1923 Дневник Глумова (Glumov’s Diary) (short)
1925 Стачка (Strike), set in 1903
1925 Броненосец Потемкин (The Battleship Potemkin)
1927 Октябрь «Десять дней, которые потрясли мир» (October: Ten Days That Shook the World)
1929 Старое и новое «Генеральная линия» (The General Line, or Old And New)
1932 Да здравствует Мексика! (¡Que viva México!, released in 1979)
1937 Бежин луг (Bezhin Meadow)
1938 Александр Невский (Alexander Nevsky), score by Prokofiev
1944 Иван Грозный 1-я серия (Ivan The Terrible, Part I), score by Prokofiev
1945 Иван Грозный 2-я серия (Ivan The Terrible, Part II), score by Prokofiev
Archive for the 'Russia' Category
Fiftieth anniversary edition with a Shostakovich soundtrack, mainly the fifth symphony (which opens and closes the film), but there are also passages from 4, 8, 10 and 11 (analysis here):
Shostakovich’s eleventh symphony, The Year 1905, was premiered October 30 1957, close to the fortieth anniversary of the October revolution, by the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Natan Rakhlin.
Adagio (The Palace Square), Allegro (The 9th of January) (Julian calendar), Adagio (Eternal Memory), Allegro non troppo (Tocsin).
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Royal Albert Hall, August 16 2005:
1905 (other post).
Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World, made in 1927, with the soundtrack composed by Shostakovich in 1966 for the fiftieth anniversary of the revolution:
Shostakovich made a tone poem, October, from the soundtrack in 1967; Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi:
Shostakovich’s second symphony, To October, was produced for the tenth anniversary of the revolution, like Eisenstein’s film. Shostakovich described the second of its four sections in a letter to Boleslav Yavorsky as the “death of a child” killed on the Nevsky Prospekt. It has a choral finale by Alexander Bezymensky praising Lenin and the revolution. London Philharmonic, Bernard Haitink:
Shostakovich’s purely orchestral twelfth symphony, composed in 1961 and not one of his best, is called The Year 1917, but doesn’t seem to cover both revolutions.
The first movement describes revolutionary Petrograd, the second Lenin’s headquarters at Razliv outside the city. The third movement is called Aurora, after the battleship that fired at the Winter Palace. The last, The Dawn of Humanity, describes Soviet life under the guidance of Lenin.
This is the premiere, October 1 1961 (YouTube says 1960), Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky:
The Julian or Old Style October 25 1917, the date of the armed insurrection in Petrograd, corresponds to November 7 in the Gregorian or New Style calendar. On January 24 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars decreed that Wednesday January 31 was to be followed by Thursday February 14.
The rather moving last October revolution parade on November 7 1990, two days before the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the USSR was dissolved on December 26 1991; there had been no parade that year, the year of the attempted coup (the vodka coup):
On June 12 1991, before the attempted coup, Yeltsin was elected by popular vote to the newly-created post of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, one of the fifteen constituent republics of the USSR. He had previously been Chairman of the Presidium of its Supreme Soviet.
On the resignation of Gorbachev and the dissolution of the USSR, Yeltsin remained in office as the President of the Russian Federation, one of the USSR’s successor states. Putin succeeded him in 2000.
Why do Scandinavians use the Christian name Magnus?
Because Charlemagne conquered and christianised the Saxons and brought a sort of civilisation to the pagan Scandinavians’ border. Whether that was or was not connected with the start, immediately afterwards, of the Scandinavians’ raids and conquests to their east, south and west is another matter.
By a freakish stroke of Fortune, there was born into the purple of the Russian Orthodox Christian universal state at Moscow, on the 30th May, 1672, a genius endowed with a completely Western êthos – and this not even the êthos of his own Western contemporaries, but the êthos of their descendants in the sixth or seventh generation, whose time was not to come till some two centuries had gone by! Peter the Great was an incomprehensible and therefore disagreeable lusus Naturae in the eyes of an English Bishop Burnet or a Dutch King William III, as well as in the eyes of a Russian Arch-Priest Avvakum [leader of the Old Believers]. When Burnet met Peter in A.D. 1698, he pronounced him sordid-minded, and saw nothing more in him than a young Barbarian potentate who happened to be a good ship’s carpenter. When William met him, he complained that he had no aesthetic sense, and no knowledge of the Dutch language apart from a jargon of nautical technicalities. These worthy representatives of the modern culture of the West did not, and could not, guess that, in their encounter with this repulsive mechanically-minded barbarian, they were being given a glimpse into their own society’s future and were being shown a prototype of the typical Homo Occidentalis who was to adorn an age two centuries beyond their own! For us, their descendants, who have the fortune to live in these latter days, the figure of Peter has ceased to be enigmatic. We have no hesitation in placing Peter the Great in the same portrait-gallery as Edison and Ford and Rhodes and Northcliffe and Mark Twain’s Yankee at the Court of King Arthur and Mr. Shaw’s Straker in Man and Superman.
A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934
We have heard a piece of choral music which he composed there.
On the way to Davos, in Berlin in the same month, he composed this:
Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, Misha Rachlevsky, Rachmaninov Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, September 2008
Tchaikovsky left Saint Petersburg for Davos on 1/13 November. He stopped in Berlin for four days. There, on 6/18 November, the piece was completed (according to the date on the manuscript).
He called it A Grateful Greeting. It had been commissioned by the Moscow Society of Artists as part of a tribute to an actor and director, Ivan Samarin.
On 7/19 November 1884, he wrote from Munich to his brother Modest: “I stayed so long in Berlin, because I needed to be able to compose quickly [...] an entr’acte for the Samarin production. The latter has been done and dispatched.”
He saw Weber’s Oberon there which, to his surprise, he enjoyed.
Tchaikovsky-research.net has details of all Tchaikovsky’s travels. One could write an essay called Tchaikovsky’s hotels.
A little of the ethos of those hotels lingered in 2006, when I was last there, at the Schatzalp in Davos, with its soup at mealtimes, its Tauchnitz library, its regular hours, its airy and austere rooms. I think they were still keeping your napkin for you from meal to meal. The few WEF participants who stayed there dimly suggested the international society which gathered in Swiss hotels in the belle époque.
Foreboding at Vevey (old post).
The Schatzalp was not the unnamed Davos hotel which Tchaikovsky visited. Nor, though it started as a sanatorium, was it the one where Yosif Kotek, his tubercular friend, whom he was visiting, was staying.
The first performance of the Samarin piece was conducted by Ippolit Altani at Samarin’s jubilee concert at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on 16/28 December, under its original title, A Grateful Greeting.
Samarin died in the following year. Tchaikovsky published the piece in 1890 with the title Elegy and dedication In Memory of I.V. Samarin and used it as the entr’acte preceding Act IV in his music for a production of Hamlet at the Mariinskii Theatre in 1891.
There are other versions on YouTube, with the USSR Symphony Orchestra and Svetlanov, with the Academia de Muzică, Teatru și Arte Plastice of Chișinău and Patrick Strub, and with the Novosibirsk Philharmonic and Thomas Sanderling. There is also the complete Hamlet music with the Russian National Orchestra and Pletnev. (Or nearly compete. Didn’t it have a soprano song?)
Elegies belong to strings. Fauré’s and Elgar’s were for strings. Grieg wrote Two Elegiac Melodies for Strings. Stravinsky wrote one for solo viola. Tchaikovsky’s other elegy for strings is the third movement of the 1880 Serenade.
There are really two Tchaikovsky winter symphonies: the first, which I posted recently, and Manfred. The marking lugubre occurs in both. The finale of the first begins with an andante lugubre. Manfred begins with a lento lugubre. For me, Manfred is, on the evidence of Svetlanov’s reading, Tchaikovsky’s greatest orchestral composition. That is a controversial view. He wrote it at the same time as Brahms was writing his greatest, the fourth symphony.
Poulenc composed much of the Dialogues des carmélites at the Majestic Hotel in Cannes in the ’50s and talks on film somewhere about a cycle of working in his room and going down to the bar and going back to work.
From Davos Tchaikovsky travelled to Paris and thence, in December, back to Russia.
Tchaikovsky, Symphony 1, performers not stated.
Dreams of a Winter Journey. Allegro tranquillo.
Land of Desolation, Land of Mists. Adagio cantabile ma non tanto.
Scherzo. Allegro scherzando giocoso.
Finale. Andante lugubre – Allegro maestoso.
[The] picture of the Turk as “the Sick Man” has had a curious history. It substituted itself in the imagination of the West for the older picture, in which the Westerner was the sinner and the Turk was the Scourge of God, divinely commissioned to chastise him, sometime between the raising of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 and the establishment of the Russians on the shores of the Black Sea through the Peace Treaty of 1774. The phrase in which the new concept of the Turk finally found its classical expression was coined by the Czar Nicholas I in 1853, during a conversation with the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg. “We have on our hands a sick man – a very sick man. … He may suddenly die upon our hands. …” From that day to this, the imminent decease of the supposed invalid has perpetually been awaited by his neighbours – by some of them with pleasurable expectancy, by others with anxiety, but by all with a dogmatic faith which seems capable of surviving any number of disillusionments. It was awaited in 1876 and in 1912 and, most confidently of all, in 1914; and now, when the Turk has given incontrovertible evidence of outward health and vigour by imposing the peace-settlement of Lausanne upon the victorious Allied Powers, his imminent dissolution through some hidden internal disease is prophesied with all the old assurance. We are told that the ravages of siphylis [sic] will extinguish the population of Turkey in three generations, or that the Turk cannot mend his own boots or work his own locomotives and will therefore perish through sheer economic incapacity now that alien minorities have been driven out. This persistence of the “Sick Man” theory indicates how powerfully the Western attitude towards Turkey is governed by a priori notions and how little it is based upon objective facts; for, as it has turned out, “the man recovered from the bite, the dog it was that died.” [Goldsmith.] At the time of writing, seventy-three years after Czar Nicholas I pronounced his celebrated verdict, the Czardom has vanished not only from St. Petersburg but from the face of Russia, whereas the Turkish “Sick Man” has taken up his bed and walked from Constantinople to Angora, where, to all appearance, he is benefiting by the change of air.
The words “of Europe”, which are used in the paragraph preceding this, ceased to have much meaning after the autumn of 1912. In the 1970s, the UK was called “the sick man of Europe” because of industrial strife and poor economic performance compared to other Common Market countries, culminating in the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79. Nowadays, the phrase is applied to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.
Bernard Partridge, Punch, April 7 1915; boor and sycophant
With Kenneth P Kirkwood, Turkey, in The Modern World series edited by HAL Fisher, Benn, 1926; it is unclear which passages are by which author, but this reads like Toynbee
By Max Fisher, Washington Post. There’s a kind of historical interest in all this.
An account from 1926. Toynbee seems innocent of the idea that Britain had had a hand in the coup of 1921.
The Persian point of view (background in recent post).
Atatürk and Reza Shah, Flickr credit: zenbuoyzenbuoy
On December 13, 1925, a Persian constituent assembly, sitting in Tehran, elected a King of Kings and made the crown of Persia hereditary in his family. The new shah was Reza Khan Pahlevi, a man of action who, starting from the rank of simple private soldier in a Persian force organized and officered by a foreign power, had risen during five years to be the real ruler of a genuinely independent Persia. The crown and the title that he received at the end of 1925 merely registered what was already the outstanding fact in the internal politics and the international relations of Persia, the personal ascendancy of Reza Pahlevi.
Meanwhile, on October 31, the ordinary Persian Madjless or Parliament had deposed the existing dynasty and its representative, Ahmed Shah, who for two years had been going the round of European watering-places in an indefinitely protracted foreign tour.
Thus Ahmed Shah gave place to Reza Shah, and the dynasty of the Kajars to the dynasty of the Pahlevis. In one sense this was a very old story; in another sense it was part of a new chapter in the history of the Islamic world.
The dramatic personal career of Reza Shah, though it naturally strikes the imagination of the Western public, is not a novelty in the Orient. The boy who mounts from the lowest rung of the social ladder to be a king in the literal sense of the word is as familiar a figure in the East as the self-made coal king, railway king, meat king, or oil king is in Europe or America. Men who have started as peasants or brigands, camel-drivers or coppersmiths, have repeatedly founded Oriental monarchies and handed them down to their heirs – or, rather, to a limited number of heirs, for in politics as in business, the work of the self-made man is likely to be undone by successors who reap where they have not sown.
The greatest of the Moslem political philosophers, Ibn Khaldun, lays down the general law that hereditary political power is invariably lost by the great-grandson of the founder. The deposed Ahmed Shah was the seventh sovereign of his line, but on the whole Ibn Khaldun’s law is as true for politics in Persia as the proverb, “It is three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves,” is true for business in America.
At the same time, the rise of Reza Pahlevi is not altogether an old story, even from the Oriental point of view, for Reza Shah is one among a new group of leaders who have appeared simultaneously all over the Islamic world since the end of the World War. Reza Pahlevi in Persia is akin to Abd-el-Krim in Morocco, Mustafa Kemal Pasha in Turkey, and Amanullah (the present amir) in Afghanistan. They were all brought up under the shadow of foreign domination. They all, when they were still young and undistinguished, formed the resolve to save their country’s independence. And they all set about their task by deliberately learning from the foreigner in order to fight him with his own weapons. They have not fought Western civilization. They have realized that their countries have been suffering not so much from the immorality of the foreign aggressors as from the operation of a universal and inexorable social law, which decrees that the weak-kneed and incompetent must give place to the efficient and the strong.
Before reviewing Reza Shah’s career, it may be well to take a glance at the Persia in which he grew up and which formed his mental background. During Reza Shah’s childhood and youth (he was born about 1877) the outstanding institution in Persia was an irresponsible despotism. Before completing the cycle of its existence, the Kajar Dynasty had produced shahs of three out of the four recognized varieties: the vicious strong man, the amiable weak man, and the vicious weak man, who is the worst of all. This, though bad, could be borne, for it was a familiar evil; but during the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Kajar sovereigns of Persia discovered the West, a discovery which had always made Oriental despots intolerable to their subjects, sooner or later. The native traditions of Oriental life set a limit to the extortion and extravagance of Oriental rulers by circumscribing their possible self-indulgences, but as soon as they learn to use Western luxuries, and to pay for them by borrowing money in Western markets, there are no bounds to the ravages which they may commit, not only upon the wealth of their subjects but upon the political independence of their countries. An Oriental sovereign who is hopelessly in debt to private Western money-lenders soon finds himself in the political power of the government which claims these money-lenders as its nationals. If he cannot pay in cash, he must pay in concessions, tariff agreements, or leases of territory; and when his subjects become restive at the betrayal of the public interests, he is driven to commit himself still more deeply to the foreign power and to rely on foreign bayonets for protection against his own people. Reza Pahlevi learned his soldiering – and learned it most effectively – by enlisting in the Cossack Brigade which Russian officers were organizing for the reigning Kajar shah with the double object of keeping the shah on his throne by force and of bringing that throne under the shadow of the Russian Empire. The crisis began with the constitutional revolution of 1906, a Persian echo of the greater upheaval which had been convulsing Russia since the Japanese war. Losing their patience at last, the Persian people introduced a parliamentary régime and girded themselves for the task of placing their country on her feet.
The revolution of 1906, however, was only the first chapter. The Persian Cossack Brigade, under its Russian commander, soon found itself fighting to overthrow the Madjless and restore the absolute monarchy. The counter-revolution was foiled, and in 1909 the reactionary shah, Mohammad Ali, was forced to leave the country and find asylum in Russia; but this constitutional victory was bought at the price of a Russian military occupation of Tabriz, the second city of Persia and the citadel of the constitutional movement. Moreover in 1907 the prospects of Persian independence had received a blow through the reversal of British policy in the Middle East under the stress of the situation in Europe. Fear of Germany had induced the British government to go into partnership with Russia; and the price of Russian cooperation in Europe was that Russia should have things her own way in Persia. Under the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, in the negotiation of which the Persian government was not consulted, Persia was divided into a Russian and a British zone with a neutral zone between them. The spirit of the Anglo-Russian Agreement was tested in 1911, when the Persian government engaged a private American citizen, Mr. W. Morgan Shuster, as its financial adviser, and the Russian government compelled the Persian government to dismiss Mr. Shuster as soon as it became apparent that he was making effective progress in putting Persian finances in order. Not content with Mr. Shuster’s dismissal, the Russian government sought to repress Persian nationalism by methods of barbarism in Tabriz and had the Cossack Brigade fall upon the Madjless at Tehran and disperse it by artillery-fire.
The climax of Persia’s humiliation was reached during the World War; for though Persia was not a belligerent, her territory was marched over and fought over by Russians, Turks, and British like a no-man’s-land. Meanwhile, in 1915, Great Britain had insisted that the neutral zone in Persia should be added to her zone in return for the acquisition of Constantinople by Russia; and Russia had consented on condition that in her own zone in Persia she should receive a free hand. Thus the partition of Persia between the Russian and the British empires was almost an accomplished fact when it was unexpectedly voided by the Russian Revolution. Yet this miraculous escape from one danger only exposed Persia to another. The temporary elimination of Russia left Great Britain in military and political control, not only of all Persia, but of the Russian border territories of Transcaspia and Transcaucasia; and the new situation was reflected in the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919, which was negotiated by Lord Curzon – with a Persian government which was almost avowedly unrepresentative of the Persian people – while the Peace Conference was in session at Paris.
These were the sensational and distressing experiences in the midst of which Reza Pahlevi learned his trade. He showed that he had profited by them as soon as he found his opportunity to play an active part in his country’s affairs.
Reza’s opportunity presented itself because the various foreign aggressors successively canceled each other out, while the Persian nation’s power of passive endurance outstayed the active energy of her neighbors. The Russians and British turned the Turks out of western Persia; the Russian Revolution caused the Russians to withdraw; and the steady pressure of the British taxpayer combined with the sound strategic instinct of the British War Office (which desired, from the moment of the Armistice, to extricate itself from outlying military commitments), and with a well timed military stroke delivered by the Bolsheviki, to bring about the evacuation of Persia by the British forces in their turn. Once the British troops were withdrawn [late 1920?], the administrative, financial, and military advice which was to be furnished to the Persian government by British officials, under the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919, was deprived of effective sanctions. Had the advisers got into the saddle at once, they might perhaps even so have held Persia under control; but here they were baffled by the Persian genius for passive resistance. The one point which was apparently overlooked by Lord Curzon and his Persian friends who signed the agreement of 1919 was that under Article 24 of the Persian Constitution of 1906 every public treaty, covenant, or concession negotiated by the Persian government had to be ratified by the Madjless; and the Madjless, like Humpty-Dumpty, proved easier to pull down than to set up again. Artillery can disperse a parliament in session by bringing down the roof about its ears, but it cannot conduct a general election and induce the deputies to assemble. The agreement hung fire while the Madjless omitted to reconstitute itself, and at this point the Bolsheviki gave Reza Pahlevi his opportunity by taking a hand in the game.
The departure of the British troops from Transcausasia [sic] in the summer of 1919, and the collapse of [the White Russian] General Denikin in the last months of the same year, reopened for the Red army the road to Persia. In the early summer of 1920 they landed in force on the Caspian coast, seized General Denikin’s fleet in the Persian port of Enzeli (since renamed Pahlevi in honor of the new shah), and pushed back the advanced detachments of the weak British army of occupation. The Persian government of the day, which was acting in the British interest, sent against the Red invaders the Persian Cossack Division, which was still officered by White Russians, though the force was now financed by a British subsidy. The Cossacks – among whom Reza Pahlevi had gradually risen to one of the highest positions open to a Persian member of the division – advanced against the Reds and gained some successes; but the attitude of the White Russian officers became so dubious that in the late autumn of 1920 the British military authorities in Persia removed them, and the Persian Cossack Division became a purely Persian force with British military instructors. Thus a trained and organized Persian corps, which had been created to serve Russian imperialist interests, passed in the end into Persian hands; and Reza Pahlevi, after serving his long apprenticeship under Russian teachers, found himself with an effective force at his back to be used for Persian national purposes.
The Cossacks now made common cause with the Constitutionalists, and in February, 1921, Reza Pahlevi marched from Kazvin, the Cossack headquarters, upon the capital. Tehran was occupied on February 21, the Anglophile government overthrown, and a nationalist government formed with Sayyid Zia ad Din as prime minister and Reza as commander-in-chief of the army. Zia ad Din’s term of office was signalized by the denunciation of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 and by the signing of a treaty with the Soviet government on February 26.
From the moment when the Persian Cossacks escaped from both Russian and British control, it was evident that if they produced a strong man from among their Persian officers, he would have the government of Persia in his hands. The opportunity found Reza Pahlevi ready to seize it, and from February, 1921, he has gone from strength to strength. He was appointed minister of war as well as commander-in-chief a few weeks after Sayyid Zia ad Din became premier, and he held this post continuously until he chose to combine the premiership with it . Meanwhile successive premiers went and came at Reza Pahlevi’s dictation, the first to go (May, 1921) being the sayyid himself.
Reza assumed the premiership on October 28, 1923, and thereupon Shah Ahmed Kajar started on that foreign tour from which, as it has turned out, he has not returned. The day after Reza Pahlevi became prime minister of Persia, the National Assembly at Angora proclaimed Turkey a republic and elected Mustafa Kemal Pasha as her first president. Reza Pahlevi was naturally impressed by the career of a brilliant soldier who was the national hero of the leading country in the Islamic world, and it is almost certain that he intended to have himself elected first president of a Persian republic on the next Persian New Year’s day, which fell on March 21, 1924. In this regard he suffered the only serious rebuff he has encountered so far.
The first stages went well. The Madjless assembled on March 13; a meeting of forty ex-premiers, cabinet ministers, and other notables called upon Reza to declare in favor of a republic and to make arrangements with the Madjless for the election of a president; pro-republican demonstrations were made in Tehran; pro-republican telegrams poured in from the provinces. Meanwhile, however, there had been fresh developments in Turkey which again influenced the course of events in Persia, though this time in a contrary sense. On March 3 the Turkish National Assembly had not only abolished the caliphate but had secularized the Turkish state and had drastically disestablished the Islamic ecclesiastical organization. Persia and Turkey belong to different sects; but the Persian ecclesiastics argued nevertheless that the proclamation of a republic in Persia would involve them In the same fate as had overtaken their Turkish confrères. They therefore threw the whole weight of their influence into the anti-republican scales; anti-republican counter-demonstrations began; and before the Persian New Year’s day arrived, Reza felt it advisable to beat a retreat. He went off to confer with the leading religious jurisconsults in the holy city of Kum, and he proclaimed at the beginning of April that the establishment of a republic was contrary to religion and that all further mention of the subject was prohibited.
Superficially, at any rate, Reza’s position was weakened by this fiasco, and he had to demonstrate that he was indispensable by resigning office on April 7 and resuming it with some show of reluctance at the pressing entreaty of his countrymen. If Reza Pahlevi had failed to become the first president of a new Persian republic, he might still become the first shah of a new dynasty on the ancient throne of the Persian Empire.
The first step in this new move was taken on February 14, 1925, when the Madjless passed a bill appointing Reza generalissimo of all the armed forces of Persia and making him irremovable except by the same body. The next step was the deposition, by another vote of the Madjless on October 31, 1925, of the reigning Shah Ahmed and the whole Kajar Dynasty into the bargain. By the same resolution, the maintenance of a provisional government was intrusted to Reza Pahlevi, pending the election of a constituent assembly.
The final inevitable step occurred on December 12, when the constituent assembly, duly meeting, conferred the crown of Persia upon Reza Pahlevi and his heirs forever. The new shah took the oath on the fifteenth of the same month.
What is the secret of this meteoric career, and what has Reza Shah Pahlevi done to deserve so well of his fellow-countrymen? To these two questions there is a single answer. He has built up a national army which, though small in numbers (it probably does not exceed forty thousand men all told), has nevertheless proved itself an efficient fighting force and, almost for the first time in history, has established the effective authority of the central government over all the territories and populations within the Persian frontiers.
How has he achieved this? At first sight it seems miraculous, considering the poor reputation of the Persian as a fighting man. Yet this miracle, if it is a miracle, has been performed by the same simple means that have enabled a number of modern Western powers to acquire vast Oriental empires.
How did the English make themselves masters of India? Not by importing legions of Nordic supermen, but by turning a small select body of Indian troops into better soldiers than their fellow-countrymen. And how did they endow their Indian troops with this military superiority? Simply by making sure that they should be properly and regularly fed, clothed, and housed and properly and regularly paid; in other words, by the prosaic but fundamental Western virtues of business honesty and efficiency, by superiority in the arts of the caterer and the accountant rather than by superiority in physique and valor. From 1921 onward, Reza has systematically asserted the authority of the central government in one sector of the country after another, his crowning triumph being the unconditional surrender, at the end of 1924, of Sheikh Khaz’al, the Arab ruler of Mohammerah on the Persian bank of the Shat-el-Arab, who, since before the World War, had been virtually a sovereign prince with a private agreement of his own with the British government.
It must not be supposed, however, that, because his policy is simple, it is also crude. When Dr. Millspaugh arrived at Tehran in the autumn of 1922, he found that certain revenues had been deflected from the Ministry of Finance and were being paid direct into the coffers of the Ministry of War; but Reza’s vision was not bounded by this provisional solution of his financial problem. He realized that if the general public finance and administration of the country remained unsound, the exaction of his pound of flesh would only hasten the hour of death and dissolution, and that then, in the general ruin of Persia, the Persian new-model army would perish irretrievably.
Having grasped this simple but fundamental truth, Reza Pahlevi gave his hearty support to the policy of engaging private American citizens as financial experts. It is interesting to observe the difference in his attitudes toward the unfortunate British financial adviser who was attempting to establish control when Reza made the coup d’état of February, 1921, and toward the American advisers who arrived at Tehran the next year on the invitation of the Persian government with no political ax to grind. Reza kept the Englishman’s hands off the finances of the Persian army by that kind of stolid passive resistance at which Persians are adepts; but the sequel showed that he was pursuing a patriotic and legitimate aim in thus concentrating as much power as possible in his own hands. Less than two years later, when Dr. Millspaugh asked him to restore to the Ministry of Finance those revenues which he had diverted in the meanwhile to the Ministry of War as security for the army budget, he agreed without demur, because he understood that Dr. Millspaugh’s sole object was to restore Persian finance without any thought of simultaneously establishing an American political ascendancy, and because he perceived that if Dr. Millspaugh succeeded in his endeavor, this would enable Reza himself to increase the efficiency of the army proportionately. Evidently Dr. Millspaugh acted with great tact in this delicate negotiation; nevertheless the transaction, which has been the foundation of Persia’s remarkable recovery during the last few years, could hardly have been concluded satisfactorily if the Persian soldier of fortune had not shown the same breadth of view as the American financial expert.
Enough has now been said to demonstrate that Reza Shah Pahlevi is a remarkable man, but what about the Pahlevi Dynasty? How many generations, the skeptical reader will ask, is it to be this time from shirtsleeves to shirt-sleeves? Is Ibn Khaldun’s law of dynastic cycles destined to be repeated again? Certainly there is no reason to suppose that the descendants of Reza Shah Pahlevi will maintain his level of character and ability any better than the nephews and great-nephews of Agha Muhammad Khan Kajar; yet there is one fresh factor which must be taken into account. The new dynasty has been founded in a new Persia, a Persia with a national consciousness and a national parliament, and if Reza Shah’s heirs turn out to be lesser men than he, they are less likely to be overthrown as incompetent despots than to survive as harmless constitutional monarchs. It may be, therefore, that the old series of dynastic cycles has been broken and that Persia’s feet are now securely set upon a westward road. The new national consciousness is very much alive, and Reza Shah Pahlevi, the self-made man, is a true representative of his nation, for, in spite of the foreign quality of his Parthian surname, he comes from the province of Mazandaran, which in times of adversity has often been the citadel of Persian national independence. The only condition which the constituent assembly attached to the hereditary principle was that Reza Shah’s successors on the throne must be born of Persian mothers, and this was a deliberate reversal of the law of the Kajar Dynasty, which was that successors to the throne must be born of Kajar princesses. The strange fact was that the Kajars were not Persians at all but a Turkish clan, speaking a Turkish dialect as their household language. Thus, until last year, a necessary qualification for succeeding to the Persian throne was that the candidate should be of non-Persian descent on both sides! In this as in other respects the Kajar Dynasty stood for a dispensation under which Oriental peoples existed for the benefit of their rulers, whereas Reza Shah Pahlevi has been elected to the Persian throne by the chosen representatives of the Persian people because he has served the nation well in the past and is expected to serve it no less faithfully hereafter.
He writes in his usual tone of jaunty optimism about rulers emerging in a post- or neo-colonial age.
Reza Shah was anti-British, anti-Russian (despite the friendship treaty with Russia) and pro-German in his sympathies and was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of 1941. His son took over and reigned until deservedly overthrown by the Islamic revolution of 1979.
The Strong Man of Persia: Reza Shah Has a Firm Grip on the Reins, The Century Magazine, Vol 112, No 5, September 1926
We may also reflect upon a conversation which took place between a British statesman and a Persian visitor some time after the peace-settlement which followed the General War of 1914-18. The Persian was saying that he could not understand how the British Government, which he acknowledged to be intrinsically honourable and liberal-minded, had brought itself to pursue in Persia, from A.D. 1907 onwards, a policy which he could only describe as a cynical sacrifice of the rights and welfare of an innocent, friendly, and defenceless country on the altar of the Anglo-Russian entente. The British statesman, who had been largely responsible for the policy and who was of a frank, straightforward disposition, admitted to his visitor that Persia had been deliberately sacrificed; “but”, he added, “the British policy which you criticize was not pursued by us in a cynical frame of mind. In matters of statesmanship, choices are usually limited; and in this case, with only two alternatives before us, we were simply choosing the lesser of two evils: the risk of allowing Russia to destroy the independence of Persia rather than the risk of seeing Russia remain neutral or even take the German side in the then imminent event of a European War. If, seven years later, Germany had started the Great War with Russia as an ally or indeed as a neutral, she would certainly have won the War; and that would not only have been the end of the British Empire. It would have been the end of Civilization. When Civilization was at stake, how could we act otherwise than we did? Put yourself in our place, and answer me with your hand on your heart.”
At this the Persian, who had at first been mildly puzzled and aggrieved, completely lost his temper. His heart burnt within him and a torrent of denunciation issued from his lips: “Your policy was infinitely more wicked than I had suspected! The cynicism of it is beyond imagination! You have the effrontery to look me in the face and tell me complacently that you have deliberately sacrificed the unique treasure which Persia preserves for Humanity – the priceless jewel of Civilization – on the off-chance of saving your worthless Western Society from the catastrophe which its own greed and pugnacity were inevitably bringing upon its head! Put myself in your place, indeed! What should I have cared, and what do I care now, if Europe perish so long as Persia lives!” Therewith, he indignantly took his leave; and the British statesman found himself unable to feel certain that his visitor’s indignation was unjustified or his point of view unreasonable. Was it Europe or Persia that held the seed from which the life of the future was to spring? Perhaps the answer to that question could not, after all, be taken for granted. Perhaps it could only be given by Time and only be read correctly by some historian looking back upon the year 1907 of the Christian Era from a distance of many centuries.
In the nineteenth century, Britain’s policy had been to prop up Turkey as a bulwark against Russia. Now it made plans for the Ottoman Empire’s dismemberment. I’ll write about Greek and Russian relations with Turkey, and with Britain in relation to Turkey, from 1907 to ’23 in another post.
The Russian revolution gave the British a free hand in Persia for three years. Then, in 1920, the Red Army invaded. The British removed them and then withdrew their own forces.
Having beaten Germany and retreated from the Russian Civil War, they continued to interfere with Persia’s internal affairs, as they had done long before 1907. In the nineteenth century, Persia had been a pawn in the Great Game (main phase 1813-1907). Now, whatever its traditional concerns about Russia, Britain had oil interests to defend. Oil had been discovered in Masjed Soleiman in 1908, leading to the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the antecedent of BP.
Britain played a part in the coup of Reza Khan in 1921: he had helped to expel the Red Army. But as commander-in-chief, then prime minister, then Shah (from 1925, when the Qajar dynasty fell), he was anti-British before he was anti-Russian. It was anti-British, not pro-Russian, sentiment which had caused the Persian parliament to accept the 1921 Russo-Persian Treaty. In 1935 he renamed the country Iran.
Britain and Russia invaded Iran in 1941, again partly to forestall Germany.
Britain and the US jointly organised the coup against Mossadegh in 1953. The US had had advisers in Persia before the First World War, but was the Shah’s main prop from 1953 until the revolution of 1979.
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934
“Vevey . [Bracket in Toynbee. Real date a Monday, perhaps earlier rather than later, between September 27 and November 8.]
“There is a perfect little woman here, mother of a fair-haired child, niece of Gortschakoff. She smokes cigarettes, very small, very elegantly. She told me that Ignatieff never by any chance told the truth. It is a proverb in Russia: ‘II ment comme Ignatieff’.
“She was mentioning the overthrow of previous civilisations by barbaric forces; and we came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that the Tartars, who seem the only available barbarians, would stamp out the civilisation, extended as it is over the World. She expressed her belief that the dark force is developed with the brightness of prosperity all-pervading now; and then suggested that what could provide a force strong, ignorant, barbarian, and widespread, is the lower populations of the various nations of Europe grouped in some such society as the International inbred with communistic and destructive notions” (Journals and Letters of Reginald Viscount Esher, ed. by M. V. Brett, vol. i (London 1934, Nicholson & Watson), p. 34). This passage [which is from the Journals] was brought to the present writer’s attention by his friend J. L. Hammond on the 3rd September, 1934.
This elegant smoker, casting a shadow during the belle époque, might have been the wife of the diplomat Nikolay Girs. The Ignatieff must have been the ambassador to Constantinople at the time, Nikolay Pavlovich Ignatyev.
Esher was the twenty-three-year-old son of Sir William Brett, first Baron Esher 1885, Viscount 1897. See James Lees-Milne, The Enigmatic Edwardian, The Life of Reginald, 2nd Viscount Esher, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986. The 5th Viscount lives.
Vevey is a beautiful town, sloping towards Lake Geneva.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924), Hashish, Oriental Symphonic Poem, opus 53, 1913. State Academic Symphony Orchestra, Evgeny Svetlanov. Echoes of Scheherezade.
Chinatowns in the Middle East, but are any real?
Oldest. Anywhere: Manila. In Japan: Nagasaki. In Americas: Mexico City. In US: San Francisco. In Canada: Victoria. In Australia: Melbourne. In Europe: Liverpool. The oldest are never the largest.
Largest. In US: New York, followed by San Francisco. In Canada: Vancouver, followed by Toronto. In Japan: Yokohama, followed by Kobe, followed by Nagasaki (the three official Chinatowns). In Australia: Sydney, followed by Melbourne. In Britain: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle.
In the Netherlands: Amsterdam, followed by The Hague, followed by Rotterdam. In Belgium: Antwerp (the only official one). In France: Paris, the main one in the 13th arrondissement.
The only official Chinatown in Korea is in Incheon. There are Chinatowns in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Jakarta’s is in a district called Glodok. The only real Chinatown in India is in Kolkata.
It is odd, in the case of Singapore, to have a Chinatown in a country that is ethnically Chinese. The word at least pays lip service to Singapore’s multiculturalism. There is no Chinatown in Tokyo.
Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo do not have well-defined areas. Buenos Aires has a small Chinatown. Moscow and Berlin do not have historic Chinatowns.
Many Chinatowns are in decline or are being replaced by China-themed malls. Flight of upwardly-mobile Chinese in US to the suburbs.
Chinese laundries in North America.
Manhattan, Wikimedia Commons
Withdrawal-and-Return is [...] the key to the career of Lenin: [footnote: See Mirsky, D. S.: Lenin (London 1932, Holme Press).] the second Russian “Antichrist” whose intention it was to undo, and whose achievement it has been to consummate, the work of Westernization which was originally initiated by Peter. Born in 1870, Lenin entered, in 1893, upon the conventional revolutionary career of the Russian intellectual of his generation: an abortive agitation which ended in 1897 in banishment to Siberia. It was after his withdrawal from Russia to Switzerland in 1900, after his Siberian sentence had been served out, that Lenin came to know his own mind and began to impose his will upon the minds of his fellow revolutionaries. He came to the front in 1903, when a conference of Russian Marxian Socialists in exile, which was held that year in Brussels and London, resulted, by reason of Lenin’s masterful intransigence, in the historic split of the Russian Marxian Socialist Party into the two sects of Minoritarians (Mensheviki) and Majoritarians (Bolsheviki). From that time onwards Lenin, as leader of the “majoritarian” Bolshevik faction in the Russian Marxian Socialist camp, continued to gain in authority and prestige through the long course of an absence from Russia which extended, from first to last, from 1900 to 1917. And though this potent exile’s first return missed fire in the failure of the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905-7, [footnote: On this occasion, Lenin returned to Russia in November 1905 and withdrew again in December 1907.] his second return, when he appeared again in Russia from the West on the 4th April, 1917, will assuredly rank as one of the decisive events in the history of our Western Civilization and perhaps in the history of Mankind, as well as in the history of Russia. After twenty-four years of revolutionary work, of which some eighteen years had been spent at work in exile in Siberia and Europe, Lenin now returned, with seven more years of life before him, to carry out his tremendous life-work. Before he died in 1924 he had made himself master of the territory and population and resources of the ci-devant Russian Empire; and he had turned this mastery to account in order to put in hand – with a ruthlessness equal to Peter’s – the great experiment of translating the Marxian Utopia into real life on the grand scale.
Compare Khomeini’s exile in Turkey, Iraq and France, 1965-79.
A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934
Artemis (Diana to the Romans) sent Iphigeneia to Tauris (Crimea) after rescuing her from the human sacrifice that Iphigeneia’s father, Agamemnon, was about to perform on her. Iphigeneia became a priestess at her temple. Here, she was forced by the Taurian king Thoas to perform human sacrifices on any foreigners who came ashore. (Euripides, Goethe. Campra, Gluck, Piccinni.)
The Scythians expelled the Cimmerians in the interior during the seventh century BC (both were Indo-European). The Cimmerians who survived in the southern coastal regions became known as the Tauri and gave their name to the peninsula.
Were Cimmerians participating in a Greek cult? Was Artemis originally Cimmerian? Tauris and its inhabitants’ custom of killing Greeks are described by Herodotus.
In the fifth century BC, Greek colonists began to settle along the Black Sea coast. Dorians from Heraclea founded the port of Chersonesos outside modern Sevastopol. Ionians from Miletus landed at Feodosiya and Panticapaeum (the latter also called Bosporus, after the strait between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea).
In 438 BC, the Archon of the Ionians assumed the title of King of the Cimmerian Bosporus. This Bosporan Kingdom came to dominate the other colonies in the peninsula. It supplied Athens with wheat, honey and other commodities. The last of that line of kings, Paerisades V, hard-pressed by the Scythians, put himself under the protection of Mithridates VI, the king of (Greek or Greco-Persian) Pontus, in Anatolia, in 114 BC.
After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars (88-63 BC), Pontus was defeated. From 63 BC until AD 370, when it was overrun by Huns, the Cimmerian Bosporus was a client kingdom of Rome.
A few centuries after the Hunnic invasion, the Bosporan cities enjoyed a revival, under Byzantine or Bulgarian protection. Other powers: Khazars (Turkic converts to Judaism), Kievan Rus, Kipchaks and Cumans (Turkic), Genoese, Mongols, Crimean Tatars (Turkic), Ottoman Turks, Russian Empire.
Why does Petrenko (last post) say that the Russian Empire had got within fifty miles of San Francisco?
He is not getting his Alaskan geography wrong. He is referring to Fort Ross.
Semyon Dezhnev in 1648, not the Dane Vitus Bering, was the real European discoverer of the Bering Strait.
The first European boat to reach Alaska was probably the St Gabriel under the authority of the surveyor MS Gvozdev on August 21 1732. Did it land?
Bering led the first and second Kamchatka expeditions for the Russian Navy, 1725-30 and 1733-43. The second landed in Alaska in July 1741. After his crew returned to Russia with sea-otter pelts, associations of fur traders began to sail from Siberia towards the Aleutian islands and established trading posts. The first permanent European settlement in Alaska was founded in 1784.
The trading companies forced the Aleuts to work for them. As the animal populations declined, the Aleuts were coerced into taking greater and greater risks in dangerous waters. Much of the population was destroyed by Old World diseases.
In 1799, by decree of Tsar Paul I, a monopoly was given to a new state-sponsored chartered company, formed on the back of the Shelekhov-Golikov Company of Grigory Shelekhov and Ivan Larionovich Golikov. A third of the profits would go to the emperor.
The Russian-American Company had its capital at New Archangel or Novoarkhangelsk, present-day Sitka.
From 1812 to 1841, it ran a fur-trading colony at Fort Ross, which is actually about a hundred miles north of San Francisco. It was also an agricultural base from which Alaska and the islands could be supplied with food. (I presume it was within the Alta California claimed by the Viceroyalty of New Spain and then Mexico. San Francisco was a mission under the Spanish and attracted the first American homesteads during the 1830s under Mexico. The US won California from Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846.)
It established another outpost in Hawaii, Fort Elizabeth, active from 1814 to 1817, just before the arrival of the first American missionaries. What were the Russians looking for there?
By the 1830s, the monopoly was weakening. The British-controlled Hudson’s Bay Company set up posts on the southern edge of Russian America in 1839 and began siphoning off trade. The Americans were also becoming a force. They could sell furs to the Canton market, which was closed to the Russians.
If the mid-nineteenth century was a bad time for Russians in Alaska, conditions improved for the Aleuts, Koniags and Tlingits who had survived contact. The Tlingits were never conquered and continued to wage war on the Russians into the 1850s. The Aleut population had declined, but new naval officers of the Company established schools and hospitals and gave them jobs. Russian Orthodox clergy moved into the islands. The population began to increase.
But by the 1860s, the Russian government was considering ridding itself of Russian America. Over-hunting had reduced the fur-bearing animal population and competition from the British and Americans made matters worse. The colony was sold to the US in 1867 and all the holdings of the Russian-American Company were liquidated.
If Russia had retained Alaska, how different would the US psychology have been in the twentieth century? It would perhaps not have sold it a generation later.
Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959. Oil was discovered in Alaska in 1968.
Russian naval and merchant ships visited San Francisco. Some crew members were buried there. The Russian Hill cemetery was removed, but the name remains. The oldest Russian orthodox church in San Francisco, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, completed in 1857, is a few blocks away on Van Ness and Green Street, but the Russian community is mainly in the Richmond District.
North American fur trade: context (Wikipedia)
Imperial Russian sailors visiting the US (San Francisco?) in 1863, Harper’s Weekly, Flickr
New Archangel, drawn by Aleksandr Olgin, a Creole (half-Russian, half-native), July 1837, State Archive of the Russian Navy, St Petersburg, Wikimedia Commons
Vasily Petrenko has the air of having been educated. In England there are pockets of educational excellence, but a universal or republican standard, however theoretical, creates a more natural person. He is a product of the Soviet system on one side. On the other, he belongs to a generation which had been exposed to the West, but had not been stupefied by junk culture. The interminable English debate about education is becoming debilitating. Get on with it. Educate.
Petrenko was resident conductor at the St Petersburg Opera and Ballet Theatre from 1994 to ’97 and has been chief conductor of the State Academy of St Petersburg since 1994. He has been chief conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra since 2006 (contract extended beyond 2015). Season trailers: 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14. Lives on the Wirral Peninsula. From 2013-14, he will simultaneously be chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic.
He’s giving Liverpool a musical glory it hasn’t had since the ’60s. Will he be regarded as a great conductor one day, with the last degree of concentration that those people bring? He won a prize for a Manfred recording with Liverpool, but it isn’t as good as Svetlanov’s. His Turangalîla was exciting at the Proms last year. But it’s with the National Youth Orchestra, which may be a better orchestra than the Liverpool Phil. I need to hear him in Mozart or English music.
YouTube comment: “How lucky and how perceptive of the Oslo Philharmonic to appoint Vasily Petrenko as their new chief conductor, in my opinion he is the finest of the young generation of conductors and does not go in for sensationalism but rather for pure music making.”
The RLPO was founded, as the Liverpool Philharmonic Society, in the year of Tchaikovsky’s birth, making it two years older than the Vienna Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic, eighteen years older than the more famous Hallé and forty-two years older than the St Petersburg Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic. Among the chief conductors in the early decades were Julius Benedict, Max Bruch, Charles Hallé. Frederick Cowen ruled 1896-1913. Interregnum, then Malcolm Sargent, John Pritchard, Charles Groves.
Click to activate. Maps will open in a new window.
Downloading the active file to your desktop should allow controlled navigation.
Not complete, obviously. Some dates are exact, some arbitrary. They are not for the most part the starting dates of dynasties.
The file has to be used with a lot of caution, but it does show a few simple things. For example, the Zhou origins of the Chinese state around the Yellow River. The extension of power south of the Yangtze after the Qin unification. The absorption of Hainan by the Han. The first Chinese expansion into the Tarim and Dungarian basins (Xinjiang) under the Tang (the area was not re-absorbed until the Qing or Manchu; not even the Mongols included it). The first inclusion of Manchuria under the Jin, ancestors of the Manchus. How Yunnan was not sinified until the Mongol invasion, even if the Eastern Jin had absorbed it briefly. The inclusion of Mongolia and Tibet by the Mongols (Yuan) and then again by the Qing. The absorption of Taiwan by the Qing. The Qing concession to Russia of territory beyond the Amur.
It does not show the brief periods of control of the Tarim Basin by the Han.
The Ming conquest of Vietnam lasted twenty years (1407-27). It appears as part of China in the map here, which is dated 1410. Had earlier Chinese dominations been only in the north?
The confusing thing about Chinese dynasties is that Western and Eastern or Northern and Southern refer to successive incarnations of a dynasty, not simultaneous states of a divided dynasty.
Inspired by Daniel Miller’s comment under the post before last: the Cortège or Procession of Nobles from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada. Performers one of the ensembles on the LP cover. The “tread” of the marvellous tune could be a little more Russian and dignified, and slower. Still, these are marchers who are capable of breaking into dance. I always think something goes wrong with Rimsky’s harmonising towards the end. It seems particularly jarring in this version.
There are versions for band. Rimsky-Korsakov was Chief-Inspector of Bands of the Imperial Russian Navy from 1873 to ’84.
From an old post about assassinations in theatres:
“On September 14 (Old Style September 1) 1911, the Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin attended a performance, in the presence of the Tsar and his family, of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan at the Opera House in Kiev. Stolypin had travelled to Kiev without his bodyguards, defying police warnings and refusing to wear his bullet-proof shirt. A young man in evening dress, Dmitri Bogrov, produced a gun and shot him twice, once in the arm and once in the chest. Bogrov was both a leftist radical and an agent of Okhranka, a secret police force and extended body-guard for the Tsar. (Rimsky’s fairy-tale world had collided with twentieth-century violence just as Rimsky’s spirit was encountering the twentieth century in the living person of Igor Stravinsky. … Had the opera begun? Did Bogrov enter Stolypin’s box or was the shot fired across the auditorium?) The wounded Stolypin stood up from his chair, carefully removed his gloves, and unbuttoned his jacket, unveiling a blood-soaked waistcoat. He sank down and shouted ‘I am happy to die for the Tsar’, motioning to the Tsar in his royal box to withdraw to safety. Tsar Nicholas remained in his position and Stolypin blessed him with a sign of the cross.
“Stolypin died four days later. The following morning, the Tsar knelt at his hospital bedside and repeated the words ‘Forgive me’. Bogrov was hanged ten days after the assassination, and the judicial investigation was halted by order of Tsar Nicholas II. This led to suggestions that the assassination had been planned not by leftists, but by conservative monarchists who were afraid of Stolypin’s reforms and his influence on the Tsar, though this has never been proved. This might have been the reason for the Tsar’s penitence, if the hospital story is true. The first line of Stolypin’s will read ‘Bury me where I am assassinated.’”
Song of the Indian Guest from Sadko.
He’s a champion of Medtner.
… and other impious unions
There was [...] a fitful co-operation between France and the Ottoman Empire against the Hapsburg Power from the generation of Francis I and Suleymān the Magnificent onwards, while in the eighteenth century Sweden and Poland were drawn towards the Ottoman Empire by their common concern over the rising power of Russia.
There had been an earlier, sixteenth-century Polish-Ottoman alliance. The Crimean War saw Britain, France and Sardinia nominally on the side of the Ottoman Empire. The First World War saw Germany allied with Turkey.
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934
The monks of a monastery on Mount Athos in which the writer had been spending the night as a guest in June 1912 courteously expressed to him, the morning after, their hope that his sleep had not been disturbed by their frequent nocturnal celebrations of the Liturgy. Wishing to return his hosts’ courtesy in kind, the writer on his side expressed the hope that the monks did not find these never intermitted night-long vigils too painfully exhausting. “Not at all”, replied the monks, “considering that we are able to sleep in the day-time.” – “And how do you manage to do that?” their English guest inquired. “O, well, because we have fine estates in Rumili, with peasants on them to work them for us. You will remember our showing you yesterday our arsenal at the water’s edge, stored with provisions of gram, oil, and wine. All that comes from our estates, and the peasants have to deliver it to us at the arsenal by water.” – “And how do the peasants live?” I asked. “O, the peasants live like dogs”, said the monks, “but you can see for yourself what an admirable arrangement ours is. As the peasants work for us and fetch and carry for us, instead of our having to do any of this for ourselves, we can afford to sleep in the day-time and so keep ourselves fresh for praying at night, and this is really most advantageous, as you can imagine. After all, most people in the World – including, perhaps, Your Honour (τὸν λόγον σας) – are in this respect in the less favourable position of our peasants. Having, as they do have, to work all day, they are forced to spend the night in sleep instead of in prayer, in order to be fit for work again next morning; so at night-time the volume of prayers reaching God is at a minimum, and this means that God can give to a prayer offered up to Him during the night an amount of individual attention that would be out of the question in the day-time, when the great majority of Mankind are awake and in the running to gain a hearing for their prayers at odd moments of their working day. Yes, thanks to the endowments bequeathed to us by pious benefactors, we monks do find ourselves in a decidedly advantageous position.”
The kind of story, then considered gently funny, that used to appear in Douglas Woodruff’s Talking at Random column in The Tablet, 1937 to ’68 and ’72 to ’78. Toynbee would have read it occasionally.
In any case, entirely believable. In September 2008, on the eve of the recession in Greece, the Vatopedi monastery, one of twenty monasteries on Mount Athos, was accused of enhancing its real estate portfolio through corrupt deals made by Abbot Ephraim and the monk Arsenios with the government of Kostas Karamanlis. Michael Lewis told the story in Vanity Fair, October 2010 and in Boomerang, Travels in the New Third World, New York, WW Norton, 2011, and compared Ephraim and Arsenios to Skilling and Lay of Enron.
Abbot Ephraim carrying the Belt of the Mother of God on a roadshow through Russia in late 2011; who are the others?; picture credit: Valeriy Melnikov at RIA Novosti, cropped, use deemed fair for non-commercial scholarly purposes
Ephraim was jailed in December on his return to Greece, but released the following March. He and Arsenios are still being investigated.
RIA Novosti, piece by Andrei Zolotov, Jr:
“The Belt of the Virgin Mary, otherwise referred to as the Precious Sash, or Cincture, of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos – the holy treasure of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece – is travelling abroad for the first time. The Belt is travelling in style. It flies in a private jet, chartered by the tour’s organizer, the influential St. Andrew Foundation, and is accompanied by six Vatopedi monks. In St. Petersburg, it was welcomed by none other than Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, Governor Alexander Misharin and the region’s bishop, Metropolitan Kirill, met the relic with the guard of honor before a procession of some 15,000 people took it to the cathedral.”
He quotes George Fedotov’s The Russian Religious Mind (1946): “Russia knew neither Reformation nor Counter-Reformation with their explanations, symbolic interpretations and the uprooting of medieval idol-worshipping.” Didn’t he mean veneration? What kind of symbolic interpretation could have undermined icon-veneration in the Orthodox world? “People were more superstitious” might have been a better way of putting it.
Mary is supposed to have worn the belt on earth and given it to St Thomas during her transition to heaven. The Monastery also holds a silver and jewel-encrusted reliquary allegedly containing the skull of St John Chrysostom, a chalice made of a single piece of jasper, many icons and a large library.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
The Russian Pale, the hearth and hell of modern Jewry.
Isaac Watts, A Fair Enquiry and Debate Concerning Space, Whether It Be Something or Nothing, God or a Creature: “It has a being like God, in heaven, hearth and hell, diffused through all [...].”
Presumably there are etymological links between hearth, earth and hard.
Turkey, A Past and a Future, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917
… was the third of the three settings of the cherubic hymn that are the first three of his Nine Church Pieces for unaccompanied mixed voices of 1884-85 (three settings of the same words).
Performers not stated.
I did a post about Tchaikovsky’s stay in Davos in November 1884 here.
The nine pieces are all liturgical settings. His Liturgy of St John Chrysostom for the same forces from 1878 had set some of these texts (and others), including the words of the cherubic hymn.
This is the main (not only) divine liturgy in the Byzantine rite and is used by all Orthodox Churches. John was Archbishop of Constantinople from 398 to 404. The title of Patriarch came after the Council of Chalcedon. Kievan Rus was converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 988, nearly half a millennium before the fall of Constantinople.
Tchaikovsky wrote to Balakirev about the sacred pieces on November 17 (Julian calendar). That was the day he left Davos. Did he post the letter there or in Landquart?
That date and the quotations below are from Tchaikovsky Research. My link to Bortnianskii.
“I have written three Cherubim’s Songs, which I am now sending to you. … If His Majesty orders [the Imperial Chapel Choir] to study one of them, then I humbly ask you, my good fellow, to choose which one of the three you consider to be superior. In my opinion the third (in C major) is the best, but I fear lest my attempt to imitate non-notated sacred chants (in «Яко да Царя» [‘That we may receive the King’: the opening words of a verse in the Cherubic Song]) should strike you as unsuccessful and inappropriate. Then again the remaining two are different, in that one (in D major) sounds closer in style to Bortnianskii, while the other is much further away, although I am admittedly a poor judge of my own works, and you have complete discretion to choose any one of them.”
Balakirev, who was director of the Imperial Chapel, was important to Tchaikovsky at this time as a kind of mentor for the Manfred Symphony, which, as I showed in the earlier post and had always suspected, was partly inspired by this visit to Davos. And no sacred score could be published or performed without the Chapel’s imprimatur.
Tchaikovsky Research shouldn’t present Balakirev’s reply, presumably from St Petersburg, as being from the following day.
“I received your Cherubim’s Songs some time ago, and since I was not ordered to make a hasty decision, I sent them to your publisher friend in order to study them from the printed parts, which is more straightforward for choral works. On their relative merits I shall say nothing, since I have hardly seen them. But with regard to the one in C major, which you prefer, then I am not sure that it could be considered the best. Its opening is ruined by piquances [...] [my bracket], has no spice to it and sounds like a kind of dance rhythm [after the opening notes]. Anyway, in spite of these reservations, it is my considered opinion they should all be published.”
“Considered” even though he had hardly seen them? Ruined by piquances, but lacking spice?
[Postscript, January 29: the site has tidied up the translation and corrected the date of the letter to December 18 (Julian).]
The C major hymn is perhaps not very Orthodox-ecclesiastical. Do we hear a dance rhythm? Did Tchaikovsky, who loved church music, think that he had imitated non-notated sacred chants successfully? His “publisher friend” was Petr Jurgenson.
Some of Bortnianskii’s music, including cherubic hymns, is on YouTube.
The first performance of the nine pieces was in the Moscow Conservatory in February 1886.
It is hard to judge Davos when you are not there. But the evidence of the “public programme” posted on the Forum’s website this year wasn’t encouraging. It was only the public programme (an idea that came in circa 2002 as a gesture towards inclusiveness), but why is the real one no longer posted? It wouldn’t have to show times and locations, but why hide it? The public programme had unexciting people on panels and too many of them.
On the morrow of the decisive Russian victory in the Great Russo-Turkish War of A.D. 1768-74, [...] the sincerity of the Russian peasantry’s devotion to the Holy Land was attested by the volume of an annual pilgrimage-stream that used to roll through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles till it broke on the coast of Palestine after sweeping over the promontory of Athos. The aspiration to make the pilgrimage to their holy places came to play as dominant a part in the Russians’ life as in the Muslims’; and in the World War of A.D. 1914-18 an Imperial Russian Government at its last gasp obstinately vetoed all Western suggestions for establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine on the ground that this would create an intolerable eye-sore for Russian pilgrims to Orthodox Christendom’s Holy Land. In A.D. 1917 the Tsardom had to fall on the 12th March before the Balfour Declaration could be published on the 2nd November.
And General Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot, through the Jaffa Gate, on December 11.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Peter transferred the capital of his dominions from Russian Orthodox Moscow to a new city, founded by him in the maritime Western March of the Russian World and named after its founder; and, on the culturally as well as physically virgin soil of St. Petersburg, a Westernizing Russia was to have a seat of government that would be Western from the start, uncontaminated by any antecedent deposit of Orthodox tradition. [Footnote: A corresponding consideration had been in the mind of Constantine the Great when he had transferred the capital of the Roman Empire from Old Rome to his own foundation of New Rome or Constantinople. The seat of Government of a converted Roman Empire was to be Christian from the outset, unaffected by the archaistic paganism that was dying so hard in its Senatorial fastness on the banks of the Tiber [...]. In making the transfer, both Constantine and Peter were, of course, moved by political and strategic motives in addition to the cultural motive here in question [...].]
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
When, fourteen years after the ecclesiastical Union of Florence [a last-minute attempt to unify Christendom in the face of the Turkish threat], the Greek Roman Empire was extinguished by the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the Russians saw in this a divine retribution for the Greeks’ apostasy. Now that the Muslim Ottoman Empire had imposed its rule on all the Orthodox peoples of Anatolia and South-Eastern Europe, Muscovy was the sole surviving independent Orthodox Christian state. What was more, the Russians were the only Orthodox Christian people that had preserved its orthodoxy uncompromised by any concessions to Papal claims. On these grounds a sixteenth-century Russian ecclesiastical publicist asserted that Moscow was “the Third Rome”. Augustus’s Old Rome and Constantine’s New Rome had now each fallen in its turn. Moscow was the heir of both, and her dominion, unlike theirs, was to have no end. This doctrine was endorsed by the Muscovite government implicitly when, in 1547, the Grand Duke Ivan IV “the Terrible” assumed the title “Czar” (Caesar).
The “ecclesiastical publicist” was the monk Philoteus, who in 1510 wrote to the Grand Duke Vasili III (Basil III): “Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will not be a fourth. No one will replace your Christian Tsardom!”
The Grand Dukes (or Grand Princes) of Moscow were nominally vassals of the Golden Horde until the reign of Ivan III (the Great), 1462-1505.
The notion of this further Rome seems to have appealed to Toynbee in the Study, but he prints comments by two Oxford scholars who warn him not to make to make too much of it.
[The writer has had] the benefit of comments and criticisms from B. H. Sumner, the Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, and from Prince Dmitri Obolensky, the Reader in Russian and Balkan Medieval History in the University of Oxford, on the question of the degree to which the course of Muscovite History was affected by the influence of the Byzantine element in the Russian Orthodox Christian cultural heritage. B. H. Sumner’s opinion on this question is set out in the following passages of a letter of his, dated the 25th January, 1951, to the writer of this Study:
“I find the build-up and development of the Muscovite state in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries very difficult to analyse, but, from what I have read of those two centuries from the Russian side, I should say that the most effective and practical influences in building up centralized administration and government came from autochthonous Russian developments of the semi-feudal conditions of Moscow and the other Russian principalities (shot through with a strong nationalist colouring), combined with some Tatar influence, but with little Byzantine influence. I do not think, for instance, that either Ivan the Great or Ivan the Terrible [reigned 1547-84] regarded themselves as successors of the Byzantine emperors, or that they and their civil servants, boyars, diplomats, &c., had any idea of ‘oecumenical’ pretensions. It is true that Ivan the Terrible, for instance, claimed to be Tsar ‘Autocrat’, Gosudar [sovereign], and appointed by God, combining plenitude of power both vis-à-vis his subjects and as against any other states, but he never claimed to be the successor of the Basileus [Roman Emperor in the East], or to be ‘oecumenical’ or ‘Tsar of the Orthodox Christians of the whole World’ (that was the expression used by the Patriarch of Constantinople in a letter to Ivan in A.D. 1561, but not by Ivan). I don’t think that it could be held that Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible and the civilians in Russia held that there had been any translatio imperii, or made any claim over all Christians or all Orthodox.
“Such claims, implicitly or explicitly, had appeared from the end of the fifteenth century onwards, bound up with the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, but, at any rate at that time, this idea, which admittedly had its origins in writings of certain monks, continued to be confined to certain ecclesiastical circles in Russia, with occasional echoes from Constantinople. It is striking, I think, that the official historiography of the sixteenth century in Russia, which was built up by the Tsars, does not lean at all towards Byzantium: both in the chronicles and in Russian diplomacy of the time the emphasis is all on the heritage of Kiev, not at all on the heritage of Byzantium. That, of course, was because of the continuous struggle for the Russian western lands against Lithuania-Poland.
“From about A.D. 1470 onwards, for more than a century, Moscow had a whole series of overtures, either from Rome or from the Emperor, or both, linking together an anti-Turkish alliance, re-union of churches, recognition of Moscow as the heir of the Byzantine Empire, and elevation of the Metropolitan of Moscow to the patriarchal dignity. It is, I think, significant that the Russians in reply were always silent as regards the inheritance of the Byzantine Empire, or coronation of the Tsar as ‘the Christian Tsar’. What the Russians were interested in was their claims against Lithuania-Poland and their struggle for an exit to the Baltic, and not the Balkans or the Ottomans: hence the failure of Western overtures for an anti-Turkish alliance and of Western attempts to win the Russians for this by dangling before them the lure of the Byzantine heritage.
“Thus, the conception of Moscow as ‘the Third Rome’, or of Muscovy as the inheritor of the ‘oecumenical’ role of Byzantium, was, in my view, of no practical importance and of very little theoretical or emotional importance among the governing class in Muscovy in the late fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Its appeal was in the main limited to certain ecclesiastical circles in Muscovy – and, in a sense, to needy Orthodox in the Ottoman Empire in quest of money from Moscow. It is quite true that the idea of Muscovy as the sole possessor of the pure Orthodox Christian faith after the Council of Florence and the capture of Constantinople was a stock-in-trade element in Muscovite national pride during these centuries, and it fostered Muscovite exclusiveness and xenophobia. But this line is not the same as stepping into the shoes of Byzantium by aspiring to an ‘oecumenical’ role.
“Much later [at the end of the eighteenth century], when the Russians had advanced far southwards and were strong enough to challenge the Turks, then the idea of the liberation of the Orthodox, and sometimes that of some form of resurrected Orthodox empire at Constantinople, became prominent, and increasingly so in the nineteenth century. Even so, I think that the influence of the messianic ideas of the Slavophils and Dostoievsky and their typicalness can be exaggerated, and that the ‘oecumenical’ and messianic elements in Russian nineteenth-century thought ought not to be read back into earlier centuries as being then powerfully creative and proof of a strong and continuous Byzantine heritage.”
In a note communicated to the writer of this Study on the ist June, 1951, Prince Dmitri Obolensky expresses the same view.
“Neither the successive Russian governments of the sixteenth century nor, on the whole, contemporary Russian writers and historians seem to have taken the theory of ‘Moscow the Third Rome’ very seriously; for the Muscovite rulers from Ivan III onwards, Moscow was much more the ‘Second Kiev’ than the ‘Third Rome’. I would agree here with Humphrey Sumner. Some recent historians have, rightly, it seems to me, ‘played down’ the importance of the theory of ‘Moscow the Third Rome’ in the development of Russian sovereignty. See, for example, G. Olšr: ‘Gli ultimi Rurikidi e le basi ideologiche della sovranità dello Stato russo’, in Orientalia Christiana Periodica, vol. xii, Nos. 3-4 (Rome, 1946), pp. 322-73.”
But he defends part of his view.
It will be seen that Sumner and Obolensky agree in making three points: In the first place, the concept of “Moscow the Third Rome” was an academic idea which was never taken very seriously outside ecclesiastical circles; secondly, the architects of a Muscovite autocracy were indebted to the institutions of the East Roman Empire for little except certain external forms and ceremonies; thirdly, the statesmen in control of Muscovite policy showed themselves unwilling to sacrifice the interests of their own Russian Orthodox Christendom to those of an Ottoman Orthodox Christendom which was sundered from Russia by the double barrier of the Eurasian Steppe and the Black Sea. None of these three points would be contested by the present writer; but he would point out, in his turn, that none of them is incompatible with the thesis that the extinction of the last glimmer of the East Roman Empire in A.D. 1453 had an important and enduring psychological effect on Russian souls, [footnote below] and that this effect consisted in the implantation in them of a feeling that Muscovy, as the now sole surviving Orthodox Christian Power of any consequence, had inherited from the East Roman Empire both the mission of preserving intact the purity of the Orthodox Christian Faith and the high destiny which this onerous mission carried with it ex officio.
It will be noticed that Sumner, in the passages quoted above, equates the ideological legacy of the East Roman Empire with a pretension to an oecumenical authority. As the present writer sees it, the idea for which the East Roman Empire had stood, first and foremost, in its own people’s minds was the guardianship of Christian Orthodoxy rather than the possession of a title to world-wide dominion. He would, however, go on to contend that, in fact, the second of these two pretensions was logically latent in the first, since it would be difficult for a people to believe that God had singled them out to be the unique heralds of His Truth on Earth without also believing that He had likewise singled them out to be His instruments for propagating this Truth eventually throughout the Oikoumenê. It was, for example, an article of orthodox Jewish belief among a politically impotent Jewish diasporà that the extinct Kingdom of David would eventually be restored by the Messiah, not in its historic form as a parochial state, but with a dominion that would be coextensive with the Oikoumenê. The writer would therefore take issue with Sumner’s contention that the idea of being the sole possessor of the pure Orthodox Faith does not carry with it an aspiration to an oecumenical role; and he would have consulted his friend and mentor further on this point if, by the date when he was revising the present Part of this Study for the press, Humphrey Sumner’s friends and fellow historians had not suffered an irreparable loss in this saintly scholar’s untimely death.
Footnote to the last paragraph but one:
This psychological effect of the concept of “the Third Rome” is, however, also questioned by Prince Obolensky:
“I do not wish to minimize the importance of the religious factor in the resistance offered by the seventeenth-century Russian conservatives to the infiltration of Western ideas and customs: some of them at least seem to have regarded Russia as a guardian of the Orthodox faith against the heretical West. But I doubt whether the theory of ‘Moscow the Third Rome’ had much to do with this attitude, except possibly among the ‘Old Believers’. Except in some ecclesiastical, and particularly monastic, circles, this theory does not seem to have made much headway in Russia. … [It] [bracket in original] does not seem to have been sufficiently accepted to justify the view that future generations of Russians were moved by it to resist the impact of Western culture upon their way of life.”
In an earlier passage – admittedly speaking of “survivals” rather than revivals or successions – he points out that
“survivals” afforded [EA Freeman and his school, with their exaggeration of the link between Hellenic and Western history] the intellectual and aesthetic pleasure of tracing – as they imagined – the continuity of this thread and that, as its colour flashed out and vanished and flashed out again in the shot-silk texture of historic sequences. This pleasant exercise of the fancy has sometimes led historians who have indulged in it into irrelevant conceits and barren controversies.
Whether he is right or wrong here, Toynbee was writing of what he knew: he sometimes allowed himself such “pleasant exercises of the fancy”. In due course I will quote the passage to which Sumner and Obolensky were objecting.
Novgorod and St Petersburg (with pre-Ivan background)
Vasili III, contemporary (west) European engraving
Change and Habit, The Challenge of Our Time, OUP, 1966 (first quotation)
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (last)
In A.D. 1952 it would, no doubt, have been folly for a Western World that had been thrown on the defensive by a Russo-Chinese entente under the banner of Communism to count upon any possibility of a future breach between the two titanic non-Western Powers that were now cooperating with one another in an anti-Western campaign.
But a breach occurred in 1961. The two powers had been diverging ideologically since 1956.
There was perhaps more legitimate ground for encouragement in the fact that a Western Community which had come into headlong collision with the Chinese in Korea and which was desperately embroiled with the Vietnamese in Indo-China had managed to come to terms with the Indonesians after having crossed swords with them on the morrow of the “liberation” of the East Indian archipelago from the Japanese, and had voluntarily abdicated its dominion over the Filipinos, Ceylonese, Burmans, Indians, and Pakistanis by amicable agreements that had not been sullied by any stain of bloodshed.
The voluntary liquidation of American rule in the Philippines was perhaps not so remarkable – though an English observer could hardly claim to be an impartial judge in this case – as the voluntary liquidation of a British Rāj in India that was not only a hundred years older than the American régime in a former dominion of the Spanish Crown but had also come to count for far more in the life of the ruling Western country. When, on the 18th July, 1947, [footnote: This was the date on which the Royal Assent was given, at Westminster, to an India Independence Act enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The formal assumption of authority by the Governments of the Indian Union and Pakistan followed on the 15th August, 1947.] Great Britain had completed the fulfilment of a pledge, first made on the 20th August, 1917, [footnote: In the House of Commons at Westminster by the Secretary of State for India, Mr. Edwin Montagu.] to grant full self-government to India by stages at the fastest practicable pace, the Western country that had carried out this transfer of political power on this scale without having been constrained by any immediate force majeure [he is flattering us] had performed an act that was perhaps unprecedented and was certainly auspicious for the future, not merely of the Western Civilization, but of the Human Race.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Derbent, the southernmost town in Russia, in Dagestan; Narin-kala, a Sassanian citadel, in the background
Before the Industrial Revolution, Man had devastated patches of the biosphere. For instance, he had caused mountain-sides to be denuded of soil by felling the trees that previously had saved the soil from being washed away. Man had cut down forests faster than they could be replaced, and he had mined metals that were not replaceable at all. But, before he had harnessed the physical energy of inanimate nature in machines on the grand scale, Man had not had it in his power to damage and despoil the biosphere irremediably. Till then, the air and the ocean had been virtually infinite, and the supply of timber and metals had far exceeded Man’s capacity to use them up. When he had exhausted one mine and had felled one forest, there had always been other virgin mines and virgin forests still waiting to be exploited. By making the Industrial Revolution, Man exposed the biosphere, including Man himself, to a threat that had no precedent.
The Western peoples had begun to dominate the rest of mankind before the Industrial Revolution. In the sixteenth century the Spaniards had subjugated the Meso-American and Andean peoples and had annihilated their civilizations. In the course of the years 1757-64 the British East India Company had become the virtual sovereign of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. In 1799-1818 the British subjugated all the rest of the Indian subcontinent to the south-east of the River Sutlej. They had a free hand because they held the command of the sea and because in 1809 they made a treaty with Ranjit Singh, a Sikh empire-builder, in which the two parties accepted the line of the Sutlej as the boundary between their respective fields of conquest. In 1845-9 the British went on to conquer and annex the Sikh empire in the Punjab. Meanwhile, in 1768-74, Russia had defeated the Ottoman Empire decisively; in 1798 the French had temporarily occupied Egypt, and in 1830 they had started to conquer Algeria; in 1840 three Western powers and Russia had evicted the insubordinate Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, from Syria and Palestine. In 1839-42 the British had defeated China dramatically. In 1853 an American naval squadron compelled the Tokugawa Government of Japan to receive a visit from it. The Japanese recognized that they were powerless to prevent this unwelcome visit by force of arms.
These military successes of Western powers and of one Westernized Eastern Orthodox power, Russia, were won at the cost of occasional reverses. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese were evicted forcibly from both Japan and Abyssinia. A British army that invaded Afghanistan in 1839-42 was annihilated. Yet by 1871 the Western powers and Russia were dominant throughout the World.
Even before the Industrial Revolution in Britain the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great, had recognized that the only means by which a non-Western state could save itself from falling under Western domination was the creation of a new-model army on the pattern of the Western armies that were being created in Peter’s time, and Peter also saw that this Western-style army must be supported by a Western-style technology, economy, and administration. The signal military triumphs of the Western powers and of a Westernized Russia over non-Westernized states between 1757 and 1853 moved the rulers of some of the threatened states to do what Peter the Great had done.
Eminent examples of Westernizing statesmen in the first century after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain are Ranjit Singh (ruled 1799-1839), the founder of the Sikh successor-state, in the Punjab, of the Abdali Afghan Empire; Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman Padishah’s viceroy in Egypt from 1805 to 1848; the Ottoman Padishah Mahmud II (ruled 1808-39); King Mongkut of Thailand (ruled 1851-68); and the band of Japanese statesmen that, in the Emperor’s name, liquidated the Tokugawa regime and took the government of Japan into its own hands in 1868. These Westernizing statesmen have had a greater effect on the history of the Oikoumenê than any of their Western contemporaries. They have kept the West’s dominance within limits, and they have done this by propagating, in non-Western countries, the modern West’s way of life.
While the achievements of all the Westernizers mentioned above are remarkable, the Japanese makers of the Meiji Revolution were outstandingly successful. They themselves were members of the hitherto privileged, though impoverished, traditional military class, the samurai; the Tokugawa Shogunate succumbed after offering only a minimal resistance; a majority of the samurai acquiesced peacefully in the forfeiture of their privileges; a minority of them that rebelled in 1877 was easily defeated by a new Western-style Japanese conscript army composed of peasants who, before 1868, had been prohibited from bearing arms.
Muhammad Ali and Mahmud II did not have so smooth a start. Like Peter the Great, they found that they could not begin to build up a Western-style army till they had liquidated a traditional soldiery. Peter had massacred the Muscovite Streltsy (“Archers”) in 1698-9; Muhammad Ali massacred the Egyptian Mamluks in 1811, and Mahmud II massacred the Ottoman janizaries in 1826. The new Western-style armies all gave a good account of themselves in action. Muhammad Ali began building his new army in 1819 and a navy in 1821; in 1825 his well-drilled Egyptian peasant conscript troops almost succeeded in re-subjugating for his suzerain Mahmud II the valiant but undisciplined Greek insurgents. The Greeks were saved only by the intervention of France, Britain, and Russia, who destroyed the Egyptian and Turkish fleets in 1827 and compelled Muhammad Ali’s son Ibrahim to evacuate Greece in 1828. In 1833 Ibrahim conquered Syria and was only prevented from marching on Istanbul by Russia’s intervention on Mahmud II’s behalf. Muhammad Ali’s army was more than a match for Mahmud’s because he had been able to make an earlier start in building it up. Mahmud could not start before 1826, the year in which he destroyed the janizaries; yet, in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-9, his new-model peasant conscript army put up a much stiffer resistance than the old Ottoman army in the Russo-Turkish wars of 1768-74, 1787-92, and 1806-12.
Ranjit Singh, like his contemporary Muhammad Ali, engaged former Napoleonic officers as instructors. The British succeeded in defeating the Western-trained Sikh army in 1845-6 and again in 1848-9, but these two wars cost the British a greater effort and heavier casualties than their previous conquest of the whole of India outside the Punjab.
Rulers who set out to Westernize non-Western countries could not do this solely with the aid of a few Western advisers and instructors. They had to discover or create, among their own subjects, a class of Western-educated natives who could deal with Westerners on more or less equal terms and could serve as intermediaries between the West and the still un-Westernized mass of their own fellow-countrymen. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Ottoman Government had found this newly needed class, ready to hand, among Greek Ottoman subjects who were acquainted with the West through having been educated there or having had commercial relations with Westerners. Peter the Great in Russia, Muhammad Ali in Egypt, and the British in India had to create the intermediary class that they, too, needed. In Russia this class came to be called the intelligentsia, a hybrid word composed of a French root and a Russian termination. During the years 1763-1871, an intelligentsia was called into existence in every country that either fell under Western rule or saved itself from suffering this fate by Westernizing itself sufficiently to succeed in maintaining its political independence. Like the industrial entrepreneurs and the wage-earning industrial workers who made their appearance in Britain in the course of this century, the non-Western intelligentsia was a new class, and by the 1970s it had made at least as great a mark on mankind’s history.
The intelligentsia was enlisted or created by governments to serve these governments’ purposes, but the intelligentsia soon realized that it held a key position in its own society, and in every case it eventually took an independent line. In 1821 the ex-Ottoman Greek Prince Alexander Ypsilantis’s invasion of the Ottoman Empire taught the Ottoman Government that its Greek intelligentsia was a broken reed. In 1825 a conspiracy of Western-educated Russian military officers against Tsar Nicholas I was defeated and was suppressed, but it was a portent of things to come, and this not only in Russia but in a number of other Westernizing countries.
To live between two worlds, which is an intelligentsia’s function, is a spiritual ordeal, and in Russia in the nineteenth century this ordeal evoked a literature that was not surpassed anywhere in the World in that age. The novels of Turgenev (1818-83), Dostoyevsky (1821-81), and Tolstoy (1828-1910) became the common treasure of all mankind.
See the eighth volume of the Study and the Reith lectures.
Vasily Timm, The Decembrist revolt, painted 1853, St Petersburg, Hermitage
The scampering boy in the foreground appears in so many works of this period and somewhat earlier. In British prints he sometimes rolls a hoop and is followed by a scampering dog.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
P.T.: Have you ever talked to the real fire-eaters, to any of the Pentagon generals?
A.T.: Well now, I was once invited to give a talk in the Pentagon to a roomful of staff colonels, and the wife of the then Secretary for War got up and attacked me for saying that we ought to recognise China. She was a real fire-eater. She had no business to be there, I suppose, but she didn’t hesitate to throw her – or perhaps it was her husband’s – weight about in the presence of all those distinguished professionals. I got a horrible feeling when I went into the Secretary for War’s office. It was full of little cardboard models of missiles. They were all over the tables and chairs and everywhere, and he was delighting in them – like a child surrounded by its toys. Now that was alarming.
In Britain a Minister of Defence separate from the prime minister replaced the Secretary of State for War (office established 1794; the “War Office”) in the cabinet in 1946, but the office survived as a non-cabinet post. It was abolished in 1964, along with that of First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for Air, and the cabinet minister was restyled Secretary of State for Defence.
Nixon visited China in 1972. The US recognised China on January 1 1979. Russia and China had been diverging ideologically since 1956. The Sino-Soviet split came into the open in 1961 and was never repaired.
With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963
Owing to the tendency of the parochial states of a broken-down civilization in its Time of Troubles to sharpen their weapons in fratricidal conflicts with one another and to take advantage of this dearly bought increase in their military proficiency to conquer neighbouring societies with their left hands while continuing to fight one another with their right hands, most universal states have embraced not only a fringe of conquered barbarians but substantial slices of the domain of one or more alien civilizations as well. Some universal states, again, have been founded by alien empire-builders, and some have been the product of societies within whose bosoms there has already been some degree of cultural variety even on a reckoning which does not differentiate between march-men and the denizens of the interior of the same social world. [...]
No other universal state known to History appears to have been as homogeneous in culture as Japan under the Tokugawa régime. In “the Middle Empire” of Egypt, in which a fringe of barbarians on the Nubian glacis of its Theban march was one element of variation from the cultural norm of the Egyptiac Society of the age, there was another and more positive feature of cultural diversity in the Empire’s culturally Sumeric provinces and client states in Palestine and Coele Syria. As for “the New Empire”, which was a deliberate revival of the original Egyptiac universal state, it accentuated the pattern of its prototype by completing the assimilation of the barbarians of Nubia and by embracing the domain of an abortive First Syriac Civilization in Syria and North-Western Mesopotamia; and this culturally tripartite structure – in which the cultural domain of the civilization through whose disintegration the universal state has been brought into existence is flanked by culturally alien territories annexed at the expense of both barbarians and neighbouring civilizations – appears to be the standard type.
For example, in the Mauryan Empire, which was the original Indic universal state, an Indic cultural core was flanked by an alien province in the Panjab, which had been at least partially Syriacized during a previous period of Achaemenian rule after having been partially barbarized by an antecedent Völkerwanderung of Eurasian Nomads, while in other quarters the Mauryan Empire’s Indic core was flanked by ex-barbarian provinces in Southern India and possibly farther afield in both Ceylon and Khotan as well. The Guptan Empire, in which the Mauryan was eventually reintegrated, possessed an ex-barbarian fringe, with an alien Hellenic tincture, in the satrapy that had been founded by Saka war-bands in Gujerat and the North-Western Deccan, and a Hellenized fringe, with a Kushan barbarian dilution, in the territories under its suzerainty in the Panjab. In a Han Empire which was the Sinic universal state, the Sinic World proper was flanked by barbarian annexes in what was eventually to become Southern China, as well as on the Eurasian Steppe, and by an alien province in the Tarim Basin, where the Indic, Syriac, and Hellenic cultures had already met and mingled before this cultural corridor and crucible was annexed to the Han Empire for the first time in the second century B.C. and for the second time in the first century of the Christian Era. In the Roman Empire, which was the Hellenic universal state, a culturally Hellenic core in Western Anatolia, Continental European Greece, Sicily, and Italy, with outlying enclaves in Cilicia, in Syria, at Alexandria, and at Marseilles, was combined with the domain of the submerged Hittite Civilization in Eastern Anatolia, with the homelands of the Syriac and Egyptiac civilizations in Syria and in the Lower Nile Valley, with the colonial [Carthaginian] domain of the Syriac Civilization in North-West Africa, and with ex-barbarian hinterlands in North-West Africa and in Western and Central Europe as far as the left bank of the Rhine and the right bank of the Danube. [Footnote: Leaving out of account the late-acquired and early-lost Transdanubian bridgehead in Dacia.]
There are other cases in which this standard cultural pattern has been enriched by some additional element.
In the Muscovite Tsardom, a Russian Orthodox Christian core was flanked by a vast ex-barbarian annex extending northwards to the Arctic Ocean and eastwards eventually to the Pacific, and by an Iranic Muslim annex consisting of the sedentary Muslim peoples of the Volga Basin, the Urals, and Western Siberia. This pattern was afterwards complicated by Peter the Great’s deliberate substitution of a Westernized for a traditional Orthodox Christian cultural framework for the Russian Orthodox Christian universal state, and by the subsequent annexation of additional alien territories – at the expense of the Islamic World on the Eurasian Steppe and in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin, and at the expense of Western Christendom in the Baltic Provinces, Lithuania, Poland, and Finland.
In the Achaemenian Empire, which was the original Syriac universal state, there was an antecedent cultural diversity, within the Syriac core itself, between the Syrian creators of the Syriac Civilization and their Iranian converts, and a geographical gap between Syria and Iran that was still occupied by the dwindling domain of the gradually disappearing Babylonic culture. The Achaemenian Empire also embraced the domain of the submerged Hittite culture in Eastern Anatolia, the best part of the domain of the Egyptiac Civilization, fringes torn from the Hellenic and Indic worlds, and pockets of partially reclaimed barbarian highlanders and Eurasian Nomads. Moreover, after its life had been prematurely cut short by Alexander the Great, its work was carried on by his political successors, and especially by the Seleucidae, whom it would be more illuminating to describe as alien Hellenic successors of Cyrus and Darius. In the Arab Caliphate, in which the Achaemenian Empire was eventually reintegrated, the Syriac core – in which the earlier diversity between Syrian creators and Iranian converts had been replaced by a cleavage, along approximately the same geographical line, between ex-subjects of the Roman and ex-subjects of the Sasanian Empire – was united politically, by Arab barbarian empire-builders, with barbarian annexes – in North-West Africa, in the fastnesses of Daylam and Tabaristan between the Elburz Mountains and the Caspian Sea, and on the fringes of the Eurasian Steppe adjoining the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin – and with fragments of alien civilizations: a slice of the new-born Hindu World in Sind; the potential domain of an abortive Far Eastern Christian Civilization in the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin; an Orthodox Christian diaspora in Syria and Egypt; and a fossil of the by then elsewhere extinct Babylonic Society at Harran.
In the Mongol Empire, which was a universal state imposed by alien empire-builders on the main body of the Far Eastern Society in China, the annexes to a Chinese core were unusually extensive – including, as they did, the whole of the Eurasian Nomad World, the whole of Russian Orthodox Christendom, and the ex-Sasanian portion of a Syriac World which by that time was in extremis. The Mongols themselves were barbarians with a tincture of Far Eastern Christian culture. In the Manchu empire-builders, who subsequently repeated the Mongols’ performance on a less gigantic yet still imposing scale, there was the same tincture in a more diluted form; and the Chinese universal state in its Manchu avatar once again embraced, in addition to its Chinese core, a number of alien annexes: a “reservoir” of barbarians in the still unfelled backwoods and still virgin steppes of Manchuria, the whole of the Tantric Mahayanian Buddhist World in Tibet, Mongolia, and Zungaria, and the easternmost continental outposts of the Islamic World in the Tarim Basin, the north-western Chinese provinces of Kansu and Shansi, and the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
In the Ottoman Empire, which provided, or saddled, the main body of Orthodox Christendom with its universal state, the alien ʿOsmanli empire-builders united an Orthodox Christian core with a fringe of Western Christian territory in Hungary, with the whole of the Arabic Muslim World except Morocco, the Sudan, and South-Eastern Arabia, and with pockets of barbarians and semi-barbarians in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, the Mani, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and on the Arabian Steppe. In the Mughal Empire, which was the Ottoman Empire’s counterpart in the Hindu World, the pattern was simpler, since, apart from the Iranic Muslim empire-builders and their co-religionists who had been deposited in the Hindu social environment by earlier waves of invasion from the Middle East and Central Asia [since the twelfth century], the Mughals’ only [sic] non-Hindu subjects were the Pathan barbarian highlanders on the north-western fringe of their dominions. When, however, the Mughal Rāj was replaced by a British Rāj, the pattern of the Hindu universal state became more complex; for the advent of a new band of alien empire-builders, which substituted a Western element for an Islamic at the political apex of the Hindu universal state, did not expel the Indian Muslims from the stage of Hindu history, but merely depressed their status to that of a numerically still formidable alien element in the Hindu internal proletariat, so that the Hindu universal state in its second phase combined elements drawn from two alien civilizations with a Pathan barbarian fringe and a Hindu core.
There had been other universal states in which, as in the Mughal Empire, the cultural pattern had been less complex than the standard type yet not so simple as that of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Empire of Sumer and Akkad, which was the Sumeric universal state, included no representatives of an alien civilization – unless Byblus and other Syrian coast-towns are to be counted as such in virtue of their tincture of Egyptiac culture. On the other hand, the Sumeric Civilization itself was represented in two varieties at least – a Sumero-Akkadian and an Elamite – and in no less than three if the domain of the Indus Culture should prove also to have been included in “the Empire of the Four Quarters of the World”. Moreover, the Babylonian Amorites, who eventually restored a polity that had been first constructed by the Sumerian Ur-Engur (alias Ur-Nammu) of Ur, were not merely marchmen but marchmen with a barbarian tinge. So, on a broader and a longer view, the cultural pattern of the Sumeric universal state proves to have been less homogeneous than might appear at first sight. “The thalassocracy of Minos”, again, which was the Minoan universal state, probably included representatives of the continental Mycenaean variety of the Minoan culture as well as the creators of that culture in its Cretan homeland, even if it did not embrace any representatives of an alien civilization.
In the Central American World, two once distinct sister societies – the Yucatec Civilization and the Mexic – had not yet lost their distinctive characteristics, though they had already been brought together by force of Toltec arms, when the task, and prize, of establishing a Central American universal state was snatched, at the eleventh hour, out of the hands of barbarian Aztec empire-builders by Spanish representatives of an utterly alien Western Christendom. In the Andean World the Empire of the Incas, which was the Andean universal state, already included representatives of the Kara variety of the Andean culture [...] before the indigenous Incan empire-builders were suddenly and violently replaced by Spanish conquistadores from Western Christendom who turned the Andean World upside-down, with a vigour reminiscent of Alexander the Great’s, by proceeding to convert the indigenous population to Christianity and to variegate the social map by studding it with immigrant Spanish landlords and self-governing municipalities.
The Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy, which served as a carapace for Western Christendom against the assaults of the ʿOsmanlis, and which, seen from the south-east, wore the deceptive appearance of being a full-blown Western universal state, set itself, like the Tokugawa Shogunate, to achieve domestic cultural uniformity, but lacked both the ruthlessness and the insularity which, between them, enabled the Japanese isolationists for a time to put their policy into effect. In pursuing its aim of being totally Catholic, the Hapsburg Power did succeed, more or less, in extirpating Protestantism within its frontiers; but the very success of its stand, and eventual counter-attack, against the Ottoman embodiment of an Orthodox Christian universal state broke up the Danubian Monarchy’s hardly attained Catholic homogeneity by transferring to Hapsburg from Ottoman rule a stiff-necked minority of Hungarian Protestants and a host of Orthodox Christians of divers nationalities, most of whom proved unwilling to accept the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome, even when the yoke was proffered in the easy form of Uniatism [union with Rome and retention of local rites], while, among those who did accept this relatively light burden, the rank and file remained nearer in heart and mind to their dissident Orthodox ex-co-religionists than they ever came to be to their fellow Catholics who were of the Latin Rite.
The [post-Assyrian] Neo-Babylonian Empire [or Chaldean Empire], which was the Babylonic universal state, similarly forfeited its cultural purity – and thereby worked unwittingly for the eventual extinction of the Babylonic Civilization itself – when Nebuchadnezzar conquered and annexed the homeland of the Syriac Civilization west of the Euphrates; and the impress of the indigenous Babylonic culture became progressively fainter as the domain which Nebuchadnezzar had bequeathed to a short line of native successors was incorporated first into the barbaro-Syriac Empire of the Achaemenids and then into the Hellenic Empire of the Seleucids.
Our survey has shown that, in the cultural composition of universal states, a high degree of diversity is the rule; and, in the light of this fact, it is evident that one effect of the “conductivity” of universal states is to carry farther, by less violent and less brutal means, that process of cultural pammixia that is started, in the antecedent Times of Troubles, by the atrocities that these bring in their train. The refugees, exiles, deportees, transported slaves, and other déracinés of the more cruel preceding age are followed up, under the milder régime of a universal state, by merchants, by professional soldiers, and by philosophic and religious missionaries and pilgrims who make their transit with less tribulation in a more genial social climate.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The first Beatles single and the first James Bond film – Love Me Do and Dr No – were released 50 years ago today in the UK.
The Brazilian Girl from Ipanema, Garota de Ipanema. Far too well known to post.
The cosmic Telstar (released August 17 in UK):
The Japanese Sukiyaki (not quite 1962: released Japan 1961, arrived UK and US 1963):
In Japan it was Ue o Muite Arukō, 上を向いて歩こう, I Will Walk Looking Up. Sukiyaki was a meaningless title used in the West. Sakamoto died on Japan Airlines Flight 123 on August 12 1985.
In Russia it was Podmoskovnye Vechera, Подмосковные вечера, Evenings in Moscow Oblast.
Here’s Van Cliburn doing it in Moscow:
Cliburn was the young Texan who won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958. It was one of the great cultural episodes of the Cold War, like Gould’s visit (1957), Nureyev’s defection (1961) and Stravinsky’s return visit (1962 again). Cliburn’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s first concerto and Rachmaninoff’s third gave him an eight-minute standing ovation. The judges asked permission of Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize.” It was the year after Sputnik. Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York. This clip may be from his visit of 1962 for the second competition. The first prize then was shared by Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogdon.
The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was held first in 1962 in Fort Worth.
The real Telstar (launched Cape Canaveral July 10; note mention of Toynbee):
Tetralogy, or trilogy with sequel:
The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (UK title) 1994
Editor, with Terence Ranger, and contributor, The Invention of Tradition 1983
A final book, Fractured Spring, sent to the publisher a few months ago, will appear in 2013.
Schama meets Hobsbawm (conversation last year, post here).
Interview with Silvia Lemus, wife of Carlos Fuentes, perhaps for Mexican television and presumably from circa 1994:
Philippa Sands on the city of Lviv, NYR Blog, May 30 (meant to post over summer).
Ruthenia immediately beyond the Carpathians (in Ukraine) used to be called Galicia or Austrian Poland (capital: Lvov or Lwów in Polish, Lemberg in German, Lviv in Ukrainian). It belonged to Poland until the First Partition. Austria controlled it from 1772 to 1918. It was Polish between the wars and passed to the Soviet Union (Ukraine) at the end of the Second World War.
Sands: “[Lviv] was a closed city during the Soviet period from 1945 to 1991, and even today remains relatively little known. [...] Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s film In Darkness, which was nominated for an Oscar last year, describes a short moment in [the] longer story. Drawn from Robert Marshall’s 1991 book The Sewers of Lvov [the title is actually In the Sewers of Lvov] and Krsytyna Chiger’s [formula ghost-written] memoir The Girl in the Green Sweater (2007), the film is about a small group of Jewish residents who take refuge in the sewers of Nazi-occupied Lviv with the assistance of Leopold Socha, a city worker. His nemesis is the sinister Bortnik – he is given no first name – an unpleasant Ukrainian officer who has been enlisted by the Nazis to root out hidden Jews. Holland is a filmmaker of impeccable honesty and the story is simply and powerfully told. But above all it is the film’s setting, below the streets of Lviv, that gives it such force.
“Robert Marshall’s book was among the first of dozens I have read to understand what had happened in the city from 1914 to 1945 [...].”
Lwów Eaglets by Wojciech Kossak (1926): Polish teenage defenders of Lvov in the Polish war of 1918-19 against the short-lived West Ukrainian People’s Republic; on November 21 1918 the Ukrainians were repelled from the area of the Lychakiv Cemetery
Second Polish Republic, 1922-39 (the First Republic is another term for Poland-Lithuania from 1569 until the Third Partition: “a republic under the presidency of a king”)
“Du sublime au ridicule il n’y a qu’un pas” (Napoleon to de Pratt, after the Grand Army’s retreat from Moscow in A.D. 1812).
This is Archbishop Dominique Dufour de Pradt, to whom Napoleon made the remark on on December 10 1812, four days before the army left Russian territory for that of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Their conversation is given in English in Vol III of Sir Archibald Alison, History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789 to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, William Blackwood, 1842, whose source appears to be a published account by de Pradt.
De Pratt was Napoleon’s ambassador to Warsaw, but was at the same time archbishop of Mechelen in the Southern Netherlands (later Belgium), which France had taken from Austria. There was no Archbishop of Warsaw until 1818. The centre of Catholicism in Poland had been Kraków.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
His own transcription of the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice.
Byron’s main source seems to have been Voltaire. (Liszt based his rather tiresome symphonic poem on Byron.)
“The poem opens with a framing device: Mazeppa and the Swedish King Charles XII, together with their armies, are retreating from the Battle of Poltava, where they were defeated by the Russians. Exhausted and war-weary, the two men set up camp for the night. The King admires Mazeppa’s horsemanship, and Mazeppa offers to tell him how he learnt this skill. The poem then switches to the first person. Mazeppa describes his youth and his service as a page to King John II Casimir in Poland. He becomes acquainted with Theresa, a beautiful woman who ‘had the Asiatic eye’. She is married to a Count who is thirty years her senior. Mazeppa falls passionately in love with her, is unable to control his passions, and they meet at night and consummate their love.
“However, the Count’s men catch them together and bring him to the Count. The Count orders an unusually cruel punishment: Mazeppa is to be tied naked to a steed, which is then to be taunted and set loose. Stanzas 10 to 18 recount the steed’s flight across Eastern Europe, emphasizing the pain, suffering and confusion that Mazeppa feels. However, the horse has seemingly limitless energy. Mazeppa nearly dies twice. In Stanza 13, he describes himself ‘full in death’s face’, but is restored when the horse swims through a river. Stanza 18 concludes with a description of ‘an icy sickness’ and his vision of a raven flying overheard, ready to feast on his corpse. However, in Stanza 19, Mazeppa awakes to find himself in bed, with his wounds being tended by a Cossack maid. In the final stanza, Mazeppa’s narrative ends. The poet-narrator describes Mazeppa preparing his bed for the evening. King Charles is already asleep.
“There are historical sources which verify that the Orthodox Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa, his historical name, served in the Polish Court to John II Casimir. However, it is unclear why he left Poland in 1663 and returned to his homeland in what is now Ukraine. There is no historical evidence that Mazepa was exiled from Poland because of a love affair, or that he was punished by being strapped to a wild horse.”
After Poltava, Mazeppa, as I write it, arrived with Charles XII at the Turkish fortress of Bendery, within modern Moldova. Mazeppa died there a few months later.
Géricault, c 1820, private collection; crossing the river; the body has the animal immediacy of a cave painting