Gate and the Oprichnina

34049-gateIf you watched GATE this past weekend you might have been presented with an unfamiliar term: Oprichnina.  Oprichnina is not a Japanese word but rather a Russian word originating in the 16th century.  Loosely put, the Oprichnina was a series of institutional changes to Russia enacted by Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible.  See, after the failure of the Livonian war in 1558 Ivan had developed a deep distrust of the aristocracy, known as the Boyars.  So, after staging a fake abdication of the throne Ivan IV makes a series of demands that were accepted by the Boyars.  The first was the creation of a special zone within the empire directly under the control of the Tsar.  Now you may ask isn’t everything already controlled by the Tsar?  Well yes but the governance of different regions is controlled by the local lords and their taxes are what gave the Tsar wealth.  Now the Tsar has his own land to create his own wealth independent of the Boyars.  This served the lower the power of the Boyars in relation to the Tsar.  To police this new territory Ivan IV created the Oprichniki which served as Ivan IV’s personal body guard.  These Oprichniki were used to force out Boyars on the newly designated Oprichnina land and to forcibly move peasants to new farmland.  The latter action effectively institutionalized serfdom for the next several centuries.  So, in GATE I have mixed feelings on the term being used.  First, calling the secret police the Oprichnina is incorrect, it should be Oprichniki.  But semantics aside I do not feel that Zorzal El Caesar is acting in a way similar to Ivan IV.  If the writers wanted to look to a secret police to enact the policies of a war-bent emperor, perhaps they would have been better suited to use the term Kempeitai.  The Kempeitai were Japan’s secret police up through WWII that committed human rights abuses on a scale on par with genocide.

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