How many readers know that Vladimir the Great, a 57-foot tall Christian monument, was unveiled in the square outside the Kremlin on 4 Nov 2016?
Vladimir, the 10th century grand prince of the historical Rus people, not Vladimir Putin the president of Russia but nonetheless their legacies will henceforth intertwine.
BELOW: President Putin launching the colossal statue
Putin has chosen to hitch his Vladswagon to his ancient, sainted namesake. Here’s why.
Vladimir Sr – who lived more than a thousand years ago – was made a Christian saint for founding the orthodox church. As explained in the tweet below by the Embassy of Russia, this unifying king – a Slavic Shi Huang Di, so to speak – was responsible for Christianising the realm.
A Putin Project, the 2016 sculpture of St. Vladimir was erected as Russia’s new symbol of national identity.
Not many are aware either that Putin identifies as a Christian or that he is a devout believer.
The USSR lasted only 69 years (1922–1991) as a communist republic. For many centuries before that, Tsarist Russia was Christian.
Atheism was forced on Soviet Russia by the communists but for more than a millennia before, the land had been staunchly Christian.
BELOW: Vlad the Great – Putin’s alter ego – plants his Christian stake firmly on Russian ground
Why Putin covets Kiev
Vladimir the Great had been the grand prince of Kievan Rus, as that vast historical Slavic state had once been called.
Kiev in Ukraine is the birthplace of Russian orthodox Christianity. Kiev is also seen as the potential nerve centre of the coming global Christian revival.
Christendom 1.0 was the Holy Roman Empire. It was the seat of Western or Latin Christianity. This empire has since crumbled.
Christendom 2.0 was the Byzantine empire (Byzantium) centred around Constantinople. Constantinople was dubbed the Second Rome and was the seat of Eastern Christianity. This inheritor Christian empire too has collapsed.
Will Christendom 3.0 be an international revival network centred around Kiev under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate?
BELOW: Putin with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Some heads of Eastern Orthodox Churches are known as Patriarchs, others as Archbishops
BACKGROUNDER: Constantinople‘s most consequential church
The city of Constantinople is today called Istanbul and under Turkish rule. Its Christian landmark is the Hagia Sophia.
The Patriarch of Constantinople is the nominal head of all the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine cathedral which continued to serve as the symbolic center of the Greek Orthodox faith even after its fall to the Ottomans in 1453 CE.
Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 10 July 2020 signed a decree reverting Hagia Sophia to a working mosque.
Although its Muslim conquerers had turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque, nonetheless modern Turkey’s secular reformer Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934 transformed Hagia Sophia into a museum.
The recent reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque by Erdogan became a chess piece in the Battle of the Two Churches (see tweet below) between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
For more details on the schism, read ‘Russia’s Christian peacekeeping mission to save Ukraine’ — click HERE.
The latest alarming news about the ever escalating Ukraine conflict is that Putin has put his country’s nuclear deterrent forces “on high alert”.
Secular critics of the Russian president claim that his behaviour is illogical.
People who accuse Putin of irrationality have not considered the religious mindset that is full of Christian zeal.
BELOW: When it comes to Russian Orthodoxy, Kiev is essentially ‘Jerusalem’ or the Third Rome
Why they want Kiev as the Third Rome
An illuminating article touching on the Christian angle to the unfolding Russia-Ukraine war was published three days ago by the Religion News Service (RNS).
Its Feb 25 article by Diana Butler Bass is titled ‘Next year in Kyiv?’
(Kyiv is a variant spelling of Kiev.)
The RNS article explains the connect between Vladimir the Christian saint and Vladimir the Russia president, and their connect with Kiev.
Butler Bass writes:
“More than a thousand years ago, in the 980s, the pagan Prince Vladimir of Kyiv consolidated the Rus people of modern-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine into a single realm. When his emissaries reported back to him on the glories of Christian Constantinople, Vladimir converted to their religion, brought his people into the Byzantine church through a mass baptism and married a Christian imperial princess. Under his rule, Kyiv became a prosperous and peaceful city at the heart of a new Christian empire, complete with churches, courts, monasteries and schools, as well as civic programs to care for the poor. Known as Vladimir the Great, he was eventually canonized as St. Vladimir and his memory is celebrated by Eastern Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Anglicans and some Lutherans.”
“In the 1200s, however, Kyiv suffered a number of assaults from rival Rus princes and Mongol invaders. Many Rus people moved north and east to the newer cities of Vladimir and Moscow where, under the czars, the Russian church eventually grew to be one of the richest, most powerful churches in the Orthodox world. With the shift, an Orthodox tradition founded under the auspices of Constantinople became a church under the authority of a patriarch in Moscow.”
BELOW: Putin is an avowed Christian who wears his baptismal cross
EXPLAINER: What’s the meaning behind the RNS article title ‘Next year in Kyiv?’
It chimes with the very important saying “next year in Jerusalem“.
Before Israel’s founding in 1948, the Jews were a diaspora who longed for the safety of having their own homeland.
Jews focused their longing on Jerusalem which they regarded as their holy city to which they will one day return.
Adherents of Judaism traditionally end Seder with uttering the phrase “next year in Jerusalem“. (Seder is a religious meal to commence the Passover celebration.)
“Next year in Jerusalem“ therefore signified the hope of Jewish people to make a long-desired wish come true.
Some observers see Kiev as the metaphorical new Jerusalem or ‘Third Rome’ in Putin’s calculations.
Putin is a man with “a historical map in his mind and a plan to use his military to achieve it” — Dmitry Muratov, editor of Novaya Gazeta (quote via The Guardian)
ABOVE: Iraq? Is the tweet referencing President Bush’s Christian “crusade” attack on the country?
It is a mistake to think of Christianity as a North Pole religion full of Santa, snow, sleighs and twinkling Christmas trees. Non-European great churches had resided in Alexandria, Antioch, Edessa, Tripoli and Jerusalem which are all locations in Asia and Africa.
Listed below is the hierarchy of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (source: BBC)
15 ‘autocephalous’ churches in their order of precedence:
- Church of Constantinople (ancient)
- Church of Alexandria (ancient)
- Church of Antioch (ancient)
- Church of Jerusalem (ancient)
- Church of Russia (established in 1589)
- Church of Serbia (1219)
- Church of Romania (1925)
- Church of Bulgaria (927)
- Church of Georgia (466)
- Church of Cyprus (434)
- Church of Greece (1850)
- Church of Poland (1924)
- Church of Albania (1937)
- Church of Czech and Slovak lands (1951)
- The Orthodox Church in America (1970)
Note: Churches 1-9 are led by Patriarchs, while the others are led by Archbishops or Metropolitans