Ivan the Not-So-Terrible

Ivan the Terrible is known for killing his own son and for slaughtering vast numbers of his countrymen, including the Massacre of Novgorod, where up to 60,000 men, women, and children were brutally killed.

But his reputation is being rehabilitated in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. You can tell a lot about Russia based on whose statues are being torn down or erected. Stalin statues were once torn down, but now they are going up again. And a big monument to Ivan the Terrible has been put up, with its dedication attended by a who’s who of Russian nationalists, including top representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.

From Howard Amos, Russia falls back in love with Ivan the Terrible – POLITICO:

Last week, authorities in Oryol, a city of about 300,000 south of Moscow, unveiled the world’s first statue of Russia’s first czar, who ruled the country with an iron fist between 1547 and 1584.

The monument shows Ivan the Terrible astride a horse and in full imperial regalia, sword in one hand, cross in the other. It stands in the heart of the city center, in front of the 17th-century Bogoyavlensky Cathedral, on a promontory dividing the Orlik and Oka rivers.

The opening ceremony was attended by nationalist, Cossack and Orthodox groups, many dressed in military uniforms or in black. Some carried flags, others icons, and traditional Russian folk dancing troupes performed for the occasion.

The guest list was a who’s who of Russian nationalists, senior Orthodox Church figures, prominent Putin supporters and government officials. Speeches were given by the governor of the Oryol region, Vadim Potomsky; the head of notorious pro-Putin biker gang the Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov; and Schema-Archimandrite Iliy, a senior Orthodox cleric and personal confessor to the head the Russian Orthodox Church. Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky sent a letter that was read out to the assembled crowd.

The statue makes no allusion to the violence associated with the man who was accused of killing his son in a rage, blinding the architect of St. Basil’s cathedral in Moscow and presiding over a reign of terror, including state-sponsored massacres.

Instead, Ivan the Terrible is portrayed as a great Russian ruler. Officials have played up his achievements and voiced doubts about his crimes. Ivan the Terrible was slandered in 16th century sources, they say, and the statue simply corrects this historical injustice. Oryol was chosen as the location because the city was founded during the czar’s rule.

Monuments have always been bitterly fought over in Russia, where the symbolism of busts, statues and memorial plaques is not easily separated from the nature of the regime that erects them, or tears them down.

When the Bolsheviks swept to power in 1917, they destroyed hundreds of czarist-era statues and replaced with Communist heroes. When Nikita Khrushchev came to power, he removed statues of his predecessor as part of a “de-Stalinization” process. The end of Communism in the 1990s was accompanied by the fall of many Soviet-era statues.

The practice of erecting and toppling statues continues today. As Stalin’s reputation enjoys a renaissance amid growing authoritarianism in Russia, recent years have provided fertile ground for a return of busts of the Soviet leader. . . .

The inevitable, and perhaps intended, comparison is with Putin, who prides himself on having centralized and strengthened the Russian state over more than a decade and a half in the upper echelons of political power. Russian nationalism has also flowered under Putin, particularly in the wake of the 2014 conflict with the West over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.

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