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Adriel Kasonta

London-based political consultant and analyst, who serves as editorial board member at the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS) in Prague and European affairs researcher at Wikistrat, a geostrategic consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

In not knowing how to accept Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the presidential run, who clearly violated State Department protocols, as well as federal laws and regulations governing record keeping (using her family’s private email server for official communications), the neoliberal political class of the past is doing their best to undermine the authority of the leader of most powerful country in the world, over-exaggerating the influence of the Kremlin’s political apparatus on the free will and consciousness of both eastern and western citizens (without mentioning the purported omnipresent 'godlike' status of Vladimir Putin, allegedly controlling everyone and everything under the sun) and eventually plays into supposedly hostile China’s hands (in accordance with the proverb: ‘when two quarrel, a third wins’).

The solution to this problem appears to be obvious only if we pay close attention to the present, and the historical relations of the United States with Russia and the Czech Republic (formerly known as Czechoslovakia).

It must be noted, that President Donald Trump’s former wife, Ivana Zelníčková, is a Czech woman with whom he has three children: Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Eric, and also with Melania Trump, with whom he has a son named Barron, being born in Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia). It goes without saying that his family has strong links in Central Eastern Europe.

To me it rings a bell, as American history reveals a gentleman by the name of Charles Richard Crane who was an affluent American businessman, philanthropist, traveller, and heir to a large industrial fortune whose daughter Frances Leatherbee Crane, was wife of Jan Masaryk (daughter-in-law of Tomáš, the first president of Czechoslovakia) who was appointed as Czechoslovakia’s ambassador to Great Britain. His son, John Crane, was the personal secretary of Tomáš Masaryk and his son Richard Teller Crane, was the first US ambassador in Czechoslovakia, however to fully understand the connections we must start from the beginning.

It’s a fact that Crane was in the minority of American upper-class who had a favorable view of Russia and, what is also worthwhile noticing bearing in mind current tensions between Washington, D.C and Beijing, saw a great opportunity in good relations between China and America, which (in his view) could benefit both nations. He was even twice appointed, first by President William Howard Taft (from July 23, 1909 to October 4, 1909) and President Woodrow Wilson (from March 22, 1920 to July 2, 1921), to serve in a diplomatic capacity (first as a minister and later as an ambassador) regarding China.

Today, with growing tensions between America and Russia, as well as America and China, with the three countries constituting the new reality of the emerging multipolar world, it seems to be a good idea both for Washington decision-makers and MSM to stop and honestly reassess American past, as I very much doubt that exercising further the current ‘history deficit’ in your countries’ foreign policy can bring you, Russia, China, or the world in general, anything good.


Four years have passed since the outbreak of the tragic Maidan Revolution, which led to the “annexation” (from arguably western perspective) or “reunification” (from a Kremlin stance) of Crimea with Russia. The event caused, as Thomas Graham Jr. excellent piece highlighted in The National Interest, a situation where the world’s two great nuclear powers found themselves “on the verge of a confrontation that has not been seen since the early 1980s.”

Ukraine increasingly seems to be evolving into a new military playground between Washington D.C. and Moscow. Having successfully studied International Relations at postgraduate level and operating in the field for several years prior, I had the opportunity to be seconded by The Bow Group (United Kingdom's oldest conservative think tank) to Kiev in order to prepare a report on the situation at the beginning of 2014.

Understandably, many high-profile political figures in Britain were 'disappointed' with my conclusions and it took approximately two years to get my point across being supported by Professor John Mearsheimer who gave a spectacular lecture titled “Why the West – Not Putin – Is Responsible for the Ukraine Crisis,” held on 9th December 2015 at the Jagiellonian University.

From an eastern European perspective, the Professor’s statements were quite revolutionary, almost prophetic in nature seeing they were preparing us for Donald Trump’s presidency and foreign policy imperatives of his era.

Charles Richard Crane

It was then when I first heard that that “the U.S. is in the process of pivoting to Asia, which means it is pivoting away from Europe,” “Americans are not going to fight and die over Ukraine” or “Russians are natural adversaries of the Chinese and natural allies of the Americans,” regarding alleged balancing coalition against growing threat from the emerging China.

Although the seemingly unexpected election of Donald Trump in November 2016, his two years in the presidential office have proved Professor Mearsheimer’s right record keeping, and it looks that neither mainstream politicians in Europe, nor in America were ready for the Trump era.

Furthermore, It only proves their lack of understanding of the rapidly changing dynamics of the ever more globalized world and desperate need to stick to the outdated post-Cold War consensus, which is not only harmful to both continents but also to the international security in the long run.

In not knowing how to accept Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the presidential run, who clearly violated State Department protocols, as well as federal laws and regulations governing record keeping (using her family’s private email server for official communications), the neoliberal political class of the past is doing their best to undermine the authority of the leader of most powerful country in the world, over-exaggerating the influence of the Kremlin’s political apparatus on the free will and consciousness of both eastern and western citizens (without mentioning the purported omnipresent 'godlike' status of Vladimir Putin, allegedly controlling everyone and everything under the sun) and eventually plays into supposedly hostile China’s hands (in accordance with the proverb: ‘when two quarrel, a third wins’).

The solution to this problem appears to be obvious only if we pay close attention to the present, and the historical relations of the United States with Russia and the Czech Republic (formerly known as Czechoslovakia).

It must be noted, that President Donald Trump’s former wife, Ivana Zelníčková, is a Czech woman with whom he has three children: Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Eric, and also with Melania Trump, with whom he has a son named Barron, being born in Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia). It goes without saying that his family has strong links in Central Eastern Europe.

To me it rings a bell, as American history reveals a gentleman by the name of Charles Richard Crane who was an affluent American businessman, philanthropist, traveller, and heir to a large industrial fortune whose daughter Frances Leatherbee Crane, was wife of Jan Masaryk (daughter-in-law of Tomáš, the first president of Czechoslovakia) who was appointed as Czechoslovakia’s ambassador to Great Britain. His son, John Crane, was the personal secretary of Tomáš Masaryk and his son Richard Teller Crane, was the first US ambassador in Czechoslovakia, however to fully understand the connections we must start from the beginning.

Any lover of art (or at least the Art Nouveau period) or authority on Slavonic history should know, it was Alfons Mucha who painted a cycle of 20 large canvases depicting the mythology and history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples (Russia, Poland and the Balkans, including the Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos) titled The Slav Epic.

Due to financial constraints, Mucha wouldn’t have been able to finish his masterwork if not for generous grants from a huge admirer of Slavic culture, Charles Richard Crane, who became his patron.

As an act of gratitude, the famous Czech painter dedicated the 100 koruna bill to Crane’s daughter, Josephine Crane Bradley, depicting her as Slavia (a woman in Slavic costume and surrounded by symbols from Slavic folklore and art).

There is no doubt that Crane was an American Panslavist, who not only was trying to familiarise his countrymen with this distant part of the world by bringing Tomáš Masaryk, Maksim Kovalevsky, and Pavel Milyukov to lecture at the University of Chicago in the 1900s’, but also an ardent Russophile who first visited Russia at the age of 29.

Since the summer of 1887 when he first visited his wife’s cousin Thomas Smith in Moscow, Charles R. Crane fell in love with Russia, its people and customs – and the feeling seemed to be mutual:

“On the way to Nizhny Novgorod I met a Russian gentleman, Mr. Semyonov, who served for nearly sixty years as president of the Geographical Society, a society with a wide range of activities. He was entirely natural and cordial in the Russian fashion and after we had talked over a great many things he asked me if I had ever visited a Russian country estate. I told him that I had never so and he said, “You ought to do it; the life on such an estate is a characteristic thing in Russian society. About sixty miles from here, in Ourossovo, is my estate and my brother’s estate adjoins mine. I have many nephews and nieces who will be glad to see you and I advise you to stop off and pay us a visit.”

Indeed, the young American millionaire accepted the invitation and stayed there for over two weeks. By staying there, Crane learned that his new friend has been appointed to the commission formed by Tsar Alexander II in order to conduct the 1861 emancipation of Russian serf, which automatically made him draw a parallel between the situation in Russia and emancipation of Blacks in his home country, concluded in these very words: “There were far more serfs in Russia than there were negroes in American, but there was no war.”

Crane was truly impressed with Russian upper-class progressive approach towards social issues, their openness towards strangers and culture in general:

“I was invited regularly to the house of Mr. Kornilov to the weekly gatherings of the Sobotniki or Saturday-nighters, a delightful lot of old-fashioned Russian people held together by a kind of Slavophile cult … [Senator Sverbiev] was fond of the society of young people and every Thursday had a luncheon which was open to the young men of his acquaintance and their friends. His house was quite a gathering place for struggling young artists … I frequently went to Mr. Sverbiev’s Thursday luncheons … Senator Semyonov also arranged that I will be received by the Asiatic Department of the Foreign Office and this was the beginning of one of my most valuable connections in Russia; whenever I returned to St. Petersburg I was always welcome there. Whoever happened to be the chief at the moment would devote to me all the time and care needed to give me an understanding of the current Asiatic position. I usually discussed various subjects of interest with the specialists in the department, and when I was through with the details the chief would give me an illuminating picture of the general position all the way from Japan to the Balkans.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Farley, and Charles Richard Crane in Warm Springs, Georgia

It was at these meetings, connections, and friendships forged in Russia that sparked the idea for familiarizing Americans with this 'exotic' country, in which he literally fell in love with.

To start with, Crane invited Mr William Harper, a close personal friend who was president of the University of Chicago at the time, to accompany him on his travels to Russia in the early 1900s’ in order to persuade him to establish a Slavic chair at the university. It was agreed, and both started the process of finding the right scholars to be invited to Chicago.

The choice fell on Maksim Kovalevsky, Pavel Milyukov and Tomáš G. Masaryk, but Crane had far more ambitious vision of establishing academic position for an American expert in Russian affairs on the University of Chicago.

Crane decided that the most suitable candidate for this precursory position in the American academic world would be Samuel Harper, William Harper’s son, whom he introduced to the Ecole des Langues Orientales, where he learned Russian, and whose position he financed.

However, Charles R. Crane’s fortune and zeal for developing understanding of Russia in America didn’t allow him to stop at this point, because as Harper reported:

“[Crane] suggested that perhaps teaching, writing, and lecturing were not the only means of establishing a real understanding of Russia in America. I therefore, adopted an additional method which became an important part of my educational program and with his help established a number of centres here for informal periodic reporting, selecting representative publishers, educators, business men, and others influencing policy and opinion, with whom to discuss events in Russia at regular intervals.”

On his numerous travels to Russia, Crane found that he has a profound affinity for Russian folklore music, and especially choir music of the Orthodox Church. Soon it would become another other way of presenting Russia to his fellow Americans, as started promoting Russian singers in his motherland:

“In the early nineties I was attracted by an announcement in the New York papers that a choir singing Russian folk songs was to have an evening at Carnegie Hall; I went there and found a Madame Linyov directing a choir of some seventy-five men and women dressed in Russian costumes. I was delighted with the result and after the concert sought out Madame Linyov to express my admiration and to learn something about the choir … I began to take an active interest in Madame Linyov … Some publicity was needed so that all Russians coming to America should become interested in this characteristic expression of Russian spirit, and I therefore arranged for the choir to have a place in the Chicago Exposition for two months.”

Crane had a great interest in Madame Linyov’s work and when she was finally able to go back to Russia, after her husband was amnestied, he asked Mr. Semyonov to hire her at the Geographical Society in order to research Russian songs:

“She went at her task systematically and devoted her whole life to it, even going out to Siberia in search of certain songs … The work she was doing brought her into touch with the deep feelings of the peasants in every part of Russia and she herself became a social revolutionist. Whenever I went to Russia I sought her out as she could give me the best of information on the prevailing moods and thoughts of the Russian people.”

The fruit of her work were three collections of Russian songs, where ‘The Songs In and Around Old Novgorod,' was dedicated to her American patron, Crane also helped her to publish her book.

Inspired by his visit to Rome, the American philanthropist managed to start the very first Russian church choir in America (St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York) in 1912 and decided to tour with them around the country:

“From time to time I took the choir to sing at various universities. One summer Dr. Frassell, the celebrated head of Hampton Institute, was seriously ill at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York … He used to be taken up on the roof of the hospital during his convalescence and one day.

I took the whole choir up there to sing for him. He soon afterward said, “I do so wish that our Hampton choir could hear this singing. It would re-inspire them.”

“As the Hampton choir was one of the best of its kind I was glad to take the Russian choir down to sing for the students. They had never heard such music … When the Russian program was finished the Hampton students asked whether they couldn’t sing for the Russian choir. The Russian had never heard any negro singing and they were delighted and appreciative.”

Due to Crane’s high-profile connections among the U.S. political elite, the businessman was able to introduce the choir to President Woodrow Wilson who was hosting them in the White House or at his summer house at Woods Hole on Cape Cod, before the St. Nicholas choir dissolved in 1918 during the aftermath of the Revolution.

Charles R. Crane, may considered as probably Russia’s closest friend in U.S history, become much suspicious of media coverage of the Russo-Japanese War in America, which resulted in a letter to the editor of the New York Times and where he expressed the following words:

“I have read with interest the editorial on Russia and Japan … In this editorial – as in a number of others which have appeared recently - a view is taken of the Eastern Asiatic situation which to me, at least, seems not so full nor fair to Russia as it might be … What is here desired especially to emphasize is the essentially peaceful nature of Russia’s conquest of Asia, the important part Americans already have played in it, and can continue to play in it if our Government and our press will properly aid us. In order to do so they must have perfectly independent and reliable sources of information …”

One could argue that the mentioned situation resembles the current hostile situation in the American MSM (popularized by President Trump as “fake news”), where ill-informed pundits and self-proclaimed experts on East European and Eurasia affairs like to rant about their “highly likely” opinions on geopolitics and current affairs.

But as we learn from the Crane’s experience, this American well-versed in Russian history, society and politics knew, as probably President Trump (and certainly the ‘deplorable’ citizens who put him in the office in Washington, D.C.), that these sources were controlled by forces hostile to the best interests of both nations:

“The day has gone by when we can afford to have the main part of our information come from anti-Russian sources. No matter how much it may be for the interest of other powers to play the dog-in-the-manager part toward Russia, it certainly is not ours… Let us pay less attention to those who are so busy trying to sow the seeds of dissension between us. They wish neither of us well.”

Does it sound familiar?

It’s a fact that Crane was in the minority of American upper-class who had a favorable view of Russia and, what is also worthwhile noticing bearing in mind current tensions between Washington, D.C and Beijing, saw a great opportunity in good relations between China and America, which (in his view) could benefit both nations. He was even twice appointed, first by President William Howard Taft (from July 23, 1909 to October 4, 1909) and President Woodrow Wilson (from March 22, 1920 to July 2, 1921), to serve in a diplomatic capacity (first as a minister and later as an ambassador) regarding China.

Today, with growing tensions between America and Russia, as well as America and China, with the three countries constituting the new reality of the emerging multipolar world, it seems to be a good idea both for Washington decision-makers and MSM to stop and honestly reassess American past, as I very much doubt that exercising further the current ‘history deficit’ in your countries’ foreign policy can bring you, Russia, China, or the world in general, anything good.


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