FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Holy Russia, Holy Cow!

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

 

More articles by:

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

July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail