Voices from Russia

Thursday, 14 May 2015

14 May 2015. Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich… The “Last Great First Hierarch” of the Metropolia/OCA

00 Metropolitan Leonty 01.03.12



00 Vechnaya Pamyat... Memory Eternal


Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich, considered by many to have been the last great First Hierarch of the OCA/Metropolia. He and ROCOR Metropolitan Anastassy Gribanovsky were towering figures. Older folks told me that Vladykis Leonty and Anastassy would confab together and deal with all the schmutz that arose. There’s been none to equal them since their times. We’ve had relative pygmies since then… can these dry bones live? YES, THEY CAN… IF WE REMEMBER OUR PAST! Ask your priest to mention Metropolitans Leonty and Anastassy at the Proskomidi, light a candle for them, and ask your priest to serve Pannikhida for them after liturgy this Sunday. One of my sources told me:

The question if the day is this… “How did we get from a spiritual giant like Metropolitan Leonty to Fatty and Mollard in a scant ( by Orthodox time) 50 years?”

Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God has commanded thee… amen! We need to acknowledge our past as Church, or we’ll have no future… ’nuff said…



Friday, 3 April 2015

The Fall of Rome and All That

01 kathryn_archdiocese_of_brisbane in rome

Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People)… this is what Professor Boin wants us to attend to… that’s there a spiritual aspect to things that interacts with all “practical” affairs…



Lots of good stuff here, I’d call it a “read n’ heed”, even though it has flaws due to its “West-o-centric” orientation. However, it’s not crank, and I read this twice. It’s a good read, with nary an idle word in it.



Last November, Ted Cruz of Texas stood on the Senate floor and claimed that America, like ancient Rome, faced a moment of grave, existential danger. He’s not the only one telling scary stories about ghosts in togas. Over the past six months alone, media outlets (including this one) averaged about one gloom-and-doom essay a month, citing everything from America’s cultural relativism to the increasing use of drones in military conflict to the spread of gay marriage as proof that Rome’s history is repeating itself. As a historian of the Roman Empire, I’d like to suggest there’s really no need for alarm.

One of the most well-known moments in history, the “Fall of Rome” isn’t a historical event. It isn’t even a series of unfortunate mistakes. It’s more akin to a theological idea, and the time has come to stop screwing up the way we talk about it. Understanding the place of religion in history is an urgent one, too. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, many commentators, even President Obama, began to wonder whether it was fair to call Islamic extremism “religious”. Everyone was and is eager to find ways to talk about a world faith without condemning it as inherently intolerant. Unfortunately, our track record in this area isn’t good.

Edward Gibbon was one of the first of the modern era to wrestle with this dilemma… he failed miserably at it. Gibbon, one of the brightest stars of the Enlightenment, a learned man whose name became synonymous with the disease he studied, “Decline and Fall”, was adamant that “the intolerant zeal of the Christians” led to the “fall of Rome”. Gibbon’s broad, anti-religion thesis was popular for the 18th century, when science and secularism were the hottest buzzwords. It also set off an explosion of interest in the late Roman Empire. By the 1980s, there were 210 explanations for what had caused Rome’s “fall”… from a lack of moral character to a pervasive “tiredness of life”. Archaeologists soon started to claim that they could see the “end of civilisation” in their pots and houses. Nevertheless, no one ever stopped to point out the flaw at the root of all these experiments.

Romans predicted the downfall of their own empire for decades, even centuries, before anything remotely “disastrous” ever happened to it. Blinded by an ideological contempt for people’s beliefs, intent on talking about religious identity in monolithic ways (“the Christians”), Gibbon overlooked some key data. In the late Republic, conspiring citizens put their trust in the gods that a military man would come to save them during a time of crisis. It never happened. The state rounded up and executed the group. Later, one of Jesus’ followers did something similar… summoning the spectre of Rome’s fall to rally his base. Christians were attending festivals, showing their neighbours they could be good citizens. To the writer of Revelation, their ability to do two things at once was an abomination. Christians were supposed to be fighting a spiritual war, he argued, not building bridges with people in town.

Of course, Rome’s empire never came to a fiery end in a war fought between “angels and demons”. Within two decades, the entire Mediterranean would be living through the greatest economic prosperity it’d ever know, and Christians raised their social profile everywhere. Crackpot Romans and zealous Christians weren’t the only ones obsessed with the end times, either. One Jewish writer in Egypt drew upon the same ideas to encourage his followers to take up arms against the state. He predicted Rome would finally suffer defeat for annihilating Jerusalem. His rebels foolishly fought the Roman army. They lost. Within two decades, Rome forced the Jewish community to live as exiles from their homeland.

Gibbon’s eagerness to see history through the “secular” lens of the Enlightenment blinded him to the most important “religious” story of the empire… it left us woefully unprepared to talk about the complexities of religious identity today. Anxious notions about the last days, notions of spiritual warfare, and a righteous belief that a divine hand endorses a specific law or policy were ideas in Rome that crossed the theological aisle. However, that doesn’t make them any less “religious”.

In Rome, these were the ways many people grappled with uncertain times… from the late Republic to 476 AD… when a Christian king replaced the Christian emperor of Rome. Traditionally, we associate that latter year with the “Fall of Rome”, but it’s time to drop the historical charade. Just because the government changed, it wasn’t the end of the world… despite the people who saw it that way. That’s why today’s ghost stories are ultimately so revealing. We keep pretending we’re doing Roman history when what we’re really masking is our own severe anxiety about the fast-changing changing world… using the same ideas that our ancestors did, two thousand years ago. It’s time we put these beliefs back into our history books instead of doing as Gibbon did… ignoring them or, worse, pretending they were never there. What people believe… and what people are taught to believe… can’t be left out of history.

29 March 2015

Douglas Boin

Assistant Professor of History at Saint Louis University (St Louis MO USA)

History News Network


Sunday, 19 October 2014

19 October 2014. 1,000 Years of St Olav!

00 King St Olav II of Norway and Stefan Uros III of Decani Nemanjić 01. 19.10.14.

Right-Believing Kings St Olav II Haraldsson of Norway and Stefan Uroš III Dečanski Nemanjić of Serbia


00 King St Olav II of Norway 06. 19.10.14.


00 King St Olav II of Norway 05. 19.10.14.


00 King St Olav II of Norway 01. 19.10.14.


00 King St Olav II of Norway 04. 19.10.14.


00 King St Olav II of Norway 03. 19.10.14.


00 King St Olav II of Norway 02. 19.10.14.


It’s been 1,000 years… a full millennium… since the Baptism of Right-Believing King St Olav II Haraldsson of Norway in Rouen. He baptised and enlightened his people, stopping endemic civil strife, but he died in battle in 1030 fighting rebellious nobles. A year later, in 1031, the Church canonised him “with the agreement of the whole Norwegian people”. In his homeland, people call him “the eternal king”. He’s amongst the last of the Western European Orthodox saints and there are churches in Russia dedicated to St Olav, notably in Novgorod and in Staraya Ladoga, where he lived for several years. There’s another link with Orthodoxy and Norway… the most loyal soldiers in Constantinople New Rome were the Varangian Guard, who served from the 10th to the 14th centuries… who came from England, the Nordic countries, and Russia. Most of them fell in battle in the Fourth Crusade fighting the papist invaders. This unit lost its mostly Nordic character after that event.

Raise a glass and cheer, Norskis… it’s your day!


Saturday, 21 July 2012

21 July 2012. A Colloquy on “Reliable Sources” on Orthodoxy…

Despite all the talk of books and scholars below… THIS is where it’s at… it’s the PEOPLE’S CHURCH, it’s not dead and lifeless paper n’ ink spilled by overweening and hubristical scholars. One of these ordinary believers counts more in the balance than ALL of the scholars mentioned below. That’s the way it is…


I sent this to a friend… she asked me what books to read on Church History. God love me, the best stuff’s in Russian, but she’s got no facility in it. Therefore, I racked my brain and came up with this:

OUCH! Most of the works that I rely on for Church History are in Russian. Ostrogorsky’s The History of the Byzantine State is available in English… you need to have a handle on the story of the Christian Roman (“Byzantine“) Empire to have a handle on “Church History” per se. Vasiliev’s History of the Byzantine Empire is a must, along with Fyodor Uspensky’s History of the Byzantine Empire (both available in English). Another good work is The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life by BenzWhy Angels Fall: a Journey through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo by Victoria Clark is a good read… not always spot-on, but a rollicking read, and not purely Western pabulum. That’s not to mention the crackpot History: Fiction or Science? by Anatoly Fomenko… it’s a complete utterly nutters theory. It’s something that one has to read to have a good sense of what’s completely crackbrained… it’s sheer flapdoodle and nonsense from stem to stern (like all overeducated intellectual phonies, Fomenko’s utterly humourless… he’s a credentialised mathematician dabbling in history… he performs the miracle of making SVS look PROFESSORIAL by comparison).

As for online sources, go to pravoslavie.ru, stick to the Russian side and run a “machine translation” (the English side is contaminated by HOOMies)… too much of the English translation online in “Orthodox” websites is done by HOOMies such as Nectaria Rees… and they leave things out! A warning to the wise.

My question to you… “What do you consider an indispensable read for the non-specialist in English on the topic?” I’m an internet journalist, NOT a scholar… so, as Toad said to Frog, “Will you still be my friend?” I need some help with this one… I wanted to refer her to the Tolkaya Bibliya (the fully-annotated version of the Synodal translation), but that’s only in Russian. We’re paying dearly for sucking up to godless “Evangelicals” (a Russian bishop called them “Christian atheists”… and he was RIGHT) and their arrant nonsense. Be good… “Yes, I have no bananas”… that’s why I’m asking you…


Here’s one reply:

Definitely, the Ostrogorsky, I would’ve mentioned that, too. A neighbour who’s also a Byzantinist recommended it highly as well. I’d also recommend W H C FrendThe Rise of Christianity. That’s good for up to the Arab invasions, which is the formative period for all the major doctrines, so she’d learn a lot from that. It covers all the personalities and controversies in sufficient depth to get a clear picture of the topic. It’s written in a direct and clear, not too high, not too low style and it’s occasionally humorous. Frend was an excellent scholar, both a historian and archaeologist. He’s that old style of Anglican scholar, from a lost world of integrity in scholarship. Of course, there’s always Eusebius, the Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius is still a great read. Penguin has a nice paperback edition, and there’s a nice illustrated edition edited by Paul Maier, for those who would prefer more maps, etc. Those are for the very early stuff, of course, just up to the fourth century. However, Eusebius really is indispensible. His is the first church history, after all!

I’d also recommend the Louth (Greek East and Latin West) and Papadakis (The Christian East and the Rise of the Papcy) volumes in that SVS Press (I know, I know, but these two are good) The Church in History series. The other two volumes are awful (Kesich and Meyendorff) and one should avoid them. Nevertheless, the Louth and Papadakis are very helpful and are excellent in correcting the self-serving lies published in Catholic and Protestant (church and other) histories. People seem not to be writing single volume Church History books anymore, unfortunately. On the other hand, you get things like the Ware or McGuckin books, which are transparently presentations of pet theories and whatnot, and quite light on the actual history. Another in the same vein as Virginia Clark is William DalrympleFrom the Holy Mountain. He goes to the places that St John Moschos visited way back when, and describes the generally grim state of Christianity in the various Middle Eastern hellholes that those places have become. He’s a lively writer, though, so it’s a good read. That’s about all I can think of!


I also got this:

The first (history) part of Ware’s Orthodox Church is OK (NOT the second part on the teachings). Strangely enough, two weeks ago, a person who wanted a short brochure, not a book, on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, asked me the same thing. There’s just nothing, except Cold War propaganda (from both sides). The Wikipedia entry on the history of the Russian Church is, as usual, SVS crap (they seem to control Wikipedia). However, ALL of Bishop Alexander Mileant’s stuff on the internet is brilliant… he has a very good one on the teachings of the Orthodox Church.


This is a good example of the level of correspondence that passes between my Cabinet and me. That’s quite unlike Rod Dreher, who’s an idiosyncratic American Rightwing loner, who writes from his own selfish and cramped perspective. One has to feel sorry for those contaminated by Sectarian thought as he is; they simply don’t have a feeling for the fullness of life because they don’t exercise the full communitarianism of Real Christianity (they believe in the crackbrained individualism and individual salvation of the Sectarians).

There IS a REAL Church… and Rod Dreher, Freddie M-G, Terrence Mattingly, and the HOOMies do NOT represent it.    


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