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I read here under the info on "Russia" tag:

The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, who emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite and their descendants, the medieval state of Rus arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states; most of the Rus' lands were overrun by the Mongol invasion and became tributaries of the nomadic Golden Horde. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire...

I have marked in italics the parts that seem biased to me.

Shouldn't "Russia" tag, just like tags for "Ukraine", "France", or "Italy", or "Romania", be defined based on a "beginning" in history that represents the specific difference that makes that defined name necessary? ("Russia" is not at all a word needed to name the specific difference made by the Scandinavian lords of Kiev and their Slavic people becoming Christians.)

That should be a matter-of-fact definition, and not an essentialist-ideological one, where the history of France starts with the Roman conquest of Gauls, or with Celts coming into that area (or history of Romania starting with the conquest of Dacia, or maybe with Burebista unifying Dacians in one kingdom...) etc.

That "info" rather clearly puts forward that Kievan Rus disintegrated and was conquered by the Mongols, while the Duchy of Muscovy restored it and beat the Mongols – and even that the following expansion came as a continuation of the same process - in a loosely connected action of "conquest, annexation, and exploration". (That's probably meant in the same sense in which West European powers "explored" parts of Africa and Asia, incidentally "annexing" them and - why not - conquering them. - The main difference being those empires are mostly not here anymore, and thus even suggesting that the French "explored" Africa seems a bit ridiculous now. That is how Russian nationalists describe their own country, but not how an empire should be described on stackexchange.)

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    For those who might not quite understand the issues here, there's a good article on on the history of the area and how it has been weaponized politically in the Kyiv Independent
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 12, 2023 at 14:24
  • From that article: According to historian Paul Magocsi, "For the longest time, English language writings did not distinguish the name Rus from Russia," resulting in the "conceptually distorted formulation Kyivan Russia.”
    – cipricus
    Sep 12, 2023 at 22:20
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    If users feel strongly a change isn't needed, it would probably be better to lay that out in an answer rather than hash it out in back-and-forth commenting. I can create a chat here if its felt to be needed for that purpose though.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 13, 2023 at 13:16

3 Answers 3

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I think that the problem actually goes one level up: the tag wiki shouldn't define what is Russia, or give facts about Russia as a country.

Many people on the network confuse tag wikis with "a place to define the word in the tag". This was never the purpose of tag wikis. Stackexchange Meta has guidance on how to write (and not write) tag wikis. Relevant parts:

Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized. The “email” tag, for example, does not need to explain what email is.

Concentrate on what a tag means to your community. For “email” on Server Fault, mention the server aspects of email including POP3, SMTP, IMAP, and server software. For “email” on Super User, mention desktop email clients and explicitly exclude webmail.

and

Tags only exist as ways of organizing questions [...] if the tag is common knowledge [...] don’t bother explaining the tag at all


Currently, the whole tag wiki consists of a litany of statements about Russia as a country. Based on my experience as a Stackexchange user, site moderator and sometime-taxonomist, all of the current text should be removed completely. Surely, people know that Russia is a country in Northern Eurasia, and if they want to look up how many federal districts it has or which government form it had in a given century, they would do so in an encyclopedia, not in the largely hidden taxonomist's help notes of a Q&A site.

This doesn't mean that the controversy can be avoided. There likely is a need to define when questions should get the tag and when . So there probably is a need to state something on the lines of "Any questions for events in the Dniepr basin up to 1240 should be tagged and not ". (This is an example; the frequent site users here should decide where to draw the line, and not I). But in a tag wiki, there should be only a few lines of tag distinctionAny longer information should be related to common misuses of the tag, and possibly details about the site's scope, if needed (e.g. "Please do not ask questions about Russian folk tales under this tag, since folk tales are off topic for our site"). What is counterproductive is a CIA book entry on Russia-as-a-country.

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Usage guidance changes to:

The principalities, states, or nation largely peopled by speakers of the Russian language, from the Mongol conquest in 1240 to the present day

The 2nd paragraph (currently covering Russian history up to the Russian Revolution) changes to:

Russian history began with the destruction of the East Slavic-speaking Kievan Rus' state by the Golden Horde in 1240. The eastern portions of the former Rus' state became client principalities of the Golden Horde, and developed their own language and culture which came to be called "Russian". The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually unified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate Russian culture. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire. This was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America.

(Italics indicates unmodified text)

4th Paragraph (covering alternate tagging advice) changes to:

Questions referring to the USSR should be tagged with . Questions referring to the Kievan Rus' should instead be tagged with Questions referring to Ukraine or Belarus should instead be tagged with or respectively.

Last paragraph contains various international rankings and organizations. It changes to:

The Russian economy is the world's eleventh largest by nominal GDP and sixth largest by purchasing power parity, with the 3rd largest nominal military budget. Russia is one of the world's fastest growing major economies. It is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a great power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8, G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and is the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

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I feel like this question needs a couple of background pieces of information clarified; the first being the history of the East Slavic Peoples, and the second being the Russian history of Cultural imperialism1 among those same peoples.

History of East Slavic

In about 880 the Varangians (eastern Norse equivalent of the Vikings) founded a state that we know today as the Kievan Rus'. At its largest extent it covered most of far eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea. This was largely the political expression of the Varagian trade network between themselves and Constantinople.

Kievan Rus' at 1054

While the rulers of this state were initially Norse Varangians, the basal population were proto-Slavic-speaking. After a couple of centuries, so were the rulers. This set these peoples off into their own cultural path, resulting in their language separating from the rest of Late proto-Slavic. We call the new language these (Rus') peoples spoke Old East Slavic.

In 1240 the Kievan Rus' state was destroyed by the Mongols. The eastern portions ended up subjects of the Golden Horde, while the western portions of it eventually ended up bundled up into the expanding joint kingdoms of Poland-Lithuania. This split the cultural areas up into two, where the languages evolved into Ruthenian and Russian2. Ruthenian in the mid-modern period split into Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Rusyn. East Slavic language tree Old East Slavic language tree.

History of Russian Cultural Imperialism

From nearly the moment the Russians threw off the tartar yoke, their leaders began styling themselves as the true natural successors of the medieval Rus' people, effectively erasing the separate existence and history of the Ruthenians and their descendants. Here's a bit of detail from a Ukrainian source:

In 1547, Ivan IV of Moscow, known later as Ivan the Terrible, was crowned Tsar of all Rus, despite having no control over most of the former Kyivan Rus principalities that became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The name Tsardom of Russia became interchangeable with that of the Tsardom of Muscovy.

On Oct. 22, 1721, Russian Tsar Peter officially changed the country's name from the Tsardom of Russia to the Russian Empire, thus fully appropriating the name of Kyivan Rus and shaping its imperial identity. He also proclaimed himself as the emperor of all of Russia.

A couple of decades later, Catherine the Great would see an urgent need to write a new version of Russian history, fueled by the rapid expansion of the Russian Empire during her reign.

On Dec. 4, 1783, Catherine issued an order to set up a "Commission for making notes about ancient history, mostly of Russia," which was tasked with fulfilling her vision of history. This version effectively proclaimed the Russian Empire as the successor to Kyivan Rus.

In Russian sources, when Ruthenian-speaking peoples were mentioned, they were instead just given adjective terms as other lesser kinds of Russians. "White" for Belarusians, and "Little" for Ukrainians. Russia itself of course in this context called itself "Great". Due perhaps to the close ties between Russian and English royal families, or perhaps to the Russians being the only ones of the 3 with their own state, English has had a tendency to accept this Russian framing.

This Russian tendency to see themselves as the only true heirs to the Rus' has taken on a decidedly sinister aspect in the last few years. The head of the Russian state had made statements denying the existence of any Ukrainian national identity, and has taken steps to destroy it both politically and ethnically. The latter currently has garnered him an international arrest warrant on war crimes charges.

History.SE stance

While there's arguably a difference of opinion here, and English has historically sided with the Russian position, I don't think that's a good argument for continuing to do so. There's no logical reason why the Russian language and culture should be considered privileged over that of Kiev itself (Ukrainian), or even over that of Belarus, as a successor culture to the Kievan Rus' and their Old East Slavic language. We don't consider Spanish to be the one true successor to Latin and the Roman Empire, over and above French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian, just because there are far more Spanish-speakers running around today than the rest combined.

I'd also argue that continuing to do so today would be immoral. No matter your feelings in the linguistic/propaganda dispute, we do not want to see this site take a stance that provides aid and comfort to the perpetrators of Genocide. Personally, I won't do it, and I'd like to think the vast majority of the users of this site (not to mention the StackExchange network itself) are with me on that.

So given the above, yes the current wording of the Russian tag needs to be fixed. I'll post a suggestion as a separate wiki answer, to encourage friendly edits.

In addition, I'm noticing that the tag usage guidance:

The largest country in the world, spanning territory from the eastern edge of Europe to Siberia in northern Asia.

... is completely devoid of any usage guidance. That needs to be fixed as well.

The last paragraph contains various international rankings and organizations, which is now 11 years later wildly out of date (largely due to the shrinking international standing of the Russian Federation). Also, the 4th paragraph containing one good piece of alternate tagging advice could use some expansion.


1 - In fact, the first known use of the term was a 1921 OED reference to "cultural imperialism of the Russians"

2 - I just say "Russian" because the periodization of the language across time is still under dispute, for reasons that may become clear later in this post.

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