Abstract: Military conflicts have symbolic foundations. Be it religion, identity, values, or language, they all may serve as ‘weapons of war’ that either help to rationalize the military action or mobilize the nation. The Russian-Ukrainian war is no exception. The ongoing conflict exceeds the premises of a geo-political game or a socioeconomic ambition and proves itself to be deeply entrenched in a cultural conflict between the two countries. Therefore, the thrust of the paper is to explore the cultural-historical context of the Russia-Ukraine war.Russian imperialistic desires have been whetted by neo-romantic historical narration for the past two decades. The article comprises of two parts – historical and empirical. When the former depicts the history of direct imperial Russian rule over Ukraine, then the latter is a critical overview of Polish press materials commenting on the change in the Russian political discourse concerning Ukraine in the years 2013–2014 and 2022. Such an analysis sheds different light on the current Russian-Ukrainian war, but it also indicates that the conflict we are witnessing now has been carefully prepared on both military and socio-political levels.
Key words: Russian imperialism, discourse analysis, Ukraine, cultural divisions, conflict, Polish press materials