April 02, 2020

TBT: Ivan Susanin Does His Thing


TBT: Ivan Susanin Does His Thing
Ivan Susanin (Konstantin Makovsky, 1914)

Purportedly on this day in 1613 Ivan Susanin, a Russian peasant, when asked by invading Poles to point them toward the hideout of the newly crowned Tsar Mikhail Romanov, led them on a wild-tsar-chase through forest and bog.

When, in the end, the Poles discovered his deceit, they killed him, making him a Russian hero for all time. A couple of centuries later, It also made him the hero of Mikhail Glinka's opera, A Life for the Tsar.

It seems such a fantastic tale, that one might be inclined to deem it apocryphal, but there is actually pretty good evidence on the side of the legend being true. And, well, he even has a web page and a monument. And of course the very name Susanin is a cultural signpost: to call someone a Susanin is to say they are leading you astray, usually unknowingly.

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