Of all Rus'

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Of all Rus' is the English translation of a term which was used to refer to the Ruthenian and Russian-inhabited lands of the Russian Empire. Tsars used the title "The Sovereign of all Rus': the Great, the Minor, and the White" (roughly corresponding to modern-day Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, respectively). An alternative translation is "of all the Russias", although this version is somewhat inaccurate and has fallen into disuse.


Early in Ruthenian history, Byzantine hierarchs established their own names (in Greek) for the northern and southern parts of Rus': Μεγάλη Ῥωσσία (Megálē Rhōssía, Great Russia for the Muscovite Kingdom) and Μικρὰ Ῥωσσία (Mikrà Rhōssía, Russia Minor or Little Russia i.e. Ukraine). Ivan III adopted the title "Tsar of All Rus'" in 1480, reflecting and legitimising his various campaigns of conquest which greatly expanded his lands, and more specifically the Muscovite takeover of the former lands of Kievan Rus'. The term White Rus' came into usage for the area now known in English as Belarus and formerly known as Byelorussia, bela or byelo meaning "white". The title was re-used by Peter the Great and became standard for Russian rulers.

The great Ukrainian leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky also declared himself the "ruler of all Rus'" after driving the Polish Empire out of Ukraine in the Khmelnytsky Uprising.

Current use[edit]

The term is still in use by the Orthodox patriarchs in both Russia and Ukraine. In this case the Russian patriarch uses the title "Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'", while the Ukrainian patriarch uses the title "Patriarch of Kiev and all Rus'", implying competing claims on spiritual leadership of the Orthodox people on all the territory of former Kievan Rus'.