The Battle for History – Part IX

Author: Vladimir Karpets

Translator: Yulian Orlov

Zavtra no. 28 (921), 13 July 2011


This year will see the 900th anniversary of the birthday of the faithful Prince Saint Andrei Bogolyubsky (1111-1174). He is honoured in the Church on July 17(4), which coincides with the veneration of the martyred royals.

Many consider precisely this grand prince to be the founder of the Russian autocracy. Lev Tikhomirov [1] thought so. Basing himself on historical-legal material, V. O. Klyuchevsky [2] states: “Andrei was the first to separate primogeniture from a fixed location: having extracted the title of Great Prince of All Russia, he did not leave his appanage of Suzdal and did not travel to Kiev to take the position his father and grandfather had once held. Thus, princely primogeniture, having separated itself from a fixed location, acquired a personal meaning, and it was as if the idea to accord it the authority of supreme power flared up.”

There is an element of truth in this. However, in actual fact, Saint Andrei did not establish the autocracy: he attempted to restore it. The situation was the following: freedom from being tied to a fixed city, plus inheritance from father to son, existed among the first Rurikovichi (before the introduction of the “rota system” [3] among the numerous offspring of saint Vladimir), just as it had among all ancient dynasties up to and including Troy and Babylon. It is not by chance that in the Book of Degrees (which has as its subject royal genealogy) of Saint Metropolitan Macharia and the blessed Tsar Ivan the Terrible, the establishment of the royal autocracy is attributed to Rurik himself, both Vladimirs, Yaroslav the Wise and, finally, Andrei Bogolyubsky [4]. 

Saint Andrei unified in his person the sacred blood of the Rurikovichi with that of the Polovtsy khans [5] from his maternal line. He thereby united Northern Europe and Eurasia, West and East, “wood” and “steppe”. He was actually the “first Eurasianist”, before and along with the Golden Horde at that. This is extremely important: our thirst for space is not something that was forced upon us (as the “modern nationalists” would have it), but something that was essential to Rus from its inception.

The capture of Kiev (1169), the campaign against Novgorod (1170), and the siege of Vyshgorod (1173) were but stages of Prince Andrei’s struggle, and not all of them were successful. Yes, these campaigns were fierce, at times brutal, and directed against his “free” [6] kin, but this was the modus operandi of all unifying monarchs, from Clovis to Ivan the Terrible. According to the sources that have come down to us, Saint Andrei did not enjoy combat, but rather perceived the art of war as a grave necessity, an obeisance.

In one of the Old Believer versions of the prince’s biography, the following is said of him: “For many years, he was in the Holy Land of the City of Jerusalem at the Sacred Tomb, fasting and praying, devoutly serving the Virgin Mary Theotokos truthfully and selflessly, increasing his wisdom greatly like King Solomon, and he also visited the Holiest of Holies, as his father Gyorgy had done before him.” The historian Dmitri Zenin has proposed the hypothesis that in the period between 1140 and 1150 (the Russian chronicles are silent on this period in the life of the prince) the young Andrei really was in Jerusalem, where he met many European monarchs, among whom were Manuel I Komeinon, Frederick II Barbarossa, Henry II Plantagenet, and Louis VII of France. All of them were in the Holy Land in the period 1147-1149 during the Second Crusade. Almost all of them were related to him by blood or kin; what is more, he was the cousin of Vladimir Monomakh and the great-cousin of Yaroslav the Wise, eldest not just in age, but also in genealogy. The Rurikovichi had deeper roots than the post-Carolingian European dynasties, who had only come to power thanks to the popes.

It is precisely at this moment that all of these monarchs (every one of them) began a decisive turn towards the centralization of their possessions, and Frederick Barbarossa challenged the Papal See itself. Is this a mere coincidence?

It seems that we are actually dealing with a general, continental, imperial plan founded, of course, on Christianity, but free from the idea that the “pope (and the episcopate in general) makes the kings”, a return to a truly free, pre-Carolingian Europe, stretching to Eurasia. Who would be its leader…?

Primordially, Rus was the united princely (royal) estate of all north-Aryan tribes.
Is it also mere coincidence that the lives of all these monarchs (except for the French Louis) ended tragically?

In 1155, Andrei decisively left Kiev and took with him the miraculous icon of the Mother of God which, according to tradition, was painted by Luke the Evangelist. On the place where (according to his Life) the Theotokos appeared to him, he built his “oprichny” [7] (separate) palace of Bogolyubovo, which he built following the example of the Heavenly City as described in the Revelations of John. In the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God at the Nerl’ river, the great prince stored images linked to pre-Christian antiquity, as well as the univocally dynastic (and simultaneously cosmogonic) image of “David the Bard” [8].

The circumstances of the great prince’s demise are well-known. Twenty conspirators, with the “zhidovin Efrem Mozich [9]” and the “yassin” (assassin?) “quartermaster Anbal” at their head broke into his chambers. The other members of the conspiracy were primarily the Kuchkovichi, representatives of the local nobility who did not wish to subordinate themselves to the Rurikovich; among them was the wife of saint Andrei, the “accursed w..re Ultika” as the chronicle calls her. They struck at the very heart of the Orthodox Kingdom, at the “golden heart of Russia”.

In much the same way (at the start of the 20th century) was autocratic Russia destroyed. The sacred royal martyrs were sacrificed on the very same day: 17 June. The tsar had known his entire life about the mysterious link between him and the sacred prince Andrei Bogolyubsky. And is this not the reason why none other than Bogolyubovo has become the banner of those rising up for “Sacred Rus and the Orthodox faith”?

Translator’s notes:

[1]: Lev Aleksandrovich Tikhomirov (1852 – 1923) was a Russian revolutionary, author, and historian. He was part of the radical Narodnaya Volya movement in his youth, but later became a convicted monarchist after having received a pardon from the tsar.

[2]: Vasily Osipovich Klyuchevsky (1841 – 1911) was a prolific Russian historian and academic.

[3]: The “rota system” (лествичное право) was an inheritance system that was used and developed in Kiev Rus until early Muscovy. An inheritance would pass from brother to brother until the fourth brother was reached. Then, the inheritance would pass on to the eldest son of the eldest brother who had held a possession. The creator of the system was grand prince Yaroslav the Wise. 

[4]: The two Vladimirs mentioned here are Vladimir the Great (+- 958 – 1015, who oversaw the christening of Kiev Rus) and Vladimir Monomakh (1053 – 1125, a reformer who instated a centralised government in Kiev). Yaroslav the Wise (+- 978 – 1054) was the son of Vladimir the Great and is now most famously known for the institution of Russian law (Русская Правда).

[5]: The Polovtsy were a confederation of Turkic tribes that inhabited the steppes of South-Western Russia. The princes of Kiev Rus were often at war with them, but also signed treaties with the tribes and married the daughters of their khans.

[6]: The Russian adjective used here (вольный) does not mean “free” in the sense of “liberated”, “able to do as one pleases”, but rather hints at a kind of independence. “Free” kinsmen were officially under the authority of the grand prince of Kievan Rus; however, they were practically autonomous in their own domain.

[7]: The word “oprichniy” (опричный) brings to mind the oprichnina of Ivan the Terrible, and the words stem from the same root. In Kievan Rus and Muscovy, something that was “oprichniy” was a special possession of a prince or lord separate from the others and one in which he was entirely autonomous. 

[8]: This is a reference to a figure found in Russian and Slavic folk culture, king David the Bard. This personage is a fusion of the biblical King David and a Slavic folk biography of the biblical figure. King David is depicted as a musician who knows the secret nature of the world, which is why Karpets refers to him as a cosmogonic figure.

[9]: “Zhidovin” (Жидовин) is a personage in Russian folk tales as well as an appellation for Jews. The folkloric character is a Jewish warlord who opposes the Russian bogatyrs (heroes) in their quest for justice and order.

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