FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Holy Russia, Holy Cow!

by CLANCY SIGAL

What does a bloody brawl I saw among Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Eastern Catholic priests who share the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have to do with Putin invading Crimea?

That particular sacred place in Jerusalem’s Old City is like a perpetual boxing ring where rival religions punch (and stab and shoot) each other for the keys to the site where Jesus was crucified.  Indeed, on my visit to the church, a priest of the Greek Orthodox faith (I think it was) banged me on the head with his silver cross thinking that I’d violated his turf by a few inches.   As the Good Book says, love they neighbor.

My folks were Ukrainian, dad from Kiev, which of course makes me an expert.  But I have an inkling about the 19th century Crimean war in which almost a million men died from combat wounds or disease.   Most of us know about this nearly forgotten war from Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade (and movie) or about Florence Nightingale’s pioneering medical and nursing work in the peninsula’s trenches.  The Crimean war overflowed its banks; Tolstoy fought on three of its fronts including the Caucasus.

Just as Putin may be doing, Russia’s 19th century czar Nicholas the First may have miscalculated when he grappled with Britain, France and the crumbling Ottomon empire (the Danubian regions and Turkey) to “protect” his allegedly endangered co-religionists at the mercy of the beastly Turks.   The Crimean war had all sorts of “geopolitical” reasons, but it was also about the most inflammatory factor, religious passion.

As we have learned to our cost in Iraq and Afghanistan, you don’t mess with people’s gods because it’s not about how many soldiers you have but how many people on the other side are willing to die for their cause.  (See Sunni, see jihadi.)

I’m incredibly ignorant about the various (mainly denominations of Russian Orthodox) religions at play in this present Putin crisis.  But it’s possible that Tsar Vladmir the P. sees himself as the God-given protector of Holy (formerly Communist) Russia.  That is, not only of its pipelines, oil, natural gas and military territory including the Crimean ports for the Black Sea fleet, but also the sanctity of the Russian Orthodox church generally.

I suspect our State Department, which has been brazenly meddling at Putin’s Ukrainian doorstep (have we learned nothing?), is as ignorant as I am about the theologies here.

Listen to Putin and you will hear echoes of Czar Nicholas’s excuse for fighting the west:

“…political power in Kiev has been concentrated in the hands of far-right extremist elements that do not hide their xenophobic, anti-Semitic, neofascist credentials.”  Putin cites the Ukrainians’ abolishing of Russian language in schools.  “…This has coincided with a widespread campaign of intimidation of ethnic Russian population and desecration of monuments celebrating Russia’s and Ukraine’s common historical achievements such as the defeat of Nazism in the Second World War. Russian Orthodox priests have become object of threats.”

What an explosive mess.  In all the threats and counter-threats, tough talk and army movements, don’t forget the violently unpredictable, profoundly emotional power of the Russian Orthodox cross.

PS: Campaign Note: To all you Hillary fans.  Her last night’s comparison of Putin to Hitler really calmed the waters, didn’t it?

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail