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


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, Эльбрус; Persian , Ælborz, Latin Strobilus -- at 18,510 ft., on the southern border of Russia, as it is on the southern boundary between Europe and Asia.


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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 Sultāns, 1290-1924 AD".

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Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2019, 2020 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.

I have now noticed in a recent source the substitution of the word "Slavonic" for "Slavic" in the general description of the Slavic languages [John Considine, Small Dictionaries & Curiosity, Oxford, 2017]. When such a change goes unexplained, as it does this case, I am always suspicious that some kind of political correctness is involved. This could be of the form that "Slavic" has suddenly been taken by someone as disparaging or offensive, or that the speaker of a Slavic language has made a proprietary claim that one form is "correct" and the other isn't, just to indulge in the bureaucratic imperative to jerk people around, perhaps repeatedly, with meaningless alterations. Until I see some sensible explanation for this change, it is not worth observing it.

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", Я, 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, Ъ to indicate a hard consonant, Ь a soft one -- the former is now rarely used, a hard consonant being assumed without the use of the soft signs.

The signs ь and ъ, which apparently were vowels in Old Church Slavonic, of uncertain quality (as the vocalization of Old Church Slavonic is disputed), have now either become markers of "soft" and "hard" consonsants, as in Russian, or have been dropped, as in Serbian. These are divergent strategies that both go back to Old Church Slavonic. We also get nasalized vowels in Old Church Slavonic, ѧ () and ѫ õ, marked with tildes here (the IPA diacritic), but elsewhere with a subscript hook, as in Polish, where such nasals survive.

In Old Church Slavonic, we see both ь and ъ in the adjective forming suffix -ьскъ, which is cognate to -ский in Russian, -ski in Polish, and, much more distantly, -isch in German and -ish in English. From the transcription system used here, -ьскъ can be rendered /-ǝskʌ/. At Wikipedia this is given as /-ĭskŭ/. As I said, there are uncertainties and variations with ь and ъ. Russian -ский transcribes as /-skiy/. In general, in transcribed names and words we see /-ski/ for Polish and /-sky/ for Russian. The Russian philosophical novelist is "Dosto[y]evsky" (Достоевский ); a common Polish name is "Kaminski" (although this can be seen with a "y"), once the name of a girlfriend; and Casimir Pułaski (1745-1779) was a Polish hero of the American Revolution, killed in battle.

Curiously, the Cyrillic alphabet for languages in close proximity with Francia, such as Serbian and Macedonian, have dropped the elegant device of using ъ and ь to indicate "hard" and "soft" consonants, and, as in the Latin alphabet, have adopted 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 above, Latin Croatian equivalents are given for every Cyrillic Serbian letter -- with blanks left where a Cyrillic letter is not used by Serbian.
Serbo-Croatian Palatals
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 (English) "ch" and "ty" for "t," and (English) "j" and "dy" for "d." Serbian and Macedonian have their own dedicated Cyrillic letters for the extra palatals, shown in the table at right, and their pronunciation seems to be slightly different. We do see the "soft" sign in these languages, however, actually incorporated, as a ligature, into the letters for "ly" and "ny," in the table again.

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 háček, a wedge or upsidedown circumflex placed, in different languages, on top of c (č), s (š), z (ž), t (ť), d (ď), n (ň), or r (ř) -- these are typically "soft" consonants.

The term is from Czech, which uses the háček the most, and is the only language with ř -- though the spelling in English of "Czech" itself uses a Polish digraph! But the háček 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. I have previously used small images at this website for letters not coded in basic HTML; but I have now begun replacing them with Unicode, both for Eastern European letters in the Latin alphabet, and for Cyrillic. It may take a while to find all the places where substitutions can be made.

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. The Soviet Union clearly did not see this as the kind of threat that occasioned Soviet crackdowns or invasions of Hungary (1956), Poland (1956, 1981), and Czechoslovakia (1968) to put down, as it happens, rebellions of the "workers."

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.

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Copyright (c) 2009, 2011, 2017, 2019, 2020 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

RurikPrince of
attack on Constantinople, 865
Oleg the Seer
Prince of Kiev,
attack on Constantinople, 907; treaty with Emperor Leo VI, provision of mercenaries, 911
attacks on Constantinople, 941, 944; treaty, 944
St. Helga/OlgaRegent,
945-962, d.969
first Christian, 957
Sven/Sviatoslav I945-972
destroys Khazars, 965-969; defeated by Emperor John I Tzimisces, 971
Yaropolk I972-980

St. Vladimir I (Valdamarr) the Great
Great Prince 988
provison of Varangian mercenaries, 988; Conversion to Christianity, 989
Svyatopolk I (Sventopluk)
the Damned
1015-1016, 1018-1019
Yaroslav I (Jarizleifr) the Wise1016-1018, 1019-1054
attack on Constantinople, 1043; Peace, 1046
Izhaslav I1054-1068,
Svyatoslav II1073-1076
Vsevolod I1077,
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. This was already the case with the Germans back in the
5th century, although the sailing ships of the Vikings were a true technological advance, while the achievements of the older Germans mostly consisted, and were displayed, in an ability simply to fight a pitched battle with the Roman Army at Adrianople. The advantages of the Vikings 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 Варяг, Varyag, in Russian), but as they settled in the area, another name stuck:  They were the Rus -- Русь, originally written Роусь, with the Greek digraph. The transcription of this is often given as Rus´, with an apostrophe to indicate the "soft" sign, ь, after the "s" in the Cyrillic alphabet -- although no one unfamiliar with Russian or Slavic langauges will have a clue what this means. While the modern adjective "Russian," Русский, Russkii, derives from "Rus," the name of Russia itself, Россия, Rossiya, looks like it derives from the Greek name Ῥωσία.

There is some controversy about the origin of the word Роусь. Some Russian historians, who want to divorce Russian nationalism from Germanic and so Norse connections, 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, rather than Slavic, 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 themselves 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 -- as "Monomakh" was the name of Vladimir II's grandfather).

The definitive conversion of Russia came under Olga's grandson, St. Vladimir. With Christianity he also got a Romanian bride, Anna. While Andreas Thiele [Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte, Volume II, Part 2, Europäiche Kaiser-, Königs- und Fürstenhäuser II Nord-, Ost- und Südeuropa, R. G. Fischer Verlag, Part 2, Second Edition, 1997, pp.72-109] lists the martyred brothers Boris and Gleb as the sons of Anna, the Primary Chonicle says their mother was a Bulgarian, and that they may not even have had the same mother. In any case, on the death of Vladimir, they were killed by their half-brother, or cousin, Svyatopolk I, who consequently became "The Damned" (der Verdammte).

One wonders if part of the hostility of Svyatokpolk was to the brothers as the Christian sons of the Byzantine Christian mother. At the same time, 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.

Vsevolod I1077,
Svyatopolk II1093-1113
Vladimir II
Mstislav I (Harald)
the Great
Yaropolk II1132-1139
Vyacheslav I1139,
Vsevolod II1139-1146
Igor II?1146
Izhaslav II
Yuri/George I
Izhaslav III1154-1155,
Mstislav II1167-1169,
Vladimir III1171
Michael I1171
Roman I1171-1173,
Vsevolod III
the Big Nest
Rurik II1173,
Sviatoslav III1174,
Yaroslav II1174-1175,
Igor III1202,
Roman II
the Great
Rostislav IIjointly,
Vsevolod IV
the Red
Mstislav III1214-1223
Vladimir IV1223-1235
Iziaslav IV1235-1236
Yaroslav III1236-1238,
Michael II1238-1239,
Vassal of
Daniel of Galicia,
Russia conquered by
Mongols, 1236-1239
St. Alexander I
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.

For the dates and succession of these Princes of Kiev I have now often followed Michael F. Feldkamp's Regentenlisten und Stammtafeln zur Geschichte Europas [Reclam, 2002], which convincingly includes brief exchanges of rule between people like Yaroslav the Wise and Svyatopolk Damned. These are not shown in my other sources. But Feldkamp only goes as far as Mstislav II, and I have had recourse to Wikipedia, which has details similar to Feldkamp for later Princes. The genealogy is originally from Alen and Dahlquist, with modifications from Andreas Thiele [op.cit.]. This may require some further reworking, since much of the early genealogy seems obscure and uncertain, and I only have Wikipedia for the later Princes. Note that the change in background color for the table of the Princes of Kiev is simply because the map color changes on the map by Tony Belmonte. Both Kiev and Vladimir are invisible under the Mongol dominion in the next map.

The other dynastic marriage to Constantinople of note here is that of the son of Yaroslav the Wise, Vsevolod, to a daughter of the Emperor Κωνσταντῖνος Μονομάχος, Constantine IX Monomachus. Pages at Wikipedia give the wife of Vsevolod and the mother of Vladimir, as an "Anastasia of Byzantium," with the gloss that her parentage with Constantine IX "is not attested in any reliable primary source." I do not see the name "Anastasia" in any of my print references. Andreas Thiele lists her as "Irene" (Greek Εἰρήνη -- but "Antastasia," Ἀναστασία, is also Greek). Also, while I am not familiar with the primary sources for these issues (and the matter does not seem to be clearly addressed in the Greek histories), much less where names like "Irene" or "Anastasia" are attested, I am curious what the difference would be between a "reliable primary source" and whatever other primary sources would have addressed the marriages of Vsevolod. However, if Irene/Anastasia was not the daughter of Constantine IX, my fundamental questions would then be (1) who such a person would have been to have come from Byzantium to marry the son of a Prince of Kiev, and (2) how her son, Володимѣръ Мономахъ, would then (coincidentally?) end up with the surname or epithet "Monomakh" ("Single Combat," certainly not acquired by Constantine IX from his own activities)? This would all be exceedingly curious, to say the least. What makes the most sense at this point is that Constantine IX was Vladimir II's grandfather, after whom he was named, with the marriage of Vsevolod arranged in 1046, after the failed attack on Constantinople in 1043 by Yaroslav.

This Russian attack in 1043 is a matter of some interest. It may have been coincidence, opportunism, or coordination that it coincided with the revolt of George Maniaces in the same year, although the immediate casus belli was supposed to be an attack on Russian merchants in Constantinople, perhaps just by robbers. The Russian war was pressed forward despite the death of Maniaces from a wound and the end of his revolt. Rejecting an offer to buy off the attack, Monomachus set the Roman fleet to engage the Russians. With the help of Greek Fire, the Russians were routed. This may be the last example of a decisive victory by the Roman Navy before, later in the century, the fleets of the Italian cities begin to dominate the Mediterranean and replace the Romans. The retreating Russians, however, were able to counter-attack against the pursuing Romans, mitigating the degree of the Russian defeat.

The sequel of the war is obscure, but we can speculate that the marriage of Constantine's daughter was part of the restoration of the previous good relations with the Russians. The marriage of an Imperial in-law would make perfect sense in terms of Byzantine statecraft. There may also be a curious light shed on these events. King Harald's Saga is the Norse saga about King Harald Hardråde of Norway. Harald was in the Varangian Guard in 1043, and we might even imagine him participating in the battles. With some confusion of reigns and dates, the Saga subsequently has Harald escaping from Constatinople after kidnapping an otherwise unattested niece, Maria, of the Empress Zoë. A Viking kidnapping and carrying off a princess would not be so remarkable, but we are then told that before crossing the Black Sea, Harald dropped her off with a guard to escort her back to Constantinople. This makes me wonder. Could such a strange story reflect the circumstance that Harald himself escorted Irene/Anastasia to Kiev between 1044-1046? Having done that, he continued on North and arrived back in Norway to claim the throne in 1047. An escort job would thus nicely coincide with the period of his transit home; and, with such a marriage, there had to be an escort for the Princess. And if there was some difficulty about Harald resigning from the Guard, which is implied by the Saga, what better opporunity to slip away than from a small group of the Guard in distant Kiev? It all fits together in a nice story, even if no "reliable primary source" really gives us that much to go on.

Andrei/Andrew I
Great Prince,
Vsevolod III1176-1212
Yuri II1212-1216,
Russia conquered by
Mongols, 1236-1239
Yaroslav II1238-1246
Andrei II1249-1252,
St. Alexander I
Yaroslav III of Tver1264-1271
Demetrius/Dimitri I1277-1281,
Andrei III1281-1283,
St. Michael of Tver1304-1318
Yuri III Danilovich
of Moscow
Dimitri II of Tver1322/3-1325,
Alexander II of Tver1326-1327,
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, князь, which is different from the word borrowed from German for "duke," gertsog, герцог (i.e. herzog) and from Latin for "prince," prints, принц (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, великий князь, 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 Khān, 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.

Yuri III1303-1325
John/Ivan I Danilovich Kalitá, Калита1325-1341
the Black Death arrives at Novgorod, 1352, spreads to Moscow, 1353
John/Ivan II1353-1359
Demetrius II/
Dimitrii Donski
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
1480, refuses tribute to the Golden Horde
Basil/Vasilii III1505-1533
Ivan IV Grozny,
the Terrible
"Tsar of All the Russias," Conquest of Khānates of Kazan, 1552 & Astrakhan, 1554; War over Livonia, 1558-1582, losses to Sweden
Theodore I
Boris Godunov1598-1605
Time of Troubles, 1604-1613
Theodore II
False Dimitrii/
Demetrius I
the Imposter
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 Khānates of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1554). This makes him "Tsar of All the Russias." The last Khānate, that of the Crimea, was under Ottoman protection and would not fall until 1783.

Tsar (Czar), Царь (or Цар), 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.

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
Peter II
Ivan VI1740-1741
Elizabeth Petrovna
Seven Years War, 1756-1762
Peter III1762
Ekaterina/ Catherine II the Great1762-1796
Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774; Turks defeated, Naval Battle of Chesma, July 5-7, 1770; Battle of Larga, July 7, 1770; Battle of Kagul, August 1, 1770; Khānate of Crimea conquered, 1774-1783; Partitions of Poland, 1772, 1793, & 1795; Odessa annexed, 1791
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 (singular, погром) 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, wandering far from base, support, and supplies, was largely annihilated at Poltava in the Ukraine in 1709.

Swedish power collapsed as Charles fled to Turkey and made his way home, eventually, 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, Санкт-Петербург, named in 1703 (renamed "Petrograd," Петроград, in World War I, 1914, then "Leningrad," Ленинград after the death of Lenin, 1924-1991), 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.

Peter's daughter Elizabeth joined the Empress Maria Theresa in an alliance against Frederick the Great of Prussia. This was the Seven Years War, and it was Maria Theresa's attempt to retrieve Silesia, which Frederick had seized at the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession. Elizabeth had some kind of animus against Frederick, whose origin I cannot explain. Indeed, when Elizabeth died, and Peter III, her nephew, came to the Throne, he pulled out of the war. He admired Frederick, who had already demonstrated his military genius in holding off the combined forces of Austria, Russian, France, and Sweden. After Peter's wife, Catherine took over, she seems to have gotten along with Frederick fine. They cooperated in the partitions of Poland.

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.

Alexander II
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
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, Екатеринбург. 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 (singular, погром), 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.

Die Kraft zu wollen, und zwar einen Willen lang zu wollen, ist etwas stärker schon in Deutchland, und im deutschen Nordern wiederum stärker als in der deutschen Mitte; erheblich stärker in England, Spanien und Corsika, dort an das Phlegma, hier an harte Schädel gebunden... aber am allerstärksten und erstaunlichsten in jenem ungeheuren Zwischenreiche, wo Europa gleichsam nach Asien zurückfließt, in Russland. Da ist die Kraft zu wollen seit langem zurückgelegt und aufgespeichert, da wartet der Wille -- ungewiss, ob als Wille der Verneinung order der Bejahung -- in bedrohlicher Weise darauf, ausgelöst zu werden, um den Physikern von heute ihr Leibwort abzuborgen. Es dürften nicht nur indische Kriege und Verwicklungen in Asien dazu nöthing sein, damit Europa von seiner größten Gefahr entlastet werde, sondern innere Umstürze, die Zersprengung des Reiches in kleine Körper und von Allem die Einführung des parlamentarischen Blödsinns, hinzugerechnet die Verpflichtung für Jedermann, zum Frühstück seine Zeitung zu lesen. Ich sage dies nicht als Wünschender: mir würde das Entgegengesetzte eher nach dem Herzen sein, -- ich meine eine solche Zunahme der Bedrohlichkeit Russlands, daß Europa sich entschließen müßte, gleichermaaßen bedrohlich zu werden, nämlich Einen Willen zu bekommen, durch das Mittel einer neuen über Europa herrschenden Kaste, einen langen furchtbaren eigenen Willen, der sich über Jahrtausende hin Ziele setzen könnte: -- damit endlich die langgesponnene Komödie seiner Kleinstaaterei und ebenso seine dynastiche wie demokratische Vielwollerei zu einem Abschluß käme. Die Zeit für kleine Politik ist vorbei: schon das nächste Jahrhundert bringt den Kampf um die Erd-Herrschaft, -- den Zwang zur großen Politik.

The power to will -- and to persist until a given will has been fulfilled -- is somewhat stronger in Germany. And within Germany it is stronger in the North than in the central regions. It is considerably stronger still in England, Spain, and Corsica, bound up with the phlegm of the former, with the hard heads of the latter nations... But the power to will is strongest and most astonishing in that enormous land of the middle where Europe flows back into Asia: in Russia. There the power to will has been stored and accumulated for ages; there the will -- uncertain whether it is a will of negation or of affirmation -- lies theateningly in wait to be discharged (to borrow the favorite word of today's physicists). It would not require merely wars in India and complications in Asia for Europe to be unburdened of its great danger, but interior upheavals, the atomization of the empire into many small bodies, and above all the introduction of parliamentarian stupidity, including the compulsion for everyone to read his newspaper while eating his breakfast. I am not saying this because I wish it so; the contrary would be closer to my heart's desire. I mean such an increase of Russia's threat that Europe would have to make up its mind to become equally threatening, namely to fuse into a single will, by means of a new ruling caste over all Europe, one long terrible will of its own that might set itself aims which only millennia could fulfill, so that there might finally be an end to the long-drawn-out comedy of petty state-ism with its dynastic as well as democratic divergent wills. The time for petty politics is over; the next century [the 20th] will bring with it the struggle for world-domination, the compulsion to high politics.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan [Henry Regnery Company, 1955, pp.128-129, translation modified]; Jenseits von Gut und Böse [Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, pp.121-122; daß restored for dass; entschließen for entschliessen; müßte for müsste; gleichermaaßen for gleichermaassen, or gleichermassen; Abschluß for Abschluss; groß- for gross-].

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, even Rasputin thought so; 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.

And we see now 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. More durably effective would have been just to hold down German forces on the Eastern Front, without seriously attacking them.

Meanwhile, however, the Russians had been doing rather well against the Turks, and Russian forces had advanced deep into Anatolia, approaching Ankara and Mosul -- in coordination with the British who had taken Baghdad -- establishing naval supremacy in the Black Sea, and preparing for an amphibious landing near Constantinople. An offensive in these areas held out the prospect, not merely of success, but possibly knocking the Turks right out of the War, returning Constantinople to Christendom, 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.

With all these grave misjudgments and disasters, the Provisional Government lost support for staying in the war, and the Bolsheviks gained support promising to get out of it. Little did the Russians know, what they would get from the Bolsheviks would be as bad as the war, but extended for decades.
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,
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
Yuri Andropov1982-1983Vassili Kuznetsov1982-1983
Konstantin Chernenko
Mikhail Gorbachev1985-1988Vassili Kuznetsov1985
Andrei Gromyko1985-1988

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
מְנֵא מְנֵא תְּקֵל וּפַרְסִין׃
Daniel 5:25
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.

For the the 2016 update on Russian events, see below.

Primates of Russia, Metropolitans & Patriarchs of Kiev & Moscow


Presidents of Belarus
J. Gryb
Alexandr R.
Known as "White Russia," "White Ruthenia," "Byelorussia," Белоруссия (i.e. "White Russia"), and now Belarus, Беларусь (i.e. "White Russia"), this land is centered on the historic city of Minsk, Мінск. 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 Русь, 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 remaining distinct Ruthenia to the Ukraine, where it remains, with its identity absorbed and forgotten.

Curiously, although increasing forgotten by history, the name Ruthenia is fixed as the name of the element Ruthenium (atomic number 44). Discovered in 1844 by Karl Ernst Claus (1796-1864), Ruthenium is actually named after Russia, using "Ruthenia" in one of its archaic senses. Claus was an ethnic German born in Livonia, subsequently working at at Kazan State University. Claus said, "I named the new body, in honour of my Motherland," perhaps to demonstrate his Russian patriotic bona fides, despite the very non-Russian nature of his ethnic and geographic origin. Today, of course, few people seeing the name "Ruthenium" are going to realize that it refers to Russia; and Claus himself actually had nothing to do, in origin or residence, with the more localization applications of "Ruthenia" in Belarus and the Ukraine.

Слава Україні!
Slava Ukraïni!
Glory to Ukraine!

The Ukraine

While the Ukraine, Україна (Russian Украина), 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, Київ (Russian Киев; Old Church Slavonic Кыѥвь), 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 Khmelnytsky1648–1657
Pereiaslav Treaty, allegiance to Russia, 1654
Ivan Vyhovsky1657-1659
Right Bank, Polish and TurkishLeft Bank, Russian
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 Polubotok1722–1724, 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 Poroshenko2014-2019
Volodymyr Zelenskyy2019-present
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.

There are only three [!] places that have a 'the' in front of their name --
the Vatican, the Hague, and the Bronx.

Mary Higgens Clark

Born in 1965, the same year Gambia gained independence from Britain, Mr. [Adama] Barrow was educated in the U.K. and worked as a guard in a London furniture store -- an experience, he said, that taught him humility and the value of hard work.

“This is a moment of history for the Gambia and for Africa,” he said, referring to his country by its formal name. “In the Gambia, we have been waiting for it for 51 years.”

"Gambia’s President Is Pressured to Step Down," The Wall Street Journal, January 21-22, 2017, A12, color added

'The' Ukraine

A correspondent brought to my attention the belief of some that using the expression "the Ukraine" rather than just "Ukraine," Україна, 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 грань, gran, or граница, 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 (or Iranians) 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 Bahamas," "the Netherlands," "the Congo," "the Sudan," "the Ukraine," "the Vatican," and, in British usage but not American, "the Lebanon," "the Yemen" (see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, 2011), "the Cameroon," "the Argentine," 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. Also, Belize used to be "the British Honduras."

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," , Lubnān in Arabic, have been proper names since ancient times. We have a version of "Lebanon" in Egyptian hieroglyphics:  Rmnn, . Classical (Middle) 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 "Bhārat," , 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 ἡ Ῥωμανία, hê Rhômanía. The Romans, speaking Latin or Greek, certainty did not think of themselves as subordinated to any other sovereign entity. We also get curious cases such as that the Canadian Province of Ontario doesn't seem to ever take the article in English, but it does in French:  L'Ontario. I've never heard that this was regarded as an insult by Canadians.

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" -- the former may just mean that one is off work, while the later may mean that a specific trip or activity is planned). 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, "Rom" in Geman, or Ῥώμη in Greek.

An interesting case is in an episode of the television series Elementary, an update of the Sherlock Holmes stories, which stars the actual Englishman John Lee Miller. They have Miller saying both "the Magna Carta" instead of "Magna Carta" and "Ukraine" instead of "the Ukraine." He was clearly reading the script instead of following his own national and traditional usage. Nor is Miller's "Sherlock Holmes" the kind of character to follow politically correct usage on "the Ukraine."

Smokey the Bear

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 (which in many cases was a bad idea -- the forest needs to burn occasionally). 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," with the claim that this had always been his name, with "Smokey the Bear" only introduced in someone's song in 1952.

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.

So the National Park Service campaign about "Smokey the Bear" was a very pure example of bureaucracy simply jerking people around, perhaps to get some publicity, or for some of the obscure reasons that we may otherwise see in the proprietary claims about various names. The National Park Service had the power to "officially" change, or enforce, the name of Smokey the Bear, so they did, just to show us who's boss. Well, anyone who has had run-ins with the IRS already knows that. Hopefully, the National Park Service cannot seize your house or your bank accounts just for saying "Smokey the Bear." That's next, in modern "Progressive" government.

A little different, of course, is how cartoon character "Mark Trail," who gave advice on camping and hiking, in Smokey's forest (from 1946), and later taught about ecology and the environment, lost his trademark pipe. Pipes mean smoking, and this is now forbidden in business, polite company, and among the bien pensants -- unless it is with marijuana rather than tobacco. But since tobacco is part of the heritage of Native Americans, I am surprised that anti-smoking zealots are not tarred as racists. But, of course, favored minorities are immediately forgotten when a larger political issue is at stake -- the way that windturbines and solar arrays slaughter hundreds of protected birds, while one bird in an oil pond occasions federal law enforcement action.

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 recently was that Victor Yanukovych was elected President in 2010 and then betrayed his subservience to Vladimir Putin and to Russian interests. If Ukrainians were worried that "the" was part of a Russian plot, they now had the proof, naming aside, that Russian plots are a genuine threat. Putin invaded the Ukraine after Yanukovych was deposed as President.

A correspondent has now informed that, while Russian and Ukrainian are innocent of articles, Russian uses alternative prepositions in a way the reflects the debate that apparently has been projected onto "the" in English usage. Thus, в, v, defined in the Oxford Russian Dictionary [1993, 1998] as "into, to, in, at," is used, according to the correspondent, with countries, established states, and cities. Thus, the Dictionary gives an example with "to Moscow":  в Москву (in the prepositional case; Москва in the nominative). This gets used with "Russia" and, oddly, the Crimea. On the other hand, the preposition на, na, defined as "on, upon, in, to, into, over, through," is used with "territories" and, as it happens, the Ukraine. This is the example that the Dictionary actually uses:  на Украине, translated as "in (the) Ukraine," with the optional use of "the." In these terms, it is not surprising that, with the name of the Ukraine, Ukrainians have begun using в instead of на, which continues to be used by Russians. This makes a lot more sense than the often silly and uninformed complaints about English using an article.

This corespondent also pointed out that the Russian word окраина, okraina, "outskirts, outlying districts," sounds a great deal like Украина, differing only in the initial vowel. The Dictionary even gives "obsolete" meanings as "borders, marches." Thus, people thinking of Украина as meaning "borderlands," may be thinking of that word. Again, however, the use of an article with names in English is usually random and inexplicable (why "the Bronx"?), and the absence of articles in Russian and Ukraining makes the whole issue pointless.

Kiev and Kyiv

As well as the revision of the name of the Ukraine, we have also been getting a different version of the name of the capital of the country, Kiev, which now in press and diplomacy is typically given as "Kyiv," from Ukrainian Київ, without any advice, that I have ever seen, how this is to be pronounced. On the news they say "Keev," even though the Ukrainian "v" is more like a "w," and there are actually two vowels there.

Thus, Kiev joins Peking and Bombay with its name being replaced by a new, politically correct, version. I have dealt wtih the fate of "Peking" and "Bombay" in several places elsewhere. The inability of news readers to pronounce Київ is comparable to the inability of most to pronounce 北京, Běijīng.

In line with the idea that "the Ukraine" is part of a Russian plot, I see the assertion that "Kiev" is based on the Russian version of the city's name. However, the Wikipedia page on the name ("Name of Kyiv") says that Кꙑєвъ was its name in "Old Eastern Slavic" and Києвъ was the name in "Old Ukrainian." English "Kiev" could be directly transcribed from Києв simply by leaving out this final "hard" sign, which no one would know how to transcribe anyway.

The Wikipedia page does not give the name in Russian; and, indeed, the Ukrainian letter that looks like a Greek epsilon does not exist in the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet. Russian for "Kiev" is Киев. Thus, it does not look like "Kiev" is derived from Russian, at least from the information given, although one could argue for Киев.

Once again, therefore, we seem to be jerked around in English usage with irrelevant considerations from foreign languages, which English speakers are mostly not going to speak anyway. This is not as bad as the way 北京, Běijīng, gets mangled in international discourse, but it is the same sort of thing. As I have pointed out before, this treatment is not applied to "Rome," even though the local name, the "endonym," has been Roma for more than two thousand years.

And those French need a talking to. "Angleterre" and "Londres" are not the names of the country, and its capital, across the English Channel from France. Sounds like "microaggressions" to me. At least in English, "France" and "Paris" are the "right" names for those places, although the English cannot pronounce them. That's probably a "microaggression" on its own.

Meanwhile, the capital of Russia is Москва, Moskva. Unlike the Ukrainian name for its capital, Moskva is not used by the press or otherwise in public discourse. The English name is "Moscow" instead. No one seems to object to this, or even to think twice about it.

The Slavic Languages

The Russian Conquest of the Crimea

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.

Updates, 2016-2020

At the beginning of 2016, Vladmir Putin was still on a roll. Rather than invading the Eastern Ukraine outright, Putin fostered a "rebellion" there, which somehow involved, not just Russian aid and equipment, but Russian soliders, some of whom have been captured by the Ukrainians. The "rebels" even shot down a Malaysian airliner. The response of Europe and the U.S. was a few more, largely toothless sanctions, and dithering -- which amounted to little more than an annoyed yawn. John Kerry is even reported to have told Putin that if would just be content with what he has already conquered, then normal relations might be restored. The Ukraine was getting no substantive military aid from the West.
...that one should never permit a disorder to persist in order to avoid war, for war is not avoided thereby but merely deferred to one's own disadvantage...

Niccolò Machiavelli

Si Vīs Pacem, Parā Belum

If You Wish for Peace,
Prepare for War.

Flavius Vegetius Renatus

Meanwhile, Putin was harassing most of the states West of him. Russian military violations of airspace have even extended as far as Britain. The Russians have crossed the Estonian border and kidnapped an Estonian official, then "trying" him for "spying." The response of NATO has been foolishly feeble. Neutralist Sweden has even been getting this treatment, and the Swedes think they have detected Russian submarines in their waters.

The approach of Barack Obama and John Kerry was feckless, passive, supine, and pleading. When Putin agreed at a conference with Obama to join in the bombing campaign in Syria against the "Islamic State" (ISIS, ISIL), Obama was pathetically grateful. Then, a little more than a day or so later, Russians began bombing, not ISIS, but the anti-Assad rebels who are actually supported by the United States and the West. Nothing could make Putin's real contempt for Obama more evident. After some feeble protest, the Russians continued in the same actions. However, among the anti-Assad rebel's were some ethnic Turkish Turkmen, pockets of whom are all over the Middle East. Turkey warned the Russians that the Turkmen were under Turkey's protection. This was ignored by the Russians; and when a Russian bomber briefly violated Turkish airspace on its bombing run against the Turkmen, the Turks shot it down.

Putin's response was apoplectic, showering Turkey with abuse and terminating agreements and relationships. But leave it to the Turks to deal with the Russians in the way they are going to understand, while the West did nothing effective. Meanwhile, Putin has been hurt much more by the drastic fall in oil prices. Having crushed the Russian economy with his cronies and hostility for real, independent businessmen, Putin is absolutely dependent on oil revenues, which have dried up. Needing about $100 a barrel to cover his expenses, Putin was looking at below $40 -- with no one in international finance interested in loaning Russia any money. Putin thus may actually be unable to help his allies, like Syria and Iran, and bomb Assad's enemies, but at the same time pursue the conquest of the Ukraine. So, with the occasional violations and outrages, while constantly calling the Ukrainians Nazis, Putin is allowing a bit of a stalemate, for the time being, in the Ukraine.

At the same time, we must sadly acknowledge that the Ukrainians helped bring it on themselves. The "Orange Revolution" with the election of Victor Yushchenko in 2005 ended up almost entirely wasted. Between corruption and a simple failure to reform and liberalize the Soviet-era economy, Yushchenko failed in the promise of the day. In an ordinary democracy, Yanukovych's electon in 2010 simply would have been a "throw the bums out" alternation in leadership. That Yanukovych was a Russian agent and a traitor to the Ukraine meant that the election was not the functioning of an ordinary democracy.

The new Ukrainian revolution of 2014 was not in a situation of equal hope with that of 2005. Russia was now aggressive, active, and brutal, and the Ukraine was not going to be left alone to sort out its own problems, including joining the EU and NATO. By 2016, the same problems with corruption and lack of reform are again evident in the Ukraine. People were becoming impatient again, but there is no "loyal opposition" to elect in place of President Petro Poroshenko.

The best hope for the Ukrainians was actually the Presidential election in the United States. Although some Republicans are isolationists, and some even strangely sympathize with Putin, some reassertion of American resolve and leadership was a good possibility. The Democrats, of course, would most likely continue Obama's appeasement and preemptive surrender policies, all based on an essentially anti-American ideology, whose goal is to punish and impoverish Americans and destroy American power.

Update, 2019

The election of Donald Trump ended up being good news for the Ukraine. The weaponry that Obama never sent to the Ukrainians began to be supplied. The complication to this was what seem complacent statements about Russia and Putin by Trump, based on his idea that things could be fixed up through personal relationships, a naive approach that had some success, but not as much as Trump seems to have expected.

But to the Democrats, this was an opening to accuse Trump of "collusion" with Russia in stealing the 2016 election in the United States. Partisan Democrats in the FBI and Justice Department cooperated in furthering this accusation -- the kind of actions for which Articles of Impeachment were prepared against Richard Nixon -- beginning with perjurous applications for a surveillance warrant against a minor and temporary Trump campaign official, Carter Page, who was actually accused, in secret proceedings, of being a Russian agent and spy. This was no more than a pretext for surveillance on the Trump Campaign itself, with which Page had communication -- which should remind us that the original Watergate break-in was to plant bugs on the Democratic National Committee. Obama officials were able to surveil the Trump Campaign under the color of legitimate authority. These were criminal actions, for which people have been fired but for which no one has (yet) been held legally liable.

As it happened, after a long investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Carter Page was not found to be a Russian agent and was never charged with anything, unlike other Trump officials, several of whom were charged with old offenses -- that the Obama Administration had never bothered to prosecute -- or were accused of lying in the course of the Mueller probe -- what are called "process crimes," now become a favorite of prosecutors, who blindside and victimize witnesses who think they are "helping" by answering questions without lawyers.

Since some of the plea deals in those cases involve pleading guilty to things that arguably were not even crimes, or that involved good faith statements that could be construed as "lies," partisan motives can be suspected in Mueller's team, which consisted entirely of Democrats, some of whom have been exposed as virtual Democrat operatives, or who have a history of prosecutorial misconduct -- where prosecutors themselves lie, deliberately try to bankrupt defendants with legal fees, or who engage in little less than extortion to get plea deals.

Be that as it may, it is now clear how Trump operates. On the personal level, Trump treats all world leaders as his long lost best friends. But friendly meetings do not always translate into friendlier policies. Perhaps in Trump we can see a version of Teddy Roosevelt's maxim, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," except that Trump never speaks softly. But complacent statements about leaders might have nothing corresponding in policy. Most dramatically, we see this with China and North Korea, where happy talk with Xi Jinping nevertheless went along with trade sanctions, new tariffs, and tough trade negotiations, while relations with Kim Jong-un went from openly hostile -- Trump had a "bigger button" for nuclear weapons -- to friendly meetings, but with nominal reductions in sanctions or military preparations. And Trump walked away from a 2019 meeting with Kim in Hanoi, as President Reagan did with Gorbachev.

With Putin, concern about continued Russian harrassment and aggression against the Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltics has been meet with NATO preparations. These may be criticized as either too little or too much, with the complication that Trump is unhappy that NATO members are not meeting their defense obligations. This is a wholly legitimate complaint, and some NATO members themselves seem too friendly or too accommodating with Putin, including Germany, which has signed natural gas agreements that give Russia leverage, even while gas production in the United States is reaching levels that can be used to assist Europe. And then there is Turkey, which under President Erdoğan is not only becoming Islamist in tone, but, despite shooting down a Russian plane at one point, is all but shifting its alliance from NATO to Russia. The flash point on this involves the Kurds, whom the United States has supported in Iraq and Syria, but whose power and independence Erdoğan wishes to crush. Trump has been concerned to withdrawl US forces from Syria, which makes the Kurds vulnerable to Turkey. He was at first persuaded not to, but then did anyway, promsing sanctions against the Turks if they took advantage of it. They did, and a combination of threats and a personal meeting with Erdoğan resulted in a ceasefire of uncertain value and future.

Continued American support for the Kurds not only avoids a shameful betrayal but gives heart to everyone from Georgia to Estonia, including the Ukraine, who rely on American resolve. Some Americans don't think that is any of our business, but this is a foolish attitude comparable to the Appeasement of Adolf Hitler. The operative principle, from Flavius Vegetius Renatus, is Si Vīs Pacem, Parā Bellum, "If You Wish for Peace, Prepare for War." Strong statements but lack of resolve -- as with Barack Obama (a principle of speak harshly and have no stick) -- invite aggression. Trump is torn between a questionable and unpopular policy of endless inolvement, and the danger of reproach for throwing the Kurds, and other allies, to their fate.

The Left was totally complacent about Vladimir Putin, the first European ruler since Adolf Hitler to invade, occupy, and conquer the territory of neighboring states (Georgia and the Ukraine). Intially there was no more resolute a response from the West than Ethiopia got in 1935 -- only now the United States joined in the feeble and almost pointless support given to the Ukraine, despite being partner to a treaty, signed with Britain and Russia, securing the borders and territorial integrity of the Ukraine. This treaty has been shredded by Russia and apparently forgotten by the US and Britain.

A newly elected Donald Trump provided actual military aid to the Ukraine, but then his complacent statements about good relations with Russia inspired the Democrats to cook up a "Russian collusion" narrative about Trump as somehow a Russian agent, or how somehow the Russians had stolen the 2016 election for him. Years and millions of dollars by the Mueller investigation turned up nothing, and the whole thing is now exposed as a political dirty trick and a hoax, with the Democrats, the Clinton campaign, and FBI and CIA, and the Justice Department as actually the ones using Russian -- and Ukrainian -- contacts and disinformation. They actually got the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States to endorse Hillary Clinton, an unprecedented act.

This conspiracy of politicians, partisan bureaucrats, and hold-over political appointees to use the US Govenrment against candidate and even President Donald Trump, a level of corruption and misconduct beyond even the Watergate Scandal of Richard Nixon, has added a new term to American politics:  The "Deep State," of people in government, with their own agenda, partisan but also self-serving, with the intention of sabotaging, betraying, and smearing the policy of a duly elected American President. Even while many of the agents and partisans of this conspiracy deny that the "Deep State" exists, others incautiously admit and celbrate the power that it is able to apply against American democratic institutions. The previously identified "ruling class" becomes fully exposed.

Nevertheless, Trump's annoyance with corruption in the Ukraine, and the involvement of the Democrats with it, and especially with the participation of former Vice Pesident Joe Biden and his son with it, have led to another hoax, that Trump could not urge on newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reform and invesigation of corruption, because this would involve the Bidens and would only be done for political reasons, since Biden was running for President.

That would be a neat trick. If you are a crook, run for President, and then say that any action against you was only politically motivated -- with the added benefit that corruption in a place like the Ukraine (to your benefit) could be protected at the same time. In the simplest terms, the act of then Vice President Biden in threatening the Ukraine with a cut-off of aid (which wasn't even military aid), contingent on them firing a prosecutor investigating Biden's son (getting $80,000 a month for a do-nothing job) -- a successful threat about which Biden even publicly boasted -- is now turned around so that President Trump asking the Ukraine, perhaps contingent upon aid (which was delivered anyway), reinstituting the Biden investigation is an "impeachable offense"! Politics, sophistry, and dishonesty doesn't get any crazier -- with the added exposure of the Democrats as not really caring about the Ukraine for its own sake.

Update, 2020

After Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected as the new President of the Ukraine in 2019, President Trump called him with congratulations, also expressing hope that Zelenskyy could deal with the corruption for which Ukrainian governments had become infamous. That was one reason Zelenskyy had been elected. Part of the corruption, of course, were the dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden, who had gotten a fake job for his son on the Board of Directors of a Ukrainian comapany. Since the company was being investigated for corruption, Biden had threatened to withhold American aid to the Ukraine unless the prosecurtor who was conducting the investigation was fired. Within hours. He was. Biden actually boasted about this, at a recorded event. It was no secret. The money Biden's son was paid for his "job" was then laundered to avoid scrutiny, perhaps even by the IRS. This still needs investigating.

Trump asked Zelenskyy about reopening the investigation that Biden had gotten closed. Since the Trump Administration is still riddled with Democrat operatives in the "Deep State," a "whistleblower" decided to report this conversation to the Inspector General of intelligence as some sort of corrupt act. It wasn't, and it was none of the IG's business; but, as the Democrats have done before, it could be turned into an issue with leaks to the Press. The best defense is always an offensive, so the Democrats decided that the way to protect the corruption of Joe Biden, who ended up as the presumptive Democrat nominee for President in 2020, was to accuse Trump of corruption, trying to get a foreign government to engage in some kind of smear of Biden. This was the phony "Ukraine" scandal, upon which the Democrats decided to hang an Impeachment proceeding. They had wanted to impeach Trump before he was even in office, and nothing else had worked out. So this was perhaps their last chance.

As it was, they did not even come up with articles of Impeachment based on the supposedly corrupt phone call. They produced a couple of meaningless articles invovling things, like resisting Congressional subpoenas, for which most Presidents would have been guilty, and that certainly applied to many acts of the Obama Administration. No matter.

It was all a farce. But every single Democrat Senator loyally voted to remove Trump from office, and they even got one Repbulican traitor, the RINO of RINO's, Mitt Romney, to vote with the Democrats. It was all one of the stupidest, most vicious, and most dishonest proceedings in American history. And Joe Biden, who is obviously suffering from senile dementia, has still not been called to account for his corrupt acts. The voters of Utah will need to wait until 2024 to get rid of Mitt Romnney.

Once the fierce Ukrainian resistance showed that hardly any Ukrainians greeted Russian soldiers as liberators, the tone shifted. Now Russian state media and official discourse argue that Ukraine and its culture must be simply wiped out -- an idea that explains the killing spree in towns like Bucha during the Russian occupation.

A commentary published by Russia’s RIA state news agency on April 3 under the title “What Russia Must Do to Ukraine” argued that ordinary Ukrainians must be made to “atone for the guilt” of hostility to Moscow, the name Ukraine should be abolished once again and the country split into several pieces. Ukrainian elites should be physically liquidated [i.e. killed] and the remaining population re-educated and “de-Ukrainized.”

Yaroslav Trofimov, "Russia's Long Disdain for Ukrainian Nationhood," Review, The Wall Street Journal, April 30-May1, 2022, C4 -- sounds like genocide.

Слава Україні!
Slava Ukraïni!
Glory to Ukraine!

Update, the Invasion, 2022

On 24 February 2022, Valimir Putin launched a full scale invasion of the Ukraine. Russian troops crossed from Belarus in the North towards Kiev, in the South from the Crimea, and in the East into the Donbas region, much of which had already been infiltrated by Russian and pro-Russian forces in 2014.

Stalin's Terror Famine of 1932-1933, called the Голодомор, Holodomor in Ukrainian, killed at least five million Ukrainians. I had students, immgrants from the Ukraine after 1991, who knew of family members who had died in the famine. I am sure that many Ukrainians have felt that Putin's invasion of 2022 is simply a way of continuing Stalin's genocide against the Ukraine. Indeed, Russian nationalists, as we see above, have openly voiced a desire to erase the identity and existence of the Ukraine, if not its very population, from the map of Europe. It is hard to imagine such an animus of one nation against another in Europe since the days of the Nazis -- indeed, the intention that "Ukrainian elites should be physically liquidated" is exactly what Hitler went about doing in Poland, a precedent not lost on today's Ukrainians, or Poles.

Putin may have been expecting a Blitzkrieg and for the Ukraine to fall to the Russians within days. That is not what happened. The level and success of Ukrainian resistance seems to be something that the Russian Army was not prepared for. Indeed, it is not clear that the Russian Army was prepared very well for war at all. Russian equipment, supplies, and training do not seem to have been to a standard necessary for war. Indeed, the level of corrupion in the Army, as indeed in much of Russian society, may have made the Army more of a husk than a proper fighting force.

Meanwhile, NATO and American training for the Ukrainian Army, and supplies provided for it, seem to have made it more or less the martial equivalent of the Russians, even without the level of aircraft, missiles, and tanks that the Russians could command. For days, the world wondered why satellite images were showing Russian columns stalled on the roads to Kiev. Some military commentators were confidently predicting that the Russians would soon surround, besiege, and reduce Kiev. Just watch. But the columns continued to sit there. What was going on?

It looks like the Russians got stopped. And then they ran short of supplies. Like the Japanese invasion of India in 1944, Russian logistics were only ready for a short war. And the shortness was already over. And the Ukrainians were beginning to surround and ambush the heads of the Russian columns. Burned out Russian tanks began to litter the roads.

This led to a change in Russian strategy. It was time for terror. Missiles and bombs began hitting apartment buildings, hospitals, churches, and schools. Civilians were run down or gunned down in the streets. Civilians were instructed to flee on safe corridors, and then they were shot at and bombed when they did. Some communities seem to have been rounded up and deported to Russia. Rape and torture were widely practiced.

This repeated Russian practices in Chechnya. That Russian republic broke away in 1991. The Russians attempted to regain control in 1994-1996 but failed. Finally, the Russians again invaded in 1999 and secured the country in 2000, after (1) assassinating many Chechen leaders, and (2) bombing Moscow apartment buildings and blaming it on Chechen terrorists. This got the Russian public behind a ruthless campaign. That involved the total destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny. There is no telling how many people were killed, but the Russian strategy seems to have been a willingness just to kill everyone, if necessary. Chechnya is now a puppet state with Russian Quislings.

The next Russian aggression stepped up to the 2008 invasion of a neighboring state, namely Georgia. The pretext there was that Georgia was supposedly "oppressing" ethnic Russians and other ethnic minorities, the Ossetians and Abkhazians. The Georgians had no hope of resisting the Russian invasion, but after occupying South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Russians responded to international pressure by settling for those conquests. The Georgians, however, were thoroughly intimidated. All hope to finding protection in NATO, for instance, was dropped, and Georgia now appears to be just as much a Russian vassal state as Chechnya, with South Ossetia and Abkhazia regarded by Russia as "independent," under, of course, a firm Russian embrace.

My surprising experience during the Russian invasion was that Russian or pro-Russian writers, not always even in Russia, found my page on the Civil War song "Marching Through Georgia." They seemed to relish the idea of applying this to contemporary Russians marching through the Causasian Georgia -- not, of course, freeing slaves, but enslaving Georgians. The delight and glee of these writers, against a country that had done them no harm (except, perhaps, birthing Josef Stalin) was appalling; and it was hard to understand their mentality except as an expression, not just of Russian nationalism, but of naked Russian imperialism. They wanted Georgia smashed just because it had dared to want independence from Russia. If such a sentiment is common in Russia, it is not surprising that Putin can continue with a career of brutal aggression and conquest.

In time, Putin was able to repeat the treatment of Grozny in Aleppo, Syria. There, in 2016, Russian bombardment was on behalf of their dictator friend, Bashar al-Assad, who was attempting to put down the rebellion begun with the "Arab Spring" in 2010-2011. Much of Aleppo had already been destroyed in 2012, including the Great Mosque of Aleppo and the historic al-Madīna Sūq, سُوقُ ٱلْمَدِينَة, a World Heritage Site, which I have visited myself, three times in 1970. The Russians finished the job, flattening Aleppo and driving out the rebels. Assad won his civil war.

While this has now become the Russian strategy in the Ukraine, it was not going to be able to work the same way. The Russians could not bring the same kind of overwhelming force as they did in Chechnya and secure the ground. And the assassination teams (one of them actually Chechen mercenaries) sent against President Zelenskyy failed -- reportedly after betrayal by sympathizers in Russia itself. The failure of the invasion against Kiev led to a Russian withdrawl into Belarus; and this left behind evidence of war crimes -- dead civilians in the streets and mass graves. It must have been much the same in Chechnya, but no outsiders were allowed to inspect the aftermath.

The Russian retreat raised questions about the ability of Russia to sustain a successful campaign at all. Although Russia remains the largest country in the world, in population it is only ninth in the world, behind Bangledesh. Economically, Russia is only eleventh in the world, behind South Korea, or slightly ahead of South Korea but behind Brazil. Russia may be a superpower in nuclear weapons, but it is not either in population or wealth. Indeed, in per capita income, it is only 57th, behind Croatia and, of all things, the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan.

However, when Joe Biden became President and immediately began an attack on the American oil and gas industry, driving up prices, this handed Vladimir Putin billions of dollars in new oil revenue. Although Biden then tried blaming Putin for price increases, and some Americans seem to have believed him, Biden may be said to have personally financed Putin's invasion of the Ukraine.

Biden has done nothing to reverse policies attacking American energy. He continues to blame everything except his own (intentional) policies, while pleading, hat in hand, for Saudi Arabia or Venezuela to increase oil production. They have no interest in doing so, so now Biden wants to give Iran the Bomb, so it can nuke the Jews, in exchange for more oil.

Destroying American energy, after all, and making gasoline more expensive, is something Environmentalists have wanted for years. They are happy now, and they just tell Americans "Take the bus" or "Buy a Tesla" -- a prohibitively expensive electric car that, of course, relies on the now unreliable power grid for charging. Perhaps we can wave to John Kerry as he flies over in his private jet.

Meanwhile, there was a body of opinion in the West that NATO and the United States had no business in the matter and that the Russians should just be allowed to complete their conquest. Since Putin was threatening nuclear war and some Western hawks seemed to be eager for an actual American war against Russia, this could easily spook many people, who would then ask, "Why should we care?" Just give Hitler Danzig and he'll be content.

Putin was claiming that the Ukraine was an intrinsic part of historical Russia, that it was ruled by evil Jewish Zionist Nazis (President Zelenskyy is Jewish), and that he was simply bringing justice and national liberation to the Ukrainians, most of whom were eager to rejoin Mother Russia. Many Russians seem to actually believe this -- although Ukrainians who don't can then just be killed. Also, Putin was only acting because NATO was threatening Russia, which was worried about the Germans invading Russia again, and therefore Russia was owed certain "security guarantees," which apparently included the Russian occupation of the Ukraine, if not Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Moldova, and perhaps Poland and Finland.

In most of these debates, commentators often seem to forget that the United States agreed to the "Budapest Memorandum" in 1994, according to which, if the Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons in its possession, the United States, Britain, and Russia would recognize and secure the borders and sovereignty of the Ukraine. Unfortunately, like many political undertakings, including the agreement that returned Hong Kong to China or, alarmingly, the Constitution of the United States, the Budapest Memorandum contained no provsions for its own enforcement -- apart from appeals to the United National Security Council, where, of course, Russia can veto any actions to protect the Ukraine from.... Russia. Now that China has betrayed its treaty obligations in Hong Kong, and that most of what the United States government does is unconstitutional, we might expect the worst. And we would be right.

Russia already violated the Budapest Memorandum with its invasion in 2014, but the Obama Administration did almost nothing to hold Russia to its commitment or to supply the Ukraine with the material it would need to defend itself against further Russian aggression. It is said that Otto von Bismark had characterized treaties with Russia as worthless. Ronald Reagan who signed arms control treaties with the Soviet Union, said that the principle was "Trust, but verify." Obama's Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the other hand, apparently even told the Russians that if they were content with their recent conquests, the United States would do nothing further about it.

President Trump reversed that policy, providing weapons and training for the Ukrainian Army. The Democrats, of course, tried to impeach Trump because he urged President Zelenskyy to reopen the investigation into the corruption of the energy company, Burisma, which had been paying Joe Biden's son for doing nothing -- part of the corruption of the Biden family and much of Ukrainian politics. Biden, of course, as Vice President, had publicly and famously threatened the Ukraine unless it dropped the investigation in the first place. And they did. Biden never suffered any consequences, or even embarrassment over this. The "mainstream" media do their best to protect Biden family corruption.

Since Russia's "security" concerns were completely bogus and mendacious -- nations joined NATO because they feared Russian invasion, not because they wanted to invade Russia -- Western commentators had no rational or honest grounds to recognize any Russian claims as legitimate. Vladimir Putin simply wanted to recreate the Soviet Union. He had said so. And the only way he was going to be able to do that was by threats and conquest. And the United States, as well as Britain, had made a commitment to the Ukraine.

On top of that, it is not in the interest of the United States to have fascist dictatorships, which is what Russia and China now are, conquering their neighbors. The last time that happened, the strategy of Appeasement to deal with it had not worked out well. And the United Nations was supposedly created to prevent the invasions and conquests that had been practiced by Germany, Italy, and Japan. Of course, Russia had practiced those invasions and conquests also; but because Russia became an Ally against Germany (when Germany invaded Russia), many Americans, not just on the pro-Communist Left, decided this meant that Russia and Stalin were good guys. Eastern Europe languished in slavery for decades because of that. None of those states want to see that happen again.

Allowing the Russian conquest of the Ukraine, perhaps because Russia threatened nuclear war, would mean that a string of states, from Finland to România, would find a triumphant Russia on their doorstep, with little confidence that the United States is ready to honor NATO commitments, after abrogating its commitment to the Ukraine. Russia could conquer all Europe through nuclear blackmail. If what can only be called "isolationist" commentators in the West see no reason to honor the Budapest Memorandum, it is not clear why they should be willing to honor commitments to little meaningless places like Latvia. Or Taiwan.

While ignoring the Budapest Memorandum, isolationist commentators represent the only rationale for aid to the Ukraine as based on the defense of democracy. Then they damn the Ukraine as perhaps not all that democratic. But that is irrelevant. The United States has helped many countries against Communism who were dictatorships at the time, including South Korea, Taiwan, and South Vietnam. But both South Korea and Taiwan actually are now vibrant democracies, while their enemies are not. South Vietnam at least did end up with popular elections, before being conquered by the dictatorship in the Communist North. No real elections since then. Thus, whatever the Ukraine is now, it stands a better chance of democracy than Russia, while the Western commitment to it is something else entirely.

The United States has already fought Russia by proxy several times, in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. In the latter case, we supplied weapons and intelligence to the Afghanis, and this led to Russian withdrawl. Much the same needs to be done, and actually is being done, in the Ukraine.

Commentators like to cite American involvement in "meaningless" wars. This mainly seems to mean in Iraq and Afghanistan, if not Vietnam and who knows what else. But none of these conflicts were meaningless, despite much criticism being possible about the goals and conduct involved in them. Joe Biden's abandonment of Afghanistan in 2021, leaving behind American citizens and Afghan allies, who had been promised protection, and abandoning billions of dollars in military equipment, which now equips the Ṭalibān and any of their terrorist allies, certainly made that conflict meaningless, pointless, and futile. A similar withdrawl from Iraq, by President Obama in 2007-2011, led to the invasion of ISIS terrorists from Syria in 2014. American forces needed to return. Mainly with Kurdish fighters, President Trump directed driving ISIS from Iraq and crushing it in Syria. Enlighened opinion now, of course, is to abandon the Kurds (again).

But the Ukraine cannot be abandoned without grievous moral and strategic loss. President Trump knew that Russian threats must be meet with equal threats, but President Biden continued with displays of weakness, irresolution, and half-heartedness -- mixed in with demands for Putin's ouster, beyond the scope of protecting the Ukraine. The result, which encouraged Putin just enough, may mean a protracted conflict, the kind of thing in which public opinion loses its determination.

Was ist gut? -- Alles, was das Gefühl der Macht, den Willen zur Macht, die Macht selbst im Menschen erhöht.

What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Antichrist, Versuch einer Kritik der Christentums [Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1986, p.12]; translation by Walter Kaufmann (1921-1980), The Portable Nietzsche [the Viking Press, 1954, 1965, "The Antichrist," p.570].

I try to keep up with events in the Ukraine. In early September, Ukrainian forces seem to be advancing, but the maps don't really show that much progress. They take a village here, a village there. Not how you win a war.

So it worries me that they are running multiple offensives and dispersing forces. You need to concentrate forces for dramatic victories. There are three offensives against the Russian units on the West bank of the Dnieper alone -- Russians who are already cut off from supplies and supposedly experiencing poor morale. Not that I really know anything, but I would like to see the Ukrainians punch through the middle and head for the Dnieper, dividing the whole region in two, and putting themselves in the rear of the Russian army, and then heading down river to Kherson to bag the whole garrison.

Ukrainian propaganda videos keep saying Russians are running out of supplies and are about to surrender. I wish, but the maps don't look like that yet. And no videos of large numbers of POWs. What it looks like is that the Ukrainians are using the same tactics that the Russians have recently been using in the North-East -- advancing slowly on a broad front behind heavy artillery. Maybe they all went to the same school. Not the Guderian school. No Blitzkrieg here.

In World War II, the Russians didn't like penetration tactics because that put Russian soldiers behind German lines, which immediately made them suspect of becoming German spies -- Russian soldiers can't be trusted unless constantly under the supervision of political commissars. That's why repatriated Russian POWs were all sent to the GULAG. They had all become spies while under German control. The few, of course, that were left -- the way the Germans treated them.

Nasty Isolationists: Let Russia Win

Meanwhile, the people I can now only think of as "Isolationists" seem to be getting pretty nasty. I hate to do it, but I must name Tucker Carlson, who I usually agree with. But I find him making what sounds like an argument that Russia should be allowed to invade and conquer anything as long as Putin can blackmail the rest of Europe with Russian energy, or with nuclear threats. But perhaps I have misunderstood the argument.

At the same time, Carlson keeps repeating the fraudulent principle that the Ukraine only deserves help if it is a democracy; and since it really isn't, then it should be left to its own devices. One of Carlson's guests even said that the "freedom loving people" of the Ukraine, who must oppose the tyranny of their own government, apparently should be left to welcome Russian troops, who will free them from that government. Presumably this person thinks that Vladimir Putin represents real democracy, which will gratify the "freedom loving people" of the Ukraine. But perhaps that won't work if Putin deports, tortures, or murders these people. That doesn't quite compute.

I have still not seen Carlson mention, not even once, that the United States, Britain, and (laughably) Russia undertook to guarantee the sovereignty and borders of the Ukraine if it would give up its atomic weapons. And, really, is it OK with Carlson if Russia keeps invading its neighbors? Where does he draw the line? Poland? Belgium? Certainly Lithuania or Estonia are not worth American lives, are they? Didn't they always belong to Russia anyway? Maybe their governments aren't quite democratic enough for Carlson's high standards.

Arguments keep getting repeated that NATO "provoked" Russia with threats. In fact, the only threats have been by Russia. NATO is a defensive alliance. Nations joins NATO, not because they want to threaten Russia, but because Russia threatens them. The Russian invasions of Georgia and the Ukraine would look theatening to anyone. If Putin compains about NATO, it is only because it discourages his ambitions for invasion, conquest, and genocide. He has no legitimate grievances.

My worry about Ukrainian tactics turned out to be just what the Ukrainians wanted the Russians to think. While a village here, a village there, were falling in the South, the Ukrainians were preparing a massive offensive in the North. Over the Summer, the Russians had been moving slowly toward the large city of Kharkiv, but on September 6, the Ukrainians suddenly burst through the Russian lines. The Russians were completely deceived. The Ukrainians had concentrated a good 100,000 men, perhaps with a "just in time" concentration, while the Russians were thinking that all the action was in the South.

Within a week, hundreds of square miles had been liberated. The key cities of Izium and Kupiansk, key bases and transportation centers, were occupied; and the Russians often fled in haste, abandoning equipment, supplies, and sometimes even their uniforms.

Meanwhile, slow progress was being made in the South, as Russian reinforcements had difficulty getting through, and supplies were low. Rumors circulate that Russian units, low on ammunition, were negotiating surrender. That hasn't happened yet; but if it does, the whole Russian war machine could stumble. There is also talk of Putin starting a war with NATO. Isn't he having enough trouble fighting the Ukraine? What is left over for another war? Inquiring minds want to know.

Late in September, no Russian units have surrendered, there don't seem to be any mass desertions of Russian soldiers, and the Ukrainians have not effected another breakthrough as they did near Kharkiv. I'm still waiting for real progress near Kherson, and it hasn't happened yet.

Since the Ukrainians have been trying to interdict supplies and reinforcements to the West Bank of the Dnieper River, in the Kherson compaign, I hope they are getting ready for something more dramatic. It is about time for it.

Some of what I am hearing is hopeful. It sounds like the Ukrainians, as part of the interdiction effort, are using infiltration tactics. Partisans and commandos, now usually called "special forces," have been hitting targets and assassinating Russian officials and Ukrainian collaborators behind the Russian lines, especially in the Kherson area. In occupied areas, civilians are also helping the Ukrainians with intelligence about the disposition of Russian forces, headquarters, and supply depots.

I hope there is a plan there; and when the interdiction and infiltration efforts reach maturity, it will be time for breakthrough and pursuit against Russian forces again. Otherwise, it looks like the Russians, despite morale and materiel problems, have stiffened their resistance and slowed down the Ukrainian advances, in the North and South.

Putin is running a fraudulent "referendum" to annex occupied areas, so he can claim they are part of Russian national territory, justifying anything, including nuclear weapons, for their defense. At the same time, however, he is mobilizing and calling up reserves, which sounds like he is hoping for success on the ground. However, aging, poorly trained, and poorly equipped draftees sound more like cannon fodder than like a serious army, where the trained, standing army has already been expended in disastrous defeats in the Ukraine. Any nuclear weapons, at the same time, if he doesn't want to start World War III, would make Russia more of an international pariah than it already is. India, which has been slow to condemn Russia, is not going to like the idea that Pakistan might get ideas about the use of its nukes.

So it is a perilous business all the way around, and people should be asking themselves why Putin, if Donald Trump was his creature, didn't move against the Ukraine during the Trump Administration -- and why Trump's blunt warnings about invading the Ukraine were not repeated by the Biden White House. As it happens, people who voted for Biden hoping to destroy America may get rather more than they bargained for, as they may have already.

There is only one way forward, and that is for the West to continue to support the liberation of the Ukrainian people, perhaps the most transparently just and righteous cause in international affairs in living memory.

Boris Johnson, "Victory Is the Only Option for Ukraine," The Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2022, A17

The Liberation of Херсон

In mid-November, the Russians have evacuated the city of Kherson, Херсон, and the whole Right Bank of the Dnieper River. This began with a Ukrainian breakthrough from the north along the river, which bagged a large part of the region.

We were then waiting for the next act. The Ukrainians had accomplished two spectacular breakthroughs against the Russians, rolling up a lot of territory and capturing a lot of equipment, ammunition, and even uniforms that Russian soldiers had just abandoned. For a while, the largest supplier to the Ukrainian Army was.... Russia.

But then the next act didn't seem to happen. There was a "pause," and we were back to a village here, a village there, while the Russians were trying, futilely, to push forward in the central areas up north. It is still not clear why the Ukrainians didn't do another breakthrough. Did they need to resupply? Had they suffered too many casualties? Were they playing a longer game of preparation with infiltrators, special forces, and partisans? We don't know.

However, in the Kherson region one obvious strategy was to cut off Russian forces from supplies. If the goal of this was to isolate them and then surround them with a breakthrough, that didn't happen. What did happen was that the Russians decided that they couldn't take it. They began withdrawing their people, as well as looting and destroying as much as they could. Ukrainian drones were watching Russian soldiers actually stealing washing machines and refrigerators. Even more worrisome is the possibility of the Russians kidnapping and deporting people. We know they have been doing that in all the areas they've occupied.

So now the Russians have withdrawn south of the Dnieper, in fact far enough south to be out of Ukrainian artillery range. So now it is even less certain what the Ukrainians will do next. There is still intense fighting up north, and we don't see any breakthrough tactics. At the same time, it is still not clear how much equipment the Russians were forced to leave behind in the Kherson region. How hurried or organized was their withdrawl? That is not clear.

A pro-Russian source I have seen -- I don't think it was even Russian (Tucker Carlson had had on his show a retired general who confidently predicated that the Russians would easily take Kiev) -- was predicting that the winter would be good for the Russians because when the ground froze, they were "masters" of winter warfare. Not long afterwards, I saw a similar claim made for the Ukrainians. Well, we shall see. The Russians have not been proving themselves very good at any kind of warfare; and they are now filling their ranks with poorly trained and poorly equipped draftees, while Ukrainian units are now hardened veterans, with Western and captured Russian equipment. And, of course, it was actually the Finns who proved themselves masters of winter warfare in 1940.

Ever notice how self-righteous the wicked can be? Indeed, some of the most evil people seem the most self-assured in their righteousness. In 2022, Vlaimir Putin and Russian nationalists exhibit this trait. You would think that their enemies are invading Russia or wronging Russia in all sorts of ways. This even though for years Vladimir Putin was welcomed among other heads of state as though he was a member in good standing of the international community, even after his invasions of Georgia and, in 2014, of the Ukraine. So if Putin is an outcast now, and Russia is under sanctions, and Russians are being killed with weapons supplied to the Ukraine, Putin, and his nationalist allies, has only brought it all on himself. The Ukraine wanted to join NATO, not to threaten Russia, but to protect itself from Russia. Putin has only vindicated the wisdom of that desire, which now motivates Finland and Sweden, famous neutrals, to join NATO. Just as Hitler's V-1 and V-2 rockets were called "Vengeance" weapons, you would think that every Ukrainian the Russians kill somehow deserves it. How dare they reject Russian benevolence! Indeed, as we see in the quote above, Ukrainians do deserve to die, with their culture, language, and country erased, for rejecting Russia. These are among the most vicious attitudes on Earth.

Meanwhile, the "anti-war" forces in the West have gotten nastier. Some radical constituents of AOC (Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez) heckled her for supporting "Ukrainian Nazis," thus repeating standard Russian propaganda -- although they forgot the "Zionist" or "Jewish Zionist" or "Satanic" part of the "Nazi" slogan. Similarly, Tucker Carlson uses slogans like the American "religious war against Russia," apparently tracing our hostility back to Russia no longer having "gay pride" parades. Carlson thus makes it sound like the United States, out of nowhere, invaded Russia -- which, curiously, is exactly what the Russians say. No, Tucker, the Russians invaded the Ukraine, in violation of their own agreements and the United Nations Charter. Our only part in that was senile Old Joe giving Putin the impression that he could get away with it. So, we might wonder, why does Tucker Carlson repeat Russian propaganda and talking points?

To be sure, Carlson has joined the group, we may as well call them "Isolationists," that regards all recent Amrerican military actions as "pointless wars." I suppose we were supposed to let Saddam Hussein conquer Kuwait, or violate the cease-fire agreements that followed Kuwait's liberation. And perhaps Afghanistan as a refuge for anti-American terrorists was just fine. We know what a hopeless business it has always been when the Powers have intervened there. Not to worry; the terrorists are back.

Admittedly, foolish things have been done in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but that does not mean that things did not need to be done. "Nation building" was always a ridiculous idea in places whose Mediaevalism is entrenched in their history, culture, and religion. But protecting Afghan women from all that was not a bad thing; and abandoning them to the Ṭālibān, as Joe Biden did, was shameful. It will never be a win-win business. It wasn't costing Americans much to supply minimal support to friendly regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but "hell to pay" will always be the result of abandoning them. And in Iraq and Syria, the Kurds have been perfectly happy to do most of our fighting for us. But Biden's deals with Iran always threaten their own abandonment.

But there really aren't any Ukrainians secretly hostile to America. They know and hate the Russians all too well; and the Russians have fully cooperated in demonstrating how that hatred is justified -- lessons in no way lost on the Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians also. Even the Finns and Swedes have gotten the message loud and clear. So it is a little late to blame America for Russian aggression, although "Bizarro World" narratives are famliar at the fringes of American politics. Ukrainians are fighting for their lives, in truly heroic resistance; but Tucker Carlson seems to think that they ought to just surrender and let the Russians conquer, rape, and murder them. Helping them isn't worth a "pointless war," or provoking Russian nuclear blackmail. We had always let them get away with that, back in the Cold War, hadn't we?

Update, 2023

2023 began with a lot of discussion about either Ukrainian or Russian offensives. But if anyone was going to display "mastery" of winter warfare, we still haven't seen it. The Russian "amen corner" in American political commentary, such as with Colonel Douglas MacGregor, who Tucker Carlson keeps having on his show, has been predicting, again and again, that the Ukrainians are going to be "annihilated."

Early in 2022 MacGregor was saying that Kiev would fall in a few days -- even while the Ukrainians were destroying Russian tank columns -- and he has given speeches complaining about "rootless cosmopolitans," which is Stalinist code for the Jews. Because of this, and more, one might think that he would be discredited by now. But pro-Russian propaganda is not yet generally discredited, and American Isolationists still carelessly repeat its lies and "disinformation." MacGregor seems to have absorbed so much Russian propaganda that he has even absorbed Russian anti-Semitism -- the Russians, of course, are calling the Ukrainian regime "Zionist Nazis," which is currently the nastiest side of anti-Semitic discourse, like at American universities.

Carlson himself has referred to "our war against Russia," as though the Russians were just peacefully minding their own business and we up and attacked them. Not quite. Carlson has also said that Zelenskyy has "outlawed Christianity," because he has closed some Russian Orthodox churches that were treasonously collaborating with the Russians. Similarly, Carlson seems to think that pro-Russian political parties should be tolerated, the way, I suppose, the United States treasured the right of a Nazi Party to exist in the United States during World War II. Oh, we didn't. Never mind.

The Isolationists like the idea that NATO was threatening Russia and provoked Putin into an act of self-defense by invading the Ukraine. This is simply a lie. No one has ever threatened Russia. Quite the opposite. Everyone was hoping that Russia would be a productive member of the international community of nations. But the Ukraine, and others, knew that Putin intended to conquer his neighbors, even as he had already invaded the Ukraine in 2014 and annexted the Crimea. NATO is no more than a defensive alliance, and Russia could only be threatened by it if it intended on waging wars of aggression, as it is doing.

One problem for recent attempts at offensives is that the winter may not be cold enough. Predictions of great tank battles on frozen ground are voided by the ground remaining mainly muddy, not frozen. At the same time, the Ukrainians have been promised tanks and other armored vehicles from the West, which they can reasonable be expected to wait for until trying again any offensives of their own.

At the same time, the Russians are said to be massing an army of half-a-million new recruits and draftees, which will roll over the Ukrainians. However, while the Russians do seem to have a fair number of reinforcements, concentrations on the purported scale have not been seen by satellite or drone reconaissance. Some observers think that recent Russian attacks are already supposed to be the great offensive.

One report is that 97% of the Russian army is already in the Ukraine. In general, the Russians have stuck to their traditional tactics, which involve heavy artillery barrages and then massed infantry attacks. This has gained them slow progress, both in the summer of 2022 (before the Ukrainian offensive), and then recently. However, this wears out their guns and uses up their ammunition -- and men -- all of which are becoming more difficult to replace. Russian casualties now seem to have surpassed 100,000 dead, more than the United States lost in World War I, or in Korea and Vietnam combined. Many Russian dead may have resulted from the practice of the Russians shooting their own soldiers, this if the cannon fodder troops on the front line (who have often been recruited from Russian prisons) try to retreat. That was the practice of the World War II Soviet Army, on the principle that retreating soliders had become German spies.

Demographically, Russia cannot sustain such losses. The ethnic Russian population has been declining for years. Putin seems to deal with that by relying on other ethnic populations of the "Russian Federation," such as Chechens and Tuvans. There is some danger in relying on Chechens, who have no reason to love Russia and many of whom have reportedly already gone over to the Ukrainians. There have been reports of arms smuggling into Chechnya, where a new revolt would not help the Russians in the least. Similarly, the Crimean Tartars have a long history of hating Russia. Many are reported fighting for the Ukraine already; and, unlike Chechnya, there seem to be none of them who have been tempted into the Russian army.

Thus, between the Russian soldiers who are poorly trained, poorly fed, poorly equipped, and, not surprisingly, poorly motivated, Putin may be brewing up a great ethnic revolt against Russia. While various sources play this up, it is not clear how close it is to happening, if ever.

At the same time, the Ukraine has a demographic problem similar to Russia, and its casualties are also significant. But it is not hard to understand how the proportion of Russian losses would be much greater. On February 13, Ukrainian drones photographed the destruction of a Russian armored column of 31 some vehicles, including tanks, approaching Vuhledar. Between Ukrainian mines and artillery, every vehicle was destroyed, without even any contact with Ukrainian forces. Russian soldiers were running away, or even being run over by their own vehicles. We've seen much the same thing happening many times in the last year.

What will happen as things go on is unclear. Some commentary is that the West has been giving the Ukraine enough to avoid defeat, but not enough to win. The best hope there is that Russians may accomplish their own defeat with foolish and wasteful attacks. Many in the West are still afraid to "provoke" Russia too much, or Putin will start a nuclear war (from which Russia, presumably, will be exempt). Countries near Russia, who have had too much of their own experience with the Russians, have no illusions.

An Estonian commentator, Artur Rehi, says that the Ukrainians are fighting the Russians now so that Estonians, Poles, Lithuanians, etc. will not need to fight the Russians later. Putin wants the Empire of the Tsars and Stalin. He has said so. The Russians are already expressing intense hatred for Poland. Like many psychopathic criminals, the Russians, after two centuries of the criminal oppression of the Poles, have conceived a great hatred for them. The Poles know that, which is why the Poles display the most forthright support of the Ukraine of any EU member. Poland has vastly increased its military budget, preparing to fight Russia itself, if it must.

But the Russians don't seem to hate anyone as much as they now hate the Ukrainians. Russian commentators simply say that the Ukraine belongs to Russia and that, if the people there don't like that, they should just die or leave. And the practice of the Russians has clearly been to kill or deport as many Ukrainians as possible. The Russian tactic of slaughtering civilians and utterly destroying cities and industry, openly demonstrated in Chechnya and Aleppo in Syria, is consistent with a willingness to commit genocide, if necessary. Humanity and international law be damned. Putin's dictator allies in the UN are cheering him on.

More than the Romans, Russian practice would fulfill a statement reportedly made by the Chieftain Calgacus, a Caledonian who fought the Romans at the battle of Mons Graupius in northern Britain in 83 or 84 AD. Attributed to him is the statement, "They make a desert and call it peace." The Romans seem to have won the battle, but they failed to subdue the territory and ended up withdrawing to the line where Hadrian's Wall was built. While the moors of Scotland might look like a desert to many, this was the work of Nature, not of the Romans.

Unfortuantely, if Russia gets its desert, and depopulates and flattens all human structures in the Ukraine, it has neither the wealth nor the population to rebuild or repopulate the country. Perhaps conquering and ruling a desert would suit Putin just fine. It is the Nihilism of our age, already too evident among atheist elites in the West.

So she determined that she’d return to her bleeding homeland — in secret, on the weekends, whenever she could -- to document the cold realities of Vladimir Putin’s war and show it to the world.

But the scenes she recorded alongside her travel companion, a journalist named Igor Zakharenko, were so breathtaking in their horror that German news wouldn’t publish them.

Rows of dead men with their faces caved in like rotting pumpkins. Charred bodies on the pavement, their blackened arms twisted like burned chicken wings as they tried to escape their torched cars. Abandoned stands of strollers, luggage and stuffed animals were surrounded by bloody lakes that stained the bricks on which they sat.

“I want people to see the real side of war,” said the former travel agent and professional translator. “I saw people without heads, tortured to death. Just civilians, not soldiers. Heads smashed. Bodies piled up together, people burned ... those pictures matter.”...

The scenes that greeted her were heart-stopping.

They found scorched bodies piled on the highways and corpses of naked women, surrounded by condoms, who she believed had been raped before they were butchered.

In Bucha, she and Zakharenko stumbled upon killing fields rarely found in Europe since 1945.

“There were so many bodies on the streets -- dead animals, women, children,” Verbivska said. “We would visit houses and see people shot dead in their beds. They went to animal shelters and killed dogs. How are you protecting yourself when you’re killing dogs? “We saw the body of a man on a fallen bicycle, shot dead. These weren’t soldiers. They were civilians trying to escape.”

Iryna Verbivska, "Ukrainian refugee returns to homeland to chronicle horrors, carnage of Russian invasion," The New York Post, 15 March 2023, pp.4-5.

Savage Russia, Callous Carlson

On February 24, 2023, the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Tucker Carlson spent most of his hour peddling Russian propaganda. He even featured, again, the despicable pro-Russian and possibly anti-Semitic Colonel Douglas MacGregor. To Carlson, the war is our "war against Russia." He hasn't denied that Russia invaded the Ukraine, but the thought seems to have dropped out of his mind. Meanwhile, "our" war against Russia seems to be because Putin has outlawed gay pride parades and doesn't allow the sexual mutilation of children -- just the torture of Ukrainian children. Thus, it doesn't take much for Carlson to promote Putin's claim to be defending religion and civilization, which I suppose is what he thinks war crimes always do.

Carlson does have a new theory. Russia is an enemy only because the Democrats wanted to blame their loss to Donald Trump in 2016 on the Russians. The "Russia Hoax" then tried to smear Trump, with the help of the FBI and other "deep state" forces, as himself some sort of Russian agent. Trump, in turn, didn't want to treat Russia as an enemy.

While the Russia Hoax and the misconduct of the FBI, etc., are one of the worse electoral dirty tricks, and one of the worst corruptions of federal law enforcement, in American history, Carlson's idea falls far short of letting Russia off the hook. Before anyone cared about Donald Trump, Russia had conquered Chechnya and slaughered Chechens in 1999-2000; Russia invaded Georgia in 2008; Russia destroyed Aleppo on behalf of the government of Syria, 2012-2016; and Russia invaded the Ukraine in 2014. These actions demonstrated the criminal aggressive intent of Vladimir Putin, as well as the willingness of the Russian military to just kill anyone and everyone if that is what was necessary for victory.

It was Barack Obama who prevented Russia from becoming an enemy with all of this going on. Obama wouldn't even provide weapons to the Ukraine. No, that was Donald Trump; but then the Democrats accused Trump of threatening to cut off the weapons! They wanted to impeach him for that. So, let's see. This means that the Democrats wanted the Ukraine to have weapons for self-defense, but no weapons were provided when there actually was a Democrat President. And the President who did provide weapons was prosecuted for maybe not providing them. I'm not sure I understand.

Of course, what the Democrats were upset about was that Trump had asked the new President of the Ukraine to reinstitute the investigation into the Burisma company, which had been paying Hunter Biden for doing nothing. The original investigation had been quashed because of the threats of Vice President Biden, who said that American aid would be cut off unless the prosecutor in the case was fired. He made it an ultimatum, set to expire within hours. The prosecutor was fired. There is no question about the facts in the case, since Biden boasted about it in public, as though protecting his family's corruption with the power of the United States government was entirely legitimate.

This bit of corrupt action on behalf of a corrupt company, and Beden's own corrupt family, resulted in no consequences for Biden. But when Trump asked that Biden's intervention be undone, the Democrats set about to impeach him for it, with the accusation that he made American military aid depended on it. Whether that was even true, and it wasn't, it is not clear how Trump's request was remotely as corrupt as Biden's original threats.

The Democrats did impeach Trump, but even they dropped the reference to the Ukraine issue and had to cook up some other absurd, unrelated charges. Biden still gets a pass for all the corruption he and his family have been involved in, not just in the Ukraine, but with Russia, China, Iran, etc. Among other things, what the whole episode demonstrated was that no hypocrisy was too blatant for the Democrats, or for the "mainstream" media to say anything to protect Biden and the Democrats, or for the "deep state" of unaccountable bureaucrats, including the FBI and CIA, to act on behalf of the Democrat party and to sabotage the administration of the duly elected President of the United States. Further evidence of all this misconduct continues to emerge.

Trump not only began to arm and train the Ukrainian army, but he also told Putin that he would bomb Moscow if Putin invaded the Ukraine. Sounds like deterence. So Putin waited until there was a senile, corrupt, mendacious old fool in the White House, elected by the folly of the American People (perhaps deceived by the lies of the media), before doing his new invasion. Fortunately, because of Trump's actions, the Ukraine was ready to defeat much of the Russian invasion, especially Putin's attempt to seize Kiev.

We also have the curious case of the gas pipelines in the Baltic. Donald Trump warned the Germans that they were getting too dependant on the Russians for energy. This was at the UN, and the German delegation actually snickered during Trump's speech -- betraying that they were idiots. Construction on a new (additional) pipeline that was being built at the time was stopped by Trump. But then Biden, as soon as he became President, allowed work to start again on the pipeline, presumably as a signal to Putin that he was playing nice.

After Putin's invasion, someone blew up the working pipeline in the Baltic. Carlson likes the accusation that the United States did that. So what? This returned the situation to what was desired by Donald Trump, that Germany was not compromised with more dependence on Russian energy. That's good. But Carlson wants it to be a big scandal. If Biden had the pipeline destroyed, it was merely an admission by Biden that he had made a mistake in playing nice to Putin. I see nothing wrong with that; and I'm not sure that Carlson's "scandal" even makes any sense. Since no one is being open and honest about anything, certainly not Biden, the whole business will remain muddled.

In 1812, when Russian armies followed Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, and they entered Western Europe, eventually all the way to Paris, they quickly gained a reputation for brutality. The common significance of "Cossacks" is not an accident. Truth be told, they came from a tough neighborhood. The Mongols, Tartars, and the Turks had never played nice.

In World War I, the Russians never advanced very far or for very long into German territory, so there is really no story about their behavior. However, captured by the Russians, who did better against the Austrians, Ludwig Wittgenstein's brother was badly treated and developed a lifelong hatred for Russia. Wittengeinstein himself had foolish ideas about the Soviet Union, but he was reportedly shaken by how the Russians were behaving in Vienna after the War.

In World War II, the behavior of the Russian army was first evident in the occupation of Poland and the Baltic States. At Katyn, in April and May 1940, the Russians executed some 22,000 Polish military officers and "elite" civilians. The mass graves were later discovered by the Germans and publicized. The Russians accused the Germans of carrying out the killings; but few doubt that it was the Russians. Both the Russians and the Germans believed in "decapitating" captive nations, i.e. wiping out their political and intellectual leadership.

The Germans, of course, were ready to practice their own massacres. Leni Riefenstahl followed Germans troops invading Poland in 1939, fliming their advance for new propaganda films. However, she was then present on September 12th, at the town of Konskie, where 30 civilians were executed. They were Jews. Riefenstahl claims that she was appalled, tried to stop this, but was threatened by German soldiers. Photographs of her at the time appear to support her distress. Riefenstahl also claims that she complained about this to Hitler. While Riefenstahl then did film Hitler's "victory" parade in Warsaw, she actually made no more Nazi propaganda films. The degree of her disillusionment is unclear, since her postwar attitudes are morally ambiguous.

The crimes and the brutality of the Germans would soon be matched by those of the Russians. At the time, one might think that it was no more than a furiously justified reaction to the Germans. However, Russian treatment of their own soldiers, who might be shot for retreating, and especially for their prisoners of war coming home from Germany, who were all sent to die in prison camps, reveals something else. The Russian soldiers knew they would be treated that way and pleaded with the Allies to be released in the West. But they were sent back anyway. They, and most of the Germans held by Russia (like most Russians held by Germany), disappeared from history. You see, Russians who survived German prisoner of war camps had certainly become German spies, or at least ideologically tainted. These are the Russians who think that the butterflies are spying on them.

Whatever the excuses of revenge, Russian soliders were free to rape and murder German civilians. This also could be dimissed as ancient history, and a feature of times, if the Russians were not still acting the same way in the Ukraine. Russian propaganda is that the Ukrainians are all Nazis, and Ukrainian civilians, and women, have certainly been treated the way Soviet soliders acted in Berlin in 1945.

Russian President Vladimir Putin planned a “total cleansing” of Ukraine with “house-to-house terror” to subdue its people, leaked spy documents reportedly show.

Chilling emails from within Russia’s FSB intelligence service talk about orders “from the very top” for civilians to be taken to concentration camps in a bid to conquer Ukraine.

The emails were leaked by a source within the FSB to Russian human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin, who founded Gulagu, a website that highlights the conditions in the country’s prison system, the UK Sun reported.

The leak comes a week after the International Criminal Court charged Putin with war crimes on charges related to an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

"Putin wanted ‘total cleansing’ of Ukraine with ‘house-to-house terror,’" The New York Post, March 26, 2023, p.33.

Female Russian combat medics serving in Ukraine are allegedly being pressed into becoming so-called “field wives” — or sex slaves, a report said.

The independent news outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published an interview Tuesday with a service member who said male officers force women into sex slavery — and those who refuse face horrible mistreatment.

"Female Russian veteran claims medics used as sex slaves by officers in Ukraine," The New York Post, March 28, 2023

Almost everything the Russians have done in 2022 and 2023 has been violations of international law, amounting to war crimes, from the initial unprovoked invasion of a peaceful member of the United Nations, and the subsequent war of aggression, to the bombing of civilian targets, attempting to deprive civilians of heat and power during the winter, to the actual torture, rape, and murder of military and civilian prisoners. Beyond that, the Russians have been deporting Ukrainian civilians to Russia and kidnapping Ukrainian children to be "schooled" or adopted by Russians. This is consistent with stated genocidal Russian war aims, which are to destroy the Ukrainian people as a nation, break their identity and their language, and, one way or another, turn them into Russians -- or else. Russian soldiers also do a lot of looting -- and, fortunately, they often sell their own military equipment to buy alcohol. Which they drink.

A favorite trick for the Russians has been to announce the existence of "safe corridors" through which civilians can flee a combat zone. Once the routes fill up with refugees, the Russians then bomb and strafe them. They did this in Chechnya and probably in Syria also. When the trick was tried in the Ukraine, word of its nature spread quickly, and I don't think the Russians were able to bag many civilians that way. They seem to have given up on the tactic. That they ever did this, of course, betrays their sheer malevolence.

These all amount to crimes against humanity, including genocide. Robert Heinlein, who visited the Soviet Union, and whose wife learned to speak Russian for their visit, said that one of the worst insults that could be directed at Russians was to call them некультурный, "uncultured." He said this should be reserved until all other demands and reproaches had failed.

If there was a sensitivity about that, perhaps it was a well founded defensiveness. Vladimir Putin has certainly displayed a savage ruthlessness, with no more restraint than would have been observed by Genghis Khan. To get his way, he is willing to commit any crime, up to and including just killing whole populations that are unwilling to be ruled by him. He is also willing throw away the lives of his own people, although with some preference to throw away lives that are not ethnic Russians.

We already knew that he is willing to assassinate political opponents, whether in Russia or elsewhere: Russian murders in London, recently using radiation poisoning from Polonium, should have been grounds for expelling all Russian diplomats and breaking off relations. But Britain, like much of the West, long practiced a kind of appeasement of Putin that everyone supposedly learned not to do from the days of Adolf Hitler. They did not want to believe that Putin was simply a monster who must be defeated, not mollified. George W. Bush had somehow "looked into his soul" and saw that he was good. An absurd start to a bad business. Unfortunately, appeasement and isolationism still appeal to many Americans, like Tucker Carlson, and Europeans. Many innocent people have paid the price for that, as Ukrainians now spill their blood so that Germans, and Tucker Carlson, can be safe in the rear. Poland and the Baltics don't have quite the same luxury.

Communist dictator Xi Jinping visited Putin in Moscow in March, offering support for Putin's war and suggesting a "peace plan" and cease-fire that, of course, would only help the Russians and cement their conquests. To Carlson, Putin would be our friend if only we were nice to him and hadn't driven him into the arms of China, while the Ukraine has been waging a "war on Christianity" and maliciously turned down the cease-fire offer. Nothing but Russian propaganda. The Russians always violate cease-fires anyway, which recently have only been ones they announce themselves. The Ukrainians wisely never trust the Russians about anything. Carlson may not have noticed that if Putin can get away with conquering the Ukraine, Xi will be confident about invading and conquering Taiwan. Perhaps Carlson thinks that Taiwan is waging a "war on Christianity."

While some other commentators on Fox News echo Carlson, to one extent or another, one who very definitely does not is Mark Levin. For a thorough demolition of Carlson's claims and arguments, Levin is excellent -- although he has not mentioned Carlson by name, despite the Russians using him in their propaganda. It it is a shame that other people in public life who support the Ukraine are nowhere near as articulate and thorough as Levin. Unfortunately, Carlson is on the air five nights a week, while Levin is only on one, on Sunday night. But if Carlson were brave and honest, which in this matter it does not seem that he is, he would invite Levin on his show for a real debate. After all, they work in the same building.

Update: Tough Fight, Faint Hearts

Every day in 2023 Russia murders Ukrainians. Russian war crimes are well documented, including the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children, just like the Nazis did with blond Polish children, who would be raised as "Aryans." Yet the isolationist wing of the Republican Party in the United States seems to think that this is all some kind of con by which the Ukrainian government can steal American money.

It doesn't help that there was a con going on, with the Joe Biden Crime Family extorting the Ukrainian government to protect the corrupt Burisma energy company, which was paying Joe's son, Hunter, to do nothing -- except protect Burisma. When President Trump tried to undo that, the Democrats had the gall (חוֺצְפָּה) to impeach him. That was rich: protect corruption by accusing someone of corruption. Now, controlling the House, the Republicans are exposing the whole sordid racket of the Bidens. The only Republican Senator who voted against Trump in that impeachment, Mitt Romney, the King of the RINO's, now sees the handwriting on the wall and has decided to retire, rather than be defeated in the Republican Senate primary in Utah. I don't know how much Romney is hated in Utah, but I know how much he should be.

Russian propaganda did take a big hit when Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News. It is still unclear what the formal complaint was against him. There were rumors that he had personally insulted Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox. There were leaks that he had been engaging in some kind of sexual harrassment. But then leaked videos of this "harrassment" showed nothing of the sort. Then there were rumors that Fox was cutting losses because of a lawsuit about reporting on Democrat vote fraud in the 2020 election, although Carlson had mostly expressed suspicions, not accusations, about that -- well founded suspicions. When Democrats change all the voting rules to make fraud possible, and then deny that they took advantage of it, it defies common sense.

Then, finally, there was Carlson's increasingly pro-Russian approach to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. I don't know if Carlson deserved to be fired over that; but it has been a disgrace. Fox also ceased to use a reporter whom Carlson had often featured, Laura Logan, who had often done useful exposés on various topics, under what she called "Laura Logan Has No Agenda." However, Logan did have an agenda, and it was off-the-deep-end Russian propaganda. The Ukraine, you see, is run by Jewish Zionist Nazis, who must be conquered or killed so that Vladimir Putan can save Western Civilziation. Carlson has often come close to saying much the same thing, but Logan has gone all in on it to what looks like a mentally disturbed level. Meanwhile, Carlson does interviews on line, featuring despicable persons like the familiar Colonel Douglas MacGregor, pushing his own Russian propaganda -- how Russia has the greatest army in the world, how Ukrainians thankfully surrender to it constantly, and how the Russians are holding 300,000 men in reserve to meet the anticipated American invasion -- all nonsense:

“We now estimate 97% of the whole Russian army is in Ukraine,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC. [February 15, 2023]

There have been instances of Russian artillery targeting Russian troops who were trying to surrender, just like the Russians have been known to fire on Russian troops who were just retreating. Indeed, the Russians use formations, as they did in World War II, so that troops could be shot if they tried to retreat.

We still get moments of anti-Ukraine commentary at Fox News. Laura Ingraham doesn't openly peddle Russian propaganda; but we do get a lot of sniping about money and about vaguely implied corruption or pointlessness. We get the impression that it is of no concern of ours if Putin conquers Eastern Europe, which was Carlson's basic default position. What the Poles, Baltics, and Finns think about that is nothing to worry about, despite our formal obligations to them under NATO. So there is a lot of innuendo there, hidden behind vagueness and ambiguity, without anyone featured to pin down what she means or expects. This is basically dishonest, and shameful.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration still seems to have a policy of giving the Ukraine enough to avoid defeat but not quite enough to achieve victory. This is paid for in Ukrainian lives, as well as, incidently, Russian lives -- although the Russians themselves regularly display no concern for the lives or well being of their own soldiers, who they throw away like confetti. The Administration continues to worry about "escalation," and about Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons, when yielding to his threats and blackmail only encourages him to keep at it. Trump essentially told Putin that we have nukes too, which means he understood the dictator, and dictators, better than faint hearted Biden does -- while Biden continues to appease China, to the distress of everyone else in Southeast Asia. The purpose of that, incredibly, is to get China to sign on to a self-destructive climate policy, which the Chinese not only have no intention of doing, but it must regularly give them a good laugh when John Kerry or Antony Blinken, or any other clueless 白左, báizuǒ, shows up to pitch it.

Despite the handicaps, the Ukrainians fight on determinedly. Observers had hoped, after anticipating a Ukrainian offensive for months, that they would be able to stage breakthroughs, such as they did a year ago. Unfortunately, the Russians spent the winter creating the equivalent of the Maginot Line all across the Eastern Ukraine -- a defense in depth of trenches and anti-tank barriers. This has not stopped, but it has slowed the Ukrainians and prevented any dramatic breakthroughs, while the Russians have tried some of their own offensive actions, which have gone nowhere.

In World War II, of course, the Germans went around the Maginot Line. The Ukrainians can't do that; but what one can do is test the line in various places, looking for weak spots that can be exploited. They have made the most progress in the South, penetrating several layers of Russian defense and defeating attempted Russian counterattacks. Concentration there seems to be deliberate, since a real breakthrough, if the Ukrainians can push through down to the Azov Sea, will cut off supply lines to the Crimea, where the Ukrainians have frequently attacked supply lines, communications, military installations, and supply dumps. Two Russian ships were just destroyed in dry docks, which are the only dry docks in Sevastopol. Clearly, isolating the Crimea is a strategic goal, with its liberation the target.

Russia is receiving military aid from Iran and China, and has arranged to do so from North Korea. However, Iran and North Korea do not have economies that are any more robust than Russia, and the idea that they could compete with Western aid to the Ukraine is absurd. Everyone seems to keep forgetting that Russia is economically backward -- its gross domestic product is smaller than Brazil and barely larger than South Korea -- and that its only hope of continuing its war is if Joe Biden keeps handing Putin high oil prices, as he indeed continues doing.

China is something else. But the Chinese economy is currently not in great shape either, and draining off resources, especially millitary resources, to prop up Putin, is not a good deal for China, especially if it hampers China's efforts to intimidate its neighbors. Dictator Xi must have mixed feelings about the whole business. On the other hand, if Putin is defeated outright, this will encourage everyone that Taiwan will be able to resist a Chinese invasion.

מְנֵא מְנֵא תְּקֵל וּפַרְסִין׃

Daniel 5:25

Meanwhile, we wonder about Russia. The Russian people are no longer numerous enough to sustain a long war, especially when the Russian Army throws away its men, often to even leave the wounded to die on the battlefield. It is essential to Russia that its ethnic minorities step up to throw away their own lives. We might wonder especially about the Chechens, who fought two bloody wars for independence and only lost when Putin was just willing to kill everyone.

We know that Chechens have gone over to the Ukrainians, but so far there seems to be no real threat of revolt in Chechnya. The Chechen Quisling, Ramzan Kadyrov, has not been as conspicuous lately, and he is currently reported hospitalized in critical condition, according to Ukrainian intelligence. The way things go in Russia, we might wonder if his condition has been induced by one of Putin's favorite poisons. Indeed, the rumor is now circulating that before Kadyrov lapsed into a coma last Fall, he decided that his long time personal physician was poisoning him. So he had him buried alive. All that might suggest that Kadyrov was begining to wonder about the wisdom of his loyalties, or that Putin was suspecting him of wondering. In turn, Kadyrov videos have been released, implying that he isn't sick at all. We will see. But if he dies, this could reset the situation in Chechnya.

Meanwhile, however, our curiosity about the morale of the Russian Army so far is no more than that. Poorly trained and poorly equipped Russian soliders continue with the stubborn suicidal and Stoic determination of Tsarist peasants. That the folly of this war could lead to a Revolution is a possibility, but we see no real indication of it. It almost looked like that was happening on 23 June 2023, when Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary "Wagner Group," decided to march on Moscow. He soon gave up on that, and was "forgiven" by Putin. But as they say in Animal House, "You fucked up; you trusted us." Prigozhin's private plane, flying over Russia, was either blown up or shot down. Putin kills his opposition, doesn't forgive, and doesn't forget.

Update: Bogus "Endless Wars" Claim

Isolationists in the United States have come up with a repeated claim about the war in the Ukraine, and perhaps about the Israeli operation in Gaza also. They say that the "interventionists" are involving the United States in "endless wars," which apparently means that the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the Terrorist attack against Israel are none of our business.

Thus, supplying aid to the Ukraine, or to Israel, is supposedly the same as sending American soldiers into Vietnam, or Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan, etc., none of which seems to have worked out very well for us. Former Governor Nikki Haley, running against Donald Trump, is frequently accused of being a "war monger" for supporting aid to the Ukraine -- although Trump himself seems to have forestalled a Russian invasion of the Ukraine by threatening military retaliation. That would have been war, you know.

This "endless war" talk is all completely bogus, dishonest, and vicious. If Russia conquers the Ukraine and massacres Ukrainians or sends them off to (Hillary Clinton's?) "reeducation" camps, to beat Russian identity into them, Putin's next target would be the Baltics, which are now in NATO. An invasion there is immediately an American war. As the Estonian Artur Rehi says, the Ukrainians are fighting now so that others, like Estonians, Poles, or Americans, don't need to.

So why are the Isolationists promoting the Russian cause? They are effectively "warmongering" for Russia, which might have been simply defeated by now, if aid had been more timely. Either the Isolationists are too stupid to realize that, or are they bought off? Tucker Carlson is still off kissing butt with Vladimir Putin, as though Putin were the champion of Christianity and Western Civilization, which is a very horrible joke. With a dictator who has invaded neighbors three times and has had political opposition imprisoned or assassinated, Carlson has deeply discredited and shamed himself.

While not all Republicans are Isolationists, they got the bright idea of holding aid to the Ukraine hostage to get the Democrats to do something about the millions of illegal aliens that Joe Biden is allowing into the country. The result was a "bi-partisan" bill in the Senate for the border, the Ukraine, and Israel. However, "bi-partisan" in Washington tends to mean that Democrats get what they want and Republicans settle for symbolic or meaningless concessions. The paradigmatic example of that was with George H.W. Bush, whose campaign pledge, repeatedly, was "no new taxes." So, on becoming President, Bush immediately agreed with the Democrats to raise taxes, in exchange for vague promises of future budget cuts, which, of course, never happened. Agreements with the Democrat can be no more trusted than those with, say, the Russians.

Thus, the "Border Bill," secretly assembled in the Senate, did little more than legitimize the violations of federal law that Joe Biden had been practicing. Illegal entrants, by law, must be detained, not treated with "catch and release" and an unenforceable promise to attend some future court date. With the bill, up to 5000 illegals a day could be released into the country before anything would need to be done about it, and then that would be at the discretion of the President -- i.e. he could ignore the sanctions allowed by the bill.

That was already a deal breaker; and when word of it leaked out, the RINO conspirators at first tried to deny it. But it was the truth, evident once the bill was released, with the hope of passing it without debate or even time to read it (a favorite Democrat, and now RINO, tactic).

So, while being gulled by the Democrats and betrayed by the RINO's, the aid packages were pointlessly held up. No border bill actually was even necessary. Biden said "I've done all I can," which was a simple lie. All he needed, or needs, to do is enforce current law. No new law was necessary for that. Instead, what the Democrats wanted to get was more money to process and release more illegal aliens faster, while leaving the border unguarded, so that the Drug Cartels could bring in drugs, women, children, terrorists, gangsters, and who knows what all else.

RINO's like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who often seems as senile as Joe Biden, really didn't care about the border and just wanted some trick to make it look like the bill would secure the border, when it would do the opposite. This has been a consistent problem in the Republican Party, whose representatives betray their voters far more often than Democrats do theirs (although Democrats do betray constituencies like Black or Hispanic Democrats, while remaining faithful to the largely white and comfortable Ruling Class -- this is obvious with charter schools and education vouchers, which black parents want and teachers' unions hate).

Meanwhile, the Russians throw away thousands of soldiers (mostly not ethnic Russians) in human wave attacks, something the Ukrainians cannot afford to do. Republicans who are not overtly Isolationists nevertheless say things like "We should deal with the border first," as though they can't walk and chew gum at the same time. The border, the Ukraine, and Israel can all be addressed simultaneously. Anything else is dishonest and an evasion. Their motives for the evasion need to be examined.

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Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved


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
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
Kniaz Potemkin Tavritcheskirenamed Pantelimon
after 1905 mutiny
Rostislavrun aground, 1920
Tri Svietteliascrapped, 1922
Dvienadsat Apostolovstricken, 1911
Sinopescrapped, 1922
Ekaterina II
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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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).
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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Copyright (c) 2001, 2003, 2005 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved