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Anglos and French Responsible for WWI, the Death-Blow to Western Civilization

Voice Of EU



On August 1, 1914, as dreadful war was breaking out in Europe, the German ambassador Prince Lichnowsky paid a visit to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey. Dr Rudolf Steiner commented as follows upon this meeting – in a 1916 lecture which he gave in Switzerland:

‘A single sentence and the war in the West would not have taken place.’

At that meeting, he averred that, with just one sentence, ‘this war could have been averted.’[1]

To examine that outrageous-sounding claim, we delve into what is a bit of a mystery, that of the first conflict between Germany and Britain for a thousand years: two nations bound by the same royal family, with every statesman in Europe loudly proclaiming that peace is desired, that war must at all costs be avoided; and then the bloodbath takes place, terminating the great hopes for European civilization and extinguishing its bright optimism, as what were set up as defensive alliances mysteriously flipped over and became offensive war-plans.

The ghastly ‘Schlieffen plan’ became activated, as the master-plan of Germany’s self-defense, which as it were contained the need for the dreadful speed with which catastrophe was precipitated. France and Russia had formed a mutual defense agreement (everyone claimed their military alliances were defensive). While Bismarck the wise statesman who founded Germany had lived, this was avoided, such an alliance being his darkest nightmare. But Kaiser Wilhelm did not manage to avoid this, and so Germany’s neighbors to East and West formed a mutual military alliance. The Schlieffen plan was based on the premise that Germany could not fight a war on two fronts but might be able to beat France quickly; so in the event of war looming against Russia in the East, its troops had to move westwards, crashing though Belgium as a route into France. It all had to happen quickly because Germany’s army was smaller than that of Russia.

The timing over those crucial days shows its awful speed: Russia mobilized its army on July 29th, in response to hostilities breaking out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia; two desperate cables were sent by the Kaiser to the Tsar on the 29th and 31st, imploring him not to proceed with full mobilisation of his army because that meant war; the French government ‘irreversibly decided’ to support Russia in the war on the evening of 31st, cabling this decision to the Russian foreign minister at 1 am on August 1st[2]; then, on the afternoon of that same day Germany proceeded to mobilise and declared war on Russia, and two days later went into Belgium. Britain’s House of Commons voted unanimously for war on 5th August, viewing Germany as the belligerent warmonger.

Kaiser Wilhelm’s Nemesis

The Kaiser had enjoyed the reputation of a peacemaker:

Now … he is acclaimed everywhere as the greatest factor for peace that our time can show. It was he, we hear, who again and again threw the weight of his dominating personality, backed by the greatest military organisation in the world – an organisation built up by himself – into the balance for peace wherever war clouds gathered over Europe. ‘(‘William II, King of Prussia and German Emperor, Kaiser 25 years a ruler, hailed as chief peacemaker,’ New York Times, 8 June, 1913.[3])

A former US President, William Howard Taft, said of him: ‘The truth of history requires the verdict that, considering the critically important part which has been his among the nations, he has been, for the last quarter of a century, the single greatest force in the practical maintenance of peace in the world.’ ([4],[5]). That is some tribute! In 1960 a BBC centenary tribute to the Kaiser was permitted to say: ‘Emphasis was placed on his love of England and his deep attachment to Queen Victoria,’ his grandmother.

A lover of peace …. skilled diplomat … deep attachment to Queen Victoria .. so remind me what the Great War was for, that took nine million lives?

Might the war have been averted if the Kaiser had, perhaps, focussed a bit more on the art of war – how to refrain from marching into Belgium? There was no ‘plan B’! In later days the Kaiser used to say, he had been swept away by the military timetable. Who wantedthe war which locked Europe into such dreadful conflict? Did a mere sequence of interlocking treaties bring it on?

On the night of 30-31st of July, feeling entrapped by a seemingly inevitable march of events, Kaiser Wilhelm mused to himself doomily:

Frivolity and weakness are going to plunge the world into the most frightful war of which the ultimate object is the overthrow of Germany. For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves – knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria – to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us… In this way the stupidity and clumsiness of our ally [Austria] is turned into a noose. So the celebrated encirclement of Germany has finally become an accepted fact… The net has suddenly been closed over our heads, and the purely anti-German policy which England has been scornfully pursuing all over the world has won the most spectacular victory which we have proved ourselves powerless to prevent while they, having got us despite our struggles all alone into the net through our loyalty to Austria, proceed to throttle our political and economic existence. A magnificent achievement, which even those for whom it means disaster are bound to admire.’[6]

‘Those dreadful fields of senseless carnage’

Did hundreds of thousands of young men, the flower of England, want to go out to muddy fields, to fight and die? Shells, bayonets, gas, machine guns – what was the point? In no way were they defending their country or its Empire – for no-one was threatening it. No European nation benefitted: it spelt ruin for all of them. Do we need to fear the imbecility of the poet’s words:

If I should die, think only this of me
There is some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England’? (Rupert Brooke)

A leading British pacifist, E.D. Morel, was widely vilified for the views expressed in his book Truth and the War (1916), and had his health wrecked (as Bertrand Russell described) by being put into Pentonville jail. In haunting words of insight, his book described how: ‘Those dreadful fields of senseless carnage’ had been brought about by ‘futile and wicked Statecraft’ – by ‘an autocratic and secret foreign policy’ carried out by those ‘who by secret plots and counter-plots … hound the peoples to mutual destruction.’ Of the war’s outbreak, Morel wrote: ‘It came therefore to this. While negative assurances had been given to the House of Commons, positive acts diametrically opposed to these assurances had been concerted by the War Office and the Admiralty with the authority of the Foreign Office. All the obligations of an alliance had been incurred, but incurred by the most dangerous and subtle methods; incurred in such a way as to leave the Cabinet free to deny the existence of any formal parchment recording them, and free to represent its policy at home and abroad as one of contractual detachment from the rival Continental groups.’[7] A total analogy exists here with Blair taking Britain into the Iraq war, making a deal with Bush while continually denying back home that any such deal existed. Two Cabinet members resigned in August 1914, once the central importance of this concealed contract became evident: Viscount Morley and John Burns.

A more orthodox, deterministic view was given by Winston Churchill: ‘the invasion of Belgium brought the British Empire united to the field. Nothing in human power could break the fatal chain, once it had begun to unroll. A situation had been created where hundreds of officials had only to do their prescribed duty to their respective countries to wreck the world. They did their duty’.[8] That necessary chain leading to ruin began only after the crucial discussion alluded to by Dr Steiner, we observe.

Considering that Germany went into Belgium on the 3rd of August, whereas Churchill and Mountbatten, the First and Second Sea Lords, had ordered the mobilising of the British fleet over July 26 -30th, so that by days before the 3rd much of the world’s biggest navy was up north of Scotland all ready to pounce on Germany – his words may appear as some kind of extreme limit of hypocrisy. The mobilising of the British fleet was a massive event which greatly pre-empted political discussion, a week before Britain declared war.[9],[10]

A Secret Alliance

Britain was obliged by no necessity to enter a European war, having no alliance with France that the people of Britain or its parliament knew about, and having a long indeed normal policy of avoiding embroilment in European conflicts. However, ministers especially Grey the Foreign Minister had covertly made a deal with France. To quote from Bertrand Russell’s autobiography: ‘I had noticed during previous years how carefully Sir Edward Grey lied in order to prevent the public from knowing the methods by which he was committing us to the support of France in the event of war.’[11] Would Britain be dragged into a European war on the coat-tails of France – for centuries, its traditional enemy – given that France had signed a treaty obligation to enter war in consequence of a German-Russian conflict? France was keen to avenge past grievances over the French-German border, aware of the superiority of troops which it and Russia combined had against Germany – and convinced that it could drag Britain into the fray.

On 24 March 1913, the Prime Minister had been asked about the circumstances under which British troops might land on the Continent. He replied, ‘As has been repeatedly stated, this country is not under any obligation not public and known to parliament which compels it to take part in any war’ – a double negative which concealed a hidden but then-existing accord!

Last Hope of Peace

We turn now to the question put, on August 1st by Germany’s ambassador to Britain’s Foreign Secretary, normally omitted from history books on the subject. If war and peace did indeed hinge upon it – as Dr Steiner averred – it may be worth quoting a few judgements about it. Here is Grey’s own letter, written that day:

Grey’s letter to the British ambassador in Berlin: 1 August, concerning his meeting with Prince Lichnowsky:

‘He asked me whether, if Germany gave a promise not to violate Belgian neutrality we would engage to remain neutral. I replied that I could not say that: our hands were still free, and we were considering what our attitude should be….I did not think that we could give a promise on that condition alone. The ambassador pressed me as to whether I could formulate conditions on which we would remain neutral. He even suggested that the integrity of France and her colonies might be guaranteed. I said that I felt obliged to refuse definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar terms, and I could only say that we must keep our hands free.’[12],[13]

Swiss author George Brandes summarised this meeting:

‘Now Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, asked whether England would agree to remain neutral if Germany refrained from violating Belgium’s neutrality. Sir Edward Grey refused. Britain wanted to retain ‘a free hand’ (‘I did not think we could give a promise of neutrality on that condition alone’). Would he agree if Germany were to guarantee the integrity of both France and her colonies? No.’[14]

The US historian Harry Elmer Barnes: ‘The only way whereby Grey could have prevented war, if at all, in 1914 would have been by declaring that England would remain neutral if Germany did not invade Belgium…,’ but Grey ‘refused to do’ this: ‘After Grey had refused to promise the German Ambassador that England would remain neutral in the event of Germany’s agreeing not to invade Belgium, the German ambassador asked Grey to formulate the conditions according to which England would remain neutral, but Grey refused point-blank to do so, though he afterwards falsely informed the Commons that he had stated these conditions’.[15] Barnes commended the editorial of the Manchester Guardian July 30th – opposing the pro-war jingoism of The Times – which declared: ‘not only are we neutral now, but we are and ought to remain neutral throughout the whole course of the war.’

The British judge and lawyer Robert Reid was the Earl of Loreburn as well as the Lord Chancellor of England from 1905 to 1912, so he should know what was going on. His book ‘How the War Came’ described how it was the secret deal with France which wrecked everything:

The final mistake was that when, on the actual crisis arising, a decision one way or the other might and, so far as can be judged, would have averted the Continental war altogether … The mischief is that Sir Edward Grey slipped into a new policy, but without either Army, or treaty, or warrant of Parliamentary approval … This country has a right to know its own obligations and prepare to meet them and to decide its own destinies. When the most momentous decision of our whole history had to be taken we were not free to decide. We entered a war to which we had been committed beforehand in the dark, and Parliament found itself at two hours’ notice unable, had it desired, to extricate us from this fearful predicament… If the government thought that either our honour or our safety did require us to intervene on behalf of France, then they ought to have said so unequivocally before the angry Powers on the Continent committed themselves to irrevocable steps in the belief that we should remain neutral. Instead of saying either, they kept on saying in the despatches that their hands were perfectly free, and told the Commons the same thing. The documents show conclusively that till after Germany declared war our Ministers had not made up their minds on either of the two questions, whether or not they would fight for France, and whether or not they would fight for Belgium. Of course Belgium was merely a corridor into France, and unless France was attacked Belgium was in no danger.[16]

After it was over, US President Woodrow Wilson in March of 1919 summed up its avoidability: ‘We know for a certainty that if Germany had thought for a moment that Great Britain would go in with France and Russia, she would never have undertaken the enterprise.’ (p.18, Lorenburn). That was the sense in which Britain precipitated the dreadful conflict. Clear words of truth could have avoided it – had that been desired.

We remind ourselves of Dr Steiner’s comparison: that the British Empire then covered one-quarter of the Earth’s land-surface; Russia one-seventh; France and her colonies one-thirteenth; and Germany, one thirty-third. (Karma, p.11)

Upon receiving a telegram from Prince Lichnowsky earlier in the day of August 1, the Kaiser ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate, as if there might be hope of reaching a deal with Britain. Even though he was just that afternoon signing the order for mobilisation of the German army, he could in some degree have recalled it … but, it was a false hope, and a telegram from King Edward later that day explained to him that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ between Britain’s Foreign Secretary and the German ambassador.[17]

Gray’s Duplicity

On the 26th or 27th, Grey told the Cabinet that he would have to resign, if it did not support his initiative to take Britain into war in support of ‘our ally,’ France. He would not be able to go along with British neutrality. Over these days up until the 1st, or 2nd, when the war was just starting, all the Cabinet of Britain’s Liberal Party government except for Churchill and Grey favoured British neutrality. It was those two who dragged Britain into war. Grey did not yet know whether the Belgian government would say ‘no’ to the German request to be allowed to pass through. To get his war, Grey had to swing it on the ‘poor little Belgium’ angle. Once Belgium had said ‘No’ and yet Germany still went in – as its only way to enter France – a cabinet majority would then became assured.

On August 2nd, Grey gave to the French ambassador what amounted to British assurance of war-support. On August 3rd, Grey gave the Commons an impassioned plea in favour of British intervention on behalf of France – making no mention of the German peace-offer. The MP Phillip Morrell spoke afterwards in the sole anti-war speech that day, and pointed out that a guarantee by Germany not to invade France had been offered, on condition of British neutrality, and spurned. As to why Grey did not mention the German offer, the view was later contrived that the German ambassador had merely been speaking in a private capacity![18]

The supposed neutrality of Belgium was a sham, as ministers of that country had secretly drawn up detailed anti-German war-plans with Britain and France. No wonder the Kaiser had a sense of being ‘encircled’ by enemies, because ‘“neutral” Belgium had in reality become an active member of the coalition concluded against Germany’[19] – i.e. it had plotted against a friendly nation. Quoting the commendably insightful George Bernard Shaw, ‘The violation of Belgian neutrality by the Germans was the mainstay of our righteousness; and we played it off on America for much more than it was worth. I guessed that when the German account of our dealings with Belgium reached the United states, backed with an array of facsimiles of secret diplomatic documents discovered by them in Brussels, it would be found that our own treatment of Belgium was as little compatible with neutrality as the German invasion.’[20]

Steiner’s View

Rudolf Steiner’s judgement in his December 1916 lecture (during which Britain was declining a peace offer from Germany) was:

‘Let me merely remark, that certain things happened from which the only sensible conclusion to be drawn later turned out to be the correct one, namely that behind those who were in a way the puppets there stood in England a powerful and influential group of people who pushed matters doggedly towards a war with Germany and through whom the way was paved for the world war that had always been prophesied. For of course the way can be paved for what it is intended should happen. is impossible to avoid realising how powerful was the group who like an outpost of mighty impulses, stood behind the puppets in the foreground. These latter are of course, perfectly honest people, yet they are puppets, and now they will vanish into obscurity ….[21]

Grey and Churchill were the two consistently pro-war cabinet ministers. The Conservative Party was solidly pro-war, and Churchill was ready to offer them a deal if perchance too many of the Liberal-party cabinet were going to resign rather than go to war. Steiner here remarked:

‘Anyone [in England] voicing the real reasons [for war] would have been swept away by public opinion. Something quite different was needed – a reason which the English people could accept, and that was the violation of Belgian neutrality. But this first had to be brought about. It is really true that Sir Edward Grey could have prevented it with a single sentence. History will one day show that the neutrality of Belgium would never have been violated if Sir Edward Grey had made the declaration which it would have been quite easy for him to make, if he had been in a position to follow his own inclination. But since he was unable to follow his own inclination but had to obey an impulse which came from another side, he had to make the declaration which made it necessary for the neutrality of Belgium to be violated. Georg Brandes pointed to this. By this act England was presented with a plausible reason. That had been the whole point of the exercise: to present England with a plausible reason! To the people who mattered, nothing would have been more uncomfortable than the non-violation of Belgian territory!’[22]

Could powers behind Grey have wanted war, and steered events towards that end? Steiner argued against the widespread view of an inevitable slide into war: ‘You have no idea how excessively irresponsible it is to seek a simple continuity in these events, thus believing that without more ado the Great World War came about, or had to come about, as a result of Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia. (p.82)

We are here reminded of Morel’s account, of how secret plotting had paralysed debate:

‘The nemesis of their own secret acts gripped our ministers by the throat. It paralysed their sincere and desperate efforts to maintain peace. It cast dissention amongst them…They could not afford to be honest neither to the British people nor to the world. They could not hold in check the elements making for war in Germany by a timely declaration of solidarity with France and Russia, although morally committed to France.. In vain the Russians and the French implored them to make a pronouncement of British policy while there was still time.’[23]

On August 4th, Britain declared war, and that same night cut through the transatlantic undersea telephone cables coming out of Germany,[24] enabling British atrocity propaganda to work largely unchallenged. Quoting a recent work on the subject, ‘The hallmark of Britain’s successful propaganda efforts were alleged German atrocities of gigantic proportions that strongly influenced naive Americans yearning for a chivalrous war from afar’.[25]
 Such consistent, intentional mendacity was fairly innovative, which was why it worked so well: ‘In that war, hatred propaganda was for the first time given something like organised attention’.[26] Thus, a nemesis of what Morel described as ‘futile and wicked statecraft’ here appeared, in that British soldiers were motivated to fight, by a nonstop torrent of lies – from their own government.[27]

In conclusion, can we agree with Dr Steiner? Quoting Barnes, ‘It is thus apparent that the responsibility for the fatal Russian mobilisation which produced the war must be shared jointly, and probably about equally, by France and Russia.’ This was because of the French cabinet’s general encouragement, then its final decision to embark upon war on the 29th July, of which Barnes remarked: ‘The secret conference of Poincaré, Viviani and Messimy, in consultation with Izvolski, on the night of 29th of July, marks the moment when the horrors of war were specifically unchained in Europe.’ (pp.328, 242) This had to be the time, it was the only opportunity, because these war-plotters would have known of the mobilisation of the world’s biggest navy, that of Great Britain, over these fateful days, all ready for war. The Russian generals browbeat the Tzar into signing the documents giving his assent – for a war he didn’t want[28]. On the 31st one more desperate telegram arrived from the Kaiser about how ‘The peace of Europe may still be maintained’ if only Russia would stop its mobilisation, but the Tzar no longer had that ability. Germany placed itself at a military disadvantage by refraining from declaring war or taking steps to mobilise until the afternoon of August 1st, much later than any of the other great powers involved. Had a deal been reached in London on that afternoon, a conflict in Eastern Europe would presumably still have taken place, but it would have been limited and diplomats could have dealt with it: yes, a world war could have been averted.

Essential texts
  • Alexander Fuehr, The Neutrality of Belgium, NY 1915
  • E.D. Morel, Truth and the War, 1916
  • The Earl Lorenburn, How the War Came, 1919
  • Harry Elmer Barnes, The Genesis of the World War an Introduction to the Problem of War Guilt, 1926
  • British documents on the origins of the war 1898-1914, Vol XI, HMSO 1926.
  • Memorandum on Resignation by John Viscount, Morley, 1928, 39pp.
  • Alfred von Wegerer, A Refutation of the Versailles War Guilt Thesis, 1930
  • Winston Churchill, The Great War Vol. 1, 1933
  • Captain Russell Grenfell, Unconditional Hatred, German War Guilt and the Future of Europe(mainly about WW2) NY, 1954
  • M. Balfour, The Kaiser and His Times, 1964
  • Stewart Halsey Ross, Propaganda for War, How the United States Was Conditioned to Fight the Great War of 1914-18, 2009.


[1] Rudolf Steiner, The Karma of Untruthfulness Vol. 1 (13 lectures at Dornach, Switzerland, 4-31st December 1916), 1988, p.19. NB it’s available online as a Google-book, with the same pagination as here used. The new 2005 edition (subtitled Secret Societies, the Media, and Preparations for the Great War) has a fine Introduction by Terry Boardman.

[2] Barnes 1926, pp.284-8.

[3] Balfour, 1964, p.351.

[4] Ross, 2009, p.9. For a letter by US diplomat and presidential advisor Colonel E.House, concerning the pacific philosophy of the Kaiser, after a visit he paid in July 1914, see Barnes, p.523. For the ex-Kaiser’s view on ‘proof of Germany’s peaceful intentions’ i.e. how Germany had not prepared for war or expected it, see: My Memoirs, 1878-1918 by Ex-Kaiser William II, 1992, Ch.10 ‘The Outbreak of War.’

[5] Morel, p.122: Germany had ‘for forty and four years kept the peace when war broke out in August … No other Great Power can boast such a record.’ (Morel’s book may be viewed online)

[6] Balfour, 1964, p.354

[7] Morel, 1916, pp.6, 8, 13 and 42.

[8] Churchill, 1933, Vol. 1, p.107.

[9] Churchill, ibid., has the British fleet secretly mobilised over the night of 29-30th July. Hugh Martin, in Battle, the Life-story of the Rt Hon. Winston Churchill, 1937: ‘Churchill, upon his own responsibility and against the express decision of the Cabinet, ordered the mobilisation of the Naval Reserve’ On the 27th, ‘the fleet [was] sent North to prevent the possibility of it being bottled up,’ p.105. A ‘Test Mobilisation’ of the entire Royal Navy paraded before the King on July 26th, at Spitalhead, after which the Navy was held full battle-readiness (The Life and Times of Lord Mountbatten, John Terrence 1968, p11-14); then, ‘On July 29th Churchill secretly ordered the core of the fleet to move north to its protected wartime base .. riding at top speed and with its lights out, it tore through the night up the North sea.’ (To End All Wars, How WW1 Divided Britain, 2011, Adam Hochschild, p.85).

[10] The first indication for the Kaiser of war-imminence, was when he learned that the English fleet ‘had not dispersed after the review at Spitalhead but had remained concentrated.’ (My Memoirs, p.241).

[11] Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, Vol. 1, 1967, p.239. H.G. Wells judged that: ‘I think he (Gray) wanted the war and I think he wanted it to come when it did … The charge is, that he did not definitely warn Germany, that we should certainly come into the war, that he was sufficiently ambiguous to let her take a risk and attack, and that he did this deliberately. I think that this charge is sound.’ (Experiment in an Autobiography, II, 1934, p.770)

[12] Edward Grey letter Aug 1st: Britain’s ‘Blue Book,’ HMSO, 1926, p.261. See also Morley 1928, p.38-9.

[13] The noncommittal attitude expressed by Grey on August 1st to the German ambassador had been endorsed by the Cabinet and Prime Minister: Roy Jenkins, Asquith 1964, p.363.

[14] Steiner, Karma, p.18: Georg Brandes, Farbenblinde Neutralität, Zurich 1916 (Brandes was Danish). Steiner quotes extensively from it, Karma, pp. 14-23.

[15] Barnes, 1926, p.497.

[16] Loreburn, 1919, pp.15-19.

[17] Annika Mombauer, Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War2001 CUP p.219-223: Lichinowsky’s telegram misunderstood (NB I’m not endorsing her thesis of German war-guilt).

[18] Grey told cabinet about talk with Lichinowsky on 3rd, with a claim that the latter’s views were ‘merely personal and unauthorised.’ (Morley, pp.13-14) If so, why was the conversation recorded and published in Britain’s ‘White Book’ of key wartime documents? How could a German Ambassador make a merely personal proposal? Other such ‘White Book’ documents were recorded as personal, but not this one. As Morel pointed out (pp.26-7), the UK’s ‘Blue Book’ published its account of this interview with no hint that the Ambassador was merely acting privately – and Lichinowsky’s telegram to his Government dated 8.30 pm, August 1, indicated that he had been acting on ‘instructions.’ His offer was generally concordant with telegrams then being sent by the Kaiser and German Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Morel, p.26)

[19] Fuehr, 1915, pp.90, 117. (For comments on Fuehr see Ross 2009, pp.116-7: Fuehr’s account was ‘certainly biased’ but ‘well-documented.’) For the incriminating documents, see Ross p.300, note 55. The Kaiser recalled how piles of British army-coats and maps of Belgium were found concealed around the Belgian border, in anticipation of the war: My Memoirs, p.251-2.

[20] Ross, 2009, p.42.

[21] Steiner, Karma, pp.84-5.

[22] Ibid, p.86.

[23] Morel 1916, p.297.

[24] Ross, 2009, pp.15, 27.

[25] Ibid, p.3.

[26] Grenfell, 1954, p.125.

[27] Likewise from the French government: Barnes, …For a general comment see Georges Thiel, Heresy: ‘One grows dizzy at the listing of all those lies [against Germany] which, afterwards, were demolished one after the other.’ Historical Review Press, 2006, p.31.

[28] For the Ex-Kaiser’s account of how, as he later learned, his telegrams considerably affected Tzar Nicholas in those crucial days, see: My Memoirs, Ch.10.

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Ivan the ‘Terrible’ Wasn’t Terrible at All

Voice Of EU



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 


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. 


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. 


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 


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. 


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. 


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 


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. 

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 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 

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 


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. 


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. 
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. 


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. 

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 


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. 


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. 

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. 


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. 


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


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. 

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 


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.

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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Bank of Ireland linked to fund involved in massive European tax fraud

Voice Of EU



Bank of Ireland’s services were used by a company involved in a network of hedge funds at the centre of financial transactions, dubbed fraud by a German court, that have cost European tax authorities billions of euro.

The Irish bank’s fund administration unit, Bank of Ireland Securities Services (BOISS), was the custodian bank of an investment fund involved in the scheme.

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Reader question: When must I change to winter tyres in Switzerland?

Voice Of EU



While winters have been a little milder in recent years, the snow, ice and sleet can still play havoc with your car.

Landslides and other road damage caused by inclement winter weather can also mean you lose control a little easier. 

Even in city areas, the colder weather can increase the risk of losing control. 

READ MORE: Ten strange Swiss road signs you need to know about

In Switzerland, the law is relatively complex. While there is no hard and fast rule for winter tyres at certain times, you have a responsibility to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy – which means being ready for the conditions. 

When do I need to put winter tyres on – and what happens if I don’t? 

Unlike many of its neighbours – and many cold countries from across the world – winter tyres are not mandatory in Switzerland. 

Therefore, you will not face any penalty if you continue to drive on summer tyres all year ‘round, either on a federal or cantonal basis.  

This is somewhat surprising for people from Austria, Sweden, Finland and some parts of the United States where winter tyres are mandatory during colder months. 

In Austria, for instance, winter tyres are required from November to April, regardless of the conditions. 

In Germany, Italy and Norway, winter tyres are not mandatory on the basis of the year’s calendar, but they are required in certain road conditions. 

However, certain roads can require you to have chains or winter tyres in order to drive on them at certain times.

This will be designated by a sign on a particular road or pass that winter tyres are required. 

Generally speaking, this will be on mountain roads or other passes, rather than in city streets. 

OK, so I don’t have to, but when should I change? 

The Swiss Road Traffic Act (Art. 29) says that all drivers on Swiss roads have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. 

In slippery, winter conditions, the best way to ensure that your car does not lose control is to have it fitted with winter tyres. 

There are also insurance obligations to consider. 

The Swiss government notes that drivers without winter tyres may be deemed to be negligent. 

Driving in Europe: What are the Covid rules and checks at road borders?

“In the case of an accident, the driver may be found liable if the car is not properly equipped for the winter. The insurance company may not cover the full cost of the damage or may even take action against the insured person for negligence.”

Touring Club Switzerland (TCS) says that you should consider putting winter tyres on your car if the temperature drops below 7 degrees. 

Auto Suisse says that a default rule to follow is consider replacing summer tyres with winter ones from October until Easter, although this is of course dependent on the conditions. 

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