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Ukrainian Nationhood, “Russkii Mir,” and the Abuse of History

by Thomas Bremer

Image: iStock.com/berean

Many observers of the current war in Ukraine who try to analyze its deeper reasons refer to the idea of a “Russian World,” “Russkii Mir.” This idea, they claim, is the key concept behind the Russian aggression, and shows the tight connection between religion and politics in Russia. A glance at the website of the Moscow Patriarchate, however, shows that in recent years the term has been used very rarely—and then mostly to refer to a foundation called “Russkii Mir,” established by President Putin and meant to promote Russian culture and the knowledge of the Russian language abroad. True, high-ranking representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have played an important role in that foundation from the time of its 2007 creation. But what does that have to do with Ukraine now?

In some ways, the year 2014 was decisive. When it became clear after the Euromaidan demonstrations that Ukraine had decided to leave the orbit of Moscow and to definitively turn towards the West, the term “Russian World” all but disappeared from the statements of Russian Church leaders. It was clear that the idea of a civilization based on East Slavic Orthodoxy could not work without Kyiv and Ukraine, so the concept seemed to be no longer feasible. Some of its central ideas stayed, however. It is they which have proved important for the justification of the war against Ukraine, both in President Putin’s and Patriarch Kirill’s argumentations. Here, I will try to outline and to assess the most important points: the denial of a distinct Ukrainian nation, and the denial of Ukrainian statehood as such. The worldview behind these ideas seems to me more important for understanding the Russian aggression than the somewhat amorphous category of a “Russian World.”

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When Putin Takes Revenge on His Own History

by Assaad Elias Kattan | български | ქართული | Русский

A Greek version of this text is available at Polymeros kai Polytropos, the blog of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies

Kyiv
Image: iStock.com/Konoplytska

At the time of writing, the tsar’s fighter jets are pounding the gorgeous Kyiv, and air raid sirens are echoing everywhere. “Who has believed our message” declares the prophet Isaiah: the fighters of Vladimir Putin are striking Kyiv, not Tbilisi, Yerevan, Berlin, Paris, or Istanbul, and certainly not New York. In fact, the Russian tsar wants to exact revenge on the Ukrainians…and on his own history. He is destroying the cradle of his own civilization, never the cradle of the western civilization that causes him disgust and nausea. He is destroying Kyiv of antiquity with its majestic laura of caves that was established in the 11th century and is considered the mother of the Russian church and its sanctuary. Thousands are blessed daily with its bones that emanate myrrh. He is destroying a Kyiv that is proud of its Saint Sophia church that takes us back to the genius of Slavic Christianity and to the extent of its deep rooting in the cultural ambit that comes from Byzantium, precisely from Constantinople, from the shores of the glorious Bosphorus and the suns that dance there on the splashes of the waves.

Kyiv has woven the beginnings of the Russian people’s civilization. There, from the care and the diligence of the Hellenic monks and their blessed disciples, the Russians started laying the foundations of their civilization: books, architecture, and icons where light dwells in their coloring and meaning transpires. Therefore, the attack that is lead today by the master of the Kremlin on his neighbor, on his “soft spot,” as some fools would like to call it, isn’t measured by political and economic interpretations only; further than that, it assumes far reaching cultural consequences. In fact, the destruction of civilizations is neither a passing matter, nor is it an inevitable consequence of unavoidable wars.

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Does Europe Have a Christian Basis for Actively Supporting Ukraine against the Evil Attack?

by Fr. Bohdan Oghulchanskij | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Ukrainian and European flags
Image: istock.com/FabrikaCr

I, Bohdan Oghulchanskij, a priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, am writing this text on February 27, 2022, the fourth day of the Russian mass invasion. I can’t know what will happen by the time this text gets published. I have poor mobile communication, and it is difficult to access the Internet. Many times a day, day and night, my family and I are forced to quickly descend into the shelter under the howl of an air raid siren. But I want to convey the truth to readers, especially those who are outside Ukraine, who do not understand the reasons for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Why is this happening? What did Europe, the democratic world, the countries and people defending freedom, human dignity, and the value of human life do that allowed this terrible, brutal massacre in Europe, for the first time since 1945?

I am writing from the experience of my long-time observations. First, my observations of the information field created by Russia, which was very powerful in Ukraine before 2014. Even after 2014, Russia retained considerable influence. Secondly, having almost thirty years of experience of priesthood, including a long tenure in the Moscow Patriarchate, I can testify to how the rhetoric and narrative of the Russian Church have changed during this time. Its policies, in my opinion, made a great ideological contribution to the current tragedy.

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The Worst of All Curses

by Irina Paert | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Bomber flying overhead
iStock.com/Mike Cassidy

One night terror I experienced during my childhood included bombers flying over the roof of our fifteenth-floor apartment in Moscow. No wonder, as every evening the news reported heavily on the enemy’s military build-up. At the time I could not quite understand why such a nice girl’s name as Nata (short for Natalia) was used for the organization that was terrorizing our people. All we knew was that we did not want war; we were always for peace; it was always them attacking and threatening, never us.

A patriotic education did not deter some of my generation from taking a radical stance against the violence of war, which extended to all institutions and ideologies that supported it. Perhaps it was a belated wave of the Western youth rebellion of the 1960s that found its footing in the late Soviet counterculture, or some revival of interest in the nonviolent teachings of Tolstoy and Gandhi in the 1990s. Some of my friends burned their military service books, resulting in compulsory months in a mental hospital. In my country, conscientious objection was seen as either mental illness or a criminal act, publicly regarded as a lack of patriotism and masculinity. What I did not know at the time was that the roots of this radical, moral stance toward violence and war could be found in Christianity.

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