How to Make Your Enemy Your Friend: the Impact of Culture on Anglo-Russian Relations 1900—1920s
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How to Make Your Enemy Your Friend: the Impact of Culture on Anglo-Russian Relations 1900—1920s
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We all take it for granted today that ‘‘culture’’ forms part of the fabric of international politics. Analyzing the stereotypes of Anglo-Russian inter-perceptions formed to the beginning of the 20th century, author emphasises the tendency for growing warmth of the relation between two states. The causes of it he identifies as greater mutual understanding in the cultural sphere: ‘‘an alliance in art is an alliance of all that is deepest and most characteristic in human nature’’. Despite the political and economic distinguishes, the common spiritual values were actual incentives to convergence even if the old stereotypes persist. The idea that culture could contribute to a better relationship had become the point of the diplomatic agenda. Art, theatre, literature and other phenomena of cultural life were the signs of new forms of political sympathies.
culture, Anglo-Russian relations, mutual understanding, the warmth of the relationship, diplomatic establishment, ‘‘Russian soul’’, the mythos, the Russia craze, popular impressions, perceptions, public opinion, Anglo-Russian Bureau, the ‘‘propaganda’’, the First World War, the country’s image, new diplomatic strategy
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We all take it for granted today, that ‘‘culture’’ in the broadest sense of the term forms part of the fabric of international politics. The British Council optimistically declares its commitment to building trust between the people of the United Kingdom and other countries, while the Goethe Institute defines its mission as bringing ‘‘the multifaceted image of Germany to the world’’. The Alliance Francaise fosters ‘‘awareness of French and Francophone cultures’’. The activities of all three organisations, which are of course mainly funded by their respective governments, are also tacitly grounded in an assumption that promoting a positive image of a country abroad increases its power and prestige.


Sometimes ‘‘culture’’ can be used as an instrument of conflict. During the Cold War, the Congress of Cultural Freedom used CIA money to subsidize high-brow literary journals and classical music tours, in a somewhat curious effort to win the hearts and minds of a left-leaning West European intelligentsia. The tours of Soviet ballet companies and choirs to countries like Britain and the USA were designed to showcase the cultural achievements of ‘‘actually existing socialism’’ to a Western audience. The diplomatic sparring and public protests that surrounded such cultural exchange provided graphic testimony of the symbolic role of culture in the assertion of national power. Members of such organisations as the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry, which picketed concerts by Soviet musicians and artists in the West during the 1970’s, did so precisely because they wished to make a political point rather than pass critical judgement on the merits of the performances.


If we go back to the early years of the 20th century, we find ourselves in a very different international environment: a place of empires and great powers and ententes. It was also a time when national diplomatic establishments were a mere shadow of the leviathans they have become today. Members of the British diplomatic establishment before 1914 were generally averse to allowing ‘‘outsiders’’ to trespass on what they regarded as their exclusive ‘‘territory’’: the direction and conduct of relations with other governments. This was in part an instinctive reaction, a defence of professional amour propre, although after the signing of the Anglo-Russian entente in 1907 it was also fuelled by a desire to marginalize critics of the agreement on both the left and right1. Professional diplomats could not, though, ignore altogether the elusive phenomenon of public opinion. Decisions about diplomacy were not only governed by strategic considerations and judgments about the balance of power. They were also shaped by amorphous popular impressions of the world beyond Britain’s shores.

1. See, for example, Michael H. Diplomacy Before the Russian Revolution: Britain, Russia and the Old Diplomacy, 1894—1917. Basingstoke, 1999.

It would be too simple to say that perceptions of Russia in Britain were transformed in the final quarter of the nineteenth century. The publication of McKenzie Wallace’s magisterial Russia, in 1877, did nevertheless represent a pivotal moment in providing readers with something more substantial than the conventional pot pourri of sensationalist traveller’s tales — knout, exile, autocracy — that had prevailed for so long in the accounts of British travellers to the Tsarist Empire. This change in attitude towards Russia was never of course complete. George Kennan Snr and Harry de Windt worked hard to keep the image of Siberia as a place of horrors at the forefront of the British imagination. The thriller writer William Le Queux, who claimed rather sensationally (and falsely) to have been banned from Russia by the Tsarist secret service, continued to pen tales of adventure, in which debonair British heroes rescued Russian damsels from the clutches of ill-intentioned villains. The translation of many of the classics of Russian literature, by individuals such as Constance Garnett and Aylmer Maude, nevertheless continued to chip away at this lingering image of Russia as a cultural desert — a place where artists and writers simply imitated the models of the West. Rosa Newmarch began to promote the virtues of Russian music to a British audience. Russian peasant handicrafts started to appear in the galleries of Bond Street. The Russia craze was by the start of the First World War well-established enough in the public mind for Punch to print satirical cartoons of British railway porters imitating the balletic pyrotechnics of the Ballets Russes, which first visited London in 1911, and played an important role in solidifying an image of Russia in the British mind as a place of exotic appeal rather than a land of autocracy and terrorism.


It is no easy matter to assess whether this new cultural Russophilia could — or did — make an impact on Anglo-Russian relations. Many of the Russian émigrés who flocked to London from the 1880’s onwards — Stepniak, Volkhovskii, Kropotkin and the rest — were typical products of the nineteenth-century radical Russian intelligentsia. Their distinctive combination of intellectual commitment and anti-authoritarianism encouraged them to work with radically-minded Britons to prevent the beguiling splendour of Russian culture mask the autocratic character of the political regime from foreign observers. Numerous articles appeared in Free Russia, house-journal of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom, suggesting that the richness of Russian culture was the product of a civil society otherwise cowed and crushed by the autocratic state. Although the rhetoric of the ‘‘Russian Soul’’ seldom found much traction among those who criticized the harshness of tsarist rule, radical critics in Britain, whether British or émigré, typically believed that the creative genius of Russia’s writers and artists flowed from a native well-spring that had flourished despite (and perhaps because) of centuries of repression. The emancipation of Russian society from the tentacles of the bureaucratic behemoth held out the prospect of a still richer cultural flourishing.


Such debates and questionings largely took place outside the confines of the British diplomatic establishment. It is perhaps tempting to resort to a rather stereotypical vision which assumes that professional diplomats had little interest in such matters, preferring the environment of dusty chancelleries and formal receptions. Keith Neilson has written at length of the Russophilia of Sir Arthur Nicolson, who served as British ambassador in St Petersburg from 1906 until 1910, but rightly treats such an attitude purely as a function of geopolitics. Nicolson was a clever man, but unlike his son Harold he does not seem to have had particularly wide cultural interests, or if he did then he hid them remarkably well from the prying eyes of historians. Not all diplomats were so little interested in cultural matters. Cecil Spring Rice, who served for a number of years at the Embassy prior to Nicolson’s arrival, wrote poetry and possessed a keen interest in the arts (he penned the words for ‘‘I Vow to Thee my Country’’ famously put to music by Gustav Holst). His published letters do not, however, suggest a particular interest in Russian culture. Spring Rice firmly placed Russia outside ‘‘the civilised world’’ when describing the events of 1905 to his friend Oswald Simon, adding that decades of oppression had ‘‘led to the hatred of the oppressors by the oppressed’’2. His own poetry sometimes paid homage to the East, but it was the mystic East of Persia, where he spent a good deal of time, rather than the more ambiguous East of Russia, which exercised most thrall on his imagination3.

2. The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring Rice. New York, 1929. P. 27, 29.

3. David H. Burton. Cecil Spring Rice: A Diplomat’s Life. Madison WI, 1991. P. 63.

The same was not true of Maurice Baring, scion of the Barings banking family, who chafed under the constraints of the diplomatic career which he began as a young man with postings to Copenhagen and Rome. During a private visit to the Benckendorff family in Russia, in 1903, he resolved to pursue a new career as a writer and journalist, pursuits that he reluctantly decided could not be combined with copying dispatches and ceremonial dinners, even in the more relaxed age of pre-1914 diplomacy. Baring returned to the country the following year, living for a time in Moscow, where he became an assiduous visitor to the Art Theatre, relishing the freedom to mix in an artistic world where he later observed ‘‘there were no barriers, no rules, no obstacles’’. In the years that followed, as we shall see later, Baring played an important role in promoting greater interest in Russian culture in Britain as a way promoting greater sympathy for the country itself.


The British Embassy in Petersburg seems to have been at its most ‘‘cultured’’ during the years when Sir George Buchanan was in charge (he arrived there in 1911). The ambassador and his family regularly visited the theatre and the ballet during their time in Petersburg. It was probably Sir George’s daughter, Meriel, who chivvied her parents to expand their horizons beyond the world of official receptions and private dinners. She had studied ballet herself for a short time, and loved the craft for its ‘‘Melody and harmony … the rhythm of absolutely perfect movement, a voiceless expression of passing emotions’’4. It is not clear whether Sir George shared such lofty sentiments. When the celebrated ballerina Karsavina was invited to dinner at the Embassy, his main stipulation was that she should wear the ‘‘turban’’ that looked so captivating on stage. Buchanan’s instructions were sadly neglected by his underling H. J. (Benji’) Bruce, who also failed to follow his superior’s instruction to make sure that Karsavina was placed next to the ambassador at table. Bruce was himself overawed by the visitor, although his anxiety was not strong enough to prevent his dogged pursuit of her over the weeks that followed, even if his nervousness meant that when he visited her flat on the Kriukov canal his clumsiness made him seem like a ‘‘bumpkin in a boudoir’’ (his phrase)5. Karsavina for her part seemed to find such gaucherie curiously attractive. The two were soon married, cementing an unlikely tie between the Embassy and the Petersburg cultural milieu, although Bruce alone among the diplomats seems to have taken real joy in ‘‘the world of the stage ... of poets, of musicians and, more especially, of painters’’6. The notion that culture might form a bridge between nations was still not deeply embedded in the diplomatic mind. Ballet and music and theatre were at best a source of personal pleasure and at worst a penance that had to be endured in order to be seen in ‘‘Society’’.

4. Buchanan M. Impressions of Imperial Russia. London, 1923. P. 260.

5. Bruce H. J. Thirty Dozen Moons. London, 1949. P. 3.

6. Bruce H. J. Silken Dalliance. London, 1947. P. 171.

Although members of the British diplomatic establishment were wary of any challenges to their role in determining the contours of foreign policy, there was, even before 1914, a growing recognition of the need to mobilise public support behind particular policies. Close links between senior diplomats and journalists like Valentine Chirol and Mackenzie Wallace played a part in winning the support of Northcliffe’s Times for the Anglo-Russian entente. The Foreign Office in London also gave discrete support to Bernard Pares’s efforts to bring a group of Russian Duma members to Britain in 19097. Pares had a few years earlier set up the School of Russian Studies at Liverpool University, which he always intended to serve not simply as a place for academic study, but also as a centre for overcoming what he later described as ‘‘the imaginary traditional antagonism between Russia and England [that] did not exist for the vast majority of sane and thinking Russian subjects’’8. The Foreign Ministry in Petersburg gave support to the visit, following a long campaign of patient diplomacy by Pares in the Russian capital, and in June 1909 the nineteen-strong visiting delegation arrived in London including such political luminaries as Paul Miliukov and Alexander Guchkov.

7. For further discussion see Michael Hughes, ‘‘Bernard Pares, Russian Studies and the Promotion of Anglo-Russian Friendship, 1907—14’’. Slavonic and East European Review, 78, 3 (2000). P. 510—535.

8. Bernard P. My Russian Memoirs. London, 1931. P. 191.

Pares had many virtues, but a deep love of high culture was not really among them, although his books show that he had a reasonably acute understanding of Russian literature. His interest in art and music seem to have been, at best, limited (although he does seem to have composed the University of Liverpool student songbook). He was nevertheless astute enough to recognize that the growing interest in Russian culture among his fellow countrymen could help to improve Anglo-Russian relations more generally. When planning the visit of the Duma politicians, Pares was keen to emphasise that they were being invited to meet a whole range of Britons, including writers and musicians, and Rudyard Kipling was among those asked to sign the formal letter of invitation. The actual programme did not, though, include many cultural events. Receptions at Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament were interspersed with visits to such set-piece events as trooping the colour. There were also meetings with prominent journalists and newspaper proprietors including Lord Northcliffe and St Loe Strachey. A trip to Liverpool to meet members of the Chamber of Commerce was designed to lay the ground for closer economic relations. Pares did encourage visits to a number of universities, although the sketchy records suggest that the receptions there focused less on intellectual exchange, and more on the consumption of port and cigars. Pares himself characteristically took the opportunity to rally support for the appointment of a lecturer in Economics at Liverpool. His passionate commitment to improved Anglo-Russian relations was rooted above all in his Germanophobia and his belief that Russia could provide an important market for British exporters and investors. Admiration for Russian culture played a smaller part.


The return trip of a select group of ‘‘representative Englishmen’’ to Russia, in 1912, seems to have been an altogether more cultured affair (perhaps because Pares was not responsible for its organisation)9. The group was naturally representative only in the sense that it represented the higher reaches of the British Establishment — an assembly of bishops and politicians and writers and traders. The Russian hosts organised a gala performance of Tchaikovskii’s Sleeping Beauty and a concert of Russian Church music. The English delegation was also taken to the Tretiakov Gallery, where Lord Hugh Cecil made a surprisingly well-informed speech in praise of Russian culture. Perhaps more surprisingly, they were also taken to a place described by Pares rather coyly as ‘‘a very extravagant place of entertainment on the lines of the Moulin Rouge’’ (words that perhaps suggest that the good professor had never visited the Paris original). There were also, inevitably, more traditional Court receptions and banquets replete with speeches celebrating the warmth of the relationship between London and Petersburg. The trips of 1909 and 1912 represented a form of embryonic public diplomacy. The idea that greater mutual understanding of the two countries’ cultural traditions could contribute to a better relationship between them had crept onto the fringes of the diplomatic agenda.

9. ‘‘For Pares’’ account of the visit see Pares. Russian Memoirs. P. 227—245.

The pre-war British diplomatic establishment nevertheless still showed little real interest before 1914 in making any sustained attempt to harness the ‘‘Russian craze’’ to the cause of better Anglo-Russian relations. There were, though, a number of other private initiatives to promote greater knowledge of Russian culture in Britain as a way of breaking up older stereotypes of the Tsarist Empire as a place of barbarism. Maurice Baring’s writings about Russian literature were permeated not simply by a desire to make Britons more aware of a cultural tradition that was unfamiliar to most of them. They were also motivated by the hope that such knowledge would promote greater sympathy. In his 1914 book The Mainsprings of Russia, Baring articulated the increasingly familiar theme that beyond the squalor of daily life in Russia lay a ‘‘human Christian charity’’ that gave life to its people’s ‘‘religion, manners, intercourse, music, singing, verse’’10. In other words, to know Russia’s literature and culture was to gain an understanding of the unique Russian soul. Baring used another of his books, Landmarks of Russian Literature, to suggest that the works of Russian novelists and poets gave access not just to a Russia of ‘‘starlit nights’’ and ‘‘magical twilights’’, but also to profound reflections about the dilemmas of the elusive human condition11. Some critics assailed Baring for his sketchy knowledge of Russian history, and his over-exuberant championing of the genius of particular novelists, but there is little doubt that he helped to frame an understanding of the mysterious Russian soul for many of his British readers.

10. Maurice B. The Mainsprings of Russian Literature. London, 1914. P. 318.

11. Maurice B. Landmarks in Russian Literature. London, 1910. P. 23.

The amiably eccentric writer Stephen Graham was even more inclined than Baring to see in Russian culture — and Russian life generally — an elusive attribute which foreigners could not only admire but learn from. Graham’s second book, Undiscovered Russia (1913), which described a six-week rain-soaked journey on foot from Archangel to Moscow, argued that the Russians were not a nation of ‘‘bomb-throwers’’ but rather ‘‘obediently religious’’ and ‘‘true to the soil they plough’’12. The book was in part an extended peon of praise to the Russian peasant, who lived a life of natural religiosity, existing in a kind of fantasy liminal zone between the mundane and eternal. Graham lamented the mutual ignorance between Britons and Russians, quoting Dmitri Merezhkovsky (who was in turn quoting Kant) to the effect that the British lived in the phenomenal world whilst the Russians dwelt in the transcendental. Graham’s self-appointed mission in the years before the 1917 Revolution was to encourage his fellow-countrymen to see Russia as ‘‘a church, a holy place, where the Western may smooth out a ruffled mind and look upon the beauty of life’’. Graham was an enthusiastic supporter of the Anglo-Russian entente, although it is uncertain whether Sir Edward Grey would have shared his particular brand of mysticism, which proclaimed that ‘‘England needs Russia living on the soil in holiness and simplicity’’13. Judging from his private life and his writings, the Foreign Secretary was probably content with the thoroughly phenomenal world of hunting and fishing, seeing in the Russian entente merely a way of balancing German power rather than the foundation of a new spiritual alliance.

12. Stephen G. Undiscovered Russia. London, 1912. P. IX.

13. Graham S. Undiscovered Russia. P. 327.

Graham became more interested in Russian literature and thought in the months following his long walk to Moscow, earnestly attending meetings of the Moscow Religious-Philosophical Society, where he understood very little, and penning reviews of Russian novels for the Times Literary Supplement. Although he continued to idolise the figure of the Russian peasant, most notably in his account of a journey to Jerusalem in the company of 500 pilgrims14, he became an increasingly important figure in the chorus of praise for Russian culture that had been growing in Britain over many years. Like Maurice Baring, he believed that an understanding of Russian art and literature gave access to the Russian soul. Graham himself acquired an unlikely political influence during the First World War, largely as a result of the patronage of Lord Northcliffe, who at the end of 1913 gave him a commission to rove about Russia writing articles for the Times about the things he saw and heard on his travels. Following the outbreak of war, in the summer of 1914, Lloyd George invited Graham to a number of private dinners, in order to seek his impression of developments in Russia. Graham was perfectly capable of commenting astutely on political affairs, but he never abandoned the persona of the dreamer, anxious to see in Russia a half-mythical place more perfect than any to be found in the West. At one talk with senior politicians about war-time credits for Russia, attended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Reginald McKenna, Graham expressed confidence that all Britain had to do was act open-handedly and the Russians would soon repay the money owed. His advice was not followed by ministers, who were more concerned about extracting binding guarantees from the tsarist government, unconvinced by their guest’s blithe assurance that ‘‘if you treat a Russian generously he will try to outdo you in generosity’’15.

14. Stephen G. With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem. London, 1913.

15. Stephen G. Part of the Wonderful Scene. London, 1964. P. 100.

Graham’s reports on the Eastern Front for The Times and the Daily Mail were at times absurdly optimistic. He believed that the soul of the Russian nation would in time triumph against the forces of Germany and Austro-Hungary, despite short-term setbacks, and he airily ignored signs of growing popular unrest. The British government was worried throughout the war about the ineffectiveness of the Russian armies on the Eastern Front. Ministers were intensely conscious that Russia remained for many Britons a place of anti-semitism and autocracy (or, as H. G. Wells wrote at the end of 1914, ‘‘a wilderness of wolves, knouts, serfdom and cruelty’’)16. The country was an embarrassing ally, a constant challenge to any attempt to justify the war as a struggle against the forces of autocracy and brutality. Matters were not helped by shrill complaints about the Russian alliance from some on the left of the political spectrum including the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Nor was the situation made easier by complaints in Russia that the British and French were only too happy to allow greater slaughter on the Eastern Front if it served to reduce the number of German troops in Flanders and France. It was indeed for this reason that Wellington House — the new war-time office set up to deal with issues of propaganda under the supervision of Charles Masterman — gave support to an audacious effort to show films in the Russian trenches designed to make the troops there think more positively of their British ally. Captain A. C. Bromhead, a friend of the French cinematographer Leon Gaumont, was dispatched to Russia to show various films including Britain Prepared, a propaganda piece that lauded the strength of the Royal Navy and Britain’s munition industry. The task was not an easy one. The film was long, reel changes were cumbersome, and during Lent Bromhead had to get special permission from the Holy Synod to show Britain Prepared to audiences behind the lines. His superiors in London do not seem to have been daunted by the experience, though, and the Captain was later sent back after the February Revolution with new footage designed to appeal to a new democratic Russia17. The British Propaganda Mission in Petrograd (more properly the Anglo-Russian Bureau), headed by the novelist Hugh Walpole, also circulated pamphlets describing the heroism of British Empire troops at Gallipoli and Ypres, as well as arranging translations of such suitably stirring patriotic novels as Ian Hay’s The First Hundred Thousand. Members of the Bureau also worked hard to place suitable articles in the Russian press. All those involved in the work, including Arthur Ransome and Harold Williams, believed the Bureau was effective in improving the image of Britain in Russia. Such a perspective may, in hindsight, be seen as tainted by more than a little optimism. The propaganda of Wellington House was generally aimed at the people of other countries (both allied and neutral). There was, nevertheless, a deliberate effort during the First World War to promote Russian culture in Britain, as part of an effort to improve the country’s image, although it is hard to distinguish between actual ‘‘propaganda’’ and a more genuine spontaneous burst of enthusiasm for Russian culture. The publishers Constable employed Stephen Graham to edit new editions of the Russian classics along with some less familiar contemporary Silver Age fiction (including collections of stories by Kuprin and Sologub). The series also ambitiously included a translation of Solov’ev’s Justification of the Good. Colour Magazine produced a coffee-book publication Allies in Art, which proudly declared its conviction that ‘‘an alliance in art is an alliance of all that is deepest and most characteristic in human nature’’18, neatly encapsulating the idea that cultural understanding could create new forms of political sympathy. Winifred Stephens edited an eclectic collection The Soul of Russia, with contributions from writers including G. K. Chesterton and Hugh Walpole, the proceeds of which were sent to help the Russian wounded. The Archbishop of Canterbury and other senior figures in the Anglican Church supported initiatives to build closer relations with the Russian Church, now widely lauded as the guardian of a deep national spirituality, rather than a corrupt and superstitious arm of the tsarist state19. The Russian enigma was widely represented as — to echo Churchill’s famous words — a tantalising riddle rather than a sinister mystery.

16. Denis G. Friendly Russia. London, 1915. P. 9. (forward by H. G. Wells).

17. Sanders M. L. British Film Propaganda in Russia, 1916—1918. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 3, 2 (1983). P. 117—129.

18. Allies in Art: A Collection of Works by Artists of the Allies Nations. London, 1917.

19. For a more detailed discussion of this question see Michael Hughes, ‘‘Searching for the Soul of Russia: British Perceptions of Russia during the First World War’’. Twentieth Century British History, 20, 2 (2009). P. 198—226.

There was always a danger that admiration for the ‘‘Russian soul’’ might become a handicap rather than an asset in cementing the war-time alliance between London and Petrograd. George Buchanan knew that the Russia idealised by Stephen Graham — a kind of Slavophile utopia of social harmony and deep religiosity — was seen by many Cadet politicians like Paul Miliukov as a damaging myth that could provide a constraint on Russia’s progress (the liberal newspaper Rech occasionally carried articles decrying the kind of language used by Graham in his books and articles). The ambassador and his staff were from 1915 cautiously trying to build links with moderate critics of the Tsar, hoping that they might in time play a role in mobilising Russia more firmly behind the war. Buchanan even warned London on one occasion that there was a danger that Graham’s Slavophile fantasies would be seen as having an official imprimatur because they were published in the Times.


Graham himself recalled many years later that he gained some insight into the changing landscape when, a few months before the February Revolution, he was snubbed by senior figures at the Times at a time when the newspaper was taking an increasingly critical line towards the tsarist government. A conversation with the novelist John Buchan, who was taking a break from writing yet another thriller to take charge of propaganda work at Wellington House, provided him with an even sharper sense of the situation. When the two men met a few weeks before the February Revolution, Buchan advised Graham ‘‘to change [his] attitude while there was yet time ... drop ‘‘Holy Russia’’, and work for a common-sense reasonable state with which the West could whole-heartedly cooperate’’20. Graham had never warmed to Cadet politicians like Miliukov, who once told him that he had ‘‘no use for the Church because it kept the people unawakened’’. Following the Tsar’s abdication, he fretted how in Britain ‘‘the atmosphere receptive to Russian spirituality had disappeared overnight’’21, as the British political and literary classes began to adjust to the need to build closer relations with the new democratic Russia. One journalist friend even told Graham how relieved he was that he no longer had to pretend he had actually read Dostoievskii! The political revolution in Petrograd demanded a new diplomatic strategy from its British ally — as well as undermining the relevance of a propagandistic strategy that sought to emphasise Russia’s cultural richness as evidence of its inherent value as an ally in the struggle for civilisation against the dastardly Hun. Paul Miliukov was probably right in linking the rhetoric of the Russian soul with the shadow of autocracy and obscurantist mysticism. Gorkii made the point even more forcefully when he penned a satire on Stephen Graham’s Slavophile fantasies, published in the form of a letter from one William Simpleton, who uttered such banal platitudes as that life in Moscow was ‘‘full of philosophy’’22. The Russia craze that exercised such a thrall in Britain before the Revolution always tended to focus on the exotic and strange, seeing Russian artists and writers as emissaries from an unfamiliar world, where life was more primitive and vibrant than in the bourgeois world of Western Europe. Russia in the early years of the twentieth century served as a kind of oriental other for many Britons, a place set apart by its politics and culture, somewhere that could be construed by outsiders as either threatening or appealing. The mythos of the Russian soul — the expression of an imagined exceptionalism — had the potential to migrate from the sphere of culture to the sphere of international politics. Cultural difference could, of course, easily have served as a symbol of irreconcilable differences in the political and diplomatic arenas. And yet, paradoxically, for at least some people in Britain during the years before 1917, the exotic timbre of Russia’s culture made the country seem a more fitting friend and ally in the turbulent world of international politics.

20. Graham S. Wonderful Scene. P. 148.

21. Graham S. Wonderful Scene. P. 151.

22. Письма знатного иностранца. Летопись. Апрель, 1916. С. 288—299.


Additional sources and materials

  1. Pis'ma znatnogo inostrantsa. Letopis'. Aprel', 1916. S. 288—299.
  2. Allies in Art: A Collection of Works by Artists of the Allies Nations. London, 1917.
  3. Bernard P. My Russian Memoirs. London, 1931.
  4. Bernard P. Russian Studies and the Promotion of Anglo-Russian Friendship, 1907—1914. Slavonic and East European Review, 78, 3 (2000). P. 510—535.
  5. Bruce H. J. Silken Dalliance. London, 1947.
  6. Bruce H. J. Thirty Dozen Moons. London, 1949.
  7. Buchanan M. Impressions of Imperial Russia. London, 1923.
  8. David H. Burton. Cecil Spring Rice: A Diplomat’s Life. Madison WI, 1991.
  9. Denis G. Friendly Russia. London, 1915 (forward by H. G. Wells).
  10. Graham S. Undiscovered Russia. London, 1912.
  11. Graham S. Wonderful Scene. London, 1964.
  12. Maurice B. Landmarks in Russian Literature. London, 1910.
  13. Maurice B. The Mainsprings of Russian Literature. London, 1914.
  14. Michael H. Diplomacy Before the Russian Revolution: Britain, Russia and the Old Diplomacy, 1894—1917. Basingstoke, 1999.
  15. Michael H. Searching for the Soul of Russia: British Perceptions of Russia during the First World War. Twentieth Century British History, 20, 2 (2009). P. 198—226.
  16. Sanders M. L. British Film Propaganda in Russia, 1916—1918. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 3, 2 (1983). P. 117—129.
  17. Stephen G. Part of the Wonderful Scene. London, 1964.
  18. Stephen G. Undiscovered Russia. London, 1912.
  19. Stephen G. With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem. London, 1913.
  20. The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring Rice. New York, 1929.


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