Little Russia (Russian: Малороссия/Малая Россия, romanized: Malaya Rossiya/Malorossiya; Ukrainian: Малоросія/Мала Росія, romanized: Malorosiia/Mala Rosiia), also known in English as Malorussia, Little Rus' (Russian: Малая Русь, romanized: Malaya Rus'; Ukrainian: Мала Русь, romanized: Mala Rus') and Rus' Minor (from Greek: Μικρὰ Ῥωσία, romanized: Mikrá Rosía), is a geographical and historical term used to describe the modern-day territories of Ukraine. The first use of such names has been attributed to Bolesław-Jerzy II, ruler of Ruthenia and Galicia-Volhynia, who in 1335 signed his decrees Dux totius Russiæ minoris. The distinction between "Great" and "Little" Rus' probably originated among Byzantine, Greek-speaking, clerics who wanted to separate the two Ruthenian ecclesiastical metropolises of Halych and Moscow.
|Region of the Russian Empire|
A fragment of the “new and accurate map of Europe collected from the best authorities...” by Emanuel Bowen published in 1747 in his A complete system of geography. The territory around Voronezh and Tambov is shown as “Little Russia”. White Russia is located north-east of Smolensk, and the legend “Ukrain” straddles the Dnieper river near Poltava.
|Today part of||Belarus|
The specific meaning of the adjectives "Great" and "Little" in this context is unclear. It is possible that terms such as "Little" and "Lesser" at the time simply meant geographically smaller and/or less populous, or having less eparchies. Another possibility is that it denoted a relationship similar to that between a homeland and a colony (just as "Magna Graecia" denoted a Greek colony).
The name "Little Rus'/Russia" went out of use in the late 15th century. It was revived again in late 18th century. Then "Little Russia" developed into a political and geographical concept in Russia, referring to most of the territory of modern-day Ukraine, especially a territory of Cossack Hetmanate. Accordingly, derivatives such as "Little Russian" (Russian: Малороссы, Malorossy) were commonly applied to the people, language, and culture of the area. Prior to the revolutionary events of 1917, a large part of the region's élite population adopted a Little Russian identity that competed with the local Ukrainian identity.
After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, and with the amalgamation of Ukrainian territories into one administrative unit (Ukrainian People's Republic), the term started to recede from common use. Today, the term is anachronistic, and many Ukrainians regard its usage as offensive.