Russians: the most amazing facts for Europeans

Russia has always been so wild and eccentric for Europeans that the expression “crazy Russians” came into use in the West. The lifestyle, habits, mentality of Russians – all this not only surprised but also shocked foreigners.

Endless Love

Although the French humanist Louis Le Roi (1510-1577) included Muscovites among the “first and most glorious peoples of the world” on the grounds of power and strength, he noted their strange commitment to autocratic rule based on the sacralization of the monarch’s personality and the lack of rights of his subjects.

The fact that the Russians are ruled by tyrants was written by another Frenchman, the royal historiographer Andre Teve (1516-1592). Comparing the “dukes of Muscovy”, whether Vasily III or Ivan IV, with the tyrants of Africa and Ethiopia, Teve noted that they enjoy “absolute power, both over the bishops and over others, disposing of the property and life of every one according to their whims.”

For Europeans, it was completely incomprehensible why Russians love and honor their rulers so much, believing that the will of the sovereign is the will of God. European diplomats were amazed at how even the most prominent Muscovite representative would call himself a serf of his tsar to the extent that he was also a servant of God.

Learning into a burden

With the light hand of European travelers to the Moscow state of the 16th-17th centuries, the Russians were entrenched with the offensive and largely unjust nickname of “barbarians”. “Either unlimited power made the people barbaric, the roofing barbarians of the people generated such power,” the French aristocrats reflected.

The writer Francois de Belfort (1530-1583) was indelibly impressed by the moral image of the Russians. “Militant savages, drunkards, libertines, deceivers, bribe-takers who are ill-disposed towards women, poorly educated, adherents of slavery, mistaken Christians,” – such as seen by the Parisian intellectual of the Muscovites.

The judicial system of Russia was exclusively surprising foreigners. They believed that the real laws here were replaced by the opinion of the judge. But most of all, they were struck by the venality of the servants of Themis, who were capable of starting things in any direction. The corporal punishment of criminals was horrified by the European envoys. According to them, a quarter of the allotted blows would be enough for them to go to the other world, while the Russians showed extreme indifference to this.

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