The Cable

And Now, a Brief Explanation as to Why Russia and Ukraine Are Fighting on Twitter:

It all started in 1051...

rus

Russia and Ukraine are engaged in a heated Twitter back-and-forth featuring some facts, several emoji, and a Simpsons gif.

What happened is this: On Monday, in his meeting at Versailles with French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned a royal Anna of Russia. He was referring, of course, to Anna, daughter of Kievan Rus Prince Yaroslav the Wise. She became French royalty when she married King Henry I Capet in 1051.

The short version of why this is a problem: Russia traces its Orthodox, tsarist roots back to Kievan Rus — which is located in what is today Ukraine. That’s a problem for Ukraine when it means that the Kremlin downplays or doesn’t acknowledge its historical origins are in Ukraine, or insists Ukrainian history is actually Russian imperial history — by, for example, saying that the woman they whom remember as Anna of Kiev, is actually Anna of Russia.

And how else would a diplomatic dustup like that play out? On Twitter, of course.

This isn’t the first time a symbol of the past has become a point of present contention for Russia and Ukraine. In 2011, Russia published a map charting the places of origin of beloved fairy tale characters — including Kolobok, a pastry who rolls through the forests and tries to avoid befalling the fate that one would imagine most buns in the wild meet. The map also laid Russian claim to Ilya Muromets, a folk hero, and Kurochka Ryaba, a hen who lays golden eggs.

All of which would have been magically delightful, except that Ukraine claims Kolobok, Ilya Muromets, and Kurochka Ryaba as its own.

That Russia and Ukraine fought over who created the Slavic gingerbread man and are now exchanging tweets over a princess from a thousand years ago sounds silly — until one remembers that they’re involved in a very real war involving national sovereignty and Russia’s ultimate relationship to Ukraine, a war that has killed over 10,000 people so far.

Photo credit: Mark Schiefelbein-Pool/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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