For other uses, see Moskal (disambiguation).
Text in Ukrainian on a white T-shirt: "Thank God I am not a moskal"

Moskal (Russian and Ukrainian: москаль, Belarusian: маскаль, Polish: moskal, Lithuanian: maskolis) is a historical designation used for the residents of the Grand Duchy of Moscow between the 12 and the 18 centuries.[1] Today it has become an ethnic slur referring to the Russians living in Russia used in Ukraine, Belarus,[1] and Poland.[2] The term is frequently derogatory or condescending, an equivalent of the Russian term Khokhol for Ukrainians.[3] Another ethnic slur, katsap is insulting and means "goatee beard". Another version is that the word katsap comes from the Crimean kasab (butcher), because Muscovite soldiers carried large axes, what made them looked like butchers.

History and etymology

M. Fartukh, "Moskals destroy Kiev", illustration from a 1934 history textbook referring to the destruction of Kiev in 1169)

Initially, as early as the 12th century, moskal referred to the residents of "Moscovia", the word literally translating as "Muscovite" (differentiating the residents of the Grand Duchy of Moscow from other East Slavs such as people from White Russia (Belarusians), Red Ruthenia (Galicians) and others). With time, the word became an archaism in all the East Slavic languages, and survived only as a family name in each of those languages — see below.[4]

The negative connotation, however, came in around the late 18th-early 19th centuries in the form of an ethnic slur labelling all Russians. At that time, soldiers of the Imperial Russian Army (and later those of the Soviet Army) stationed in parts of present-day Ukraine and Poland became known as moskali, and those men who were drafted by force into the Army were described in Ukrainian as taken into moskali (Ukrainian: у москалі). Because most of them, after serving in the Army (for 25 years, at some periods of Russian history), kept speaking in Russian beyond demobilization, the word obtained its negative connotation and applied to those who lost their roots as well.

Cultural influence

"Moskal" is a stock character of the traditional Ukrainian puppet theatre form, vertep.

Moskaliki is a Ukrainian designation for small fish typically used as bait or as a casual snack.

It also gave rise to a number of East Slavic family names.

See also


  1. 1 2 Alexander Mikaberidze (2011). Ilya Radozhitskii's Campaign Memoirs. Lulu. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-105-16871-0.
  2. Benjamin Harshav (1986). American Yiddish Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology. University of California Press. p. 559. ISBN 978-0-520-04842-3.
  3. Thompson, Ewa Majewska (1991). The Search for self-definition in Russian literature. 27. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 22. ISBN 9027222134.
  4. Edyta M. Bojanowska (2007) "Nikolai Gogol: Between Ukrainian And Russian Nationalism" ISBN 0-674-02291-2, p. 55: "In the 'low', folksy world of the provincial narrators, a Russian is a moskal ("Muscovite")", a foreigner and an intruder, at best a carpetbagger, at worst a thief in league with the devil."

External links

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