SUCCESSORS OF ROME:
RUSSIA, 862-Present

The Church of Rome fell for its heresy; the gates of the second Rome, Constantinople, were hewn down by the axes of the infidel Turks; but the Church of Moscow, the Church of the New Rome, shines brighter than the sun in the whole universe... Two Romes are fallen, but the third stands fast; a fourth there cannot be.

Philotheos (Filofei), 1525, quoted by Colin Wells, Sailing from Byzantium, How a Lost Empire Shaped the World [Delta, Bantam Dell, 2007, p.277]


I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.

Winston Churchill, October 1939


GEORGE SMILEY (ALEC GUINESS): "So how conscious is he?"

TOBE ESTERHASE: "Of us? George, he's Russian, OK? The Russian thinks the butterflies are spying on him."

John le Carré [David Cornwell] & John Hopkins, Smiley's People, BBC Television, 1982, Acorn Media, 2002, 2011, Episode Five

Introduction

When St. Vladimir accepted Christianity in 989, Russia took the first step in what would become a mission to assume the heritage of Constantinople. After the Grand Dukes of Moscow had shaken off the hold of the remaining Mongol successor states, and the "New Rome" of Constantinople had itself fallen to the Turks in 1453, the way was clear for Moscow to become the "Third Rome" and the Duke the "Tsar of All the Russias." Universal Roman pretentions continued after the fall of the Tsars but, unlike Hitler in Germany, the Communists Lenin and Stalin, however tsar-like their power, wished to owe no debt or acknowledge any continuity to the ideology of the earlier empire. The Soviet Union was no successor to Rome or Constantinople but a new synthesis of the dialectic of history. With the Fall of Communism, there may be some rethinking of this.

The conversion of Russia to Christianity brought with it the Cyrillic alphabet, which was promoted by the Soviet Union for use even with entirely unrelated languages, like the Turkish of Central Asia. Because of Russian imperial acquisitions, however, other alphabets crept into use. Poland and the Baltic States brought with them the Latin alphabet characteristic of Francia,
Europa est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam Romaniam, aliam Franciam, tertiam Russiam.
Europa1. Romania2. Constantinople
2. Francia1. Rome
3. Russia3. Moscow
and the Jews of Poland, for many years legally excluded from old Russia itself, wrote Yiddish (basically a German dialect) in the Hebrew alphabet. The small nations of the Caucasus, like Armenia and Georgia, also continued to use their own alphabets. Other languages of the Caucasus, with their own extraordinary characteristics and history, now tend to use versions of the Cyrillic alphabet. With the fall of the Soviet Union, most of these anomalous groups have spun off into independence, taking their national languages and alphabets with them.

The independence of Georgia still leaves the highest peak in Europe, the Culmen Europae, Mt. Elbruz (Russian El'brus, Persian Alborz, Latin Strobilus), at 18,510 ft., on the southern border of Russia, as it is on the southern boundary between Europe and Asia.

Index

Philosophy of History

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Sources

Much of the information here comes from Royal Families of Medieval Scandinavia, Flanders, and Kiev, by Rupert Alen and Anna Marie Dahlquist [Kings River Publications, Kingsburg, California, 1997], Kingdoms of Europe, by Gene Gurney [Crown Publishers, New York, 1982], a chart, Kings & Queens of Europe, compiled by Anne Tauté [University of North Carolina Press, 1989], The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia, by John Channon with Robert Hudson [Viking, 1995], the Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte, Volume II, Part 2, Europäiche Kaiser-, Königs- und Fürstenhäuser II Nord-, Ost- und Südeuropa [Andreas Thiele, R. G. Fischer Verlag, Part 2, Second Edition, 1997], and Brian Tompsett's Royal and Noble genealogy. For the Tsars, there is the elaborate Chronicle of the Russian Tsars, by David Warnes [Thames and Hudson, 1999]. A discussion of general sources is given under Francia. This page continues and supplements the material in "Rome and Romania, 27 BC-1453 AD" and "The Ottoman Sultâns, 1290-1924 AD".

Russia Index

Philosophy of History

Home Page

Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

The Slavic Languages

The Slavic languages are a major branch of the Indo-European family of languages. They occur in all three of the principal cultural and historical divisions of Europe, in Romania, Francia, and Russia. The oldest attested Slavic language is Old Church Slavonic, also called Old Bulgarian, which was written down as the liturgical language of its new Church when Bulgaria converted to Christianity in 869. The Slavic languages were so little differentiated at the time that Old Church Slavonic is nearly identical to the reconstructed Proto-Slavic, making it of great importance for historical linguistics.

The Cyrillic alphabet, which was developed to write Old Church Slavonic, replaced the original "Glagolitic" script created by Sts. Cyril (Constantine, 827-869) and Methodius (826-885) in the course of their mission to Bohemia. It was adapted from existing alphabets, mainly Greek and Hebrew but also Armenian, and subsequently would be used to write all the Slavic languages of Romania and Russia. The Slavic languages of Francia use the Latin alphabet. Cyril and Methodius were called to Rome at the time (the Schism had not yet occurred between the Latin and Greek Churches), where they defended their innovation of putting the Bible and Church Liturgy into a language other than Hebrew, Greek, or Latin -- the languages on the "Titulus," the plaque on the Cross of the Crucifixion -- which the Papal Curia believed were the only sacred languages suitable for Christianity. As it happened, Bohemia adopted the rite of the Latin Church, with the use of Latin, while it was Bulgaria that adopted the Orthodox Slavonic Rite and the Cyrillic alphabet.

When the Latin alphabet was adopted for the languages of Catholic Eastern Europe, there was the problem that the Slavic, Baltic, and Uralic languages of the area had phonetic systems that were not well represented by the alphabet. Where the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabet had been created to write Slavic languages, the Latin alphabet had to be reworked to do the job.

The principal challenge in the Slavic languages is the difference between "hard" and "soft," i.e. palatalized, consonants. In Russian, with the Cyrillic alphabet, two complete sets of vowels are used, one to go with the hard consonants, the other with the soft. For instance, the famous backwards "R", , read "ya," is simply the vowel "a" but also indicates that the preceding consonant is soft. Where a vowel doesn't come after a consonant, as at the end of a word, two unpronounced letters are used, to indicate a hard consonant, a soft one -- the former is now rarely used, a hard consonant being assumed without the use of the soft signs.

Curiously, the Cyrillic alphabet for languages in close proximity with Francia, such as Serbian and Macedonian, have dropped this elegant device and, as in the Latin alphabet, have adoped dedicated letters to represent palatalizations. The convenience of this for Serbian is that the Latin alphabet for Croatian, essentially the same language as Serbian, matches up letter for letter (with some digraphs) with the Cyrillic for Serbian. In the chart at left, Latin Croatian equivalents are given for every Cyrillic Serbian letter -- with blanks left where a Cyrillic letter is not used by Serbian. Croatian alphabetical order, of course, is not as shown but follows what we expect for the Latin alphabet. Also, Serbian and Macedonian sometimes have more than one palatalized letter for a "hard" one -- thus, both "tsh" and "ty" for "t," "dzh" and "dy" or "d." We do see the "soft" sign in these languages, however, actually incorporated, as a ligature, into the letters for "ly" and "ny." Serbian and Macedonian have their own dedicated letters for the extra palatals, and their pronunciation seems to be slightly different.

Otherwise, what we see in the table of Cyrillic alphabets is some variation in the treatment of the vowels. Ukrainian does not have the "yo" vowel, reassigns the "i" values, and has a "yi" letter. Also, in Ukrainian the traditional "g" has become an "h," resulting in an additional letter to represent "g." Ukrainian has actually kept the "i," the iota from Old Church Slavonic and Greek. The Bulgarian alphabet looks a bit more like the Russian but is also missing some of the vowel variations.

The full alphabet for Old Church Slavonic can be examined under the treatment for Bulgaria, and it is noteworthy that modern alphabets often employ different selections of letters from the full original alphabet, which is where some of the apparently novel letters in Serbian and Macedonian come from. Russian used to have some letters, which we see at right, mostly borrowed from Greek and used for borrowed Greek words, that were eliminated in the Soviet period. Similar pruning has occurred in some other versions of the alphabet.

In the Latin alphabet, nothing anywhere near as elegant or systematic as the Bulgarian/Russian Cyrillic vowels was formulated. Instead we get a combination of dedicated vowels, diacritics, and digraphs to indicate the varieties of consonants. The most distinctive diacritic is the , a wedge or upsidedown circumflex placed, in different languages, on top of a c, s, z, t, d, n, or r -- these are typically "soft" consonants. The term is from Czech, which uses the hachek the most (though the spelling in English of "Czech" uses a Polish digraph!), but it is widespread in the languages of the area. It isn't used in Hungarian, which is not even an Indo-European language, but Uralic. Surprisingly, it isn't used in Polish, which is the Slavic language with the largest number of speakers in Francia (44 million as of 2000). The chart at left is a sample of consonants with special values, diacritics, and digraphs in various Eastern European languages. Vowels in these languages are also dense with diacritics, but these are at least comparable, and often identical, with those used in French, German, and other Western and Northern European languages. A frustration of doing this webpage is that basic HTML codes, although accommodating Western European languages, even Old English, have no provision for Eastern diacritics. Also, there are many historical sources that don't bother giving full diacritics, especially for Polish.

Religiously, the languages of Romania and Russia are associated with Orthodox Churches in doctrinal communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The exception to this would be the Church of the Ukraine, which became affiliated with Catholicism during the long period of Lithuanian and Polish rule. Otherwise, the religion of Francia would be Catholicism until the Reformation. With the Southern Slavic languages, the cultural division cuts across the linguistic division. Southern languages are found in both Francia and Romania. Indeed, Serbo-Croatian is a single language, but the Serbs are Orthodox and write in the Cyrillic alphabet, while the Croatians are Catholic and write in the Latin alphabet.

In the 19th Century, we begin to get a political ideology of Pan-Slavism. This might imply that all the Slavs should be unified in one State, but then that would probably mean under the already existing largest and most powerful Slavic state, Russia. This was not what most of the Slavic countries had in mind, but it actually meant in very real terms that Russia viewed herself as the protector of all Slavic peoples. This has echoes today when Russian support is for Serbia in the conflicts over Bosnia and Kosovo; but it arguably had the greatest impact in Russian support for Serbia in 1914 after its invasion by Austria. With Russia declaring war on Austria, and Germany declaring war on Russia, World War I had begun, an epic cataclysm for Russia, Austria, and Germany all. Serbia did rather well out of the war, since it was able to create a Kingdom of the Southern Slavs, Yugoslavia, which actually did contain all the Southern Slavs, except for Bulgaria. The outcome of World War II, however, was even more dramatic. All of the Slavic speaking peoples ended up under Communist regimes. Stalin placed Quisling Communist governments all over Eastern Europe and organized his domain into the Warsaw Pact, thus dividing Europe with NATO. Even the small community of Slavic Sorbian speakers found themselves in Communist East Germany. The only exception to all this was Yugoslavia, where Josip Broz Tito broke with Stalin and became neutralist, with his own ideas about Communism -- Yugoslavia did not even use the Hammer and Sickle device. This moderated the form of the regime somewhat, even while it remained a personal dictatorship of Tito himself.

None of this survived the Fall of Communism, 1989-1991. Russia, Yugoslavia, and even Czechoslovakia all broke up into their linguistic constituents. The Slavs of Francia and Romania began to join NATO and then the European Union. The breakup of Yugoslavia precipitated actual wars over Bosnia and Kosovo. Thus, as the Slavic linguistic community is politically atomized, older cultural and religious affiliations reemerge, and new political constellations begin to form.

Old Church Slavonic

Russia Index

Rome and Romania Index

Perifrancia, Eastern Europe

Philosophy of Science, Linguistics

Philosophy of History

Copyright (c) 2009, 2011 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

GRAND PRINCES OF KIEV
RurikPrince of
Novgorod
862-879
attack on Constantinople, 865
Helgi/Oleg879-912
attack on Constantinople, 907; treaty with Emperor Leo VI, provision of mercenaries, 911
Ingvar/Igor912-945
attacks on Constantinople, 941, 944; treaty, 944
St. Helga/OlgaRegent,
945-955, d.957
first Christian, 957
Sviatoslav I955-973
destroys Khazars, 965-969; defeated by Emperor John I Tzimisces, 971
Yaropolk I973-980
St. Vladimir I980-1015
provison of Varangian mercenaries, 988; Conversion to Christianity, 989
Svyatopolk I1015-1019
Yaroslav I the Wise1019-1054
attack on Constantinople, 1043
Izhaslav I1054-1073
Svyatoslav II1073-1078
Vsevolod I1078-1093
Svyatopolk II1093-1113
Vladimir II
Monomachus
1113-1125
Mstislav I1125-1132
Yaropolk II1132-1139
Vsevolod II1139-1146
Vyacheslav1146-1154
Yuri/George I
Dolgoruki
1154-1157
While it is easy to think of the Vikings as barbarian hordes -- illiterate pagans raping and pillaging -- their ability to do what they did was critically dependent on developments in technology and organization that put them not far behind many of the more civilized people they attacked. Similarly, these advantages are most conspicuous where they encountered less developed peoples, which was certainly the case in Russia. The Vikings who found their way from the Baltic to the Black Seas through the Russian river systems came to be called "Varangians" (from their name in Slavic, now Varyag in Russian), but as they settled in the area, another name stuck:  They were the Rus -- . The transcription of this is often given as Rus´, with a diacritic to indicate the "soft" sign, , after the "s" in the Cyrillic alphabet. While the modern adjective "Russian," , Russkii, derives from "Rus," the name of Russia itself, , Rossiya, looks like it derives from the Greek name .

There is some controversy about the origin of the word . Some Russian historians now prefer an independent and southern origin, from the river Ros near Kiev. However, the Russian Primary Chronicle says, of Rurik's people, "These particular Varangians were known as Russes" and "the district of Novgorod became known as Rus." This implies a northern origin, when the area around Novgorod still had a largely Finno-Ugric population. The Primary Chonicle says that the people of the area, including the Slavs, were "then said to be the people of Rus." Reinforcing this is the circumstance that Ruotsi in Finnish and Rootsi in Estonian are the words for "Sweden," the place of origin of the Varangians. These may be from an old Norse word, rothr, for "rowing-way." On the other hand, a point for the southern origin theory is the claim that in Greek Rhos was used for the area before the advent of the Varangians. It may well be that a coincidence has occurred, where northern and southern words combined, as similar Roman and Arabic words melded into "orange" in the south of France. The terms of the controversy may be examined in The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia [John Channon and Robert Hudson, Viking, 1995, p.15] and the Royal Families of Medieval Scandinavia, Flanders, and Kiev by Rupert Alen and Anna Marie Dahlquist [Kings River Publications, Kingsburg, California, 1997, p.151].

The most recent comment I see is in Sailing from Byzantium, How a Lost Empire Shaped the World, by Colin Wells [Delta, Bantam Dell, 2007], where a southern origin theory would be damaged by reports that recent archaeology shows that Kiev, although existing early as a village, was not a trading center until rather later, c.900, than is claimed by the Primary Chronicle or by those who want to see a pre-Varangian Kiev as a center of Slavic trade and development [pp.221-222]. Wells points out that the Dnieper with its rapids was not ideal for navigation, requiring portages that exposed traders to nomad attacks, at this time mainly the Patzinaks (or Petchenegs). For all their ferocity, the Varangians never took to horseback and did not occupy all the steppe north of the Black Sea. Trade at first moved down the freely navigable Don and Volga. For the early use of Rhos in Greek, we have a chronicle of Louis the Pious from 839 that reports a Roman embassy, which includes some travelers called Rhos. They are identified as "of the people of the Swedes" [p.222].

According to Sigfús Blöndal and Benedikt S. Benedikz (The Varangians of Byzantium, Cambridge University Press, 1978), the mission to Louis the Pious was on behalf of the travelers from the King of Rhos. They had come down the rivers into the Black Sea, but didn't want to return that way because of the dangers of the route -- this was before the arrival of Varangians in force. Through the good offices of Constantinople, they were seeking permission to return home through Francia. There was a difficulty, since Louis suspected that these travelers were related to the pirates who had already begun to plague Britain and Francia. As we know, Louis's suspicions were well founded, but he was molified with the understanding that the travelers were gentis Sueonum, "of the nation of the Sueo." Sueo, although it could be the Swe- element in "Sweden," also looks much like Suomi, the Finnish word for Finland. Perhaps the travelers were actually Finns, the meaning of the word had not settled, the Swedes misrepresented themselves to satisfy Louis, or Louis simply had never heard of them and accepted that they were not Danes or Norwegians. Either way, they would not have been Slavs. Blöndal and Benedikz speculate that the King of Sweden who sent the mission to Constantinople was one Hákon son of Hrærker [p.33]. This is not a period when the kings of Scandinavia are well attested or dated, but I see no Hakón on any list of Swedish rulers that I have. My information is that Edmund I was King of Sweden in 839.

The Varangians/Russes got to Russia through their technology, the sailing ships that could actually take them to Greenland; but they came to rule the area through forms of large scale political organization that may have been rudimentary compared to Francia and Romania, but were beyond anything seen previously east of Moravia.

Rurik is a legendary figure, but rather less legendary than many early Swedish and Danish kings. The chronology seems relatively unproblematic, and Rurik could well have been a contemporary of Ragnar Lodbrok (on the most likely dating for him, 860-865). He ruled from, and reportedly founded, the city of Novgorod -- though the archaeology shows an earlier settlement. In his time Kiev, according to the Russian Primary Chonicle recently founded (though with older archaeology), was also occupied, in the course of an expedition to Constantinople -- though the information reported by Colin Wells casts doubt on this, postponing it to the time of Rurik's successor, Oleg. Varangian raids are attested in Anatolia as early as 818, and their forces arrived at Constantinople in 839 (compared with the sacking of the British monasteries of Lindisfarne in 793 and of Iona in 795). In short order the center of Russian power moved to Kiev, and further attempts on Constantinople were made. As these were usually rebuffed, sometimes with heavy losses (e.g. 971), a new modus vivendi was struck -- peaceful trade. When Rurik's own daughter-in-law, Helga, or Olga as it would become in Russian, visited Constantinople and converted to Christianity, the way of the future began to open up. Although the Russian Varangians were assimilating with the Slavs quickly, as late as Mstislav I the rulers are still well aware of their Norse origins and have Scandinavian names as well as Slavic ones -- in his case Harald (which also happened to be the name of his English grandfather).

The definitive conversion of Russia came under Olga's grandson, St. Vladimir. With Christianity he also got a Romanian bride, Anna, whose two sons are later killed by their half-brother, Svyatopolk I. Indeed, the German tradition of giving younger sons their own territory to rule, and then with succession from brother to brother, produced a great deal of fratricidal war in the history of Kievan Russia. For a place so distant, however, it is noteworthy how quickly dynastic marriages tied Kiev to the rest of Europe, not only to the familiar Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, but even to England and France. Russian rulers come to descend from a daughter of the last Saxon King of England, as the Capetian House of France came to descend from a daughter of Varoslav the Wise. This might become more awkward later, after the Schism between the Greek and Latin Churches in 1054, but the effects of that are slow to be seen.

The Royal Families of Medieval Scandinavia, Flanders, and Kiev by Rupert Alen and Anna Marie Dahlquist [Kings River Publications, Kingsburg, California, 1997] has much of this genealogy but led me into an error by saying that Svyatopolk I married a daughter of Boleslaw II of Poland. This was actually Boleslaw I, who helped defeat Svyatopolk's brother Yaroslav in 1018. In 1019 Yaroslav struck back, driving out Boleslaw. Svyatopolk, trying to draw in the Pechenegs, was killed by them. The whole genealogy here can be found in the Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte, Volume II, Part 2, Europäiche Kaiser-, Königs- und Fürstenhäuser II Nord-, Ost- und Südeuropa [Andreas Thiele, R. G. Fischer Verlag, Part 2, Second Edition, 1997, pp.72-109].

GRAND DUKES OF VLADIMIR
Andrei/Andrew I
Bogolyubski
1157-1175
Michael1175-1176
Vsevolod III1176-1212
Yuri II1212-1217,
1218-1238
Konstanin1217-1218
Russia conquered by
Mongols, 1236-1239
Yaroslav II1238-1246
Svyatoslav1246-1247,
d.1253
Michael1248-1249
Andrei II1249-1253
St. Alexander I
Nevksy
1253-1263
Yaroslav III of Tver1263-1272
Basil/Vasilii1272-1276
Demetrius/Dimitri I1276-1281,
1283-1294
Andrei III1281-1283,
1294-1304
St. Michael of Tver1304-1319
Yuri III Danilovich
of Moscow
1318-1326
Alexander II
of Tver
1326-1327,
d.1339
Alexander III1328-1331
With dynastic strife and other problems, the Kievan state fragments, and the main line removes from Kiev to Vladimir. At this point I've rather arbitrarily changed the title used. In older treatments, the rulers of Kiev and Vladimir tend to be called "Grand Dukes," while newer treatments call them "Grand Princes." The word in Russian is Knyaz, , which is different from the word borrowed from German for "duke," gertsog, (i.e. herzog) and from Latin for "prince," prints, (which sounds more like a borrowing from English than from Latin princeps). The problem seems to be that in modern times a brother of the Tsar was always a Velikii Knyaz, , and this was translated "Grand Duke" by analogy to the tradition of giving the title Duke to the brothers of the Kings of England and France. Merely calling them "princes" would have made them sound less significant (even like children). "Prince," however, is more of a sovereign title than "duke" (see Feudal Hierarchy); and, with the Romanov Grand Dukes mostly gone from the scene, the tendency seems to be to dignify the rulers of Kiev and Vladimir with that translation. Since either will do, I've decided to revise the Kievan title but not the later one. This ambiguity, however, exists in other regional languages, where either "prince" or "duke" can also translate kníze in Czech, knez in Croatian, ksiaze in Polish, knieza in Slovakian, kunigaikshtis in Lithuanian, and voivode in Hungarian (some diacritics are lost here for Czech, Polish, and Slovakian).

A good reason for using "duke" now would actually be that the rulers of Vladimir cease to be sovereign -- the Mongols conquer Russia, and the Russian Princes/Dukes all become vassals of the Blue and then Golden Horde from 1239 to 1480. This period of 241 years had a stunting and brutalizing effect on Russian history. Novgorod was part of a world of commercial exchange around the Baltic, but this all was eventually crushed, and Russia drifted even further behind the economic development of Western Europe. Russia would then always be hindered by autocratic government that alternatively smothered dissent and innovation and then, alarmed at the backwardness of the country, attempted to impose top-down reforms and development -- which then would be resisted by a national conservatism that the government in its phase of being threatened by change would have loved. So Russia gets beaten up for progressing and then beaten up for not progressing. This more or less is still going on, as Soviet and post-Soviet governments are caught in the same dilemmas, desires, and fears as earlier.

Probably the most noteworthy name in the list of Grand Dukes of Vladimir is that of Alexander Nevsky. As Novgorod, in effect a republic, was threatened by the Swedes and the Teutonic Knights, Alexander was invited to lead the forces of the city. He defeated the Swedes in 1240 on the River Neva, earning his epithet, and then defeated the Knights in 1242 in a dramatic battle on the ice of a frozen channel. What Novgorod got in return was autocratic government. Alexander put down a rising in 1255. When Novgorod again rose in 1258 against Mongol taxes, Alexander enforced Mongol rule and ended the last of the independence of Novgorod. The Mongols even governed the succession of Vladimir, installing Alexander's brothers ahead of him, and then deposing his brother Andrew when Alexander denounced him for disloyalty. Although a loyal agent of the Mongols, even journeying to Mongolia to see the Great Khân, the canonized Alexander tends to be remembered as a Russian national hero for defeating the Swedes and Germans. This is what we see in the 1938 movie, Alexander Nevsky, by Sergei Eisenstein -- ironically suppressed during the Hitler-Stalin Pact but then rehabilitated once the Germans invaded Russia.

GRAND DUKES OF MOSCOW
& EMPERORS OF RUSSIA
Daniil1263-1303
Yuri III1303-1325
John/Ivan I1325-1341
Lithuania,
1331-1341
Vladimir,
1332-1341
Simeon1341-1353
the Black Death arrives at Novgorod, 1352, spreads to Moscow, 1353
John/Ivan II1353-1359
Demetrius II/
Dimitrii Donski
1359-1389
siege of Moscow by Lithuanians, 1368; defeat of Mongols at Kulikovo on the Don, 1380; Mongols sack Moscow, 1382
Basil/Vasilii I1389-1425
Russian Church stops mention of Roman Emperor, 1392
Basil/Vasilii II1425-1462
John/Ivan III,
the Great
1462-1505
1480, refuses tribute to
the Golden Horde
Basil/Vasilii III1505-1533
Ivan IV Grozny,
the Terrible
1533-1584
"Tsar of All the Russias," Conquest of Khânates of Kazan, 1552 & Astrakhan, 1554; War over Livonia, 1558-1582, losses to Sweden
Fedör/
Theodore I
1584-1598
Boris Godunov1598-1605
Time of Troubles, 1604-1613
Fedör/
Theodore II
1605
False Dimitrii/
Demetrius I
the Imposter
1605-1606
Basil IV Shuiski1606-1610, d.1612
False Dimitrii II, the "Rebel of Tushino"1607-1610
Wladislaw VII Vasa of Poland1610-1612
Interregnum, 1612-1613
The rise of Moscow begins with a son, Daniil (Daniel), of Alexander Nevsky who, in time honored tradition, gains his own domain from his father. Soon Daniil's son, Ivan I, succeeds the senior line in Vladmir itself, but now the center of power has moved. Sometimes Ivan is already regarded as the first Tsar, but the use of this title seems to come on gradually. When Ivan III marries a granddaughter of one of the last of the
Palaeologi Emperors, he is in a position to claim the Throne of Constantinople --the city just having fallen to the Ottomans. Repudiating homage to the Golden Horde in 1480, Ivan also can claim the restoration of Russian sovereignty.

The status of Russia truly as an Empire, however, is secured by Ivan IV, the Terrible, who conquers the largest remnants of the Golden Horde, the Khânates of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1554). This makes him "Tsar of All the Russias." The last Khânate, that of the Crimea, was under Ottoman protection and would not fall until 1783.

Tsar (Czar) itself, like German Kaiser, looks derived from Latin Caesar. We also get car (tsar) in Croatian, but the derivation is clearer in other Slavic languages, where we have císar in Czech (lost diacritic) and cesarz in Polish.

The map at right is from 1530, shortly before Ivan came to the throne. Note the Russian frontage on the Gulf of Finland, which would be lost in 1582.

Ivan also killed his own eldest son, and this murder now symbolically coincides with the last days of the Dynasty of Rus, the direct descent from Rurik of Novgorod. An in-law, the great nephew of Ivan's wife Anastasia Romanova, Michael Romanov, ends up securing the Throne after some years of conflict and confusion.


Ivan the Terrible tried to extend his successes in Russia into neighboring states. The Reformation had been going on in Francia, and the Teutonic Knights had been secularized, and Prussia became a Duchy, formally as a vassal of Poland. The Livonian Knights, holding Estonia and Latvia, however, continued but seemed a ripe target to Ivan. He invaded in 1558. In a confused struggle between Russia, Sweden, and Poland, Ivan not only failed to hold the Livonian lands, but lost Russian lands around the Gulf of Finland and on the western and northern shores of Lake Ladoga to Sweden (1582). The Swedes also got Estonia. Poland got Latvia. From Riga north this becomes "Livonia" proper (which passed to Sweden in 1629), while south of Riga, the remaining part of Latvia became the Duchy of Courland, under the last Livonian Grand Master, Gotthard Kettler. This Duchy lasted until the Russian conquest, as part of the last Partition of Poland, in 1795. Russian losses would not be made good for over a century.

After he murdered his own son and heir, Ivan's ancient dynasty ended in some confusion. First, in-laws, the Gudunovs, usurped the Throne, followed by no less than three "False Dimitriis," claiming to be the deceased Tsarevich Demitrii (d.1591). The "Seven Boyars," after overthrowing Basil IV, offered the Throne to Wladislaw Vasa of Poland, who then occupied Moscow. After the Poles were expelled by a successful revolt (1612), the teenage Michael Romanov was elected Tsar (1613). Michael was elected as an in-law of Ivan IV, but the Romanovs could claim descent from a collateral line of Vladimir. This can be examined on a separate popup. This includes the genealogy of Basil IV, of the house of Shuiski (or Chuiskii), which is also shown on the diagrams above. My thanks to Leon Pereira, O.P., for drawing this to my attention and supplying the information.

ROMANOV EMPERORS
Michael/Mikhail
Romanov
1613-1645
Alexis/Aleksei1645-1676
Theodore/Fedör III1676-1682
Ivan V1682-1689
Pyotr/Peter I the Great1682-1725
Great Northern War, 1700-1721;
Azov taken, 1711
Ekaterina/Catherine I1725-1727
Pyotor/
Peter II
1727-1730
Anna1730-1740
Ivan VI1740-1741
Elsaveta/
Elizabeth Petrovna
1741-1762
Peter III1762
Ekaterina/Catherine II
the Great
1762-1796
Khânate of Crimea conquered,
1774-1783; Partitions of
Poland, 1772, 1793, & 1795;
Odessa annexed, 1791
Pavel/Paul1796-1801
Aleskandr/Alexander I1801-1825
invasion, occupation
of Moldavia & Wallachia,
1806-1812; Treaty of Bucharest,
Bessarabia from Turkey, 1812;
French invasion, defeat, 1812;
acquisition of Finland
& Poland, 1815
Nikolai/Nicholas I1825-1855
Invasion, occupation
of Moldavia & Wallachia,
1828-1829; Treaty
of Adrianople, Greek
Independence, Danube Delta
to Russia, autonomy of
Moldavia & Wallachia, 1829;
Crimean War, 1853-1856;
invasion of Turkey, 1853;
Britain, France, & Austria enter
against Russia, 1854; Austria
occupies Moldavia & Wallachia,
1854-1857; Siege of Sebastopol,
1854-1855
While Russia entered the era of the Romanovs in traditional form, a radical departure soon occurred. Peter I realized how far behind Western Europe (Francia) Russia was. He learned of this in part by travelling incognito in the West, an extraordinary adventure for any such ruler. Returning home, he inaugurated practices that would become characteristic in the future (even designing the flags seen at right), bringing in foreign experts to help with Russian development and prohibiting traditional ways that he thought made Russia look too Eastern and too backward. This even included beards, and we have the farcical spectacle of the authorities seizing men on the streets and cutting off not only their beards but also their long coats. Peter seemed to think that if he made people look more Western, then they would be more Western. Of course 17th century Europeans looked the way they did mainly because of Fashion, which had become a significant factor by then. But in Russia Fashion would henceforth be a matter of Authority. This was a false start and a bad idea and even more reveals a tendency to worry about the wrong things. If Peter wanted Russia to be prosperous like the Netherlands, where he spent considerable time, then Russia would have to have the kind of commercial culture that enabled the Netherlands to be the way it was (and that had characterized places in Russia like Novgorod, before it was crushed). Unfortunately, Peter and subsequent Russian rulers, even through the Soviet and post-Soviet days, would never want Russia to really be like places like the Netherlands. For instance, even the Netherlands of Peter's day was already famous for religious freedom, but Russia even now has a law about religions and prohibits any attempts by foreign missionaries to convert people in the Russian Orthodox Church (while Tsarist Russia, of course, became infamous for the pogroms that drove a large part of the Jews out of the country). The dearth of a native commercial class meant that foreigners would have to be brought in to develop and run many Russian industries. Suspicion and resentment would be the least of the problems for these foreigners.
The most tragic and bitterly ironic sequel would occur in Soviet days, when foreign workers and experts who went to help out of enthusiasm for Communism often found themselves arrested and shipped off to lonely, anonymous deaths in the Gulag. Meanwhile, the kind of individual initiative and enterprise needed for autonomous development were hampered under the Tsars and actively exterminated under the Soviets.

To modernize in any way, Peter wanted a "window on the West," a seaport through which trade and communcation could flow. The Swedes had closed this off since 1582. Now Peter benefited from the antics of Charles XII of Sweden, the "Madman of the North," whose war in Poland, successfully concluded with an invasion of Saxony (1706), encouraged him to attack Russia. This did not go well, and Charles's army was largely annihilated at Poltava in the Ukraine in 1709. Swedish power collapsed as Charles fled to Turkey and made his way home by sea. Peter was able to recover the lost Russian territory on the Gulf of Finland, where he had aleady begun to build his new capital city, St. Petersburg, and to occupy Estonia, Livonia, and Finland. Finland was returned to Sweden in 1721, but the other territories became permanent parts of the Empire. Access to St. Petersburg was closed by ice in the winter, but otherwise it became more or less like the kind of cosmopolitan city that Peter wanted.

For some time the Romanovs, like Ivan the Terrible, would be troubled by succession problems. This also frequently brought to the Throne women, some of whom ruled with strong hands and profoundly affected Russian history. The most notable of these was Catharine II, the wife of Peter III, whom she overthrew and killed to achieve power. Since there is some question about the paternity of her children, Peter may actually have been the last of the Romanovs. Nevertheless, Catharine otherwise was a descendant of the Grand Dukes of Vladimir, as may be examined on a popup.

While Catharine was a vigorous and successful ruler who counted as one of the "Enlightened Despots" of the age, she was a despot indeed, confirming the Russian tradition of autocracy, and also an anti-Semite. The Partitions of Poland did bring many Jews under Russian rule, but these were at the time confined to the "Pale" of former Polish territory and were prohibited from then moving into Russia proper. This was a bad start to policies that later would only get worse.

Actually, Peter III was already not a Romanov, but of the Danish house of Holstein-Gottorp. In those terms, Catharine herself was his third cousin in descent from the same house, as can be examined on a another popup. My thanks again to Leon Pereira, O.P., for drawing these dimensions of Catharine's descent to my attention.

Before Russia, peoples had moved and empires had spread across Asia by way of the steppe, the grassland that stretches from Mongolia all the way to Hungary. When the Tsars began moving East, however, it was not by way of the steppe, but through the heavy forest, the taiga, that lay north of it. This was less dramatic, but more thorough. By the end of the 17th century, Russia was already at the Pacific Ocean. The 18th century saw less in the way of gains in Central Asia, but substantial progress against Poland, Sweden, and Turkey in Europe and vast territories -- Alaska -- acquired in America. Vitus Bering (1680-1741), although Danish, scouted for Russia the Strait, the Sea, and the island that are now all named for him. Eventually, a Russian settlement even appeared for a while on the coast of California -- though "Ft. Russ" later got corrupted into "Ft. Ross," and the area was conceded to Spain.
The 19th century began with the gain of Poland and Finland, and progress in the Caucasus. Soon, after all the years of circling around, the Central Asian steppe was absorbed. After midcentury, the Russian border was then dramatically pushed south and the Moslem states of Turkestan were steadily reduced in a march that to the British always looked directed at India, as perhaps it was. About the same time, Alaska was cut loose, sold to the United States, and lands were also being wrested from China, especially north and east of the Amur River, which gave Russia a secure, year-round Pacific port at Vladivostok. As the 20th century began, there were Russian troops in Manchuria; and a harbor there even better than Vladivostok, Port Arthur, had been extorted from Japan, which had taken it from China (1895). The Japanese, however, planned revenge, and got it. The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) all but destroyed the Russian Navy and resulted in the loss of the Manchurian possessions and the south end of Sakhalin Island. Further losses were suffered as a result of World War I -- Finland, Poland, and the Baltic States. Some of that was regained after World War II (including Sakhlin, with the addition of the Kurile Islands from Japan), with a buffer of tributary states in Eastern Europe; but a great deal unraveled with the Fall of Communism, including the independence, not just of the Baltic States, Belorussia, and the Ukraine, but of the nations of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Aleksandr/
Alexander II
1855-1881
Peace of Paris
ends Crimean War,
Danube Delta to Turkey,
Wallachia & Moldavia
combined as Romania,
with part of Bessarabia,
1856; Serfs freed, 1861
Alexander III1881-1894
St. Nikolai/
Nicholas II
1894-1917,
d.1918
last Emperor
in Russia
Russo-Japanese War,
1904-1905; World
War I, 1914-1918
Alexander II was a reformer, ending serfdom, and so earned the enmity not only of reactionaries but of the radicals -- and so his reward was assassination. Alexander III made no such mistakes, continuing the trend by which Russia gained the reputation in the 19th century of having the most tyrannical government on earth. Police State devices, later perfected by the Soviets, were an old Russian tradition. In the period before World War I when passports were often not necessary to travel internationally, and when many people regarded even those as oppressive, Russia required internal passports, in order to monitor and control domestic movement. Nevertheless, while exile to Siberia was a penalty of legendary harshness, many Tsarist practices now seem naively inefficient. When the government would outlaw Lenin's newspaper, Pravda, he would simply change the name slightly and reopen it. Political prisoners, who were treated with more dignity than ordinary criminals (just the opposite of what would happen under the Soviets), could often communicate with their friends and relatives through the windows of their prison cells. Not only did the Soviets end that sort of thing, but today even American jails make it impossible, even illegal, for such contact to occur. The irrationality and fanaticism of the radical responses to this have since become all too familiar in underdeveloped countries. When Lenin was later in exile in Switzerland, he found that many Swiss landlords refused to rent to Russian exiles because of the uproar that usually attended Russian tenants. When this furry was turned on the Tsar, and even on the people of Russia themselves, waves of murder and terror would result, on a scale at which the French Revolution could only hint, but which would become all too characteristic of revolutionary politics in the 20th century.

      

Above is Tsar Nicholas II, costumed in the long robes of Mediaeval Russia. Below we see him in more modern dress with the rest of his family, the last Imperial Family of Russia, all murdered by the Bolsheviks on 17 (or 16) July 1918 at Ekaterinburg. The bodies were burned and the bones thrown down a well (or mineshaft). The house where the killings were done, the Ipatiev House, was demolished in 1977 by the Soviet authorities, out of concern that it would become a place of pilgrimage. Perhaps it was becoming one already. There were rumors that the Grand Duchess Anastasia, or even the Tsarevich Alexis, had escaped; but this does not seem to have been the case. After the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the bones were recovered, genetically identified, and buried at the other Imperial tombs in St. Petersburg. By 2008, it now seems to be the case that bones from the entire Imperial family have been recovered, identified by their DNA, and properly buried.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was talk about building a Cathedral at Ekaterinburg and canonizing the family as Christian martyrs of Communism. The simpleminded Nicholas, the tragically hemophiliac Alexis, the understandably distressed and distraught Tsarina, and the charming Grand Duchesses, certainly deserve some ennoblement and commemoration for the horror of their untimely end, so characteristic of the new Russia and the 20th century. This all has now been brought about. The site of the killings was given to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990, and construction on the church was begun in 2000. The "Church on the Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land" was consecrated in 2003. While the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad had canonized the entire Romanov family in 1981, with the servants who were also killed with them, as Martyrs, the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia itself canonized them in 2000 as "Passion Bearers." Since Nicholas was responsible for some disgraceful events, like anti-Jewish pogroms, and the killing of the Imperial Family is sometimes blamed by anti-Semites on Communism as a Jewish conspiracy, questions have been raised about the appropriateness of the canonization. However, Nicholas' undoubted shortcomings as a ruler did not earn him, let alone his wife, children, and sevants, the horror of such a death, at the hands of people who certainly can be said to have been at least as hostile to Christianity as to political enemies -- and the scale of whose own crimes make those of Nicholas, albeit real enough, look relatively insignificant. The ideology of the Communists themselves made the murders into martyrdoms.

While the Bolsheviks exterminated as many Romanovs as they could get their hands on, many survived. When the Soviet Union fell, the Pretender to the Throne of Russia was the Grand Duke Vladimir, second cousin to the young Grand Duchesses. Now the honor passes to his daughter Maria, who ironically married a great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. Their son George, who will be only 21 in 2002, is now the Heir to the Romanovs. I have seen no notice taken either of him in the international gossip press or of what kind of presence he or his mother Maria may have in current Russian politics.

The fatal mistake of the moderate socialists who deposed the Tsar in February 1917 was that they misjudged the mood of the country. Russia was as weary of war as a country could be, but the Provisional Government decided to stay in the war against Germany. When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, it may not have looked like time to get out, but, with sad irony, this meant that Russia was no longer needed to beat Germany. The Provisional
February 27 Revolution (Gregorian March 12), 1917
Provisional Government
Prince George Lvov1917
Alexander Kerensky1917
October 25 Revolution
(Gregorian November 7), 1917
General Secretaries
of the Communist Party
Presidents of the Russian
Federation/Soviet Union
Vladimir Lenin1917-1922,
d.1924
Leo Kamenev1917
Yakov Sverdlov1917-1919
Mikhail Kalinin1919-1946
Josef Stalin1922-1953
Nikolai Shvernik1946-1953
Georgi Malenkov1953Kliment Voroshilov1953-1960
Nikita Khrushchev1953-1964
Leonid Brezhnev1960-1964
Leonid Brezhnev1964-1977Anastas Mikoyan1964-1965
Nikolai Podgorny1965-1977
1977-1982
Yuri Andropov1982-1983Vassili Kuznetsov1982-1983
1983-1984
Konstantin Chernenko
1984-1985
Mikhail Gorbachev1985-1988Vassili Kuznetsov1985
Andrei Gromyko1985-1988
1988-1991
Government lost support staying in the war, and the Bolsheviks gained support promising to get out. We also now see a serious strategic misjudgment. The Allies urged the new government to attack the Germans, to take pressure off the Western Front. The result was an offensive for which the Russians were not prepared, which the Germans destroyed, and which then led to a successful German counter-offensive. Meanwhile, however, the Russians had been doing rather well against the Turks and had advanced deep into Anatolia. An offensive there held out the prospect, not merely of success, but possibly knocking the Turks right out of the War and simultaneously protecting the
Armenians, whom Russia had long urged to revolt but had done little to protect. The whole Russian advance into Turkey was nevertheless abandoned and then forgotten -- also leaving the Armenians to their fate.

Little did the Russians know, what they would get from the Bolsheviks would be as bad as the war, but for decades. By the time the Bolsheviks showed what they were about, it was too late. Dissent, mutiny, and then White Russian civil war opponents were crushed in turn, and a long night of Communist Terror descended on Russia and the other hapless nations that failed to achieve independence -- or that did achieve it but then were conquered by Stalin in 1940 or later. Just how many people died under the Soviet regime may never been known. An estimate of tens of millions is easy, how many tens is the problem.

The General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was not even necessarily part of the government, but few doubted that he was the person ruling the country. Leonid Brezhnev was the first Secretary who also wanted to the President of the Supreme Soviet, i.e. Head of State and President of the Soviet Union. From a ruthless ideologue, Lenin, to a merciless despot, Stalin, the leadership moved eventually to weary and aging bureaucrats, like Brezhnev, and then finally to the modest and optimistic reformer, Gorbachev. He was the sort of naive ideologue, for all of his un-Soviet cosmopolitanism, who really believed that the noble ideals of Communism were possible and would win out. Instead, he unwittingly unleashed the destruction of the Soviet Union. Even the attempted coup d'état against him by "hard liners" in 1991 was halfhearted. Whether the "hard liners" had the stomach for it or not, the Russian Army was no longer an instrument for the massacres of dissidents that would have been necessary to clamp back down and preserve Communism. When Boris Yeltsin stood up to the tanks, they stopped (unlike the Chinese tanks two years earlier in Tian An Men Square).

Would that the subsequent history of Russia were more encouraging. The picture of a confused, drunk, or ailing Yeltsin, the first elected President of Russia, characterized the decade. If the goal had really been laissez-faire capitalism, or least to be like America, things might have gone better, but that was never the idea. The Russians never wanted to be like America, but more like Sweden.
Presidents of Russia
Boris Yeltsin1991-1999
Vladimir Putin2000-2008
Dmitry Medvedev2008-2012
Vladimir Putinagain,
2012-present
Unfortunately, Sweden had built its socialism on a successful economy, whose decline was only then becoming apparent. But Russia didn't have a successful economy to build anything on; and taxation, regulation, public ownership, foreign aid, and other protectionist and statist measures were no way to ever get one. The government didn't even undertake to allow private property until September 2001, and then that still didn't include farmlands. Not even Americans knew how to give good advice, as when a visiting President
Clinton gave a speech urging young Russians to pay their taxes. Since Clinton is the kind of politician who seems to think that an economy is parasitic on a government, rather than the other way around, he had trouble understanding that in Russia there was hardly the money to pay the taxes with. For many, paying off the Russian Mafia was both more urgent and more sensible than paying anything to the government. Yeltsin's abrupt resignation at the end of 1999 at least enabled the new century to start without worries of a succession crisis, but the Russians still seem to always be worrying about the wrong things. The best that can be said for the Russian conquest, or reconquest, of Chechnya is that it might have drawn some radical Islamic ire away from its customary target, the United States (the World Trade Center attack in 2001, however, demonstrates the continuation of much of it). The Chechens fought on, even while the Moscow MacDonald's, or so I hear, closed for lack of business. Neither was a good sign.

By 2002 there were some hopeful developments. I understand that previous taxes, which, if paid, actually would have consumed the entire Russian economy, have now been replaced by a 13% flat tax. No emulation of Sweden here. This out-Americas America, where a flat tax was denounced as "wacky" right in the middle of a news story on the CBS Evening News in 1996 -- as recounted by Bernard Golberg in Bias [Regnery Publishing, Washington, 2002]. In 2000, the Russian economy grew by 8%, an excellent rate, but that then slumped again, probably because of the recession in the United States. In 2006, growth was back up to 7%. The lack of information in the U.S. national press about changes in Russian governance and the Russian economy is probably to be laid to the same kind of bias described by Goldberg, or to a disinterest in the American news media for foreign developments that don't involve wars and/or Americans or that cannot be construed to condemn capitalism (e.g. child labor in Pakistan or Central America). The previous troubles with Russia's economy seemed to be a matter of quiet satisfaction to much "enlightened" American opinion, since it could add up to arguments that Russians were economically better off under the Soviet system. That they actually were still under the Soviet system (with large state-owned industries, no private property, and ruinous taxation rates), in large part, was a detail unlikely to be considered. Meanwhile, politically, Vladimir Putin seems to be working on returning the country to Soviet principles, with the press and opposition quieted, if not entirely suppressed. The poll displayed at right, by which less than 50% of Russians think that the free enterprise system and free market economy are the best on which to base "the future of the world" does not bode well for Russia's economic development. France, where socialist opinion actually predominates, at least already has a large capitalist economy. Russia is struggling. A country that had the largest economy in the world for much of the 19th century, was still 4th in 1914, and was at least imputed with the second largest for much of the history of the Soviet Union (though this is now questionable), was only 18th in 2003 -- or 10th if adjusting for prices ("purchasing power parity"). The countries with large populations and sufficient development to give them large economies in absolute size, as Russia used to have, are now China and India, which in 2005 were 2nd and 4th largest economies in the world in purchasing power parity. Russia holds little promise of competing at that level any time soon.

As the Russian economy seems to be doing better by 2008 (but now late in the year has slumped badly, with the development of an international recession and a collapse in oil prices), Putin, now Prime Minister rather than President, is apparently otherwise proceeding with the "Chinese Model" in mind, i.e. political dictatorship with economic liberalization. However, even the extent of the economic liberalization is becoming doubtful, as gangsterism gives way to state control again. Most troubling, however, is the open Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008. After brutally crushing break-way Chechnya, the Russians adopted a wholly cynical concern for the oppressed minorities in the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhasia. After occupying the regions and all but annexing them to Russia, the Russians seem to have used some small attempt by Georgia to reassert its authority by launching a full scale invasion of Georgia. Since South Ossetia and Abkhasia are recognized by the UN as sovereign possessions of Georgia, the actions of Russia are simply naked aggression, alarming to all of Europe and particularly other small former-Soviet possessions like the Baltic States. Under only the thinnest of pretexts, Putin looks ready to recreate the Russian Empire, regardless of how blatant and threatening this is to the European Union and NATO. The mask is off. The motives of the Russians in complaining about defensive missiles sited in Poland, with threats from Iran in mind, now appear more hollow than ever. The Russians don't want Poland effectively defended because they wouldn't mind invading and conquering Poland again. All that is lacking is now for the American Left to discover a friend and ally in the new brutal and aggressive Russia. Indeed, this cannot be far behind.

As of 2010, the Obama Administration has abandoned the defensive missles in Eastern Europe, apparently without consulting the affected countries. This unilateral surrender to Putin has now been followed by a treaty for the reduction of nuclear weapons. That would be fine, except for the warning of Ronald Reagan:  "Trust, but Verify." I do not know what verification provisions, if any, are in the treaty. In 2014, watching subsequent events and now knowing the level of stragic acuity in Barack Obama (i.e. none), one expects that Putin conned him in the weapons deal.

Primates of Russia, Metropolitans & Patriarchs of Kiev & Moscow

Presidents of Belarus
Stanislaus
Shushkevich
1991-1994
Mjetsheslav
J. Gryb
1994
Alexandr R.
Lukashenko
1994-present
Also known as "White Russia," "White Ruthenia," or "Byelorussia" (), Belarus, , is centered on the historic city of Minsk. After independence in 1991, Belarus experienced the kinds of economic difficulties common to other post-communist regimes. Like other such countries, the voters of Belarus apparently believed that the solution to such problems was socialism. Unfortunately, they didn't just vote for socialists, they voted for an out and out Communist, Alexandr Lukashenko, who wanted reunion with Russia and the reconstitution of the Soviet Union. Under Lukashenko, it is not clear that the voters will ever have a chance of recovering democracy or the path to capitalism, as even the traditional white-red-white flag was discarded for a version of the Soviet era flag (minus, to be sure, the hammer and sickle, though it might have been more honest to have retained it). Since Russia does not show many signs of returning to communism, just to a fascist dictatorship, it is not clear exactly what Lukashenko is going to get for his program, unless it is just free trade with Russia. He may, indeed, have seen himself as the leader of the reconstituted Soviet Union. There may have been a fragment of hope to this when a stumbling Boris Yeltsin led Russia, but it is absurd when Vladimer Putin is firmly in charge. In 2004 Lukashenko is increasingly corrupt and dictatorial, with a rigged election in October allowing him to be reelected President for Life. Curiously, Putin keeps this regime afloat with free energy [cf. The Economist, October 23rd-29th, 2004, pp.12-13]. In March 2006, Lukashenko has again confirmed his power with a rigged election. Mass protests this time have been met with violence and arrests. Western protests go ignored, and Putin still is helping the regime.


A curious and perhaps soon to be forgotten place name in Eastern Europe is "Ruthenia." In origin, it is simply an old Latin rendering of , Rus, and as such can and has often been used interchangeably with "Russia." On the other hand, it is available to use for areas that historically have been part of one form of Russia or another but that now may not want to be associated with the imperial or hegemonic dominion of Great Russia at all. "Ruthenia" thus may mean (1) the Ukraine, (2) Belarus, which can be called "White Ruthenia" or "White Russia," (3) a western region of Belarus that has been called "Black Ruthenia," or even "Black Russia," (4) Eastern Galicia, which can be "Red Ruthenia," or "Red Russia," and (5) a small region south of the Carpathian mountains, which was part of Hungary during the Middle Ages, and that has been called "Ruthenia," "Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia," or the "Carpatho-Ukraine," since it is now part of the Ukraine. If the use of "Ruthenia" is specifically to exclude association with Great Russia, then what all the Ruthenias have in common is the Belorussian and Ukrainian languages. What the difference was supposed to be between White and Black Ruthenia is a matter of speculation and controversy. One possibility is that it came under the control of Lithuania, whose pagan practices and slaving undermined both the Kievan Christian Orthodoxy and the very freedom of the people, rendering the area "Black" from a Christian perspective.

Galicia and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia are areas that are now perhaps in the greatest danger of being forgotten altogether. Galicia was entirely within the Kingdom of Poland until the First Partition of Poland in 1772, when it was taken by Austria and held until 1918. Then Poland took it back. But linguistically, while Western Galicia was mostly Polish speaking, Eastern Galicia, or "Red Ruthenia," was mostly Ukrainian speaking. Thus, in the aftermath of World War II, Stalin, who had already occupied Eastern Galicia as a result of the Nazi-Soviet Pack, annexed it to the Ukraine and deported any non-Ukrainian speaking peoples. Much of the Ukrainian population, however, belonged to the Ukrainian Church that had entered into communion with Rome during the Middle Ages, while part of the Catholic Kingdom of Poland. So they were Catholics, of the "Ukrainian Greek Catholic" or the "Ruthenian Catholic" Churches. Both the Tsarist and the Soviet regimes were consistently hostile to this Catholic allegiance.

Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, i.e. a Ukrainian speaking region south of the Carpathian Mountains, had been part of Hungary, along with neighboring Slovakia, during the Middle Ages and right down to 1918. Along with Slovakia, the region joined Czechoslovakia. When the Germans occupied the Czech country and broke up Czechoslovakia, Ruthenia was independent for exactly one day, before the Hungarians showed up again. After the War, Stalin joined this last remaning distinct Ruthenia to the Ukraine, where it remains, with its identity absorbed and forgotten.

While the Ukraine, (Russian ), or, as Ukrainians prefer, just "Ukraine," also "Lesser Russia" and "Lesser Ruthenia," has only emerged in the modern world as a fully independent state with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, its capital, Kiev, is the original capital of historic Russia. Early Russian history may therefore be said to have really been Ukrainian history. The paths diverged as the Ukraine came under the domination of steppe peoples. The southern Ukraine was occupied by the Patzinaks and Cumans; but then the Mongols overwhelmed the area, and the Ukraine was long under the rule of the Golden Horde. Liberation eventually came during the 14th century at the hands of the Lithuanians. When the Grand Duke Jagiello married Jadwiga of Anjou and became King of Poland in 1386, the Ukraine became for some time part of the history of Poland. This was not without gliches. The Lithuanians expected Jagiello to abdicate Lithuania itself, which he did in 1401, but meanwhile the Regent, Vytautas, who became the new Grand Duke, had actually been defeated by the Horde in 1399. Lithuania's separate existence ended in 1440.
Ukrainian Hetmans
Bohdan Khmelnytsky16481657
Pereiaslav Treaty, allegiance to Russia, 1654
Ivan Vyhovsky1657-1659
Right Bank, Polish and TurkishLeft Bank, Russian
Right-Bank,
1677-1681
Yurii Khmelnytsky1659-1663
Pavlo Teteria1663-1665Ivan Briukhovetsky1663-1668
Petro Doroshenko1665-1676Demian Mnohohrishny1669-1672
Ivan Samoilovych1672-1687
Ivan Mazepa1687-1709
Defeat of Charles XII of Sweden and Mazepa by Peter I at Poltava, 1709
Ivan Skoropadsky1709-1722
Pavlo Polubotok17221724, acting
Danylo Apostol1727-1734
Kyrylo Rozumovsky1750-1764
Hetmans ended by Catherine II, 1764
As Poland subsequently declined, the Ukraine became autonomous under its own "Hetman" (German Hauptmann and Polish hetman, "leader, commander-in-chief"). In the Polish Kingdom in the 16th century, local military commanders and administrators were known as "hetmans." The title was also used for the supreme military commander both in Poland and in Lithuania.

My source for the Hetmans, for the subsequent Republic during the Russian Revolution, and even for some of the text here, is a Ukrainian correspondent, Max Zherebkin, who cites as his sources Ukraine: A History, by Orest Subtelny [University of Toronto Press, 1988] and the on-line Encylopedia of Ukraine. According to Mr. Zherebkin, Ukrainian autonomy began with the Cossack-Polish War of 1648-1657. The Cossacks, although now remembered mainly as fierce and ruthless cavalry under the Tsars, were originally free Russian settlers on the frontiers. Their military skill resulted from the dangerous circumstances of their lives. In the Ukraine, they thus fought for freedom from Poland, at the cost of largely nominal allegiance to Russia, electing their own Hetman for an unspecified term, in principle for life, but in practice for "as long as it pleases the host." Since the Hetman's authority was not defined, it varied greatly and depended on the personalities of the individuals involved.

After the partition of Ukrainian territories between Poland and Russia in the 1660's, there arose competing Hetmans on the Right Bank and Left Bank of the Dnieper River, and a prolonged period of civil war began. Right Bank Hetmans soon lost their political power, becoming simply commanders of Cossack military formations under Polish or Ottoman control. It may seem strange that the "Right Bank" Hetmans are listed on the left side of the table, but the Dnieper flows south, so the right bank actually is the west bank. Unfortunately, when the King of Sweden, Charles XII, the "Madman of the North," showed up in 1709, in the course of his long war with Russia (the Great Northern War, 1700-1721), the Hetman Ivan Marepa threw in his lot with him. The disastrous defeat of the Swedes and Ukrainians at the Battle of Poltava thus ended the last of Ukrainian autonomy. The election of subsequent Hetmans was only a ceremony, guided from Moscow, finally dispensed with by Catherine the Great in 1764. Catherine subsequently obtained the last piece of the Ukraine from Poland by the Partition of 1793.

Ukrainian Republic, 1917-1920
Mykhailo Hrushevsky1917-1918 (d.1934)
Pavlo Skoropadsky1918 (d.1945)
Simon Petliura1918-1920 (d.1926)
Civil War ends, 1920; part of Soviet Union, 1922

During the Russian Revolution and Civil War three national Ukrainian governments existed:  (1) The Central Rada (Council), led by Mykhailo Hrushevsky, (2) the "Hetman Monarchy" of Pavlo Skoropadsky, supported by the Germans, and (3) the 5 member Directory, led by Simon Petliura. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 ceded the Ukraine to Germany, whose occupation ended with their own defeat later in the year. The Poles looked good as allies against Great Russia, as Marshall Józef Pilsudski advanced as far as Kiev in support of Simon Petliura in 1920. However, the Poles were defeated. Counterattacking Russian forces were in turn decisively defeated just outside Warsaw. This restored to Poland the Western Ukraine as it had held it, more or less, before 1793. The rest of the Ukraine became a Soviet Republic. Under the fiction of autonomy, Russian domination provoked Ukrainian resistance. As part of his collectivization of agriculture, Josef Stalin inflicted a famine, now known as the "Terror Famine," on the Ukraine by seizing all the food from the farmers. Estimates of the dead range from five to seven million. Although many in the West were aware of the famine at the time, the Soviet Union and its supporters conspired to suppress credible information about it. New York Times reporter Walter Durante even received a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting that there was no famine. We now know that Durante was being blackmailed and that he actually passed along accurate but unofficial information through diplomatic circles. Nevertheless, even now, Soviet sympathizers continue, long after the death of the Soviet Union, to downplay the scale of the genocide. Because of this experience, many Ukrainians actually welcomed the Germans when they invaded again in World War II. The Germans, however, treated the Slavic Ukrainians as badly as any other Slavic Untermenschen, and Ukrainian partisans began to fight them. Nikita Khrushchev, who became the leader of the Soviet Union (1953-1964, d.1971), is often said to have been a Ukrainian. Perhaps. But although he was the Stalinist leader of the Ukrainian Communist Party, he nevertheless had been born in Kursk, just over the border in Great Russia. The Ukraine would have to wait for the fall of the Soviet Union for a break.

Presidents of the Ukraine
Leonid Kravchuk1991-1994
Leonid Kuchma1994-2005
Victor Yushchenko2005-2010
Victor Yanukovych2010-2014,
deposed, fled
to Russia
Oleksandr Turchynovacting, 2014
Petro Poroshenko2014
The modern language of the Ukraine is closely related to but distinct from Russian. About 40% of Ukrainians are only Russian speaking, reflecting Russian colonization and the Russian tendencies of Soviet education and government. The Ukraine seems rather more interested than Belarus in instituting capitalism and forming ties with the West. Nevertheless, it has a long way to go, and President Kuchma has behaved in a dictatorial fashion, even accused of murdering political opponents. The country is also saddled with the frightening legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Kiev still draws power from a working reactor at Chernobyl, even though it is an aging and dangerous operation, with the nearby entombed and melted other reactor as a constant warning of what can happen, and a danger to everyone nearby. Of happier memory is the Gold Medal victory of lovely Ukrainian figure skater Oksana Bayul in the 1994 Winter Olympics, the youngest women's champion since 1928.

While Belarus seems headed for deeper dictatorship, in 2004 Kuchma chose to step down. Unfortunately, the election for his successor was a fiasco. The candidate supported by Kuchma, Victor Yanukovich (or "Yanukovych", Kuchma's prime minister), also supported by Putin, won the official vote (and certainly carried the heavily Russian east and south-east part of the country) but was then accused of widespread voter fraud, including violence and simple ballot box stuffing. In Kiev, well within the heavily Ukranian nothern and north-western part of the country, supporters of the opposition candidate, Victor Yushchenko, occupied the center of the city with massive, round-the-clock demonstrations. The Ukranian Supreme Court voided the election, and Yushchenko won easily in the December 26th rematch. Meanwhile, it has been shown that Yushchenko, who was suddenly taken ill during the campaign, had actually been poisoned by supporters of Yanukovich (or Kuchma). By March 2006, the bloom apparently was off Yushchenko. It is not clear to me why, but his party was all but annihilated in parliamentary elections.

Now, in 2010, Yanukovych has won election as president. There is little accusation of fraud this time. Yushchenko was simply unable to deliver on his promises or govern competently. It remains to be seen what dangers are involved with Yanukovych's closeness to Putin and to a newly aggressive and domineering Russia. When the Ukrainian parliament voted to extend Russian naval use of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, there was a virtual riot among the representatives, with smoke bombs and other debris thrown around, and fights on the floor. This does not bode well for the civility, effectiveness, and legitimacy of the govenment.

'The' Ukraine

A correspondent brought to my attention the belief of some that using the expression "the Ukraine" rather than just "Ukraine" has something to do with the Russians, somehow promotes Russian claims on the Ukraine, is thus improper, and should be discontinued.

I am curious about this, since Russian does not have articles ("a," "an," or "the") and thus does not possess the word "the" to use it, whatever Russian beliefs or purposes about the Ukraine. Another correspondent says that "the Ukraine" originated with Russians calling the area "the borderlands" and then transfering the article to the name of the country. This comes from an etymology of the name as from ukraina, which meant "frontier" or "borderland" -- although in modern Russian "border" or "frontier" is , gran, or , granitsa. The thought here seems to be that articles are only used with general nouns, like "frontier," and not with proper names, which means that the use of the article implicity denies that "Ukraine" is a proper name, which perhaps is supposed to deny the legitimacy of the Ukraine as a country.

But again, be that as it may, without an article, no Russian can call anything "the" anything -- indeed, Russians who learn English as a second language have notorious difficulties using articles at all. Ukrainian doesn't have articles either. So naturally in Ukrainian, the name of the country cannot use an article. The usage is simply part of English, where the names of a number of countries or territories, for obscure reasons, are used with the definite article. Ukrainians may be perplexed about why "the Ukraine" is used in English, but then English speakers would probably be perplexed also. Thus, we find "the Yukon," "the Netherlands," "the Congo," "the Sudan," "the Ukraine," and, in British usage but not American, "the Lebanon," "the Yemen," "the Cameroon," and "the Gambia." "The Gambia" is actually the official name of Gambia, though I have never heard an American use the article in the name. In New York City, the Boroughs are Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx -- with an obligatory, and perplexing, article only for the last. Residents of the Bronx do not regard themselves as delegitimized because their Borough has an article; and they do not go around correcting people, "No, it's just 'Bronx,' not 'the Bronx'" -- quite the contrary -- although Russian or Ukrainian immigrants may talk that way. Indeed, some of the irony here is that people who say "Ukraine" rather than "the Ukraine" are going to sound like, well, Russians -- so perhaps abolishing the article is actually a Russian plot itself. Some of these names appear to originate from general nouns, but others, like "Lebanon," , Lubnân in Arabic, have been proper names since ancient times. Indeed, we have a version of "Lebanon" in Egyptian hieroglyphics:  Rmnn, . Classical Egyptian didn't have articles either.

I suspect that somehow taking offense at "the Ukraine," when I never met any Lebanese who complained about the BBC using "the Lebanon," may be the result of the sort of paranoid and conspiratorial expectations that decades of living under Communism can have engendered. It is not uncommon, in many places around the world, including the United States, to suppose that something one does not understand is therefore the result of a conspiracy. While I was living in Lebanon, many people assumed, and not always in a hostile way, that because I was there I must be a CIA agent. Ukrainians should worry about the very real hostile and aggressive intentions of Putin's Russia and not annoy friendly and supportive foreigners with proprietary claims about what the country is to be called in a foreign language. India has officially been "Bhârat," , since 1947, but that name seems to be little used or known in European languages. I've never heard of Indians responding with "How dare you call my country 'India'!" -- though after "Bombay" has been pointlessly rejected for "Mumbai" in English, nothing would surprise me in the future. People in anguished political correctness over using "Mumbai" instead of "Bombay" and "Beijing" instead of "Peking" (when they have no idea how Beijing is pronounced, or from what language Mumbai derives) nevertheless still don't seem to worry much about using "Rome" instead of "Roma," "Athens" instead of "Athine," or "Cairo" instead of "al-Qahira" -- some seemed genuinely confused during the 2008 Winter Olympics in Turin that the local name of the place was actually "Torino." Some authors, like Norman Davies (Vanished Kingdoms, Viking, 2011), carefully avoid the article for "Ukraine"; but then sometimes it just slips out anyway, as with "the leading lords of the [sic] Ukraine" (p.272). It would be easier if he could just stick to the natural usage in English.

Many languages with definite articles use them with proper names, and some Polynesian languages have special articles dedicated to proper names (e.g. 'O Hawai'i). Greek often uses the article with proper names, and we see the article with Romania, i.e. the Roman Empire, in the statement of Constantine VII as , hê Rhômanía. The Romans, speaking Latin or Greek, certainty did not think of themselves as subordinated to any other sovereign entity. In English, the article is now used universally with the names of ships, e.g. "the Enterprise" or "the Arizona," though this was not always the case, and older usage is sometimes affected, as with those who carefully say "Titanic" rather than "the Titanic." The article is also used with all names that are indeed based on general nouns, e.g. "The University of Texas," where, of course, there are many universities in the world, even in Texas. This does not imply that The Unversity of Texas (where the article, by the way, is officially part of the name) doesn't or shouldn't exist. We also get, of course, "the United States of America." Other proper names that are used with articles may reflect the elision of a noun, e.g. "the Yucatan peninsula" becomes "the Yucatan." With the Yukon or the Ukraine, however, I am at a loss what noun to supply in English if this is the explanation for the use of the articles with them -- "the Ukrainian borderlands" would either be redundant or contradicts the hypothesis that "Ukraine" itself means "borderlands."

However, the use of the article does often seem associated with names that may have originated as general nouns. This is clearly the case with "the Netherlands," meaning the "low" lands, as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg are together "the Low Countries." "The Pampas" or "the Veldt" both originated in general nouns for plain or prairie but have become proper names of specific regions, even as "the Prairie" itself has come to mean the specific grassland of the central United States and Canada. In any case, present usage simply associates an article with certain proper names (including "the Donald" for Donald Trump -- though here the elision is evident), for reasons that may no longer be remembered. English usage in this is variable and unpredictable, as in Britain people go "to university" while Americans go "to a university" or "to the university," but "to college" -- or "on holiday" in Britain while "on a holiday" in America (but either "on vacation" or "on a vacation"). Another curious usage is that Americans say "the Magna Carta," while the British say just "Magna Carta." Ukrainians are welcome to claim proprietary control over how their name is rendered in other languages; but in general this is a pointless exercise and, at worst, an attempt to exert a totalitarian control over language. I will perhaps take it more seriously when the politically correct begin to say "Roma" instead of "Rome" (in English and French) or "Rom" (in Geman).

A silly publicity campaign involving an article with a name was conducted by the United States Forest Service over its "Smokey the Bear" mascot, which has been used for decades to encourage care to prevent forest fires. I never heard anything but "Smokey the Bear" when I was growing up; but a few years ago the Park Service decided that this was "erroneous" and that the name was properly "Smokey Bear." Now, there is a long tradition of general nouns being used as surnames for cartoon animals, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. However, there is also a tradition of using such names with articles, as seen with Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose (at right, from the main title of the cartoon series). As it happened, "Squirrel" and "Moose" were also used for Rocky and Bullwinkle as surnames, without articles; but this was unusual in the course of the typical cartoons. No one seemed to worry about the inconsistency of the usage. Indeed, taking the matter too seriously would have been even more inconsistent with the nature of the shows. While there is no doubt about the origin of these cartoon names in general nouns, it always reminded me of the frequency with which one saw King Robert I of Scotland called "Robert the Bruce." In this case, the use of the article may indicate that Robert was the head and heir of his family; but there is no doubt that "Bruce" was the family's surname.

In the 9 December 2013 Wall Street Journal (where "The" is part of the name), in an editorial on the Ukraine, the paper says:

[Secretary of State John Kerry] also put his diplomatic foot in it by repeatedly referring to "the Ukraine." Kiev dropped the article "the" after independence in 1991, believing it suggested that Ukraine [sic] was merely a region as opposed to a sovereign state." ["The Stakes in Ukraine," p.A16]

Since the Ukraine could not have ever used "the Ukraine" in Ukrainian, which has no articles, it is not clear how the government could have "dropped the article 'the'" after independence, unless this meant that, in English translations, the new national government never used the article and also began objecting when English speakers (like Mr. Kerry) otherwise did. That the use of an article with the name of a country, however, would have "suggested that Ukraine [sic] was merely a region as opposed to a sovereign state" would certainly come as a surprise to any Frenchman shouting Vive La France!, where the invocation of La France certainly is to reinforce the dignity of France and not in the least to diminish its status as "a sovereign state." But the Journal editorial board has obviously done no research on English usage of the article with proper names, or on their absence from Slavic languages like Russian or Ukrainian.

So Secretary Kerry, although in general a fool, and sometimes a vicious one, only "put his diplomatic foot in it" if it is the job of a diplomat to observe the linguistic proprieties of the country in question, even the irrational and senseless ones. We might also ask if Kerry carefully observes the official name of The Gambia, even if Americans otherwise never use the article in the albeit rarely mentioned African state. The real problem for the Ukraine at present is that Victor Yanukovych was elected President in 2010 and that now he has betrayed his subservience to Vladimir Putin and to Russian interests. If Ukrainians were worried that "the" was part of a Russian plot, they now the the proof, naming aside, that Russian plots are a genuine threat.

Victor Yanukovych finally wore out his welcome, and after weeks of demonstrations in Kiev he was deposed and fled the country. Vladimir Putin immediately invaded the Crimea, arranged a snap plebicite, under the guns of Russian soldiers, and on 16 March 2014 obtained a vote for the area to join Russia. The Führer could not have done it more neatly. The irresolution, dithering, and platitudes of the United States, the EU, and NATO in the face of a naked Hitler-like aggression by Russia looks likely to encourage Putin to go ahead and invade and annex the whole of the Ukraine. The United States has not even offered military aid to the Ukraine, whose ability to resist a Russia invasion to any extent is questionable. Well, we knew that Putin wanted the Russian Empire back, and he is on track to get it.

Mr. Putin moved on Ukraine [sic] when Barack Obama was no longer a charismatic character but a known quantity with low polls, failing support, a weak economy. He'd taken Mr. Obama's measure during the Syria crisis and surely judged him not a shrewd international chess player but a secretly anxious professor who makes himself feel safe with the sound of his voice. [Peggy Noonan, "Warning From the Ukraine Crisis," The Wall Street Journal, March 15-16, 2014, A13]

For the purposes of this section, a curious feature of the events in the Crimea is that news sources have pretty consistently said "Crimea" rather than "the Crimea," even though, as with the Ukraine, the use of the article has been the tradition in English. The arguments that the article is some sort of insult or denegration to sovereignty have no application to the Crimea, which is regarded as no more than a "region" by one and all. The avoidance of the article with the Crimea thus simply reflects Russian usage, as the Crimea has now been swallowed by Russia. This will be cold comfort to anyone instructing us that the article itself was a Russian plot. News editors have no more backbone or wisdom than Western politicians in dealing with Russian practice, whether political, military, or linguistic.

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The Orthodox and Soviet Calendar Reforms

The fact that Tsarist Russia was on the Julian Calendar generates often considerable confusion about the events of the Russian Revolution. The Julian Calendar runs slow, so when the February Revolution took place, it was already March on the Gregorian Calendar, and when the October Revolution took place, it was already November on the Gregorian Calendar. Some sources therefore talk about the "March" and "November" Revolutions, which may not then be intuitively identical to the February and October ones.

In 1918, Lenin adopted the Gregorian calendar. January 26 became February 8. In May 1923 a reform of the Julian calendar was enacted by a council of (some) Orthodox Churches in Istanbul. Orthodox Church leaders did not want to simply jump on the bandwagon with a calendar that was a product of the Roman Catholic Church (Pope Gregory XIII). Protestants had also been reluctant, but had ended up going along anyway. Now the idea occurred to adopt a reform that would be more accurate than the Gregorian. The nature of this, as proposed by the Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovic (1879-1958), is described below. By some accounts, the Orthodox reform was adopted by the Soviet Union in October 1923. However, this is now disputed. The Oxford Companion to the Year, An exploration of calendar customs and time-reckoning [Bonnie Blackburn & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford University Press, 1999, 2003] flatly states that the Soviet Union never adopted this calendar and that the assertions by "Western sources" that say so are "quite false" [p.689]. Perhaps. It is also the case that whether the reform was adopted or not, it would not have made any difference. The adoption could have happened and then, like many things in the Soviet Union, later have become an un-event. What would help is if the statements in the "Western sources" could be traced back to their own origin. Perhaps it was simply assumed that all Orthodox Churches adopted the calendar. They didn't, not even Milankovic's own Serbian Church; but, in any case, there is a story to be told in the matter.

The formula for the Gregorian year is 365 + 1/4 - 3/400. This means that there is a day added every four years (the "leap" days instituted by Julius Caesar), but in four hundred years three of these are omitted (reducing the year, on the average, to 365.2425 days). The Gregorian rule is that a century year (evenly divisible by 100) is not a leap year, unless the year is evenly divisible by 400 (like 1600 or, recently, 2000).
GregorianOrthodox
0*1600*71600
1170081700
2180001800
3190011900
0*2000*2*2000*
1210032100
2220042200
3230052300
0*2400*6*2400*
1250072500
2260082600
3270002700
0*2800*12800
129002*2900*
2300033000
3310043100
0*3200*53200
133006*3300*
Against the "tropical year," about 365.2422 days, the time from Vernal Equinox to Vernal Equinox (different from the "sideral year," the motion of the sun against the stars, because of the Precession of the Equinoxes), this is off a day in about 3300 years.

The Orthodox formula adopted in 1923 was to omit, not three leap days in four hundred years, but seven leap days in nine hundred years (i.e. 365 + 1/4 - 7/900 = 365.24222 [with a repeating decimal of 2]). This is accurate to a day in some 42,600 years, which in practical terms means an exact match with the seasons -- it is far more accurate than even makes any sense, since the length of the tropical year varies over time. Indeed, a correspondent has drawn my attention to an essay by Jean Meeus, "The Gregorian Calendar and the Tropical Year," in his More Mathematical Astronomy Morsels [Willmann-Bell Inc., 2002, pp.357-366]. Taking into account the secular variations in the length of the year, of the day, and especially of the intervals been the March Equinoxes in particular, Meeus concludes that a simple reckoning by mean tropical year is inappropriate and that the Gregorian Calendar is rather more accurate than usually thought. On the other hand, according to the Oxford Companion [p.692], in the long term the tropical year approaches 365.242 days in length. This would make the Orthodox year more accurate than the Gregorian (pace Jean Meeus), and the suggestion is that the rule should be, after some adjustments, to omit four leap years in five centuries.

The rule for the Orthodox calendar is a little more cumbersome than the Gregorian. Divide the century year by 100 (e.g. 2000/100 = 20). Then divide that by nine. Century years that thus have a remainder of 2 or 6 are the ones that are leap years (e.g. 20/9 = 2 remainder 2). The results of this can be seen in the table. The Orthodox and Gregorian calendars match up to the extent that after 1600 they are in step all the way to 2800. The Gregorian century years that are leap years in that period, 2000 and 2400, are both Orthodox leap years also. The rule diverges when the next Orthodox leap year will be 2900, instead of the Gregorian 2800.

I have not heard whether any attention has been paid to this in post-Soviet Russia. Of course, it doesn't need any attention. The year 2800 is comfortably in the future, and I doubt anyone is going to complain much if decisions are put off that don't have to be made for 800 years. Let them worry about it then -- perhaps it will have even been forgotten that it may not have been the Gregorian Calendar that was adopted in Russia -- of course, even if it wasn't adopted, this has perhaps already been forgotten and now denied. There are more important things to worry about now. Nevertheless, this is a nice footnote to the history of calendars and continues to be an issue for the Orthodox Churches that did clearly accept the 1923 reform.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union certainly did tinker with the calendar. On October 1, 1929, a calendar was adopted with 12 months of 30 days each, with five extra days (and the leap day) distributed at different times in the year as national holidays. The seven day week was abolished with the elimination of the "bourgeois" rest days of Saturday and Sunday. This was supposed to help increase industrial production, though each worker was allowed a day off on one of the remaining five days of the week. The five or six extra days did not count in the week. This all was unpopular and didn't work very well, so on December 1, 1931, the traditional months were restored, but not the seven day week. Instead, a six day week was adopted, with a rest day, but without a Christian Sunday. Days were still kept outside the week so that each day of the month was always on a particular day of the week. The problem with this was that people still kept track of the traditional week and still took Sundays off. So the whole business was abandoned on 26 June 1940. The interest of these experiments is in their parallels with the French Revolutionary Calendar.

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RUSSIAN BATTLESHIPS

The modern Imperial Russian Navy suffered from the strategic difficulty of being divided between the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Far East. The Ottoman Empire did not allow Russian warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles, so the Black Sea ships were isolated and unavailable for combined operations. In the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, when the Far East battlefleet was destroyed in Port Arthur, it took the Baltic Fleet eight months to sail the length of the Atlantic Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope, and cross the Indian Ocean and China Sea to find catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Tsushima (27-28 May 1905). The perennial tactical goal of dividing an enemy's forces and destroying them in detail was accomplished for the Japanese by geography. Thus, the "strategic difficulty" posed by the nature of Russia's access to the sea ended up meaning that, of the 28 battleships of the Russian Navy in 1904, no less than 17 were lost in the War. Of the 11 remaining, 8 were in the Black Sea, 2 were obsolete Baltic ships undergoing reconstruction, and 1 from the Far East squadron was returned to the Baltic Fleet after being interned in China (the Tsessarevitch). In 1905, 1 new Baltic ship, sister to three that were lost at Tsushima, was added (the Slava), but 4 more ships building (2 each Baltic and Black Sea) were not finished until 1910. This was little less than a catastrophe for the Russian Navy, which at the beginning of the War might have been thought to have overwhelming superiority to the Japanese, whose Navy only had 6 of its own battleships, plus a couple of obsolescent ex-Chinese ships.

The table lists every battleship built for the Russian Navy, starting with the Petr Veliki, which was laid down in 1869 and completed in 1872 -- but with the newer ships at the top of the list for each fleet. The Petr Veliki was a typical ship of its era, a Monitor with two turrets and a small superstructure, and was quite obsolete by 1904. Like many such ships, even in the Royal Navy, however, it was still kept on the list, and was in fact being reconstructed at the time of the War.
Baltic Fleet  
Dreadnoughts, 4 ships
GangutSoviet Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia
PoltavaSoviet Mikhail Frunze
SevastopolSoviet Parizhskaya Kommuna
PetropavlovskSoviet Marat
Pre-Dreadnoughts,
13 ships before Russo-Japanese War
(1 lost previously, operational accident),
11 ships lost at Tsushima;
3 more completed subsequently
Imperator Pavelnot completed until 1910
Andrei Pervoswanni
Borodinosunk at Tsushima
Imperator Alexander IIIsunk at Tsushima
Orelsurrendered at Tsushima,
IJN Iwami
Kniaz SuvarovRozhestvensky's flagship,
sunk at Tsushima
Slavanot finished for Tsushima,
scuttled, 1917
Osliabiasunk at Tsushima
Sissoi Velikisunk at Tsushima
Navarinsunk at Tsushima
Admiral Ushakovsunk at Tsushima
Admiral Seniavinsurrendered at Tsushima,
IJN Minoshima
General Admiral Graf Apraksinsurrendered at Tsushima,
IJN Okinoshima
Gangutfoundered, 1897
Imperator Alexander IIbeing reconstructed during Tsushima
Imperator Nikolai INebogatov's flagship, surrendered
at Tsushima, IJN Iki
Petr Velikibeing reconstructed during Tsushima
Black Sea Fleet  
Dreadnoughts, 3 ships
Imperatrica Mariasunk, explosion, 1916
Imperatrica Ekatarin IIsunk, 1918
Imperator Alexander IIIscrapped, 1926-36
Imperator Nikolai Iscapped incomplete
Pre-Dreadnoughts, 10 ships
Ioann Zlatoustnot completed until 1910
Evsafi
Kniaz Potemkin Tavritcheskirenamed Pantelimon
after 1905 mutiny
Rostislavrun aground, 1920
Tri Svietteliascrapped, 1922
Dvienadsat Apostolovstricken, 1911
Sinopescrapped, 1922
Ekaterina II
Tchesma
Georgi Pobiedonosets
Far East Fleet  
Pre-Dreadnoughts, 7 ships before Russo-Japanese War;
all but 1 lost at Port Arthur
Retvisansunk in Port Arthur, IJN Hizen
Tsessarevitchinterned in China after Battle of the
Yellow Sea, returned to Baltic Fleet
Peresvietsunk in Port Arthur, IJN Sagami;
returned to Russia, 1916,
sunk by mine off Port Said, 1917
Pobiedasunk in Port Arthur, IJN Suwo
Poltavasunk in Port Arthur, IJN Tango;
returned to Russia, 1916,
as Tchesma in White Sea
Petropavlovsksunk by mine outside Port Arthur
Sevastopolscuttled outside Port Arthur
No other Russian battleships were laid down until 1883, when the Black Sea Sinope class was begun, and 1885, when the Baltic Imperator Alexander II class was begun. These were regarded as little better than "coastal defense ships" by 1904, but the Imperator Nikolai I actually flew the flag of Admiral Nebogatov at Tsushima.

The table is color coded by fleet. The Baltic ships are shown on yellow, the Black Sea ships on red, and the Far East ships on green. The fate of ships lost or surrendered to Japan is shown on orange. The annihilation of the Baltic and Far East fleets is conspicuous. The fate of one ship from Port Arthur, however, is shown in white. Since Japan and Russia were actually Allies in World War I, Japan sold a couple Russian ships back to her. One was then used in the White Sea, near Archangel. Hence the color.

The very tops of the Baltic and Black Sea fleets are occupied by the Russian Dreadnoughts, none of which were laid down until 1909. The British Dreadnought, completed in one year, 1905-1906, perhaps conveniently rendered all the battleships at Tsushima obsolete. They became "Pre-Dreadnoughts."

Although the Russian Navy eventually finished 7 Dreadnoughts, War with Germany and Turkey in 1914 meant that they were never able to operate with their Allied British or French fleets. The Bosporus was still closed by Turkey, and the proximity of Germany made transit or operations in the Baltic Sea impractical for both the Russians and the British. This turned the geographical inconveniencies of the Russo-Japan War into a grave strategic disability for the Russians in World War I. Germany may have been fighting a two front War, but the position of the Central Powers largely cut off Russia from help from and cooperation with her allies.

The fate of the Russian Dreadnoughts was largely to be fought over in the Russian Civil War and then for the surviving ones to be of minimal use in later years. The last appearance of any Pre-Dreadnoughts in a real fleet action was at the Battle of Jutland, where the Germans included a squadron of such ships to make up for their deficiency in Dreadnoughts. One of them, the Pommern, was then sunk -- the only German battleship, as it happened, actually sunk by the British that day.

Tsushima was the end of the Russian Navy as a sea power until the Soviet Union began building up a blue water navy in the 1970's. The Black Sea ships were no longer trapped, since Turkey opened the Straits by international treaty to the innocent passage of all ships. With the fall of Communism, Russia was no longer able to afford keeping up much of the new Navy, and many ships would lie rusting, a fate no less ignominious, if less catastrophic, than in 1905.

How the Russian Navy, even with its strategic liabilities, could have done so poorly in 1904-1905 is still a good question. The Port Arthur squadron alone, rather than being sunk at anchor, should have been able to at least badly damage the Japanese fleet, if not defeat it. An attempt might have been made, when an aggressive Admiral Stepan Makarov assumed command; but as he sailed outside Port Arthur on 13 April 1904 in the Petropavlovsk, the ship hit a newly laid Japanese mine, sinking and taking him down with it. Subsequently, Rear Admiral V.K. Witgeft simply held up, hoping for reinforcements from Europe. He gave up on that and attempted to flee to Vladivostok on 10 August. The pursuit by the Japanese led to the Battle of the Yellow Sea. The results were indecisive, except that Witgeft himself was killed, that his ship, the Tsessarevitch, made for a neutral Chinese port, and that the rest of the squadron returned to Port Arthur, where most of the ships were sunk by Japanese Army siege guns. There the fleet remained until the city surrendered to the Japanese on 2 January 1905. The four ships sunk in the harbor were all raised and rebuilt for the Japanese Navy.

There is no telling what might have happened had Admiral Witgeft left harbor intending to fight rather than run. The Russians certainly could not have done any worse and might well have inflicted some losses on the Japanese that would have been felt at Tsushima. As it was, the Japanese simply had time to recondition all their ships before the weary Baltic Fleet arrived the next May. Then Admiral Tôgô laid in a parallel course to the Russians and concentrated fire on the van. This seemed to do the trick, especially because, contrary to orthodox doctrine, the Japanese were using many high explosive shells designed to detonate on impact, not armor piercing shells intended to penetrate and explode within. The upper works and superstructures of the Russian ships were thus demolished, and they caught on fire. The very paint on the steel began to burn. It didn't help that the Russians had a lot of extra gear, even extra coal for their long voyage, packed on the decks. Since all battleships had been built with armored conning towers, but almost nobody ever actually used them because visibility from them was so poor, Russian officers, including Admiral Rozhestvensky, were wounded or killed from standing on open bridges as the Japanese shells hit.

The Japanese had forgotten their tactic at a vital moment years later. On the first night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, when the Japanese force, with the battleships Hiei and Kirishima, stumbled into a thrown together American force of cruisers and destroyers, precious minutes were lost while armor piercing shells were substituted for the high explosive shells that were intended for bombarding Henderson Field. However, destroyers don't have armor (hence, "tin cans"), and many of the Japanese shells seem to have passed entirely through American ships without detonating. This rendered the battleships' 14 inch shells relatively harmless.

The Russians could not have said the same. All the Russian battleships at Tsushima were either sunk or surrendered. Theodore Roosevelt said, "neither Trafalgar nor the defeat of the Spanish Armada was as complete -- and overwhelming." No navy would be so thoroughly annihilated and swept from the seas until the Japanese Navy itself suffered a similar fate in World War II. But the Japanese Navy in that case, although falling behind in quality, was mainly overwhelmed by numbers. The numerical superiority that the Russians initially had in 1904 was rendered useless by the geographic division of their forces; and then the numerical parity of the Far Eastern fleet was rendered useless by avoidance of battle. At Tsushima itself, the Japanese had a tactical and material edge (their British built ships actually were better, and many Russian shells were duds), not the least because the Russians had just sailed around the world, but also because of unexpected Japanese tactics. Before the War had even started, the Russians certainly should have sent substantial reinforcements to the Far East, not wait until much of the damage had already been done. This violated a fundamental rule of war, to concentrate one's forces. But the Russians probably, and the Tsar certainly, just did not believe that Japan was, or could be, a threat to a European power.

In the extraordinary photograph above, we see elements of the American Great White Fleet, which has nearly finished sailing around the world, riding at anchor in Gibraltar Harbor. Alongside them are several Russian ships, including the battleships Tsessarevitch and Slava, and a cruiser that has been named after Admiral Makarov. This is 1909, and Britain, which would not have given the time of day to the Russians in 1905, is now becoming an ally, with France, against the threat of Germany. In peacetime, the Russians could sail from the Baltic into the Mediterranean, as they would not be able to do in World War I. The United States, of course, was at this time nothing like an ally of either Britain or Russia. Yet one reason the Great White Fleet is here, as the first expression of American naval power on a global scale, was to adapt lessons that had been learned from the melancholy voyage of the Russian Baltic Fleet to its historic defeat. The United States, with new possessions in the Philippines and elsewhere, wanted to be able to send a fleet to any necessary distance and have it arrive as an effective fighting force. As it happened, of course, the battleships that were designed to be sent to the rescue of the Philippines were sunk by Japanese aircraft in Pearl Harbor in 1941. Thus, curiously, Japan was the common factor in the epic sea battle against the Russians at Tsushima and in one of the first massive and most decisive uses of naval air power against the Americans at Pearl Harbor.

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