25 July 2008

Constantinople or Moscow?

Almost 1020 years ago a story (though amusingly described in the annals) has changed the course of history for the region known today as Ukraine and Russia. Of course it is not the invention of Vodka but the Christianisation of Slavs.

Vladimir, the ruler of Kievan Rus (a medieval slavic state) sent emissaries to the neighboring states to search and examine the monotheistic religions. His emissaries came from the Muslim dominated lands of Volga with news that the Muslims don't drink and refrain from pork, which must have deeply depressed Vladimir since "Drinking was a way of life" then (as now). The ones that met Jews also thought that their God has left them for good since Jerusalem was conquered by Muslims then. In contrast, the emissaries rerturning from Constantinople, the grand capital of Byzantine Empire, was awestruck by the level of civilization and, most of all, the Hagia Sophia in which they simply lost their sense of reality (think of some pagans foresters from the semi-frozen lands of the North coming to Constantinople - the New York of Middle Ages- and visiting Hagia Sophia - the Empire State-).

Boring Information: It is also rumored that the Byzantine Empire, surrounded by hordes of barbarian tribes, was at risk of an invasion and asked Slavs to relieve them. Vladimir, sensing that an alliance with the Byzantines would increase his status to the tribal chieftain to the court of the emperors agreed to send some troops and then accepted the religion of his new super ally. The slavs were then joined the faith oh their rulers on knifepoint...until 1917s when the rulers butchered the same nation to leave this same faith.

The Baptism of Vladimir

Eventually, Vladimir was baptised and so did the Kievans with a rush to the Dnepr river roughly 1020 years ago. (It is just for public safety and well being that they don't recreate this historic event now by bathing in Dnepr which would cause a lot of casualties.)

Mass baptism in Dnepr...the river still carries their sins

The interesting fact is that this year Bartholomew of Constantinople (Patrik Bartolomeos as we know him around here in Istanbul) was invited by the Church of Ukraine as a guest of honor. As the head of Greek Orthodox Church and a self-proclaimed ecumenical patriarch (meaning that the Pope of all orthodox christians and critically severing the Turkish-Greek orthodox status quo in a way that Turkey does not want to host an independent Patriarch State ,like Vatican, in its borders) his visit was a hot topic for some time, since The Church of Moscow, the big brother of all slavic (and soon all othodox) churches, was expecting to be treated as the sole holy VIP guest of the festivities. Although Bartholomew claimed that he will be definitely visiting in his web site, there is a big (needlessly say, pro-Russian) protest against it. Many Russians think that it is a counterstrike by Ukrainian politics and this time a real hit in the soft belly by using the religion as the battleground.

Contrasting Ukraine: "Ukraine greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew" and don't forget to buy the next edition of XXL magazine for more nudity

Rumors say that Putin even sent some high ranking politicians to R.T.Erdogan,the prime minister of Turkey, to put some pressure on Patriarchate to cancel the visit and not to increase the tensions focused around the festivities.

Update: It seems that the pressure hasn't worked. Bartholomew is in Kiev. (Link)

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