England – Russia, an Old Partnership – Part I

“By this it appears how hard a matter it would be to alter the state of the Russian government as it now stands.   (…) As for the common people (…) they are robbed continually both of their belongings and money… (…) This desperate state of things at home, makes the people for the most part wish for some foreign invasion, which they suppose to be the only means to rid them of the heavy yoke of this tyrannous government.”  (Guess Who?)

The above quote was penned by a certain Englishman who wrote a book suggesting (or at the least hinting at) regime change in Russia.  It would be logical to assume that this book was written recently, just in the past few years, by somebody working for some NATO or Atlanticist think-tank.

Ha ha, I fooled you!  The book was actually written in 1591, by Giles Fletcher the Elder, a contemporary of Shakespeare!  I just modernized the grammar and spelling of above quote to disguise this.  The semantic content needs no disguising, it is clear as day that Giles is the Father of Russian Regime Change plotting!  His book, “Of the Russe Common Wealth” is a treatise of his travels in Russia, his thoughts and analysis of the Russian political system and economy.  Giles had been sent to Russia on a diplomatic mission by Mary Queen of Scots (=the one who got beheaded in a rather noisy fashion).  He dedicated his treatise to Mary’s successor, Queen Elizabeth and hoped that she would read it.  (Elizabeth was not so impressed, and banned the book.)

Polonius: “Then we’re all agreed that Russia should be overthrown…”

Giles many times expresses his concern for the oppressed Russian masses who could only dream of the freedom enjoyed by the English yeoman:  “And for the dukes that are appointed to govern (…) they are but men of a titular dignitie (as was saied before), of no power, authoritie, nor credit, save that which they have out of the office for the time they enjoy it.  Which doth purchase them no favour, but rather hatred of the people, for asmuch as they see that they are set over them, not so much for any care to doo them right and justice, as to keepe them under in a miserable subjection and to take the fleece from them…”  But for the arcane spelling, that paragraph could have been written by George Soros!

The astute Avalanche reader may recall, that I first came upon Giles Fletcher while researching my post about Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich, the child-Prince of Uglich.  Dmitry is also known as the last regional prince of Russia.  After the boy’s suspicious death, the Autocratic/Technocratic system of government which Ivan instituted, was perfected under Boris Badenov Godunov.  Giles had some hearsay knowledge about Le Petit Prince, the 8-year-old monster-in-the-making, which he included in his treatise.  While researching Dmitry Ivanovich, I found a copy of Fletcher’s book on Amazon and downloaded to my kindle so that I could read it in comfort without having to pore through musty old stacks in libraries.

Still reading Fletcher’s book slowly (just every now and then, a chapter at a time), but it is fascinating, deserves a review, and made me realize that the complicated and troublesome relationship between England and Russia goes back at least that far; and that the English attitude towards Russia has always been the same.  Pretty much unwavering, god bless their souls!

How The Russian Autocracy Was Put Together

In Chapter X (“Of the government of their provinces and shires”) Giles describes in detail how he dunnit.  In other words, how Tsar Ivan Vasilievich (“the Terrible”) formed his highly effective autocratic slash technocratic system and managed to hold on to power in such a geographically far-flung nation.  No European monarch could have possibly ruled a nation that vast and filled with people so sullen!

“Shut up and sing!” A modern production of the opera “Boris Godunov” — this is what happens when the Autocracy breaks down and kreakles take over!

I am not a historian and have no training in this area.  In this, and further, review, I make no claim that anything Giles says is historically accurate.  I am guessing that most of it is.  Giles was clearly a keen observer, and, regardless of his own personal opinions, which he also expresses, his goal was to bring back to his employer a realistic and accurate portrait of a foreign nation that England wanted to plunder make friends with.

So, Russia, he writes, was (like Gaul) divided into 4 parts (chetvert or tetrarchie).  Each tetrarchie contains “divers” shires.  The Governor of each tetrarchie receives a variable amount of rubles from the Emperor, as his annual salary:  one gets 100, another 500; the manager of the Kazan/Astrakhan tetrarch only gets 150 rubles a year, despite the fact that his tetrachie is out there on the front lines of the Empire.

Within each tetrarchie there are areas called “votchinas” which are set aside as the personal property of the Emperor.  Also exempted are some inherited lands belonging to Boris Fedorovich Godunov (at the time the brother-in-law of the Tsar Fedor Ivanovich, but de facto ruler of the Russian Empire, as Giles makes clear).

Oddly, the Governors do not live in the provinces they supposedly govern; but instead accompany the Emperor as part of his entourage, “and carrying their offices about with them, which for the most part they hold at Mosko, as the emperours chiefe seat.”  And here we see, again, Ivan’s genius.  Keeping the Governors close to his royal personage, as members of his suite, prevents them from Separatist plotting and conniving!

The main job of these 4 Governors is to receive complains and lawsuits from the local people…

[to be continued]

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