“Imperiophobia” from a different point of view


I have been studying the history of Russia and Eastern Europe for 40 years. I teach it at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, where Nicholas Copernicus studied 531 years ago. Whereas the University of Salamanca was the first in Europe to understand the importance of the Copernican discoveries condemned by the decrees of the Inquisition and taught them even though they were forbidden in universities like Zurich or the Sorbonne, I believe that this time I too will be a Pole well understood by the Spaniards .

The fact that I share an alma mater with Copernicus does not make me a pioneer, but defines a special point of view from which I am looking at the work of Professor Maria Elvira Roca Barea.. The echo and success of his brilliantly written dissertation on the Black Legend of Spain has finally reached us, on the “periphery of Europe”. What surprised us was that a real “pink legend of Russia” was added to this book.

I don’t know if the outstanding author studies Russian literature and history in the original language, but she definitely knows and appreciates the Spanish cultural tradition like no other. For this reason, I was surprised by his categorical statement that “before the revolution of 1917, little was said about Russia in Spain,” and the first mention of the image of Russia in Spain is found in the mission of Peter Potemkin in 1681. know that in another book called Fracasology, Professor Roca Barea rightly boasts of the figure of Lope de Vega. But why did he forget that it was the founder of the Spanish national theater who created – in 1613 – the first brilliant literary work that Russia presented to its compatriots? The very name of this work, the great comedy Grand Duke of Moscow and the Persecuted Emperorwould correspond, at first glance, with the intention of the book fight the black legend of the spanish and russian empires: here is the “persecuted emperor” in Moscow …

However, upon closer reading of Lope de Vega’s comedy, we can see that this “emperor” is Dmitry Lzhegon, persecuted by his own barbarian people. On the other hand, that Demetrius is supported by the court of the Polish Renaissance, the freedom-loving Polish nobility and their noble Catholic king Sigismund III, who will help him regain his throne in order to “civilize” cruel Russia, ruled first by Ivan the Terrible and then Boris Godunov. This is what Lope de Vega represents. His comedy actually confirms all the essential features of what Professor Roca Barea calls “black legend” of Russia.

It is also strange that, drawing attention to a few rather small samples of Anglo-Saxon literature of the 19th century, critically describing Russia and its political mores, the Spanish author completely omits the most famous “accusation” leveled against Russia in the middle of this century. Spanish, Juan Donoso Cortes, Marquis Valdegamas. His speech before the Spanish Cortes (January 30, 1850) and his essay On Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism (1851), reprinted many times throughout Europe, is not only the “bible” of conservatism, but also the strongest warning against the danger looming over Europe from Russia. Socialism, having robbed the owners, will extinguish patriotism, Donoso Cortes argued. Then the time will come for imperial Russia, which will be able to take the completely disarmed militarily and morally West without a shot and subject it to inhuman despotism …

Perhaps instead of quietly ignoring the Spanish contribution to the image of Russia as a threat to Europe, it is worth considering where is this image from?

Contrary to what the author thinks Imperiophobia, the image of Russia definitely does not come from the whispering of anti-Russian propaganda by the French enlighteners. This picture is older and has its origins in the reality of Russia itself (i.e., Moscow in the 16th and 17th centuries) and the impact of its aggression on its immediate neighbors. Roca Barea sees neither Russia itself, nor the fact that it had (and still has) some neighbors other than Germany. He presents all historical criticism of Russia as a product of Western Europeans, characteristic of their cultural pride (especially Anglo-Saxon, French and German). I am afraid, however, that a certain amount of pride may also be manifested in ignorance of what Russians historically thought and think about themselves, as well as about their relationship with this “world” that we now call the West.

Author Imperiophobia he mentions the idea of ​​Moscow as the Third Rome only to indicate the right (as is clear from his text) of Moscow to the heritage of Byzantium as the “second Rome”, which fell in 1453. However, he completely ignores the side of this idea, which is certainly the most important not only for this idea, but also for the self-consciousness of Russians, at least until the beginning of the 18th century. Namely: Russian anti-Latinism, anti-Catholicism and, finally, anti-Westernism. Moscow identifies itself, defines itself primarily by its Orthodoxy (Byzantium), recognizing the Catholic world (Papal Rome and all Catholic countries, that is, until the 16th century, all of Central and Western Europe) as its main mortal enemy. Therefore, the author’s statement about “the respect that Russia has always had for Western Europe” is simply false.

Moscow, as the new political center of Orthodox Rus’, grew up under the 240-year rule of the Mongols of the so-called Golden Horde. The author does not mention a word about this “episode”, which lasts from 1240 to 1480. the meaning is not reduced only to a mockery of the saying “scratch a Russian and under him you will find a Tatar.” The Mongolian government simply increased the isolation of a large part of Russia (ruled by Moscow) from Europe and strengthened desire to oppose Russia to Europe. This is the desire of the Russians themselves, including modern Russians, and not just European “Russophobes”. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in the largest plebiscite for the hero-symbol of Russia (“Name of Russia” in 2007, in which 50 million Russians took part), Alexander Nevsky was elected the winner; the one that is a medieval symbol of cooperation with the Mongols and the eternal struggle of Moscow / Russia against the West. We add that Stalin in this poll took third place. Once again we insist: at the end of the 17th century, Russia will voluntarily isolate itself from the “Latin” West. This has important cultural implications that are not the “fault” of Russophobia, but part of the reality of Russia itself.

When I had the opportunity in 1990 to show the great Russian poet Joseph Brodsky the Renaissance castle in Krakow, the Nobel Laureate in Literature reacted with a sigh of admiration and regret: “This is what we Russians do not have and never had: the Renaissance”. Think about the significance of the Renaissance for European culture… Or the significance of the university and the printing press. The first university in Russia was founded only in 1755. Meanwhile, the first university in Bohemia was founded in 1348; in Poland in 1364; in the Polish-Lithuanian Republic (after the conclusion of the union in 1385), in Vilnius in 1579; in Kyiv in 1658; in Lvov in 1661; in Tallinn (Estonia), in 1632. Almost until the second half of the 17th century, printing was considered in Moscow as an “invention of Satan” and was forbidden, while, for example, in Poland it was so late in the 17th century of the 15th century that a certain Estanislao Polono moved from his printing workshop in 1490 in Seville…

I mention these places on the political and cultural map to emphasize significant difference relative to Europe between Russia and its western neighbors, neighbors completely unnoticed by Professor Roca Barea, and which were consumed by Russia’s military expansion between the beginning of the 18th century and the middle of the 20th century. It must be remembered that it was from the moment Russia opened up to Europe during the time of Peter I (1689-1725) that it began effective expansion to the West, which moved its borders to the territory of modern Estonia. (1721), Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and most of Ukraine; in the next three sections of the Polish Republic (1772-1795), Russia captured a territory equal to Spain: Finland and Moldavia (1809, 1812), Georgia (1783, 1801). In the second half of the 19th century, Russia also conquered the entire territory of Central Asia, exterminating entire tribes there no less “successfully” than the Anglo-Saxons in America. It brutally suppresses all attempts to resist its domination, to impose its own culture, language and alphabet: after one of the numerous Polish uprisings against the tsarist government in 1863, the Russian authorities sent more than 40,000 people to forced labor in Siberia. Pan-Slavism slogan, that is, the dominance of Russia over other Slavic peoples (which Professor Roca Barea seems to accept without hesitation), is fully realized only by Stalin, first by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in August 1939, and then by the conquest of the Red Army in 1944-1945, when the empire that ruled from Moscow ruled the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland and even non-Slavic Hungary. This is not a “black legend” of Russia. This is an important part of the reality that Professor Roca Barea did not realize, seeing everywhere only symptoms of Russophobia “produced” by the French, Germans and Anglo-Saxons, and understanding nothing about the possible reasons for the real fear of the expansion of Russian imperialism and its consequences.

Was it just an imaginary fear? I would like to discuss this further with an eminent author from Malaga.

As your brilliant Cervantes said: “Every thing gives birth to its own kind,” and what the Russian Empire is now giving birth to, we see every day in the media. There is no need to ask Ukrainians if what makes them so heroically rebel against Russia is “imperialophobia” or rather a very painful memory of the insatiable Russian Empire.




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