Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ivan Grozny

By Stephen Wilson

Ivan the Terrible
(Moscow, Russia) -- A monument to Ivan the Terrible, depicting him gallantly holding the reins of a horse while holding up an Orthodox cross, has just been inaugurated in the city of Oryol. The monument received the blessing of the Patriarchy Kirill, the Ministry of Culture, some historians and artists . However, the erection of the monument provoked bitter anger and indignation from many local people as well as Russians much more familiar with the history of one of Russians real despots. The erection of the monument reveals a country which is deeply polarised by those who yearn for a return to an authoritarian strong man who rules by the iron hand and those who favour the right to freely express an opinion and agree to disagree.
This is not the first time attempts were made to rehabilitate Ivan the Terrible 's reputation. An English Physician , Dr Samuel Collins, of the late 17th century, who was the first person to publish Russian folk stories, collected some stories which presented Ivan the Terrible as a kind and generous tsar who protected the poor from the evil and oppressive Boyars. In one story he even teams up with a thief to rob
boyars. He turns out to be a generous, kind and just tsar .
During the time of Stalin, Ivan the Terrible was fully rehabilitated to such an extent the Russian film maker Sergei Eisenstein had to remake his film.
So how do Russians justify rehabilitating one of the worst tsars in history ?
After all, the tsar who ruled from 1547-to 1584, sacked Novgorod, killing a minimum of 3000 as well as massacring many people during his invasion of Siberia not to mention the opposition. Ivan the Terrible 's right -hand man , Malyuta Skuratov, strangled to death Philipp the second, the Metropolitan of Moscow in 1569. The terror of his Oprichnina , who charged around on horseback brandishing severed dogs' heads on brooms was often indiscriminate.
The answer is they play down Ivan the Terrible's atrocities and even excuse his deeds. So Ivan the Terrible's murder of his son becomes 'an accident', and the number of victims of Ivan the Terrible's wars are reduced. For example, when I spoke to an academic , Mairi Koroleva, she told me : "Demographers told me they had made a special study of the number of victims of Ivan the Terrible and claimed the losses were not as high as people previously thought. They told me that , he killed only 3000 people if you rely on accurate records. " 

Of course, if you omit many chronicles , eye-witness accounts and reports, and rely on what you dubiously regard as the only acceptable data you can come up with lower figures. Nevertheless, how can anyone simply casually refer to 3000 deaths as 'only 3000 figures? Don't those people have souls ?
Of course, many proponents consider those atrocities as irrelevant . The main point is that he made Russia strong again. According to an article recently published by Zaftra, October , number 42, (1194) ,Ivan the Terrible drove out
the Mongol occupants, defeated Astrakhan , seized Siberia and made Russian a sovereign nation. Concerning, his religious role, Ivan the Terrible built the first cathedral devoted to Basil the blessed, and inspired great art.
Aleksandr Prokhanov declared: ' The Tsar Ivan Vasilevitch opened the first printers, and published the first book . He initiated the first Zemskii sobor or assembly which kept a check on unlimted authority '.
This one-sided view indicates more about the prejudices of the proponents than what actually happened in Russian history. The facts are that by the end of Ivan the Terrible's reign, his country had been hugely devastated and depopulated as thousands of peasants fled the land to escape increased control. The results spelt disaster for agriculture . Stalin appears to have repeated rather than avoided Ivan the Terrible's mistake. So the result of Ivan the Terrible's policies was 'the Time of Troubles'. Russia almost
disintegrated ! This is the consensus of many western as well as Russian historians.
What is deeply disturbing is that if school textbooks are rewitten to impose an uncritical dogmatic view of history ! This has not yet happened. However, the new Minister of Education and Science is down on record making a public
statement where she condoned Stalin's purges. What we are witnessing is an attempted 'counter -history' where the facts have to fit with the acceptable state dogma and not 'offend' anyone. In other words , unpleasant facts must either vanish or learn to be more patriotic ! Small wonder historians are feeling anxious!

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