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

 

More articles by:

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

January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail