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This Super-Popular German Writer Predicted Russia Would Inherit The Earth (Spengler)

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Oswald Spengler (Wikipedia) was a massive celebrity in pre-WW2 Europe and America, whose book, “The Decline of the West” was one of the most read ever at that time, selling millions of copies.

This is a longer scholarly article, but is not at all dull, and it is absolutely fascinating.  Highly recommended.

<figcaption>A young civilization confronts a dying one</figcaption>
A young civilization confronts a dying one

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This paper examines Spengler’s views on Russia as a distinct culture that had not yet fulfilled her destiny, while Western civilisation is about to take a final bow on the world historical stage.

His views on Russia as an outsider are considered in relation to the depiction of the Russian soul by seminal Russians such as Gogol.

Russia’s ‘Soul’

Spengler regarded Russians as formed by the vastness of the land-plain, as innately antagonistic to the Machine, as rooted in the soil, irrepressibly peasant, religious, and ‘primitive’. Without a wider understanding of Spengler’s philosophy it appears that he was – like Hitler – a Slavophobe. However, when Spengler wrote of these Russian characteristics he was referencing the Russians as a still youthful people in contrats to the senile West. Hence the ‘primitive’ Russian is not synonymous with ‘primitivity’ as popularly understood at that time in regard to ‘primitive’ tribal peoples. Nor was it to be confounded with the Hitlerite perception of the ‘primitive Slav’ incapable of building his own State.

To Spengler, the ‘primitive peasant’ is the well-spring from which a race draws its healthiest elements during its epochs of cultural vigour.

Agriculture is the foundation of a High Culture, enabling stable communities to diversify labour into specialisation from which Civilisation proceeds.

However, according to Spengler, each people has its own soul, a German conception derived from the German Idealism of Herder, Fichte et al. A High culture reflects that soul, whether in its mathematics, music, architecture; both in the arts and the physical sciences. The Russian soul is not the same as the Western Faustian, as Spengler called it, the ‘ Magian’ of the Arabian civilisation, or the Classical of the Hellenes and Romans. The Western Culture that was imposed on Russia by Peter the Great, what Spengler called Petrinism, is a veneer.

The basis of the Russian soul is not infinite space – as in the West’s Faustian (Spengler, 1971, I, 183) imperative, but is ‘the plain without limit’ (Spengler, 1971, I, 201). The Russian soul expresses its own type of infinity, albeit not that of the Western which becomes even enslaved by its own technics at the end of its life-cycle. (Spengler, 1971, II, 502). (Although it could be argued that Sovietism enslaved man to machine, a Spenglerian would cite this as an example of Petrinism). However, Civilisations cannot do anything but follow their life’s course, and one cannot see Spengler’s descriptions as moral judgements but as observations. The finale for Western Civilisation according to Spengler cannot be to create further great forms of art and music, which belong to the youthful or ‘ spring’ epoch of a civilisation, but to dominate the world under a technocratic-military dispensation, before declining into oblivion that all prior world civilisations. It is after this Western decline that Spengler alluded to the next word civilisation being that of Russia. At that stage Spengler could only hint at the possibilities.

Hence, according to Spengler, Russian Orthodox architecture does not represent the infinity towards space that is symbolised by the Western high culture’s Gothic Cathedral spire, nor the enclosed space of the Mosque of the Magian Culture, (Spengler, 1971, I, 183-216) but the impression of sitting upon a horizon. Spengler considered that this Russian architecture is ‘not yet a style, only the promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian religion awakens’ (Spengler, 1971, I, p. 201. Spengler was writing of the Russian culture as an outsider, and by his own reckoning must have realised the limitations of that. It is therefore useful to compare his thoughts on Russia with those of Russians of note.

Nikolai Berdyaev in The Russian Idea affirms what Spengler describes:

There is that in the Russian soul which corresponds to the immensity, the vagueness, the infinitude of the Russian land, spiritual geography corresponds with physical. In the Russian soul there is a sort of immensity, a vagueness, a predilection for the infinite, such as is suggested by the great plain of Russia. (Berdyaev, 1). 

‘Prussian Socialism’, ‘Russian Socialism’

Of the Russian soul, the ego/vanity of the Western culture-man is missing; the persona seeks impersonal growth in service, ‘in the brother-world of the plain’. Orthodox Christianity condemns the ‘I’ as ‘sin’ (Spengler, 1971, I, 309). Spengler wrote of ‘Prussian Socialism’, based on the Prussian ethos of duty to the state, as the foundation of a new Western ethos under the return to Faith and Authority during the final epoch of Western civilisation. He contrasted this with the ‘socialism’ of Karl Marx, which he regarded as a product of English economics, (Spengler, 1919) as distinct from the German economics of Friedrich List for example, described as the ‘ national system of political economy’, where nation is the raison d’etre of the economy and not class or individual.

The Russian concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, and of impersonal service to the expanse of one’s land implies another form socialism. It is perhaps in this sense that Stalinism proceeded along lines different and often antithetical to the Bolshevism envisaged by Trotsky et al. (Trotsky, 1936), and established an enduring legacy on Russia.

A recent comment by an American visitor to Russia, Barbara J. Brothers, as part of a scientific delegation, states something akin to Spengler’s observation:

The Russians have a sense of connectedness to themselves and to other human beings that is just not a part of American reality. It isn’t that competitiveness does not exist; it is just that there always seems to be more consideration and respect for others in any given situation.

Of the Russian concept of property and of capitalism, Berdyaev wrote:

The social theme occupied a predominant place in Russian nineteenth century thought. It might even be said that Russian thought in that century was to a remarkable extent coloured by socialistic ideas. If the word socialism is not taken in its doctrinaire sense, one might say that socialism is deeply rooted in the Russian nature. There is already an expression of this truth in the fact that the Russian people did not recognize the Roman conception of property. It has been said of Muscovite Russia that it was innocent of the sin of ownership in land, the one and only landed proprietor being the Tsar: there was no freedom, but there was a greater sense of what was right. This is of interest in the light that it throws upon the rise of communism. The Slavophils also repudiated the Western bourgeois interpretation of private property equally with the socialists of a revolutionary way of thinking. Almost all of them thought that the Russian people was called upon to give actual effect to social troth and righteousness and to the brotherhood of man. One and all they hoped that Russia would escape the wrongness and evil of capitalism, that it would be able to pass over to a better social order while avoiding the capitalist stage of economic development. And they all considered the backwardness of Russia as conferring upon her a great advantage. It was the wisdom of the Russians to be socialists during the period of serfdom and autocracy. Of all peoples in the world the Russians have the community spirit; in the highest degree the Russian way of life and Russian manners, are of that kind. Russian hospitality is an indication of this sense of community. (Berdyaev, 97-98).

Here again, we see with Berdyaev, as with Spengler, that there is a ‘Russian Socialism’ based on what Spengler referred to as the Russian ‘we’ in contrast to the Late Western ‘I’, and of the sense of brotherhood dramatised by Gogol in Taras Bulba, shaped not by factories and money-thinking, but by the kinship that arises from a people formed from the vastness of the plains, and forged through the adversity of centuries of Muslim and Mongol invasions.

The Russian Soul – Русская душа

The connections between family, nation, birth, unity and motherland are reflected in the Russian language.

род [rod]: family, kind, sort, genus
родина [ródina]: homeland, motherland 
родители [rodíteli]: parents
родить [rodít’]: to give birth
роднить [rodnít’]: to unite, bring together
родовой [rodovói]: ancestral, tribal
родство [rodstvó]: kinship

Russian National Literature starting from the 1840s began to consciously express the Russian soul. Firstly Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which along with the poetry of Pushkin, founded a Russian literary tradition; that is to say, truly Russian, and distinct from the previous literature based on German, French and English. John Cournos states of this in his introduction to Taras Bulba:

The spoken word, born of the people, gave soul and wing to literature; only by coming to earth, the native earth, was it enabled to soar. Coming up from Little Russia, the Ukraine, with Cossack blood in his veins, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into an effete body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into its nostrils, and gave the Russian novel its direction to this very day.

Taras Bulba is a tale on the formation of the Cossack folk. In this folk-formation the outer enemy plays a crucial role. The Russian has been formed largely as the result of battling over centuries with Tartars, Muslims and Mongols. Cournos writes of the Gogol myths in reference to the shaping of the Russian character through adversity and landscape:

This same Prince Guedimin freed Kieff from the Tatar yoke. This city had been laid waste by the golden hordes of Ghengis Khan and hidden for a very long time from the Slavonic chronicler as behind an impenetrable curtain. A shrewd man, Guedimin appointed a Slavonic prince to rule over the city and permitted the inhabitants to practise their own faith, Greek Christianity. Prior to the Mongol invasion, which brought conflagration and ruin, and subjected Russia to a two-century bondage, cutting her off from Europe, a state of chaos existed and the separate tribes fought with one another constantly and for the most petty reasons. Mutual depredations were possible owing to the absence of mountain ranges; there were no natural barriers against sudden attack. The openness of the steppe made the people war-like. But this very openness made it possible later for Guedimin’s pagan hosts, fresh from the fir forests of what is now White Russia, to make a clean sweep of the whole country between Lithuania and Poland, and thus give the scattered princedoms a much-needed cohesion. In this way Ukrainia was formed. (Cournos, ‘Introduction’, ibid).

Their society and nationality were defined by religiosity, as was the West’s by Gothic Christianity during its ‘Spring’ epoch. The newcomer to a Setch or permanent village was greeted by the Chief as a Christian and as a warrior: ‘Welcome! Do you believe in Christ?’ —‘I do’, replied the new-comer. ‘And do you believe in the Holy Trinity?’— ‘I do’.—‘And do you go to church?’—‘I do.’ ‘Now cross yourself’. (Gogol, III).

Gogol depicts the scorn in which trade is held, and when commerce has entered among Russians, rather than being confined to non-Russians associated with trade, it is regarded as a symptom of decadence:

I know that baseness has now made its way into our land. Men care only to have their ricks of grain and hay, and their droves of horses, and that their mead may be safe in their cellars; they adopt, the devil only knows what Mussulman customs. They speak scornfully with their tongues. They care not to speak their real thoughts with their own countrymen. They sell their own things to their own comrades, like soulless creatures in the market-place. The favour of a foreign king, and not even a king, but the poor favour of a Polish magnate, who beats them on the mouth with his yellow shoe, is dearer to them than all brotherhood. But the very meanest of these vile men, whoever he may be, given over though he be to vileness and slavishness, even he, brothers, has some grains of Russian feeling; and they will assert themselves some day. And then the wretched man will beat his breast with his hands; and will tear his hair, cursing his vile life loudly, and ready to expiate his disgraceful deeds with torture. Let them know what brotherhood means on Russian soil! (Spengler, 1971, II, 113).

Here we might see a Russian socialism that is, so far form being the dialectical materialism offered by Marx, the mystic we-feeling forged by the vastness of the plains and the imperative for brotherhood above economics, imposed by that landscape. Russia’s feeling of world-mission has its own form of messianism whether expressed through Christian Orthodoxy or the non-Marxian form of ‘world revolution’ under Stalin, or both in combination, as suggested by the later rapport between Stalinism and the Church from 1943 with the creation of the Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs (Chumachenko, 2002). In both senses, and even in the embryonic forms taking place under Putin, Russia is conscious of a world-mission, expressed today as Russia’s role in forging a multipolar world, with Russia as being pivotal in resisting unipolarism.

Commerce is the concern of foreigners, and the intrusions bring with them the corruption of the Russian soul and culture in general: in speech, social interaction, servility, undermining Russian ‘brotherhood’, the Russian ‘we’ feeling that Spengler described. (Spengler 1971, I, 309). However, Gogol also states that this materialistic decay will eventually be purged even from the soul of the most craven Russian.

And all the Setch prayed in one church, and were willing to defend it to their last drop of blood, although they would not hearken to aught about fasting or abstinence. Jews, Armenians, and Tatars, inspired by strong avarice, took the liberty of living and trading in the suburbs; for the Zaporozhtzi never cared for bargaining, and paid whatever money their hand chanced to grasp in their pocket. Moreover, the lot of these gain-loving traders was pitiable in the extreme. They resembled people settled at the foot of Vesuvius; for when the Zaporozhtzi lacked money, these bold adventurers broke down their booths and took everything gratis. (Gogol, III).

The description of these people shows that they would not stoop to haggling; they decided what a merchant should receive. Money-talk is repugnant to them.

The Cossack brotherhood is portrayed by Gogol as the formative process in the building up of the Russian people. This process is, significantly, not one of biology but of spirit, even transcending the family bond. Spengler treated the matter of race as that of soul rather than of zoology. (Spengler, 1971, II, 113-155). To Spengler landscape was crucial in determining what becomes ‘race’, and the duration of families grouped in a particular landscape – including nomads who have a defined range of wandering – form ‘a character of duration’, which was Spengler’s definition of ‘race’. (Spengler, Vol. II, 113). Gogol describes this ‘ race’ forming process among the Russians. So far from being an aggressive race nationalism it is an expanding mystic brotherhood under God:

The father loves his children, the mother loves her children, the children love their father and mother; but this is not like that, brothers. The wild beast also loves its young. But a man can be related only by similarity of mind and not of blood. There have been brotherhoods in other lands, but never any such brotherhoods as on our Russian soil. It has happened to many of you to be in foreign lands. … No, brothers, to love as the Russian soul loves, is to love not with the mind or anything else, but with all that God has given, all that is within you. Ah! (Golgol, IX).

The Russian soul is born in suffering. The Russian accepts the fate of life in service to God and to his Motherland. Russia and Faith are inseparable. When the elderly warrior Bovdug is mortally struck by a Turkish bullet his final words are exhortations on the nobility of suffering, after which his spirit soars to join his ancestors:

‘I sorrow not to part from the world. God grant every man such an end! May the Russian land be forever glorious!’ And Bovdug’s spirit flew above, to tell the old men who had gone on long before that men still knew how to fight on Russian soil, and better still, that they knew how to die for it and the holy faith. (Gogol, IX).

The depth and duration of this cult of the martyrs attached to Holy Mother Russia was revived under Stalin during the Great Patriotic War. This is today as vigorous as ever, as indicated by the celebration of Victory Day on 7 May 2015, and the absence of Western representatives indicating the diverging course Russia is again taking from the West.

The mystique of death and suffering for the Motherland is described in the death of Tarus Bulba when he is captured and executed, his final words being ones of resurrection:

‘Wait, the time will come when ye shall learn what the orthodox Russian faith is! Already the people scent it far and near. A czar shall arise from Russian soil, and there shall not be a power in the world which shall not submit to him!’ But fire had already risen from the fagots; it lapped his feet, and the flame spread to the tree…. But can any fire, flames, or power be found on earth which are capable of overpowering Russian strength? (Gogol, XII).

The characteristics of the Russian soul that run through Tarus Bulba are those of faith, fate, struggle, suffering, strength, brotherhood and resurrection. Tarus Bulba established the Russian national literature that articulated the Russian soul.

Pseudomorphosis

A significant element of Spengler’s culture morphology is ‘Historic Pseudomorphosis’. Spengler drew an analogy from geology, when crystals of a mineral are embedded in a rock-stratum: where ‘clefts and cracks occur, water filters in, and the crystals are gradually washed out so that in due course only their hollow mould remains’. (Spengler, II, 89).

Then comes volcanic outbursts which explode the mountain; molten masses pour in, stiffen and crystallize out in their turn. But these are not free to do so in their own special forms. They must fill out the spaces that they find available. Thus there arise distorted forms, crystals whose inner structure contradicts their external shape, stones of one kind presenting the appearance of stones of another kind. The mineralogists call this phenomenon Pseudomorphosis. (Ibid.).

Spengler explained:

By the term ‘historical pseudomorphosis’ I propose to designate those cases in which an older alien Culture lies so massively over the land that a young Culture, born in this land, cannot get its breath and fails not only to achieve pure and specific expression-forms, but even to develop its own fully self-consciousness. All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old moulds, young feelings stiffen in senile works, and instead of rearing itself up in its own creative power, it can only hate the distant power with a hate that grows to be monstrous.(Ibid.).

Russia is the example of ‘Historic Pseudomorphosis’ given by Spengler as being ‘presented to our eyes to-day’. A dichotomy has existed for centuries, starting with Peter the Great, of attempts to impose a Western veneer over Russia. This is called Petrinism. The resistance of those attempts is what Spengler called ‘Old Russia’. Spengler, 1971, II, 192). Spengler described this dichotomy:

…This Muscovite period of the great Boyar families and Patriarchs, in which a constant element is the resistance of an Old Russia party to the friends of Western Culture, is followed, from the founding of Petersburg in 1703, by the pseudomorphosis which forced the primitive Russian soul into an alien mould, first of full Baroque, then of the Enlightenment, and then of the nineteenth century. (Ibid., II, p. 192).

Spengler’s view is again in accord with what is spoken of Russia by Russians. Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in terms similar to Spengler’s:

The inconsistency and complexity of the Russian soul may be due to the fact that in Russia two streams of world history East and West jostle and influence one another. The Russian people is not purely European and it is not purely Asiatic. Russia is a complete section of the world a colossal East-West. It unites two worlds, and within the Russian soul two principles are always engaged in strife – the Eastern and the Western. (Berdyaev, 1).

With the orientation of Russian policy towards the West, ‘Old Russia’ was ‘forced into a false and artificial history’. (Spengler, II, 193). Spengler wrote that Russia had become dominated by Western culture from its ‘Late’ epoch:

Late-period arts and sciences, enlightenment, social ethics, the materialism of world-cities, were introduced, although in this pre-cultural time religion was the only language in which man understood himself and the world. In the townless land with its primitive peasantry, cities of alien type fixed themselves like ulcers – false, unnatural, unconvincing. ‘Petersburg’, says Dostoyevski, ‘it is the most abstract and artificial city in the world’.
After this everything that arose around it was felt by the true Russdom as lies and poison. A truly apocalyptic hatred was directed on Europe, and ‘Europe’ was all that was not Russia… ‘The first condition of emancipation for the Russian soul’, wrote Aksakov [1] in 1863 to Dostoyevski, ‘is that it should hate Petersburg with all this might and all its soul’. Moscow is holy, Petersburg Satanic. A widespread popular legend presents Peter the Great as Antichrist. 
(Spengler, 1971, II, 193).

Berdyaev also discusses the introduction of Enlightenment doctrines from France into Russia:

The Western culture of Russia in the eighteenth century was a superficial aristocratic borrowing and imitation. Independent thought had not yet awakened. At first it was French influences which prevailed among us and a superficial philosophy of enlightenment was assimilated. The Russian aristocrats of the eighteenth century absorbed Western culture in the form of a miserable rehash of Voltaire. (Berdyaev, 16).

The hatred of the ‘West’ and of ‘Europe’ is the hatred for a Civilisation that had already reached an advanced state of decay into materialism and sought to impose its primacy by cultural subversion rather than by combat, with its City-based and money-based outlook, ‘poisoning the unborn culture in the womb of the land’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194). Russia was still a land where there were no bourgeoisie and no true class system but only lord and peasant, a view confirmed by Berdyaev, writing:

The various lines of social demarcation did not exist in Russia; there were no pronounced classes. Russia was never an aristocratic country in the Western sense, and equally there was no bourgeoisie. (Berdyaev, 1).

The cities that emerged threw up an intelligentsia, copying the intelligentsia of Late Westerndom, ‘bent on discovering problems and conflicts, and below, an uprooted peasantry, with all the metaphysical gloom, anxiety, and misery of their own Dostoyevski, perpetually homesick for the open land and bitterly hating the stony grey world into which the Antichrist had tempted them. Moscow had no proper soul’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194).

The spirit of the upper classes was Western, and the lower had brought in with them the soul of the countryside. Between the two worlds there was no reciprocal comprehension, no communication, no charity. To understand the two spokesmen and victims of the pseudomorphosis, it is enough that Dostoyevski is the peasant, and Tolstoi the man of Western society. The one could never in his soul get away from the land; the other, in spite of his desperate efforts, could never get near it. (Ibid.).

Berdyaev likewise states of the Petrinism of the upper class:

Peter secularized the Russian Tsardoni and brought it into touch with Western absolutism of the more enlightened kind. The Tsardom of Moscow had not given actual effect to the messianic idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, but the efforts of Peter created a gulf between a police absolutism and the sacred Tsardom. A breach took place between the upper governing classes of Russian society and the masses of the people among whom the old religious beliefs and hopes were still preserved. The Western influences which led on to the remarkable Russian culture of the nineteenth century found no welcome among the bulk of the people. The power of the nobility increased and it became entirely alien from the people. The very manner of life of the landowning nobility was a thing incomprehensible to the people. It was precisely in the Petrine epoch during the reign of Katherine II that the Russian people finally fell under the sway of the system of serfdom. The whole Petrine period of Russian history was a struggle between East and West within the Russian soul. (Berdyaev, 15).

Russian Messianism

Berdyaev states that while Petrinism introduced an epoch of cultural dynamism, it also placed a heavy burden upon Russia, and a disunity of spirit. (Ibid.). However, Russia has her own religious sense of Mission, which is as universal as the Vatican’s. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski as writing in 1878: ‘all men must become Russian, first and foremost Russian. If general humanity is the Russian ideal, then everyone must first of all become a Russian’. (Spengler, 1963, 63n). The Russian Messianic idea found a forceful expression in Dostoyevski’s The Possessed, where, in a conversation with Stavrogin, Shatov states:

Reduce God to the attribute of nationality?…On the contrary, I elevate the nation to God…The people is the body of God. Every nation is a nation only so long as it has its own particular God, excluding all other gods on earth without any possible reconciliation, so long as it believes that by its own God it will conquer and drive all other gods off the face of the earth. At least that’s what all great nations have believed since the beginning of time, all those remarkable in any way, those standing in the vanguard of humanity…The Jews lived solely in expectation of the true God, and they left this true God to the world…A nation which loses faith is no longer a nation. But there is only one truth; consequently, only one nation can posses the true God…The sole ‘God bearing’ nation is the Russian nation... (Dostoevsky, 1992, Part II: I: 7, 265-266).

Spengler saw Russia as outside of Europe, and even as ‘Asian’. He even saw a Western rebirth vis-à-vis opposition to Russia, which he regarded as leading the ‘coloured world’ against the white, under the mantle of Bolshevism. Yet there were also other destinies that Spengler saw over the horizon, which had been predicted by Dostoyevski.

Once Russia had overthrown its alien intrusions, it could look with another perspective upon the world, and reconsider Europe not with hatred and vengeance but in kinship. Spengler wrote that while Tolstoi, the Petrinist, whose doctrine was the precursor of Bolshevism, was ‘the former Russia’, Dostoyevski was ‘the coming Russia’. Dostoyevski as the representative of the ‘coming Russia’ ‘does not know’ the hatred of Russia for the West. Dostoyevski and the old Russia are transcendent. ‘His passionate power of living is comprehensive enough to embrace all things Western as well’. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski: ‘I have two fatherlands, Russia and Europe’. Dostoyevski as the harbinger of a Russian high culture ‘has passed beyond both Petrinism and revolution, and from his future he looks back over them as from afar. His soul is apocalyptic, yearning, desperate, but of this future he is certain’. [65] (Spengler, 1971, II, 194). Spengler cites Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamazov, where Ivan Karamazov (Dostoyevski, 1880, 34: II: V: 3) says to his mother:

I want to travel in Europe… I know well enough that I shall be going only to a churchyard, but I know too that that churchyard is dear, very dear to me. Beloved dead lie buried there, every stone over them tell of a life so ardently lived, so passionately a belief in its own achievements, its own truth, its own battle, its own knowledge, that I know – even now I know – I shall fall down and kiss these stones and weep over them’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 195).

To the ‘Slavophil’, of which Dostoyevski was one, Europe is precious. The Slavophil appreciates the richness of European high culture while realising that Europe is in a state of decay. Berdyaev discussed what he regarded as an inconsistency in Dostoyevski and the Slavophils towards Europe, yet one that is comprehensible when we consider Spengler’s crucial differentiation between Culture and Civilisation:

Dostoyevsky calls himself a Slavophil. He thought, as did also a large number of thinkers on the theme of Russia and Europe, that he knew decay was setting in, but that a great past exists in her, and that she has made contributions of great value to the history of mankind. (Berdyaev, 70).

It is notable that while this differentiation between Kultur and Zivilisation is ascribed to a particularly German philosophical tradition, Berdyaev comments that it was present among the Russians ‘long before Spengler’, although deriving from German sources:

It is to be noted that long before Spengler, the Russians drew the distinction between ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’, that they attacked ‘civilization’ even when they remained supporters of ‘culture’. This distinction in actual fact, although expressed in a different phraseology, was to be found among the Slavophils. (Ibid.).

Tolstoi, who sought to overcome the problems of Civilisation by a ‘return-to-Nature’ in the manner of the Western Enlightenment philosopher J J Rousseau, on the other hand, is the product of the Late West, ‘enlightened and socially minded’, and sees only a problem, ‘whereas Dostoyevski ‘does not even know what a problem is’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 195). Spengler states that the problematic nature of life is a question that arises in Late Civilisations, and is a symptom of an epoch where life itself has become questionable. It is a symptom of the Late West transplanted as a weed onto the soil of Russia, represented by Tolstoi who, stands midway between Peter and Bolshevism, and neither he nor they managed to get within sight of Russian earth…. Their kind of opposition is not apocalyptic but intellectual. Tolstoi’s hatred of property is an economist’s, his hatred of society a social reformer’s, his hatred of the State a political theorist’s. Hence his immense effect upon the West – he belongs, in one respect as in another, to the band of Marx, Ibsen, and Zola. (Ibid.).

Dostoyevski, on the contrary, was indifferent to the Late West, looking beyond the physical, beyond questions of social reform and economics, and to the metaphysical: ‘Dostoyevski, like every primitive Russian, is fundamentally unaware’ of the physical world and ‘lives in a second, metaphysical world beyond’. The living reality is a religious one, which Spengler compares most closely with ‘primitive Christianity’. Dostoyevski is a ‘saint’, Tolstoi, ‘only a revolutionary’, the representative of Petrinism, as the forerunner of Bolshevism, ‘the last dishonouring of the metaphysical by the social’, and a new form of pseudomorphosis. The Bolshevists and other such revolutionaries were ‘the lowest stratum of … Petrine society’. (Ibid., II, 196). Imbued with ideas from the Late West, the Marxists sought to replace one Petrine ruling class with another. Neither represented the soul of Russia. Spengler states: ‘The real Russian is the disciple of Dostoyevski, even though he might not have read Dostoyevski, or anyone else, nay, perhaps because he cannot read, he is himself Dostoyevski in substance’. The intelligentsia hates, the peasant does not. (Ibid.). He would eventually overthrow Bolshevism and any other form of Petrinism. Here we see Spengler unequivocally stating that the post-Western civilisation will be Russian.

For what this townless people yearns for is its own life-form, its own religion, its own history. Tolstoi’s Christianity was a misunderstanding. He spoke of Christ and he meant Marx. But to Dostoyevski’s Christianity, the next thousand years will belong. (Ibid.).

To the true Russia, as Dostoyevski stated it, ‘not a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason’. Dostoyevski continues, with the character Shatov explaining:

[N]ot a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason. There has never been an example of it, except for a brief moment, through folly. Socialism is from its very nature bound to be atheism, seeing that it has from the very first proclaimed that it is an atheistic organisation of society, and that it intends to establish itself exclusively on the elements of science and reason. Science and reason have, from the beginning of time, played a secondary and subordinate part in the life of nations; so it will be till the end of time. Nations are built up and moved by another force which sways and dominates them, the origin of which is unknown and inexplicable: that force is the force of an insatiable desire to go on to the end, though at the same time it denies that end. It is the force of the persistent assertion of one’s own existence, and a denial of death. It’s the spirit of life, as the Scriptures call it, ‘the river of living water’, the drying up of which is threatened in the Apocalypse. It’s the æsthetic principle, as the philosophers call it, the ethical principle with which they identify it, ‘the seeking for God’, as I call it more simply. The object of every national movement, in every people and at every period of its existence is only the seeking for its god, who must be its own god, and the faith in Him as the only true one. God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end. It has never happened that all, or even many, peoples have had one common god, but each has always had its own. It’s a sign of the decay of nations when they begin to have gods in common. When gods begin to be common to several nations the gods are dying and the faith in them, together with the nations themselves. The stronger a people the more individual their God. There never has been a nation without a religion, that is, without an idea of good and evil. Every people has its own conception of good and evil, and its own good and evil. When the same conceptions of good and evil become prevalent in several nations, then these nations are dying, and then the very distinction between good and evil is beginning to disappear. Reason has never had the power to define good and evil, or even to distinguish between good and evil, even approximately; on the contrary, it has always mixed them up in a disgraceful and pitiful way; science has even given the solution by the fist. This is particularly characteristic of the half-truths of science, the most terrible scourge of humanity, unknown till this century, and worse than plague, famine, or war. (Dostoyevski, 1872, II: I: VII).

Here we have the expression of the Russian soul, its repudiation of Petrinism, and in a manner similar to Spengler’s, the identification of faith, not darwinian zoology or economics, as the premise of culture-nation-race-formation, and the primacy of rationalistic doctrines as a symptom of decay.

‘Conflict Between Money & Blood’

Spengler states that at the Late – ‘Winter’ – epoch of a Civilisation where money-thinking dominates, a point is reached where there is a reaction: a ‘Second Religiousness’ which returns a decaying Civilisation to its spiritual foundations. There proceeds a revolt against oligarchy and a return to authority, or what Spengler called ‘Cæsarism’, and from there the fulfilment of a destiny before being eclipsed by a new high culture.

The Second Religiousness is the necessary counterpart of Cæsarism, which is the final political constitution of a Late Civilisation… In both phenomena the creative young strength of the Early Culture is lacking. But both have their greatness nevertheless. That of the Second Religiousness consists of a deep piety that fills the waking-consciousness… (Spengler, 1971, II, 310).

Spengler states that the ‘profoundly mystical inner life feels “thinking in money” as a sin’. The money-thinking imposed on Russia as Communism was ‘Western’ insofar as Marxism reflects the economic thinking of Western civilisation in its Late epoch, (Ibid., II, 402):

[A]n upper, alien and civilised world intruded from the West (the Bolshevism of the first years, totally Western and un-Russian, is the lees of this importation), and a townless barter-life that goes on deep below, uncalculating and exchanging only for immediate needs. We have to think of the catchwords of the surface as a voice, in which the Russian, simple and busied wholly with his soul bears resignedly the will of God. Marxism amongst Russians is based on an inward misunderstanding. They bore with the higher economic life of Petrinism, but they neither created it nor recognised it. The Russian does not fight Capital, but he does not comprehend it. Anyone who understands Dostoyevski will sense in these people a young humanity for which as yet no money exists, but only goods in relation to a life whose centre of gravity does not lie on the economical side. (Ibid., II, 495n)

Spengler states above that the Russians do not ‘fight’ capital. (Ibid., 495). Yet their young soul brings them into conflict with money, as both oligarchy from inside and plutocracy from outside contend with the Russian soul for supremacy. It was something observed by both Gogol and Dostoyevski. The anti-capitalism and ‘world revolution’ of Stalinism took on features that were drawn more from Russian messianism than from Marxism, reflected in the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. The revival of the Czarist and Orthodox icons, martyrs and heroes and of Russian folk-culture in conjunction with a campaign against ‘ rootless cosmopolitanism’, reflected the emergence of primal Russian soul amidst Petrine Marxism. (Brandenberger, 2002). Today the conflict between two world-views can be seen in the conflicts between Putin and certain ‘oligarchs’ and the uneasiness Putin causes among the West.

The conflict that arises is metaphysical, but oligarchy and plutocracy can only understand the physical. Hence, ‘money-getting by means of money is an impiety, and (from the viewpoint of the coming Russian religion) a sin’. (Ibid.). ‘Money-getting by means of money’ manifests in speculation and usury. It is the basis upon which the economics of the Late West is founded, and from which it is now tottering. That this was not the case in the Gothic era of the West’s ‘high culture’ is indicated by the Church’s strident condemnation of usury as ‘ sin’.

Spengler predicted that in answer to the money-ethos a ‘third kind of Christianity’, based on the ‘John Gospel’, would arise, ‘looking towards Jerusalem with premonitions of coming crusades’. (Ibid.). The Russian also eschews the machine, to which Faustian man is enslaved, and if today he adopts Western technics, he does so ‘with fear and hatred of wheels, cables, and rails’, and will ‘blot the whole thing from his memory and his environment, and create about himself a wholly new world, in which nothing of this Devil’s technique is left’. (Ibid., II, 504).

Has time proved Spengler wrong in his observation that the Russian soul is repelled by the materialism, rationalism, technics and scientism of the Late West, given that the USSR went full throttle to industrialise? Spengler also said that Russia would adapt Western technics for her own use, as a weapon. Anecdotally, in our time, Barbara Brothers, a psycho-therapist, while part of a scientific delegation to Russia in 1993, observed that even among Russian scientists the focus is on the metaphysical:

The Russians seem not to make the divorce between ‘hard’ science and heart and soul that we do in the United States. Elena is probably a classic example. In her position as a part of the Academy of National Economy, a division of the Academy of Science, she works in facts and statistics all day long; when you ask her how (how in the world!) she thinks they will make it, she gives you a metaphysical answer. The scientist part of her gave a presentation that showed us how it was absolutely impossible for the economy to begin to work. Yet, she says, ‘I am not pessimistic’.

Again, Spengler’s observations of the Russian soul are confirmed by this anecdote: the true Russian – even the scientist and mathematician – does not comprehend everything as a ‘problem’ in the Late Western sense. His decisions are not made by Western rationalism, but by metaphysics and instinct. It is an interesting aside to recall that under the USSR, supposedly predicated on dialectical materialism, the metaphysical and the psychic were subjects of serious investigation to an extent that would be scoffed at by Western scientists. (Kernbach, 2013).

By the time Spengler had published The Hour of Decision in 1934 he was stating that Russia had overthrown Petrinism and the trappings of the late West, and while he called the new orientation of Russia ‘Asian’, he said that it was ‘a new Idea, and an idea with a future too’. (Spengler, 1963, 60). To clarify, Russia looks towards the ‘East’, but while the Westerner assumes that ‘Asia’ and East are synonymous with Mongol, the etymology of the word ‘Asia’ comes from Greek Aσία, ca. 440 BC, referring to all regions east of Greece. (Ibid., 61). As an ethnic, historical, cultural or religious designation it means as little as as the World War I propaganda reference to Germans as ‘Huns’. During his time Spengler saw in Russia that,

Race, language, popular customs, religion, in their present form… all or any of them can and will be fundamentally transformed. What we see today then is simply the new kind of life which a vast land has conceived and will presently bring forth. It is not definable in words, nor is its bearer aware of it. Those who attempt to define, establish, lay down a program, are confusing life with a phrase, as does the ruling Bolshevism, which is not sufficiently conscious of its own West-European, Rationalistic and cosmopolitan origin. (Ibid.).

Of Russia in 1934 Spengler already saw that ‘of genuine Marxism there is very little except in names and programs’. He doubted that the Communist programme is ‘really still taken seriously’. He saw the possibility of the vestiges of Petrine Bolshevism being overthrown, to be replaced by a ‘nationalistic’ Eastern type which would reach ‘gigantic proportions unchecked’. (Spengler, 1963, 63).Spengler also referred to Russia as the country ‘least troubled by Bolshevism’, (Ibid.,182) and the ‘Marxian face [was] only worn for the benefit of the outside world’. (Ibid., 212). A decade after Spengler’s death the direction of Russia under Stalin had pursued clearer definitions, and Petrine Bolshevism had been transformed in the way Spengler foresaw. (Brandenberger, 2002).

Conclusion

As in Spengler’s time, and centuries before, there continues to exist two tendencies in Russia : the Old Russian and the Petrine. Neither one nor the other spirit is presently dominant, although under Putin Old Russia struggles for resurgence. Spengler in a published lecture to the Rheinish-Westphalian Business Convention in 1922 referred to the ‘ancient, instinctive, unclear, unconscious, and subliminal drive that is present in every Russian, no matter how thoroughly westernised his conscious life may be – a mystical yearning for the South, for Constantinople and Jerusalem, a genuine crusading spirit similar to the spirit our Gothic forebears had in their blood but which we can hardly appreciated today’. (Spengler, 1922).

Bolshevism destroyed one form of Petrinism with another form, clearing the way ‘for a new culture that will some day arise between “Europe” and East Asia. It is more a beginning than an end’. The peasantry ‘will some day become conscious of its own will, which points in a wholly different direction’. ‘The peasantry is the true Russian people of the future. It will not allow itself to be perverted or suffocated’. (Ibid.).

The ‘Great Patriotic War’ gave Stalin the opportunity to return Russia to its roots. Russia’s Orthodox foundations were returned on the basis of a myth, an archetypically Russian mysticism. The myth goes that in 1941:

The Virgin appeared to Metropolitan Ilya of the Antiochian Church, who prayed wholeheartedly for Russia. She instructed him to tell the Russians that they should carry the Kazan Icon in a religious procession around the besieged city of Leningrad (St Petersburg). Then, the Virgin said, they should serve a molieben [2] before the icon in Moscow. The Virgin said that the icon should stay with the Russian troops in Stalingrad, and later move with them to the Russian border. Leningrad didn’t surrender. Miraculously, Moscow was also saved. During the Battle of Stalingrad, the icon was with the Russian army on the right bank of the Volga, and the Nazi troops couldn’t cross the river. The Battle of Stalingrad began with a molieben before the Kazan Icon. Only when it was finished, did the troops receive the order to attack. The Kazan Icon was at the most important sectors of the front, and in the places where the troops were preparing for an offensive. It was like in the old times, when in response to earnest prayers, the Virgin instilled fear in enemies and drove them away. Even atheists told stories of the Virgin’s help to the Russian troops. During the assault on Königsberg in 1945, the Soviet troops were in a critical situation. Suddenly, the soldiers saw their commander arrive with priests and an icon. Many made jokes, ‘Just wait, that’ll help us!’ The commander silenced the jokers. He ordered everybody to line up and to take off their caps. When the priests finished the molieben, they moved to the frontline carrying the icon. The amazed soldiers watched them going straight forward, under intense Nazi fire. Suddenly, the Nazis stopped shooting. Then, the Russian troops received orders to attack on the ground and from the sea. Nazis died in the thousands. Nazi prisoners told the Russians that they saw the Virgin in the sky before the Russians began to attack, the whole of the Nazi army saw Her, and their weapons wouldn’t fire. (Voices from Russia).

The message to Metropolitan Ilya from The Theotokos [3] for Russia was that:

‘The cathedrals, monasteries, theological seminaries and academies have to be opened in the whole country. The priests have to be sent back from the front and released from incarceration. They must begin serving again…. When the war will be over, Metropolitan Elijah has to come to Russia and witness how she was saved’. The metropolitan contacted both Russian church representatives and Soviet government officials. Stalin then promised to do everything God indicated. (Russia before the Second Coming).

During ‘The Great Patriotic War’ 20,000 churches were opened. In 1942 the Soviet Government allowed Easter celebrations. On 4 September 1943 Stalin invited the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Kremlin to discuss the need for reviving religious life in the USSR and the prompt election of a Patriarch.

This is the type of Myth that is nation-forming. It exists as a constant possibility within Russia. Spengler stated in his lecture to the German businessmen in 1922 that,

There can be no doubt: a new Russian people is in the process of becoming. Shaken and threatened to the very soul by a frightful destiny, forced to an inner distance, it will in time become firm and come to bloom. It is passionately religious in a way that we Western Europeans have not been, indeed could not have been, for centuries. As soon as this religious drive is directed towards a goal, it possesses an immense expansive potential. Unlike us, such a people does not count the victims who die for an idea, for it is a young, vigorous, and fertile people. (Spengler, 1922).

The arch-Conservative anti-Marxist, Spengler, in keeping with the German tradition of realpolitik, considered the possibility of a Russo-German alliance in his 1922 speech, the Treaty of Rapallo being a reflection of that tradition. ‘A new type of leader’ would be awakened in adversity, to ‘new crusades and legendary conquests’. The rest of the world, filled with religious yearning but falling on infertile ground, is ‘torn and tired enough to allow it suddenly to take on a new character under the proper circumstances’. Spengler suggested that ‘perhaps Bolshevism itself will change in this way under new leaders’. ‘But the silent, deeper Russia,’ would turn its attention towards the Near and East Asia, as a people of ‘great inland expanses’. (Ibid.). Berdyaev, discussing the Slavophil outlook, wrote:

Russian reflections upon the subject of the philosophy of history led to the consciousness that the path of Russia was a special one. Russia is the great East-West; it is a whole immense world and in its people vast powers are confined. The Russian people are a people of the future; they will decide questions which the West has not yet the strength to decide, which it does not even pose in their full depth. (Berdyaev, 70).

There are no certainties. While Spengler postulated the organic cycles of a High Culture going through the life-phases of birth, youthful vigour, maturity, old age and death, it should be kept in mind that a life-cycle can be disrupted, aborted, murdered or struck by disease, at any time, and end without fulfilling itself. Each has its analogy in politics, and there are plenty of Russophobes eager to stunt Russia’s destiny with political, economic and cultural contagion. The Soviet bloc fell through inner and outer contagion.

What Spengler foresaw for the possibilities of Russia, yet to fulfil its historic mission, messianic and of world-scope, might now be unfolding if Russia eschews pressures from within and without. The invigoration of Orthodoxy is part of this process, as is the leadership style of Putin, as distinct from a Yeltsin for example. Whatever Russia is called outwardly, whether, monarchical, Bolshevik or democratic, there is an inner – eternal – Russia that endures and awaits its time on the world historical stage. We see it now with the re-emergence of Eurasianism, for example; not of the ‘East’ nor the ‘West’, but of Russia.

Notes

1. Ivan Sergyeyevich Aksakov (1823-1886) a Pan-Slavic leader, established the ‘Slavophil’ group at Moscow to restore Russia to its pre-Petrine culture.
2. Orthodox service for the sick.
3. Mary.

References

Berdyaev, Nikolai. The Russian Idea, MacMillan Co., New York, 1948
Brandenberger, D. National Bolshevism: Stalinist culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity 1931-1956. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 2002.
Brothers, Barbara J. Psychiatry Today, 1 January 1993, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199301/russia-soul
Chumachenko, T.A. Church and State in Soviet Russia, M. E. Sharpe Inc., New York, 2002.
Cournos, H. ‘Introduction’, N V Gogol, Taras Bulba & Other Tales, 1842, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1197/1197-h/1197-h.htm
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov, 1880
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Possessed, Oxford University Press, 1992.
Kernback, S. ‘Unconventional research in USSR and Russia: short overview, 2013,http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.1148.pdf
Russia before the Second Coming, Svyato-Troitskaya Sergiyeva Lavra Monastery, p. 239; Archbishop Alypy, ‘My thoughts about the Declaration of 1927’, 2 February 2005, http://www.stjamesok.org/ArbpAlypyBIO.htm
Spengler, Oswald. Prussian and Socialism, 1919.
Spengler, Oswald ‘The Two Faces of Russia and Germany’s Eastern Problems’, Politische Schriften, Munich, 14 February, 1922.
Spengler, Oswald. The Hour of Decision, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963.
Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of The West, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1971.
Trotsky, Leon. The Revolution Betrayed: what is the Soviet Union and where is it going?, 1936. 
Voices from Russia, 15 January 2008, http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/the-wonderworking-icon-of-kaza…

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Swiss to allow ‘complete’ free movement of people from Croatia

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Switzerland informed the EU of the decision at a meeting on Friday of the Switzerland-EU Joint Committee on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but the two economic partners signed an agreement on the free movement of people in 1999, which came into force in 2002.

EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship?

That deal allows Swiss nationals and those of EU member states to freely choose their place of work and residence within those nations. But the agreement includes transitional stages.

Croatia joined the European Union in 2013 and since 2017 Croatian citizens have enjoyed free movement in Switzerland, but labour restrictions have been maintained.

READ MORE: An essential guide to Swiss work permits

These restrictions will end on January 1, 2022.

“This will put Croatian workers on an equal footing with those from other EU member states or the European Free Trade Association,” an organisation that includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration said in a statement.

“If the immigration of Croatian workers exceeds a certain threshold, Switzerland will be able to invoke a safeguard clause and limit the number of permits again from 1 January 2023 until the end of 2026 at the latest,” it added.

As of the end of 2020, 28,324 Croatian nationals were living in Switzerland, six more than a year earlier. This number represents 1.9 percent of the total number of EU and EFTA nationals living in Switzerland.

Residence permits: How EU and EFTA citizens can live, work and stay in Switzerland



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Madrid art scene: Renaissance meets AI art: Madrid exhibition reimagines Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ | Culture

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Be good, do not cave in to lust and you will be spared the horrors of hell. This highly familiar moralizing message is clearly conveyed by The Garden of Earthly Delights, painted by Hieronymus Bosch five centuries ago. Although, Bosch’s depiction of hell looks not so much like a fiery place where the souls of sinners burn for eternity as a rave party that’s spun out of control. The place is filled with deviant humans and odd-looking animals performing strange acts.

The complexity of this artwork, with its wealth of small stories and details, means that any art lover – in fact, any alert citizen – can easily spend hours gazing at it. “At other periods of time it was used as something like going to the movies before movies even existed: the owner could invite the VIPs of the day to his house, open up the triptych – which has a much more sober view of the world on its outer panels – and amaze his guests with the exuberant fantasy world concealed within,” explains Rebekah Rhodes, director of Documentation and Publications at Colección SOLO, a Madrid-based international arts project.

Painted between 1490 and 1510, The Garden of Earthly Delights continues to pack the same punch as it did centuries ago: it remains one of the most viewed works at the Prado Museum in Madrid, where it has been housed since 1939. The strong inspiration produced by these painted panels recently led a group of 15 contemporary artists to create new art based on the original painting, but using modern techniques such as sound art, video games and even artificial intelligence. The result of their reinterpretation is an exhibition curated by Colección SOLO and co-produced by the cultural center Matadero Madrid that will be open to the public at the latter space until February 2022. Most of the 18 works on display were made specifically for this exhibition where the Renaissance meets 21st-century interactive art.

A visitor at the Madrid exhibition based on the work of Hieronymus Bosch.
A visitor at the Madrid exhibition based on the work of Hieronymus Bosch.
KIKE PARA

Three giant LED screens measuring 4 x 7 meters each make up Speculum, an artwork by the Dutch collective SMACK whose members have come up with a digital, post-modern view of the original painting. Speculum creates a sensory overload with an updated version of the garden in pastel shades where some characters are being tormented with needles and psychoactive drugs while drones fly overhead and refugees on boats attempt to enter hell (only to find a wall barring the way there too). There are pets from TV shows, trees that produce wasteful plastic containers instead of fruit, and instead of God we see an effigy of physicist Isaac Newton.

The layout of the exhibition mimics a cardboard labyrinth, deepening the sense of mystery for visitors about to be treated to Dave Cooper’s orgy of penis-plants and nipple-flowers, Enrique Del Castillo’s Umbráfono, an optical reader that transforms patterns on 35mm film into sound, and to a Book of Genesis featuring mice, by Lusesita.

“We realized there was a gap for artists who use technology to express themselves,” says Óscar Hormigos, director of Development for SOLO. “If it’s hard for any beginning artist to break through, it’s even more so for these kinds of artists.”

The Spanish-Croatian artist Filip Custic, best known for having designed the visual identity for El malquerer, a 2018 album by the Spanish singer Rosalía, has created a sequence of panels where he imagines human evolution as it reaches the gender-fluid stage. But perhaps the most advanced demonstration of tech applied to art is the work by Mario Klingemann, who used AI techniques to turn The Garden of Earthly Delights into a work in constant flux: his algorithms change or repair various parts of the painting, changing its textures and making it more liquid or abstract. “Although it’s the artist who created the piece, it is the machine that’s doing art autonomously,” notes Hormigos.

When: Until February 27, 2022. Where: Matadero cultural center (Plaza de Legazpi, 8). Price: Free admission

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Ivan the ‘Terrible’ Wasn’t Terrible at All

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The author is a well-known academic historian of Russia and Ukraine, which he approaches from a Christian (Russian Orthodox) and nationalist perspective, arguing that nationalism and Christian Orthodoxy are inseparable. He also writes widely on current affairs. Rare for contemporary Western historians of Russia, he sources original materials in Russian, pulling back the veil on much misunderstanding, ranging from modern history back to Russia’s very beginnings in the Middle Ages.

His latest book, Ukrainian Nationalism (2019), (Amazon), is the definitive treatment of this topic and is essential reading to understand the current political turmoil in Ukraine. It argues that Ukrainian nationalism is real and legitimate, but needn’t be Anti-Russian, and that Russia and Ukraine are in fact natural allies. Here is his article on Russia Insider explaining some of the ideas in the book. There is no other scholar writing today about Russia and the Ukraine with this extraordinary command of historical detail and meaning. Johnson is a national treasure, and his works are highly recommended. For a fascinating audio podcast discussion of the book by Johnson and Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, see here

If you are so inclined, please rate the book on Amazon, as this increases sales greatly. It is a great way to support the author and help spread the ideas in the book. If Amazon blocks you from leaving a review, please let us know in the comments section below, and/or send an email to [email protected]


Russia and the World at the time of Ivan’s Birth

Russia has long been considered the land of darkness. Beginning with the Renaissance disdain for the medieval world, the rise of international banking, the Polish/Jewish alliance in Central Europe, and the British Enlightenment, Russia and Spain have been stigmatized as just a bit better than animals.

That the resultant ideology of “progress” will be the primary justification of the attempt to enslave or destroy those “animals” should come as no surprise. To separate the industrial revolution from colonialism and slavery is absurd and intellectually dishonest. Ireland and Russia are two cases in point. However, this essay will focus on the very long reign of Ivan IV “the Terrible” of Russia (1530-1584). 

Modernity and Progress were the justifications for the global empire of the west. Genocide was the norm from Ireland to Arizona, from India to Ukraine. The patristic philosophy speaks constantly about the destruction that the passions cause. In this case, the unchecked rule of oligarchy that is the foundation of the Enlightenment shows just what can happen when ego goes unchecked and the superficial idea of “progress” is harnessed to justify the “temporary sacrifice” required to enter the promised land. 

The East was colonized by foreign capital in this period, except for one entity. The Russian empire rejected the Enlightenment idea, represented later by the upper layers of the nobility, mostly foreign, brought into Russia at the end of the reign of Tsar Alexis. Mobilized by Peter I, Russia was nearly an internal colony of its own westernized oligarchy. This, however, is in the future from the time of Tsar Ivan. The point is that Peter and his ilk needed to make an explicit break with Old Russia in order for his revolution to take place. 

In the 15th and early 16th century, Russia was the last remaining Orthodox power in the world. Russia took her national character from the fact that she was born in the harsh realm of the forested north coveted by Poland, Sweden and the Papacy, and the exposed south constantly under attack from various Turkish tribes and slave raiders from everywhere. The result was that the Russian state was forced to become centralized and militarized. From the east, south, west and northwest Russia was surrounded by enemies with one thing in common: their ruling classes saw Russian “barbarism” as an excuse to colonize this rich land.1
 

The International Context:  Poland, Turkey and the Passions

Russia’s most obnoxious and lawless enemy was the Polish oligarchy, the szlachta. 

“Poland” was not a state or nation in the modern sense. Russia was explicitly aware of her state’s origin and ethnic center, as were the Cossacks, Greeks and Serbs. Their states and empires were ethnic in that they had a strong racial core, common religious faith and clear linguistic and legal distinctions with their neighbors. This cannot be applied to Poland until the 20th century. Poland was a loosely connected set of noble estates, each with its own law and private army. 

Catholicism served as a fragile glue quickly torn asunder by the Reformation. “Polish” military force came from the Confederations, alliances of powerful clans to pool resources to fight a specific battle and then disband. These alliances, formal or no, were the same as “Poland.” The monarchy was very weak and held in contempt by the nobility.2 

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The Polish szlachta referred to themselves as Sarmatians, an Aryan tribe first found in Central Asia. By the third century BC, they were fighting the Scythians on the Pontic Steppe. Herodotus claims this tribe descended from a mix of renegade Scythians and Amazon warriors, while Strabo does not make a distinction between Scythian and Sarmatian at all. It is clear that this tribe slowly subdued the Scythians and fought the Germanic tribes to the north of the Roman empire to a standstill. Ptolemy suggests that their final settlement is roughly at modern Poland at the mouth of the Danube.

The Polish elite, at the height of their power in the 16th century, came to believe that they were not Slavs like their peasants or the hated Russians, but descendants of these Aryan-Asian Sarmatians who conveniently had the ancient duty to rule over the Slavic cattle. The noble estates loosely called “Poland” at the time had one purpose and function: to protect the extremely violent practices of serfdom and to maintain the fiction of Sarmatian supremacy over the Slavs.3 

Russia was in the midst of a life and death battle with the Ottoman Empire during much of the era covered here. In 1475, the Ottoman Turks managed to bring the Crimean fragment of the old Horde under its control. Russia in the 15th century was under constant attack from the south, with slaves being the primary prize of these border raids. When the Crimea stood behind the Ottomans, the power and devastation of these raids increased in scale and organization. The huge alliance of Tartar Kazan, Tartar Crimea and the Ottoman Turks then partnered with Italian and Jewish bankers to share the profits of the slave trade. These parties raided southern Russia constantly, removing hundreds of thousands of Slavic slaves, bringing them to the slave-marts of the Black or Caspian Sea. This is the environment that Ivan inherited. 

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There is no understanding Russian policy at the time without first grasping these facts. 

The Balkan Slavs and the Russians were at war with a huge network of capital at the end of the Renaissance that has yet to be analyzed in English. The tight bond among immensely wealthy Jews, European elites and Tartar empire-builders would destroy the entire master narrative of official liberal historiography.

This alliance, and several others to the north and west, caused Moscow to engage in Herculean efforts to mobilize enough men and resources to keep three or four large enemies at bay simultaneously. This had to be done also with harsh winters, poor soil, difficult travel and internal divisions often goaded by foreigners. This is the source of the Muscovite policy of centralization and service-estate monarchy. It is the historical condition for the Russian mind and defined the Russian national character.4 

The literature in English usually decries the “lust for power” of the tsars and the “massacre” of helpless Muslims and defenders of Kazan under Ivan IV. The official narrative is uncomfortable with the fact that Russia barely escaped total genocide at this time, and only by the total mobilization of every possible man to create a war machine capable of defending its own borders was Russia ever preserved at all. In the best of times this was a risky gamble. At the worst of times, millions of Russians were exterminated, enslaved and exploited. 

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Before the Mongol attacks, Russia had been torn apart by arrogant feudal lords in Galicia and Kiev itself, and only the rapid rise of Vladimir-Suzdal was the unity of Russian idea saved. The fragmentation of Kiev is largely the result of a growing and concentrated oligarchical class, which usually is parallel to the growth of cities. Concerned with profits, urban elites are not interested in being part of a national revival or Orthodox resurgence.

Princes then struggled to maintain even a formal unity over her cities. The Mongols ended this struggle, but it taught Russians that centralization and military force are the main allies of the Russian state. For alienated American academics to piously condemn the royalist constitution of Old Russia from the comfort of their pricey condos and attractive student “assistants” is the height of American stupidity and vulgarity.5 

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Russian historiography up until the 20th century had been generally positive in its estimation of Ivan. They placed Ivan in the proper context of European events. The bizarre and dogmatic Anglo-American loathing for the man developed only in an age where liberalism reigned unopposed in the ivory tower. Ivan IV could not but seem the typical embodiment of benighted, ignorant Slavs and the royal house of Russia specifically. 

Older historians were far more skilled in dialectic. Karamzin would not accept the foreign reports on Ivan, partly because they were contradictory and partly because many were written as a means to influence European opinion away from the Russians.

Rather, he argued that the nobility were the main opposition to the crown and hence, to a unified Russia. It was Nikolay Ustryalov that developed the notion of “two Ivans,” one in the first half of his reign and the other, negative part, developing after the death of Anastasia, his wife. Ustryalov created the “paranoid” Ivan that became canonical in the west. This was taken up by Oleg Platonov later.

Mikhail Pogodin corrected this view, arguing properly that Ivan was far less violent than the creators of the new states in the west. Overcoming feudal fragmentation was a pan-European movement and could only be done violently. Sergei Solovyev was very similar in this regard. Platonov’s view was that Ivan’s policy was unnecessary, but understandable. The result was that the transfer of land title from the old elite to the Oprichniki harmed the economy and created legal confusion. 

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Konstantin Kavelin too placed Ivan in a broader context, though in his case, an idiosyncratic one. His view was that the old elite destroyed by Ivan represented the much older tribal and clan idea. Thus, Ivan was a revolutionary and positive development, finishing the project started by Vladimir I at least. Historians should avoid the personal-account of history, having no idea what motivates people.

A bad historical argument usually has some claim to a leader’s internal mental state. These should be dismissed unless there is some evidence that manifests this state. In other words, claiming that a leader is “jealous” or “paranoid” and hence, took a certain action is not an argument at all. Its poor speculation.6

Noble Rule and Ivan’s Youth

The origin of the more exaggerated claims against Ivan are domestic, most are foreign. Some of the more absurd claims, such as Ivan’s “first execution” at age 13, or Kurbsky’s tale that Ivan tortured cats as a boy, are merely propaganda that is typical during war. By 1538, Ivan saw his mother poisoned, leaving Ivan, just out of toddler-hood, now an orphan. Prior to Ivan taking control, the oligarchy raped the country in an orgy they knew would likely end when Ivan took power. The result was that they took what they could with massive speed. From 1538 to 1543, Moscow was a place of violence and bloodshed. 

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The Italian architect Fryazin, for example, was forced to flee back to Italy because he said the boyars had made life in Moscow completely unbearable. The state was little more than a stage for conspiracies and coups. Ivan, at the time only 12, was terrified and feared for his life. The Shuiskys, intoxicated with the joy of victory over their rivals, lost all sense of proportion as their passions came to control them entirely.

They plundered the treasury, took all gold stored at the Kremlin, and granted their friends huge chunks of land. The fierce struggle between the boyar clans of Shuisky (descended from Ruirik) and Belsky (from the royal Lithuanian family of Gediminas) kept the child Ivan alive in the hopes he would one day be used as a pawn in future battles. They were mistaken.7 

Until 1540 the country was actually ruled by the elite boyars nominally under the Shuisky clan, made famous later during the Troubles.8 The Boyar Duma legislated that its own decrees were to be taken as legally equal to royal charters. The well armed Shuiskys and their large private armies went to war, as powerful governors in the cities and towns behaved “as savage beasts,” stealing what they could before the “government” changed again. Of course, this chaos did not go unnoticed. Boyar oligarchy meant that the southern borders were threatened by Tatars and Turks as the northwest by Lithuania and Sweden. The state was on the verge of death. To be fair, the Belsky clan, coming to power in 1540, did strengthen the state and repelled the attacks. The Shuisky clan was soon to retake power.9 

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The Russian elite could function only with the crown. They were almost universally hated, and, outside of brief periods of time where they could plunder, for them to rule directly was impossible. No one believed that oligarchs have any right to rule. They can function only with the legitimacy granted by the crown. On the one hand, monarchy was needed to give the oligarchy a productive role and a place in the state.

Yet, this role was always at their own expense. They were given important offices only in exchange for loyalty. This is to say that they were forced to make public use of their plunder. 

As the oligarchs realized their time was short, it was only the tears of young Ivan and the intercession of Metropolitan Vorontsov that saved him from death. After that, Ivan, on December 29, 1543, ordered the arrest of Andrei Shuisky, the leader of the feudal oligarchs and the infamous symbol of the financial rape of the nation. 
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Historians wrongly argue that no trial was held and offenders were executed. They are wrong on both counts. The political acumen of Ivan at this age is remarkable. Using the weakness of oligarchs against them, he realized that as soon as he proved himself competent, the commanders of local armies, commoners, clergy, lower nobles oppressed by the elite and many others would quickly turn on their arrogant masters. Regardless of the torment these pathological elites inflicted on the young Ivan, he treated them with mercy.10 

At 13, Ivan still could not rule alone and chose a small council to assist him. Relying on the Vorontsov clan, the young monarch sought to strengthen the state and develop the idea of a unified Russia against the fragmentation caused by the nobility. Seeing their unearned income disappearing, the elite fought back. One method was to create stories of “Ivan the Butcher” for circulation abroad. 
 

Ivan’s Accomplishments: Justice as Restraint

In 1550, Ivan called a major sobor11 of both church and “land” (that is, the nation and its various classes), which brought together representatives of the different regions of Muscovy. These meetings created a new code of law and also included the church synod of the One Hundred Chapters.12 The Code (or the Sudebnik) streamlined laws and included a number of new statutes to make the courts more equitable.

Under the new law, for example, it was impossible to arrest a person without explaining the reason for the arrest to his elder, that is, the elected headman of the commune or artel. Various forms of due process were created. Between 1550 and 1560, Ivan IV issued a series of charters that reduced the power of royal governors in the different regions of the Moscow kingdom and handed it over to governors who needed to be approved by the local landowners. They took an oath to both landlords and peasants and to rule according to all laws and customs. All judges were elected and the monasteries formed a strong check on the power of the state.13 

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The vast majority of those executed by Ivan belonged to the upper class and were guilty of very real (and not mythical) conspiracies and treason. To reiterate: powerful noble families dominated Russia at the expense of the state. They were richer, more numerous and had more men under arms than Moscow. The very act of founding a standing army was considered “tyranny” by oligarchical intellectuals. All told, verifiable executions in Ivan’s 50 year reign came to 3500 people. This is a weekend in the USSR. It comes to less than 100 people a year.

The fact that Ivan the Terrible introduced a reformed, fairer court system and that the death penalty was imposed only on violent common criminals in Moscow and only when approved by the King in person, it is certain that his concern was justice and the rule of law after the anarchy of his youth.

The new court system also makes it possible to say a) the exact number of executions is known; b) they were given a fair trial which was ensured by the involvement of the boyar Duma, or the legislative chamber of this very elite. The special Synodikon books were Ivan’s own record of executions for the sake of praying for their souls. By contrast, under tsar Alexis a century later, capital punishment was mandated for 80 offenses, and under Peter I, that increased to 120. Peter I killed far more personally than Ivan did legally. Ivan IV was one of the most humane rulers at the time in Europe. 

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Iron foundries were founded with state money, and the very distinguished cannon master Andrey Chokhov built what was then considered the finest canon in Europe. His cannon were cast in the particular form using a wax model. Another was Russian builder Fyodor Kon, who built the Moscow walls and stone towers of the Kremlin. He did the same for Smolensk.

Since Muscovy on all sides was surrounded by enemies, Ivan (and all monarchs after him) was forced to improve the Russian army. Since the noble muster was the norm, he created the regular force of the strelets (musketeers or archers) in 1550. He called on the elite of the city and surrounding areas to send their most promising young boys to be trained as the elite Guard of Moscow. Of course, these were modeled on the earlier Oprichniki created under severe stress. In 1556, Ivan published the law on military service of the landowners.

Unpopular, Ivan forced the elite to serve the common good. For every 150 hectares of land (each hectare is about 2.47 acres), they needed to supply one fully trained and armed man. His efforts against oligarchy finally made the service estate actually about serving: without serving the common good, no land would be granted. While compromising over the power of royal governors, Ivan would not budge on this fundamental idea. 

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Ivan’s reign was a time of substantial economic development and the first overarching economic policy for the whole nation. He sought the development of newer and more advanced crafts and their corresponding guilds. He imported Russia’s first printing press from Kiev. In 1564, Metropolitan St. Macarius released his first book, a Slavonic translation of “The Acts of the Apostles” using this press. 

In the absence of nationwide market, Ivan IV established foreign economic ties in order to spur a domestic market. In order to establish trade relations with the West for the first time since the Kievan era, Moscow took advantage of her newfound access to the White Sea. According to royal decree, English merchants were granted free trade rights with Moscow as a means of ensuring British cooperation. London created the Moscow Company and brought new techniques in architecture, navigation and shipbuilding into Russia’s interior. The specter of a strong land power united with a strong sea power and peaceful trade cooperation between Britain and Russia was seen as a threat to many European powers. 

Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Lithuania tried to block this agreement. In addition, officially sponsored Swedish and Polish pirates made predatory raids on Russian and English ships. It is rarely reported that, as a result of this, Ivan retaliated by creating an elite corsair fleet of fast moving ships to intercept and destroy these pirates. This was made easier by the new revenue streams coming from Astrakhan, Kazan and parts of Siberia newly brought into the empire.14 

Ivan the Terrible created both land and monetary reform. The ruble was made the sole legal tender in Moscow, while monasteries now paid taxes in money (rather than in military recruits or in-kind payments). Sales taxes became a critical source of revenue and were purely centralized. 

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Southern and Southeastern trade was essential to ensure a strong revenue stream in case of western blockades. The Volga was the main route to do this. Two Tartar Khanates – Kazan and Astrakhan – blocked the way between Russia and the powerful empires of the far east. They not only stymied Russian trade with Central Asia and the far east, but also raided the eastern Russian border, doing the same to the east that the Tartars were doing in the west. These border raids, often at the behest of western powers, were slave raids, and Russia was constantly drained of her citizens in the slave trade in the east and west.15 

In 1552, Ivan brought to Kazan an army of 150,000 soldiers equipped with about 150 field guns. In Kazan, a strong Tartar army was well dug in, so Russian engineers undermined the Kazan walls, placing barrels of gunpowder underneath and collapsed their defenses. About half of this Russian army was Tartar and locally recruited. Once captured, no conversions to Orthodoxy were forced, but they were encouraged under the saintly bishop Gury who was assigned to the city. The Russian empire was not for profit (though profit could be made), but for defense and security.

No imposition of Russian customs was ever public policy, and the Russian tradition of the multinational Eurasian state began. Russian excess in these attacks is certainly legitimate given the hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens sold in slave markets throughout Asia. 

In 1556 the king sent troops down the Volga to conquer Astrakhan. Since then, the Tatar threat from the East has ceased to exist. The Volga was finally a Russian river. After the conquest of Astrakhan, Russians began moving south to take advantage of the newly opened trading relations with the east. Moving along the Terek River, they reached the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. There, explorers formed a voluntary army of the “Greben Cossacks” who merged with parts of the Don army. 

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In 1558, Ivan began the war with the Livonian and Teutonic Crusading orders. These had been commanded by the pope of Rome in the 13th century to take as much of Russia as possible while she was under the Mongol yoke. By 1560, Russian forces occupied almost the whole of Livonia, returning several old Russian cities including Revel and Dorpat. 

Entirely on the side of people’s interests stood the Orthodox Church, who at the time was totally independent with her own courts and law. She always sought to maintain a strong government in Russia that could both protect the nation and control the secular elites. Bishops and large monasteries were a major check on the power of the oligarchs and the two groups were rarely at peace. The church used much from Byzantine and Balkan canon law to develop the theoretical justification for the crown and the centralization of Russian power. 

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Even in Kievan times, the Old Testament kings were the model and were understood as manifestations of natural law.16 Power is “given by God” in the sense that it is a part of the natural order. It is natural for human beings to organize themselves into functional communities and these require defense, law and judicial institutions. On the other hand, sin, corruption and greed – if unchecked – create the consequent destruction and de-legitimization of these same social structures. 

The Orthodox crown is based on national and divine law, which can only concern the public good and the war against the human propensity to follow their appetites rather than intellect. On the other hand, oligarchy is inherently “private,” meaning that they care only for themselves. Oligarchy exists to exploit; kings exist to limit, to draw the boundary and restrain the will.

Among the Polish Confederations for example, military victories by the crown were seen as negative events, since it meant the increase in royal power and prestige. A a strong monarch is the opposite of oligarchy. The rich constantly war against the “father,” the patriarchal principle manifest in the king. The unlimited demands of greed are checked by the limits placed by the monarch in law. 
 

Noble Plots against Russia

Ivan spent his reign fighting battle after battle against the privileged elite. As Moscow made its power clear, the oligarchs began making deals with foreign powers to hand over the country in exchange for a firm title to their privileges. In 1566-1567, Ivan intercepted letters from the Polish regime and the Lithuanian prince to many of the major noble families of the realm. 

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Among them was the Chelyadnin-Fedorov clan whose rank made him the de facto leader of the Boyar Duma and gave him a casting vote in the election of a new sovereign. In addition, a letter from Poland was addressed to Prince Ivan Kurakin-Bulgachov, Prince of Rostov, as well as Prince Ivan D. Belsky and the rest of the highest Duma members.

The letters speak of many deals in the process of negotiation, including the idea of the Polish king that Prince Ivan Dmitrievich be granted vast land in Lithuania for treason against the Russian Tsar. The remaining recipients were feted by Polish elites and negotiating as to who should replace Ivan once hes overthrown.17 In the autumn of 1567, Ivan led a campaign against Lithuania.

There, intelligence gave him more evidence of this treason. The Lithuanian and Polish plan, communicated to elite traitors in Russia, was to take a unit of the army and use it to kill Ivan. From there, the remainder of the now leaderless Russians will be scattered, and this vanguard group would escort the Poles into Moscow. Ivan urgently fled to the capital once he learned this as he had to prepare for this possibility both at home and on campaign.

The head of this pro-Lithuanian group was again Chelyadnin-Fedorov which, according to Kobrin, was “a noble lord, owner of vast estates. . . one of the few figures administration of the time, which did not take bribes, a man of impeccable integrity.” An important political agent of the Polish crown, A. Schlichting, informs Sigismund, the Polish monarch: “Many distinguished persons, about 30 people. . . have committed to writing that have delivered the Grand Duke with his Oprichniki into the hands of your Majesty; if only Your Majesty moved his forces eastward.” 

The offenders were arrested. The trial took place Boyar Duma. The evidence was irrefutable: the contract signed by the traitors was in the hands of Ivan. No one denied guilt, since the handwriting matches clearly, so the next step is for the now disgraced oligarch to dissociate himself from the conspiracy. A German spy “Stade” reported that Chelyadnin-Fedorov, Ivan Kurakin-Bulgachova and princes of Rostov were executed as a result.

The problem was that Prince Ivan Kurakin, the second most important member of the conspiracy, was still alive in 1577, 10 years later, as he held several important posts! Drinking on the job, abandoning his garrison command as the Poles took over without resistance. Finally, this fool was executed. He more than likely took it as a favor. 

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The day that this plot was to occur, the empress Maria Temrykovna died with all the symptoms of poisoning. The royal chef eventually confessed to his part in the murder, and the trail led to boyar Vladimir Andrevitch. Ivan acted quickly, though the false histories in the west claim that this conspiracy led to a massive slaughter. The only death was the ringleader, Vladimir. 

Western writers spread rumors about Ivan’s violence and paranoia. Some of the rumors spreading in the west included several Oprichniki riding out in a boat to drown rebels – in January. Some have claimed that “200,000” were murdered, but Novgorod’s whole population was about 27,000 at the time.18 The point here is that conspiracies against Ivan and Russia were real. Secondly, that the offenders were tried and only a few were executed and finally, that Russia’s many enemies had a strong incentive to blacken his reputation. 

The real foundation of these early attempts to create an oligarchic republic was the Judaizer sect, an ideology all conspirators against Russia held in common. It seemed that Metropolitan Pimen had been a secret leader of that sect, and Ivan called a synod to deal with these issues. St. Phillip the Martyr had learned quite a bit about the sect, and the Judaizers murdered him before he could testify – Ivan’s men had nothing to do with it. The conspirators had stopped up the metropolitan’s furnace exhaust and he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. St. Phillip was a martyr, but not from Ivan. 

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Ivan arrived in Novgorod with a guard of 500 men, and there are no reports of any clashes with noble forces, suggesting that the local garrison remained loyal. It was clear that Pimen’s influence ran deep in the local elite. This sect accepted usury and profiteering, so profits skyrocketed, as did interest rates – that was a tremendous incentive to join that sect. The highest estimate of the number of verifiable executions in Novgorod was about 1500 total.

Most of the punishments were confiscation of property or heavy fines. In Pskov, most denunciations for treason turned out to be false and its victims cleared, meaning that trials were reasonably fair. In early May of 1571, as the Livonian war in the north continued to rage, the conspirators found the Crimean Tartars as another possible agent. Military intelligence reported that the Tatars were dormant and not interested in further attacks on Russia.

This story was false and deliberately contrived. As a result of this planted story, Ivan returned to Moscow, satisfied that the southern border was safe. On cue, a massive force of Crimean Tartars were at the border, and some reports put their number well over 100,000, commanded by Devlet Giray. How an army of this size can go undetected is the result of noble perfidy, where Kudeyar Tishenkov had joined the Tartars in a bid to unseat Ivan. Even worse, the local border force refused to move against them. The governors in charge of defense against the Crimea, Volsky and Mstislav, were part of this scheme. Alone, the Oprichnina force stood against this massive array. 

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The Oprichnina army under the command of JF Volynov was small in number, perhaps a few thousand at most. The border force under noble control fled the area and returned to Moscow, refusing to fight. Ivan eventually grasped the situation and used only Oprichnina forces to defend the city and Russia’s very existence. Far from some fictional horror sect, the Oprichnina was an elite group of warriors and knights chosen for their loyalty as well as skill. Given the sheer number of noble plots, Ivan was forced to create a loyal force that could be counted on against the enemies of Russia foreign and domestic. Keep in mind that the Russian army was from the noble muster, so when nobles were disloyal, an alternative military force had to be created. 

The carnage was massive. The Tartars annihilated Moscow’s suburbs. The Islamic army’s own figures say 60,000 were killed in a massive victory over Russia with many slaves taken. Several noble traitors were executed, including M. Cherkassy, one of the old boyars and Prince VI Temkin-Rostov. Prince Mstislav, one of the ringleaders, was spared at the expressed request of Metropolitan Cyril, who wanted an end to this bloodshed.

Ivan’s position was desperate. After this slaughter, The Vorotynsky Commission was called to reorganize border defenses. Part of the plan was to use “chain fortresses” stretching from the Donetsk in the west to the Irtysh in the east. Moving peasants to the area, Ivan created a small army of yeoman smallholders with a single goal: to defend the southern border. Peasants he could trust. Nobles he could not.19
 

Purification through Asceticism:  Noble Treason and the Oprichnina

The beginning of the 1560s was a time of great military and diplomatic victories for Russia. In the summer of 1561, the Swedish King Erik XIV signed a truce with Ivan for 20 years, allowing Ivan to intensify the fight against Poland and the Crimea. Russian expeditionary troops landed in Tauris from the Caspian Sea, causing panic in the courts of the Turkish sultan and the Polish king. In the same year, the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople approved Ivan’s claim to the Imperial title, which allowed the Russian Tsar speak on equal terms with all the sovereigns of Europe.

In 1563, Russia took an important strategic region, the city of Polotsk, which opened the road to Vilna, the capital of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Crimean Khan Devlet Giray thought it best to stop military operations against Russia and in January 1564, took the oath of allegiance to Ivan. Russia was now a global power. 

Then, a very strange thing occurred. At the end of 1564, exhausted by endless intrigues, Ivan resigned his royal crown and left the capital, accompanied by a few loyal servitors. Ivan’s motivation was clear: constant threats, the power of the clans, rumors and conspiracies meant that so much that needed to be done was neglected. Ivan saw power is a burden. Regardless of his victories and reforms, the aristocracy, who controlled the entire administration, had their flunkys in all offices, maintained large private armies and were always looking for a way to destroy Ivan. This constant fear wore on him.20 

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Ivan’s unexpected move caused the nobility to panic. No greater proof is possible for the thesis presented here. The oligarchy was aware of their total lack of legitimacy. The common population hated them. Without Ivan, the nobles would be torn apart in peasant rebellions. The population from all classes organized processions to appeal to Ivan to return. Yet, any return without some radical reforms would be futile. The elite and their immense power needed to be broken, or Russia would be no more. Without a firm base of his own, no one could effectively rule for long. Ivan needed a standing army that was dedicated to the vision of Holy Russia, a royal state dedicated to the common good and the ascetic life. This was the Oprichnina.21 

The endless irrational and implausible hysteria organized by the partisans of oligarchy from then until the present day has almost eliminated any rational investigation into the problem. The Oprichnina is seen as a cult of fanatics engaging in a reign of terror against the innocent nobility and anyone who got in their way. Peasants, for no reason, were raped and murdered and no one was safe. It was nothing of the kind. However, its power was sufficient to drive oligarchs from Moscow to London into fits of hysteria. 

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Most often, the term “Oprichnina” in Russian is the assignment of lands from the estate of a deceased serviceman to his widow as a kind of pension. For Ivan, it was a part of Russia, a portion of the country, that Ivan would rule directly. Unsurprisingly, it comprised the most volatile areas ruled by the more rapacious elite. The Oprichnina was organized like a monastic brotherhood, a military-monastic order, common in the west, created to protect the unity of the nation and the purity of the faith. Monastic vows (or a sort) were taken upon entry, as all worldly desires were renounced. At midnight, all stood up for the Office, while Matins began at 4am, leading to the liturgy. The king led by example as he chanted the offices and read the Holy Writings in the refectory. It was a “Crusading order” of a sort that Ivan thought was absolutely necessary to restructure Russia.22 

For most modern historians, the Oprichnina created a “reign of terror” enforced by an insane monarch for no good reason. An orgy of killings is said to have taken place, murders of tens of thousands and all, of course, innocent. Metropolitan Ioann of Petrograd, writing in the 20th century, stated that “The establishment of the Oprichnina was a turning point of the reign of Ivan IV. Oprichnina units played a prominent role in repelling the attacks of Devlet Giray in 1571 and 1572 and with their help the conspiracies in Novgorod and Pskov were discovered and defused, conspiracies aimed to bring Russia under the rule of Lithuania. Finally, Russia entered into a period of renewal under the Oprichnina.”23
 

Tsar against Tyranny:  Kurbsky as the Spokesman for Oligarchy

Andrei Kurbsky is one of the heroes of western pseudo-scholarship. In the constant drive to justify oligarchy, western historians, exclusively funded by a similar system in the US, state that Kurbsky was a “loyal soldier” to Ivan. This is false, as this oligarch was almost always antiroyal and advocated a revolutionary republic. Kurbsky is often a symbol of the modern, Enlightened man seeking “liberty” against the “dead weight” of tradition.

He is often interpreted arbitrarily, usually to reflect the present ideological consensus, always at Ivan’s expense. Andrei Kurbsky was a military commander against the Poles during the Livonian wars. The incident that changed everything was the 1562 defeat of 15,000 Russian infantry against 4,000 Poles. Valishevsky argued that Kurbsky deliberately lost the battle and that his “negligence” bordered on the insane. 

As it turns out, he did deliberately throw the fight and sacrifice many Russian lives. He was in regular correspondence with the Polish king Sigmund Augustus and a conspiracy was developed where many elements of the Russian oligarchy were to come over to Poland and then form the core of the invasion force to bring Russia under Polish control. 

In 1564, Kurbsky abandoned his wife and 9 year old son to officially enlist in the Polish elite nobility. Quickly, Kurbsky forgot about his family and married a wealthy Polish widow. The state granted him Kovel, containing 109 villages and 4,000 acres plus an additional 28 villages in Volyn. As always, the republican oligarch, constantly demanding “liberty,” becomes a powerful serf-owner. 
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Once it became known that Kurbsky was a traitor, a correspondence developed between the two men that has been analyzed many, many times. Famously, the epistles between Ivan and Kurbsky are a wealth of information about the nature of the two schools of political thought at the time. Their own writing styles and use of evidence show a radical contrast in mentality, education and level of maturity. In his first letter, Andrei refers to Ivan as “The Antichrist” which at the time, was the single most severe accusation one man could make against another. That this appears in his first letter does not reflect well on the disgraced oligarch. He cannot control his emotions and this obscures the few salient points he does make. 

Rather than descend to this level, Ivan takes this as an opportunity to outline one of the best summaries of royalist ideas in European history. The central idea is that only the centralized rule of the crown can maintain order and protect the long borders of the Russian realm, porous at the best of times. Nobles made deals with Tartars, Italians, Germans, Chechens, Chuds, Finns, Crimeans and anyone else who promised to maintain their income and privileges. 
 

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Ivan argues that nobles have a long history of giving up faith, family, nation, morals and even reality for the sake of keeping their money, lands and privileges. This is the entire reason for Ivan’s reign: to finally smash this arrogant group. It almost tore Russia asunder more than once, especially in the constant threats of wealthy Novgorod to defect to Poland. In this vein, Ivan writes: 

Then they 24 raised traitors against us, including our uncle, Prince Andrei Ivanovich, and these traitors absconded to Novgorod25 . . . and soon the rebellion spread to include many boyars, led by your kinsman, Prince Ivan, the son of Prince Semen, grandson of Duke Peter Romanovich, and many others. God’s intervention prevented the plot from succeeding. . . . These traitors sought to hand over the cities of Radogosch, Starodub and Gomel in exchange for privileges and immunities. There is no benevolence or good will here. The moment they are insecure in their lands, they are ready to hand it over to foreigners. 
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From the historical facts, no one can argue with Ivan. The nature of plutocracy is to care only about the magical attributes of money in that it grants education, power, ability, moral right and other attributes merely by possessing it. The oligarchs, usually the upper levels of the elite, had no use for collective terms such as law or nation. They cared about their talisman. Ivan then references the poisoning of his first wife. For centuries this was attributed to the “paranoia” of Ivan. That Ivan was the subject of many poisoning attempts is now no longer subject to debate.

TD Panina, the senior researcher for the Moscow Kremlin museum, engaged in a painstaking study of the chemical composition of Ivan’s body and other members of the royal family. Almost every member had extremely high levels of arsenic. The maximum acceptable level in the human body is 0.08 milligrams per 100 grams of body weight; for mercury, its 0.04. Ivan had 0.15 milligrams of arsenic and a whopping 13 milligrams of mercury in his system per 100 grams. For Queen Anastasia, it was .8 and .13 respectively. Prince Ivan, the Tsar’s son, had a very high 13 milligrams of mercury in his system. They did not spare babies either. The king’s infant daughter Mary had 3.8 milligrams of arsenic in her system.26 
 

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This discovery shows that Ivan was not “paranoid,” but was the subject of a relentless boyar conspiracy. It shows that the elite would wipe out the whole family if they could. They murdered children and would stop at nothing. If Ivan was right about this, how much more is being ignored? 

If that is not enough, Ivan details many of the plots discussed above, showing how the oligarchy cares nothing for the people, the nation or the Orthodox faith. Hence, while Kurbsky does little more than call names in his first letter, Ivan crafts a historical work detailing specific plots, listing names and dates. 

One would think that after Ivan’s lengthy and detailed reply, Kurbsky would change tactics. He does no such thing, strongly suggesting he cannot do anything else. Calling Ivan a “long-winded windbag” does not help his case. Significantly, Kurbsky does show some substance and this is his admission that a unified Russia was and is a mistake. Prior to Ivan, his father and grandfather slowly built Russia from Mongol rule into a powerful state. Regions were bought, conquered or voluntarily joined Moscow under the tsars Ivan III and Basil III, Ivan’s father. Kurbsky says that the old line of princes had their wealth “ plundered by your father and grandfather, taking all down to their last shirt.” As always, when Kurbsky does get into history, it is all about elite rights to property. 

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This confirms Ivan’s suspicions: Kurbsky rejected the entire previous two centuries of Russian policy. He rejects the rise of Moscow and the reigns of Ivan and Basil. Yet, he served Ivan with this attitude. It is easy to conclude that he deceived everyone, seeking a chance to change sides when the crown seemed weak. Worse, Kurbsky then goes on to condemn Ivan’s namecalling! It is clear that the historical detail Ivan provides goes unanswered and not even an attempt is made to refute Ivan’s elaborate arguments. Conceding this, Kurbsky has nothing. Western and liberal analyses describe these exchanges as if they never read these letters.

They seem to project Kurbsky’s vices onto Ivan. M. Cherniavsky writes: “From his refuge, Kurbsky wrote to Ivan, and the Tsar answered him, pouring out a flood of invective, of rhetorical devices, of historical disquisitions, of virtually all literary forms except poetry.”27 This is far more pronounced in Kurbsky from the start, but this is not mentioned. It can only be a form of ideological projection. Certainly, academic conformity has produced more absurd arguments. He then claims that Kurbsky was upholding the “old order” of “pious kings,” which he actually rejects explicitly. Then, making this worse, he goes on to caricature Ivan’s argument. He says that Ivan is really arguing that he is sinless and that the tsar is inerrant.28 Nowhere is this remotely implied. This is, unfortunately, typical for scholarship in this field. 

Anyway, Ivan’s response shows his righteousness: he admits his own sins and asks for forgiveness. Of course, he’s not admitting the fantasies of Kurbsky or the yellow journalists of the west, but just that he is not perfect. Ivan is, through example, expressing the idea of monarchy: to act as the symbol for the Idea of the nation and its place in Christian history. The tsar is the embodiment, in other words, of a nation and a people. 

Kurbsky’s next letter is slightly more tame, but as early as the second paragraph the hero of the urban elite can contain himself no longer. He repeats foreign rumors about executions and bloodshed, and, while not referencing them by name, speaks of the Oprichnina as the agents of this. Chances are, the oligarchy was irritated that their private armies were insufficient against elite regular forces and many families would no longer live in independent little republics of their own making. 
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It is noteworthy that Kurbsky several times references the Israelite King Solomon as an authority. This is not all that uncommon for the era, but the truth is that Solomon was a heretic, and died a empire builder and tyrant, using forced labor and very high taxes to create the trappings of the Assyrian or Babylonian pagan state. Part pagan and part Israelite, Solomon is the cause of the division of Old Israel and its eventual dissolution to the great empires of the region. Using Solomon as an example and holding him out as a pious authority is an admission of his own oligarchical and semi-pagain life. 

Kurbsky admits to destroying part of the town of Pozega, but he argues that he spared the churches and monasteries. He blames his religiously-mixed infantry for the atrocities Ivan attributes to him. He writes that these “apostates and heretics29 without our knowledge and in our absence, having hidden their evil plans, burned a church and a monastery.” This is a very weak justification. When Ivan stormed the Bulgar trading states on the Volga, about 50% of his infantry was of Mongol or Tartar stock. Yet, despite the normal spoils being taken, no religious shrine of the Orthodox, at any point, was destroyed. 

Kurbsky also states that he is sending Ivan several chapters of Cicero’s work, as if to say that the great Roman was in a similar position to Kurbsky. Of course, Ivan, being one of the better educated men in Europe, was quite familiar with Roman political theory. Using Cicero, like using Solomon, is symbolic. Cicero was a natural law theorist just prior to the rise of the empire under Caesar. The republican movement was really a Senatorial oligarchy who would throw in their lot with Hannibal at a moment’s notice. In fact, they might just play the role of Hannibal themselves. 

Kurbsky continues in his letter, 

The fierceness of your government destroyed more than one Nepotiana and many other innocents as well, many commanders and generals. Those performing noble and illustrious deeds with wisdom, men versed in military affairs and in the leadership of troops, you betrayed in murder, executions, and the killings of entire families without a trial and without cause. You listen only to one side, namely, your cunning flatterers, the destroyers of the fatherland. 
 

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The reference to Neoptiana might be strange to some, but he was a governor sent by St. Constantine into Phrygia in order to eliminate the other “emperors” still at large.30 The soldiers attached to this mission began plundering homes in the area. Resistance was inevitable, and a war between the mayor and the governor became violent. St. Nicholas intervened to stop the unjust executions forced by Neoptiana. The authority of the saint was such that the governor and his men refused any further orders and defied Constantine’s commands. Like Ivan, the governor stated to Constantine that plots were being hatched against him by local elites. Ultimately, justice prevailed and Nicholas was able to discern the true from the false.31 The use of this story puts Kurbsky in the place of St. Nicholas. Like the story relates, Kurbsky accuses Ivan of consulting sorcerers to maintain power. This is ironic, since the magic arts of the Judaizer sect were the foundation of elite revolt in Novgorod. 

These exchanges are only briefly summarized here, but contain an immense wealth of information on the political views that typified the two movements. Generally, Ivan lays out the Scriptural and historical view of royal power, while Kurbsky either descends into namecalling or uses scattered classical references to justify his treason. However, one thing is clear: Kurbsky is not only anti-royal and anti-Ivan, he’s also anti-Russian. 
 

Ivan and the Legend of St. Phillip of Moscow

Metropolitan Philip was a firm supporter of Moscow’s centralization and Ivan’s rule. There was no good reason for Ivan to murder St. Phillip. They had known each other since childhood. Further, the conspiracy against Phillip is a matter of public record and the saint was seen as a symbol for the crown’s war against oligarchy. Metropolitan Pimen was a well known enemy of Ivan as well as Phillip. So why murder his opponent’s opponent? 

After the 1567 uncovering of the Fedorov plot mentioned above, Phillip yet again spoke in favor of Ivan’s policies. In fact, if Ivan were murdered, it was Phillip that would take his place. Abbott Paisius was promised a bishopric in exchange for a denunciation of Phillip. Noble plots did not neglect the church, since the crown and church had the same essential views about centralizing authority and legal reform. 

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In November 1568, the bishops and conspirators gathered for the sobor that was to condemn Phillip. The verdict of the council, as well as many other documents of the time, was subsequently “misplaced.” The Archbishop Pimen loudly denounced Philip and accused him of all manner of sins. As Pimen was seeking the office of metropolitan, he certainly had motive. The very fact that Ivan did not interfere in the synod seeking to condemn his ally suggests quite a bit about Ivan’s personality. 

Phillip was found guilty. Ivan personally rejected the decree and sought to protect Phillip,but his long held policy was to maintain his own sphere and to permit the church to judge her own. Again, this is hardly the policy of a “tyrant.” The Metropolitan was arrested personally by one of the plotters, A. Basmanov, and imprisoned in the monastic enclosure and placed under the guard of another member of the cabal, Stepan Kobylina.     In the Fall of 1569, Ivan realized that the synod was far from holy. He launched his own investigation into the matter as he was worried about a connection to Novgorod and the Judaizers: in other words, that Phillip was being attacked by that sect. St. Phillip was now a liability to the boyars as his testimony against them would be damning. He was dead in short order. Far from wanting his death, Ivan punished the real perpetrators by exiling Paisius to Valaam and the “guards” were banished to monasteries along with Pimen. Later on, these men, all left alive by Ivan, wrote the vita for “St. Phillip” the man who they tried to destroy. They concocted atrocity stories to cover their own perfidy. This became “history” within a few generations.32

Conclusion

Ivan did not trust anyone connected to the elite in Moscow, so he relied on his own Glinsky relatives who did not have Moscow roots. There was no area of policy where he was not handicapped. Metropolitan St. Makarios was a partisan of Ivan and crowned him as Ivan IV on January 16 1547. The oligarchs looked on in dismay. Ivan was the first to be anointed as the emperor of all Russia. The idea of Holy Russia was made real. The noble plots were based on the rise of the Byzantine empire in Russia: a nightmare scenario for them. 

The representatives of the aristocracy put the well known Adashev and the priest Sylvester close to the throne. They were to gain the confidence of Ivan, yet, they were close to the Boyar party and Kurbsky personally. Throughout history, one of the constants is that a financial elite will never rule openly. They require a legitimate government to manipulate. This is an essential point in drawing this essay to a close. 

As always, the elite require a provocation and use it as an emotional springboard to attack the legitimate government. In this case, it was the 1547 Moscow fire, killing maybe 2500 people. The elite, led by Kurbsky, quickly and uniformly spread the rumor that the Glinksy clan did this using witchcraft. This meant Ivan. In June, the Duma, now overconfident, accused Ivan and his relatives of this mass murder, black magic and the worst of crimes. This also meant that Ivan had no right to rule, since canon law would excommunicate anyone using such methods for any reason. As only an Orthodox person can be monarch, that would exclude someone dabbling in the black arts

The point is that Ivan was forced to fight these accusations and plots from a very young age. He thought that by mercy, he could win the these men to his side. He never could. The noble “commission” after the famed Moscow fire was not about facts, but about stirring up the population and creating “mobs” to take violent action against the crown. Ivan could not win and his reign was one of his personal suffering and tragedy. 

Ivan was a good, virtuous and enlightened leader at a time where evil was thought to have triumphed. Ivan alone kept the floodgates of anarchy closed, as they were to break down after his death.

Russia, yet again, almost disappeared as most of Europe and parts of Asia swarmed this now leaderless country in the midst of a famine.

In 1601, just a few years after Ivan’s death, Russia was starving, leaderless and under attack. Again, under elite rule, with no ruling monarch, Russia was plunged into years of war and violence. Fighting oligarchy has been the traditional job of any monarch and is the ultimate purpose of government. Anarchy does not mean lawlessness but the rule of the strong. Nihilism is the rule of oligarchs, “strongmen” who rise when legitimate power fails.

Whether it be the Shuisky yesterday or Guzinsky today, the agenda remains the same. 


Bibliography:
Валишевский К. (1992) Иван Грозный. Воронеж: ФАКТ

Прониной Натария (2005). Иоанн Грозный: “Mучитель” или Мученик? ЯУЗА-ЭКСМО

Маржерет Ж (1986) Состояние Российской империи и Великого княжества Московского. В кн.: Россия XV-XVII вв. глазами иностранцев. Л., Лениздат

Кобрин ВБ (1989) Иван Грозный. Московский рабочий

Зимин АА, АЛ Хорошкевич (1982) Россия времени Ивана Грозного. Наука

Алексеев Ю.Г (1991) «к Москве хотим». Закат боярской республики в Новгороде. Лениздат. 1991

Манягин, В.Г. (2004). Апология Грозного Царя. Библиотека Сербского Креста БСК

Вознесенский, A, Фёдор Гусев (2005) Святитель Николай Чудотворец. Издание Сретенского монастыря, Москва

Soloviev EA (1997) Ivan the Terrible. Chelyabinsk

Smirnov, Ivan (1944). Ivan the Terrible. Leningrad

Sulimirski, Tadeusz (1970) The Sarmatians. Praeger Publishers

Bogatyrev, S (2007) Reinventing the Russian Monarchy in the 1550s: Ivan the Terrible, the Dynasty, and the Church. The Slavonic and East European Review 85(2): 271-293

Bolsover, GH (1957) Ivan the Terrible in Russian Historiography. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 7: 71-89

Bobrick, Benson (1990) Ivan the Terrible. Canongate Books

Hosking, Geoffrey (2004) Russia and the Russians: A History. Harvard University Press

Madariaga, Isabel de (2005) Ivan the Terrible. First Tsar of Russia. Yale University Press

Payne, Robert and N. Romanoff (2002). Ivan the Terrible. Cooper Square Press

Troyat, Henri (1988) Ivan the Terrible. Buccaneer Books

Cherniavsky, M (1968) Ivan the Terrible as Renaissance Prince. Slavic Review 27(2): 195-211 
 

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1 For an excellent background in Russian, cf Маржерет Ж (1986) Состояние Российской империи и Великого княжества Московского. В кн.: Россия XV-XVII вв. глазами иностранцев. Л., Лениздат

2 Much of the material on Poland here comes from Sulimirski, Tadeusz (1970) The Sarmatians. Praeger Publishers

3 Зимин АА, АЛ Хорошкевич (1982) Россия времени Ивана Грозного. Наука

4 Зимин АА, АЛ Хорошкевич (1982) Россия времени Ивана Грозного. Наука

5 Examples of the scholarship very critical of Ivan include these well known works: Bobrick, Benson (1990) Ivan the Terrible. Canongate Books; Hosking, Geoffrey (2004) Russia and the Russians: A History. Harvard University Press; Madariaga, Isabel de (2005) Ivan the Terrible. First Tsar of Russia. Yale University Press; Payne, Robert and N. Romanoff (2002). Ivan the Terrible. Cooper Square Press; Troyat, Henri (1988) Ivan the Terrible. Buccaneer Books These works occasionally offer some good background history, but they err in arguing that Russia was an uncivilized, “backward” society that only knew this sort of “terror.” They offer no critical insight into the era and are essentially lazy, privileged, wealthy professors who are taken as “authorities” on Russian history. In repeating the accusations of foreigners and believing that Kurbsky advocated “representative government” they do a great deal of harm to historical scholarship and criticism. 

6 Bolsover, GH (1957) Ivan the Terrible in Russian Historiography. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 7: 71-89. 
This article offers an excellent summary of the historical stream of ideas on Ivan before the revolution. 

7 Прониной Натария (2005). Иоанн Грозный: “мучитель” или Мученик? ЯУЗА-ЭКСМО

8 The Time of Troubles occurred almost immediately after Ivan’s death and lasted from 1598 to 1613. There was no clear monarch during this time and so elite clans fought it out, often using foreign armies. 

9 В.Г. Манягин (2004). Апология Грозного Царя. Библиотека Сербского Креста БСК

10 Зимин АА, АЛ Хорошкевич (1982) Россия времени Ивана Грозного. Наука

11 This term is often translated as “council.” It is much more than this, but for the purposes of this paper, it will remain. 

12 This is sometimes called the “Stoglav” council in Russian for short. 

13 В.Г. Манягин (2004). Апология Грозного Царя. Библиотека Сербского Креста БСК

14 В.Г. Манягин (2004). Апология Грозного Царя. Библиотека Сербского Креста БСК

15 В.Г. Манягин (2004). Апология Грозного Царя. Библиотека Сербского Креста БСК

16 This idea is often confused with a modern doctrine called “divine right.” It is depressing that, even among historians, this idea is rarely understood and used emotionally to express displeasure. “Divine right” was a doctrine that had no parallel in the middle ages since it was developed precisely to de-fang the church as a check on the cities, the elite and the crown. In England, the doctrine covered for the dissolution of the monasteries and the removal of the canonical check on state power. 

17 Кобрин ВБ (1989) Иван Грозный. Московский рабочий

18 Алексеев Ю.Г. (1991) «к Москве хотим». Закат боярской республики в Новгороде. Лениздат. This is an excellent summary of Moscow’s relations with Novgorod at the time of Ivan

19 Валишевский К. (1992) Иван Грозный. Воронеж: ФАКТ

20 Валишевский К. (1992) Иван Грозный. Воронеж: ФАКТ

21 Прониной Натария (2005). Иоанн Грозный: “мучитель” или Мученик? ЯУЗА-ЭКСМО

22 Two works in particular are important for understanding this order and its function: Soloviev EA (1997) Ivan the Terrible. Chelyabinsk, and Smirnov, Ivan (1944). Ivan the Terrible. Leningrad. These are also valuable for debunking myths such as Ivan’s 8 or 9 wives, killing his son and mental illness. These are all stock in trade slogans for American historians. 

23 Зимин АА, АЛ Хорошкевич (1982) Россия времени Ивана Грозного. Наука

24 The context suggests Ivan Belsky and Prince Semen, the latter had recently handed over Russian war plans to the Lithuanians concerning the German knights and cities. 

25 By “went,” Ivan means they sided with the oligarchy there in order to unseat Ivan and create a decentralized republic based on the rule of money. This is an explicit reference to the ideological and historical context. This is what was at stake. 

26 Grachev, T. The Truth about the Reign of Ivan the Terrible: Service to God and Man. Compilation of Articles on Russian History, nd. http://itishistory.ru/1k/6-vlast23.php

27 Cherniavsky, M (1968) Ivan the Terrible as Renaissance Prince. Slavic Review 27(2): 198-199

28 Ibid 200. Cherniavsky’s lack of critical skills are disgraceful. In refusing to deal with noble violence, separatism and terrorism his work becomes a caricature of history designed to ingratiate himself with powerful sources of patronage rather than to express anything meaningful. 

29 He can be referring to Catholics, pagans, or even Protestants, as well as Muslims. 

30 The Dioclecian system mandated four emperors, two for each half of the empire and a junior emperor under each. 

31 Вознесенский, A, Фёдор Гусев (2005) Святитель Николай Чудотворец. Издание Сретенского монастыря, Москва

32 Зимин АА, АЛ Хорошкевич (1982) Россия времени Ивана Грозного. Наука

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