Some people like to watch the sun going down.

Alexei Mordashov, the third-ranked Russian steelmaker, and a 40-year old man with enormous personal vanity, has been persuaded by some desperate, but clever fellows in Luxembourg that, to watch his own sun going down, and exiting Russia, Mordashov should pay a ticket price of $2.7 billion. For the time being, that costly blaze of light has blinded the world’s business media, and also the Russian stock brokerages, to what the Arcelor-Severstal merger really means, at least in Russia.

For the first time, a Russian metals oligarch has sold out of his business, following oil oligarch Roman Abramovich on the well-trodden path out the exit door, marked by the approaching changeover in the Russian presidency. Unlike Abramovich’s sale last year of his Sibneft oil ^ enterprise to Gazprom, the Russia’s largest enterprise, Mordashov’s exit allowed, apparently and for the first time, a foreign-owned corporation to acquire majority control of a strategic Russian metalmaking enterprise, plus its iron-ore and coalmines. The only comparable -‘oligarch exit in favour of a foreign company like this was the sale by Victor Vekselberg, Mikhail Fridman and Len Blavatnik of their Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) to British Petroleum in February 2003. That deal was allowed by Putin, just before the Americans launched their war against Iraq, when the Kremlin had reason to fear a collapse in oil prices might push the heavily indebted TNK, other Russian oil producers, and the Russian banking system into bankrupcy. When, afew weeks later,Mikhail Khodorkovsky asked Putin to allow his sale of up to 40% of the Yukos oil company, Putin said no, twice. Everyone knows what happened to Khodorkovsky for not listening.

Whether the Kremlin, which has designs on one, possibly two other steelmakers — Alexander Abramov of the Evraz group, and Igor Zyuzin of the Mechel group — had been pushing on Mordashov, or whether he rode off into the sunset by choice, is still far from clear. Asked to say if President Vladimir Putin, who spent an hour meeting with Mordashov on May 16, and the next week met with a group of European Union officials, had heard of the Arcelor buyout from either, or had approved the deal in advance, Putin’s spokesman refused to confirm, telling Russia Journal “we do not have such information.” No one in the Russian steel business believes that Mordashov would contemplate an exit, and the sale of Severstal to foreign control, without Kremlin approval. According to one of Mordashov’s biggest Russian rivals, “the reasons of [Mordashov’s] meeting with Putin were obvious. Severstal has a strategic meaning for the Russian economy. Such decisions never made without approval.”

There are reasons better left unsaid why Kremlin officials do not advertise the obvious. But if the Kremlin approved in secret, Putin is reserving the opportunity to say no publicly, when the government anti¬trust agency, the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS), must review the terms of the proposed deal, and issue a ruling either approving, rejecting, or modifying it. The FAS does what it is ordered to do by its superiors. It was the agency by which the Kremlin slowed down the sale of two aluminium rolling-mills by Oleg Deripaska’s Russian Aluminium (Rusal) to Alcoa of the US. It was also the agency which forced Siemens of Germany to abandon a bid to buy control, and nickel oligarch Vladimir Potanin to sell out of a turbine builder and heavy engineering firm, proposing a minority stake transfer instead.

There has been speculation in the press that Putin doesn’t like Lakshmi Mittal, and refused to meet him last year, after Mittal had won control of the Ukrainian steelmaker Krivorozhstal, and proposed talking about his steelmaking ambitions there, in Kazakhstan, and Russia as well. If Putin wanted to say no to that, refusing to meet was a polite form of discouragement. For the episode to trigger the idea that Putin encouraged Mordashov to plot with Arcelor, and the governments closest to it — France, Luxembourg, Belgium — to frustrate Mittal’s hostile takeover attempt is unlikely.

For one thing, the Arcelor deal with Mordashov, announced last Friday,had already been rejected by another Russian steelmaker, Vladimir Lisin — owner of the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK) — because it violated the golden rulebook of the Russian steelmakers:

1. Russians never buy minority stakes below the control, or at least veto level.
2. Russians steelmakers never spend more than $1 billion of their own, or their company’s cash on an acquisition.

According to the terms announced by Arcelor to date, subject to a Luxembourg shareholders’ meeting in a month’s time, and what Mittal may devise as a counter- bid strategy, Arcelor and Severstal claim to have agreed to a “merger”. Mordashov will acquire 32% of Arcelor, while the Severstal units, at least in Russia, will keep their Russian name. Arcelor’s existing shareholders will retain 68% of the company. The combination of companies “will be the Number 1 steel company in the world with Eur46 billion in sales.. .and 70 million tonnes of production.” If the terms are not implemented, Mordashov will earn a deal-break fee of Euro 140 million.

“I do believe in this very much”, Mordashov said repeatedly during a press conference with Arcelor executives on Saturday. Was he trying to convince himself?

Examining the financial terms of the deal, Mordashov receives a position in Arcelor, which according to share values and market capitalization the day before Friday’s deal, should have cost Euro7.3billion, or about $9.3 billion. The official announcements indicate that for this Mordashov is transferring his 89.6% shareholding in Severstal; they include relatively easy to value assets of Severstal North America — the Rouge mill in Michigan, a planned auto steel plant in Mississippi, and the Mountain State Carbon venture with Wheeling-Pittsburgh to build coke batteries. At last Thursday’s market valuation, Severstal was worth $6.5 billion, and thus leaving aside the minority shareholders, Mordashov’s stake was worth $5.8 billion.

In addition, Mordashov is handing over the Russian iron-ore and coal 1 assets he has been planning to sell back to his own company at an ‘r elevated value, $4.3 billion; plus the personally held stake of 42% of the Italian steelmaker Lucchini, acquired a year ago, but not yet fully transferred to the Severstal balance-sheet; this is worth $239.4 million. Altogether, Mordashov’s asset transfers to Luxembourg add up to $10.34 billion. It is customary for foreign buyers of Russian assets to apply what is known as the Russian risk discount, which acknowledges 3 the possibility that the methods by which the assets were acquired were illegal, and could be reversed by the federal government in Moscow; or i that the cashflow accounting by which the management enriched themselves and their shareholders might have violated Russian tax and fraud laws, not to mention the international money-laundering statutes. It is thus not surprising that Mordashov’s asset value exceeded by more than $1 billion the Arcelor value he received in exchange.

But the deal announcement also indicates that Mordashov agreed to sweeten the pot by paying cash of Euro 1.25 billion, or $1.6 billion. Media reports suggest that Mordashov will borrow to finance this part of the transaction. The grand total proffered therefore was $11.96 billion. The difference in Arcelor’s favour is $2.66 billion.

In its announcement, Arcelor Board of Directors said it “believes that the merger with Severstal fully recognises the value inherent in Arcelor, and offers Arcelor shareholders superior industrial logic, greater value and the highest standards of corporate governance compared to Mittal Steel’s offer. Therefore, we believe that this deal is in the best interests of Arcelor’s shareholders.” Mordashov’s pricing allowed Arcelor to claim that its share value was Euro44 ($56.23), a premium on over Arcelor closing price on 26 January, the day before Mittal announced its takeover offer. This price is also Euro 6.26 ($8) over Mittal’s latest offer for Arcelor, announced on May 16.

Mordashov has been announcing publicly since 2004 that he wishes to be the world’s largest steelmaker, or at least the equal of Mittal and Arcelor. Mordashov initially told a steel industry conference that he anticipated “a situation in the steel industry where within a few years four to six companies each had a capacity of about 100m tonnes of steelmaking per year. We would like to be among those companies.” But even with Rouge’s and Lucchini’s output added, Severstal’s aggregate output has been unable to breach the 20-million ton mark. Until now, to meet his ambitious target, Mordashov had more than 84 million tons still to buy. The task was too big for the ambition.

But to sell out his assets to Arcelor is also inconsistent with Mordashov’s ambition. The Luxembourg directorate therefore found the means to make their Russian minority stakeholder feel good. Mordashov, Arcelor announced, is to be appointed the non-executive “President” of the Arcelor board of directors, and have the right to appoint 6 of 18 directors. As the current chairman of the board, Joseph Kinsch, will retain his position, and chief Executive Guy Dolle as well, Arcelor appears to have created a double-headed eagle to symbolize the change, without an underlying shift in management control. Russian oligarchs never spend a billion dollars without acquiring control, unless they are playing a portfolio share-game, and Mordashov has signed a 5-year lockout agreement to prevent him doing that. The small print in the Arcelor announcement reveals what little power Mordashov has acquired at so high a price: “Arcelor’s executive management will remain in place, supplemented by Severstal executives…Mr. Mordashov has agreed to vote his shares in accordance with the recommendations of the Board of Directors.”

The only explicit statement of a Russian government official has so far come from Alexei Kudrin, the Finance Minister. ” I basically consider,” he said, “that Russia goes on to the world markets, and we welcome cases when business itself finds to itself of favour with foreign partners. This is a certificate of trust to Russia as a whole.” In some countries, finance ministers are powerful figures. Russia is not one of them, and Kudrin conducts his portfolio with the ever-present fear of being replaced, and the anxious hope of being restored to the deputy prime ministership which he lost last year. The Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade have long favoured Severstal’s lobbying campaign to have the government adopt steel trade arrangements with the European Union and the US which benefit Severstal, at the expense of other Russian steelmakers and the rest of the Russian economy.

Kudrin must have been forgetting a dossier that has been accumulating dust on his heavily loaded desk. That is the one which investigated Severstal’s tax avoidance practices. In a confidential report of the federal Tax Ministry of September 2004, delivered to the Prime Ministry but not acted upon at the time, it was noted that Severstal was paying tax at between 12% and 14% of revenues, far less tax than the norm among Russian oil exporters, by employing a variety of transfer pricing and tax optimization schemes. Another study indicates that Severstal had underpaid its 2003 tax bill by $40 million via tax optimisation schemes based in the Russian republic of Kalmykia.

A tax bill of so little is not the stuff of which the downfall of oligarchs is made. Kudrin’s forgetfulness is indicative of the way he perceives the Kremlin flag is blowing, at least towards Mordashov’s enterprise. Had he been asked whether the Kremlin intends — through monies held in trust by Abramovich — to buy out Abramov’s control stake of Evraz — he might not have wished to say anything at all. Kudrin is not a decision-maker of consequence.

Mordashov has had commercial enemies in the past, and in Russia such enemies often seek ministerial and Kremlin support for their schemes. Mordashov’s biggest rival was the copper and coal oligarch, Iskander Makhmudov. He helped finance a court challenge to Mordashov’s shareholding, but then abandoned it. Makhmudov has steel sector ambitions, but he has even fewer friends in government than Mordashov.

And so the one person on whom Mordashov’s future in Russia depended was President Putin. Their meeting together at Putin’s summer residence in Sochi two weeks ago provoked a great mystery. On the surface, it appeared to be the longest conversation ever conducted on large-diameter pipemaking by a Russian president, and perhaps the longest ever held by any head of state.

Mordashov also told Putin that “in Cherepovets 250 children every year abandon their homes. Who will work at our enterprises and who will live in our cities? It for us even a personal problem.” Putin responded that “it is healthy, that you, in business, understand this sort of thing.” Asked whether Severstal management has been cutting jobs at its plants, a spokesman for the Russian company told The Russia Journal that the payroll at the Cherepovets plant was 35,589 at the end of 2005, down 183 jobs from 2004. At the Rouge plant in Detroit, Severstal has cut 600 jobs since it took over, 22% of the pre-sale workforce of 2,700.

The Kremlin transcript reports Mordashov as telling Putin: “We hope for a great volume of orders [of the LD pipe] from our country.” “Including for the North-European gas pipeline,” Putin asked. “Undoubtedly, our first priority is deliveries for the North-European gas pipeline,” Mordashov replied, referring to the project in which Vyksa and the UMC are already well advanced in supplying Gazprom, the principal Russian project partner. “And how do you build relations with possible customers?” Putin asked. “We perfectly well understand that this is fundamentally important for us. First of all – Gazprom. We have had a working group with Gazprom from the very beginning of [plant] construction. Gazprom…is for us the most important and fundamental customer.” He went on to tell the president that the key issue for Severstal now is “to provide high quality of pipe in absolutely new conditions. An underwater gas pipeline.” Putin asked Mordashov if he remembered where pipes were sourced from for the Black Sea Bluestream project supplying gas to Turkey. “I do not remember, Mordashov said. “Perhaps Japanese or German pipe was used.”

“It is necessary that your quality should be better [than the imports]”, Putin said. “For us, it is fundamentally important to make good steel. This is a big technological call, but I think we shall meet it.”

If Putin and Mordashov had been secretly chatting about the prospect of a Luxembourg-based European steelmaker taking entire control of Severstal, its pipemaking division included, this apparent reference by Putin to beating European imports of pipe looks, in retrospect, to be ludicrous camouflage.

Putin then changed tack, asking Mordashov for other details of the Severstal group, including payroll numbers at both the domestic steelmaking and the automobile divisions, and at Severstal’s plants abroad. “How do you estimate the technological level at your enterprises abroad?” Putin asked. “With us, no worse [than others]. Everyone has advantages. But as a whole, certainly, we are better.” Mordashov claimed that in buying out bankrupt plants in Italy and the US, Russia was “reviving” the industry. “And how are social questions solved at your enterprises?, the president asked. “Except for us,” he said, “nobody can provide quality of life to our workers. This is the situation as it has developed historically in Russia.” He told Putin that Severstal operates at a youth camp in Cherepovets for 2,500 children, plus an ice-hockey team.

In short, Mordashov tried to pull the wool over Putin’s eyes regarding the social welfare policy he has been implementing, beyond youth camps and hockey games. But can he have dared to speak to the President about caring for young runaways from Cherepovets, when Mordashov himself was running away from Russia?


By John Helmer, Moscow

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.



By John Helmer, Moscow

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.



By John Helmer, Moscow

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.



By John Helmer, Moscow

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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