The British Myth of Russia

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In this entry opinions rooting from “archaic” mythological worldview that is associated with ancient myths about monsters intertwine with those of Christian worldview, with the “internal” and “external” assessment of rational worldview.

Matthew Paris’ chronicle presented Russia anew. Now, having fallen victim to the Tatar-Mongol “monster”, Rus’ is shown in a human light. All zoomorphic and monstrous traits recede (but are saved in tradition and in the developing myth about Russia); now, along with the traits of demons in Christianity, they are applied to the Tatar-Mongols. At the same time, as an adopted stereotype, the image incorporates the ideas of the innumerability of the “people of Russia” and the vastness of its territory. However, the association with monstrous and Tartarian realm proved to be a solely negative basis for the British view of Russia throughout history. As a result, everything Tartarian not only started to be associated with everything Russian, but also to be likened to it. Thus, the Tartarian is presented as something innately Russian in a well-known saying attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: “Scratch the Russian and you’ll find the Tartar”.

As can be seen, “the core” of the British myth about Russia formed in literary works and chronicles during 12th–13th centuries. The pivotal mythologem of this image is “enemy”. It is supported by such characteristics as “strong”, “mighty”, “numerous”, “barely known”, “distant”, “a worthy adversary” in a fight with a knight who, still, has more monstrous, zoomorphic and even Tartarian (demonic) features rather than human traits.

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