Voices from Russia

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…

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Editor:

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.

BMD

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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

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158768

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Something that the West Overlooks in a “Grexit”

Sergei Kirillov. The Baptism of Grand Princess St Olga. Part 1 of the Triptych 'Holy Rus'. 1993

The Baptism of Grand Princess St Olga

Part 1 of the Triptych Holy Rus

Sergei Kirillov

1993

This was the baptism of Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Princess St Olga… the grandmother of Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Prince St Vladimir, the Enlightener of all the Russias. It happened at Hagia Sofia (Church of the Holy Wisdom of the Incarnate Word of God) in Constantinopolis, in the 10th century AD (some say 955, others say 957). Russians haven’t forgotten that… neither have Greeks. Russians and Greeks go WAY back. By the way… one of the things in contention in the present Ukrainian Civil War/War of Liberation of Novorossiya is the “ownership” of the legacy of St Vladimir. Is he “Uniate” or is he “Orthodox?” That’s why no Orthodox Christian can support the US Republican Party… they support those who advance the Uniate argument in that case. Just sayin’…

BMD

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Editor:

This is an excerpt from a longer, rather boring, piece by a humdrum Affluent Effluent self-important “wealth advisor”. However, this part not only rings true, it’s rather good. If you really want to read the rest of his neoliberal crapola, click the link at the end. This part, though, is a real read n’ heed.

I retained the original author’s emphasis.

BMD

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I wish to remind my readers of one unseen risk in all this, one that literally no one else has talked about. Southern Europe and much of the Balkans, whilst nominally “Western” in lip service, is really a long-lost religious remnant of the Eastern world.  The mediaeval Orthodox world was born from the Orthodox Byzantine Empire (sic), which stretched from Asia Minor, all the way through the Balkans, and westward as far as Serbia! The Greeks, who always had a great deal in common with Russia, are of the same Orthodox religious cloth as the Russians are. Both Russia and Greece represent ancient civilisations, formed by Constantinople. Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, and even parts of Bosnia all have the same religious lineage… they’ve all felt for centuries that they were “fish out of water” within Catholic Europe.  Excepting Romania, there’s almost a direct ecumenical “land bridge” connecting Russia to the Balkans (remember, the Ukraine is very much Orthodox).  

“Watchman, I think you’re making too big a deal out of this religious angle!”

Maybe, but ask yourself… what would a Grexit mean for Russia and the Orthodox world?

A Grexit would serve to re-establish an autonomous independent Orthodox foothold on the European continent (which Russia would quickly make a key partner). Therefore, a Grexit would effectively create a symbiotic relationship between Greece and Russia, creating an economic and cultural “magnetic pull” upon the rest of Orthodox Southern Europe, drawing them to parts further East (further into Russia’s sphere of influence). A Grexit would be a dream come true for Moscow, as it’d take the by-gone dream of a geographically unified all-Orthodox world (as well as the entire Eurasian trade zone) one huge step closer to reality.

Trust me, if Greece leaves the EU, they’d find a most hearty reception in Eurasia, as it’d be a religious homecoming! Moreover, what of Orthodox Bulgaria?  Do you think that the Bulgarians are maybe feeling more than a tad bit slighted, after Brussels and DC forced them to give up South Stream to the Turks (their historic enemies)?  There’s so much going on here that 99 percent of commentators are totally missing. Look, I understand that some of you aren’t religious, but when we’re talking about geopolitics and the make-up of civilisation itself, don’t underestimate the important reality of religious considerations that come into play here. Besides… Merkel doesn’t want Greece (and its newly discovered hydrocarbon reserves) to slip through her fingers. With Russia acquiring a huge, new energy boon in its reunification with the Crimea, The EU’s list of friends with untapped extensive hydrocarbon reserves is growing rather thin!

26 January 2015

The Wealth Watchman

http://thewealthwatchman.com/the-hidden-threat-of-this-greek-situation/

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Konstantin Makovsky. Bulgarian Martyrs. 1877

Bulgarian Martyrs

Konstantin Makovsky

1877

Such events as those pictured in the painting did occur in the Ottoman-ruled Balkans. The worst of the Ottoman bullyboys were the Albanians, their cruelty, barbarity, and rapine was well-known, yet, they often showed cowardice in open battle. Not much has changed in that regard, has it? The locals welcomed the Russian troops as liberators from Turkish oppression wherever they went. The ordinary people of the Balkans have never forgotten that the Russians freed them from slavery. Only small minorities of the so-called local élites support the USA and its militant nihilism. Most Balkan people still support Russia and Orthodoxy. NATO had best not count on any of its Balkan members; they’re in for a rude surprise…

BMD

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Editor:

In Mediaeval Europe, until its treacherous sack by perfidious Crusaders in 1204, Constantinopolis Nea Romana (Constantinople New Rome) was the brightest light of civilisation on the continent. It was the literal lineal embodiment of the Roman Empire… indeed, that’s what it called itself… “Rhomania”… ROME. It wasn’t Rome’s successor… it WAS Rome… they never tired of reminding the Western barbarians of that fact. It was NEVER the “Byzantine Empire”… that’s a nasty German 16th century neologism that no Orthodox Christian should ever use.

As Constantinopolis was “I Polis” (THE City), so, Moscow is “the Centre” today. Moscow is as much the centre of the Orthodox World (Orthosphere) today as Constantinopolis was the centre of the Orthodox World prior to its final fall in 1453. As Hagia Sophia was the main temple of all Orthodoxy then, the Khram Spasitelya in Moscow is the main temple of all Orthodoxy worldwide today. If you’re Orthodox… you’re a “Muscovite”. Just as being Orthodox at one time meant being “Greek”… today, you’re “Russian”… even if you’re Greek! V V Putin went to the Mountain… to an ecstatic welcome from the Fathers there. V F Yanukovich went to the Mountain regularly on otpust, with the blessing of his late starets Zosima Sokur. The Fathers gave him an equally enthusiastic welcome. Don’t listen to Uniate lies about Viktor Fyodorovich… he was much more honest than the Rabbit is (after all, the Rabbit was Yuliya the Landshark’s bagman; he stole much more than Yanukovich ever did… remember the Kiev “street” gibe, “The Rabbit shits in a solid gold toilet”)… reflect on this, Yanukovich was the MOST honest president that the Ukraine ever had.

Russia’s traditional foreign policy has been to liberate the Orthodox lands of the Balkans and to keep them free of papist interference. No one in the Balkans (INCLUDING Romania) has ever forgotten the Russian liberation of their lands in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 and their subsequent betrayal by the Brits and Germans (the very same parties, along with their American cousins, are interfering there today). No one has forgotten the “White Marshal”… Marshal Skobelyov… who led the victorious armies to the gates of Tsargrad (Constantinople).

In short, the war in the Ukraine and the coming Western interference in Greek internal affairs are nothing new for the hubristic West. SYRIZA had best keep its wits about them or its leadership will end up dead like Allende… the Anglos and Germans are nasty-ass terrorists of the worst-possible sort… they make al-Qaeda look infantile in comparison. Look at the Bush torture programme, the Holocaust, the British firestorm air raids of World War II, Lidice’s destruction, the drone murder campaign, the concentration camps of the Boer War, the Easter Bombing of Belgrade, Wounded Knee, and the Gitmo Gulag. I do daresay that the West’s shield isn’t pure (and hasn’t been, from the start)… yet, they caterwaul incessantly about “human rights” and about how “exceptional” they are.

Excuse me… I have to find a corner to be sick in… there’s only so much of that arrant shit that a decent person can take.

BMD

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Edict of Milan Anniversary Marked in Niš

00 Orthodox believers in Nish. Serbia. 09.10.13

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis served liturgy at the Church of Ss Constantine and Helena in Niš, in southern Serbia. The religious ceremony was the central part of the celebrations of 1,700 years since the Edict of Milan, held on Sunday. Also taking part in the liturgy were the Patriarchs of Moscow, Jerusalem, and Serbia and other Orthodox hierarchs. Patriarch Irinej Gavrilović of Serbia said in a sermon after the service, “Today, we’re celebrating a great historical event that changed the face of the world, an event that divided time into pagan and Christian eras”. In his remarks, Patriarch Bartholomew said that this great celebration represents the obligation of the Orthodox Church to re-examine itself, so that everyone could gain their individual resurrection. He pointed up the persecution of Christians before the release of the Edict of Milan, adding that the Edict is the source from which the principle of religious freedom arose and spread throughout the entire world.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić, and other Serbian government officials, Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik, and delegations from other Christian churches and religious communities attended the liturgy. A large number of believers were at the liturgy, and estimates by Niš police and the SPC said that there were over 15,000 people present at the affair. The celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan concluded with the award of the SPC Order of Emperor St Constantine the Great to prominent religious and political figures. The SPC gave the award to all the hierarchs present, beginning with Patriarch Bartholomew, and to secular and political personalities, including the Serbian president, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović (who wasn’t present), the RS President, and Serbian Crown Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević.

The Edict of Milan was a decree granting official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, issued together by Emperors Constantine the Great (who was born in present-day Niš in 272) and Licinius I.

7 October 2013

B92

http://www.b92.net/eng/news/society.php?yyyy=2013&mm=10&dd=07&nav_id=87902

Editor’s Note:

No OCA delegation was present at the ceremony. Guess who didn’t come to dinner (Lyonyo et al were snubbed by Bart, and there’s absolutely nothing that they can do of it)…

BMD

 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Presence of CPI-M Politburo Member at Church Altar Kicks Up Row

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Some of the laity at St George Malankara Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Thiruvananthapuram are up in arms following what they termed “a violation”, which took place when Communist Party of India-Marxist Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan walked up to the altar to greet the bishop. The incident took place at end of last month, when Balakrishnan, a former Home Minister and CPI-M legislator, was at the church to attend a wedding. When Metropolitan Gabriel Mar Gregorios was at the altar, Balakrishnan came to the altar and had a brief chat with him before leaving the church.

On Sunday morning, after liturgy, parishioners signed a petition expressing anguish over this incident for submission to the supreme head of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church at Kottayam. A member of the church who didn’t wish to be identified said, “Today (Sunday) morning, after service, a member of the church came with a letter addressed to our supreme head citing this incident. I put my signature on the petition because what happened is a serious lapse as far as the tradition of the church is concerned. We wish that such incidents wouldn’t take place. I saw that numerous people had signed the petition”.

According to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church’s traditions, apart from priests, those who enter the altar of the church must first receive a special blessing. A senior priest of the Orthodox Church, who requested anonymity, told IANS that he too heard of this episode, but found it pointless to blow it up, saying, “Yes, the rule is that only those who receive special blessings can be at the altar. At the same time, there’s also a rule that only those who are baptised can enter our church. But tell me, can that happen? We have so many people from other faiths coming to our churches, especially for weddings and funerals. This controversy is needless”. Incidentally, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy attends Sunday liturgy at St George Cathedral.

2 September 2012

New Kerala.com

http://www.newkerala.com/news/newsplus/worldnews-74604.html#.UEOORbJlSkE

Editor’s Note:

This illustrates the proper enforcement of the canons throughout all of Orthodoxy… both Eastern and Oriental. The canons aren’t straitjackets, they’re guidelines. The priest involved here showed good sense… most probably, the bishop and the politician were friends. Trust me, this has gone on since Day One.

In the time of the Great Persecutions in the late pagan Roman Empire, Bishop Mensurius of Carthage (one of the wiliest foxes of Church History, and a hierarch well-worth emulating) was able to deflect the worst of the pagan persecution from his Church because he was friends with the pagan magistrate. Foxy Ol’ Mensurius even finessed the pagans when he received orders to turn over the Scriptures. He did… he handed over heretical copies without the slightest demur. Some disappointed pagans tried to argue with the magistrate, but he told them, “Bishop Mensurius was ordered to turn them over, he did, I took them, and I burned them, and that’s that” (no doubt the magistrate wrote up a fulsome report to his superiors, happy as a clam that he got to look good). Now, that’s how a bishop “bishes” and spares his Church.

By the way, a sorehead priest by the name of Donatus got seriously pissed off that Mensurius wasn’t “strict enough” with those who sacrificed during the persecution. Let’s cut to the chase… the Church ruled on it, and it found Donatus was chock full of shit. It praised Mensurius, and condemned Donatus. Donatus gave his name to a heresy… Donatism. It means anyone who’s TOO gung-ho and wants to apply the letter of the canons, not their spirit. That describes all of the konvertsy that I’ve ever met, wouldn’t you agree?

This smells like a setup to me. That is, a faction opposed to Mar Gregorios is trying to raise a stink. That impression is heightened by the priest’s reply to it all. Indeed, it smells very much like an old faction that keeps repeating the same stale arguments and accusations (they do sound like the konvertsy, don’t they?).

BMD

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