THE MAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH ABOUT RUSSIA

My corpse managed to keep talking for twenty

years. That’s the time it took between the

Soviet KGB dosing my champagne with a

near-fatal volume of a drug called SP-117, in

order to get the truth out of me;  and a

Russian oligarch sending two gunmen to

fire their pistols into me, to stop the truth

getting out..

 

With hindsight, those who weren’t watching

when Vladimir Putin was small insist he

was bigger than he was, but good at keeping secrets.

Big or small physically or politically, they have still been

 unable to fathom Putin’s character, or explain why,

  after so many years in power, Putin remains as  characterless as when he started. 

I was watching from the beginning; the KGB elixir

 allowed me to see through the secrets to

 the  truth of the matter.

 

  This was that Putin has remained the nondescript  I had first met,

but that the potency attributed to him now was picked up

from a group of men on whom he depended for his rise,

and on whom he still depends for his power.

These were, these are the

Russian oligarchs

whose stories I have been investigating

and reporting every day.

By penetrating their secrets, I measure how Putin rules Russia;

better to say, how Russia is ruled, and with what effect.

(more…)

CHRISTMAS IS FOR TRUE BELIEVERS, NEW YEAR IS FOR FRIGHTS AND FAKERS – BUT THE BEAR HAS A SURPRISE COMING TO CHEER YOU

By John Helmer, Moscow

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, then the charm is firm and good.

Dear readers, as you peer carefully into the picture of the year ahead, you can recite the charm of Shakespeare’s witches or you can rely on the Bear – what’s it to be?

See him taking notes as he eavesdrops on President Vladimir Putin and his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.  Who is the soldier with the umbrella weapon? What devils stand their ground falsely; stamp on thin air? 

In the time ahead, who, we are bound to ask, will prove to be the less convincing,  the more unerring? Until Old New Year’s Day dawns, there’s time to open the Bear’s surprise and with his best wishes, rest your mind

BASHFUL BUSINESS, TIMOROUS STATE — KREMLIN REFUSES TO SET THE TABLE FOR CHRISTMAS SUPPER WITH THE OLIGARCHS

By John Helmer, Moscow

This is the week — the last one before the corporate Catholic Christmas holiday commences and runs into the Russian New Year holiday —  when President Vladimir Putin hosts a supper reception for the oligarchs. It’s a very sensitive affair – for the oligarchs invited, disinvited,  or excluded; and for the president to be seen publicly with them.

So sensitive in fact that a year ago, as the president was running for re-election, his Kremlin spokesman appeared to think (and say) on December 14 there was to be no oligarchs’ dinner. Then it turned out, on December 21,  there was. 

This year the Kremlin’s sensitivity is to the deteriorating approval ratings for Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the Government and also the State Duma. In an unusual reflection of this,  the latest session of the Security Council, which met on  Monday,  acknowledged that the first priority on the agenda was “current issues on the domestic socioeconomic agenda. They pointed out the need for a particularly close monitoring of all housing and utilities systems in the regions hit by abnormally low temperatures in recent days.”

The oligarchs are acutely sensitive too. In pre-war times, the invitation to be seated at Putin’s table was a cachet of closeness to power which the oligarchs were keen to display. Now that they face US Treasury sanctions for their “closeness” to the president, many would rather not attend. None can refuse, however, if Putin invites. (more…)

THE SALE OF ALFA BANK – THAT MIKHAIL FRIDMAN AND PYOTR AVEN TALK OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF THEIR MOUTHS ISN’T NEWS; WHY NOW IS NEWS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikhail Fridman (lead image, left) and Pyotr (Peter) Aven (right) have launched an effort to persuade high Russian and American government officials that they are in the process of selling their Russian bank,  and also that they are not doing anything of the kind.  

Uncharacteristically clumsy of them is the assessment of Russian sources. “Fridman has been trying to sell Alfa Bank for a long time,” one source says, “but can’t get his price. He has gone public this time after Alfa Bank officials got the message that someone important in Moscow is offended that he was not involved in the deal.”

“It’s quite risky to signal that a bank is up for sale,” comments another Russian source, a veteran of the Central Bank of Russia.  “Even for a strong name this can shatter confidence and trigger an outflow of deposits as a result. Depositors and other customers would ask themselves — why is the owner willing to sell? Maybe, bank customers will ask, the owner knows something about the bank others do not?  For a bank owner, such a risk may not be worth taking just for the sake of demonstrating something to somebody.”

A US source says that Fridman has been advertising “for a long time that he is Lviv-born, Ukrainian and Jewish by culture, and shouldn’t be sanctioned for Russian business he’s trying to get rid of. The latest press leaks were addressed to Washington to combat the bad press and sanctions threats Fridman is afraid of.”

“In light of recent media reports alleging some negotiations on the sale of Alfa Group’s banking assets,” an Alfa Bank press notice announced on Wednesday in Moscow: “this information bears no relation to reality. We categorically deny these rumors and the fact of any negotiations. No discussions of the kind have been or are being conducted with the market players.”

The Russian and US sources believe the phrases “no relation to reality” and “the fact of any negotiations” are untrue. The discussions already held have been with Russian state banks, so the phrase “market players” is misleading. (more…)

BRAIN OF LAWRENCE FREEDMAN HACKED – LONDON WAR STRATEGIST TURNED INTO CYBORG BY US, UK SECRET SERVICES

By John Helmer, Moscow

One of the leading war strategists in London, professor to general staff officers and warfighters on both sides of the Atlantic, has lost his brain to an advanced cyber technology designed by the American and British military to win wars by frightening their adversaries into capitulation for fear of being destroyed. The new weapon appears to have backfired because it has destroyed the British strategist’s capability to take seriously what his enemy is thinking. The calculation required for fighting has been lost because the strategist has self-destructed.

Sir Lawrence Freedman (lead images) is the victim of this warp weapon; the evidence is the new book he published a few weeks ago. It’s called The Future of War, A History,  “In his new book,” according to a British intelligence veteran, “Freedman repeated everything we and the Americans, especially the Americans, have given him over the years.  But the outcome is what we might call an overdose of Novischlock.” (more…)

CANADA’S PRIME MINISTER AND FOREIGN MINISTER TAKE CHINA HOSTAGE IN “RULES-BASED ORDER” PLOT

By Christopher Black, Toronto

“It is clear the US is pushing the battle line to our door … We can completely regard the US arrest of Meng Wanzhou as a declaration of war against China.”

So read an editorial in the Global Times of China on December 6, the day after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei was taken hostage by the Canadian and American governments on December 1. The daughter of the founder of China’s largest telecommunications company was arbitrarily arrested and detained by Canadian police in Vancouver in transit between planes on December 1 on the pretext of a US extradition request.

The arrest has shocked and angered China while in Canada the large Chinese population must wonder how safe they are.

The background to the arrest is fairly simple. Huawei has become a global competitor in the global telephone market and their 5G phones are cutting-edge technology and so not welcomed by competing phone companies in the US, Japan, South Korea, France, and Sweden; they are so afraid of the competition that they and their governments have spread stories that the phones are loaded with spyware and are “a danger to national security.” The company has even been threatened by the US and allied governments with criminal charges in America’s increasingly hostile economic war against China,  alongside its increasing military pressure, provocations and insults. It’s one way to control the market. But now, acting as a mafia they have kidnapped, detained, and hold hostage a Chinese woman whose simple crime is going to work every day. The lack of outcry from women’s rights groups in the west is,  not surprisingly, deafening. (more…)

GORILLA AND BEAR TAKE PRISONERS, AS THE LIKELIHOOD OF ALL-EUROPE WAR STRETCHES TO POLAND, ROMANIA, CYPRUS, GREECE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Please recognize, if not in yourselves then in others, that there is pleasure in hating.

“The pleasure of hating”,  William Hazlitt, an English writer  of two hundred years ago*, compared this to what the British Prime Minister of today calls a novichok – “a poisonous mineral, [which] eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others.”

If not stopped in politics,   this pleasure of hating leads with certainty to violence and war.  The pleasure of hating Russia and Russians is what today is driving the United States to putting all of Europe in war. (more…)

THE LIE THAT SHOT DOWN MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT MH17

By John Helmer, Moscow

One side of a well-used coin is the maxim that truth is the first casualty of war. The other side of the coin is that lying is the first weapon of war. According to the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, that’s because all warfare is based on deception. He meant that lying – propaganda, camouflage, false flags, disinformation, infowar, cyber war — is a precondition for winning battles at least, if not wars. As the US military learned since Vietnam, lying is no guarantee of winning.

In this valuable compendium of research on how the US war on Ukraine started in 2014, and why, Kees van der Pijl, a Dutch professor who has taught in England since 2000, spells out his case that the destruction of Ukraine, like the shooting-down of MH17, is the means to a bigger strategic end. “Just as Gorbachev was forced to sign the act of capitulation in 1991,” van der Pijl argues, “the current Western campaign against’Putin’ aims at a complete surrender of Russia; that is, pro-Western regime change in Moscow – a process which the Trump presidency has effectively been compelled to continue.”

Even if that’s a war the US can’t win or will lose, van der Pijl’s conclusion is there’s no stopping the war now. Certainly, truth-telling won’t do the trick because “there are no instances of the United States withdrawing from a warlike posture.”

The first remarkable thing about the book is that it has been published at all. (more…)

NOSTALGIA FOR ARISTOS AND FOR HIGHER PRICES DRIVES LONDON AUCTIONS OF RUSSIAN ART

By John Helmer, Moscow

The semi-annual sale of Russian art works in London last week produced signs of stable demand without pessimism for the future. Compared to the estimated valuations in the auction house catalogues, unusually high prices were realized in the bidding for objets d’art, such as miniatures of 18th century Russian court notables; porcelain vases, plates and kovshs (ladles); and icons.

London art market experts expressed surprise there was more profit in objects than paintings, but unsure who the buyers were. “The bigger lots were bought on the telephone,” reported one dealer in the auction room.  According to an auction house source, “supply is limited, as many sellers are waiting for higher prices.  And that means auction houses have to take what they are given, rather than trying to build a balanced sale.  It’s also why the total on sale was down.  Still, better works did sell and sell quite well.”

William MacDougall commented for his house: “the Russian art market continues to overcome the difficulties of low oil prices and sanctions.” (more…)

STATE SPYING FOR STATE LYING – WHAT THE LOCKERBIE FILES REVEAL ABOUT THE MH17 LIES

By John Helmer, Moscow

It will be thirty years later this month since a bomb exploded on board Pan American Flight PA 103 (lead image, left), en route from London to New York. The false narrative of the British and US governments, contrived at the time to blame Libya and warrant the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, required  falsification of evidence and the conviction in a rigged court proceeding of the wrong man. It has also required spying to disrupt the efforts of the families of those killed to uncover the truth.

The extent of that operation was exposed last week in a partial release of British Government documents from the UK’s National Archives. Among the spy operations revealed were telephone taps, hacking into computers, and interference with emails. 

The archive disclosures also show that the same modus operandi has been under way since 2014 to fabricate blame for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 (lead image, right) over Ukraine, and justify global sanctions against Russia, plus operations to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

But thirty years of state secrets to warrant state lying aren’t long enough to hold those responsible for the lies to account, or for the truth to prevail against them. (more…)

RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.”

(more…)

IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



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

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.  

(more…)

EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.”

(more…)

IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



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

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.

(more…)

THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)
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