There are more than raving warriors, self-centred schismatic religious leaders, mobs of diversanty, or saboteurs launching explosive drones. There are many men and women, families and children, believers and non-believers who do not care about the borders of nations and peoples, but simply want to live in peace in their own land, with their own faith.
Prigožin has left Bakhmut, reduced to a pile of rubble, giving rapid-fire interviews that look more like an acknowledgement of defeat than a proclamation of victory. If Ukraine has a clear future as a member of the Western and European communities, if Central Asia now discusses all its affairs with the great power of Beijing, Moscow must try not to resign itself to its own insignificance.
In order to prop up the spirit of Orthodox patriotism, Putin decided to return the famous icon to Kirill’s Church. It matters little if exposure in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity might turn it into dust. Using an icon to justify the sanctity of absolute power is by no means something new.
When anything can be considered a threat, it is no longer important how real this risk or effective the containment measures, the only thing that matters is to give the impression that "everything is under control".
Drones over the Kremlin may have pre-empted fireworks set to light up the sky in Moscow and a few other cities. The 9 May parade will likely be cancelled almost everywhere because of possible incidents. Yet, rather than his internal and external enemies, Putin should fear his supporters, who are increasingly active and brazen, starting with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the “cook”.
Agreements for a base on the Red Sea, arms supplies to both contenders, Wagner Company business: in the war in Sudan, Moscow consolidates its penetration in the continent. Which also has the face of Metropolitan Leonid, the "cook of Kirill".
With his blonde dreadlocks and a rocker’s leather jacket, Shaman sports the extreme, futuristic face of the Russian identity, moving away from the West by aping it in every detail, but in an "I am Russian" version. The videoclip with the new anthem that has taken Moscow by storm alternates frenzied fans and wheat fields.
As was the case in the 1990s, food becomes the dimension of identity lost and identity to be found. Average salaries drop and then the only food remains the "spirituality" of traditional moral values, relying on the miracles invoked by metropolitans and patriarchs, but entrusted to the hands of cooks left without ingredients.
As war looms over Latin Easter and Orthodox Holy Week, the philosophers of the "rebirth of the Russian idea", like Florensky, Berdyaev and Bulgakov, come to mind; they contrasted the authenticity of the Church, which announces Christian redemption, to the false ideological truth of the intelligentsia.
In Kiev while Onufryj - leader of the Orthodox jurisdiction still linked to the Moscow Patriarchate - is calling on the Ukrainian government to stop the eviction, antagonist Epifanyj has already appointed a new superior of the Monastery of the Caves. The long history of the forge of the many souls of Russian Christianity developed in the mid-11th century through the enlightened leadership of the son of the first Prince Vladimir, Jaroslav "the Wise."
We are incapable of learning from history, otherwise there would be wars. But while one wonders how to finally succeed in bringing the fires to an end, one can still find inspiration in a distant date, when in 1686 the war between the reign of the Czar of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom of Reczpospolita was ended.
For years he denied being the founder and commander of the "Wagner Company," which he now glorifies as the "best army in the world." His biography - from prison to catering to today's railings against the rest of the Kremlin elite - is a synthesis of late and post-Soviet history.
In an incautious shift, Soviet women, once the vanguard of world feminism, have morphed into today’s “heroic mothers”, worthy of prizes awarded by Putin in the Kremlin. However, the myth of the mother has become a casualty of the war, that of the Russian woman who takes care of the whole family and all the people, taking on the burden of suffering and humiliation, like Solzhenitsyn's Matryona, soul of the entire village of the persecuted.
Everyone desires an end to war, but it cannot just be a question of surrender or compromise, identity and dominance on the battlefield. It is an inner war, being fought in churches and consciences, in universities and schools, on the streets and in the homes of every country east and west.
A bombastic language and lack of content have produced a soporific and deadly effect on ordinary Russians, prey to despair amid fears of another military call-up. Online, a surreal diatribe about gorgonzola describes, better than any other example, Russians’ desire “not get involved", to turn away from feelings of guilt and shake off the rhetoric of "traditional values".
The ecclesiastical dimension appears increasingly secondary in the exaltation of the "Russian World," pointing to the people and the empire more than liturgies and bishop's miters. Everywhere imprinted on flags, T-shirts and digital memes is the slogan "We are Russians, God is with us!" Tsar Nicholas I's battle cry in the mid-19th century Crimean War.
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has stirred up two ghosts, awaken two unfinished identities, whose actual legacy in people's lives will long be difficult to define.
Debating whether Russia wants to wage war on NATO, or the allies that want to destroy Russia, does little to alter the actual situation, in which both contenders are focused solely on the strategies and goals to be achieved.
If dialogue between the Churches was a way out of the tensions of the world wars of the 20th century, today’s new conflicts show that the efforts of that great work could not eliminate the reasons for divisions, which very often closely linked to historical-political events rather than spiritual issues, as was the case in the most ancient schisms.
On the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, just past according to the Orthodox calendar, the Russian rite of immersion in the water of the kupel, through an opening in the frozen ice in the form of the Cross: if one survives the triple immersion in the water of icy death, then one can truly hope for new life.
The great tune of Putin's propaganda, expressed in an increasingly radical and apocalyptic terms, echoes the latest statements by Iranian ayatollahs against charges of oppression of women and people: “We have our culture and our values, and no one can impose another way of life on us.”
Since the 1990s, the future patriarch of Moscow looked to Ratzinger as a reference point for a possible Orthodox-Catholic alliance. However, history has shown how baseless these dreams were. The meek and profound pope has long prepared us to face the true Apocalypse, and his prophecy is even more valid today than yesterday.
In the thirty-year post-Soviet period, Christmas had split into two, accepting 25 December of the Gregorian calendar, without conflict with 7 January of the Julian calendar of the Orthodox Church. With the war, Christians return to quarelling over the dates of the liturgical calendar, evoking how the first schism in the 2nd century was overcome thanks to Irenaeus, a saint from Asia who went to preach in Gaul, inaugurating the meeting of souls and the great currents of Christian spirituality.
The war in Ukraine shows how propaganda is back with a vengeance, the latest incarnation of a something that goes from Mayakovski’s poems to today's influencers. It reflects a dilemma best embodied by Dostoevsky when he wrote: “Even if someone were to prove to me that the truth lay outside Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.”
Composed of life time expatriots and recent fugitives, the Russian diaspora presents a variegated and fractured picture, even if it is rich in leading figures from the world of culture, politics and economics. Moreover, division is a classic characteristic not only of Russian politics abroad, but also of its religiosity and church structures, as revealed by the Russian-Ukrainian war.
When he refers to the cruelty associated with the aggression against Ukraine raising questions about some ethnic minorities, the pope uses with great precision the keys to interpreting aspects of the Russian world, namely Russia, the Russian state, and non-Russian ethnic groups, three different parts of a single and complex reality.
Whether they unconditionally support militant patriotism, are only hoping for the end of the nightmare, or timidly trying to oppose it by risking imprisonment in a lager and expulsion from all form of social life, all Russians look to the future with a sense of bewilderment and uncertainty, anger and guilt, frustration and the horror of emptiness.
Ukrainians must not seek “revenge against the Russians”, but rather the triumph of a democratic society, inspiring not the imposition of their own system, but opt for a real interaction between civilisations, something that is in short supply at present.
After the withdrawal from Kherson, the war on the ground would appear an entrenched standoff between the two banks of the Dnepr, returning to a condition similar to that experienced in 1480 in the so-called 'Confrontation on the Ugra'. At that time, the two forces of East and West chose not to continue the fight, instigating a period of revival in Russia to the point of its dream of becoming the 'third Rome'.
As they celebrate the ominous 17th century on 4 November, Russians find reasons to continue their great defensive war, now effectively mired in the late autumn mud of the annexed territories. Instead of selecting events from a past of imperial glory, it would be better not to suppress another symbolically charged date, 30 October, the day dedicated to the memory of Soviet dissidents, now wiped away by government order.