Put your sword back in its place, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

These are the words of Jesus, who is about to be arrested by the soldiers of the Sanhedrin; he is saying that if one uses violence, or other harsh means, against others, one can expect to have those same means used against oneself.

Last month… Vladimir Putin ordered that the Black Madonna of Kazan, the holiest icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, be flown over the Black Sea… Over the centuries, the “Black Virgin” has been taken to battlefields to bless Russian armies fighting Swedish, Polish, Turkish, Persian, French and German invaders. Stalin sent it to Stalingrad in 1943 to ensure victory over the German invaders under Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus… With Putin’s troops in control of Crimea and threatening to move further into Ukraine, we now know that the icon was brought in to bless a military operation this time as well.

-Amir Taheri, an Iranian writer, in the London-based paper Asharq Al-Awsat, March 7, 2014

A Reflection on Truth and Lies


We all know the first casualty of war is truth.

But we must not allow this casualty, this “wounded sentinel,” to be taken to a field hospital, and set aside… Truth is much too precious for that. In fact, truth is a characteristic, a constituent element, of Christ himself (he said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”). So we must keep the truth close, even when wounded… especially when wounded…

The truth about Ukraine, and Russia, and the implications of what is happening, is being smothered in a massive avalanche of rhetoric, one-sided presentations of facts, and real disinformation, to the point where we hardly know what’s true and what’s a lie.

And because one “incident” could touch off a conflagration here, this tense situation is ripe for manipulation, that is, for a “false flag” attack (think, the Reichstag fire) — an “incident” perpetrated by hidden actors and blamed on someone else. Any such “false flag” could “light the match” of war, to the sorrow of all of us.

The complete “truth” about the situation in Ukraine is impossible for humans to know.

The icon of Kazan that was flown over the Black Sea a month ago on the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The icon was in the papal apartment of Pope John Paul II for a decade, from 1993 to 2004. It now resides in Kazan, a city 600 miles east of Moscow. It is considered a "miracle-working" icon, and over the centuries has come to be called "the Protection of Russia"

The icon of Kazan that was flown over the Black Sea a month ago on the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The icon was in the papal apartment of Pope John Paul II for a decade, from 1993 to 2004. It now resides in Kazan, a city 600 miles east of Moscow. It is considered a “miracle-working” icon, and over the centuries has come to be called “the Protection of Russia”

We cannot know to what extent all, or some, or none of what happened was planned, what occurred by chance and what was organized. We do not know to what extent the entire scenario was “scripted” in advance or to what extent all that happened has been the product of the spontaneous desires of Ukrainians for a better life. The truth is likely some combination of these two. If there is a director for such events, the director is like a director of jazz music; “Your turn, you do your solo now,” he says, and the musicians play freely, so the direction and the spontaneity intertwine.

We are reduced in these circumstances to seeking partial truths, and being vigilant against lies.

Ukraine has always suffered from the classic geopolitical problem of being sandwiched between far more powerful states (Russia, Poland, Germany) and, since most states — by their very nature — are opportunist and prey on their weaker neighbors, Ukraine has long suffered economically, socially and culturally as a result.

Ordinary Ukrainians therefore have a right to something better than the corruption of the Yanukovych regime — as Vladimir Putni himself acknowledges in the interview below (text #3)

Still, despite these high hopes, the country now stands on the verge of civil war, a war which would have global consequences.

In analyzing this crisis, there are many open areas of uncertainty. Here are three:

  1. The shootings: Who gave the order for snipers to shoot protesters in Maidan Square? Who were the actual snipers? Have they been identified? Has there been an official investigation? Will they ever be identified and brought to justice?
  2. The goals and fears of Russia: Does Russia seek to annex Crimea, eastern Ukraine, all of Ukraine, and even other territories, to recreate the Soviet Union, even a new “Russian Empire”? Many seem to think so. But is Russia’s true goal? To expand? In the digital age, the age of global travel and global communication, isn’t physical occupation of land “so 20th-century,” that is, irrelevant? So is Russia’s goal then actually financial, to plunder resources? To have access to Ukraine’s wealth, to control the large oil and gas deposits off the Crimean coast, then the oil and gas of eastern Ukraine? Or is Russia’s goal — as Putin continually claims — more benign, more justifiable: to protect Russian-speaking ethnic Russians inside Ukraine? Or is Russia’s goal military-strategic? To keep a “non-NATO aligned” Ukraine so that NATO missiles cannot be placed on Russia’s border? What is Russia’s true goal? What does Russia truly fear?
  3. The goals and fears of the West: Does the West wish to support an indigenous democracy movement in Ukraine, to help create a modern, stable Ukraine, with respect for all its citizens (something evidently very much needed, as the corruption of the old regime seems universally acknowledged, even by Putin (see the interview below)? Or does the West wish to surround Russia? Is the West’s eventual goal actually a “Maidan Square” in Moscow, leading to the overthrow of the current Russian government and the division of Russia, so that Russia becomes a “non-factor” in the developing “new world order”? Or, does the West actually fear that Putin will move on from Crimea to southern Ukraine, to Moldava, then even to Poland, and even to Germany, if he is not forced to retreat from Crimea? Does the West really fear a resurgent, expansionist Russia?


Clearly, what is taking place concerns much more than just Ukraine. It concerns the order of the entire world, about who will establish that order, administer it, control it.

In this confrontation, the financial, cultural, political “architecture” of the post-World War II world is being shaken, re-examined, tested.

In this context, the overarching impression one receives from the media, in this context, is that there are two opposing “sides,” one good, one bad, one “Western/American” and the other “Russian,” and that these two “sides,” “positions,” “world views,” are totally antagonistic to each other. That one must triumph, and the other fail.

But this is not true. There are more than these two positions. Both inside America, and inside Russia, and everywhere in between.

Some inside Russia actually oppose expansionism (see text #4 below from Prof. Andrei Zubov), and, to the extent that what Putin is doing is expansionist, oppose Putin.

Some inside America, and in Western Europe, oppose the Obama administration, and the European Union central administration, and their secularizing agenda.

dmitrytymchukmapDo we forget that all of us, whether Russian, Ukrainian, German, British, or American, all human beings share a common hope — to leave a world for our children which is healthy for them, safe for them, at peace?

Do not all of us pray for these things, if we pray?

In this context, the demonization of the Russians is false, wrong, and evil.

Russia was once called “the House of Mary” because so many churches in Russia were dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Russia’s people have suffered enormously, under attack from the West — from Napoleon, from Hitler — and they have mourned their dead.

The people of Ukraine have also suffered enormously, especially in the 1932-33 famine.

In a small effort to show that there is a diversity, a plurality, a multiplicity of views in Russia, in an effort to see Russia more clearly, here are four texts which present very different perspectives on this crisis:

  1. An article about the icon of Kazan being flown on Putin’s order over the Black Sea a month ago.
  2. A comment published today in the Moscow Times, by a Russian strategist close to the Putin government, setting forth his fears, his hopes, his reasons and his explanations, all from his perspective, included here in order to show how the Russians are explaining what they are doing to themselves;
  3. The complete text of a very long interview, more than an hour, given a week ago by Russian President Vladimir Putin to a group of journalists; most will not read it all, I suspect, because it is so long, but it is here, if you should wish to read what Putin said, without gloss or interpretation;
  4. An essay by a Russian Orthodox professor from Moscow who loves his country, but who protests against the policy Putin has chosen, showing that there are different viewpoints in Russia today, as there are in America, as there are in Ukraine. This is presented below.

I hope this may be a small contribution to better understanding of this crisis, in the hope of a just peace.


This Has Happened Before

By Andrei Zubov, Historian, theologian, political scientist, Doctor of History, Professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Translated by Christopher Hart-Moynihan

Note: This article, by a Russian intellectual, Prof. Andrei Zubov, reflects the multiplicity of viewpoints inside Russia, and for that reason in particular is worth reading in the West. It was translated from the original Russian by my son, Christopher Hart-Moynihan, who is a graduate student in linguistics in the United States. He traveled this past summer through Russia on the Trans-Siberian railroad, and to Kiev, and was received with great hospitality wherever he traveled. For which I am thankful to the Russians and the Ukrainians. And this is one reason why it seems wrong to me that there should be a conflict between Russia and the West over Ukraine, and why I am studying and writing on this crisis in these weeks, rather than on Vatican affairs. I think it is that important.


Friends. We are on the threshold. Not the threshold of the introduction of a new subject to the Russian Federation. We are rather on the threshold of a complete destruction of the system of international treaties, of economic chaos and political dictatorship. We are on the verge of war with our closest, most kindred people of Ukraine, a sharp deterioration in relations with Europe and America, on the verge of a cold, and perhaps a hot, war with them.

And all of this has happened before. Austria. Early March 1938. The Nazis wish to round out their Reich at the expense of another German state. The common people are not especially eager for this; nobody infringes upon them, nobody is marginalizing them. Yet the idea of “Great Germany” makes the radicals, the local Nazis, giddy with excitement. To put an end to the dispute about the fate of Austria, the Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg announces a plebiscite on the 13th of March. But this does not satisfy the Nazis in Berlin and in Vienna. Suddenly people are speaking out against the Anschluss. Chancellor Schuschnigg is forced to resign March 10th, in his place the president appoints the head of the local Nazis Arthur Seyss-Inquart, while meanwhile German divisions enter Austrian cities on the invitation of the new Chancellor, which he himself learns about in the newspapers.  The Austrian forces capitulate. The people either go to welcome the Hitlerites with open arms, or hole up in their homes in irritation, or flee urgently to Switzerland. Austrian Cardinal Innittser welcomes the Anschluss and gives it his blessing …

From March 13th arrests began. Chancellor Schuschnigg was arrested the day before. A plebiscite was held on the 10th of April. In Germany, 99.08% of votes were cast in favor of unification with Austria while in Austria itself, now become the Ostmark of the German Empire, 99.75% were in favor. On October 1, 1938 the blood relatives of the Czech Sudetenland were reunited with Germany, on the 22nd of March, 1939, the Lithuanian region of Klaipeda followed suit, turning in one day into the German town of Memel. In all these lands, there were certainly sizable German populations, and in all these lands many of them certainly wished to unify with Hitler’s Reich. Everywhere the unification occurred with great fanfare and shouts of jubilation from crowds going wild with chauvinistic frenzy, and everywhere it occurred with the non-interference of the West. “We must not try to delude ourselves, and, still more, we must not try to delude small weak nations, into thinking that they will be protected by the League against aggression and acting accordingly,” said Neville Chamberlain in the British Parliament on the 22nd of February 1938, “when we know that nothing of the kind can be expected.”

Adolf Hitler spoke entirely differently on March 23, 1939, from the balcony of the Theater square of newly-annexed Memel. Two hours before, he had arrived theatrically in the port of Memel aboard the newest battleship “Deutschland”. “The Germans do not intend anything antagonistic to any nation of the world, but it was necessary to stop the suffering to which they were subjected for 20 years on the world stage. Once, Germany left the Germans of Memel to the vagaries of fate, to fend for themselves, when she had retired in disgrace and dishonor. Today the Germans of Memel… once again become citizens of the mighty Reich, which has decisively determined to take its fate into its own hands, although it displease half the world.”

And everything seemed so radiant. And the glory of Hitler reached its zenith. And before Great Germany the world stood in awe. Annexation of regions and countries to the Reich without a single shot, without a drop of blood – is the Fuhrer not a brilliant politician?

Yet within six years Germany was defeated, millions of her sons killed, millions of her daughters dishonored, her cities razed to the ground, her cultural values​​, accumulated over centuries, turned to dust. Forty percent of her former territory was appropriated and the rest was divided into zones and occupied by the conquering powers. And shame, shame, shame fell on the heads of the Germans. And it all started so radiantly!

Friends! History repeats itself. There are, certainly, Russians living in the Crimea. But has anybody truly oppressed them there, have they really been second-class citizens, without the right to their language or their Orthodox faith? From whom is it necessary to protect them with soldiers of the Russian army? Who has attacked them? The sending in of troops of a foreign state to the territory of another state without permission–this is agression. The detainment of Parliament by individuals in unmarked uniforms–this is an outrage. The making of any decisions by the Crimean Parliament in such circumstances–a farce. First the Parliament was detained, the Prime Minister was replaced by a pro-Russian one, and then this new Prime Minister requested aid from Russia, when the aid was already present, and had already for a day been in control of the Peninsula. This and the Anschluss of 1938 are as like as two drops of water. There is even a referendum-plebiscite scheduled within a month, to be held under the gaze of friendly bayonets. Then, it was the 10th of April. Now, it is the 30th of March.

Did the Russian government elites consider all of the risks inherent in this uncertain venture? Certainly not. They miscalculated as Adolf Aloisevich miscalculated in his own time. Had he considered, he would not have been forced by Russian bombardment to scurry into a bunker in 1945, nor would he have swallowed a vial of poison.

And what if the West takes action unlike Chamberlain and Daladier in 1938, administers a complete embargo on the purchase of Russian energy sources, and freezes all Russian holdings in its banks? The Russian economy, at present in dire straits, will collapse in three months. And civil disorder will arise here, in comparison to which the Maidan will seem like the Garden of Eden.

What if the Crimean Tatars–who stand unequivocally against Russian authority, who remember what this authority did with them in 1944 [deportation to Central Asia], and how it did not permit their return until 1988–what if they turn, for the protection of their own interests, to their kindred people in faith and in blood in Turkey? After all, Turkey is not separated by three seas, but on the far shore of the very same one, the Black Sea, and it held Crimea for longer than Russia–for four centuries. The Turks are not Chamberlains and Daladiers–in July 1974, protecting the interests of their people, they occupied 40% of the territory of Cyprus and, in the face of widespread protest, continue to this day to support the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which nobody recognizes apart from them. Perhaps there are those who would like to also have a Turkish Republic of Southern Crimea? And of course if the hotheads among the Crimean Tatars rise up and fight, Islamic radicals from around the world will gladly join them, especially those from the North Caucasus and the Trans-Volga region. We will bring a storm from the ravaged seaside resorts of Crimea into our Russian home. What is wrong with us? Do we not have enough acts of terrorism?

And finally, acquiring Crimea, racked by internal strife, we lose forever the people of Ukraine–they will never forgive the Russians for this treachery. “Come now,” you think. “It can’t be that this is the last straw. Time heals all wounds [Original: перемелется, мука будет].” Do not be so sure, dear Russian chauvinists. At the end of the 19th century the Serbs and Croats considered themselves one people, divided only by a border, religious confessions and a writing system. They strove for unity: many intelligent, valuable books were written by them on the topic. And now few nations can be found that are as embittered against one another as the Serbs and Croats. So much blood has been spilled between them, and all for a few handfuls of land, a few towns and a few valleys, where they could have lived together in wealth and happiness. They could have, but they failed to. Greed for fraternal lands made  brothers into enemies. Doesn’t it always end that way even in daily life? Is it worth it to lose forever the brother nation of Ukraine over an illusory desire? Then even a split within the Russian church will be inevitable. Her Ukrainian half with break with Moscow forever.

But the Kremlin’s success in annexing Ukraine will turn into an even more terrible defeat. If everything occurs without incident, tomorrow in Russia there will be a call for the establishment of new regions for Russian populations in Kazakhstan; it will be seen in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and in northern Kyrgyzstan. Austria was followed by the Sudetenland, the Sudetenland by Memel. After Memel was Poland, after Poland was France, after France–Russia. And it all started so small..

Friends! We must stop and collect ourselves. Our politicians are taking our people on a frightening, terrifying escapade. Historical experience tells us that things cannot simply be circumvented in this way. We must not simply go along as, in their own time, the Germans went along with the promises of Goebbels and Hitler. For the sake of peace in our country, for the sake of its true rebirth, for the sake of peace and true friendship over the former, historical expanse of Russia, now divided into many states, let us say “no” to this insane and, most importantly, completely unnecessary aggression.

We have lost so many lives in the 20th century, that the only true principle to which we hold should be the principle proclaimed by the great Solzhenitsyn–the preservation of the people. The preservation of the people, not the procurement of land. Lands are procured only through blood and tears.

We have no need of more blood, or of more tears!

Translator’s note: I translated the article because I found it so interesting and put it on Facebook with this intro that I wrote:

A controversial article written by a Russian scholar, Andrei Zubov, on the situation in Ukraine. Zubov is the author of the also controversial “History of Russia in the 20th Century”.

Zubov, like Solzhenitsyn, cannot simply be dismissed as categorically anti-Russian or pro-Western. He is a member of the Synodal Biblical Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Commission on the Interrelationship of Church, State, and Society in addition to being a professor at МГИМО. According to his Wikipedia page, “On the order of Patriarch Kirill he was included on the editorial board for writing textbooks and teaching materials for the course ‘Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture’ for high school.”

He also commented on the punishment for Pussy Riot, calling it too lenient.

After publishing this article, according to Zubov, he was told “in no uncertain terms” about his dismissal by the university. “However, the massive outcry engendered in Russia and around the world by these actions forced them to back off.”

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