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John Schindler 2: Putin’s Orthodox Jihad

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — second and central of three posts, this one concerning a very powerful JS post ]

Vladimir the Holy Prince
Saint Vladimir


John Schindler‘s piece, Putin’s Orthodox Jihad, as I told him, answers so many of my unspoken questions that even thinking about it almost hurts my eyes. IMO, he is right on the mark indeed when he writes:

Nearly all Western experts, being mostly secularists when not atheists, paid no attention

As Zenpundit regulars know, this has been my own constant refrain here on the topic of global jihad, but John’s turf here is Vladimir Putin‘s once and future Greater Russia — it’s not exactly encouraging to note that the problem seems to be global.


In this post, John mentions Putin’s “fire-breathing speech to the Duma” in March 2014, in which Putin laid out his vision:

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. 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. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour.

Everything except the reference to Temple Mount is already present in this speech, which predates the one I discussed in my previous post by eight months.

And as John notes of this seminal speech:

Putin included not just venerable KGB classics like warnings about the Western Fifth Column and “national traitors,” but also paeans to explicit Russian ethnic nationalism buttressed by Orthodox mysticism, with citations of saints from millennia past.


Two more points:

The late Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, whom Putin greatly admires, gave us this succinct and powerful account of how the cross and the sword can be accommodated together in a single theological perspective — again, I’m quoting John’s post:

In calling to love our enemies, Christ had in mind personal enemies of man, not God’s enemies, and not blaspheming molesters, for them drowning with a millstone around their neck was recommended. Urging to forgive injuries, Christ was referring to personal insults to a person, not all possible crimes; no one has the right to forgive the offenses suffered by others or provide for the villains to offend the weak, corrupt children, desecrate churches and destroy the Fatherland. So therefore a Christian is called not only to forgive offenses, but to fight the enemies of God’s work on earth. The evangelical commandment of “non-resistance to evil” teaches humility and generosity in personal matters, and not limpness of will, not cowardice, not treachery and not obedience to evildoers.

That’s quite a statement in and of itself. And furthermore:

This idea is more than a single man, more than a feat of one hero. This idea is great as Russia and the sacred as her religion. This is the idea of the Orthodox sword.

The second (further) point is one that John himself suggests:

We perhaps should be grateful that the Orthodox Jihad rejects suicide bombings. In the 1930’s, Romania’s fascist Legionary Movement, led by the charismatic Orthodox revolutionary Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, toyed with what terrorism mavens today might term “martyrdom operations,” but these never really caught on. Orthodoxy frowns on suicide, even in a just cause.

I read, live and learn.


Okay: let me say it again:

  • John Schindler‘s piece Putin’s Orthodox Jihad answers so many of my unspoken questions that even thinking about it almost hurts my eyes. Highly recommended indeed!
  • Of related interest:

  • Mark R. Elliott, Why Russia’s Evangelicals Thank God for Putin
  • John Schindler 1: Putin, Gorenberg, Jerusalem

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — Putin: the other fellow’s Ukraine is this fellow’s Temple Mount ]

    It is hard to keep up with John Schindler [@20committee]: his writings flow fast and sure enough that I feel a bit like Alice, running fast to keep still, as I try to think through enough of what he writes to make meaningful comments. In this series of posts, I’ll try to come close to catching up.


    St Putin icon & gas


    First, as backdrop and just for the record, here are Vladimir Putin‘s comments on the spiritual relationship between Russia and the Ukraine, in which he compared the Ukraine to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, from a transcript of his December 2014 Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly:

    Of course, we will talk about this year’s landmark events. You know that a referendum was held in Crimea in March, at which its residents clearly expressed their desire to join Russia. After that, the Crimean parliament – it should be stressed that it was a legitimate parliament that was elected back in 2010 – adopted a resolution on sovereignty. And then we saw the historical reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia.

    It was an event of special significance for the country and the people, because Crimea is where our people live, and the peninsula is of strategic importance for Russia as the spiritual source of the development of a multifaceted but solid Russian nation and a centralised Russian state. It was in Crimea, in the ancient city of Chersonesus or Korsun, as ancient Russian chroniclers called it, that Grand Prince Vladimir was baptised before bringing Christianity to Rus.

    In addition to ethnic similarity, a common language, common elements of their material culture, a common territory, even though its borders were not marked then, and a nascent common economy and government, Christianity was a powerful spiritual unifying force that helped involve various tribes and tribal unions of the vast Eastern Slavic world in the creation of a Russian nation and Russian state. It was thanks to this spiritual unity that our forefathers for the first time and forevermore saw themselves as a united nation. All of this allows us to say that Crimea, the ancient Korsun or Chersonesus, and Sevastopol have invaluable civilisational and even sacral importance for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the followers of Islam and Judaism.

    And this is how we will always consider it.


    How serious is this?

    End times, apocalypse-serious in three religions, driest kindling for a global wildfire in our drought-ridden world. All it would take is a single spark, and there are those who play with matches:

    Israel indicts Livvix Aqsa

    To me, that’s nightmare scenario number 1, number two having to do with Pakistani nukes..


    Gershom Gorenberg, whose book The End of Days is still the best guide to the clashing of rival apocalypses on the Temple Mount aka the Noble Sanctuary — writes of that “thirty-five-acre not-quite-rectangular enclosure on the souther-east corner of the Old City of Jerusalem” that it is “the most contested piece of real estate on earth”.

    Everyone, from the Lord on down, surely knows that the center of the earth is Jerusalem — even the maps tell us so:


    As Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav says:

    Wherever I go, I go to Jerusalem.

    — and we can zoom further in:

    As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
    so is the land of Israel the navel of the world…
    situated in the centre of the world,
    and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
    and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
    and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
    and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
    and the foundation stone before the holy place,
    because from it the world was founded…


    Given the centrality of the Temple Mount, then, what are the prospects should someone, not unlike Adam Everett Livvix perhaps, motivated by desire to see the Temple rebuilt and Moshiach or Christ make his presence felt, attempt to destroy the mosques atop the Mount — as has already been attempted more than once?

    Jeffrey Goldberg‘s interview with Gershon Salomon, leader of the Temple Mount Faithful movement, published in the New York Times just before the turn of the millennium, included this fascinating and to my mind alarming exchange:

    I ask him how he would feel if someone blew up the Dome of the Rock.
    “The question is, Why did they build their mosque on our holy mountain, anyway? Who gave them permission? God didn’t.”
    Would you be saddened if the destruction of the Dome of the Rock led to war?
    “I don’t think it will come to that. The Muslims know in their heart that this belongs to us.”
    “But what if it did lead to war?”
    Salomon smiled. “The Temple will be a reality. God has promised it.”
    But what about war?
    “O.K.,” he said impatiently, “so we’ll have a war.”


    Quite how far into the parallelism between the Temple Mount and Ukraine Putin wants to go is an unknown — but my sense is that John Schindler would come closer to the answer than most.

    This was the first of three posts.

    Qur’anic recitation of Commander Abu Usamah al-Maghribi

    Sunday, January 11th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — analysis of religious violence requires the skilled use of both mind and heart if it is to comprehend passion with clarity ]

    There is a lot of discussion of the complex relationship between religion and politics — presumably including the continuation of politics by other means — these days.

    Here Abu Usamah al-Maghribi of ISIS, the immediate precursor of IS, recites the Qur’an:

    This clip, incidentally, nicely illsutrates the dilemma facing those poor folks at YouTube who are responsible for determining what videos should be withdrawn for breach of their user contract. On the one hand, it shows a militant leader encouraging his subordinates towards martyrdom, while on the other it is something quite other, turned to that purpose: a recitation from the revealed scripture of a global and diverse religion, one and a half billion people strong…


    The text of the recitation is that of the Qur’an, Sura 9, 38-39:

    O you who have believed, what is [the matter] with you that, when you are told to go forth in the cause of Allah , you adhere heavily to the earth? Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except a [very] little.

    If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment and will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him at all. And Allah is over all things competent.

    The reciter, Abu Usamah al-Maghribi, was killed last year by fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra.


    I’m not sure that language alone can ever quite sort the different strands that rise and fall in the human beings involved, nor that the distinction we draw between heart and mind is even close to a subtle enough instrument to account for human process. What I want to present here, though, is not an answer or even the suggestion of an answer to such questions, but a vivid evidence of the coexistence of militant intent with religious fervor.

    After years of monitoring and reporting on religious violence, it is not its existence but its potential for overwhelming sincerity that I would like to communicate, so that we do not underestimate it — our analysts being, as John Schindler put it in his brilliant piece, Putin’s Orthodox Jihad, “mostly secularists when not atheists” — and thus liable to pay matters of religious passions little or no attention.

    More on Schindler’s piece shortly.

    Paris: best resources

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — where I’m finding clarity in the fog, and grateful for it ]

    From my point of view, the most calm-headed and significant tweet thus far today must be Will McCants‘ offering of scholarly context:

    With any luck I’ll get back to this.


    IMO, these tweets offer links to the two best resources thus far for thinking about the perpetrators:


    Back soon.

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