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The russian history

    «On my honor I swear to you that I would not wish another fatherland for anything on earth, or any other history than that of our ancestors as God has given it to us..»

The letter of A. Pushkin to A.Chaadaev. 1831

    " I know of no nation whose destiny has been more frequently disturbed than Russia's. It resembles a flowing stream that, owing to violent upheavals, has several times changed its bed. Like one of those men who, having been ill-treated by fate, has put his hand to several different occupations, but has never been successful. The Western nations developed under far more favourable conditions. When the barbarians, after the recoil of Islam, had settled down, they had twelve centuries of comparative peace in which to work and to develop spontaneously. Revolutions and wars never completely threw them off the lines on which they had started. Russia, on the other hand, seems to have been the chosen field in which to make radical experiments. This process is accompanied with much oppression. Every two or three centuries, at the moment when these unfortunate people had settled on a certain line of progress, their course is headed and turned aside.
    It makes one giddy when one realizes the disordered changes this great body of humanity was subjected to by sudden collisions with ideas and facts. Barbaric anarchy due to heathenism and intertribal wars continued in Russia for two or three centuries after they had ceased with us. Eventually Christianity appears, but from the Byzant, a source the least pure, for it is a vitiated Christianity, enervated by that effete spirit which prevailed in the Eastern Empire. Those Slavs, Lithuanians, Finns have all now to become Greek in religion, legislature and government. They begin history anew.
    Would it be possible for them to live and adapt themselves to the senile and exhausted traditions which were to supplant their old faith? Nevertheless these form the seed of life, and are the first pledge towards a fusion with the people of Europe, at this time the chosen leaders in human affairs. Will this germ have time to ripen?
    Two hundred years after the "national baptisms" at Kiev, Russia was once more disturbed and submerged under the wave of a Mongolian invasion. It was the ebbtide of an Asiatic overflow that seized its prey and fastened on the youngest of the Christian countries - one which had only just set her course towards Europe. The Tartars entering as heathens soon went over to Mohammedanism. They remained Asiatics, and forced oriental customs on their Russian subjects. No one has been a Tartar subject with impunity. Like the Bulgarians or the Armenians of modern Turkey, the peoples of the Golden Horde will for a long time yet carry in their hearts and minds the marks of the Tartar yoke.
    In the fifteenth century, whilst for us the dawn of Renaissance was already shining, the Russians were only just commencing to shake off this yoke. A succession of noble efforts delivers them. Asia steps back, but slowly, for the Crescent does not disappear from the banks of the Volga till after 1550. But its spirit remains. The impress of orientalism will not fade away for some time yet. Russia left to herself, her people are now crushed by an iron despotism, an admixture of Mongol customs and Byzantine practices. On a certain inauspicious day, the day of St. George - of cursed memory to the peasant for three hundred years - Boris Godunov by one stroke of the pen condemned them to serfdom, whereby all previous social conditions were once more changed.
    The next century was followed by a fresh invasion, this time from the West; the Poles occupied half Russia, and ruled at Moscow. They were in turn driven away, and then at last the nation could breathe freely again, and could once more look ahead. In which direction? Towards Europe, or towards Asia? Her traditions would incline her toward the latter. But she was once again to be forced out of her natural course. A rough pilot arose suddenly, and in a moment, with one brutal shove of his heavy pole, sent off this grand aimlessly floating raft into the current leading towards Europe.
    With Peter the Great the moment arrived, when commenced perhaps the most singular and unquestionably the most abnormal attempts for experimenting with the historic development of a people. Continuing the above figure, imagine a ship in which the captain and his officers steer for the West and the crew set their sails for a wind that would carry them to the East. Such was the curious state of affairs for one hundred and fifty years, from the advent of Peter the Great up to the death of the Emperor Nicholas, to which the prevailing habits still bear witness. At first the sovereign and a few specially selected individuals abjured oriental ways, and turned themselves into Europeans by adopting their ideas, their politics, language and clothes. By degrees, during the end of the last century, the upper classes impulsively followed this example. In the first half of the present century, by the force of circumstances, those European influences penetrated still further. They permeated the administrative spheres, the schools, even to the country squire, the provincial nobility. A few, carried away by the uplifting movement, detached themselves from the masses, but the bed-rock of the nation remained rebellious, immovable, with minds firmly set towards the East like the naves of their churches, and the praying Tartar, their former masters...The vast valleys still lie plunged in the shadows of the past - with difficulty will they arise there from.
    During all this time the unique spectacle was provided of a small ruling class - due to their newly adopted customs, ideas, and often language - having become complete strangers to the people they governed. This class received its intellectual food, both ethical and political, from so to speak imported sources, as from Germany, from England, or France, turn and turn about, but always from abroad. The supervision of orthodox glebes were frequently entrusted to aliens, " heathens " as the Russian peasant called them... Catherine the Great was succeeded by generations of amiable men and women who, in turn, lived the elegant Paris life of the times of Louis XV, of the Empire, and of the Restoration, unaffected by our occasional revolutionary spirit which laid bare our aspirations fashioned by our writings - those great treatises on administration and on political economy. But not one of these administrators asked himself as to what lay in the mind of the peasant in Yaroslavl or in Samara, or as to how he existed and suffered. In the shadow of this exotic plant the people, left to themselves, merely vegetated, and developed only in the dim light of their oriental instincts...
    But what obstacles were in the way! How was it possible to abolish the past; how to make the needed restitutions?
It was as if one of those worlds high up in the heavens were suddenly to come under the opposing influence of attracting forces. It breaks in two; a fragment flies to the distant star that calls it, while the main body gravitates towards less distant spheres. In spite of everything these two parts of a world tend to reunite. How will they succeed in traversing the wide expanse that separates them, and that in opposition to newly acquired forces? So with Russia, made up as she is of many utterly dissimilar elements, by turns attracted by opposite poles, repeatedly thrown against Europe, Asia, Turkey in Europe, and finally against her divided self.
    To this ill-starred record must also be added that of the drawbacks of the soil and of the climate wherein the Russian drama is unrolled. Rigorous, interminable winters afflict the people, interrupt their labours, and sadden their thoughts. In the north a poor vegetation sets man a noble example for exerting vigorous energy in the hard struggle against nature. Is it not true that in time man's spirit is modelled by the characteristics of the land in which he lives? If this is a fact, as I believe it is, then the strongly accentuated countries, clearly defined horizons, and other marked features are aids towards developing a strong individuality, with a clearness of conception and powers of perseverance. There is nothing of this kind in the Russian soil; not, at least, in the central regions where the dominant race was formed. There it is a waterlogged remnant from chaotic times, overlooked by the Great Creator in his primary creative operations when dividing the waters. Not a stone, not a striking feature, not a muscle in this flabby body; only that continuous monotony that everlasting plain, stretching over thousands of miles, always the same, without a break in the horizon, without a feature - only and always the delusive image of snow, bog or sand ! Nowhere the mountain that challenges man to subdue it; on all sides the undefined which exhausts, yet attracts - but to no purpose. Tolstoy has well described it as "The Call of Desert."
     A country of vacuous minds, like those of the seafarer; self-centred, long-suffering and resigned, subject to sudden passions of desire! A soil better suited to dwellers in tents than in houses, where the ideas are as nomadic as are the inhabitants themselves. Just as the cold blasts from the White Sea find no obstacles in their way to the Black Sea, so do invasions, calamities and the sorrows of slavery pass rapidly and irresistibly over these vast empty spaces. The direction taken is left to chance. It is indeed a favourable soil for nourishing those confused aspirations towards annihilation, so deeply rooted in the Russian's heart, inherited by him from the beginning. It is certainly not the kind from which to expect the growth of a healthy, intellectual spirit needed for the advance in arts and literature. Nevertheless from even under these rude skies, and despite all misfortune, we shall yet behold the stubborn seed coming up - a seed so necessary to man that he seems to have brought from no one knows where, an everlasting springtime for its storage in every clime."

E.- M. de Vogüe. "The russian novel"  1886

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  The Lay of the Host of Igor
  Alexander Nevsky
  The battle of Kulikovo
  The Time of Troubles
  Peter the Great
  The Desembrists

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L.Zuikov. "Andrei Bogolyubsky"

L.Zuikov. "Andrei Bogolyubsky - the Warrior Prince and Builder Prince"
Box.  Mstera.  1960

N.Lukina. "The Lay of the Host of Igor"

N.Lukina. "The Lay of the Host of Igor"
Casket.  Palekh 1997

A.Kurkin. "Our ancestors"

A.Kurkin. "Our ancestors"
Box.  Palekh 1971

B.Sedov. "Alexander Nevski"

B.Sedov. "Alexander Nevsky"
Box.   Kholui.  1983

N.Shishakov. "Peter the Great.  Building St.Peterburg"

N.Shishakov. "Peter the Great Building St.Peterburg"
Box.  Mstera. 1963

V.Fokeev. "Desembrists"

V.Fokeev. "Desembrists"
Box.  Mstera. 1990