Give Back Our Kremlin!

The Kremlin has been given a month by a court to prove it owns the Kremlin after descendents of Ivan the Terrible filed a lawsuit to stake their claim to the Moscow landmark. The Daily Telegraph reports that “The Princes’ Foundation, an organization that represented the descendents of Rusrik, a ninth-century prince whose eponymous dynasty ruled until 1598, has argued that its ancestors had built and lived in the 69-acre Kremlin complex and that it should now be returned to their ownership.”

Source: The Globe and Mail, August 27

Three comments:

1. Many of us have met descendents – or those who claimed to be descendents  of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, 5th Earl of Leicester, 2nd Earl of Derby, Duke of Aquitaine (1340–1399) – in the most unlikely places. His ancestors probably owned the land on which Westminster was built, not to mention Versailles and the Place de la Concorde. If so, they, too, can sue.

Gaunt, by the way, is Ghent in Belgium, his birthplace.

2. Have Putin’s lawyers heard of squatters’ rights?

3, Ivan the Terrible wasn’t terrible at all. His contemporaries called him “Ivan Grozny” meaning “awe-inspiring.”

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2 responses to “Give Back Our Kremlin!

  1. re 3: The epithet “terrible” is inaccurate if we read it in the most common modern sense. It is most likely a semantical or etymological artefact: a drift of meaning (linguists no doubt have a technical word for this sort of thing – and if one of you can enlighten me I’d be delighted). My dictionary gives two primary meanings for “awful”: 1. exceedingly bad or unpleasant; 2. inspiring awe, majestically or solemnly impressive. And it gives three meanings for “terrible”, of which the third is “inspiring awe”… So Grozny meaning awful in one sense becomes, with the passage of time, awful in the other sense.

  2. A linguist responds: Drift of meaning is simply called semantic change, and there are many kinds. When “terrible” shifts from “fearsome” to “very bad”, that is known as pejoration or degeneration. The Wikipedia article on semantic change lists plenty of types and some amusing examples!