The British Myth of Russia

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As we see, there are three basic values common for Russian and British cultures. At the same time, these values distance the cultures from each other. The semantic peculiarities analyzed above in these basic values are to be revealed in British social archetypes.

Social archetypes of British culture

Among peculiar behavior models characteristic of British culture there can be distinguished the following – as the most significant ones:

  • Trusting facts and one’s own feelings and mistrust in abstract knowledge; common sense; inner forbiddance to take theories, life and even oneself ‘close to heart’, or ‘too seriously’ – means of distancing from everything that claims the final form (shape, structure).
  • Tendency to work hard and to do one’s business stubbornly and duly; persistence, tenacity, boldness, vigour; inclination to take a risk, to struggle and conquer all kinds (especially, tangible) of picks. That is the ‘inner’ cause of love for sports, as well as for hunting, navigating, etc., so characteristic of Englishmen.
  • Love for motherland, for traditions; obedience to law, respect for state and law, for borders in respect of other people’s rights and interests.
  • Restraint in behavior and evaluation; politeness, sensibility, chivalry; intransigence in watching the borders of a ‘private person’ and ‘private life’. [1]

Core formation: 11th–13th

The name Russia (spelled then as Russie) first appears in British sources in the 9th Within the period from the 9th to the 13th century Russia is mentioned approximately twenty times. Here Russie stands for a distant country to trade with; a country that is barely known to the British people and which therefore has no image in their culture and is not featured in stories and tales. For example, in William Fitz Stephen’s Life of St. Thomas (Vita et Passio sancti Tomae, late 12th cent.) the Rus’ are mentioned in paragraphs on shipments of valuable goods to London, such as squirrel and sable furs.

In the second half of the 11th century Britain is invaded by the Normans, and through France the British begin to learn more about regions bordering Europe, including Kievan Rus’. The country has been regularly mentioned in various Western European sources since the 11th century. It is in the 12th–13th centuries that Russia acquires a kind of mythological interpretation of its name in the English culture. An important point of reference is the Chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy (Chronique des ducs de Normandie, 1180–1200), written (though never completed) by Benoît de Saint-Maure, a court historian of Henry II of England.

It is known that the Chronicle was meant to entertain and enlighten the “Anglo-Norman nobility”. Being written in Old French, it was read out at the court by the author[2]. In the Chronicle the distant country is mythologized, its image is combined with chivalric, Christian, ancient Celtic and Saxon mythologems and values in the ideological context of sacralising the sovereign, which determines the specifics of how Russia (Kievan Rus’) is presented in Saint-Maure’s work.

[1] See, for example, the results of research of English national character by A.V. Pavlovskaya. URL: http://www.national-mentalities.ru/west/osobennosti_anglijskogo_nacionalnogo_haraktera_a_v_pavlovskaya/

[2] Urbanski Ch. Writing History for the King: Henry II and the Politics of Vernacular Historiography. New York: Cornell University Press, 2013. 256 p.

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