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6 May, 2010 03:27

UK politics married with Russian blood

People in the UK have begun voting in one of the most tightly contested general election in decades. And as the election unfolds, it turns out there is Russian blood in British politics.

It is only since this election campaign that Nick Clegg, the leader of the UK’s third main political party, has become a household name. He is also being hailed as a genuine Russian aristocrat.

Clegg’s grandmother was a Russian baroness, and her mother was the daughter of an Attorney General in the Russian Imperial Senate.

"The family is of Polish origin and became prominent in Russia from the first half of the 18th Century, largely due to the fact that one of Clegg’s direct ancestors married the sister of a Russian Count who was the husband of Empress Elizabeth of Russia," says Oleg Sherbachev of the Moscow Nobility Assembly told RT.

Like many dispossessed Russian aristocrats, Clegg can even lay claim to a tumbledown estate in modern-day Ukraine. This is Berezova Rudka, where there is still a two-storey mansion and, extraordinarily, a pyramid. It was built by Clegg’s great-great grandfather. Locals are understandably proud of the structure.

“There are only two like this in Europe,” said local resident Nikolay Pedish. “Tourists from all over Ukraine and the rest of the world come here to see our pyramid. That is why we take care of it and clear away wild bushes.”

“Some time ago, bulldozers came and tried to demolish the pyramid,” added residents Maria Maksimova and Zhanna Kostenko. “They tried and tried, but the structure did not even budge. This shows that is was built to last.”

However, Nick Clegg is far from the only person in a position of power in the UK with Russian connections. Others include Foreign Secretary David Miliband, London mayor Boris Johnson and Conservative leader David Cameron.

“The Milibands are Russian Jewish. They still have a great aunt Sophia, who still lives in Moscow or St. Petersburg and who they went to have tea with. Beyond that, Cameron himself, probably, through his descent illegitimately from William the IV of England, might have remote kinship with Catherine the Great. Boris Johnson descends from George the Second, so he too is a kinsman of his nominal party leader, David Cameron, and also conceivably akin to Catherine the Great,” says Charles Mosley, genealogist.

There are also skeletons in the Clegg family closet, and ones that do not necessarily tie in with his liberal views. His great-great aunt, Moura Budberg, was almost certainly a double agent, working for both the British and the Soviet Union after the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. Her lovers supposedly included Herbert George Wells, Maxim Gorky and Robert Bruce Lockhart, the British spy chief who inspired the James Bond stories.

Nick Clegg has experienced a meteoric rise to prominence during this general election campaign and is now a serious contender in the May 6th vote. And with Conservative leader David Cameron’s Russian connection, too, there is a two in three chance that the next resident of 10 Downing Street will be descended from the Russian aristocracy.