Content advisory 18+ In the last couple of days, Russian “patriotism” has had its finest hour. First, a famous painting was well-nigh destroyed by a vodka-swilling nationalistic fool at the Tretyakov gallery; and, second, a Russian journalist, well-known for his criticism of the Kremlin, was fatally shot in the back as he tried to enter his apartment in Kiev, where he had fled in fear of his life in Moscow.
Shot in the back. What a heroic action by yet another defender of Sacred Russia’s Sacred Purity as a Sacred Nation.
I spent ten years in Moscow. I began by virtually worshiping the ground I was walking on. R-U-S-S-I-A. It DID seem sacred to me. And over the years I have never once lost my love, my deepest affection, for Russian people. So let’s get those two things out of the way up front, so that anyone who reads this cannot just dismiss it as the blathering of some Russophobic дурак who doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.
To wit: The fact is that I have gradually become aware of what a bunch of criminals the Russian authorities are — from top to bottom — and this knowledge makes me neither a Western sympathizer NOR an enemy of Russia. So wash that shit out of your mouths RIGHT NOW, dear reader.
Very probably, I — a mere foreigner — love and appreciate the magnificent qualities of Russia much more than do many Russians themselves. Why? Because I have read, studied, experienced, worked, thought, felt, and loved — with an OPEN MIND. Get it? An OPEN MIND. Refusing to buy into all the self-serving political-religious crap that the present government employs in order to hypnotize the already half-drunk brains of many of its citizens has NOTHING to do with love, respect, or even reverence. It is all self-serving propaganda designed to deflect the people’s attention away from the real problem — which is the GOVERNMENT ITSELF.
Not the West. Not Mickey Mouse. Not Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Not Alice in Wonderland. THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF.
So. The painting. Twice now this famous work “Ivan the Terrible and his Son, Ivan, on November 16, 1581” has been mutilated. First in 1913 by a lunatic who was carted off to the crazy house afterwards, and now by another crackpot who was screaming that the painting “falsified history.” Well, I guess in some ways, it is nice that people still care so much about art.
But the question arises: how is it that this vandalizing fuckwad (whose name I will not even give, as he will receive no free publicity from me) has ANY IDEA what really happened in 1581; and, secondly, who gave him the divine right to decide that the rest of us should be denied the freedom to see this painting and think about it in our own way, free of the self-anointed censorship authority of Mr. Fuckwad himself?
The problem with totalitarian governments and those laced with primitive religious zeal is — and has always been — their obsession with trying to prevent other people (meaning those who disagree with them) the basic rights of free assembly, speech, and thought. Russia is not the only place where this has happened — it is, rather, emblematic of reactionary partisanship across the globe and throughout history.
This, however, does not excuse the present Russian government from cynically trying to deflect the reality of its own self-serving and rapacious greed and dishonesty by straining to create the image of a noble and mighty Russia with a noble and mighty past seeking valiantly to maintain its God-directed sovereignty amid a world of evil Russophobes. The tragedy is that this idiotic doctrine is swallowed whole by the ignorant Russian masses to whom it is directed, those very hordes who, ironically are not and have never have been anything more than cannon fodder for first one Russian autocrat and then another and another.
As for Ivan the Terrible. “Grozny” — the actual sobriquet, would better be interpreted as “the Dreadfully Awesome” (hardly an insult). The history I have read — searching far and wide across the internet in quest of some sort of collective “truth” — does NOT reveal Ivan as having been, at least throughout most of his reign, any worse than other rulers/monarchs/tyrants of his day. I mean, was Henry VIII a nice guy???
Moreover, I understand (unlike modern academic American and British Feminists, for example) that history, in order to be accurately rendered, simply MUST be viewed in its own context and NOT judged according to the standards of some half-ass 21st-century intellectual with an agenda. In other words, the people who were responsible for the events which constitute the history of any era must be seen as products of that era and NOT judged according to the biases, right or wrong, of another. Therefore, at least until 1560, Ivan can be credited with doing some good, albeit with a firm, sometimes brutal hand.
According to most sources, this changed after the death of his wife Anastasia. Possible Ivan had syphilis; maybe not, Whatever the case, he began to display an increasing (and increasingly violent) paranoia. (Does that remind you perhaps of another infamous Russian leader?) He created a secret police and fell victim to violent rages. During one of these fits he may or may not have attacked his son, resulting in the son’s death. How we ever know for sure?
Did Richard III really have the Princes in the Tower murdered in 1483? Probably. But some insist otherwise — that it was the secret work of Henry VII? How can we KNOW? We weren’t THERE.
For that matter, was Peter I of Russia personally involved in the execution of his son Alexei? Read the following:
“In his hand-written confession, Alexei wanted to see his father dead, so that all the Petrine reforms could be suppressed. He envisaged driving out all foreigners from Russia, which meant that the German language and all sciences could also be suppressed. He also wanted Menshikov punished.
Catherine asked Peter to have the sentence commuted, so that Alexei could become a monk.
However it may be presumed that Peter was not only ashamed of his treacherous son (a potential heir), but he firmly believed it was his duty to the Russian Empire that he alone must prevent his son from ever having the opportunity to repeat his actions again. Peter loathed weakness and traitors and therefore it was for the Emperor to show his subjects that no-one was permitted to stand in the way of reform. His own son was not immune.”
Yet other historians insist that he was not directly involved. Who and what to believe? There seems to be no painting depicting the execution that we can stab with a knife, but anyway it sounds to me that our government and its patriotic devotees just might APPROVE of Peter bumping off his traitorous son, while deploring the very IDEA that Ivan might have done the same in a fit of pique.
Or maybe — assuming the work of art can be restored YET AGAIN — we should simply take the high road and see it as a symbol of an old, old and anguished story along the trampled road of human life: the disaffection (often tragic) between father and son. Surely, the wildly grief-stricken eyes of Ivan speak for themselves.
That painting is– or WAS — a GREAT testimony to the creative Russian genius, to its magnificent treasury of art and culture. The OBSCENITY lies in the minds of those who would destroy it to serve their own obtuse notion of patriotism.
The same view of patriotism which finds expression in pumping three bullets into the back of a journalist guilty of nothing but writing what he thought.
By the way, the journalist was Arkady Babchenko and he deserves to be remembered. The Snot-wad to tried to ruin the painting does not have a name as far as I am concerned.
===Eric Richard Leroy===