There is often a strong desire for partisanship both in our domestic and global thinking. Russia keeps being framed as our most vile adversary. Such thinking has much historic background . Of particular worry has been competition in technology – one can still recall the Russian leadership reputation effects of the space launches of Sputnik, the electric ball, and Leica, the spaceship dog. It took the successful North Pole transit of the U.S. submarine Nautilus to re-declare American advantage.
My research in the Georgetown archives yields evidence that not all Russians are adversaries all the time. One example comes from the Russian years of Georgetown University and the Jesuit religious order which founded it.
The order was initiated by Ignatius of Loyola in Paris in 1534, with its members taking vows of poverty, chastity and a ole of full obedience to the pope. Its principles and their execution turned out to be quite successful, particularly in the field of education. With its headquarters in Rome, the proximity to the pope helped global expansion and influence.
However not all was smooth sailing. In spite, or because of their success, the more than 22,000 Jesuits were surpressed in 1773 of all people, by their main patron, Pope Clement XIV. This leader of global Catholicim sent out specific instructions called a “papal bull” or edict to other heads of country , demanding the abolishment of the Jesuit order. The major ruling nations such as the Portuguese and Spanish empires, the French nation , and Austria/Hungary accepted such abolishment, making the Jesuits virtually extinct. Virtually , but not totally, thanks to Russian policy.
At the time Catherine the Great was the Tsarina or Sovereign of Russia and the protector of its orthodox religion. One of her key objectives was to bring Russia and herself as an equal partner to the table of international leaders. She recognized that raising the capabilities of the Russian population and its nobility to reason and analyze was an important foundation for such an achievement. She was further impressed with the manifold educational activities which the Jesuits had already set in place. So she was not feeling exploited when the Jesuits requested that the impending papal bull should not arrive or be read by the Imperial Court. She also agreed that existing Jesuits could select Russia as their central headquarters and even allowed them to expand the order.
As a result, those Jesuits, which had been part of the Maryland province in Baltimore all became Russian in their affiliation, as did their institutions. This relationship remained until 1814, when Pope Pius VII removed the onerous order of surpression. Georgetown University and its Jesuit faculty then became American again.
The lessons learned for today:
- Political hardships imposed to totally eliminate ones adversary may not have to be final – there often is a work around
- An international orientation can often be crucial to advancing one’s agenda
- Adversaries and traditions do not have to remain steady and immutable; to the contrary, a new perspective should be raised in one’s analysis of conditions
- Global strengths and unique expertise can set a player apart and permit quite unexpected alliances and cross references.
The evidence indicates that all this was good for both Russia and Georgetown University. Might there be other strategic linkages possible? It is necessary to separate the bear from the bull and to remember that there is always a bear market somewhere.
Written by Michael R. Czinkota.
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