The documentary below is important is understanding how the negative perception of Russia was formed in the West throughout centuries. It is so much more important in these days, when spreading of new black myths, defamation and fear-mongering targeting Russia is reaching new heights. The English newspaper’s headlines of late is a vivid testimonial – “Putin’s Missile”, eh?
The reader will notice that I used “Ivan the Formidable” instead of the English “Ivan the Terrible”. The reason for it will become apparent below (at about 10:46).
EDIT from 2020: I noticed that someone else published a different English-subtitled version of the film, that would be easier to watch. Still, my transcript below is useful for the documentary reference.
The documentary below is in Russian. Below you will find a complete English transcript of the film in-lined with a few of my notes.
Russia and the myths enveloping it. An unwashed land that taught Europeans how to wash themselves. Bloodthirsty tzar, who executed hundred times fewer people than his English contemporary. Crazy tyrant, during whose reign Russian army was stationed in Rome, Corfu and Malta. 400 years of information wars. Russia vs. West.
Black myths about Rus. From Ivan the Formidable until our time.
On the 11th of March 1801, the British newspaper readers already knew: Russian emperor Paul ceized reigning. Newspapers start placing such headlines already starting from January. “We expect to hear already with the next post that his eminence Paul’s reign has ended”. “It is apparent that great changes have already taken place in Russia’s government, or cannot but happen very soon.”
Meanwhile in St.Petersburg, early in the morning on the 11th of March, the newspapers are yet not published, and the city was asleep, when conspirators were quickly heading to Mihailovskij palace along its streets.
The soldiers in their barracks were asleep, and the loyal Grenadiers were too sleeping in the now distant Pavlovsk. And the Emperor was asleep, secure in his knowledge that the star of his reign only started to ascend to its highest point. However, nothing shall change his image, neither in the palace, nor in the history. Crazy tyrant on the throne. An oddball, dangerous in his unpredictability of his eccentricity. Does this image correlate to reality? And why was the Emperor murdered?
2:14 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
There were many lies about Paul, among the first to spread lies was Ekaterina, saying as if he was a madman, that he didn’t do anything.
Here is a simple comparison of the facts and their interpretations: Everyone talks about Paul’s follies. And before we start disentangle the reasons for his murder, let us disentangle the knot around mythology surrounding Paul. Let’s take the Indian campaign as the top of Paul’s follies.
2:43 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan were the places where the Englishmen dominated. The appearance of Russia on these frontiers wasn’t at all in their plans.
And before that, there was the rescue of the Maltese Order of the Tempeliers. Where have the roads led the Orthodox father-tzar?
These are the hardened myths of history. However, if we think about it, Paul’s reign is not at all senseless, and many of the hallmarks of our history have their roots in the epoch of Paul.
Here is, for example, the famous crossing of Alps by Suvorov. We know that Russian soldiers, together with their Field-Marshall accomplished the impossible. But what drove them to the Alps? Why did we occupy Rome, and why didn’t we head for Paris? And here is Malta, headquarters of Ionate order. Why did Catholics of most counties so joyously hailed the Emperor of Russia as the head of the Knights?
A citation from Kljuchevskij: “Having collected all anecdotes, you start to think that all this is some mottled and disjointed fairytale, while at the core of Paul’s governmental policy, both domestic and foreign, there serious lay thought and beginnings that deserve our full approval.”
However, why only the anecdotes about Paul persisted in the folk memory? Why is the image of the tzar so caricature-like? And why do Western publicists praise and immortalise only the weak Russian rulers, be it Nikolai II or Mikhail Gorbachev? From which age and from which tzar did the trend start?
Let us peek into the depth of history. Year 1561. The third year of Livon War. A leaflet with the following heading was spread throughout Europe. “Completely revolting, terrible, never heard before news of brutalities committed by Muscovites against the prisoners from Liflandia, be it men, women, virgins and children, and what damage they suffer daily on their land.” These leaflets are predecessors of newspapers. Today they would have been called “yellow press”. They were printed in Nürenberg, but are memorable because the Russian theme first appeared in them. European have seriously concentrated on building a view of Russia as a land of brutal aggressive barbarians, who are slavishly obedient to their tyrants.
5:19 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
To understand why the information was against Russia stared in the time of Ivan the Formidable, we must have an understanding of the foreign political situation that formed by that time.
5:30 (Igor Frojanov, doctor of history science, professor)
There is a reason to say that a targeted, aimed, ideological, and ideology-building influence on Russia started from the end of the 15th century.
5:47 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
And so, unexpectedly, during the reign of Ivan III, the Europe, as it was written, is surprised to discover at their borders ad tremendous state, which is centralised, powerful, with a strong army, and obvious imperial ambitions.
6:03 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
For such big entity as Russia, Rus, it is natural that it is not viewed calmly, it always prompts some kind of neurotic attitude towards it.
Moscovia at the turn of 16th – 17th centuries. The edge of the world, however, it is a well-tendered edge. While in Europe national states begin their birth from bloody conflicts, Moscovia is a place where different peoples coexist. Russians, Tatars, Italians, who are building Kremlin, Germans and Englishmen get drunk together in the German Sloboda. This is a world without borders. Poles and Lithuanians talk with Russian in one language (translator: can also be interpreted as standing on the same foot). Tzar Ivan IV expands the borders to the East. Conquers the Kazan Khanat, and ascends Siberia to Russia with the help of Jarmak’s troops.
7:11 (Elena Jampolskaja, chief editor of newspaper “Culture”)
Even someone who has never specifically studied history, if he bothers to analyse period, when and at which frequency these myths appear, he will understand that a new wave always starts at the point when Russia really starts to become a strong state. Or, to be more precise, starts to lay claims on becoming a strong state.
The Russian states starts for the first time to really strengthen and build direct contact with Europe. Tzar Ivan IV, the historians say, woos to the English queen Elisabeth, urging her to unite the strengths. Elisabeth seemingly does not have a choice. India is not yet colonised, and Russia is one of the main markets. So why should the queen refuse. however, the tzar of Moscow is clearly no amused by the answer sent from the queen.
“It seems that at your place, other people but you, have power. And not just people, but some traders, who do not bother about ours state heads, about honour, and about the good of our countries. What they seek is the trade revenue for themselves, while you remain in your virgin status as if a common girl.”
Ivan Vasiljevish does not change trades (translator: an allusion to the popular Soviet-time film), he chastises the queen of England for negligence. She uses a different seal on each letter. She does not think like a state head. And most importantly, the tzar cannot understand why an Englishman, detained at the border, carries with him from Moscow to London some obvious lies.
“… we have seized many scrolls, which carry false news for affrontment of the honour of our tzar and our state, saying as if in our kingdom various unworthy things happen.”
Another blow to Ivan came from a friend of many years, Andrej Kurpskij.
8:59 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
You know, why must have an understanding that Kurpskij is not just a traitor running to the West, he is first and foremost, a spy. A paid spy, too.
The treachery of Kurpskij happened during the Livon War. Ivan the Formidable entered this war so as to secure for the state an exit to the Baltic sea.
9:19 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
Having solved the problems in the East and South, after having conquered the Kazan and Astrahan Khanates, having expanded Russia beyond Ural mountains, Ivan the Formidable directed his attention to the West, to securing access to the Baltic sea. Livon War is now a direct confrontation with Europe.
This war greatly influenced the flow of events in Europe. For Russia it cost 25 bloody years, and not only this. For the first time, Russia experienced that the war is conducted not only on the field of battle.
9:53 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
The core of every war, is information war
The treachery in Livon War resulted in the death of a 20.000-men strong division of Russian Army. The plan of the campaign was given to the West by traitor Kurpskij.
10:06 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
By the way, having run, he left behind in Russia his family, and nothing happened to this family. Ivan the Formidable, despite being painted as a despot, didn’t do anything to that family, he let them live.
His “30 silver coins” turned in West into a huge payment: Kurpskij got into ownership a town, 28 villages in one county, 10 villages in another, and 4370 hectares of land.
10:37 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
So understandably he had to work for that, so he sat down to writing letters, “exposing” the Russian tzar.
Ivan Vasiljevich, understanding that it would be impossible to keep their dialogue in secret, replied to these letters emotionally and harshly. However Kurpskij was already writing a new history of Russia. It’s by his hand that an image of a dark kingdom is firmly attached to Moscovia. Tzar Ivan is called “a bloody tyrant”. His Russian moniker “Groznyj” is much more mulit-faceted than the English translation, by which he becomes known to Europe. (Translator: “Groznyj” means literally “thunderous”. Other meanings are “formidable” and “fearsome”, but not “terrible”, which is another word: “uzhasnyj”)
11:15 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
The defamation of the Russian tzar, and not only him, but also defamation of Russian state, of Russian people, of all the social life in Russian lands -it is the means to undermine, using the modern term, the vertical of power, and to provide the West with ideological weapon to change the situation in Russia.
Pictures of public executions is a common theme for engraving depicting the life in Russia. Here is Ivan personally observes the cruel executions. And here is he torturing people himself. Only hooves and horns are missing from the image of the Russian monarch to complete the picture. (translator: alluding to Devil). Ivan is, of course, not an ideal ruler, and different things did happen. But let us compare him to his contemporary monarchs. By historians’ counts, over the 30 years of Ivan’s rule in Moscovia, there were executed about 4,000 people (translator: only 133 executions per year – far less than in many modern countries, and definitely less than the number of victims from USA’s and UK’s democratic bombings). Only during one singe night of massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy in 1572 in Paris, at least 20,000 people were knifed.
12:23 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
Tens or hundreds of thousands of victims [in Europe] is OK, and in our country, 4,000 is completely unnormal, he’s labelled a tyrant and despot.
The scale of any event can be comprehended only in comparison. During the reign of Henry VIII at approximately the same time, 72,000 people were executed in the civilised Britain – about 2.5% of the total population of the country. During Queen Elisabeth – 89,000 people. In 1525 in Germany, during a suppression of a peasant revolt, more than 100,000 people were executed. And these people were giving the Russian tzar lessons in humanism.
13:01 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
In all his letters in testaments, Ivan the Formidable always repented “I am so bad, I let so so many die. Oh, woe me. I’ll go to church and offer a prayer in their names, listing their names on paper.” So it’s understandable, if the man says that he is a murderer, then murderer he must be. While if 30,000 are killed elsewhere [in Europe], that’s fine, it was done in order to serve God.
The Muscovite kingdom of Ivan the Formidable was at its peak of economic and military might. It’s is during his time, by ascending Volga-territories and Siberia, Russia acquired the borders that are close to the present day’s.
13:41 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
Russia expanded from Bug to the Pacific Ocean without generally destroying any peoples, and without expropriating the land from the locals. Not a single kilometre of the newly-acquired land was given neither to a Russian peasant or a Russian aristocrat.
These acquisitions can be contested, also though the defaming of the historical image of Ivan the Formidable. During Livon War Russia was for the first time warring against the West as a coalition of states. The effort from half Europe was needed to so as not to allow Russia approach the sea. From this moment on, Russia entered an endless information warfare, which it largely conducts from a defensive position. A new type of information sees light, information targeting the widest spectrum of audience. As in today’s yellow press, the most shocking and terrible news were selected. Certain blueprints were formed. At that time, the word “tyrant” acquired a negative connotation to define all of Russia’s rulers in general.
14:44 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
Paul is a tyrant, Ekaterina is also a tyrant, Groznyj – tyrant, Stalin – tyrant, Nikolai II – “bloody”, and so on. Everyone is a tyrant. This is one of the standard accusations and labels that set the people upon either the elite or, for example, a specific ruler.
15:01 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
Certain pamphlets were in circulation. First they were leaflets, small brochures, and finally it came to anti-Russian books.
“Notes of Moscovia” is one of the first anti-Russian books. The author is Henri Staden, gentleman of fortune, seeker of adventure and profit. Europe was full of such people then. Served in Russia for the tzar as an oprichik (guard). Once back in Europe, Staden “worthily thanked” the Moscow kingdom. To improve his finances, he put to paper his adventures. Attached to the notes was a plan of military occupation of Mscovia. Here is a citation from Staden:
“One of the brothers of the emperor shall rule the new imperial province of Russia. On the occupied territories, the power should be given to the imperial commissars, whose main responsibility will be in providing the German troops with everything they needs by using the locals. For that, each stronghold must have a number of peasants and merchants assigned to them in the radius of 10 to 20 miles, so that they pay the fees to the warriors and delivered all necessities.” It was suggested to make Russians into prisoners, driving them into fortresses and towns, and from there they could be taken to work, but only in iron shackles with lead-covered legs. There was also an ideologically-religious base for the plunder: German churches in stone must be raised across the whole country. And allow Moscovites to build only wooden churches. They will soon rot away, and the country will only have German stone churches left. that way the Moscovites’ religion will change painlessly and naturally. Once the Russian land, together with the surrounding countries, which do not have rulers, and which lay bare are taken, then the borders of the Empire will ouch the borders of the Persian Shah. It was almost 350 years unlit Generalplan Ost (translator: It was a secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Central and Eastern Europe. Implementation would have necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale to be undertaken in these European territories, occupied by Germany during World War II – from Wikipedia). The trail of Staden is lost after that, but his memoirs inheritance survived through the centuries. It is using exactly such memoirs, that the West was forming the needed version of Russian history, independent of the real events.
17:12 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
You can’t blame travellers, diplomats – except for the cases, when they did on orders – in some premeditated evil disposition to our country. It is balanced. Some see only the good things, other – only the bad. It’s another case that usually a positive feedback is not useful for one of the parties during a time of accute geopolitical confrontation, so it is quietly printed in small numbers, while any negative feedback starts to get reinforced.
Giles Fletcher, English diplomat who was with a diplomatic mission at the court of Fjodor Ioanovich, wrote in his composition about Russia of strange animals in the forests and wondrous things, but suddenly, in passing, noted: Prince Dmitrij, the last son of Ivan will soon be murdered and the power in the country will shift. Prince Dmitrij will indeed be murdered in Uglich a few months later, and in a few years, the Russian state is plunged into “Smuta” (translator: dark times).
18:16 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
The English are largely behind the Russian-Polish, and throughout time and until present day, Poland has been in the orbit of English intelligence and English cooperation in general.
It seems so familiar. 200 years later, the news in the English press about Paul I murder will be published two months before the murder itself. Where do the Englishmen have such pre-dating information? And why is England bothered by Paul I?
However, in 1801 the conspirators go to the Mihalovskij palace assuredly. They know that the public opinion is on their side. And the public in the salons is convinced – the tzar is a madman. Someone is persistently spreading the rumours, and they fall on fertile ground. Paul does indeed have quirks. He is a loner from birth, distant both from his mother Ekaterina II, and from her court in the salons of St.Petersburg. And that _is_ the opinion of Russia.
19:20 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
There were many who were dissatisfied with Paul, especially former favourites of Ekaterina, who spread rumours that he is crazy, and how good the living was during Ekaterina, while this one is so terrible.
On the day of his murder, countess Olga Zherebcova, the beauty of the Petersbug establishment is already at the ball with the Prussian king, while on her way to London. The salon where the conspirators assembled was in her Petersbug apartment. And now, she is informed about Paul’s murder, which makes the lady exclaim in joy so loudly that the king publicly reprimands her of her unseemly behaviour.
Why is Olga Zherebcova in Europe? She left after her love. The British envoy Whitford was expelled by Paul from the country, and Zherebcova could not live without him. Such romantic story touches the world. In reality Zherebcova carries to London an assurance – 2 million Pounds that will be sent with her to Petersburg will pay for themselves any day now.
20:22 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
Those who needed to be paid, got paid – the English crown is not poor.
The money are only promised, but the conspiracy is already unstoppable. “His dear” count Palin, whom Paul trusts unconditionally, recruits general Svechin and tells him: “A group of the most respected people of the country, and having support from England, has set itself a goal of displacing a cruel and humiliating government, and to put on throne the heir, the grand duke Alexander, who shows promise given his age and feelings.” The work “England” is mentioned. So why is England bothered by Paul? Why do we always see the hand of the West in our tragedies. There is also some of Paul’s fault in that he lived unto such death.
21:09 (Dominic Livin, historian, GB) (translator: I am re-translating his quotes from Russian, so they will differ from his English phrases)
Until some point Russia and England were simply no noticing each other. Peter by and large put Russia on the map of the world that lay on the table of the British government, as well as on to the maps of Paris and other European countries. Russia was needed to be taken into account.
21:28 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
The acquisitions of Peter the Great didn’t give peace to the Anglo-Saxons for 200 years. During WWI, the British foreign Office raise all archived documents of Peter the Great times so as to see how solidify the desintegration of the then Russia. And that was an Antanta ally!
21:51 (Dominic Livin, historian, GB) (translator: I am re-translating his quotes from Russian, so they will differ from his English phrases)
The perception of Russia in England, and more broadly, in the United Kingdom, was always dictated by a wide-spread belief that England is the land of all kinds of freedoms, while Russia is a land of despotism. This was repeated time and again during the 18th century, and even more so in the 19th. I even think that this perception has not entirely gone away.
22:21 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
I don’t think it is so bad. Everything that the West thinks about Russia is natural. More so, such negative advertising must be, in my opinion, some kind of a positive factor. As soon as this [type of talk] starts, we must understand, that yes, everything is fine in our country, we go in the right direction. Here everything is fine. I am much more interested and agitated by the question that the West finds a lot of like-minded within the country. in my opinion, it is much more dangerous. I am deeply convinced that no one can bring a Russian so much harm as the Russian person himself.
Information sources from the West sometimes hit their target within Russia. Citizens started to believe that their past and present looks exactly as hopelessly. And few were bothered by the facts that the number of victims of Novgorod massacre voiced by the foreign compilers does fit. 300,000 as some authors state. “And so Volhov overran its shores, overflowing with the bodies of the killed.” Meanwhile the whole of Novgorod at that time had hardly 10,000 residents. The main question here is: to what end? Wars are fought for resources and territories. So why conduct an information war against an edge of the world?
22:39 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
People were fighting and are still fighting for the same thing. they fight for resources. if now such resources are carbohydrates, in ancient times, the main resource was land. Land. All wars were fought for it. Because land means harvest, taxes, people, riches. Russia, Moscovia, it does not matter, always had this resource in excess. More so, not just any land, not an Arabian peninsula, superb land – forests, black fertile earth, rivers. There was something to fight for.
24:14 (Vjacheslav Manjagin, writer, historian)
Though oil was not at that time a primary resource, Russia was at that time already a treasure cove of resources for Europe. Russia supplied Europe with 50% to 80% of European consumption of forest, larder, wax, almost 100% of furs. Huge quantities of raw materials. Caravans of ships when to Europe from Russia. During famine and failed crops, Russia supplied Europe with corn. If we take a closer look, by that time Europe had almost no forests left. It is know that Europeans seldom washed themselves at that time, not because they were so unkempt, but because there was a shortage of wood to heat the water. It was a luxury.
Many in Europe long believed that Russians live in a wild corner of the world, where enlightenment came to from the West. But here are simple facts, based on sources: Moscow was an hair of Byzantine, while Byzantine was an heir of Rome and Greece. It is Europe that saw the rise of Dark barbaric Age, while in Byzantine, the best antic traditions were still alive for 1000 years more, and Orthodoxy was developing.
Anna Yaroslavna, the daughter of Kiev count Yaroslav the Wise became the queen of France, and was shocked when she came to a completely barbaric, by Russian standards, Paris.
25:35 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
The king put a cross [to sign documents], while she could write in Slavic and in Greek, and having learnt Latin, signed with “Anna”. So the myth about the backwardness of all the Byzantine sphere, of a foreign schismatic religion is completely unrelated to the real state of affairs.
Russian queen of France, Anna Yaroslavna was also for a long time baffling the Parisians with her habit to wash herself. They haven’t heard of that and could not understand it. That Russians go to banja (sauna) almost daily would continue to surprise the Europeans up to the end of the 19th century.
There were periods in Russian history, when on the information front Russia conducted and offensive, and at times very elegant politics.
26:24 (Dominic Livin, historan, GB) (translator: I am re-translating his quotes from Russian, so they will differ from his English phrases)
Governments, generally, spend quite a bit of time and effort to influence the processes in those countries that constitute a sphere of their interests. Were there attempts to bribe influential people in other countries? Of course such things happened in the 18th century, especially before the reign of Ekaterina.
26:50 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
Another shining example: the information politics of Ekaterina II, who was a master to look beautiful in other people’s eyes – and she was quite good-looking as it were, but thanks to her PR-activity, her image greatly exceeded the real content.
The French enlightener Voltair and Diderot were seduced, recruited and turned into her agents of influence by her. Voltair in all honesty suggested that Ekaterina should move her capital to Constantinople, saying that it will be a huge good for Europe, and for the whole civilisation in general. The correspondence between Ekaterina the Great and Voltair was read by whole Europe. Having learnt that Diderot was short on money, she made him an offer that didn’t touch his honour, but solving all his financial problems.
27:44 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
She buys from him hi library for a completely insane sum of money, well above the market price, but tells that she will take the library only after his death. Of course, such actions were admired by all educated people of that time. And Ekaterina was happy, the image of Russia was greatly improving.
The destruction of the Crimean Khanate, strengthening of Russia in the Northern Black Sea lands, and the creation of the black Sea fleet, followed by brilliant victories at sea of admiral Ushakov, all this unnerved England. In the spring of 1791 a critical international conflict arose. It is known in history as a caricature conflict. The first real Russian political caricature is a painting by Gavriil Skorodumov “The Balance of Europe in 1791”. It shows big scales, tipping to that side, where a Suvorov’s grenadier stands alone. One, but with weight, outweighing all enemies of Russia. Europe understood this hint from Ekaterina quite straightforwardly: The question of Ochakovo will be decided in a certain way, unless England changes its policy. The language of a caricature turned out to be more accessible than a plethora of diplomatic notes.
28:58 (Dominic Livin, historian, GB) (translator: I am re-translating his quotes from Russian, so they will differ from his English phrases)
It’s only when Russia got enough strength and influence at the end of the 18th century, it’s only then that the Englishmen started to get worried. But even then, worsening of relations was delayed for 25 years because a revolution happened in Napoleonic France.
After the French revolution destroyed the monarchy, the monarchs of Europe realised the danger. Even though France, a long time competitor, has left the ring, the threat of chaos could leap over the borders. The empires joined forces to counteract the French revolutionary expansion. Even more so, since the young general Bonaparte was already beating their armies and threatened with re-establishing of the French might. The Russian army in Europe acts in cooperation with the Austrian.
29:42 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
All this in reality happens for economic motives. In the end, all is for the money. Money, resources, territories. Then come the methods of influence.
When Alexander Suvorov lead his troops across Europe from victory to victory, his fame grew, but the myths were also growing around the Russian general. European publications were filled with caricatures of Field-Marshal.
30:05 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
The less educated a segment of population is, the more wild means are used to influence it. The most unimaginable. They start to spread such rumours that a normal educated person would not believe in, while it suits quite well for the commons.
Here is how Suvorov is depicted in the European publications. And let it be noted that these are the allies in the war. And here is what will British times write after a joint with Russia victory over Napoleon in 1818. By that time Suvorov is dead for almost 20 years. “All glory cannot wash away the shame of selfish cruelty from his character and to make a historian write his portrait in any other colours, except for those worthy of either a luck madman militarist or a tricky barbarian.” In caricatures, Suvorov is surrounded by corpses, he is dubbed “the butcher”. Such attitude towards Suvorov has been retained in the Western historical science until our days. (Translator: For a Russian the name of Suvorov is synonymous with honour and dignity. The best military academy bears his name.) This is one of the law of information warfare: a correctly propagandised myth is perceived by the children of its creators as final and absolute truth.
31:20 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
Caricatures is a favourite trick of the English propaganda. You can go now to the Borodino battle panorama museum, and there you can see a large exposition of English caricatures.
However, few remember today, that his famous push over the Alps, unprecedented in world history, ended up with the betrayal of the allies. The Austrians simply did not come to the appointed place, where armies were to meet, and Suvorov, even desiring to do so, could not develop his success. Exhausted by the march, he soon dies, never stopping to regret that he didn’t get a chance to meet in battle with a promising young general Bonaparte. Russia didn’t use the victories of Suvorov, but did it have another option?
32:08 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
Paul I ordered Russia to exit this war, tore alliance agreement with Austria, and began to cooperate with Napoleon. A radical turn in politics. As I said, from a tactical point of view this may seem like a pity that we acquired a number of victories, and then didn’t make use of those victories.
Paul understood that the allies do not give Russia space, having seen the might of its army. Meanwhile Bonaparte was sending rather clear signals. He urged to unite the forces of the two empires and to divide the world. What did Russia have by that time? “The times of Ochakovo and conquest of Crimea is in the past.” However, that’s not just a quote from Griboedov’s comedy. It’s a Russian break-through to Black Sea influence, bathed in the blood of Russian soldiers. And from there, the Mediterranean is just at arm’s length. The Maltese ownership, is not just a whim of a tzar-knight, its a base of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean sea. But who is the ruler of the seas? The British crown. Will it tolerate this?
33:23 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
The English always put their bets on the fleet. They even had a doctrine that the English fleet should be at least 1/3 bigger than the total fleet of all other countries (reminds of the US doctrine of spending on their army 3 times as much as all the remaining countries of the world put together). So you can image how much money they spent on their fleet. All Englishmen were so to speak sailors, captains, pirates. By controlling the fleet, they quite naturally control the sea routes and world trade. By controlling the trade, you always profit, you always become richer.
33:57 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
Many found Paul I disagreeable as a commander of the Maltese order. It’s the whole of the Meditteranian. It’s a point that provoked so to speak shudders in Britain. The same can be traced from WWI and the though WWII and the negotiations with stalin, and then after the war.
34:24 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
The British perceived it as too dangerous that Paul I can potentially come closer to Napoleon. And the terror of Cossacks showing up in the Northern India, after all a couple of Cossacks regiments could effortlessly overthrow the British, who did not have any support in India. The British might in India was in reality hanging in thin air. and so the English tirelessly and with success were throwing oil into the fire with this regard.
Still, why London? And why to the present day Paul’s achievement in the state politics are firmly buried under a veil of myths? London, by the morning of 11th of March 1801 was submerged into a political chaos and panic. The resignation of Pitt’s government, shameful indecisiveness in the face of the main news of the last months, the British crown steadily loses its majesty. It is about to lose its Eastern colonies and hegemony on the seas. It’s a total collapse. Napoleon has already occupied Egypt, seeking a land bridge into India. Russian Cossacks are also marching there along the shores of Volga. India is the main guarantor of the British wealth. The small island exists thanks to the revenue from the fantastically beautiful and fantastically rich colonies. Paul sends before the 11th of March a letter to his cossacks, so that they should remember the main goal of the march South:
“The goal is to plunder all that (English colonial institutions in India), and to free the oppressed owners (maharajahs), and to bring them with kindness into the same dependency of Russia, as they are with the English, and to turn the trade to our parts.”
Paul knows what to offer Indians to sway earn their favour. The British Crown in the colonies is not kind at all. On the contrary, it’s cruel. He again stands to win the PR war for the sympathy of the conquered Indians. Wasn’t it long ago that the Western press called him “Russian Hamlet” and “Don Quixote”? It took only two years for him to turn into “crazy tyrant” in the newspapers headlines.
36:31 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
The English focused their effort on discrediting the politics of Paul I, on explaining to the Russian establishment that his politics does not suit the national interests (translator: much like US and UK do with regard to Putin now) or Russia, when, of course, it didn’t suit the national interests of Britain, which is quite understandable.
why did the enlightened Britain need to discredit/defame the Russian emperor so much? Let us remind: the memories of the French revolution are still fresh. Napoleon’s claims are already obvious, while the Russian army is the only force that is capable of opposing him in Europe. Suvorov’s soldiers make an unheard of push over inaccessible summits, while the allies write about a mad tzar. Paul accepted Bonaparte’s offer, and from that moment he signed his own death warrant, and irreversibly cemented in history an image of mad petty tyrant, remote from the realities.
Meanwhile Russian ships already storm the bastions of Korfu. Admiral Ushakov’s fleet is fully in control of the Adriatic sea. however, in St.Petersburg and in the European capitals they whisper in the salons: a stupid madman on the throne. There was already one tyrant : Ivan the “Terrible” (translator: in this case the real Russian word for “terrible – “uzhasnyj” is used so as to accentuate the Western label). Both the Formidable (Groznyj) and Paul hit their own when they were centralising power, punishing the elite for the excesses. Groznyj agains Boyars in their furs, Paul against the courtiers in their residences. The common folk had only good to say about both tzars. However, it is not the common folk that make history, but that very same elite, and that is why it will happily trample the memory of Ivan and the image of Paul.
38:00 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
By the way, Paul himself strongly offended the courtiers because he cancelled many of the courtiers’ privileges: he made courtiers serve in the army. One could no longer go into reserve unless one served at least a year in the army. If you serve in the army, you get a couple of weeks of vacation, and the rest of the time, be so good and stay at the regiment, train, go to war, and not lounge in your residence with the dogs. And many other such things, which were very disliked by the courtiers.
Paul did have some quirks in his daily private life, but in politics his actions are completely rational. He was the first to ease the serfdom system, reducing the taxes on the peasants. He strengthened the army by defending the rights of a soldier, and forbidding bodily punishments. Moreover, he made the officers grumble when he forbade the generals to use soldiers as workforce in their private estates. The result: adoration of the people and hatred from the immediate surrounding. When Paul’s Cossacks moved out to India to join the forces of Napoleon and brin the time of British rule to an end, the conspiracy in Petersburg and London was already complete.
39:15 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
They naturally work in person with the high-ranking courtiers, the aristocracy. The lesser bureaucrats, there is maybe some kind of letter exchange, they create some rumour environment though newspapers and journals, as such people are literate. If it is a question of influencing the common population, then it is either some pictures-caticatures or spreading of rumours.
On the 27th of January 1801 English press publishes news that a Russian official came to London with the information about displacement of Paul and about an establishment of a regent council, headed by the Empress and Prince Alexander. There was still exactly one and a half month until Paul’s death. It’s a kind of black magic of information warfare: by persistently repeating something that your desire to accomplish as if it’s already an accomplished fact, you change the reality and prepare the events that are yet to happen. This trick of information warfare the Europeans used then for the first, but far from the last time. No one, either in Europe or in Russia was not surprised when on the 11th of March 1801 Emperor Paul was murdered.
40:37 (Oleg Matvejchev, professor of high school of economics, politologist)
The murder of Paul is one of the most successful acts of English diplomacy.
When the news of Paul’s murder reached Bonaparte, he said: “They couldn’t get at me in Paris, so they hit me in St.Petersburg.” Who are these “they”? And what did they accomplish?
41:00 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
The information warfare played its role here as well, you see. As it is known, it was conducted by the English embassy.
41:09 (Dominic Livin, historian, GB) (translator: I am re-translating his quotes from Russian, so they will differ from his English phrases)
They say the British ambassador was involved in it. It didn’t, of course, play any key role. Paul was displaced by the aristocrats, under the leadership of my great-great-grandfather. They were not governed by the English, but by their own interests in usurping the power.
41:29 (Vladimir Medinskij, writer, author of book series “Myths about Russia”)
Paul is to blame, his advisors are to blame, his surrounding, which opposed itself to the elite of that time. And while being in the most protected place in the whole world, in Mihailovskij Palace, the Emperor of a greatest Empire of that epoch was strangled by his own close courtiers.
Let us imagine for a minute what could have happened if the Indian campaign was successful. Russian and French troops meet in Persia and together march towards the Indian ocean. Russian fleet cuts off routes for Britain to send reinforcement troops. The French already securely hold the land route through Egypt. The English have no reserves in India, and besides the local population enthusiastically meets the liberation forces. A few years later, without the colonies, the British economy goes into recession, and the island is for ever left outside of the civilised world. As a result, there is no continental blockade, and there is no reason for the war of 1812. Thousands of Russians and French do not die at Borodino. And Moscow is not set on fire. Using the fantastic revenue from the Indian trade, it is already by 1812 renewed in stone. However, the world cannot live without conflicts, and most probably the French and the Russian empires would have felt too constrained in the world, and a new information was would have been inevitable.
42:56 (Natalia Narochnickaja, president of the Fund for historical perspective, doctor of history science)
We have our own civilisation. And, by the way, when it stars to emerge as an independent civilisation, outside forces start a fierce battle with it. And all this repeats in circles. The only hope now is that now we will again rise to the highest point of this circle and will again acquire, create our own civilisation.
But there will come new times and new authors will be writing about Russia excitedly, critically and surprised. However, only the libel of Marquise de Gustine will become famed and will be re-printed, including in our country once the tzar’s ban on its publication is lifted. The Russian literature of the 19th century, grand and mighty, will make a pondering, melancholic Russian as it hero. That Russians discovered Anractics and conquered Turkestan, and mastered Far East didn’t inspire to creativity the Russian “Kiplings” and “Jack Londons”. We learn little from our history, while it repeats itself with an uncanny regularity. We are praised when Russia is in chaos, revolution and “perestrojkas”, and we start to get berated when Russia’s influence in the world re-establishes. And only we ourselves continue to make jokes about ourselves, and believe that the Western experts are cleverer than us, and are more enlightened in our plights. However, the whole of the history tells us that Russian scepticism is not a barrier for development.