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Alexiey Shiropayev’s Prison of the Nation:
An Ethnonationalist History of Russia, Part 2

Viktor Vasnetsov, Ivan the Terrible, detail, 1897 [1]

Viktor Vasnetsov, Ivan the Terrible, detail, 1897

2,888 words

Part 2 of 4

The Archetype of the Tyrant: Ivan the Terrible

While Ivan III laid the foundations of an independent Russian kingdom (or rather a Muscovite Orthodox khanate) it was his grandson Ivan IV Vasilyevich, better known as Ivan the Terrible who created tsarist Russia and began the real Muscovite expansions of the 16th century.

Shiropayev identifies the foundation of the Oprichnina as the biggest achievement of the anti-Russian Project under Ivan the Terrible. The Oprichnina is a term used to describe the internal policy of Ivan the Terrible: brutal strengthening of the tsar’s power and suppression of all dissent, which meant crushing internal opposition from the boyars (Russian nobles) or any separatist tendencies. The executors of this policy were the Oprichniks: members of an elite guard, who answered directly to the tsar. They were proclaimed his dogs and brooms (to watch and clean his kingdom). The methods of the Oprichniks were torture and executions, terror and treason. Shiropayev considers Oprichniks to be a model for the later Soviet security force, the Cheka, which exterminated Russians after the revolution.

Ivan the Terrible is often portrayed as an unstable, mentally disturbed man, who — despite of his illness — managed to build an effective Russian state. Shiropayev has a different perspective: Ivan’s actions seem abnormal in comparison with European rulers. But if you compare him with Mongol khans, his outbursts of anger, extermination of entire populations, fondness for cruelty, and even murdering members of his own family are just typical characteristics of an Asian despot. His policies of terror and expansion should not be considered mere personal quirks. They are exactly the way that Mongol tyranny and the Horde always worked.

The mother of Ivan the Terrible was Helena Glinskaya, whose family was descended from the Mongol khan Mamai himself. Ivan the Terrible was Asian in blood and spirit, which is one of the reasons he had no reluctance in exterminating the Russian population, whom he considered his slaves of alien origin. Under the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Asians suffered no discrimination; quite the contrary. The tsar respected the Asian noble titles and considered the Mongol nobility to be of higher rank than his white subjects (or, more accurately, slaves). However, Ivan the Terrible favored Orthodox Christianity and promoted Christianization, which basically meant that the eastward expansion of Russia resulted in miscegenation, as baptized Mongols were considered to be regular members of the Orthodox society.

The last khan of the Kazan Khanate, Yadegar Mokhammad, first fought against Ivan the Terrible but finally accepted the tsar’s rule, converted to Christianity, and became a Russian noble under the name of Simeon Kasayevich. Another khan, Sain-Bulat, later known as Simeon Bekbulatovich, married one of the daughters of Ivan the Terrible and was made (for a year) the Grand Prince of Rus’ by the tsar; Simeon was later made Grand Prince of Tver and Torzhok, one of the commanders of the tsar’s army, and finally became an Orthodox monk. Another Tatar in the tsar’s court was Boris Godunov, one of the Oprichniks, a member of a Christianized Mongol family (descended from the Genghis Khan himself), who was one of favorites of Ivan the Terrible and became tsar after Ivan’s death.

Shiropayev mocks patriotic Russian historians who rejoice in Ivan the Terrible’s alleged antisemitism: when Ivan’s army seized Dvina, they murdered all Jewish inhabitants of the city. However, as Shiropayev points out, they also murdered all Catholic clergy, who were whites. Furthermore, this massacre was carried out by Tatar troops.

Shiropayev presents a long list of executions and massacres carried out by the Oprichniks at Ivan the Terrible’s orders. They are not only terrifying in numbers of victims but also in the methods of execution, a tradition created by the Mongols which later culminated in Soviet communist genocide. The most important massacre ordered by Ivan the Terrible was (once again!) the destruction of Novgorod. This center of Nordic-Slavic Rus’ again attempted to rebel against the “Rossiya” Project. The city was plundered and burned and the inhabitants exterminated. All the murders and destruction had one aim: to unify all Russian lands under the Muscovite yoke of the new Orthodox khan. All possible dissent, forms of self-government, regional traditions, and local autonomy were eradicated.

However, the spirit of Rus’ could not die as it is written in the blood of true Russians, the “Russkiye.” This longing for freedom was used by Ivan the Terrible in what Shiropayev identifies as one of the tsar’s most cunning schemes: the expansion of tsardom into the East. Russians who were suffocating under Asian tyranny were encouraged to enter — first as traders, then as military expeditions — the vast territories of Siberia. It was especially the Cossacks, whom Shiropayev identifies as the embodiment of the free Russian spirit, who heeded the call, and under the leadership of Yermak (a Cossack himself) they began the long journey into the East. But they were tricked by Ivan. The Russians believed that they would drive out the Asian inhabitants of Siberia and settle down to create a wilder and freer society. But Ivan has made the local rulers nobles, thus they maintained their local power. Baptized Asians were considered the equals of Russians. And Yermak’s followers were made subjects to the Asiatic warlords and princes they fought against. Siberia did not become a new autonomous Russian land, but just another division of the multi-ethnic Muscovite despotism. 

Against the Project: Stepan Razin and Peter the Great

Paul Delaroche, Peter the Great, 1838 [2]

Paul Delaroche, Peter the Great, 1838

For Shiropayev, the Cossacks are an embodiment of the original Aryan spirit of Rus’. The tsars used their Faustian longing for freedom and expansion as a tool of subverting this spirit and expanding the Empire’s borders. However, Cossacks were not always fooled and were able to turn against the Project. An example of this, and a great hero of Rus’, is the Cossack leader Stepan Razin who rebelled against the tsarist regime in 1670–1671.

Shiropayev points to the fact that many of the Cossack traditions — the veneration of the military, longing for freedom and adventure, the clannish character of this specific warrior aristocracy, the tradition of combining authority of the leaders with the voice of the best of the people through councils, even the symbolic imagery, folk tales and religious imagination — are all remnants of the original Nordic-Slavic spirit of Rus’. In other words, Cossacks remained loyal to the traditions of the Slavs and Vikings.

The uprising of Stepan Razin is portrayed in racial terms, as a conflict between Aryan Rus’ and Asian Russia. Shiropayev connects Razin’s rebellion with the uprising of the Solovetsky Monastery, where monks rejected the reforms of Patriarch Nikon. And although Shiropayev considers Orthodox Christianity to be a force of spiritual subjugation of Rus’ under the yoke of the Project, he considers this uprising as an expression of the spirit of Northern Rus’, of the resistance of Novgorod against Moscow. Unfortunately, both uprisings were drowned in blood, and Muscovy had its way. After these repressions, the tsarist regime and Orthodox Church, both stronger than ever before, had an iron grip on all Russian lands.

However, a threat to the Project arose from the least likely person: the new tsar Peter the Great. Peter was a product of the Romanovs re-connection with Europe, even marrying into the Danish and German nobility. He did not lean towards the South and East – towards the Mongols and Byzantium — but towards the North and West, towards Europe and the Enlightenment. During his travels in Europe he encountered countries on a higher civilization level than his fatherland, and he decided to reconnect Russia with the West.

Contrary to many of the anti-European critics of Peter the Great, he did not wish to make Russia subject to the West, but to renew it with Western ideals and to make it a major European (not Asian) player. Shiropayev reminds readers that Peter’s curbing of some of the “traditions” of Russia was not a betrayal, since many of these traditions were a product of the Mongol-Byzantine enslavement of the Rus’ people. Has Novgorod won its struggle against Moscow, Russia would develop in a similar manner as Sweden, Germany, or Poland. Thus, cutting off many Russian customs, meant restoring older traditions of Rus’.

The modernization of Russia by Peter the Great meant reintroducing European philosophy and sciences, subjugating the church to the state, curbing monastic and ecstatic traditions, reforming the law, and creating new civilizational projects such as building the Northern fleet or the new capital of Saint Petersburg. Peter the Great moved the center of Russia northwards, back to its place of origin.

Shiropayev considers this re-approaching of Russia and Europe under the West-leaning Romanovs a positive phenomenon which had a chance of turning the Project on its head and overthrowing it. Thus, he considered the rebellions against Peter (the Bulavin Rebellion, Pugachev’s Rebellion) as negative phenomena, a reaction of the Project against Rus’. Razin fighting against Moscow was a European, but Pugachev fighting against Saint Petersburg was an Asian.

This of course does not mean that Peter the Great (and especially not his successors) were completely positive figures. As Shiropayev points out, they still showed many traits of oriental despotism, tyranny, and cruelty. They were also not aware of the racial aspect of the struggle they were involved in. However, their reforms were mostly positive as they were making Russia again a part of Europe.

Unfortunately, none of them – although Peter the Great was closest to this — decided to sever ties completely with the Project, which would probably mean cutting off Orthodoxy or reforming it, so it would remain Byzantine only by name. Thus, the rule of the Romanovs since Peter the Great can be considered “a Petersburg interval”: a moment of rest between two bloody phases of implementation of the Project. After some victories of the great tsar Peter, there was not too much of a fight against the Project, but, on the other hand, the Project did not make any great progress.

The Tsarist Empire: The Gracious Side of the Project

Although in the 19th century there were no great purges or ethnic cleansing of the native population of Rus’, the peasant and working classes were exploited by overwork, and the elites were being mixed into a “racial cocktail” under the auspices of the Orthodox Church. The Project created a new identity: the Russian imperial identity, a mix of all elements of the empires ethnic components, European (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Romanian, German, etc.) and non-European (Ugro-Finnish, Mongol, Jewish, etc.) — loyal to the tsar and to the empire, speaking Russian, and (with some exceptions) practicing the Byzantine rite of Christianity. It was a universalitic and totalitarian cultural project of full-on race-mixing, planned and made hegemonic by the agents of the Eurasian Project. Shiropayev cites memoirs and diaries of Russian aristocrats proudly discussing the multi-ethnic, racially-mixed character of the imperial families and institutions.

The turn of the 20th century was the climax of the imperialist Byzantine phase of the Project which was manifested by Pan-Slavism, militarism, universalistic and aggressive official rhetoric, as well as the domination of the Orthodox Church in culture, state celebrations, and everyday life. The often maligned “nationalism” of this time was in reality Eurasian imperialism. The radical imperialists disliked everyone who did not speak Russian, professed a faith different than Orthodox Christianity, or did not embrace imperialist policy. However, they had nothing against peoples of different nationalities or races who decided to become loyal subjects of the empire by accepting its language and religion. This was true not only in the case of Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Balts, or other European nations, but also in the case of Armenians, Ugro-Finns, Mongols, Jews, and even Africans (as in the case of Abram Petrovich Gannibal, the black African great-grandfather of Aleksander Pushkin). They were not only considered regular subjects of the tsars, but they often were made noblemen and rose to the most prominent offices of the empire.

While the Anti-Rus’ Project has always been highly successful in exploiting the masses, exterminating rebellious populations, aggressive and bloody expansion, and creating a culture of slavish obedience, it has never been as good at creating a well-functioning administration, non-corrupt officials, the rule of law, advanced industries and infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), or enabling people to make a decent living.

Thus, after the original Nordic culture of Rus’ fell under Mongolized Muscovite rule, all the most important construction and infrastructure projects had to be created by western European specialists invited by the tsars. The most famous achievements of Russian architecture, including the Kremlin, were constructed by Western architects. Large numbers of Germans, especially, were imported to create or modernize industries and bureaucracies.

As Shiropayev emphasizes, Russia was a land of paradox. It was built by white people, but they did not have the status of the ruling nation, being subject to multi-ethnic oriental ruling class. The ethnic Russians (the Rus’ people) and other white subjects of the Russian Empire (Ukrainians, Poles, etc.) were the most exploited groups of all. Jews, for example, were never serfs. They were free citizens of the Empire. While whites were literally starving and dying from overwork, the elites coddled the Asian provinces, vast and rich in natural resources, to uphold the territorial greatness of the empire.

Shiropayev considers the tsarist Orthodox versus Bolshevik communist conflict to be just a quarrel between two versions of the Eurasian project: the Byzantine and the Jewish. Although there was a difference of opinion on who should constitute the ruling class of the empire and whether the cross or the star should be the imperial symbol, both forwarded the Eurasian Project of universal race-mixing. Thus, Shiropayev calls the Bolshevik revolution only a change of the form, not of the content and aim, of the Project. In his words: “the Kahal took place of the Steppe.”

Stolypin and Rasputin

Pyotr Stolypin [3]

Pyotr Stolypin

As Shiropayev treats the tsarist and Bolshevik regimes as just two heads of the same hydra, both hostile to the Rus’ people, the question arises: was there any hope for the native Rus’? The answer is yes, but it comes from unlikely sources.

One of these hopes arose from liberal democratic circles, which were hated and fought by both the imperialists and the communists. The liberals believed that Russia should turn away from the East: culturally, politically, and even religiously, and reconcile with the West. They aimed at a great and radical pro-European reform, just like that of Peter the Great. This project was once again led by a Peter: Pyotr Stolypin, the great visionary minister of the tsar, who was assassinated before he could realize his reforms.

Shiropayev believes that these liberal reforms could become a true ethnonationalist project, as racialist thought was rising in the West at this time, especially in Germany, and Germany was often considered the European country that was closest to Russia — especially due to the many officials and noblemen of German descent in Russia. Also, since both communists and imperialists were highly universalist, pro-statist, and anti-national, the democrats had to become particularist, pro-national, and anti-statist to gain the support of the common people of different nations inhabiting the Empire.

Grigori Rasputin [4]

Grigori Rasputin

Whereas Stolypin and other reformists are maligned by both communist and imperialist historians, they are praised by democratic historians, especially in the West. Another figure, who is hated by all sides — and indeed may be the most hated Russian of all time — is regarded by Shiropayev as a very positive figure: namely, Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin is usually portrayed as a mad monk, a cunning sectarian who beguiled the royal family into forwarding his evil aims.

Shiropayev dismisses these claims as propaganda. He presents Rasputin as the sanest man in the royal court, who wanted to prevent the bloodshed of the First World War by reconciling Russia and Germany. Yes, he was an intensely spiritual person who believed he was on a mission to save the world. But his spirituality was non-Orthodox traditional folk spirituality, and if he had managed to change Russian’s international policy, he really would have saved the world, or at least Russia and Europe. Yes, he had great influence on the Empress, and he indeed tried to form a conspiracy to bring peace between Germany and Russia. But it was the right thing to do, and the Empress was a natural ally, as she was a member of the German nobility. And just as Stolypin was hated by both imperialists and communists, and murdered by a communist before he could realize his reforms, Rasputin was hated by both imperialists and communists, and murdered by imperialists before he could realize his plan.

As a side note, Shiropayev points out an interesting fact: one of the main symbols of the Varangians and the Rus’ was the swastika. This symbol keeps showing up each time there is resistance to the Eurasian Project, in various rebellions and uprisings. This is true also in the case of Rasputin. The swastika was a symbol connected with his closest circle of believers and acquaintances, including the Empress and her daughters. A swastika was also found drawn in the Ipatiev House, were the royal family was held prisoner and then executed by the Bolsheviks. Shiropayev, in a truly conspirological fashion, considers the Swastika to be an esoteric symbol of organized resistance against the Eurasian Project.