1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 29

Chapter 25


September, 1632

The older he got, the less he slept. Filaret paced around his room, thinking. God had made his presence known. In that other history, Russian forces would even now be moving toward Smolensk and that whoreson, Sigismund III, would be dead this last half a year. That the war Filaret urged on Russia would have ended in disaster wasn’t something that the patriarch doubted, much as he wanted to. God had spoken though the histories of that other time.

The question of whether God existed was clearly answered. That was perhaps not the sort of question that the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church ought to be asking, but Filaret’s approach to religion had always been more pragmatic than pious; more a means of control than a way to heaven. Well, it had seemed more pragmatic. Maybe the pious fools had been the pragmatic ones, after all. God apparently did exist. Oh, Filaret supposed that an atheist could argue himself into believing that the Ring of Fire had just happened, or was some previously unknown natural phenomenon, but that would take more self-delusion than Filaret could manage at this late date.

All this, of course, raised the question: what does God want? Filaret had lots of priests who could tell him that, based on the Bible. Unfortunately, not one of them had predicted the Ring of Fire and the scriptures that they had found after the fact predicting it were so vague and contradictory that they might well mean anything.

It was apparent that God wanted the best for Germany rather more than he wanted it for Russia and that posed a problem. The God who had let Russia and Filaret himself suffer through the Time of Troubles without lifting a finger to help, then moved heaven and earth in time as well as space to aid Germany? That wasn’t a god that Filaret could follow. In fact, if old Nick had shown up in Filaret’s room that night he would have gotten the patriarch’s soul cheap, on the basis that even the Devil has to be better than such a god. With effort, Filaret turned his thoughts away from that well-worn path and onto the equally familiar path of politics.

They were on a dangerous path. No . . . they had been on a dangerous path before the Ring of Fire. Now it was worse. The knowledge that he had been wrong about attacking Poland had weakened him and the revolution of 1917 was being used as proof that the Romanov dynasty would lead Russia to disaster. Never mind that it wasn’t scheduled for almost three centuries. Now wasn’t the time to go experimenting with new ways of governing Russia, and he didn’t think Mikhail realized just how dangerous this situation was. Mikhail was a good boy, but too gentle for the real world. Still, something he’d said kept coming back to Filaret. Knowledge, freely given. Filaret had started the only print shop in Russia. Like most things, it was a royal monopoly. He had also been instrumental in starting schools in monasteries. Again, control resided in Filaret, this time as the patriarch. Giving things away didn’t come naturally to him, especially something as valuable as knowledge. Freely giving knowledge had its drawbacks, didn’t it?

But the more he thought about it, the better it sounded. Freely given. Charity. A gift to the poor. Alms of knowledge? What an interesting idea. The agreement with the Gorchakov family was that the government could do what it wanted with the knowledge from the Dacha. It wouldn’t do to give everything away. But some of it. . . . Things that would help a lot of people and would cost a lot to administer. A gift from the czar, granted freely to every citizen, peasant and serf in Russia. The right to make the turning plow. One of the new plows produced by the Dacha. And, of course, the Gorchakov family could still sell the right to make the plow to anyone who would buy what had already been given them for free. It would serve as a reminder to the Gorchakov family who was czar. At the same time, it would remind everyone that even knowledge was the czar’s, to give and withhold at his will.