any questions about the pre-Rus' East Slavs.
    – SPavel Mod
    May 3 at 19:41

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