Nevsky the Rus

/ History /

The word “history” is ambiguous in a way seldom worried about: do we mean “what happened”? what actually happened? that is, “facts”? Or do we mean “what we say happened”? humans notoriously poor record keepers where politics, where kleptocracy, is involved.

(“Fact” is another terror of a word. Do we seriously imagine that kleptocrats — all of us literates — are capable of establishing anything irreducibly true?)
(As a believer in God I trusted that at Judgment God would establish “the truth”: and that we didn’t know shit until then.
But what if God doesn’t exist after all? Is there therefore no truth?
I believe that there is truth, that truth is all there is — eventually, finally, after we’re dead; but that only rare geniuses (in rare moments of genius) have a clue about what that truth is! The empty dead universe will be rich in forensic evidence, seen by no one.)

For five years now my darling Jan and I have watched movies together — DVDs, tapes, at her house or mine. For five years I’ve tried to introduce her to Sergei Eisenstein.

Sergei Eisenstein
thanx prettycleverfilms

Film maker extraordinary! Inventor of montage technique. A Commie, but he couldn’t help it: he wasn’t just a stupid Stalinist.
Besides, geniuses can’t help which kleptocracy they’re born into: I don’t think: choice in birth isn’t part of our cosmology, not in the west anyway.

Jan and I just watched his 1938 masterpiece of anti-Nazi propaganda, Alexander Nevsky.

Alexander Nevsky
Rus vs. Teuton
thanx criterion

I went and browsed the wikipedia entry on Nevsky. It pretty well matched the history I’d picked up from fifty-odd years of watching Eisenstein movies. As undergraduates (and as graduates) we listened to the Prokofiev score too, endlessly.

(First Blockbuster couldn’t provide me with a DVD of any Eistenstein – is our propaganda still so virulently anti-Commie that film buffs can’t see film masters across the red line? Then Netflix did little better, then suddenly I was able to stream lots of movie classics. Oh, not all, but still a richness. Bravo.)
We meet Alexander Nevsky as he and his white Russians fish a lake. They’re opprssed from the east by the Mongols, the Golden Hoard, to whom they pay tribute. They’d just defeated an invasion from the west, Swedish raiders: corpses still litter the ground. Now there’s a new threat from the west: Teutonic knights, Roman Catholic Christians threatening these Orthosox (Eastern, Russian, Slavonic, Cyrillic, Byzantine) Christians (who’ll treat them like any aborigine: worse, they’ll treat them as heretics!)

Prokofiev’s fabulous music sings of “Mother Rus” and their “native” Russia …
Uh, fellas, dig a little deeper.

Let me share some of my correspondence with my son, bk, on the subject in 2006, in 2008, and now:

“The Swedes crossed the Baltic and raided
upriver, like the Norwegians, but their “upriver” was Russia. They
became, in Russian prehistory, the ancestor’s of today’s white
European Russians, the blond and fair-skinned Russians. The locals
called these Swedish vikings “The Rus,” which is where we get the name
Russia.”

I added: So: Swedes raiding Swede descendants I guess. Today’s Vikings vs.
yesterday’s Vikings.
bk added: Germanic descendents fighting other Germanic descendents pretty much summarizes Western European history for the past couple millennia.

See? The Ruskies in the film talk of their “native Russia”. They weren’t native to Russia anymore than Mayflower pilgrims were native to Massachusets. “Russia” was territory which in 1242 and thereabouts all sorts of raiders were swarming over: Mongols, Teutons, yesterday’s Swedes, today’s Swedes … And the Mongols were no more one group than the Nordics or the Germanics were one group.

I, a Germanic, mixed with some Anglo-Celtic-Saxon, an “American”, ha, born in NYC, kicked all over the continent, finally crawling around Highlands County, Florida, too weak to whimper, sit with my darling, born in NYC, Anglo-Celtic-Saxon, richly ensconced in Highlands County, Florida, and watch Soviet actors say they’re native Rus: meaning Swedish Vikings.

I’m telling you, I’ve read an awful lot of battle novels in the last decade or so: Bernard Cornwell: Danes in Britain, Brits in Britain, Saxons … Franks, Normans … King Arthur … shield walls … and here’s the greatest ever portrayal of a shield wall: the Teutons on the ice, just before they, routed, fall through the ice.
If I keep yammering about what a pacifist I’ve been all my life, if the fed put me in jail because I tried to tell how much of a pacifist I’ve always been, and how I offered a a cheap cybernetic democracy in 1970 so we could all become convivial Christian pacifists, how come I’ve watched all these war movies? so many times?

PS I didn’t know till yesterday that Alexander Nevsky got his “surname” from the River Neva: Alexander, Prince of Novgorod, of fishing and river and lake fame.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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