NEWSWATCH New York Times: Russian History Receives a Makeover That Starts With Ivan the Terrible

File Image of Ivan the Terrible Etching, adapted from image at

[“Russian History Receives a Makeover That Starts With Ivan the Terrible” – New York Times – NEIL MacFARQUHAR and SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY – MARCH 30, 2015]

The New York Times reports on a Russian historical exhibition that apparently attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of Ivan the Terrible, blaming foreigners for his negative image.

Ivan the Terrible, the Russian czar, should really be considered Ivan the Not So Bad, according to a wildly popular historical exhibition held recently near the Kremlin.


The exhibition accused the Western news media of miscasting Czar Ivan IV as “the Terrible.” A display of contemporaneous German etchings that showed the 16th-century czar’s troops committing atrocities was offered as proof that labeling him a murderous tyrant was simply defamation by foreigners.

The authors highlight apparent links between museum coverage of some historical events and current issues, such as the largely symbolic imposition of sanctions on Ivan the Terrible, or history relating to Ukraine.

Indeed, there also are museum exhibits on World War II and Ukraine.

‘Remember’ gives short shrift to the unsavory aspects of the Soviet Union’s World War II history, like the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that allied Moscow with Nazi Germany until Hitler invaded in 1941. “Such simplification is unavoidable when there is not much room,” the curator said.
The Museum of Contemporary History, one of the largest in Russia, is featuring a show called “On the Path to Victory,” about the 1943 fight for Ukraine.

At least one museum curator, a local politician, openly declares that the purpose of museums is to stir patriotic public support for national history, including among the young.

Irina Y. Velikanova, a former Moscow City Council member appointed to run [The Museum of Contemporary History] last year, said the mission of any historical museum should be rooted in patriotism.

‘We don’t hide the fact that we are interested in forming the patriotic and civic position of Russian youth,’ she said. ‘Our goal is that when leaving our museum, all Russians would feel proud of their country.’


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