"However," continues the special project "Portraits of Russian Tsars in the West." This topic is interesting, first of all, because Russian leaders have always been the embodiment of their country for the western elite and the townsfolk. And in relation to the “king” figure, one can judge which image of Russia was in demand in the West at one time or another. It should be noted that most of the portraits in our gallery are holographic pictures. After all, when it was beneficial for Western politicians to conclude a tactical alliance with Moscow, the king was portrayed as a wise ruler capable of pragmatic deals. When the need for an alliance with the Russians fell away, the picture was shown from a different angle - traditional Russophobic stereotypes were revived, and the king turned into a “cunning Byzantine”, an unpredictable despot or a survivor of a comedian.
If we talk about the current epoch, the image of Putin, like the image of his predecessors, in the West is constantly transforming depending on the foreign policy conjuncture. (However, in the Medvedev period, the existence of a tandem facilitated the task: the portrait of one leader was served in light, the second - in dark colors.) In most cases, however, Western portraitists operated with “holographic pictures”, occasionally turning them with the right side: “wolf - Bunny "," Bunny - Wolf ", as in the Soviet labels based on" Well, wait! ".
"Holographic" somewhat different kind can be traced when the Russian tsar (and, therefore, our country) is viewed by researchers of a later era. It is easy to see that contemporaries evaluate people and events in the system of values and concepts of “time of action”, and historians unobtrusively approach the past with the criteria of the future - when out of good motives, and when out of all the same applied ones. By the way, we should remember about the “holographic features” when, for internal political reasons, some Russian experts trump these or those quotes that reflect “objective Western assessments”.
"Alexander's Days is a great start"
A striking example of Western holographic technology is the metamorphosis, which occurred with the image of Emperor Alexander I. “Alexander's Days are a beautiful beginning” was described in the West as the “era of liberal transformations”. The French writer Francois Chateaubriand spoke with delight about the "sublime soul of the emperor, in which at the same time there is something from a knight and a bishop hiding his vow under a helmet." “This is a man of a remarkable mind,” wrote Madame de Stael, “who does not doubt the harm of despotism and sincerely wishes to free the peasants.” “Sire, your character is already a constitution for your empire, and your conscience is its guarantee,” she said in a conversation with Alexander. Representatives of the Whig Party of Britain assured that "the king, together with his advisers from the Secret Committee, is ready to introduce fair laws in the country and create opposition." “Alexander only thinks about the happiness of his subjects,” noted the Prussian reformer Heinrich Friedrich von Stein, “but he is surrounded by non-sympathetic people, and without sufficient willpower, he is forced to turn to arms slyness and cunning to accomplish their goals. Nevertheless, one cannot help wondering to what degree this sovereign is capable of devotion to the cause, to self-sacrifice, to the struggle for all the great and noble. "
Historians have long been no doubt that in the conspiracy, in which Alexander ascended the throne, the British played a key role. His tutor was the Swiss lawyer of republican views, Frederick César La Harpe. And it is not surprising that representatives of the “creative class”, the liberal establishment, which set the tone for the West at that time, pinned great hopes on the Russian tsar. “The appearance of such a person on the throne,” they asserted, “is a phenomenal phenomenon.” “Alexander is eager to improve the situation of mankind,” noted British radical politician and book publisher John Harford Stone in a letter to the famous natural scientist Joseph Priestley. - And it is very likely that soon he will play a leading role in Europe, surpassing his equal in power, but infinitely inferior to his rulers in kindness and nobility (Napoleon was meant). This young man almost with the same Machiavellianism steals despotism from his subjects, with which other sovereigns steal freedom from their fellow citizens. ”
American President Thomas Jeffeson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, which was in correspondence with the Russian emperor, was even ready to let Alexander sins beforehand if his liberal thoughts did not materialize. “Alexander has the Herculean task before him,” he noted in the letter to Priestley, “to ensure freedom for those who are unable to take care of themselves. And, probably, it would be inappropriate for him to stir up fears among the privileged classes in an attempt to create something like a representative government. ”
Alexander was needed by the liberal western elite as a counterweight to Napoleon, whom she perceived as "a despot who trampled upon the legacy of the French Revolution." Perhaps, best of all, oddly enough, the aristocrat Charles Talleyrand (French foreign minister) expressed these sentiments at a secret meeting with Alexander after the historical division of Europe in Tilsit: “The French people are civilized, his sovereign is not civilized. The Russian sovereign is civilized, but his people are not. Consequently, the Russian sovereign must be an ally of the French people. "
At first, Bonaparte Alexander did not complain, portraying him as a weak and indecisive ruler and constantly hinting that he was responsible for the murder of his father. In the 1804 year, with his knowledge, the Paris Monitor newspaper even published an article that spoke about the role of England in the palace coup 1801 of the year and expressed regret that "the killers had escaped retribution." After the meeting in Tilsit, however, Napoleon changed his mind about the Russian tsar. “I just had a meeting with Alexander and was extremely pleased with him! This is a young, extremely kind and beautiful emperor; he is much smarter than they think, ”he wrote to his wife Josephine.
Of course, it cannot be said that before the 1812 war of the year Alexander was not criticized in Europe. Many Western contemporaries noted that he was "dodgy and hypocritical as a Greek." “The emperor can easily enchant,” Napoleon wrote, “but this must be feared; he is insincere; this is a true Byzantine of the times of the decline of the empire "... The Swedish ambassador to St. Petersburg, Count Lagerbylke, proclaimed that" in politics, Alexander is as thin as a pin, as sharp as a razor and as false as sea foam. " However, Western politicians and journalists did not see anything wrong with the "Byzantine" Russian Tsar until, of course, "the Cossacks did not set up their tents in the center of Paris."
"Tartuffe on the throne"
The first to "see clearly" was French diplomat Armand de Kolenkur, from 1807 to 1811. who served as ambassador to Russia. “Alexander is not taken for who he really is. He is considered weak and mistaken. Undoubtedly, he may suffer frustration and hide his displeasure ... But this lightness of character has its limits - it will not go beyond the circle outlined for itself, but this circle is made of iron and does not bend ... "
After the victory over Napoleon, Alexander became not only a participant in big European politics, but also its legislator. For all history This happened for the first time in Russia, and only after 130 years did it happen again. Of course, the Russian leader, who dictates his will to European nations, caused allergies among local elites (in both cases Europe, regardless of the social and political ideals of the “tsars,” took desperate steps to put Russia in place). Alexander naively believed that the defeat of the aggressor, the pacification of the continent and the “nobility, open-mindedness and humanistic ideals” that he showed at the same time would allow him to play the role of Agamemnon of Europe. It was not there.
Yes, at the first congresses of the Sacred Union, the Russian tsar came up with a number of humanistic international initiatives that were ahead of their time (in particular, he proposed to consider issues of simultaneous reduction of the armed forces of European powers, mutual guarantees of inviolability of the territory, acceptance of the international status of persons of Jewish nationality, creation of an inter-union headquarters) . However, in the West, his intelligence, insight and diplomatic art were taken for primitive cunning, religiosity, the brotherhood of peoples and rulers preached by him - for bigotry, balanced judgment and flexibility - for duplicity, firmness in upholding the principles and a clear understanding of the role of the monarch in Russian society - for cruelty and tyranny.
“The king used for his own purposes the events from which Europe suffered,” wrote English General Robert Wilson, who represented the interests of London in the Russian army, “and took up the scepter of world domination. And we all felt the barbaric spirit of Attila, Genghis Khan and Timur reborn. ” Note, this is the words of the formal ally of St. Petersburg - the representative of the British Empire, who took an active part in the creation of the “Vienna system”.
Alexander turned from a “liberal civilized ruler” into a cunning despot who, according to the editor of the Westminster Review, John Bowring, “divided kingdoms according to his own whim and dictated the fates of peoples”. European intellectuals, liberals, and "progressive" journalists began to demonize the king, calling him "Kalmyk" and "savage."
And if earlier in Europe they admired Alexander's “refined artistry” and even dubbed him “northern Talma”, after the victory of the Russian army over Napoleon, this quality of the king was presented quite differently. “With such a sophisticated enemy, combining European prudence and Asian perfidy,” wrote David Urquhart, a British fighter for the independence of the mountainous Cherkessia, “vigilance and caution are needed. When dealing with him, you always risk being deceived. It is from his aggressive ambitions that the threat to peace in Europe comes. And act against it should be tough. " “The most essential properties of Alexander’s nature,” the county Laferon, French ambassador to St. Petersburg, said, “is vanity and pretense; if he were to wear a woman’s dress on him, he could have become a fine, secular woman. ” After searching for the ideological basis for the Holy Union he had created, Alexander became fascinated with mystical Christianity, liberals in the West began to sneer at him and dubbed "Tartuffe on the throne."
Perhaps the clearest picture of the holographic technique of Western portrait painters can be made by comparing the two characteristics of Alexander I, cited in the London Times: one after the coup 1801 of the year, and the second after the death of the emperor. "This is the first civilized ruler of Russia, a defender of freedom, who, above all, thinks not about expansion, but about establishing a fair and reasonable order." “The main inspirer, creator and master of the Sacred Alliance, the last emperor was an enemy of the political rights of all civilized nations, an opponent of human freedom and happiness. He was never ready to sacrifice his ambitious hopes for the territorial expansion of the empire to the principles of justice. ” What is called, feel the difference.
Also indicative are the characteristics that, at the end of his reign, those politicians who glorified “Alexander's days a great start” gave the emperor. In 1824, teacher Alexander Frederick Lagarp, who at that time had already participated in the experiment to create the Poluyakobinskaya Helvetic Republic, wrote: “I was enticed by the hope that I educated Marcus Aurelius for the fifty millionth population ... But, in the end, the bottomless abyss consumed the fruits of my labors with everyone my hopes. "
“I think our former favorite Alexander,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “evaded the true faith. Participation in the imaginary alliance, the anti-national principles expressed by him, his position at the head of the alliance, which seeks to chain humanity to slave chains for all time, all this puts a shadow on his character. ” It is worth noting, however, that the Sacred Union, whatever Western contemporaries and historians may say about it, calling Romanov Russia the “gendarme of Europe”, allowed for a long time to maintain the established balance of forces on the continent and the firmness of the established boundaries. Alexander I, who was the main instigator of the Vienna agreements, succeeded in creating a collective security system that has been providing stability in Europe for forty years. Yes, in recent years the reign of the Western liberals began to represent him as a crafty tyrant who went astray on the grounds of religious mysticism, but what was left for them to do? Sing him hosanna, thus agreeing with the Russian claims to a leading position in Europe? It is curious that in Western historiography the image of Alexander was presented in extremely negative colors. Historians in the West, as a rule, portrayed him as a hypocrite, hiding the “bestial grin” behind the beautifully soulful liberal phraseology and dreamed of fulfilling the “will of Peter the Great,” who allegedly bequeathed the descendants to extend the power of St. Petersburg to the entire European continent.