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Russia is under siege - from Ivan the Terrible to the present day. Part Two
Russia is under siege - from Ivan the Terrible to the present day. Part Two
МОСКВА, 13 мая 2022, Институт РУССТРАТ.

It just so happens that nature has deprived me of a musical ear. But when I'm not able to enjoy classical and operatic vocals to the fullest, I make up for it by paying close attention to texts written by highly educated people in the past. I have always admired the ability to put deep meaning into short lines, which is why the dialogue between the oprichniks and  merchant Lykov - returning from travelling around Europe - from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Tsar's Bride” has always stuck in my head:

            OPRICHNIKS. A great intellect for ruling. Certainly even the infidels praise him?

            LYKOV. Not everywhere. It grieves me to repeat such wicked words, but they say our Tsar is as cruel as a thunderstorm.

            MALYUTA. He is cruel! As a thunderstorm! Ah!

            The mercy of God is to be found in thunderstorms: they smash the rotten pine and revive the entire slumbering forest.

            OPRICHNIKS. That is some fine talking, boyar! And it’s true! It is not for nothing, boyar, that you wear the Tsar’s royal fur.

            MALYUTA. And you, boyars, it’s not for nothing that the Tsar attached brooms to your saddles. We shall sweep all the rubbish from Orthodox Russia!

Just like that - in a few words, and so much more: about the attitude of Russians to Europeans as "infidels", and about how the West regarded the first Russian Tsar, and about the need for a fairly tough domestic policy for the good of the country.

Although less significant attempts to hit Russia with an economic whip have happened before, historians still believe that the most obvious sanctions policy of the West began during the reign of the first Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible.

This was a response to his timid attempts to transfer European experience and technology to the country. In 1548, on a royal commission, a Saxon merchant, a certain Schlitte, recruited "123 masters of various professions" in different cities of Europe. But most of the masters did not get to Russia.

And for this purpose, a whole "special operation” was organised. The first group, which traveled by land through Prussia and Livonia (a state in what is now Latvia and Estonia), was captured and imprisoned in Courland (a state in the western part of what is now Latvia) for five long years. The second group, which planned to travel by sea from Lübeck to Reval, was also detained. And Schlitte himself was imprisoned in the summer of 1548, from which, however, he managed to escape two years later. Only a few craftsmen managed to reach Moscow. It is known, for example, that during the campaign of Ivan the Terrible to Kazan in 1552, at least one foreigner served in the Russian army — a military engineer named Rozmisl.

Behind this attempt to prevent Russia's economic breakthrough was the leadership of the Livonian Order – a crusader state on the territory of modern Estonia and Latvia.

Between the lines, I can't help but notice these countries have been soloing in a shrill Russophobic European chorus for many decades, despite the fact that they have been trying to tear off pieces of Russian territory from time immemorial. Moreover, it is to the Bolsheviks, like Ukraine, that they are indebted for the fact that they gained statehood, and when they were part of the USSR after the division of Europe following the Second World War, they always had the status of a "beloved child" to the detriment of other Soviet republics. So who should be offended by whom – they by us or we by them?

The order feared the strengthening of Russia both militarily and economically, and in fact tried to create a complete blockade of it. At that time, European merchants had to carry out all trade with Russia through the Livonian ports of Riga, Reval and Narva, and goods could only be transported on ships belonging to the Hanseatic League, as the political and economic association of trading cities of Northwestern Europe that emerged in the middle of the 12th century was called. Now it would probably be called a cartel agreement.

So it is not necessary to say that European civilisation has been nurturing "free trade" since ancient times. This was not the case then, just as it is not now, and the current illegal anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the "collective West", as well as the US policy of "twisting the wrists" of other countries in order to create the most favoured nation regime for American business, are clear evidence of this.

For fear of losing this monopoly, the merchants of the Hanseatic League carried out a policy of isolating Russia coordinated with the Livonian authorities.

No less in Europe, they feared the military strengthening of Russia.

The archives have preserved, for example, a letter from the Reval magistrate dated July 19, 1548, which drew a terrible picture of the disasters that would befall "Livonia and the entire German nation if the Muscovites get acquainted with the military art of the West”.

And in 1570, at the all-German "deputationstag" in Frankfurt, the viceroy of Emperor Charles V in Holland, the Duke of Alba, called "not to send artillery to Muscovy, so that it does not become a formidable enemy not only for the empire, but for the entire West”.

Even from these few quotes, it is clear that from those ancient times our country was opposed to Europe, while creating the image of Russia as a kind of enemy.

It is significant that it was during this period that a broad information campaign began to denigrate Russia, that is, what we now call a "propaganda war". Although it would be more accurate to talk about "propaganda of horror". Thus, in a number of major European cities, proclamations were published in a huge circulation that stated Muscovy is a country of darkness, and "Russians are savages, barbarians and their Tsar is absolutely terrible ... he has at least 50 wives, like in a Turkish harem", and "the Turks are not the worst threat Europe compared to the Russians." Just like this.

Anti-Russian propaganda flourished in the second half of the 16th century after Ivan the Terrible had to start the so-called "Livonian" war to secure Russia's access to the Baltic Sea. They didn't want to come to an agreement peacefully, so get it!

Then a leaflet was printed in Nuremberg with the following text: "Very disgusting, terrible, hitherto unheard of, true fresh news, what atrocities are committed by Muscovites with Christian prisoners from Livonia, men and women, virgins and children, and what harm is caused to them daily in their country.” And so on in the same spirit. Painfully familiar, isn't it?

Very similar fakes, as it is now commonly called, were spread by the fascists during World War II, and now their followers - Ukrainian propagandists - are spreading them about Russian servicemen participating in a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

In order to create a primitive image of Russians among Europeans, they were represented through negative characters of the Old Testament. Ivan the Terrible was compared to Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and Herod. He was called nothing less than a tyrant. It was then that this word was fixed in place for centuries in the minds of Europeans to define all the rulers of Russia in principle. They say that in Russia "evil sadists "always rule, and in Europe only kind-hearted uncles and aunts! About how many millions of people these "good people" have killed - more on this below.

A well-known researcher from the time of Ivan the Terrible, A. Kappeler, found 62 proclamations dedicated to Russia, published in the 16th century.

The most effective weapon, given the massive illiteracy of the European population, were cartoons in which Russian soldiers and the Tsar himself, of course, were depicted in the most unsightly light. In one they shoot naked virgins with arrows, in another they chop off the heads of children and so on. And Ivan the Terrible himself was always represented in the image of an ugly dwarf in Turkish outfits. That's so primitive, but understandable!

No one concealed the main goal of this anti-Russian campaign, which was to destroy Russia as a state, and turn its peoples into slaves. That’s how it was back then, and this is what European revanchists dream about today.

In 1578, a former oprichnik who fled to the West, Heinrich Staden (a kind of Vlasov adherent of the 16th century), proposed to the German Count of Alsace "a plan for turning Muscovy into an imperial province". His delusions were brought to the attention of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Duke of Prussia, and the Kings of Sweden and Poland.

"The new imperial province of Russia will be governed by one of the emperor's brothers. In the occupied territories, power should belong to the Imperial commissars, whose main task will be to provide the German troops with everything necessary at the expense of the population," the report said. All Russians without exception were offered to be captured, driven to castles and cities, and from there taken to work," but not otherwise than in iron shackles filled with lead at the feet...".

And then: "When the Russian land, together with the surrounding countries, which have no sovereigns, and which lie empty, will be taken, then the borders of the empire will converge with the borders of the Shah of Persia...". How much this reminds us of the Nazi plan to "conquer" Russia, right? But the inglorious attempt to implement it was still 363 years away.

Despite external pressure and attempts at isolation, the country continued to develop under Ivan the Terrible.

If we talk about domestic policy, the Tsar paid the main attention to the development of Russian statehood. At the same time, its government is divided into two stages. At one of them - during the so-called "Oprichnina" - the task of Moscow was to ensure the centralisation of power, curb the uncontrolled rule of local princes and ensure tax revenues to the state treasury.

At another stage, Ivan the Terrible actually tried to conduct an experiment with the introduction of a certain "collegial leadership", and for this purpose, a certain advisory body was created under the tsar - the so-called "Elected Rada", which, I think, can be compared with such a modern body as the Security Council of the Russian Federation. But at the same time, all power was still in the hands of the Tsar.

It was under Ivan the Terrible that other drastic changes took place. The convocation of Zemstvo councils has begun, and elements of self-government at the local level (governorate, zemstvo and other reforms) were introduced. In 1550, the Sudebnik was adopted, which streamlined the country's legal system. The so-called "feeding system", when local boyars filled their pockets instead of solving the problems of the region, was finally abolished. As a result, Moscow has a more successful tax collection system. For centralised management, a system of "Orders" was implemented, which provided control over all areas of activity within the state. And, finally, a regular army was created, the basis of which was made up of archers, gunners and Cossacks.

And most importantly, under Ivan IV, the territory of Russia doubled - from 2.8 million square kilometres to 5.4 million square kilometres, as a result of which the Russian state surpassed the size of the rest of Europe! The Kazan and Astrakhan khanates were conquered, Western Siberia, the Don Army region, Bashkiria, and the lands of the Nogai Horde were attached.

Twice Ivan Vasilyevich tried to recapture Crimea from the Tatar Khanate, but both of these campaigns ended in failure. It was only two centuries later that Catherine the Great managed to do this.

In conclusion, I can't help but try to rehabilitate Ivan IV. Our historians have easily put labels on Russian rulers, which actually create a distorted image of them. Ivan Vasilyevich became Terrible, Pyotr I and Catherine the Great, although all three ruled equally harshly.

And then there's Repin with the painting "Ivan the Terrible and his Son on November 16, 1581", which is why the vast majority of our people really believe that he killed his son. Ivan Vasilyevich did not kill the Tsarevich! By this time, he was already seriously ill, barely moved and, according to contemporaries, in 50 years he looked like a very old man.

This "fake" was launched at one time by the Jesuit Antonio Possevino and other foreigners who acted on the principle: "I didn't see it myself, but they are saying it”. The innocence of Ivan the Terrible was also confirmed by an expert examination conducted in 1963, which showed that the content of mercury and arsenic in the remains of Ivan Ivanovich exceeded the norm. Most likely, like the first wife of Ivan the Terrible Anastasiya, he was poisoned by boyars from the inner circle of the tsar, who dreamed of sitting on the royal throne after his death. As it turned out, the same thing was caused by the illness of the Tsar himself that led to his death.

And rumours of atrocities during his reign are, to put it mildly, greatly exaggerated. According to the data that has been preserved in the annals of history, from 3,000 to 4,000 people were executed under him. But compared to his European "colleagues," Ivan the Terrible was simply a lamb of God.

The English "virgin Queen" Elizabeth I, whom Ivan once angrily called the "vulgar maiden" of Europe, cut off the head of not only Mary Stuart, but also executed another 89,000 of her subjects. Some nicknames of the European rulers of those times are worth something – Louis XI the Spider, Bloody Mary, Joanna the Mad, Charles the Evil! In this same glorious group, Richard III is "the most vile monster of tyranny," as Shakespeare defines it. And, of course, Charles IX, who organised St. Bartholomew's Night, when in Paris alone about 3,000 Huguenots were killed in one day, and in all of France about 30,000.

The Crusaders massacred more than half of the population of Southern France during the Albigensian Wars. "Pacifier of Prussia", Grand Master of the Crusader Order Konrad Wallenrod, angry with the bishop of Courland, ordered to cut off the right hands of all the peasants of his bishopric, which was done.

On February 16, 1568, just at the height of Ivan the Terrible's Oprichnina, the Holy Inquisition condemned to death all (!) residents of the Netherlands as heretics, and the Spanish King Philip II ordered this sentence to be carried out, and 100,000 people were killed.

So when someone in the West, as well as in our country, talks about "Russian barbarism" and "original, pure and eternal European values", I find it very funny. Correctly, in the already mentioned opera "The Tsar's Bride", Europeans were called "infidels". It is in the modern language that this word has narrowed down to the definition of representatives of the Muslim faith, and then it meant a much broader concept: non-Christ, impudent, mischief-maker, shameless, foreigner.