In the 1900s European governments tried to implement their foreign policies without losing sight of two guiding principles. One stated that the ‘man in the street never cares two damns about foreign politics until he finds himself landed in the war’.1 The other cautioned that if a government went against the ‘national feeling’ too often or too openly, it might undermine the popular confidence in its foreign policy.2 How universal these axioms were is obvious from the fact that the first one was expressed by a Foreign Office bureaucrat in parliamentary Britain and the second by the Russian autocrat Alexander III. The stereotypes dominant in the national consciousness made certain policies more palatable to the public than others. The same notions which lived in the collective mind of their nations influenced the statesmen in their choice of options. The image of the British among the educated Russian public was ambivalent: the maritime empire was admired and respected for its stability, its laws and its culture, but condemned for despoiling and exploiting the colonies and despised, as in the rest of Europe, for hypocrisy. The British government, though not the nation, was an unreliable ally and a cold friend. The ruling circles, well aware of British rivalry and its costs to Russia, tended to be Anglophobe politically, even if this feeling was mixed with admiration for Britain’s cultural, social and economic achievement. They

which Russia was an obstacle. Following the Crimean war the Russian military and political circles expected that sooner or later there would be another war with Britain. In 1859 Grand Duke Konstantin during a visit to Britain wrote to his brother Alexander II:

This opinion coexisted with that expressed by N.V. Charykow, Russian deputy minister of foreign affairs (1908-11), in recalling his first visit to Britain:

The commonly accepted view of Britain as a near-paragon co-existed with uniformly negative historical associations. In 1853-55 Russia was defeated in the Crimean war by the British, French, Ottoman and Sardinian forces which attacked Russia in the Baltic, Black, White and Azov Seas, in the Pacific and in the Crimea. The 1856 Peace of Paris stripped Russia of the means of defending the Black Sea coastline and left Russia’s Baltic coastline exposed to naval attacks. This first major defeat of the Russian Empire took a heavy toll of the state finances and left Russia strategically vulnerable. This lesson of the dangers of anti-Russian coalitions and on the vulnerability of Russia’s territories cut deep into the national memory.