Skip to comments.Lost in Byzantium (Putin and Russia Want to Return to Imperial Glory)
Posted on 06/01/2008 2:05:56 PM PDT by shrinkermd
MOSCOW -- The Byzantine Empire fell in 1453. But you wouldn't know it in Russia, where Vladimir V. Putin has been behaving as though the 15th century never ended, as though he is the direct descendant of the Byzantine kings and Moscow remains the "Third Rome" it declared itself to be in 1472.
Just like the leaders of Byzantium centuries ago, Putin and his supporters talk about Russia today as if it were a divinely ordained power, destined to withstand the decay and destruction of the West. The "double eagle" emblem, originally adopted in Russia about the time of the Byzantine demise, was brought back after 1991 as a state symbol, once again meant to signify the country's dream of domination over Europe and Asia.
Under Boris Yeltsin, the double eagle got little play, but in the Putin years its significance has come to equal that of the Communist red star. Byzantium and its symbols are discussed on talk shows, their imperial grandeur cited as an example for Russia's own future glory;
The not-so-subtle idea behind all this Byzantium nostalgia is that Russia can (and should) exist only in opposition to the West, which supposedly hated Byzantium in the past just as it hates its spiritual heir, Russia, today.
But all this is fanciful thinking. The old ideas and symbols that Putin has employed to strengthen Russia's self-image no longer correspond to today's global realities, nor do they reflect Russia's present capacities. Yes, the double-headed eagle once signified imperial power. But today it seems more emblematic of the country's split personality, like a desperate attempt to cover up a sense of deep insecurity -- the anxiety of a former superpower torn between the old world and the new one.
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
It’s true that there was a long history of estrangement between Rome and Byzantium, embodied in the split between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.
But it wasn’t Rome that brought down the ancient Byzantine civilization, it was a combination of internal decadence, and Islam.
Historically, Russia was a bulwark of strength against the Mongol and Muslim invasions. But frankly that went off course and came to an end with the Revolution of 1917.
Now, what you have, I think, is little more than an ancient resentment on the part of Russia. American didn’t put Russia down; they undermined and weakened themselves with a 70-year failed experiment in Communism. Reagan and the Pope only finished what the Russians themselves began by overextending and weakening themselves.
Putin is taking a dangerous and deluded path. He is pretty good at enriching and empowering himself and his friends, but he is leading Russia toward suicide. Russia cannot afford to expand and renew the Soviet Union while they are unable even to reproduce themselves. They won’t have enough Russian population to hold onto Russia, let alone regain and hold an empire.
First things first. They need to restore their economy and their society, stabilize their culture, and make their people happy and healthy enough to start having children again. Otherwise, they are finished. And it has nothing to do with us. They are doing it to themselves. Which, I’m afraid, makes them all the more resentful.
FWIW, Nina L. Khrushcheva is the granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev.
...Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope...
There. Fixed it.
I suggest that part of the reason for the fall of Constantinople and the Romanoi was the Hungarian cannon. The inventor of these cannon tried to do business with the government of Constantinopolos, but no, they were not interested. The Turks were very interested.
Turning down good ideas. Is that how we define ‘decadance’ today?
Russia has been minting money since the USSR was disbanded. I think the world would be stunned if knew how much.
It already is a power to be reckoned with, easily a "global power." So why the press release?
You ever hear of the Crusade of 1204 which attacked and ransacked Byzantium? The Franks fatally compromised the shield that had been protecting Europe. Byzantium never recovered and the Turks later swarmed all the way to Vienna. The Russians are painfully aware of Western duplicity.
Most folks don’t realize that the fall of Constantinople started with the sack of Constantinople by Vienna. Then the West just watched with eager anticipation as it teetered into destruction by the Turks.
I’ll see the Sack of Constantinople, and raise you the sale to Mehmet’s army of the canons that breached the walls in 1453 by a Hungarian (Latin) Christian armorer.
The ‘decadence’ charge is part an parcel of the ‘Englightenment’ attempt to disposess Christianity of its Roman heritage, to claim ‘the glories of Rome’ for the re-paganizing impulse of modern rationalism. It goes back to Gibbon.
Not Vienna, Venice.
Yes, that was a factor, although I do not agree with those who theorize that it was the main factor. There was also the earlier war with Persia, which weakened both Byzantium and the Persians and helped open the way to the Turks. And there was the admittedly two-sided cultural war that had gone on for many hundreds of years between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
The popes tried desperately for many years to persuade Venice, France, Naples, Genoa, Spain, and the other powers of the time to come to the rescue of Christendom against the Turkish threat. In vain, because they were all too busy fighting each other, especially the French and the Holy Roman Emperor.
That Crusade which you mention went astray, but the other crusades did not, and would have helped the Byzantines, if they had only been willing to cooperate better with the Christian west.
There is plenty of blame to go around, certainly. If Europe had stood together, the Muslim threat never would have gotten as far as it did.
That was also the name of Khrushchev’s wife. Peasant-like in appearance but so likeable personally that she was said to have served as a brake upon N.S.’s wilder rants against the West. His son became an American citizen years ago.
Wonder where the granddaughter is writing from. She’s right, of course, that Putin wants to be Tsar Vladimir I.
According to Wikipedia, she's a professor of media and culture at the New School in New York. It also says she is Khrushchevs great-granddaughter so I may have been wrong about that.
There is an old German saying: “Russia remains Russia”.
Do not for a minute suppose that Putin’s popularity is for any other reason than he is giving the Russian people what they want.
Historically, Russia vacillates between East and West. The Russian is torn between the culture and civility of the West, and the freedom of the romantic barbarity of the East.
The Gorbachev and Yeltsin years looked westward and reveled in European and American culture until the typical Russian was about ready to throw up. Putin brought back Slavophilism, the rejection of the West and the embrace of everything eastern as good.
Ironically, by doing things this way, by leading the movement, Putin is able to retain some of the better westernizations—not the complete purge of old.
His mission is also that any Russian leader would have—to restore Russian glory and its place in the world. But this goes hand in hand with a somewhat xenophobic outlook. This is why there have never been major roads or railroads from eastern Europe deep into Russia. Russia has been invaded enough times so that they will never fully trust foreigners.
Globalization is a foolish vision, a fantasy of idealists. But do not look to Russia for the naivete of the European bureaucrat.
Russia will remain Russia, because Russia looks out for Russia. America would do well to emulate this self interest instead of embracing warm and fuzzy visions of world government.
The article fails to note the single most important fact motivating Mr Putin. His country is dying.
Everything he does, including pointing to the symbol that his people might rally around, is to reverse the trend, to stop the decline and to promote a little optimism.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus