Muscovy as Third Rome was an early example of a great brand name. Sadly, we had no product to back it up.
When the brand idea first surfaced in the 15th century, the idea was to mark the passing of torch of the Greek Orthodoxy from Constantinople to Moscow. It was born out of the frustration of the ethnic Slav clergy. They felt fed up by incessant patronizing on the part of Bulgarian and Greek emigré theologians and monks who used to overwhelm the locals by their superior knowledge of the Orthodox cannon.
When the “Rome 3.0” claim was endorsed by Great Dukes of Muscovy, it gave the Russian Romans an equal footing with other Europeans both in spiritual and political matters.
However, the Third Rome idea never made it into a full-blown political concept, or a tool for Russian foreign policy. Even under the competent guidance of German spin masters in the 18th century didn’t inspire the House of Romanov to make more of it. Neither Peter the Great, or Catherine the Great, or Russian opponents of the Polish/Swedish push in the early XVII century tried the “Roman” ideological banner for their imperial cause.
- No one managed to reconcile the concept with the existence of the Holy Roman Empire, who used the same symbols and claimed the same legacy.
- The idea of liberation of Slav ethnicities in the Ottoman Balkans was not explained in the terms of Roman imperial narrative. It was the Slav Brotherhood narrative.
- No ideas of the global Christian reunion under the tutelage of Russian monarchy whatsoever.
- The only exterritorial “Roman” ambition of the Christian orthodoxy in Europe was Constantinople, and the part of Balkans adjoining it. No Orthodoxy supplanting Papism in Poland, or Protestantism in the Baltics or Finland. No conversion of pagans, Buddhists and Muslims south and east of Muscovy.
It took the Communist takeover in 1917 to give the idea of Third Rome the needed political flesh and instrumentality. This time it happened on a totally Western ideological platform. It was backed by the Soviet military-industrial complex. This time is possessed an internationalist appeal, far exceeding the original Christian footprint. Stalinism truly transformed our country into the high fortress of world revolution, the shining beacon of radical Marxism.