The 100th Anniversary of the miraculous and prophetic Fatima is upon us. Of all the articles Ianto Watt has written for us, this is the best. It is not short. It is not easy. It is not to be missed. You must stick with it. You will be rewarded. The Anniversary itself is next Friday. I will largely be giving the blog over to others until next Saturday, the 14th, the day after the Anniversary. Meanwhile, feel free to search for miracles. –Briggs
One hundred years ago the world fell apart. Three cosmic events occurred that would overshadow this entire past century. All of it. Three events that would shape this past century, and the one to come. Two by commission, one by omission. And what were these three game-changing events? Well, almost anyone can guess the last one, chronologically. But of course, they are wrong. It was actually first. The Russian Revolution. We all think of it as occurring on November 7th. Or October 25th, for all those still on the Old Calendar, Komrade. Red October, right?
Actually, no. The end of Tsarist Russia occurred on March 12th, 1917, when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and power passed to The People. The people, as represented in the Russian Provisional Government, the momentary body of the Revolution. The revolution led by Alexander Kerensky, who would proclaim the equally momentary Russian Republic on Sept. 14th. And which would fall on November 7th as the Bolsheviks shoved the Mensheviks under the ice and proclaimed the ‘everlasting’ Russian Soviet Republic. Under Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin), that happy fellow. And together, with his close ‘friends’ Lev Bronstein (Trotsky) and Josef Dzhugashvili (Stalin), those three amigos would bring us the Worker’s Paradise. Or something like it. And they tried, honest they did.
We all know about that one in 1917, don’t we? Who can say that they are ignorant of at least one historical version of this nightmare? Well, OK, Bernie Sanders. And Hillary. But the rest of us have no excuse. Assuming we even think about it. So here we are today, wondering if Mssr. Putin is the new False Dmitry I, the last of the Rurikids, or if he is the new Tsar Mikhail, the first of the Romanov’s who emerged from the Time of Troubles after the hated Boris Godunov died.
The Time of Troubles? It’s time you knew about this period of the Russian past, Komrade, if you want to understand what is coming. And you need to read it free of both Soviet and Anglish spin. Read Chester S. L. Dunning’s Russia’s First Civil War if you want to understand where we stand today. If you want to understand the People of Russia, who in their thrall to autocratic Byzantium and her Hesychastic heresy, will stand by their leader to the last man. Literally. And when you’re finished, ask yourself, is Putin the old Rurikid, or the new Romanov?
More importantly, is Patriarch Kyrill today the same as Patriarch Filaret? No, I’m not saying he is the father of Putin. But I am saying he has the same power. Vlad Putin is not the only power-broker in Moscow. And perhaps not the most powerful. But you need to understand why. We’ll get to that.
Let’s start by understanding that from her very beginning, the wounds of Russia have been mostly self-inflicted. Yes, I know. I have expressed many times my sympathy for her and the grievous sufferings she has endured. But endurance has nothing to do with whether or not you deserved something. The key lesson here is that throughout her history, the Russian people have mutely endured the punishment of her leader’s stupid choices. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be?
What was her beginning, as a state? Yes, she was originally part of that vast stretch of Slavic peoples that stretched from Poland to the Urals. But the Russians of today were simply a numerous scattering of independently ruled Slavic tribes back then. In the eastern half of those Slavic lands. The half nearest the mystic savagery of the East. These Eastern Slavs were not Eastern themselves, and thus they were actually individualistic beings, in a fashion. Before the coming of Gregory of Palamas and his hesychasm, that is.
Yet these ancient Slavs could not rule themselves, because of their stupidity. Which is another name for individualistic pride. That’s a Western trait too, by the way. Anyway, as a people, they were given over to the idea of Agnatic seniority, accompanied by the practice of appanage, versus the Western concept of royal rule, known as primogeniture. In the West, there was a king, and his eldest son succeeded him. And his eldest succeeded him and so on. No, it didn’t always work out, and sometimes the line of descent would have to shift to another son, or even a daughter. Or an in-law. Or an Outlaw. But the basic idea was clear-cut. Ruling by vertical descent.
But in the eastern Slavic world, when the King died, his next-oldest brother became King. In other words, horizontal descent. Zigzag, actually. Here is where it gets crazier. The sons of the previous King were still Princes. And now, so were the sons of the new King. Do you see the looming problem? No? Well, then wait a few years, until the new King dies, and his next-oldest brother is proclaimed King. And his sons become Princes too. And so on. And then, just to make it even crazier, let’s assume (as history has so often done) that the first King only had so many sons, and sooner or later that band of brothers ran out. Then you have the prospect of the oldest Prince of the first King claiming the throne upon the death of his youngest uncle-King. And then his next-oldest brother could claim the throne upon his death. And so on, again.
Do you see that this has created two gigantic problems? First, that there is an incredible increase in the nobility as time passes and Princes proliferate. Secondly, that there is a great incentive to kill your older brother. And for him to kill you. Now, some of us didn’t need this Princely enticement to make such a wish, but that’s another story. Further, if there is only so much royal land to be inherited, the amount of land passed to each member of each succeeding generation then shrinks (assuming that each King has more than one son). There you have it: the lust for power and diminishing returns make it impossible to coalesce a people around a royal house. Why? Because it’s a case of too many houses. Each house is divided against itself. Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians. So, there can be no peace. Let alone any rule.
This fact is best illustrated in a story related in the Primary Russian Chronicle, written (in its first form) by the Monk Nestor, sometime around 1100 AD. This is a fascinating book, for many reasons. But the story that interests me here is an entry (I can’t remember which one) about a battle in the early years of the Eastern Slavic lands. As I recall it, the point of the story was that there was a battle, and while I can’t remember who they were fighting (Pechenegs? Finns? Swedes? Mongols? Each other?), the gist of it was this: that of the several thousand casualties in this battle, something like 500 or more of the dead were Princes! Now do you see what I’m talking about? Every other guy was a Prince! And half of them died.
This type of thing is exactly what lead Russia to her first self-inflicted wound. The stiff neck of pride. How did it happen? Well, some of the half-sane survivors of these kinds of battles decided that there had to be a better way. And since no royal house would yield to their cousins (and their royal houses) because of this rampant royal pride, there was only one possible solution that they could imagine—an outsider must rule. So the decision was made, amongst the clans surrounding the city of Novgorod, that they would invite in the Swedish Viking tribe known as The Varangians. Specifically, a man named Rurik, and his three brothers. It was they who would found the house of Rus, around 840 AD. (Note: I tend to accept the timelines of Alexander Vasilyev the greatest Byzantine and Slavic historian.)
While Rurik and his clan may have practiced agnatic appanage in their own determination of royal lineage, that didn’t influence the vast number of their Slavic subjects, Princes or not, who would never again rule their own house. Thus began the tale of woe known as Russia. For in her petty pride, she had chosen another pagan pantheon instead of turning towards the still-unified Christian West. This was the first of her self-inflicted wounds which would define her character from that time onward, till today. Everyone would still be a prince, but they would all be poor. But still, Komrade, we are all princes, Da?
Her reward for this masochistic act of spiritual bondage was that she would finally become a stable state. Savage, yes, but stable. Subservient, yes, but stable. And best of all, no Slavic Prince would have any more power than his cousin. Ah, the stability of equalized pride. And this stability would serve her until the Time of Troubles. And until today, in her new Time of Troubles.
So Rurik ruled Novgorod, and his son Igor came to be. When Rurik died, he left his kinsman Oleg as regent for his young son. Rurik, before his death, had expanded the reach of his Rurikid rule in Novgorod by sending his lieutenants Askold and Dir to capture the city of Kiev, to the south. Which they did, thus expanding the Rurikid realm to include both Novgorod and Kiev. N and K, as I say. I’ll tell you why later. But first, the next wound.
Now, when Askold and Dir failed to capture Constantinople in 860 AD, Oleg the regent made them pay for their failure and seized Kiev for himself. But in any event, once Prince Igor was of age, Oleg turned the kingdom over to him, and Igor married Olga. Saint Olga. What a gal. Why was she sainted? Well, you’ll have to read the Primary Chronicle. It’s an amazing story, the short version of which is this. The Drevlians, a bad bunch of other Slavs, had killed her husband Igor, ruler of Novgorod (and now, Kiev). And so Olga paid them back, threefold. The Drevlians, thinking they had her cornered, proposed marriage between her house and theirs, hoping to gain N and K, as I say. Courtship was a little different back then. Much more logical. Straight-forward, no dancing around.
But Olga was too crafty. She slew the first 20 ambassadors (buried them alive, in their own boat), while sending a message back to the other unsuspecting Drevlians that she wanted to meet their best men before accepting. They sent almost their entire top nobility, whom she roasted alive in the giant sauna she prepared for them (‘to relax in’, after their long journey). Finally, she came to the Drevlian stronghold, which was leaderless by now, and besieged it. She then requested three doves or sparrows from each household as a peace offering, in order to quench her anger at them for killing her husband Igor. The people gladly responded. She then had her men attach a small bit of smoldering sulphur by a thread to each bird’s leg, and released them to fly home to the thatched roofs of the Drevilian stronghold, all of which, of course, then burned to the ground, simultaneously. Scratch that batch.
Yes, Viking women are best. I know, I married one. My daughters (Hildegard, Brunhilde and Svetlana) can punch your lights out. They’re sweet girls, really. But they know what to do when the time comes. Even my son Thor is afraid of them. Smart man. Anyway, Olga had successfully preserved her royal house, and the throne would pass to her son, Svyatoslav. This isn’t the reason Olga was sainted, and became rightly known as the godmother of Russia. At least, not by me. I would have assented to this honor just on her handling of the Drevlians alone. Olga was greater than that. For she was the first ruler of Russia to convert to Christianity. Around 957 AD.
Here is the crux of the matter. For the Byzantine Roman Emperor Constantine VII had supposedly proposed marriage to her as well (although Olga was already an old woman by then). She demurred, but was baptized, in Constantinople, and this was all recorded in Constantine’s book De Ceremoniis. That was not the end of the story. No, it turns out that Olga (now known as Yelena, or Helena) then visited the Holy (Latin) Roman Emperor, Otto I, in 959 or so. She requested a bishop be sent to her and her people, and Otto assented. In brief, Olga was a Western Christian.
Now here is where the train goes off the tracks, again, for Russia. Remember, this time period, beginning with Askold and Dir’s attack on Constantinople in 860, occurred exactly at the time of the schismatic scheming of Photius, the renegade Patriarch of Constantinople. That this scheming had produced, by the time of Olga, the ever-widening ecclesial competition between Constantinople and Rome that had actually already split the Church. Yes, sure, the actual formal schism was set in concrete in 1054 AD, but Photius had mixed the slurry in 860. I’ve told you all this before.
By this time, Olga’s Ministers and Metropolitans were all in thrall to the opulence and power of Imperial Byzantium, and so they had rejected the authority of lowly but Holy Rome. So while Olga had refused the Orthodox embrace of Constantine VII, her nobility and Church leaders had gladly succumbed to the Photian slander that Otto I was already a heretic, as was all of the Latin world. Thus, they would not follow Olga. So the Russian Church was wedded to Eastern Orthodoxy, as it rejected Universal orthodoxy. Thus we have the second wound of Russia. The wound of spiritual blindness. She could not see that Byzantium was rooted in pride, and not humility. And what empire isn’t?
Olga, meanwhile, was left to try and convert her pagan son, Svyatoslav, but he was resistant unto the end. His end, that is. For Olga had charge of his son, Vladimir. Vladimir the Great. He who would convert not only himself, but his Slavic people, to Christianity. A man moved by the martyrdom of Fyodor and his son Ioann. A man moved to reject the pagan god Perun and all his ilk. But Vladimir too would succumb to the East. Because that’s what each of these wounds is all about. Russia would always, in her times of greatest distress, turn to the East, and reject the West.
Next up: 987.