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Putin’s spiritual destiny The religious president wants to rebuild Christendom

The Orthodox saviour. Credit: Sasha Mordovets/Getty

The Orthodox saviour. Credit: Sasha Mordovets/Getty


February 24, 2022   5 mins

Threatened by an uprising of his treacherous generals, the Christian Emperor Basil II, based in the glorious city of Byzantium, reached out to his enemies, the pagans over in the land of the Rus. Basil II was a clever deal maker. If Vladimir of the Rus would help him put down the revolt, he would give him the hand of his sister in marriage. This was a status changer for Vladimir: the marriage of a pagan to an imperial princess was unprecedented. But first Vladimir would have to convert to Christianity.

Returning to Kyev in triumph, Vladimir proceeded to summon the whole city to the banks of the river Dnieper for a mass baptism. The year is 988. This is the founding, iconic act of Russian Orthodox Christianity. It was from here that Christianity would spread out and merge with the Russian love of the motherland, to create a powerful brew of nationalism and spirituality. In the mythology of 988, it was as if the whole of the Russian people had been baptised. Vladimir was declared a saint. When the Byzantine empire fell, the Russians saw themselves as its natural successor. They were a “third Rome”.

Soviet Communism tried to crush all this — but failed. And in the post-Soviet period, thousands of churches have been built and re-built. Though the West thinks of Christianity as something enfeebled and declining, in the East it is thriving. Back in 2019, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, boasted that they were building three churches a day. Last year, they opened a Cathedral to the Armed Forces an hour outside Moscow. Religious imagery merges with military glorification. War medals are set in stained glass, reminding visitors of Russian martyrdom. In a large mosaic, more recent victories — including 2014’s “the return of Crimea” — are celebrated. “Blessed are the peacemakers” this is not.

At the heart of this post-Soviet revival of Christianity is another Vladimir. Vladimir Putin. Many people don’t appreciate the extent to which the invasion of Ukraine is a spiritual quest for him. The Baptism of Rus is the founding event of the formation of the Russian religious psyche, the Russian Orthodox church traces its origins back here. That’s why Putin is not so much interested in a few Russian-leaning districts to the east of Ukraine. His goal, terrifyingly, is Kyev itself.

He was born in Leningrad — a city that has reclaimed its original saint’s name — to a devout Christian mother and atheist father. His mother baptised him in secret, and he still wears his baptismal cross. Since he became President, Putin has cast himself as the true defender of Christians throughout the world, the leader of the Third Rome. His relentless bombing of ISIS, for example, was cast as the defence of the historic homeland of Christianity. And he will typically use faith as a way to knock the West, like he did in this speech in 2013:

“We see many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilisation. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.”

Putin regards his spiritual destiny as the rebuilding of Christendom, based in Moscow. When the punk band Pussy Riot wanted to demonstrate against the President, they chose to do so in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, a vast white and gold edifice, demolished by the Soviets and rebuilt in the Nineties. It is a synthesis of Russia’s national and spiritual aspirations. It’s not just Russia, it is “Holy Russia”, part religious project, part extension of Russian foreign policy. Speaking of Vladimir’s mass baptism, Putin explained: “His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.” He wants to do the same again. And to do this he needs Kyev back.

“The spiritual choice made by St Vladimir still largely determines our affinity today” Putin wrote only last year. “In the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kyev, “let it be the mother of all Russian cities”.

Into this religious intensity we can add some angry church politics. In 2019, the Ukrainian arm of the family of Orthodox churches declared its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church — and the nominal head of the Orthodox family, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, supported it. The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, described this as “a great victory for the devout Ukrainian nation over the Moscow demons, a victory of good over evil, light over darkness”.

The Russian Orthodox Church furiously rejected this claim to independence, stating that Ukraine belonged irrevocably to its “canonical territory”. This led to a historic split within the Orthodox family, with the Russian church rejecting the primacy of Bartholomew, declaring that they were no longer in communion with the rest of the Orthodox family. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov denounced Bartholomew as an American stooge. Kirill even claimed the reversion of the Hagia Sophia – originally the global HQ of Orthodoxy – to a mosque in 2020 was “God’s punishment”. The Russian Church then proceeded to set up its own Dioceses around the world, especially in Africa. “They are taking to the streets with posters saying “Thank you, Putin! Thank you, Patriarch Kirill!”” was how the Russian church’s propaganda machine described it.

Such is the centrality of Ukraine in general, and Kyev in particular, to the imagination of the Russian church, they have been prepared to fracture the centuries old alliance of Orthodoxy. Again and again, it’s all about Ukraine, the imagined site of the mother church of the Rus.

This compliance of the Russian Orthodox church with the political goal of a greater Russia has been shameful. Officially, at least, they make a big deal out of the claim that they stay out of politics. But that has never been true. In the post-Soviet era, the Orthodox Church was handsomely rewarded, not just with a grandiose state-backed church building programme, but with involvement in lucrative business operations including the import of tobacco and alcohol worth $4 billion. In 2016, Krill was photographed wearing a $30,000 Breguet watch. He has also called Putin “a miracle of God”. When Kirill says “the Lord will provide” he could easily be talking about his lords and masters over in the Kremlin. Few churches have sold out to the state more completely than the Russian Orthodox church.

Last year, on the anniversary of the baptism of the Rus, Kirill preached to his people, urging them to stay true to Vladimir’s conversion and the blood of the orthodox martyrs. He told them to love “our homeland, our people, our rulers and our army”.

The Western secular imagination doesn’t get this. It looks at Putin’s speech the other evening, and it describes him as mad — which is another way of saying we do not understand what is going on. And we show how little we understand by thinking that a bunch of sanctions is going to make a blind bit of difference. They won’t. “Ukraine is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space” Putin said. That’s what this is all about, “spiritual space” — a terrifying phrase steeped in over a thousand years of Russian religious history.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

This is a great article, and it highlights why so many disaffected Western conservatives are torn over Russia’s actions.

Will a continued turn toward the secular liberalism of the West really be beneficial to the Ukrainian people? That’s a hard call. Ukraine is a proud and ancient people, but Western secularism is a potent anti-cultural acid. Is Ukraine really better off if Kyiv looks like Chicago or Los Angeles? Do Ukrainians really want the invite in the increasingly militant and intolerant globalists of the West? Are Ukrainians ready to embrace Drag Queen Story Hour? Because that’s what “turning toward the West” means these days. The State Dept doesn’t give a damn about millions of persecuted Christians, but they are proud LGBT evangelists everywhere they go.

Might Ukraine be better off taking the tact of Hungary and Poland? Refuse the overtures of the West. Retain your culture, and turn Eastward to those people who still share some of your values, or at last aren’t actively trying to undermine them.

Vladimir Putin is an ambitious thug. But so our our Western elites, just in a different way. Traditional Christians, conservatives, and patriots are starting to wonder whether this great experiment called Enlightenment liberalism is actually worth defending. If we’re stuck with being led by thugs, do we want thugs who support the Church, or thugs who support Drag Queen Story Hour?

Last edited 2 years ago by Brian Villanueva
Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago

Very well said. The same thoughts have been running through my head all week.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

As I said, Western elite thuggery is different, but it seeks control as well, just in a different way than Putin. Victor Orban knows EU thuggery quite well.
It’s not like these are mutually exclusive. Cultural thuggery eventually begets physical thuggery too. Just look at Justin Trudeau, willing to use physical force and financial ostracism against those who don’t share his disdain for Western civilization.
Ukrainians are sandwiched between a Russia that shares their cultural heritage but seeks physical domination, and a Europe that promises physical freedom (of goods, money, people, etc…) but despises Ukraine’s cultural heritage. No particularly good choices.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brian Villanueva
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

This is where language fails. You disagree with someone but they’re not actually beating you with a stick. Get some perspective.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Having your employer mobbed until they fire you, having your business closed down by arson, banished from employment, bankrupted by lawsuits, debanked, and deplatformed in the public square. All of things can and do happen to dissidents (those who oppose the regime) in Western countries now.

Granted, it’s not being beaten with a stick, but let’s not pretend it’s not persecution.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

So Putin has imprisoned and disappeared political opponents, annexed neighbouring countries territory in Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, launched an unprovoked military invasion of the rest of Ukraine, poisoned dissidents on UK soil with a nerve agent and has the blood of tens of thousands on his hands and you’re trying to compare him with Trudeau, whose main crimes involve overstepping the mark to break up a protest and generally being a prat?
Ask any Ukrainian this morning in whether they’d rather be like the West with all it’s problems or under Russian control, I bet I know which one would be more popular!

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’ve tried to make similar points fir the past few weeks vis a vis admiration for Putin. Dislike of Western politics with all it’s dissent and debate is of a categorically different order to Putin and Xi’s world view.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

I don’t think the word “dislike” is appropriate for a kind of politics that essentially robs people of their freedoms and has ruined the livelihoods of so many. And yet these people haven’t even begun to show us what they are truly capable of. They will only stop once the middle class and any notion of cultural identity is thoroughly eradicated.

dave fookes
dave fookes
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

100%, Michael. And they’ll extract every ounce of ‘fear’ from this conflict as possible – including the threat of nuclear Armageddon. As the terror of the pandemic wanes, the timing couldn’t be better.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Agreed Terence – people equating Putin and Xi to the west are effectively the same as the useful idiots that used to support Stalin; and those in the U.K. that used to support the barbarism of the IRA.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

It it’s going to be Putin taking up the mantle of religion, then he is misusing and abusing the Faith. Jesus would not be blitzkreiging any nation.
Blessed are the peacemakers.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

LCarey, this is a perspective that only someone who lives in a secure, large nation has the luxury of. Are the Christian militias in Syria wrong to protect their own?

Remember, Peter is carrying a sword in the garden of Gethsemane, the finest single-man, offensive weapon of his day. Jesus tells him to put it away, but clearly he is not disturbed by its presence among his disciples. Blessed are the peacemakers isn’t a call to pacifism.

Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Romania… these peoples are all related to each other. They share culture, faith, historical ties, and the experience of having been repeatedly wiped off the map and reconstructed by foreign actors. I am not suggesting that Putin is justified in his invasion at all. I am grieved greatly that one part of the Church is attacking another part (the Body at war with itself). Putin is correct in his assertion that Kyiv is the ancient home of Christendom in the East, and there is an element of historical and religious reunification here. But mostly it’s pure Machiavelli: take what you can get when you can get it.

Our own leaders (going back to Bush Sr) bear considerable responsibility for allowing it to get to this point though. Putin has been consistent in his criticism of NATO expansion for more than 20 years. Since diplomacy has not halted that expansion, he has now moved on to “kinetic diplomacy”.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Dissent and debate? What is happening is so much beyond that rather obtuse and benign description.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat L

As that ‘clever German’ (Lenin’s description), Clausewitz said, “War is a continuation of politics by other means.”

I would suggest that is how Putin views the world: ‘kinetic diplomacy’, now the other sort hasn’t worked; and a ‘KulturKampf’ – originating in Bismarckian Germany, and itself a combination of ideological, state secular power (‘who controls education’) and nationalist sentiment (Germania V small states (Bavaria, Saxony etc) and German
Nationalism V Polish Nationalism) – recast as Orthodox Christianity v debased ‘West’.

Putin is undoubtedly a ‘Great Russia’ nationalist, but I’m always struck by how influenced he is by Germany and German history.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

A better comparison would have been with that brain dead moron and draft dodger*, George W Bush Jnr.
Did he not launch a completely unprovoked attack, bolstered by the ‘ big lie’ on Iraq? I seem recall he actually said Saddam Hussein”did 9/11”on one occasion!

Incidentally Baghdad is of equal, if not greater cultural significance than Kiev ever was.

(* Joining the Texas National Guard Airforce, to defend Texas from Mexico, rather than serve in Vietnam.)

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

“500,000 Iraqis sacrificed for liberty is worth it” – Madeline Albright

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

You would have thought that a Holocaust ‘associate’ would have known better and shown a trifle more humanity.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

So you also disapprove of Clinton, Obama and Biden for not joining the military? Or is intelligence your only guidepost? Stalin was a brilliant man, by the way. And Biden is as sharp as a marble.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Precisely, what a bunch of dangerous cretins. I can think of no mitigating factors.

As to the ‘brilliant’, Stalin, the second greatest killer the world has ever seen, and far exceeding the wannabe Adolph.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago

Yes, wasn’t it Stalin who said ‘one death is a tragedy; millions are just a statistic’?

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Marcia McGrail

Correct, well done indeed Sir.

Mark Cole
Mark Cole
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

defining Ukrainian is the problem – the vote in 2010 clearly split the country , geographically as well as politically, . Putin is wrong to invade but the Minsk agreements should be pursued with independence in the East and a neutral Ukraine; neutrality doesn’t affect the economy or democratic freedom and keeps world peace.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Cole

Neutrality means being Russian slave.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

Why?

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago

or Western slave?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Cole

Why should the Kremlin get to organise the foreign and defence policies of another nation? The situation now shows why all those former Soviet republics were right to join NATO

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Develop shale oil and gas and underground coal gasification so that the price of oil collapses to $18/barrel which is Russian onshore production costs for 4 to 5 years. Oil is now $100/barrel. By causing instability the price of oil rises which means more money for Putin and his cronies.
Develop liquid Flouride Thorium Nuclear Reactors. Expel Russia from all economic systems. Ban purchase of Russian minerals and sending food to Russia. This will bankrupt Russia. Confiscate all Russian assets and and ban them from The West. Assets returned when Russia leaves the Ukraine and pays for the damage. If the Russians want to go on holiday they can go to the Crimea.
Putin has said he does not want to damage the economic system, then do not invade the Ukraine.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

All grand ideas, however there’s zero chance of any of them happening as the west has largely committed themselves to the ‘net zero’ idea. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant, that’s the path they’re on.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

…the problem BB, is that there are competing visions of where, and of whom the ‘nation’ comprises.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Fantastic comment. As I say elsewhere, the problem today is that we are still waiting for Grandpa Joe to come and save us. In reality, Russia and China can do what they want and we just have to sit and wait.
In theory, the UK could be next – but why bother with a lot of hot air and drivel when there are richer pickings?

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Hardly Ukraine is not a NATO member. Given the cultural ties to Russia NATO membership was always wishful thinking. Biden is sensibly avoiding an escalation. Like it or not when the Iron Curtain fell The West enjoyed The Peace Dividend. Look at the size of the forces in the West since?
Whilst I can see Giles’s point religiously inspired Wars are always a terrible price for humankind to pay for religious dreams.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I cant imagine Russia invading Britain. Russia has a genuine fear of Muslims.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

They have a solution to that particular problem that can be neatly encapsulated as “shoot on sight”.

Perhaps we should adopt the same policy? We used to in the Good Old Days, and very effective it turned out to be.

jane baker
jane baker
1 year ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

It seems to me that if Mr Putin did absolutely want to put Russian soldiers on British soil,ie “invade” he could just send some in a ship or boat across the North Sea. He doesn’t need to work his way across Europe to get to us.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Nonsense! Don’t we still have an independent submarine launched Nuclear deterrent?
The late, ( loathsome) Mr Cameron used to think so.

Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“the UK could be the next”? Don’t know where you have been living in recent years but to some of us here it seems like we’re enacting all the dark meaningless mindlessness typical of characters in an intensely depressing C19 Russian novel.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Your argument might be more convincing if you didn’t repeat the nonsense about Crimea. Crimea was gifted to Ukraine by Khrushchev in the 50s. At the time, as you well know, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, so such a gift was equivalent, for example, to gifting Annapolis to Virginia., or Berwick to Scotland. Crimea was Russian, The people in Crimea are Russian. They speak Russian in Crimea not Ukrainian. and lastly they voted to join Russia.
Further, it would be good if you understood a little bit of history. Ukraine and Kiev are the birthplace of Russian civilization, as so nicely described in the article. Where do you think the term “Rus” comes from.
The bottom line is that what happens in Ukraine is none of the West’s business. It has no impact on our security. But it does have an impact on Russia’s sense of security, just as placing nuclear missiles in Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis had a huge impact on the USA’s sense of security. We in the West need to leave well alone what we don’t understand as our foreign adventures in the recent past have left the countries involved in a lot worse state than they were before western intervention (e.g. Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. etc.). All the West needed to do to avoid the current situation is provide a guarantee that Ukraine would never be able to join either NATO or the EU.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Crimea was Tatar, not Russian. And no, they did not vote to join Russia. If you mean the fraudulent “referendum” under the barrel of the occupying army, surprisingly, according to Russian sources, even then the population did not vote to join Russia.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

Give your evidence, please. Wikipedia indicates that 54% of the population in Crimea are Russian so the likelihood is that the referendum would have be in favour of rejoining Russia. There are Tatars there but of no great number now.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

They were removed en masse by Stalin, jailed and persecuted to the point where their culture was destroyed. If you really need to be shown evidence for this then it’s not worth doing.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Correct, and historically the Tartars had been a terrifying barbarian menace. They were fortunate to survive so long, mainly due to Czarist ineptitude.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Stalin, the Georgian dictator of the Soviet Union. People (esp. in the West and in Ukraine) forget that… Stalin wasn’t Russian, he was Georgian.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Ah yes. Wikipedia, that perfectly reliable source of information that can’t be tampered with

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

The Ancient Greeks we there well before those Mongoloid barbarian savages we now call the Tartars, were they not?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Crimea was Russian because the Russians ethnically cleansed the region of Tatars.
Do you think Serbia was justified in trying to ethnically cleanse Bosnia too, thereby turning Bosnia into Serbia?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

What a load of Kremlin apologist nonsense. So because Russia wants Ukraine to be under it’s control as it was in the past, that means it’s allowed to launch an unprovoked full scale military invasion? Does that mean the major European powers should be allowed to start rebuilding their empires against the wishes of their former colonies?
I’m not suggesting sending in troops, as harsh as it sounds it isn’t ultimately our fight, but trying to defend the actions of that animal Putin is sickening in my opinion

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

There are national minorities in every nation on the planet.
The history of the last two centuries has involved ingenious efforts to put them in their “correct” country: the various 19th C wars (Schleswig-Holstein! Alsace-Lorraine!), WW1, WW2, and then conflicts like Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.
Which also explains why those have been the bloodiest two centuries in human history.
And why only fools and idiots advocate putting particular regions in their “correct” country.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Ukraine separatist war, eastern civilians dead over 8000, westerners dead, 1200. Journalist under Yushkevich, drawn and quartered. Russian bloc MPs, , several dead in mysterious circumstances. 50 trade unionists in Odessa, burnt alive by the ‘democrats’. Russian language TV stations and press, closed down, though they represent the majority of the population. The poorest country in Europe, with the highest amount of natural resources,agricultural production and industrial potential. Strange that. Where does the money go? Two past Presidents in prison. What’s not to like.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You got that right.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s only a matter of time for the dictator in training Trudeau.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat L

When he starts arresting and disappearing his political opponents I’ll agree with you, until then statements like yours are simply hyperbolic. It amazes me how those who have been decrying their freedoms being taken away due to the lockdown restrictions appear to be the biggest supporters of Russia taking away Ukrainians freedom

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Who does Justin’s hair? That’s about the only interesting thing there is about Canada.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago

Ukrainians do not “share Russian cultural heritage”. Ukrainians were free people up to 1918. Russians were slaves up to half of 19th century and then they were serfs. Russians and Ukrainians look similar from the West, but they are not.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Very informative thanks Johann. The Ukraine seems like the template for The West. Fragment and corrupt.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

No serfdom in Ukraine? Btw, Alexander II freed the serfs throughout the Russian Empire in 1862.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

David, the Russian Orthodox church was founded 1000 years ago by Prince Vladimir (King of the Rus and Putin’s namesake) of Kyiv. He converted to marry a Byzantine princess and supposedly mass baptized his entire population in the Dnieper River. Ukraine was part of and not part of the tsarist Russia repeatedly from the 1600’s until the 20th century.

If those aren’t historically deep cultural and religious connections, I’m not sure would would be.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Tosh!

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

You got that right.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Just redefining words to suit -‘thuggery’ – doesn’t advance your arguments. Hungary wants its cake and to eat it with regards to the EU. Have the honesty and integrity to leave rather than say you are supporting ‘illiberal democracy’ and then sucking on the teat of endless ‘woke’ subsidies paid for by all those awful post-Christian states to its west.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

No doubt a similar casuistic ‘civilisational’ defence could be made of Hitler’s successive aggressions 80 years ago! The vast majority of Ukrainians do not want to be forced into Putin’s empire. It seems as clear a moral issue there could possibly be.

And how it shows that for all the oh-so-fashionable post liberal posturing, and the undoubted weakness and short-termism of western leaders, this crisis really shows how fortunate we are to live in countries where the government can be voted out and enjoy many more freedoms than on Russia or China.

I find it revealing that parts of our far-Right and Far Left both argue the case for the Russian aggression.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

…most of the comments are not arguing the case, or otherwise apologizing for, Russian aggression. Most seem to be directed towards understanding it, (and the West’s role in stimulating it) for the purposes of critiquing Western responses, which could sleep walk us all into another global conflict.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

freedoms to do what? to see who can destroy the most of our social fabric? Governments can be voted out? What a beautiful lie. Human failings are the same East and West and across party lines. For us in the “liberal” West, we don’t believe in things like morality anymore, do we? That’s so unwoke. If gender can be fluid, so can moral standards, the flavor of the month works. But all of a sudden we start talking about good guys and bad ones? The hypocrisy of the West is beyond belief. With all the machinations of the CIA and the military industrial complex in the West, I think we can match, if not outmatch, whatever the current “bad guys” are doing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bo Yee Fung
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Ukraine might look westward towards Poland and Hungary for whatever support they can give it. Do you also advise Poland to look eastwards? For its salvation? Is that where the winds of Christendom blow in from?

Adriana L
Adriana L
2 years ago

Thank you for that nudge of sanity.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

I am not religious but I would rather be forced to go to church than forced to hold my tongue about your Drag Queens.
There is a fantastic book called Second-Hand Time, by Svetlana Alexievich. She talks to hundreds of people in Russia about 10 years after the Soviet Union collapsed and presents the discussion à la Studs Terkel. People talk about their personal histories, relatives who went to labour camps, running water in kitchens when they were having discussions, trying to listen to the BBC radio, being forced to read copies of Lenin’s works.
Most can see some advantages of capitalism but almost all talk about their pride, pride of being part of Soviet history, pride of fighting in WW2, etc. Almost all hate the sheer decadence and lack of meaning of Capitalism. Almost all revere Stalin.
It seems wrong at my time of life to want people to take away my freedom but it would really be great to be proud of something – I exclude history because that is often reduced to a series of meaningless quotations and endless interpretations.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Big fan of the mass killing of those who were of the wrong religion during the thirty years war are we? They didn’t bother forcing people to go to a different church – just wiped them out.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

You need to do some more research on that subject, if I may say so. Otherwise you may run the risk of looking rather stupid, like so many others on this august Forum. All the very best.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

What exactly do you object to? Religious persecution was carried out on an enormous scale at that time, of course, naturally, to save the victims’ souls….

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I just put the book on hold from my library. Thanks. This has been my experience with Russians here in California (we have many around Sacramento). They are a deeply proud people who can rattle off tsarist and religious history from 300 years ago like it happened yesterday. We Americans have no idea what historical culture really is; we’re cultural babies.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Well, if people reify and worship Stalin (or Hitler), they are certainly not Christians, whatever else they may be.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago

“Is Ukraine really better off if Kyiv looks like Chicago or Los Angeles?”

No bombs and missiles falling on Chicago or LA this morning. No armoured columns closing in. No panic buying, westward-fleeing masses of terrified civilians. No children killed by shellfire. No tyrant flaunting his death list for when the city falls.

I’ll take the drag queens, thank you very much.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

I still live in Chicago and there are shootings everywhere, every single day and mostly on weekends. They post the death count every Monday. There are columns of gangs roaming the streets and robbing stores daily. There is panic shoplifting. There is also an exodus of mostly productive people as they leave for other more tax friendly states. (IL has the highest property taxes in the U.S.) Our current mayor is most certainly a tyrant if you watch and read her actual quotes. And we lift up drag queens more than police officers lately.
So yes, Chicago is quite similar. And I can’t wait to leave.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

But you can, can’t you? Within the US.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Lot more going on in both cities than you obviously know. Drag queens for children? Really, you’re a-okay with that?

Last edited 2 years ago by Kat L
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Who taught you that if I may ask?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

The Ukrainians may be smart enough to ignore the foolishness of parts of western culture – it is , after all, a free choice !! vs accepting something at gunpoint. A very silly analogy…

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

i beg to differ…look at us. we used to be a moral, sensible society.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

Things are not so simple. Just take Poland for example, a country not following the west’s ‘progressivism’ and that country is about as anti Putin as you can get.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

Good example of intelligence being employed – there may be hope for h*** sapiens

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago

not yet…after seeing what has happened to canada and USA i don’t have any expectations that any society is safe if it isn’t actively being guarded.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago

We definitely do not want the Church corrupted by thugs’ support.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Good Article and excellent comment

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

You got that right.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago

Great comment. To my eyes the west is imploding.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat L

Don’t despair.
China has 102 target cities of 1 million or more. The United States Navy has 14 ‘Ohio class’ submarines, carrying 324 Intercontinental Ballistic Nuclear Missiles, each with a range of over 7,000 nautical miles.

In other words at the ‘flick of a switch’ China would be vaporised. ‘ Game Over’.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago

i appreciate your optimism but i’m afraid i don’t share it. they will overwhelm us in the not too distant future while our generals are worrying about white supremacy…

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

Very good analysis on Substack this morning:
https://niccolo.substack.com/p/f**k-it-russias-final-break-with
If you want to understand how Russia sees this, read it.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago

“You may disagree with their perspective, but what is important is HOW they view the situation. If you can’t understand their views, it is therefore impossible to talk to them, unless you are only willing to lecture to them or threaten them.” How true. The West has always been so smug in their moral superiority; their hubris and ignorance is astounding. Every thing depends on perspective, and the holder of that perspective is no less right to hold it than others who don’t. A nation has a right to look after its security and well being. Putin is not annexing Ukraine. He however wants a neutral buffer zone. How hard is that to understand? Would America do differently? Has America done differently? We have been just as guilty, only we were ‘smarter’ in our PR, ie been more devious.
BTW thanks for that link

Tony Loorparg
Tony Loorparg
2 years ago

Is UnHerd being. Infiltrated by Writers from FSB ?(KGB)

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Don’t set up a false dichotomy. Democracy involves what the citizens of each nation choose. A woke agenda is not inherent to democracy.
Kyiv, and certainly the rest of Ukraine, are not overrun with LGBT fanatics. Ditto for Poland and Hungary. All are conservative, slightly dysfunctional democracies. Each emphasizes spiritual values as much or more than Putin.
They will develop along their own paths. They don’t need Putin to protect them from a woke agenda.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Thanks, Brian, for your resounding defence of Enlightenment values (not!). Both Hungary and Poland want to remain in the EU. Most British, European and indeed US citizens do not want a return to ‘traditional morality’ enforced by state sanctions – I certainly don’t as a gay man.

Is Putin, who is one of the greatest kleptocrat leaders in history, sincere? Who knows? Was Hitler? This act of wanton aggression against an independent nation whose people do NOT WANT to be forced to be part of Russia’s (largely mythical) foundation myth. The autocracy of the Muscovite state in any case owes more to the Mongol / Tatar invasions than Kievan Rus.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Carol Moore
Carol Moore
2 years ago

Good points

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Today’s western ‘conservatives’ are, by all historical comparison, better described as liberals, except that term has just tended to end up meaning ‘left wing’ in the US context. They believe in democratic government for example, traditional conservatives did not. (of course what is a name etc etc). I’m not sure many of them would wish to live in a state where the Church ruled alongside state power, still less one where their wealth might be confiscated by state fiat as in Russia. Still, ‘one rule for the plebs’ has always been a cynical principle of power I suppose.

CLARE KNIGHT
CLARE KNIGHT
1 year ago

That’s not the only choice. There are rational, reasonable, loving atheists.

Euphrosinia Romanoff
Euphrosinia Romanoff
1 year ago

I suggest that people saying the Western elites are thugs in their own different way should go for a little study tour in Russia – where a teen walking out with a blanc sheet gets in a custody, instantaneousl, and where mobile phones content is regularly checked in the streets. Maybe they will think twice before uttering anything like that. People who have never lived in TERROR should abstain from showing admiration for deranged dictators, out of respect for his victims.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

It is all testament to the fundamental decline and weakness of the so-called western liberal democracies.
With a rise in authoritarianism the West should have been doubling down on the values that define us rather than a series of self inflicted wounds. Our economies have already been weakened by misguided lockdowns and our democratic moorings loosened by nonsense such as vaccine passports and talking of vaccine mandates.
Look at the leaders of what we laughingly call the free world: effete wannabe autocrats like Trudeau, faux empathetic metropolitan elitists like Adern, adolescents like Johnson and Macron and all headed by a doddering dotard in the White House and his inconsequential nitwit of a vice president.
Plus of course an educational establishment and big tech that do not brook contrary opinions and obsesses about pronouns…

Last edited 2 years ago by andrew harman
Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Well said Andrew.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Politics is downstream from culture. – Andrew Breitbart

Last edited 2 years ago by Lloyd Byler
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Very well observed.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

That might have been possible with a cohesive society but multi culture has effectively destroyed that to our detriment.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Make you feel good to get that off your chest, did it?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Good article Giles…. although I do notice your group, the Anglican Church, is sinking like the Titanic, and some ‘Sour Grapes’ may be in the mix of your article. (some vigorous Anglicanism still remains outside of UK though, but it is hard to imagine they feel much kinship with Welby’s pronouns).

I mean, if you do believe that Jesus is the Son of God, come to save the world, it seems off that you could do a bit of a hit job on this resurgence of Christianity. As far as the watch. well, in USA the Baptists and Pentecostal officials believe in dressing well, driving a nice car, as it shows the respect for their church – they do not think the followers, mostly less than prosperous, want to see their leaders failing to project an aura of success. They find that a positive thing within the system if not overly done based on ones status. Just look at all the Grand Edifices the Church has made.

The big thing though is:

“opened a Cathedral to the Armed Forces an hour outside Moscow. Religious imagery merges with military glorification. War medals are set in stained glass, reminding visitors of Russian martyrdom. In a large mosaic, more recent victories — including 2014’s “the return of Crimea” — are celebrated. “Blessed are the peacemakers” this is not.”

Matthew 8:5-13 KJV

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”

Christianity has always been the religion of the warrior as well as the Peace-nick. Jesus comes with the Fire and the Sword, Christianity is Hard – it is duty, struggle, Work, obligation. It is not layabout Hippy stuff. The more holy a person becomes the greater the burdens are laid on them. Throughout the days of Christianity people have taken up the sword to defend it. Jesus tells to give to Caesar that which is Caesars, that the Laws of civil society are required, that reality of the mundane life is still necessary – and history always required the fighting men.

ÎœÎ±ÏÎłÎ±ÏÎŻÏ„Î± Î€ÎŹÎœÏ„ÏƒÎ·
ÎœÎ±ÏÎłÎ±ÏÎŻÏ„Î± Î€ÎŹÎœÏ„ÏƒÎ·
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Please do not confuse Christ with religions. Religions are man made. Putin is defending his country’s imperial past NOT Christ.

Last edited 1 year ago by ÎœÎ±ÏÎłÎ±ÏÎŻÏ„Î± Î€ÎŹÎœÏ„ÏƒÎ·
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

It is also why radical Islam has been on the rise. The West has some serious soul searching ahead.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Mathew 10: 36.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I’d like to know if the Russian army has army chaplains. Does it? I have not seen any photos of troops being blessed before possible military operations: you’d think there would be if Russia was out to defend Christendom.

Is it true that nearly one in three Russian soldiers is from the peripheral former Soviet Republics where Christendom does not hold sway? I read that somewhere.

The Ukrainians are much, much the lesser of two evils here. Would you not agree?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

Russia from the mid 90s on worked hard to expel all non ethnic Russians. Although I have no idea of the statistics, I would be surprised if they were combing Central Asia and Caucasus for soldiers. How many would they recruit? Are you thinking of towards the end of the 2nd WW, when Stalin threw millions of. Central Asians into the battles in the West?

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago

Meanwhile, a selection of headlines from the front page of the BBC news website today:
‘Why are black Americans being punished for their hair?’
‘Ant and Dec in drag: I hope this will inspire people’
‘Record number of LGBT characters on US TV’
‘A toxic culture behind the Punk beer?’

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I wish we could sent all these wokesters and jokesters to the front to be cannon fodder. All these armchair warriors are thumping their chests, and talking big talk.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

In case anyone was wondering, the asterisks in my comment above came from the Unherd censor. Why?

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Oh, I do sympathise. I ran into that trap too a while back.
It seems the all-mighty computer has been programmed to flag certain words if they come up in comments. This then triggers a notice in orange print that the comment is pending a moderator checking it out. If you assume that the moderator is any more intelligent than the computer program you would be wrong.
Your word b***k was changed because of the way the colour word is sometimes used in a derogatory way to insult people with skin of a fairly dark colour. I cannot imagine what your d**g was meant to be; maybe I am too old?
I got into trouble for trying to say b***k-and-white argument!

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

The word was d r a g! Which appears on other comments in this thread – it’s inconsistent as well as barmy

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

This is an analysis of the current tension that I have not heard before – a religious motivation! Thanks, Giles. It also makes me ask the question: ‘Is there a difference between patriotism and nationalism? I like patriotism which unites but not nationalism which despises others. The EU tries to create a supra-country nationalism.
I have become intrigued lately by Putin (if I forget about overseas assassinations) not least because of his church affiliation and because he appears to be intelligent. He disparaged the EU as a “shopping superpower” and I can see what he meant – no ambition other than materialism.
He was also quoted by Jordan Peterson from a speech he gave disparaging the secular slide of the West: “The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past — such as Shakespeare — are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood, memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what color or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”
Perhaps this is a choice of two religions: secularised Christianity or secular humanism?

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter LR
Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Secular humanism? I think not. Try transhumanism.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

where did you get that definition of nationalism? i’ve never heard it before.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

It’s a real shame about the Salisbury Novichok poisonings. If not for those, I can’t escape a nagging suspicion we should be on Russia’s side.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

I must admit, on a purely personal level, try as I might, I can’t banish a feeling of sympathy with Putin and Russia. They have pride in their culture and homeland. In the west we’re encouraged by a bunch of oddballs to be ashamed of our culture–and still the silent majority don’t firmly push back on this nonsense.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

They have pride in their culture? I know a fair number of Russians. They live in Finland. I wonder why? Maybe something to do with a good chance that a Finnish judge might not be beholden to a local mafiosi? Of course any intelligent Russian realises they have never ever had democracy and an independent judiciary. Imagine that. Then at school an extremely edited view of history. As for us. Of course we are divided and ambiguous. That’s annoying freedom.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

“Culture” and “governance” are not the same. I also know many Russians (Northern California has many Soviet excapees and post-communist refugees). Even though they enjoy the freedom (governance) of living in America, they have tremendous pride in their culture and history as Russians.

Several of my ex-Soviet friends are quite outspoken about the alarm about the rising intolerance and militant illiberalism they see in the West. They all say the same thing: “we’ve seen this movie before.”

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

Funny that, since Russia had an outpost in Northern California in the 19 th century, Fort Ross, is it? You probably know it.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Sadly they sold it to the USA just before the great Gold Rush that happen nearby. Such bad luck!

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

However, George Borrow,*an inveterate English traveller thought this about the Russians in the mid 19th century:-
“The best-natured kindest people in the world, and though they do not know as much as the English, they have not the fiendish, spiteful dispositions and if you go amongst them and speak their language, however badly, they would go through fire and water to do you a kindness”.
Has anything really changed?

(* 1803-81.)

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Reply to Terence Fitch

Well, talk about an independent judiciary in the West! The judiciary utterly failed to protect the ‘inalienable rights’ of a minority of people (the vaccine hesitant) from the hate mongering medical establishment ably abetted by a compliant MSM and a terrified polity.
Talking about an independent judiciary and their vital role in protecting the inalienable human rights of minorities in the West is just waffle

BTW I’m triple jabbed!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

We have not had an independent judiciary for the last 15 to 20 years.
We have a politized judiciary which in effect is not a judiciary at all in the true sense of the word.
Look at the way the Supreme Court was quick to hear and give credence to every Brexit challenge and compare this with how it evade hearing any legal challenges to lockdown

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Fighting talk sir! But you are correct.

Sadly even my ‘hero’ of many years ago, Lord Denning has turned out to be a venal toad. More recently the conduct of “ Leg over Lenny.”Hoffman, was deplorable. Even Lord Sumption’s move to Hong Kong I find very distasteful.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

The reforms of the 1869s gave Russia functioning local democracy, and local education, and the judicial system was quite normal, otherwise Western investment and industrial development in Russia would hardly have taken place as it did. In the 1880s, Russia produced as much steel as the US. Stolypin freed the peasantry from the Mir, that romantic concept based on German blood and soil beliefs, and an amazing burst of agricultural growth and prosperity resulted, which is why he was assassinated in 1912. After Communist takeovers, the story is always, well, they never had freedom anyway, they didn’t miss it.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Excellent synopsis, thank you.

Zoë Colvin
Zoë Colvin
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Have you forgotten Litvinenko? An act of nuclear war on British soil, almost entirely unpunished.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  ZoĂ« Colvin

That is a gross exaggeration! It was a farcical operation worthy of the worse Ian Fleming novel, one only exceeded by the infamous Bulgarian ‘Poison Umbrella Attack’ a few years ago.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago

Georgi Markov was murdered on a London street with an injection of ricin, delivered with an adapted umbrella. This was done by a Soviet agent.The Russians have also killed, here, using polonium and novlchok.
In what sense is that farcical?

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The method of execution off course. Do you really think that world’s most successful assassination organisation* since the famed Assassins themselves would be so ‘theatrical’?

(* Mossad.)

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Of course they’ve done it in a theatrical fashion, it was a warning to other dissidents

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

A “ waste of rations”. Traditional methods work best.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

One-sided, perhaps

Virginia McGough
Virginia McGough
2 years ago

It wasn’t farcical to Litvinenko.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

No, a personal tragedy, but he knew the risks and played the game


and lost. R.I.P.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

What a disgusting statement

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Pull yourself together and get a stiff G&T inside you, then you will feel much better, I can assure you.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago

I just love your wit.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Yes I completely agree. That Salisbury incident was farcical. Why didn’t they just stick to Plan A and shoot the target in the head (twice). Pillocks!

Last edited 2 years ago by SULPICIA LEPIDINA
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

That is a dangerously immoral statement. Very KGB.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Really? I would have thought it was professional critique. Incidentally the KGB has gone, it is now the ‘dreaded’ FSB.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

Putin was in KGB. Try and read the nuances.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

Reading this article makes me think that Ukraine is better off joining Russia than being manipulated by the West. Truth be told, the EU has nothing to offer to them in terms of freedom, liberalism, tradition, courage, justice, or even democracy. The West has not only lost the traditions that made it strong and united, it has somehow at the same time managed to make everything worse with ineffective, but pointlessly symbolic liberal policies. Worst of both worlds. It should be quite easy to do better for anybody who uses their brain, and Putin seems to do exactly that.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael K
Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Perhaps Putin should ask them if they want to join? Before invading?

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago

Perhaps they want to ask the truckers if they want their bank accounts to be frozen first? before freezing it?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

Very informative article and comments.
The more I read Unherd, the more I realise how little I know.

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
2 years ago

The grandiose objectives of the Russian Orthodox patriarchs to make Christ the Cosmic Emperor again and Russia His throne makes the vicaress of ‘Mike’s’ in Bournemouth look rather unambitious with her renaming of her church to demilitarize the warrior angel after which it was originally named.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. In the gospel account, if the coin in question had to be given to the emperor, where was he? He wasn’t in the Temple, nor would he have come there. The coin would have had to be taken out of the Temple to the place where the emperor was.
This is a demand for separation. The holy must be separate from the profane. The effigy of a man and a man claiming to be a god is doubly offensive in the Temple. The spiritual must be separate from the mundane. Even, Judea must be independent from Rome. Giving to Caesar what is his is not a first century example of realpolitik.
Spiritually the year may be 988. In the mundane world the year is 1914. At that time Germany felt constrained by other powers. Whether that was true of not, that feeling was so strong that the Germans felt compelled to act as they did. The Russians feel hemmed in the same today.
In 1914 the Tory Party was braying for war. Today, there are voices in that Party urging actions that would lead to the same thing. Asquith declared that Britain had no obligations to Belgium. Then, late one night when the powers of darkness are exalted, he and a few others got Britain into a war that could have been confined to eastern Europe. As a result, conservatives and Christians lost everything they valued and loved.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

Young Churchill, it must be said, was one of the most bellicose of Asquith’s Cabinet.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

Liberal Party?

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

As Mr Rowe is too idle to reply, yes.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

It’s an old argument which will now never be resolved. A rampant Germany in control of Belgium and northern France and the Channel ports, with an enormous bread basket in western Russia and Ukraine? Like I say, we’ll never know, but that’s the trouble with counter-factuals and “what ifs”.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

The grandiose objectives of the Russian Orthodox patriarchs to make Christ the Cosmic Emperor again and Russia His throne 
 Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s 
 This is a demand for separation. The holy must be separate from the profane 
 the spiritual must be separate from the mundane 

What a wonderful comment!
According to Rudolf Steiner, who lived through it all, in 1914 there was a brief window of opportunity where Britain could have prevented war, but declined to intervene. I think Lord Grey was the minister involved. By Steiner’s account, this man and several other senior colleagues were under the malign influence of certain dubious occult brotherhoods of egotistical intent who wanted war. This was subsequently followed by the Americans after the war had ended with Woodrow Wilson then putting a spanner in the works with an empty piece of abstraction that was bound to fail, the League of Nations.
Not only did Dr Steiner insist strenuously throughout his life on the importance of separation of church and state, he actually devoted immense effort in the immediate postwar period to promulgating a tripartite organisation of society: the spheres of the spiritual, the human and the economic. The human sphere comprised the areas of human rights, law, citizenship, social organisation. The spiritual included not just religion but all spirituality plus the arts and education. Last and lowest came economics.
I have reflected at length on the way not only has the spiritual been dragged down into the world of politics, but the properly human also has been commodified into the purely material-economic.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

By, as I write, invading a sovereign country and revealing himself for what we know he is- a KGB psychopath? Don’t give me this Putin admiration crap as if dislike for our elected leaders is an argument. Putin admirers do realise that it was always your type who were first up against the wall in Russia- a country that has never ever been democratic. And Unherd under Putin would definitely be unheard. Get some perspective please.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

You seem to hold rather simplistic black v’s white views.
Another perspective.
Objectively recognising Putin’s strengths as a personality and leader of a country that is 70 times the size of the UK (4 times the size of the USA), Russia’s history and cultures reaching back thousands of years, does not mean I, or others, condone his actions.
The West is not morally superior to Russia, we just have different priorities. I am as critical of our Government encouraging and enabling children to “change sex” as I am of Putin’s propensity for poisoning his enemies abroad. But it is worth remembering that the poisoned ones were spies and traitors against Russia (albeit with some appalling collateral damage in Salisbury), whereas our distressed children are entirely innocent.
It would have been preferable I think if the West had encouraged Ukraine to remain more or less a neutral buffer zone. Instead we have done the opposite.
My question is Why ?
Why have we provoked Putin and Russia in this way ? Is it because we are have become too foolish to understand how to do politics? Or is it because our liberal ideology has got the better of us and made us arrogant (also foolish) ? A combination of both ? Or is there another reason ?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Well said. But I think the reason we in the West have provoked the Russian Bear is that the vast majority of foreign establishment elites in the US are completely ignorant of other countries’ history.
My personal view is that while Putin is certainly an autocrat and Russia is an authoritarian state, we in the West would do well to leave well alone. Russia is no longer the Soviet Union seeking to impose communism on the world. It is just a large country with a lot of nuclear weapons. Moreover, Russians are not exactly some mysterious eastern entity like the Chinese. Russia and the Russians are very much European and their history is intertwined with that of Europe. After all, the family of the last Tsar is intermingled with that of the House of Windsor, is it not?

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Or is there another reason?
Of course – the other reason is that Putin has become megalomaniac after 20 years of untrammelled power, like almost every other person in such a position throughout history. You sound lie the judge who blames the victim for wearing a short skirt.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Why have we provoked Putin?
Answer: Because of mercenary war ambitions.. starting with the making of and financing of Osama Bin Laden as a CIA agent in Afghanistan.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

Wasn’t OBL a Mossad agent?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Ukraine was just a big bag of money for local oligarchs and thrir government (Poroshenko was both), and, sorry to say, the US. As Albright pointed out.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Just noticed that UnHerd have altered a word I used in my first sentence with asterisks, which is surprising, I did’nt realise it had become an offensive word.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

They’ve done the same with my quote (from the BBC website). Extraordinary. Almost as barmy as the NY Times cancelling the word ‘slave’ in Wordle

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Indeed. But more than barmy, I fear. We need:
# a much better computer program
# educated, competent, intelligent, well-read moderators
# abolish the amalgamating uptick/downtick system which obscures minority views and promotes the mob pile-on
# an Unherd rethink about whether they want to become the latest addition to incendiary online media promoting conflict and division, or a genuine outlet for polite and peaceful alternative views enriching their readers’ lives—at the moment, they seem to be trying to have it both ways

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Thanks Penelope. I agree about the need for educated and competent moderators. More ambivalent about upticks and downticks – although I see your point about pile-ons, but I think they have a value. Although I try not to downtick anybody without giving a reason. (I’d also not be being entirely honest if I didn’t admit that having lots of upticks appeals to one’s vanity…)

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

A poor computer program combined with inadequate human moderators did it. No excuse.
They can’t distinguish between using the word to denote a colour, and using the word to denigrate a human being with dark-coloured skin.
And note carefully: this is a result of ignorance and incompetence. It has nothing to do with espousing the benefits of Enlightenment culture.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Dismissing him as a psychopath is a cop out. Worse it is counterproductive. Understanding what drives him may help us deal with him.
Also his criticisms of the west appear to be spot on. Just because we do not like him does not make those criticisms any less valid

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago

Dismissing him as a psychopath is a cop out. Worse it is counterproductive. Understanding what drives him may help us deal with him.

You seem to be saying that understanding what drives him is unrelated to his psychology – there is a high possibility that he is a psychopath (or sociopath, narcissist – about 10% of the gen pop, and over represented in powerful positions, especially the security services, where their sociopathology can make them highly effective – this is why the genes involved are called the ‘warrior genes’). Combining sociopathology with great, untrammeled power is a recipe for disaster, and looks exactly like Putin now. Discussing a leader’s psychology is often used flippantly, but psychology is at the heart of this. Putin, like many before him that have stayed in office too long, confuses the state with himself.

Also his criticisms of the west appear to be spot on. 

Our enemies are often our best critics – of course. Moreover, one of the main ways a psychopath manipulates is leveraging denied truths.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

A very useful insight.
Let me now put the cat among the pigeons and suggest we need to vet all aspirants for leadership positions to ensure psychopaths, sociopaths and outright loonies never make it to the top. Oh, and Men from Mars, and other aliens, too. Let me risk even more by recommending we pay particular attention to men—yes, the male of the species, since they are far and away worse than women in the power and domination stakes.
Censorship? Imposition on freedoms? Removal of rights?
When did we ever not need censorship and limitations in some form, to some degree?

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I agree, an effective screening system is much needed, especially these days when voters seem to think that narcissistic clowning is a winning character trait and leaders do not have to follow the rules. I’ve known a few people in high-ish offices – they were grilled by the security services before being allowed the job, and could not so much as accept a pen without declaring it. The likes of Trump & Johnson would not have passed.
However, diagnosing PDs is fraught with difficulty, and in any case, many highly effective people, leaders and others, have not been entirely sane on that front. What is particularly problematic about the Russia situation (is there any other country that has so consistently been let down by their leaders?) – little or no checks and balances on the toxic sociopaths: by the press, law, alternative parties, acadamia, religion, military, voters, business…or women, women (great civilisers).

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

He’s a midget narcissist, if he was in charge of Luxembourg it would be no great problem, dangerous when in charge of Russia. I’m one myself incidentally! Albeit one with a bit of insight, maybe that’s why I don’t share the admiration for Putin many on the Right have.

Mark Cole
Mark Cole
2 years ago

The recent history of the Ukraine, post nuclear disarmament , from the 1994 Budapest agreement to the 2010 election, the coup, the separatists in the East, the 2014 Minsk agreements seems to have been lost on our media
Putin is clearly a bully and his actions in Salisbury and elsewhere put him as an enemy. However I fear he is emboldened in this instance because he actually has a cause founded on some reasonable issues; he geographic split in 2010 buts a line clear across Ukraine from NE to SW splitting the pro – Russian and Ukrainian nationalists into 2 clear halves. It is not unreasonable to recognise this ” democratic split” and to insist on Ukraine remaining neutral.
This would have been a peaceful diplomatic solution and its the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK even brought it up as an idea before he was shot down. I fear the US knew that by emboldening the Ukrainian President whom Biden and his family made money out of and supported, they would draw Putin into this action because he cant control his anger.
We the west have been complicit and could have done better
At the same time the west should be strengthening its resolve and re-establishing national service

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark Cole
Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Cole

The problem of the West is not a lack of resolve. There is rather a lack of true purpose and courage. Our elites, and many of the hapless people who like to think of themselves as elites, indeed have very strong resolve to take away freedom of speech, movement and association. Meanwhile, Putin embodies all that we have lost: masculinity, order, tradition, the fatherland. It would likely be easier for Europe if it was taken over by Russia as a whole, than it would be for us to find a way back to the glory of olden days by ourselves.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Putin embodies all that we have lost: masculinity, order, tradition, the fatherland. 
That was what we needed to lose. Putin is an evolutionary throwback. Modern humans have moved on.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I agree with you on many points, but I have to dissent here. I think “masculinity, order, tradition, the fatherland” has a place in the order of things. The Yin needs the Yang.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Cole

I cannot believe that you have suggested introducing National Service. National servicemen were killed in Korea to combat communism – an American obsession. That war ended in a truce and division .
There were also other countries (Malaya and Cyprus) where we were fighting endless small wars. Fortunately my brothers went to university – one ending up with the choice of the army or a medic in the colonial service, and National Service had ended before the other qualified. However they had friends who died in those conflicts for not good reason..
The only plus to the Korean War was that 16 years later the UK resisted joining America when it decided to impose its will on Vietnam.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Very nearly 400 UK National Servicemen were killed in action between 1945-63.

Given our total dependence on the USA since as far back as 1916 it is hardly surprising that our leaders, both Conservative and Labour felt it was necessary to make this blood sacrifice.

I am not so sure that the US wanted our ‘help’ in Vietnam. In fact the idea that Harold kept us out of it is a bit of a myth.At the start of Vietnam* we were also too ‘busy’ in Borneo and Aden. Later we were fully immersed in Ireland**.

However Australia and think NZ did her involved in Vietnam.

I gather that after out recent ‘adventures’ with the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US Military found us to be arrogant, pompous, conceited, and badly equipped. Not a good report it must be said.

(*1964.)

(* 1970-2.)

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

Interesting to know how many National Servicemen died. I only know about this from personal stories. However the imposed killing (and being killed) expected from unsuitable recruits in the name of national security has a false premise. They were not protecting the safety of their families but to perpetuate controversial state ideologies…
Your last paragraph I find quite shocking. I would suggest that a disciplined army is more effective – and has been shown to be more effective – than “we are all boys together” attitude of the Americans.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

The arrogance, pomposity and conceit came as result of ‘our’ experience in Northern Ireland, particularly obnoxious during our operations in Basra.

Otherwise standards have fallen appalling particularly in fire control, with the introduction of the fully automatic SA-80. Long gone are the days of aimed shots, and firepower discipline.

Another problem is that so called ‘young’ Officers are far too old, arriving as arrogant, ‘know it all’ 23/24 year olds, as opposed to the 19/20 year old Subalterns of the past. This it turn has diminished the role of the non commissioned officers.

Finally you are that the US Army is now a fully volunteer force? Gone are the conscripts of Vietnam days.,

Kat Kazak
Kat Kazak
2 years ago

I’m a Russian national and I know approximately zero people who go to church and zero people who support the invasion. Putin thinks himself an emperor and like many in his position before him he likes the panslavic orthodox mumbo jumbo that made countless Russian emperors set their sights on the Ottoman empire and “reclaim Constantinople”. The average modern Russian has a mortgage, a chronic condition and two kids to put through university, they aren’t really looking for a big idea to fight and die for. The problem is, Putin isn’t listening to his nation. Like, at all. You can protest – you’ll end up in jail or hurt or both.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat Kazak

Well said! Unlike many on this forum you speak from direct experience, a very valuable opinion.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat Kazak

Very good to hear from someone who actually lives “on the other side” who voices a different view on Putin from Rev Fraser.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Very interesting article indeed, thank you. Religion is so sidelined in the West that we forget its importance to other peoples.

It does not excuse the invasion of a free and democratic nation, but it certainly helps explain it. I can’t help feeling that if Western leaders had a better perspective on this aspect of Putin they might have handled him with much greater sensitivity from the beginning.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Gosh yes, and if we’d been more sensitive to Hitler’s concerns about the Jews it would have turned out better for them too?
If this article is correct, Putin is exploiting religious extremism to justify a war. Can you think of a religious war that has turned out well?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I think you are missing the point. Part of successful diplomacy or indeed business is to try to understand your opponent. Mr Putin twenty years ago wanted to take Russia closer to Europe. The west went on treating him as a dangerous commie, (to be fair, not that surprisingly as he was ex head of the KGB). But to close observers then he was more in the nature of an autocratic capitalist leaning religious devotee. That misreading has misinformed our strategy ever since. And now he is dangerous.
Indeed; to pick up your point, a closer study of Hitler in the early 1930’s would also have informed western governments better – in that we would have seen how insane he was. Reading Mein K. would have done that. We would then have had a much more successful strategy about his government also.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

People have been trying to treat with Putin for months, thinking that he’s sane and seeking a strategic solution.
With this invasion, and his phlegm-specked speeches, he’s just demonstrated that he’s on a par with Hitler’s insanity. But this hasn’t really been clear up until today – so following your own logic, we couldn’t understand that he is a nutter. Nothing to do with religion, Russian speakers – it’s just plain old megalomania.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

You are still missing the point. It’s how the west has handled relationships with Russia that has got us to the last few months

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Indeed. Too much shorthand

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

no wars turn out well, religious or not.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

The Albigensian Crusade for one.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago

Thanks Giles for this different, challenging angle.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

Let’s call a spade a spade: this is expansionism.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

“Mother Russia”, or “The Motherland” was glorified by Stalin in a mass propaganda exercise in 1941 to instil pride and install defensive barricades around Moscow when Hitler’s Germany attacked.
All done without resorting to the Christianity of Russian Orthodoxy, as far as I know. Stalin had bulldozed churches up and down Russia in the Thirties. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union in August 1939, to carve up Poland between the two nations, countries rather, régimes actually, was the act of two pagan-ruling governments. Even Stalin could see that it would have been ridiculous to pull Christianity out of a hat when it came to calling for all hands on deck from June of 1941. There was not a Christian bone in his body.
It’s hard to believe that Mother Russia, the soul of that nation, would be so stirred to terrify the Ukrainians, its dear neighbours, in their tens of millions, today. That is anti-Christian, in the extreme. (Now the invasion has seemingly just begun). Is it going to be up to the good Polish and other eastern and central Europeans to extend succour and relief to fleeing Ukrainians?

If Christians can overcome the Roman Empire from a small band of ragged individuals, then what do Christians have to fear about living in the (still) civilised, secular, even if increasingly ridiculous, West? Putin has drenched himself in pitiful self-glorification, has hijacked the good name of Christianity. For what? To screw the Ukrainians’ heads into place so they’re facing the right way?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is nothing less than a lust to dominate a dear neighbour. But the Russian mind is saying its “dear, dear, dear, dear neighbour”. Pat, pat, pat. Nothing could rile the Ukrainians more, this condescension, even more so when dressed up in a religious cloak. The Ukrainians know a pagan bunch when it sees one.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Christians did not “overcome the Roman Empire”, Germanic, barbarian thugs did in the West, later followed by the Arabs in much of the East.

Last edited 2 years ago by SULPICIA LEPIDINA
David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago

Christians overcame the Roman Empire in the spiritual sense of Christianizing it. In 380 the Emperor Theodosius (the same one who built the outer-most walls of Constantinople) made Christianity the state religion of the Empire.
Actually, the Germanic barbarians who took control of the Western half were themselves Christians — many were Arian heretics who denied the divinity of the Word, including the Vandals who sacked Rome — they went down to military defeat against Justinian’s temporary reconquest of the West rather than embrace the full divinity of Jesus Christ, which was the one non-negotiable term on the Roman side for letting their king continue controlling North Africa as both King of the Vandals and a Patrician of the Romans.
The Muslim Arabs detached some of the provinces, but it was the Ottoman Turks who in a worldly sense overcame the Empire in 1453 after it had dwindled to a city-state.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Why is the name of the continent directly south of Europe being censored in my post?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

The computer has gone mad. Alternatively, Putin’s nerds may be hacking us?
Don’t take it personally, many of us on this page have been deleted too. We made the mistake of using the word describing the skin colour of the people who live in the interior of the continent directly south of Europe.
Perhaps we need to introduce some rhyming slang? So for example, slack-and-white, I was in a slack mood
 or perhaps, darkest naffliquor

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

I read with interest.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

The question you have to ask yourself is whether Ukraine is actually a neighbor as opposed to the same country that was split off after the fall of the Soviet Union. As I mentioned above, Kiev is the birthplace of Russian civilization. Russia comes from the word Rus which is what the Ukrainians called themselves. Ukraine has been part of the Russian Empire since the 18th century under Peter the great and Catherine the second. Odessa was built by Catherine the Great. Clearly Russian and Ukraine are historically intermingled.
Now following current arguments made by so many western leaders, including many Unherd readers, perhaps one could argue that the US civil war reflected the North and Lincoln’s desire to conquer the South rather than let the South goes its separate way. Maybe think about the current situation in those terms. And also think seriously what world leaders would think if the civil war replayed itself now.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

It was never taught that way in school but as I read more about the CW as an adult I came to view it this way and thus can never revere Lincoln again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Kat L
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Ukraine could have been Russia’s dear neighbour and vice versa. Russia’s invasion of it means that its only dear and comradely neighbour now is hapless Belarus. Probably Russia is not interested in having good neighbours. Only obedient ones. Has Russia believed that Ukraine was not ever going to be good stewards of the land that gave birth to Russian culture and identity? There was much that was environmentally damaged by the draining of wetlands to build Chernobyl back in the late 1960s and 1970s. And the toxic harm to the soil in the late 80s was imagined away despite the authorities in Kiev, if anything, imploring Moscow to do something. Where was the love? Russia’s irascible stance in the face of Ukraine’s simple desire to express itself as a nation in its own right has led Russia into getting its own knickers in a twist in relation to its worst imaginings about its 
 dear neighbour. How about we say The Russian people, The citizens of Ukraine – to get a respectful dialogue going?

There is Mother Russia. Cannot the Ukrainians desire to be different? When they get punished severely by Russia, they know they must be a bit different. Don’t you think?

Like they say that the Welsh are the Irish who could not swim, and in bearing in mind this fancy but also the fact that the Welsh and the Irish are quite different, the Ukrainians you might say are Russians who taste the freedom of democracy that Russians in Russia do not.

Ukraine has done nothing to be ashamed of that would warrant a comparison of it with the South in the American Civil War of the 1860s.
What Russia is doing is acting like the Roman Army of Tiberius that sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The Jewish second Temple was pulled to the ground. The Jews scattered again. In Ukraine, its hopes and aspirations have been destroyed.

Graham Willis
Graham Willis
2 years ago

This interpretation of Putin’s motivations is rather more benign than the alternative; that he is seeking to re-establish a sphere of interest extending into the area of the former Eastern bloc. West lies Romainia, whose borders we are obliged by treaty to defend.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Willis

We are signatories of a treaty to defend Ukraine.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum_on_Security_Assurances
The other two signatories are the US and Russia. No-one anticipated that a co-signatory might be the one to invade.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Off course not, far too stupid and ignorant to do that.

Yet the 1839 Treaty of London which established both Belgium independence and neutrality was singed by the UK and the German Confederation ( dominated by Prussia), not to mention the Dutch and French.

Did it prevent 1914? Not in the slightest, but it did give us (UK) the excuse to get ‘stuck in’ with somewhat unfortunate results.

Last edited 2 years ago by SULPICIA LEPIDINA
Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

It looks like a Catholic-Orthodox punch up. Props to the Orthodox for running such a lucrative booze and tobacco trade. We Catholics have to make do with pay-for-silence bungs from the Chinese.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago

It is not true that the Russian Orthodox Church has broken communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church. They have broken communion only with those local Orthodox Churches which have recognized as Orthodox the schismatics restored to communion with Constantinople and declared by Constantinople to be an autocephalous “Ukrainian Orthodox Church”. (There is a long history to that, too long to go into here, but under Orthodox canonical norms that have prevailed for centuries, Moscow is in the right, and Constantinople in the wrong.) I am a communicant of the Church of Antioch, which objected to the anti-canonical actions of Constantinople in this regard for the same reasons that Moscow does, among which is the same reason we have a problem with Jerusalem installing a bishop in Qatar: local Orthodox Churches have no right to set up parallel hierarchies in the canonical territory of another local Orthodox Church. Of course, we Antiochians are also still in communion with Constantinople. The Serbian Church is in a like situation, as is the OCA, I’m not sure about Jerusalem (with whom we Antiochians are not in communion over Qatar, not Ukraine), Bulgaria, Romania, and Georgia. The autonomous (not autocephalous) churches of Finland, Japan and Czechia and Slovakia are all in communion with Moscow. Greece, Cyprus and Alexandria are in communion with Constantinople, but not Moscow over this issue.
Back in the day, this sort of thing was almost normal — there was a period when Antioch and Alexandria were out of communion, but both in communion with everyone else — which is why no one in the East noticed the row between Constantinople and Rome in the early to mid 11th century really constituted “the Great Schism” until the Crusaders started forcibly replacing our (and here I mean that in the narrowest relevant sense I could — bishops in the Patriarchate of Antioch) with Latin bishops.

Bruce Kerr
Bruce Kerr
2 years ago

I wish the Western leaders had seen this before Putin invaded. Their behaviour over the last few weeks might have been more effective. The West is far from perfect but we at least have the opportunity to criticise its failures as often and vociferously as we like, even to disagree over what those failures are. Not so in Putin’s Russia.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

This does explain a lot. Thank you, Giles.

Vince B
Vince B
2 years ago

Excellent analysis, which should be widely read. Without apologizing for this awful invasion, progressives have a hard time getting their heads around how people would not want to Westernize, and how they might feel squeezed between the devil of autocracy and the devil of cultural and moral disintegration. I am reminded of a Muslim father who moved to Los Angeles from Iran who I met, who was terrified his daughters could end up in a “Girls Gone Wild” video.

David Zersen
David Zersen
2 years ago

An interesting view, even for a rector, although I find it largely uses a different approach to take another potshot at Putin and the Russians. The West has never found it easy to understand the religious and ethnic heritage of Slavic Russia– so ideologically removed are we from its great music, literature, philosophy, art and political initiatives. It would be fascinating to read an analysis that stops short of fashioning a creative critique and settles on a positive note that, although challenging to the West, embraces a reality we have not yet fully grasped.

dave fookes
dave fookes
2 years ago

Christianity? “And a soldier so ill, looks at the sky pilot and remembers the words – thou shalt not kill”

Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes
2 years ago

A religious zealot with a gun. Is there anything more scary?
Perhaps a religious zealot with a nuclear bomb I suppose.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Hughes

How about an atheist zealot with a nuclear bomb? Or are you not old enough to remember the Soviet Union?

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

I know UH welcomes polite & alternative viewpoints to the ‘mainstream’, but to equivocate on this is extraordinary. Any attempts to portray it as some sort of spiritual heroism, against the ‘evils’ of ‘permissive’, liberal secularism is weird. This is straightforward material barbarism of an unstable, frightened despot. Classic. Hopefully some Russian top brass will get rid of him soon.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

I don’t think Rev Fraser is equivocating. Rather, he’s adding strands of complexity by viewing the same problem from another side. He’s explaining how Putin views his own actions; but he’s not justifying Putin’s view. So we could agree it’s barbarism of an unstable frightened despot, without simplifying it to the merely material. This despotism is not straightforward, I don’t think.
Nevertheless, I appreciate your attempt to cut through to the essentials.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Thank you for your reply. I had in mind some of the comments on here, rather than Giles Fraser’s, – the top ‘thumbs up’* comment to be specific – which I think do equivocate. I should have explained myself better.
Re the issue itself. I try to bear in mind the ‘Marxian’/Marxist theory of History. Ultimately, Economics, and therefore Politics drives History; everything else is a superficial add-on.
*I wish UnHerd would do away with this (‘he would say that wouldn’t he…) puerile ‘extra’, which, in my opinion, doesn’t serve a purpose. Sometimes it seems to encourage herd-like behaviour, like on any other ‘normal’ social medium like FB or g*d forbid Twitter.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Sometimes it just seems to actually encourage herd-like behaviour

That’s precisely what I’ve been saying for months now. At one point I actually emailed Unherd asking them to abolish the uptick/downtick altogether. They replied, saying they would refer it to their IT people. I never heard anything further, and nothing has changed.
The next step, which I have not yet found time for, is to write again to Unherd repeating the complaint and insisting that the matter is one of editorial policy, not computer programming. Their computer should not be allowed to say “no”.
One possibility might be to urge them to throw it open to the readership. Ask for suggestions. Maybe offer a few alternatives. A couple of people have offered terrific ideas in the course of my postings. For example, one woman said she’d like to see a “Made me think!” button. UK in a Changing Europe offers a choice of five emoticons such as sad, surprised, etc.
i feel particularly strongly on this matter, since being very leftwing I tend to get deluged with red downticks, and being also a tender soul, I’d like to see a system that allowed me to see that one soul at least, among the hundreds of disapprovals, had liked what I said. I know, I know


Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago

But Giles, sending your “christians” to kill other “Christians” (In the name of your “christianity”) with the risk of getting killed is not a very Christian thing to do. The quick victory for you may cost a lot more lives if the struggle goes underground. The Finns proved that. With a society more open now than in the 30s people will not be able to disregard the slow-but-sure trickle of bodybags back home (As happened with the ‘Gan business).

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

The Finns lost, despite ‘heroic’ resistance.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Putin’s alleged “spiritual values” will very likely prove fatal to both him and Russia. They have impelled him to embark on a “podvig,” a might spiritual feat. But in this case it’s literally impossible.
The hard core of Ukrainian anti-Putinism is in the West, on a border where weapons can easily be smuggled in. To seal it requires that Putin occupy the whole country. He’s brought in almost his entire army for this operation. But it is still too small to do occupy all of Ukraine. The long-term cost alone would bankrupt Russia.
HIs only real alternative is to establish a friendly govt in Kyiv. But if Putin gets rid of Zelensky, there will be no significant Ukrainian foolish enough to take the job of president. They would have zero legitimacy, and very likely would be assassinated.
As with Iraq in 2003, Putin has shattered a very large nation, with no means to stabilize it again. If he stays, it will be far more expensive for Russia than Iraq ever was for the US. If he goes, he will have an implacable enemy on his doorstep.
This really looks more like the latter days of another “spiritual” Russian leader, Ivan Grozny. The Livonian War, his attempt to capture the Baltics, ended in utter failure.
But faced with an interminable war in Ukraine, looks like this latest “spiritual” Russian leader wont even get a chance to fail in the Baltics.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The Russian KrĂšme-de-la-KrĂšmlin are very skilled at putting over its various doings a veneer of respectability. A cloak. Like Bond changing out of his wetsuit to reveal black tie as he slips in among the invited guests. Now the latest is this pious streak, religion to the fore.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago