Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
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 Hemingway Lives

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]