Exposing Alexander Nevsky

The Russian Orthodox Church put Nevksy on an icon because it declared him a saint

Let's be clear: The Russian Orthodox Church put Nevsky on an icon because it declared him a saint

The Ukrainian web publication The Day offers insights on the real “Saint” Alexander Nevsky (FYI, dear reader, Vladimir Putin may also be on the “Saint” track):

On the Sunday evening of December 28, 2008, Russia TV channel announced live the personality chosen as symbol of the nation. In a three-month-long nationwide Internet and SMS vote, the public chose the Ancient Rus Prince Alexander Nevsky. Out of the total 4.5 million Russians who voted, over 520,000 preferred this figure. The second best was Pyotr Stolypin, architect of the farming reform and Russia’s prime minister in the early 20th century. Coming off third was Joseph Stalin, followed by Aleksandr Pushkin, Peter I, Vladimir Lenin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Aleksandr Suvorov, Dmitry Mendeleyev, Ivan IV the Terrible, Catherine II, and Alexander II. The voting could not avoid scandals. For example, it was Stalin who was leading at first, then Alexander Nevsky outran him by a mere 2 percent.

Nevsky and Stalin are equally odious personalities who are still stirring up controversy and disputes about their role in Russian history. But while the life story of Alexander Nevsky is covered with centuries-old dust of history and ordinary Russians get information on him mostly from school manuals, Stalin’s “deeds” still remain in the memory of a considerable part of the Russians. The fact that Stalin, a cruel tyrant who wiped out tens of millions of innocent people, almost became the symbol of Russia arouses great alarm and preoccupation over the Russian nation’s ethnic health, for a great-power psychosis is clearly being instilled again.

A LIGHT ON THE HERO’S SHADOW

History text books portray Alexander Nevsky as a hero and protector of Rus. A kitschy and mellow image of the “Saint” Alexander Nevsky was created by the efforts of Russian official-line historians and the Russian Orthodox Church. Yet some Russian historians call Alexander Nevsky a traitor, a butcher of Russia, and even the “Satan” of Russian history. Almost the entire European historical thought adheres to the idea that “it is Alexander’s collaboration with the Tatar Mongols and betrayal of his brothers Andrei and Yaroslav in 1252 that allowed the Golden Horde to impose a yoke on Rus.”

Very few can deny that no other than Alexander Nevsky is to blame for 240-year-long slavery of Great Russians. It is he who ordered the people to surrender to the Golden Horde without fighting back. So what are Nevsky’s merits to the Russian Orthodox Church? The answer of Nevsky’s apologists boils down, in some variations, to this: Alexander made a fateful choice between the East and the West in favor of the East. Opting for an alliance with the Horde, he forestalled the absorption of Rus (Muscovy) by Catholic Europe and thus saved the Russian Orthodox faith.

Among the prominent Russian historians who achieved the greatest success in building a majestic image of Nevsky, the palm belongs, by all accounts, to Nikolai Karamzin who said the following words: “But history is said top be full of lies. Let us say better: like any other human endeavor, it does have a smattering of lies but still more or less preserves the nature of the truth, and this is enough for us to make a general idea of people and acts.” A thorough study of Karamzin’s works clearly shows that the historian himself really sinned against the historical truth.

One who played a big and unattractive role in whitewashing and embellishing Russian history was Catherine II who had collected a host of original documents and chronicles to perpetrate a major hoax. When Catherine II became the empress of Russia by decree of fate and owing to her own perfidiousness, she decided to airbrush Russia’s historical background, which would majestically accentuate her own “great rule.” By her edict of December 4, 1783, Catherine II ordered establishing the Commission for Essays on the Ancient History of Russia under the supervision of Count Andrei Shuvalov, later replaced by Gerard Miller.

By the end of the 18th century, Catherine II had amassed all the original ancient literary and historical sources until that time kept in monasteries, churches, educational institutions, and by individuals. The commission’s work resulted in the five-volume Collected Chronicles of the Russian State edited by the empress herself. However, when Catherine died, some original chronicles, such as the legendary Nestor’s Tale of Bygone Years and The Comprehensive Book of Tsarist Lineage by Ivan the Terrible’s private priest Afanasiy, and many others, disappeared altogether. What has reached us is the so-called compilations of chronicles, i.e., chronicles that were rewritten, corrected and supplemented in order to unite the histories of Kyivan Rus and Muscovy. All the “compilations of chronicles” were made or found by “Catherine’s guys.” Thus did Empress Catherine II finally “streamline” Russian official history, placing lies under protection of the state. A considerable part of Alexander Nevsky’a life story still remains affected with those lies.

According to most of the Russian historical sources, Alexander, born in 1220, was the second son of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich by his Cuman wife. Both Vsevolod Yuriyovich the Big Nest and his son Yaroslav may also have been married to Cuman women. In other words, judging by some sources, Nevsky’s great-grandmother, grandmother and mother were also of Cuman origin. When Batu Khan invaded Rus in 1237—1238, neither Yaroslav Vsevolodovich nor Alexander and his younger brothers offered resistance and, hence, were not killed by the Tatar Mongols. Having surrendered to Batu Khan, Prince Yaroslav and his relatives volunteered to serve the Tatar Mongols.

Official historiography ascribes to Alexander Nevsky victories over the Swedes in 1240 and the Teutonic knights in 1242. Many historians believe, however, that the importance of Nevsky’s victories in these battles was too exaggerated. In any case, there is no reason why they should be called “fateful.” The 20-year-old prince won the first victory on the Neva bank, in the mouth of the river Izhora, on July 15, 1240, over a Swedish unit commanded by Birger Jarl, the would-be ruler of Sweden. No more than 300 men from both sides took part in that “battle.” The Russian side lost a mere 20 warriors. Under the veil of night, the remaining enemy troops got on the boats and sailed away. Old-time Muscovy saw fist-fights even on a greater scale than that on the Neva, when a village would face up to a village on Christmas Eve. It is believed that the prince began to be called Nevsky for this victory, although this nickname occurs for the first time in 14-century sources. The traditional view is that the 1240 battle helped Rus keep on the Gulf of Finland shores and repelled the Swedish aggression against the Novgorod-Pskov lands.

Of almost the same level was Alexander’s “battle” with the Germans and Ests on April 5, 1242, on Lake Peipus. What testifies to the true “scale” of this battle is the fact that it is not even mentioned in the Hypatian Codex. After returning from the Neva banks and provoking one of the many conflicts, Alexander had to leave Novgorod for Pereyaslavl-Zalesky. Democratic Novgorod just banished Alexander because of his despotism.

Meanwhile, Novgorod was facing a danger from the west. Having gathered Baltic German crusaders and Danish knights from Revel, and enlisting the support of the Papal Curia and the residents of Pskov, an all-time rival to Novgorod, the Livonian Order invaded the Novgorod lands. Novgorod appealed to Yaroslav Vsevolodovich for help. The latter sent to Novgorod an armed detachment led by his son Andrei who was soon replaced by Alexander on Novgorod residents’ demand. He liberated Koporye and Vodskaya Pyatina, occupied by knights, and then ousted a German garrison from Pskov. Encouraged by the success, the Novgorodians invaded the Livonian Order’s territory and began ruining settlements of the Estonians, Danes, and crusaders. The knights who advanced from Riga forced Alexander to withdraw his units to the Livonian Order’s border that passed across Lake Peipus. Both sides began to prepare for a decisive battle, which took place on the ice of Lake Peipus, near the Crow’s Stone, on April 5, 1242, and went down in history as Battle on the Ice. According to the Livonian Order, 20 Teutonic Nights were killed and six taken prisoner

The Livonian Order faced the necessity of concluding a peace treaty, under which the crusaders dropped their claims to Russian lands and handed over a part of Latgale. In the summer of the same year, Alexander defeated seven Lithuanian detachments that had been attacking north-western Russian lands, and in 1245 he won back the Lithuania-occupied Toropets and routed a Lithuanian militia near Usviat.

Thanks to these and other victories, he has remained in the minds of people as a protector of homeland. A monastery, Alexander Nevsky Lavra, was built in his honor in Petersburg on Peter the Great’s orders, where his remains were transferred in 1724. Peter I also decreed that his memory be honored on August 30, The Day a victorious treaty with Sweden was signed. In 1725, Empress Catherine I established the Order of Prince Alexander Nevsky, one of the Russian Empire’s highest awards. It existed until 1917 as the second most important one after the Order of St. Andrew the First Called. An Order of Alexander Nevsky was also established in the USSR in 1942, during the Great Patriotic War, to be conferred on Red Army officers who displayed conspicuous gallantry and courage on the battlefield. The order is also part of the awards system in the Russian Federation.

A LOYAL SERVANT OF THE TATARS

It is traditionally believed that Alexander Nevsky’s successful military actions guaranteed the security of Rus’s western borders for a long time, but Rus princes in the east had to bow to the Tatar Mongols, a far stronger enemy. Having conquered Vladimir-Suzdal Principality in 1237, Batu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, posted his men to administer the land. Prof. Lev Gumiliov confirms that most of the Suzdal settlements voluntarily submitted to Batu Khan. Throwing themselves at the victors’ mercy, they remained safe and sound. Among those who surrendered was Alexander Nevsky’s father Yaroslav Vsevolodovich who received a yarlyk (permission) in 1238 from Batu Khan, which allowed him to be a “grand” prince in Vladomir-Suzdal ulus (district). That he threw himself at Batu Khan’s mercy is beyond any doubt – otherwise he could not have hoped to ascend the grand prince’s throne. If Batu Khan had not been sure of Prince Yaroslav’s loyalty, he would have hardly allowed him to collect tribute for the Golden Horde. Besides, from 1238 on, for two and a half centuries, not a single prince could occupy the thrones of the Rostov-Suzdal land and Muscovy without a Tatar yarlyk. Still, Batu Khan could not fully trust Yaroslav and told the prince to leave his elder son Alexander with him “as a surety,” of which Plano Carpini, the Pope’s envoy to the Golden Horde, informs.

On returning from his European expeditions in 1242, Batu Khan summoned the rulers of all the appanage principalities, including Prince Yaroslav, to render an account. As Karamzin writes, “the Grand Prince set off, with many Boyars, to Batu’s headquarters and sent his younger son Konstantin (Alexander Nevsky’s brother) to Grand Khan Oktai in Tatarstan. Batu received Yaroslav with respect, appointed him Head of all the Rus Princes, and allowed him to rule in Kyiv. Thus our sovereigns solemnly repudiated the rights of an independent nation and bowed to the yoke of barbarians. Yaroslav’s action was an example to follow for the local Suzdal princes who kowtowed to the vainglorious Batu in order to peacefully reign in their regions… Having obtained a gracious permission to go back, Yaroslav departed this life en route. The loyal Boyars brought his body to the capital city of Vladimir. It was rumored that he was poisoned…”

In 1247 Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich, Yaroslav’s younger brother, became the Grand Prince of Vladimir, while Alexander Nevsky was given Tver. Later that year, dissatisfied with the received appanage property, the brothers Andrei and Alexander went to see Batu Khan in the Golden in an attempt to win the grand prince’s throne over from their uncle. The brothers stayed in the Horde until 1249, when the throne of the Grand Prince of Vadimir was bestowed on Andrei. Karamzin’s allegation that Alexander was given the entire southern Rus and Kyiv seems to be incorrect because southern Rus was ruled at the time by Grand Prince Danylo of Galicia, who had the title of “king of all Rus.” Besides, Alexander was still kept hostage at Batu Khan’s headquarters, which Plano Carpini confirms.

As Alexander was kept hostage, he fraternized himself with Batu’s son Sartaq in about 1238—1242. Some compilations of chronicles claim that Alexander was Batu Khan’s “foster son.” The ancient Mongols had a touching custom of fraternization. Boys or youths would exchange gifts, cut their hands, mix their blood with milk, then drink the cocktail by turns, pronouncing the words of a joint oath, and become andas, i.e., foster brothers. Sworn brotherhood was considered higher than blood relationship: the andas are like one soul, they never abandon and always rescue one another in a fatal danger. At the same time, Sartaq was converted to the Nestorian branch of Orthodoxy.

In 1249 Batu Khan gave his son Sartaq lands from the Volga to the Don, which also included the entire Rostov-Suzdal territory. In 1252 Sartaq ceded one his uluses, the Rostov-Suzdal land, to his confidant and anda Alexander, although this land had thitherto been administered by his brother Prince Andrei. Yet Alexander, who was brought up in the Tatar Mongol environment, assumed the Horde’s outlook and became Sartaq’s anda, found it only natural to betray his brother and seize the yarlyk for the Vladimir grand principality’s throne. Alexander knew only too well that the only chance to ascend this throne was to liquidate his brother Andrei.

In 1250 Daniel of Galicia (Danylo of Halych) gave his daughter in marriage to Andrei (Alexander’s brother), the Grand Prince of Volodymyr-Volynsky, thus forging a secret military alliance against the Tatars, which Yaroslav of Tver also joined. In 1252 Andrei also invited his brother Alexander to join the anti-Tatar alliance, but Alexander denounced him to the khan. The khan rewarded Alexander for loyal service by installing him as the Grand Prince of Volodymyr instead of Andrei. Alexander himself led “Nevruy’s horde” to Rus in order to defeat Andrei, but the latter managed to flee to Sweden. Alexander also denounced Danylo of Halych, after which the khan sent Kuremsa’s horde against Danylo.

According to Vissarion Belinsky, over the many years of living at the khan’s court, Alexander became the first Suzdal prince who was really imbued with a Tatar Mongol domination spirit and fully adopted in childhood the mentality of a nomadic forayer and the customs of the people among whom he had grown up. So Alexander did not let his “dirty” chance slip by. In preparation for overthrowing Andrei Yaroslavovich, Alexander Yaroslavovich Nevsky went to the Horde for help – not to Batu Khan himself but to his son Sartaq. Alexander eventually won a “victory” over Andrei with the help of Sartaq’s troops. Recognized by the Horde as a grand prince, Alexander “solemnly” entered Vladimir. On the advice of the new Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky, the Tatar Mongols did not devastate the entire Rostov-Suzdal land: they plundered and killed on a selective basis. Thus Alexander brought the Tatar Mongol punitive forces to the Suzdal land for the first time. And he would bring over these forces more than once again.

All the next actions of Alexander, his sons and grandsons on the grand prince’s throne were marked with unbelievable cruelty to the Rostov-Suzdal populace and Muscovy as well as to the neighboring peoples. From 1252 onwards, Rostov-Suzdal principalities and later Muscovy and the Russian Empire would build their statehood strictly in line with Tatar Mongol canons which Alexander Yaroslavovych had borrowed from the Horde. Borrowing Asian statehood from the Golden Horde and installing it in the Muscovite ulus was in fact the chief “merit” of Alexander Nevsky. Later on, in the Soviet empire, the Bolsheviks would also adhere to Horde-style methods of rule, such as despotic centralization of power, suppression of even the least dissent, overall encouragement of denunciations and betrayals, and never-ending expansionism under the deceitful guise of internationalism.

According to the official historical version, Alexander’s life story was allegedly written in the late 13th century in the chronicle A Tale of the Life of Alexander Nevsky which nobody has ever seen in the original. What has reached us is only the so-called “compilations of chronicles” written hundreds of years later and embellished with “inclusions of lies.”

Prince Alexander ruled for only about 11 years, five of which he spent in the Golden Horde, meticulously learning Tatar Mongol customs and ulus administration skills. All his actions were aimed at making the Suzdal land part of the Golden Horde’s overall economic and political system. On the khan’s orders, Alexander carried out a census first in the Suyzdal and then in the Novgorod lands. He was the first to introduce a per capita tribute rate. The prince’s troops always took part in the Horde’s hostilities against the rebellious populace of Muscvovy and Novgorod. In the course of 11 years, Alexander brought Tatar Mongol troops to the Suzdal and Novgorod lands at least five times.

Only with the “help” of Alexander did the Tatar Mongols manage to conquer Great Novgorod. In the winter of 1257—1258 Alexander brought Tatar Mongol units to the Novgorod land, where an uprising of freedom-loving Novgorodians had erupted. He allowed the Mongols to brutally kill his own son Vasily, who called his father traitor, and cruelly punished the populace, cutting off noses and gouging eyes. In 1259 Alexander brought again the Mongol troops to Novgorod. This time the ancient Novgorod was conquered. Alexander fulfilled his “great predestination.”

In 1262 the Tatar Mongol troops crushed a Suzdal rebellion in protest against tribute collection. “Grand Prince” Alexander personally participated in suppressing rebellions in Rostov, Vladimir, Suzdal, and Yaroslavl. Nevertheless, the Mongol baskaks (tax collectors) remained dissatisfied because too much Mongol blood had been shed. He was urgently ordered to arrive in the Horde, from where he never returned – in all probability, he was poisoned, as his father had been before. By that time, his protector Sartaq had been dead. Karamzin recounts this as follows: “The grand prince ventured to go to the Horde with excuses and gifts. Alexander found Berku Khan in Sarai. The khan kept Nevsky in the Horde throughout winter and summer. In the autumn, the now ailing Alexander returned to Nizhny Novgorod, from where he moved to Gorodets and fell ill with a grave disease that put an end to his life on November 14, 1263.” His body was buried at Vladimir’s Monastery of the Holy Virgin’s Nativity.

And this how the Russian historian K. Kedrov assesses Alexander Nevsky’s “merits to his fatherland:” “Alexander Nevsky, so haughty before the Roman envoys, was extremely meek and docile before the Tatar Mongolian khan. He would compliantly travel to the Horde for a princely yarlyk, where he, regrettably, crawled on all fours to the khan’s throne, as the Horde’s ritual required. In addition, he was forced to mercilessly quell all kinds of unrest in his lands against the Tatars and would collect tribute for the khan, silencing his compatriots with sword and fire. Alexander Nevsky considered it a disgrace for himself to receive a crown from the Pope, but it did not seem to him shameful to crawl under the yoke and get a princely yarlyk from a ferocious Horde ruler.”

In 1264 Yaroslav Yaroslavovich, Alexander’s next-in-line brother, was installed as Grand Prince of Vladimir. This prince, too, “reigned” on the Vladimir throne with the aid of Tatar Mongol troops. Following the example of his grandfather and father, Grand Prince Yaroslav was doing his utmost to please the khan and, like them, he departed this life in 1271 on his way from the Horde, where he had been together with his brother Vasily.

A SAINT BUTCHER OF RUS

Having lost almost all real-life features, Alexander Nevsky transformed into an historic and patriotic icon of sorts. Nobody would listen the historians who attempted to highlight all the sides, including the negative ones, of his activities. Yet, when people create idols, they feel after some time an acute need to bring them down. As long as credulous idol-worshipping, as a form of learning the historical knowledge, is being phased out, there are more and more of those who wish to “debunk” the myth of Alexander Nevsky. Here are the comments of some of them.

“There is a Satan of Russian history named Alexander Nevsky. He had a dream to be reign as prince in Vladimir, and, to satisfy his mercenary interests, he imposed a brutal Tatar yoke on Rus. And he did this in the most villainous way – by betraying his brother.”

(M. Gorelik. Ogonyok)

“Prince Alexander Nevsky showed himself not as a hero and protector of Rus but as an unprincipled intriguer, traitor and butcher who, for the sake of his own benefit, did not spare the blood of his brethren and sisters in faith. And what did the church canonize him for? For his devotion to the Tatar khan who exempted the church from taxes, who forbade in his 1279 yarlyk to defile and denigrate Orthodoxy, kill and rob Russian priests. For as long before as in 1261, an eparchy was established in the Horde, and the church preached humility to the Tatar yoke. Alexander Yaroslavovich, a traitor and butcher of Rus, became a role model of meanness and unpricipledness for Ivan the Terrible, Peter I the Great, and other ‘great heroes’ of Russia.”

(Alexander Nevsky: a Saint Butcher of Rus?
// http://www.evangelie.ru/forum/t3557-2.html)

“The Russian people and Russian freedom were given away and sold out from inside. They fell victim to a certain conspiracy. And its key figure was the Russian ‘national hero’ Alexander Nevsky… Alexander was born into the family of Yaroslav. It is he who marketed the idea of historical treason, it is he who made a fatal decision to throw Rus at the mercy of Asian invaders in order to establish a despotic system of government. The disgrace of Russian historical identity and Russian historical memory is that Alexander Nevsky became… the flag of the same people whose historical destiny he cruelly butchered.”

M. Sokolsky, The Unfaithful Truth,
Moscow, 1990)

“Can a Tatar sycophant, capitulator and collaborationist, named Alexander, be considered a great national hero? A man who would impose foreign domination with his own hands and call upon the Mongol horde to assail his own brothers, who fraternized with Batu Khan’s son Sartaq and then signed with Berqe all the conditions for vassalage and tribute payment…, who had no scruples after this about sending his troops against the rebellious Russian populace. The cults of Stalin and Lenin have been ‘exposed’ so successfully and convincingly that there are no chances for their revival. Peter I cannot make a cult – there are so many things about him that make it impossible to create a saintly figure. There only remains Alexander Yaroslavich, nicknamed Nevsky, of the Rurikids’ lineage. The interest in him has never abated, but in the past few years this has assumed the features that are almost the same as the ways of glorifying Joseph Vissarionovich [Stalin]. Much in the same way, facts, controversies, and quite obvious things that do not fit in with the generally-accepted pattern are being ignored. This belongs to the category of social pathologies. How can one judge about people who have invented, sucked out of their finger, and made a major national hero and symbol out of a person who, whatever the case, cannot be called other than a traitor?”

(Nikolai Zhuravlyov, online magazine Arba)

“Aleksander Nevsky was the first Russian grand prince who, instead of resisting the Tatars, opted for direct collaboration with them. He began to wage war, in alliance with the Tatars, against the other princes: he would punish the Russians, including the Novgorodians, for rebelling against the invaders – and he did it the way the Mongols could not even dream of (he would cut off noses, ears and heads, and impale people)… But today’s mythological awareness interprets in no uncertain terms – as anti-patriotic denigration – the information that the prince was in fact ‘the first collaborationist’.”

(Yury Afanasiev, journal Rodina)

It would be obviously wrong to consider the past years’ events in strictly unambiguous terms especially if it is difficult to check historical sources. It is up to anyone to judge and assess whether Alexander Nevsky was a hero or anti-hero of Russia. Alexander Nevsky is a figure of Russian history, and only the Russians can find his place in their history. For us, Ukrainians, it is important that the symbols of Russian history should not become today the flag of Russia’s great-power policies that endanger the integrity and independence of Ukraine.

In 1986 I visited Yasnaya Poliana to bow to the grave of Leo Tolstoy, a great personality of the Russian land. I was kneeling for a long time before a little mound of earth on his grave – without a monument or even a cross. I lowered my head to the majestic spirit of the Human who has become a great treasure of global culture. Unfortunately, in modern-day Russia he failed to become its symbol. But I do believe in the moral grandeur of the Russian people, their reason and conscience. I believe that the democratic traditions of Great Novgorod’s viche, so brutally suppressed by Alelsandr Nevsky, will be revived, and Leo Tolstoy is certain to become the symbol of Russia.

51 responses to “Exposing Alexander Nevsky

  1. Wow!!!

    As a kid learning Ukrainian history, I knew about Batu Khan, and the conditions of being permitted to rule under the Golden Horde. Including the fact that certain Russian elements became tax collectors and enforcers for the Golden Horde, which is how they got privileged status.

    Plus –

    1) Most Russians do not know that Catherine was not Russian – she was a Prussian (German), who could barely speak Russian.

    2) The “ritual” included a yearly pilgrimage to the Khan, where not only did the “prince” have to crawl on all fours, but had to perform other rituals, such as feeding the Khan’s horse out of his helmet.

    That way, it was very, very clear that the “prince’s” rule was at the pleasure of the Khan.

    So Russia makes a saint out of an obsequious traitor and back-stabber, a murderer.

    Russia also made a saint out of tsar Nicholas – another murderer.

  2. Elmer

    We made a saint a Nicolas but European countries gave us revolutionaries (especially Lenin who lived in Europe for many years). Westerns supported murderers to destroy Russia. They think that revolutionaries will serve for West. Russian revolution was prepeared by Europeans secret services to destroy Russia as well as Taliban was prepeared by USA secret services for destroing USSR as well as Russian opposition are prepeared by USA now for destroing modern Russia. Stupid americans you will fail again and again.

  3. Alexander Nevsky may have formed an alliance with the Eastern Tatar Mongols in order to defeat Western invaders, but for Russia the end justified the means. It is through such alliances, throughout Russian history, that the Russian people are still able to breathe free Russian air today.

    The question of whether past Russian military operations against Western powers were “significant” is really just silly. Today Russia has an outlet to the Baltic Sea, at the city that bears the Great Peter’s name (St. Petersburg). That region was formerly Swedish territory. The Swedes where intent on denying Russia an outlet to the Baltic Sea in order to retain control over Baltic trade themselves. But Peter had different ideas. Today St. Petersburg is a thriving metropolis and it is Russia’s second most important city, in terms of economics, politics and culture. Russia’s Baltic seaport is one of the busiest ports in the world. It is also from this very region that Russia is building a new corridor to directly supply Europe with Russia’s treasure trove of energy and mineral wealth (bypassing US-controlled middleman states in Eastern Europe). Is the fact that Russia now owns that territory significant? You tell me.

    Russia has never launched any major invasions of the West simply because Russia didn’t need to: Russia always had enough of its own lebensraum (“living space”). However Russia itself has endured frequent bloody invasions from the West all throughout its history, most recently the ill-fated invasions by France (Napoleon) and Germany (Hitler). However, no Western invasion has ever gone deeper than Russia’s Ural Mountains, just east of Moscow, which mountains form the dividing line between the European and Asian continents. Russia has always had the luxury of using its vast eastern expanse as a springboard from which to launch successful counter-offensives against would-be Western invaders.

    For Russia, appealing for help from their Asiatic brothers in the East is a strategy that has worked to protect Russia from Western aggression time and time again, throughout the ages. I can see no reason why Russia ought to change that successful strategy now, when it has borne fruit for Russia so many times in the past.

    Russia is the largest country in the world, but today Russia is facing a demographic crisis. The state is currently attempting to reverse the gradual population decline, and whether those efforts will bear fruit remains to be seen. However Russian leaders also need to consider that it could happen that Russia’s future strategic position could decline to the point where Russia was no longer able to defend its vast territory against Western invasion. The West has long had its lustful eyes fixed on Russia’s land, especially Siberia, due to the vast mineral and energy riches it contains. If Russia’s strategic position declines still further, then Russia will be forced to make a choice between China and the West. I think Russia’s choice in that regard is already a forgone conclusion, and from where I sit it looks like Russia has been preparing for just such a conflict for a long time now. Indeed, Russian and Chinese troops have recently conducted joint “war games” as far west as Russia’s Ural Mountains, just to the east of Moscow. These operations saw Chinese and Russian troops training together in large-scale aggressive military operations. China is already greatly expanding its influence in Russia’s Far East (Eastern Siberia), especially in economic terms. In some parts of Eastern Siberia the share of GDP generated by Chinese firms now exceeds the share generated by Russian firms. Incidentally, Russia and China have recently settled all their remaining border disputes, which had been the cause of considerable friction between the two powers during the Soviet era.

    Russia would not be an easy nut to crack, and anyone who thinks that it would be is not playing with a full deck. I think Germany understands this better than anyone (given their bitter experience on the Eastern Front, not too many decades ago). Given the existence of nuclear weapons, a major new war in Europe would almost certainly result in the total destruction of Europe and likely the entire planet.

    Intelligent people in Russia, Germany and elsewhere, are looking for ways to transcend the constant cycle of warfare inherited from the past and to instead find ways to peacefully coexist with each other (even if they know they might never become the best of friends). The best way to insure peace and security in Europe (and the world) is through mutual disarmament and through the continued expansion of trade and mutual interdependence between nations, and certainly not through drawing new dividing lines in Europe or provoking new conflicts. Also, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently proposed, Europe must devise a new security architecture to replace the now-obsolete structures inherited from the old Cold War era (such as NATO). The old Cold War security structures have now obviously lost their capacity to provide peace and security across the whole of Europe (as we’ve been reminded yet again only recently, with the outbreak of new hostilities that all of the major European powers say they didn’t want, but which we still got anyway). Any new European security structure must stop treating European security as a “zero sum” game, where Europe is divided into competing “blocks,” and where the expansion of the security of one state only comes at the direct expense of the security of another state. The best approach to insuring security for all of Europe is by fostering mutual trust and tearing down the old walls (and certainly not by erecting new walls). Europe ought to be proceeding faster with expanded trade, cultural exchanges and especially with mutual disarmament, which truly enhances everyone’s real security, instead of going in the exact opposite direction, by introducing newly destabilizing weapons systems into the region.

  4. Russian Interpreter

    By ” breathing free Russian air” Misha meant that, unlike for everything else in Russia, one doesn’t have to pay bribes to breathe the wonderful Kremlin-governed air, as yet.

  5. I am Russian:

    “Russian revolution was prepeared by Europeans secret services to destroy Russia as well as Taliban was prepeared by USA secret services for destroing USSR”

    That’s cute, considering that there was no Taliban in existence until few years after USSR ceased to exist. (I guess the “USA secret services” just didn’t got a memo.)

  6. Well, Mishka, you are a true sovok: “think one thing, say another, and do a third.”

    I guess that roosha didn’t get your message of peace when it invaded Georgia and cut off the gas to Ukraine and Europe.

    And I guess that it didn’t get your message about expanding trade, because rasha is still conducting trade wars with Georgia, Ukraine, and everyone else.

    “I am rashan,” you drink too much. Maybe the rooshan oily orthodox KGB church will make you a saint also.

    Alexander Nevsky – traitor, murderer of his own brother, back-stabber, boot-licker of the Khan, and saint and hero to oily orthodox rasha.

    What a country!

  7. Misha,
    All the NATO countries have cut their militaries drastically since the end of the cold war. The only ‘BEEF’ left in NATO is the U.S., which stations very few troops in europe. Russia is the only threat to peace on the european continent, that was displayed last august.
    I Am Russian,
    Go have another shot of vodka, your logic comes right out of the bottom of a bottle. The communist revolution in Russia came from the hate and envy residing in the soul’s of deluded and ignorant Russian people. If the Russian people would fall back on some of their orthodox christian values, there would be peace and prosperity in your country. The American people wish that for everyone.

  8. Robert

    You do not know a history. USA supported terrorists in Afganistan to make a problem for USSR. The list of people who got USA weapons and finans included Ben Laden and people who are participants of Taliban and Al Caida. You reap what you sow!

  9. I Am Russian – Blaming the Germans (which is what you would mean by the West in your example) for the Russian Revolution is blatant revisionism. All they did was give Lenin a train ticket. (OK – Marx came from Germany so they’re responsible for coming up with the idea of Communism in the first place as well, but that was a good half century earlier.)

    The Russian people did the rest to themselves.
    Let’s start with Nicky, shall we? Nikolai, although a decent man personally, simply failed miserably as a leader. Russian autocracy was such, and still is such, that showing weakness a priori leads to disaster.

    Let’s start with the disastrous foreign policy. Since much of the discussion is about East and West, let’s begin by talking about how Russia was humiliated, not beaten, but HUMILIATED, by Japan in 1905, and that it came as a result of Russia’s insistence on maintaining a sphere of influence in Manchuria that it did not have the infrastructure to support.

    This led to the ’05 revolution, spurred by a Russian Government infiltrator of the demonstrators getting shot by Russian Government troops. For the first time in three centuries of Romanov rule, the Russian autocrats had to share power with the people, but this was short lived. Nikolai couldn’t work with the first two Dumas, so he dissolved them until he got one which would do exactly what he wanted. (Much like Putin.)

    Back then there was a guy with Putin in his name too. And he was probaly worse for Russia than the current one is. Because only Rasputin seemed to be able to cure Alexei’s hemophilia, Nikolai ended up handing the reins of power to an insane monk from the Russian Orthodox version of a bizarre New Age Cult – one so crazy that he couldn’t even fit in with them! This of course, demonstrates the whole problem with autocracy again – there’s nothing you can do to keep the autocrat in question from doing stupid things. Not that people didn’t try – Stolypin was #2 on the vote list if you remember – and it mainly was because he tried to save Russia from the disaster that followed from this situation – unfortunately Rasputin won the power struggle and Stolypin, like Novgorod, largely remains in the what-if category of Russian history.

    And we’re back to bad foreign policy. While the Tsar learned some lessons from 1905, the army was still a mess, and certainly not the kind you’d want to stake your dynasty on, yet that’s exactly what Nikolai did, tying himself to France and Serbia. When the Black Hand struck, Russia was drawn into the Vortex of 1914, and could not draw itself out. While the army could take on Austria-Hungary, pretty much a nation in its death throes anyway, it could not match the Germans, and in order to save France, it pretty much had to. The result was Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.

    So now Russia is in a four-year losing war. All things considered, they did their best. The Brusilov offensive of 1916 was a masterstroke. But like in many of the other wars that Russia had participated in over the years, their casualty rates far exceeded that of Allies and Enemies alike, and nobody likes losing their sons if they don’t have to. Nobody likes losing their own lives either.

    Here, maybe, you can blame the West a little again – the Ottomans entered the war on the Central Side because they were ticked at Britain, and Gallipoli was a failure, so Russia wasn’t getting any imports either. Which means no bread. But it is hard to see how the Ottomans would even stay neutral in any event – the Lebensraum that Misha talks about when he speaks of Russian “pacifism” was largely taken from the Turks (and the Poles) by force of arms over a period of centuries.

    End result – the February Revolution. Now here come a whole bunch of mistakes. One you could possibly lay at the door of the West – Kerensky stays in the War. That being said, it’s hard for me to blame France for asking Russia to stay in when its national survival is at stake. Also, when we look at the terms actually received at Brest-Litovsk, one also detects a question of RUSSIAN national survival.

    The rest is all the Russian people doing it to themselves. The Soviets send out order number one to the armies – Don’t listen to the Government or your officers. Let me make this clear. The first thing the representatives of the Russian people did after the February Revolution was to ensure that their army fell into pure Anarchy.

    Now we get the train ticket – Lenin comes home. The Russian Communist Party consisted of home-trained revolutionaries (Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, et al) along with strongly Russified members of key minorities (such as Stalin and Dzerzhinsky.) Their success came from the superiority of their tactical and strategic planning and the miserable failure of Kerensky and the Provisional Government. Sinply put, the Reds were smarter. At one point, the Provisional Government types actually had Trotsky locked up AND THEY LET HIM OUT! At least when Trotsky extended the sane courtesy to the ex-Tsarist generals he released, he made sure they’d cooperate. (It was actually the move that best helped the Reds win the Civil War.)

    Somehow, Kornilov’s coming back to Petersburg gets interpreted as a coup, Kerensky arrests him, and with that the game is lost.

    The October Revolution comes, and we have the beginning of the Civil War. Here too, you can only blame the Russian people – specifically the Whites. The Western Powers, if anything, did their best to help, but the leaders of each of the White Armies saw their own future as the next leader of Russia, which effectively excluded a future involving any of the other Generals of other White Armies. Which in turn effectively killed any hope of cooperation. Heck, if Denikin could have swallowed his Russian Chauvinism for two minutes, maybe he could have cooperated with the Ukrainians long enough to see him into Moscow. Yudenich couldn’t even figure out how to cut the railroad line between Moscow and Petersburg. Kolchak was the most effective of the bunch, but that was largely because he had the Czech Legion at his side and they were the most effective unit the Whites had. And all they were trying to do was GO HOME!

    In the end, the Reds won, and Russia got a 73-year lesson on the futility of Marxist economics. And in the end, it is mostly the fault of Russia’s own people. But as a general rule, when you hear someone complain about how foreigners caused all your problems, that’s a sign that you’re not willing to live up to a certain level of personal responsibility. And this largely explains Russia’s current plight.

  10. I am Russian:

    “You do not know a history. USA supported terrorists in Afganistan to make a problem for USSR. The list of people who got USA weapons and finans included Ben Laden and people who are participants of Taliban and Al Caida. You reap what you sow!”

    Ah, “Ben Laden and Al Caida” (whoever they are, this Ben and Al duo) – but aren’t the former mujahideen now the backbone of current Afghan government, army and police?

    Soviet Union (and for long time also the PRC) supported communist “terrorists” (and actual terrorists too) and regimes around the world. USA supported anti-communist forces everywhere. And you know what, won the Cold War.

    And in the case of Afghanistan, curiously the communist party is not popular anymore (althrough according to Wikipedia something called “Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan” is part of the anti-NATO guerrilla forces, “struggling towards establishing socialism in Afghanistan”).

  11. scott:

    Tsar Nick was not only a walking failure, he was also a notorius antisemite – hardly “a decent man personally”.

  12. Scott kicks ass!

  13. Amen.

    Scott, a brilliant history tour de force!

  14. Bill – thanks.

    Robert – you’re right on Nikolai’s antisemitism. I was working mostly from “Nicholas and Alexandra” and Massie really glossed over that element of his reign. My fault for depending on him too much.

    While I’m at it, I’d like to address one more omission I made (more deliberately) regarding the Civil War, since somebody’s going to bring it up soon enough anyway – the Allied intervention. When one considers the amounts sent, it becomes very clear that Allied forces (with the possible exception of Japan) were meant to do little more than secure supplies for the Whites and extricate the Czechs. It in no way changes the fact that the Civil War was won by one group of Russians and lost by another.

  15. Robert

    “USA supported anti-communist forces everywhere. And you know what, won the Cold War”.
    It is not true USA did not win anything! Cold War won Russia because Cold War executed against communists. And communists were overturned by Russians (no Americans). You mix communism (bad things) and Russian patriotism (good things) but it is not justice.
    But Americans decided that they won in Cold War. Americans problems in Irak and Afganistan and in all the world – is a pay for suchwrong belief.

  16. Actually “I am Baboon”, the US did win the cold war. The Russians lost. The “Russians and communists are different things” argument is BS. So can we now say that Russia did nothing to defeat fascism in WW2 because it was the Communists that fought? You are a complete idiot.

  17. “Communists were overturned” by everybody in the eastern Europe and some other places (like the said Afghanistan, Nicaragua or Ethiopia) 1989-1992, and this was the “Imperialist” side’s victory in the Cold War (part II since the anti-Soviet alliance with China).

    The Russians were actually pretty late (1991), and now even sorry for this (Putin’s infamous “the greatest geopolitcial catastrophe of the century” and all that).

  18. Andrew

    Though you are a slow-witted fanatic and you should go into lunatic asylum for a check up but I shall try to explain you about WW2. Obviously that Russian people and other people of Russia defeat a facism in 1945. Communists did not won. Russian people contended for the Motherland – Russia against enemies! Communists were only government. Soviet propaganda during WW2 threw away communist slogans (because such slogans did not give a results) and used a patriotic slogans (such slogans made many heroes). Alexandr Nevskij, Dmitrij Donskoj, Suvorov, Kutuzov, Nachimov were drawn in posters. Communists are only lucky that they managing so GREAT NATION. But Russian hated communists. Why Russians endured constant humiliation from communists? There are a simple explanation of it. Russians hated communists but they understood that western democracy are more threat. I see that my people are right!

  19. I am Russian:

    “Russian people contended for the Motherland – Russia against enemies! Communists were only government.”

    You are forgetting/ignoring General Vlasov’s Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (KONR) aiming to overthrow the Stalinism through cooperation with Germany. This one was not communist. Or maybe they’re still “the enemies!”, while Stalin is the only one good Georgian and actually Russian. Hundreds of thousands of Russians (not the Soviets, Ukrainians for example had the Ukrainian National Comitee and the 200,000 strong Ukrainian Liberation Army by 1945) threw their lots with the KONR even if it was 1944 and it makes all these volunteers quite desperados.

    “Communists are only lucky that they managing so GREAT NATION. ”

    “Effectively managing”, eh?

    “But Russian hated communists. Why Russians endured constant humiliation from communists? There are a simple explanation of it. Russians hated communists but they understood that western democracy are more threat. I see that my people are right!”

    I rest my case. Your “soft ware is OKEY!”.

  20. Wow – our dear Russian Sharikov is sending others into lunatic asylum. Is he and Misha working together. Like polished cop – stupid cop?
    So, now communism is bad things and Russian patriotism is good things. Hilarious!

    Speak up, dear Russian Sharikov – you already rose from the knees, and about to become in charge of feline extermination! You are priceless. Anyone who thinks that Russia can become a civilized nation, only needs to read you – and be convinced that you represent the majority of Russians. La Russophobe thinks that you do… having too many intelligent friends in Russia – I am more hopeful!

  21. Thank God I'm not Russian

    I must almost agree with the “I am Russian” on this one: communism and democracy are equally bad for Russia, because no matter what system Russians set out to build, the result is Golden Horde-style medieval despotism.

    Does it really matter that much whether they call their Khan a Secretary General or a Prime Minister? It is a naive Western tradition to expect something called white to be white and something called black to be black – “smart” Russians know better.

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    LOL! That is a brilliant line! We shall probably have to steal it . . .

  22. scott, wow, I’m impressed, thanks for the succinct history lesson. Parts I’ve read but never put together as well as you have.

  23. Robert

    I said about Russian soldier who fight in Red army. They defeated fascism, they defended Russia. Most of them hated communism (even many of members of communist party), but they suffer Stalin for victory, for motherland.They covered oneself with glory!
    Vlasov was a traitor.

  24. I Am Russian –

    Actually, strangely enough, I am in agreement with you that in the end, only the Russian people could end the catastrophic 73-year old experiment with Communism. That being said, “Won the Cold War,” means that the Western strategy of containment was successful and Communism, since it failed to expand, collapsed under its own weight.

    I also agree on your position regarding the adoption of Russian Nationalism being a key ingredient in winning WWII. Stalin’s about face on the issue both in terms of the Nation and the Orthodox Church did a lot to motivate the Soviet people to fight on. (I also agree that the Russian people won the war IN SPITE of Stalin rather than because of him.) So did, however, millions of tons of American Lend-Lease exports making their way into Russian ports -for example over 2/3 of Russian soldiers were supplied by American-made trucks (Studebakers and Dodges mostly.) And of course you cannot underestimate the effect of the very brutality of both the Soviet Commissars and their Nazi counterparts. You’re less likely to retreat if someone behind you is firing a machine gun at you (like the NKVD units did) and you’re less likely to surrender if the opposing army is just going to kill you as soon as you reach the camp.

    But the fact is that right now, the Russian people are throwing away the rights they fought for in 1991 and giving it to a regime that seems more like the one they fought against from 1941-1945. One of America’s great leaders, Benjamin Franklin, once quipped that “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” This is precisely the bargain your nation is making with Putin right now, and in the end, they will learn to regret it, as they once had learned to regret the bargain they made with Lenin.

  25. Scott

    You wrote: “the Western strategy of containment was successful and Communism, since it failed to expand, collapsed under its own weight”. It is not a true. Thanks to the Western strategy of containment communism existed so long. Yours strategy of containment evoke response of Russian people who see your actions as aggression against Russia. So Russians had to support yours governement against enemies. Extending NATO and other things of such kind strengthen antiwesterns now.

  26. Scott

    “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” – very beautiful words I agree. But life teachs other things. What do you say about “Patriotic act”, about secret prisons (in Guantanamo and in meny other places in all the world), about attacks Serbia and Irak?

  27. “Yours strategy of containment evoke response of Russian people who see your actions as aggression against Russia. So Russians had to support yours governement against enemies.”

    so what you’re saying that even though the Russian people understood that communism was bad and hated it from the bottom of their hearts as you said earlier, they kept it going because they saw that the westerners were trying to topple Communism? I’m sorry, but am I really the only one who thinks that this logic is…. somewhat flawed? I would actually even like to use the word scitzophrenic or mental or delusional or lunatic or paranoid or just plain crazy, you get to pick.

  28. What about Serbia? A bunch of war criminals got what they deserved at the time. Now Serbia has a democratic government and is progressing towards joining the EU, is hunting down and prosecuting or sending to the hague those (who with considerable Russian backing) comitted the worst war crimes seen in Europe since WW2.
    And Iraq, just held peaceful elections which are praised by the UN, and is on the road to a much better future than would have been possible under Saddam.

  29. “about secret prisons (in Guantanamo and in meny other places in all the world)”

    X-Ray is not a “secret prison”, it a very opposite of “secret”. Secret prisons are in Chechnya. About one: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/09/world/europe/09chechnya.html

  30. In the end, what I’m getting out of this is that, according to ‘I am Russian,” Russians are pathetically, morbidly stupid.

    They “endured” communism, they knew it was stupid, but they “suffered” through communism, because they were protecting themselves from anti-Russians.

    They now have a bad government, Putinism, but they muddle through it and suffer through it in order to “protect” Russia from — NATO.

    In other words – “don’t anyone dare to mess with Russian stupidity. It may be stupid, but it’s Russian. And to try to change Russian stupidity is – well, anti-Russian.”

    Alexander Nevsky – servant of the Golden Horde, oily orthodox russian saint.

    I wonder if Alexander Nevsky also “brought Russia up from its knees?”

  31. The other thing that one gets from “I am Russian” is the typical sovok response to everything – “look over there, Russia may be bad, but you’re worse.”

    What has Russia done to establish good government?

    Not important. It’s more important to whine about Serbia, because “orthodox brothers” were stopped from continuing to commit massive murders against muslims.

    What has Russia done to create something better?

    Not important. What’s important is to show the world that roosha is “bringing the world to its knees.”

    I am Russian, do you seriously think that what Berezovsky and Abramovich and the rest of the oligarchs that killed and robbed Russia to enrich themselves was good? My bet is that you don’t – and neither do I.

    Now tell me – why is it any different, why is it any good, when Putin does the same thing?

    And after reading the FACTS about Nevsky, do you still think he is some sort of Russian hero or saint?

    I definitely do not think he is a saint. And I definitely do not think that a mere lapdog of the Golden Horde and betrayer of his own brother is any sort of hero.

  32. “After reading the FACTS about Nevsky, do you still think he is some sort of Russian hero or saint?”

    “I definitely do not think he is a saint. And I definitely do not think that a mere lapdog of the Golden Horde and betrayer of his own brother is any sort of hero.”

    Only the Russian people themselves have the right to tell the story of their own history. Only Russia has the right to create its heroes and saints. No outsider or foreigner has any right whatsoever to try to tell Russia’s story or decide who ought and who ought not to be honored as a saint.

    This article in the Ukrainian web publication “The Day” is a witless amateur attempt at revisionist history, the sum of which is nothing more than a calumny against the popular Russian folk hero and saint, Alexander Nevsky.

    But not to worry… Russians couldn’t care less what foreigners think about Russia and its heroes. Russia didn’t get to where it is today by being hypersensitive about such things.

    Ukrainians can think whatever they want about Russia and Russians, and who really cares? But what really counts is what Russians think about their history. The Russian people of course are taught their history correctly. Russia doesn’t teach its people that revisionist horse crap spoon-fed to the gullible ignoramuses the West.

  33. The Russian people have a special affinity and even a mystical spiritual connection with Russian history and with all the Saints of Russia throughout the ages. There simply is no way that an outsider or a foreigner could understand or participate in the mystical union which all Russian people share with each other. Lots of foreigners are jealous of Russia about this, which is the main reason why they try to spread lies and calumnies about Russia’s and her most famous historical figures, princes and saints.

    Russia should keep calm about such attacks by outsiders and let the toothless dogs yap on all they want. After all, those yapping dogs can’t hurt Russian or her people… Not really.

    In fact, Russia should really feel a bit sorry for those silly foreigners who feel compelled to attack Russia, since the main reason why they do so is simply because they are jealous of Russia and her people. Those foreigners are lacking in the rich Russian experiences of brotherhood, solidarity and mystical union, which the Russian people take for granted.

  34. er…

    “they kept it going because they saw that the westerners were trying to topple Communism?”.

    Er… Unfortunately westerns not trying to topple Communism they trying to topple Russia! It is obviously and name of this blog confirms it!

  35. You mean, Mishka, the mystical brotherhood they felt as they were taught to spy on each other, and denounce each other, especially during Stalin’s era and after?

    Or the mystical bond that was felt between the people who sent people to the gulags, and those who were sent to the gulags?

    Or the mystical bond felt between the rooshan people, as they killed each other and drove armored cars in wars over “beezniss”?

    Or the “mystical bond” between the oligarchs, who robbed Russia blind, and the people who dive into dumpsters because they’re starving as Russia collapses?

    Of the “mystical bond” between the oligarchs who built churches with stolen money, and the people, who don’t attend those churches anyway?

    Moscow is not Russia, mishka. And rooshan sovoks aren’t interested in facts – just fairy tales.

    If you and other rooshans can ever face up to the facts, you might be able to deal with them – like human beings.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/08/europe/barter.2-425166.php

    Barter system comes back into play as ruble collapses.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/09/europe/russia.4-426350.php

    Kremlin ally issues sobering outlook – civil rights should expand as economic well-being is shrinking.

  36. OK – a couple of comments here.

    First to Russian. You seem to indicate that had the Soviet Union been left alone, it would have fallen sooner. The facts simply don’t bear that out. As stated before, the Russian people had ample opportunity during its 73 year experiment to do so and it failed consistently to do so for over 70 of those years.

    As for your comments on US behavior regarding the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, et al. That doesn’t so much weaken my argument as strengthen it – I can recognize the dynamic in Russia precisely because I experienced it firsthand in America.

    When Bush looked into Putin’s soul, and liked what he saw, it’s because he saw his Vice President. I can’t stress this enough – Putin is Dick Cheney with a Russian accent. For every gut-wrenching act that Dick Cheney has wrought upon America and the world, you can find an equivalent black blot on Putin’s resume. This does not make Putin right, as many Russians and Russophiles ascertain, it merely shows that Cheney was wrong. And so, we got rid of him.

    The only difference is that there are long-standing laws and traditions of over two hundred years of democratic society that Cheney had to contend with that Putin, ruling a nascent democracy which immediately collapsed into oligarchic robber baron tendencies, did not. The only constitutional hurdle he did have to face was the limit on Presidential terms, and he figured out a way around that one without so much as breaking a sweat.

    This whole “I’m not wrong cuz he did it too,” is one of the cheapest and least effective arguments you can use – more in line with second graders whining at each other than with adult historical debate.

    That brings me to Misha. Normally, I enjoy your postings – they’re well thought out, well supported, and well argued. This time, though, I have to call you out.

    There is a difference between history and cultural identification with historical figures. The latter, what you term “special affinity and even a mystical spiritual connection” with your history is not history – the scientific term for this is “myth” or “legend.” And while legend is worthwhile, IT IS NOT HISTORY.

    When history and legend get intertwined, it is inevitably history that suffers. Washington did not chop down a cherry tree or have wooden teeth. Lincoln did not like black people and would have sent them all back to Africa were it feasible. Jefferson may have felt badly about owning slaves, but he didn’t feel badly enough about it to let any of them go until he died. After John Paul Jones wasn’t needed to defend democracy anymore he signed up with the world’s most powerful autocrat (your lovely Ekaterina) to sink some Turkish ships.

    This is just a few of the facts that belie the myths in American history and legend. Each nation has its own. You probably don’t think highly of Napoleon (you did after all mention him invading your country in the same sentence with Hitler), but the French just LOVE him, flaws and all. Heck, most Mongols are proud to be descended from Genghis Khan (and, interesting fact, about 1/8 are actually literally descended from him and can prove it in a DNA test.)

    Or here’s a fun example. Lots of Americans and other Westerners rooted like crazy for the Spartans to kick Persian patootie in 300, yet the grandchildren of these same heroes would be the ones to destroy Athens, the city-state viewed (again largely incorrectly) as the birthplace of the Western Democratic tradition.

    Russia is no different. There are legends and there is history, and one must be careful when the twain meet. It is even harder in Nevsky’s case because we’re reaching back far enough in time that historical documentation is pretty sparse and various interpreters have had centuries to spin and counterspin the image. For this reason I haven’t commented too much about the actual historical Nevsky. It is the legendary figure more than the historical one who actually got the votes. In fact, it is my belief, that had Novgorod survived and prevailed in the struggle of the Russian Principalities rather than Vladimir/Suzdal/ Moscow, Russia would have evolved into a mercantile democracy and we wouldn’t have even been having this conversation. It would be along the lines of “And Jefferson had slaves.”

    But anyway, back to my main point. To disqualify one group of people – foreigners – from commenting on a nation’s history because they’re, well, foreigners, is simply wrong. For one thing, a nation’s history does not and cannot exist in isolation. It exists in a real world with other nations.

    And history as a science (a social science, but a science nonetheless), has to be accessible to commentary by all people of all nations willing to study it. And it needs to be backed by facts and evidence. If you have a problem with others’ commentary, dispute it with facts, as you have often done in other posts, rather than dismiss it because its source is not Russian. This goes for the Russophobes as well – Just because someone is a “Russky sovok” doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a point. Good historical debate comes from evaluating whether the positions are valid or not and proving why. If you cannot do that, then you really shouldn’t bother to argue in the first place.

  37. Misha,
    “Only the Russian people themselves have the right to tell the story of their own history. Only Russia has the right to create its heroes and saints. No outsider or foreigner has any right whatsoever to try to tell Russia’s story or decide who ought and who ought not to be honored as a saint”

    Fine. But then Russia has to SHUT the F*** UP about other countries telling their own history. Not going to happen because the other countries are “distorting history”? Well then, doesn’t it make sense to at least talk about the possibility that you might be wrong if it gets the other countries to talk about the possibility that they were wrong? No? You’re going to nuke them if they don’t like your history? poor you, no-one likes you… I wonder why…

    Russian,
    No. it was Communism. The West has generally had rather good relations with Russia as such – remember the Napoleonic wars? all cooperation and friendliness and all that… Yes yes, I know, you’re going to go on a rampage about the Napoleonic war now but please don’t. My point was that overall Russia and Russians were considered normal people, a monarchy (=state) like any other in Europe at that time. But then Communism came and it was aggressive and aimed at destroying rather than building. Yes, I know, you’re going to quote awesome “statistics” about how much Communism built but before it could build, it had to destroy everything that there was, which to any normal person seems a touch excessive. Why destroy something that works just because you want something new? it’s like breaking a plate into pieces and then glueing it back up as a cup – but what if you need the plate again? Can’t you just make a cup to go WITH the plate? and after Communism fell, the West wanted to have good relations with Russia again, only in the mind of Russians they had been hated so long for being Communists that they thought they had been hated for being Russians… There’s a difference, you know.

  38. I really like Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers” – it’s beautiful music (seriously).

    So I’d like to bring up yet another shining example of the “mystical brotherhood and bond of Russian saints and Russian people” – cult hero of the sovok union, Pavlik Morozov.

    Pavlik, the boy, ratted out his family. He denounced them. He announced that his father was “no longer his father.”

    When you denounced someone, if they weren’t shot immediately, they were sent away to Siberia.

    Pavlik was made into a shining cult hero example for all children, and all adults, to follow in the “mystical bond and brotherhood of Russia.”

    Denounce your parents, denounce your friends, because you have no family or friends – the state is your only family and friend.

    I’m not making this up – it’s well documented in books like “The Whisperers.”

    So, Mishka, what do you think – another saint for the Russian orthodox church, to exemplify that fairy tale of the mystical bond that you’re talking about?

    I think that you, Mishka, and all Russians, should learn something from Scott about the difference between history and facts and legends.

    And I think that you, Mishka, and all Russians, should learn something from er – Russia does not have the right to try to keep dictating to other countries in the “near abroad”, and Russia does not have the right to try to dictate the history of other countries.

    The sovoks really, really messed up the minds of Russians – and everyone else.

  39. One piece of historical nitpicking here – actually the US fought on the side of Napoleon, at least in the sense of “Enemy of my enemy” – The War of 1812 was fought against the British, who of course served as Napoleon’s most implacable foes.

    Granted, this is an oversimplification, and furthermore, does not overturn er’s point that for most of the 19th Century, the US and Russia had friendly relations.

  40. not just the US and Russia, Europe and Russia too. I mean, of course there were small scuffles here and there but it was normal for different countries to take different sides and no-one “ganged up” on Russia (with perhaps the exception of the Crimean War, in the end) and even when there were conflicts, Russia as a state was resected and treated as an equal. not because it demanded being treated as an equal but because other countries understood and could empathise with the general way the state was run. It’s very hard to treat someone well when they appear crazy enough to either hug you or stab you at any given moment.

  41. elmer

    As we’re on mythbusting, the real story of Pavlik Morozov: http://www.soniamelnikova.com/id9.html

  42. I am Rustin, who would you have us support.
    Even if you answer that, that is a definite no-go.

    Your view of the world is simplistic and juvenile.

    Imagine that you are an adult, protecting your children from people that claim they are trying to help them.

    What is your course of action?

    If you are not defensive, you are not human.

  43. Or, you are just an idiot.

  44. scott,

    “For one thing, a nation’s history does not and cannot exist in isolation. ”

    Seems like it’s common sense. If only it was!

    America is in a no win situation, if we intervene, we are imperialists. If we don’t, we are isolationists.

    The rest of the world needs to crap in one bag if they want to complain.

    You all benefit from American foreign policy, direct your complaints to your own governments. Legitimate complaints will drip through, the rest will be discarded.

    Just an exercise in perspective. I am Russian, that is a real word.

  45. Sean,

    I’ve grown used to Americaphobia in the world. Part of it is due to things we have done, and we have done some truly horrible things over the years, and part is just due to the fact that we’re stronger than anyone else right now.

    When Britain was the world’s hegemonic power in the 19th century, everyone hated it (including the US.) When Spain was transcendant, everyone hated it (which is why we love the image of Pirates so much – they worked for England against Spain.) When Rome was the world’s dominant power, everyone hated it. When China was an unstoppable juggernaut, everyone hated it, and much of the edifice of modern inter-Asian racism is actually based on resentment of Chinese hegemony (and later Japanese hegemony.)

    So as an American, one just has to learn to take it with a certain level of sang-froid and accept the fact that not everyone will be happy. But also of course to challenge our leaders when they do not act in accordance with what is right.

  46. Scott, I understand. I am not a weak person, read my last sentence before digging at I am Rsomthin.

    I just enjoy forcing people to see reality. Not to be cruel, but to show them that the world is not a bubble just to protect them. I believe you would agree with me if I went into further detail.

  47. For example,

    Russia would have been disemboweled like a bloated pig by the German infantry had it not been for an unusual clamatic event.

    TeBurculosis, Tower B, TB, where fore art thou.

  48. Climatic, not Clamatic. I will begin profreading before posting emotional, yet accurate responses. No further training required. I hope.

  49. proofreading, I’ll work on it.

  50. Alexander collaborated, though he is written to have been a close friend and ‘blood brother’ of Batu Khan’s son (a converted Christian), and this may have influenced him. However, such collaboration probably have saved the Mongol yoke from being much more severe and deadly. It was very likely a case of die hard or live as an intact vassal state.

  51. Father Achilles

    I am very sorry but your hateful talk about Saint Alexander are misdirected and uneducated. Taking half the truth and putting your own belief system to it is ill-advised. In truth Daniel of Galicia was a very despising type of man that sought the throne for himself. He first went to Batu Khan and followed the pagan tradition in doing so becoming the he Khan’s slave. When Saint Alexander was confronted with the same issue he told the Khan, “You have been given power because God gave you power, but I will ONLY BOW TO THE ONE AND ONLY GOD.” The Khan was so impressed with his power is the face of the horde he befriended Saint Alexander. Daniel of Galicia however, ran and decided to convert to Catholicism and claim he was the true Grand Prince so he would receive aid in invading his own homeland. If you want a villain look at the real traitors in this story; The Crusaders, Swedes, Teutonic knights, and Daniel of Galicia.

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