The “Mystic Emperor” – The Elusive Russian Emperor Michael II

Dr Matthew Raphael Johnson brings us a new Orthodox Nationalist looking at the Mystic Emperor Michael II (1648-1708) and the Kitezh idea in revolutionary, Petrine Russia. Most Russian historians claim that he did not exist. Michael II was the eldest son of Tsar Alexis, but was quickly sent into internal exile as the ruling class in Moscow began its liturgical, cultural, economic and political revolution culminating in the satanic reign of Peter I up until Catherine II. In other words, the whole 18th century.

Tsar Alexis was remarried after the death of his first wife, who had given birth to 13 children. He then married Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina (1 September 1651 – 4 February 1694) from the vulgar rule of Artemon Matveyev, a gnostic revolutionary bent on taking over Russia for himself and he nearly did so. It was this second marriage that set the stage for revolution. The Naryshkins were vulgar, ignorant bumpkins with no knowledge of Russian history or tradition and used their new found political power to line their own pockets. Matveyev was far more sinister, seeking the installation of the new “Demiurge” and “national alchemist” so as to bring the empire into the European Enlightenment.

Peter the Great was the final result of this coup, but the legitimate Russian state was found in the monastic court of Tsar Michael II, who maintained the Old Rite and the ancient customs in the face of western totalitarianism. As later monarchs, Theodore III and others, burnt the local histories of the powerful boyar clans, much of recorded Russian history was lost in the process and writing Michael out of history was far easier under these circumstances.

Michael II was an archetype, much like the iconic city of Kitezh he is associated with, said to be still under the waters of Lake Svetloyar, waiting for a time when the world is purified and able to see the truth rather than elite self interest.

Michael II, like Kitzeh, are icons. These are ideograms for what the Petrine and Nikonian revolution had sought to destroy: equality among peasants, the Old Ritual, Russian Nationalism and the ascetic, ritual life. Peter, who had dedicated himself to the god Dionysius, sought to make Russian into a secular empire dedicated to merchant profits and, in his mind, the sexual revolution.

It was Michael II and Kitzeh that were referenced as the Cossack revolutionaries under Razin and Pugachev who sought to overthrow these revolutionaries. Dr Johnson wrote in his book on The Old Believers:

The uprisings of Razin, Bulavin and Pugachev were aimed at restoring an ethno-anarchist model of life, albeit in rather inarticulate ways. One element revolved around the organic nature of the Old Faith as opposed to the purely hierarchic model of Nikonian Orthodoxy. Another centered around the ethnic commune and Russian tradition over the cosmopolitan coercion of Peter, Anne (I and II) and Catherine (I and II). It centered around rural communalism and decentralization rather than the urban centralization of capital and foreign/heterodox control. It stood for happiness over utility. It stood for Russia over the west. When Bulavin, Razin and Pugachev were defeated, Cossack autonomy was eliminated and the Old Faith butchered with even greater ferocity. Russia became a top-down, coercive monarchy, rather than the New Israel. It became pagan rather than Christian for power was pursued for the sake of wealth and control, and the new, often non-Russian service class tormented their peasants to afford the latest European fads such as new carriages and their developing roulette addiction.”

Michael II was a real man, but even if you think if he was not, he remains the link connecting Old Russia to the Old Believers and he maintained the canonical tradition of the Orthodox faith that was, at least outwardly, severed during the Petrine purges of the hierarchy.