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It’s time to resurrect Anna of Kyiv, the highly accomplished and undeservedly forgotten 11th-century queen of the Franks. She would have stern words for her successor running France, President Emmanuel Macron.
Anna would surely be mortified that some stinky, turnip-munching Frank now has the temerity to suggest that the eminently more sophisticated civilization of Kyiv is “in all likelihood decades” away from being part of the pan-European political project, as represented by the EU.
In fact, there are few historical figures as perfectly placed as Anna to testify to Kyiv’s place at the center, not periphery, of the European story. As it’s already clear that much of Western Europe is going to drag its feet on Ukraine’s EU candidacy, some perspective about Anna and her world is now vital.
By marrying King Henri I in Reims in 1051, Anna was taking a step down. The princess was forsaking her imposing, glittering hometown of more than 400 churches, with its legendary Golden Gate, to live in an intellectual milieu inferior to her own.
She is a compelling character, who can help us haul Kyiv off the here-be-wolves frontier where many Western Europeans have now exiled Ukraine.
Emmanuel Macron Fighting over Anna
Macron has already had a run-in with Anna.
At a joint press conference in Versailles in May 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin saluted “Russian Anna” for establishing the roots of Franco-Russian relations. The French president by his side cheerily smiled and ogled the TV camera, probably unaware that blood vessels were popping in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s then-president, the chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko, seethed that Russia was stealing Anna for its own history “in front of Europe.” Ukrainians are often quick to note that Kyiv controlled lands from the Baltic to the Black Sea in Anna’s day, long before Moscow appeared on the scene.
For what it’s worth, Anna herself probably wouldn’t relish being co-opted by Putin, a thug from the Baltic coast, who is now lobbing cruise missiles and kamikaze drones into her beloved Kyiv. While she was by all accounts a God-fearing and compassionate queen, you’d still imagine she’d have her enemy quietly throttled and dumped in a midden.
Diplomatically, Macron sought to repair the damage from the Versailles press conference when Poroshenko visited France the next month (and knelt before Anna’s statue). Waxing lyrical, Macron noted how Anne de Kiev showed that the Kyiv-Paris relationship was “anchored in the depths of the past millennium.”
Whew, good save, Emmanuel. But had Macron really learned the right lesson? If he just realized that Russia and Ukraine fight over to what extent their modern nations are re
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