Saint Nicholas of Russia

Illustration of Tsar Nicholas of Russia by Punch, 1854. Punch, Vol. 26, Jan.—June 1854

Posted by Libergirl


As the United States and Europe struggle to understand Vladimir Putin’s motives and goals—the subject of TIME’s cover story last week—it’s worth remembering that the West has been consumed by those questions before.

Yes, there was the Kremlinology and containment of the Cold War. But a century before brought a period of high Russophobia. In the mid-19th century, Europe was gripped with fear about Russia’s territorial ambition and consumed with how to stop it. Some of the echoes between then and now are downright eerie.

In the mid-1800s, Russia was controlled by autocratic ruler who distrusted Europe and sought to assert his nation’s greatness. This caused high alarm in Europe, and particularly in Great Britain—which worried that Russia might snatch its Indian empire. (This was a core component of the famous “Great Game.”)

One person sounding the alarm, as chronicled in this fine account of the time, was…

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