Natasha vs Matilda — New Russian Culture War – Part I

Dear Readers:

The real Matilda

In Russia the Culture War has resumed in earnest, this time over a film, which very few people have seen yet.  The film, of course, is “Matilda“, by director Alexei Efimovich Uchitel.  To add even more piquancy to the ensuing political and cultural/religious war, Uchitel is Jewish – gasp!  If this were an ALT-Rightie blog, then I would have had to encase his name with a series of parentheses (((()))) just so!

Uchitel’s historical biopic is scheduled for mass release in October.  The film stars Polish actress Michalina Olszańska in the title role of ballerina Matilda Kschessinska; along with German actor Lars Eidinger as Tsar Nicholas II, who was a great fan of classical ballet.  Me, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, but I’ll probably wait till it comes out on DVD.  I hope it includes a lot of ballet sequences, because I like ballet too.

Russian People: Meet your new unelected Ruler!

Anyhow, the film ignited a huge controversy and culture war in Russia.  Now even the Chechens have gotten involved, with Ramzan Kadyrov calling for the film to be banned in his region.  And by the way, what’s up with Muslims and movies?  Are they even allowed to watch any movies?  Given that the Muslim religion forbids the portrayals of human beings in any art form.  At least, from what I heard.

Here is the “Matilda” backstory, in brief: Natalia Poklonskaya –hero of Crimean Reunification, Russian Duma Deputy and all-round cutie-pie, had launched a campaign to ban the film before it even came out.  Poklonskaya is an ardent Monarchist — that’s not name-calling, it is actually her political ideology:  She worships (literally) Saint Tsar Nicholas II in particular, even over all the other Romanovs, including my personal favorite, Peter the Great.  Natasha hates the Bolsheviks for mudering her hero, and she works tirelessly to restore the Romanovs to the throne of Russia.  Who knows?  in this crazy world it could happen, maybe, after President Putin retires.

Natasha venerates the Tears of the Martyr

But who would be the new Tsar?  Despite the best efforts of the Russian Revolutionaries, during those heady days of 1918, when they attempted to exterminate the entire nest, it seems a few stray Romanovs did survive, and I’m not talking about Disney’s Anastasia, along with her singing mice.  No, there are actual contenders for this Game of Thrones.  Including some guy who calls himself “His Grand Duke George Mikhailovich“.  Georgy is noted for his slicked-back hair-do, his pudgy build, and he even comes complete with his own Queen-Mom, reputed to be a ghastly brick, with a personality reminiscent of Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Agatha.  This family plots incessantly to return to the Russian throne, and they even got some traction when Russian ex-President Yeltsin took the young “Tsarevich” under his wing.

Tsar Boris the Drunk is dead, may his Liver rest in peace, but nowadays Georgy and his Dowager Mom enjoy the fanatic support of Prosecutie Poklonskaya.  Natasha loves the Romanovs so much, even fake Romanovs, that she believes the statue of Tsar Nicholas weeps oily tears of sadness for his martyred nation:  “Ah, if only my soldiers had fought harder at Baranovichi…”

And Speaking of Martyrdom…

All of this would just be sheer funny if it were not the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church got involved in what should have been a purely political conflict — Communists vs Monarchists.  As always taking the side of the Rich And Powerful, the Church came out soundly on the side of the Monarchists.  They canonized the Tsar and his entire family, first in 1981 (by the Church in exile), and then again in 2000 (by the Church, now back in power under Putin).  By canonizing these Moochers (i.e., making them Saints), the Church did a really sneaky thing.  They made it very difficult for Socialists and Believers to co-exist in the same political space.

And they also provided ammunition to those who attempt to ban any criticism of Nicholas II; and to ban the works of those artists, like Uchitel, who seek to portray the Tsar as anything other than a Holy Saint with a halo over his head.  Never mind that Nicky deserves no Hagiographer.  Nicky was nothing like Saint King Wenceslas, who totally deserved Sainthood:  Wenceslas struggled through a raging blizzard to deliver Christmas dinner to a beggar.  Nickie never did anything like that.  He was just an ordinary guy who liked ballet and kept mistresses.  He was an incompetent ruler who dragged Russia into a war she could not win.  Why, then, must we kiss his oily tears and genuflect to his distant greasy-haired descendants…?

Russian Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky

The recent fracas began this past Tuesday, when the movie theaters in Simferopol (Crimea) received threatening letters from their local Prosecutor, Alexander Shkitov.  Shkitov, who was responding to a complaint by Natalia Poklonskaya,  warned the managers of Simferpol movie theaters very sternly not to show trailers for Matilda.  The film, he said, contains explosive content and extremist ideas; while also grossly insulting the feelings of Orthodox believers.

One of the movie theaters (Kino Shevchenko) forwarded Shkitov’s letter to Konstanin Dobrynin, attorney to Film Director Alexei Uchitel.  Dobrynin/Uchitel raised a stink about this and complained up the chain of command.  Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky has subsequently called this whole affair a “circus”.  On Medinsky’s instructions, the higher-ranking Prosecutor of Crimea announced that he was investigating Shkitov, maybe the latter overstepped his authority.  Medinsky snapped that Russia has more than enough domestic issues to focus on, without obsessing about some movie trailer.

[to be continued]

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17 Responses to Natasha vs Matilda — New Russian Culture War – Part I

  1. Ryan Ward says:

    An important point about the canonization of Nicholas II and his family, it’s often misunderstood both by those in favour and those opposed. The “category” of sainthood that Nicholas II is recognized for is strastoterptsy (generally translated into English as “passion-bearer”, although that’s a little clunky). It doesn’t imply a judgment about the saint’s life either way, only about the saint’s death. In the case of Nicholas II, a church commission in 1992 stated flatly, “Summing up the study of the State and Church activity of the last Russian Emperor, the Commission has not found enough reason for the canonization for this activity alone.” The canonization was not because Nicholas was a saintly ruler, but because he died in a saintly way. There’s a very short explanation of the concept and a few more examples here https://orthodoxwiki.org/Passion-bearer (Of course, the most famous examples are Boris and Gleb). So opponents of this film are being a little dishonest when they claim that it’s “slandering a saint of the church”, since it deals with a period of Nicholas’ life that’s never been recognized as being particularly saintly. Of course, for political monarchists, they’re still unlikely to be happy with that, but they shouldn’t misrepresent their political objections as religious ones.

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    • yalensis says:

      That’s a very good point, Ryan, thanks for the clarification.
      Of course, by the same token, I suppose King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette could also be “passion-bearers” in the Catholic Church, since they were guillotined.

      Also, is my surmise correct that King Wenceslas is of a different order of magnitude, because he was actually a kindly person? And, as far as I know, he didn’t die a horrible death.

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      • Ryan Ward says:

        I would say there’s a relevant difference between Sts. Wenceslas and Nicholas II, since Wenceslas is venerated for his whole life, not just the end of it. On the other hand, though, he also had a less-than-pleasant death, since he was murdered by his brother, with the help of three others.

        On the topic of Louix XVI and Marie Antoinette, the case could be made, but I think it would be weak. The idea of a “strastoterpets” is that there is a distinct Christian quality to the way the person behaves immediately before their death, and the way they meet the death itself. In the case of Nicholas II, he seems to have genuinely changed around the time that he abdicated as Tsar, whereas I don’t think there’s much evidence that the same applies to Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette. Also, both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches place significant weight on phenomena like healings and so forth in making decisions regarding canonization. There have been many such reports about Nicholas II, but none that I’m aware of about Louis XVI (at least none that the RC church has credited/taken seriously)

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        • yalensis says:

          Very interesting. I didn’t know that King Wenceslas had been murdered, that’s sad. He seemed like a good egg. Struggling his way through that blizzard to deliver the Figgy Pudding to a poor man was no cake walk.

          Meanwhile, I would be highly dubious if Tsar Nicholas or his relics healed anybody.
          Yeah, I do think Nicky went through a change though, towards the end. He was man enough to realize that he had f***ked up, and he abdicated the throne!

          As for Louis XVI, he well deserves canonization. Louis loved his people very much, as shown in this historical video:

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  2. Pavlo Svolochenko says:

    If they had kept their damned mouths shut the movie would come and gone and been forgotten about within a month.

    At least this isn’t quite as silly and self-defeating as raising monuments to White generals, or lobbying for the rehabilitation of Vlasov.

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    • yalensis says:

      True. These ideologues just don’t know when to shut up.
      I mean, that would be like, if you and I were running around foaming at the mouth and trying to shut down propaganda movies like “Bitter Harvest” or “Five Day of War”.

      It’s better to just roll back on the recliner and go “Whatevs…”

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  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    “And by the way, what’s up with Muslims and movies? ”

    It’s complicated and would require a commentary from some very learned imam (who graduated from at least 2 madrasas, mashallah!)

    I, Niqud ad-Din al-Lytteni, on behalf of our radically moderate group “Cranberry Jihad”, have the following statement to make.

    Bismillāhi rraḥmāni rraḥīmi!

    The Chechens (and most people of Dagestan) follow the sufi branch of Islam – which is considered to be heretical by many other Muslims. Why they are so zealous in banning kaffir movie painting in the negative light the emperor of taghuts – only the Almighty knows that! At the same moment neither Ramzan Akhmadovitch, nor anyone in Dagestan moved a finger to ban the screening in Russia of the most recent Iranian (!) movie about life the prophet Muhammad (!!) where most of the events are presented through Shia positions (!!!).

    We say this and for this is true – they are committing haram and present themselves as murtads (astagfir allāh) before other faithful.

    The fact that they found themselves in the company of the so-called “Russian Orthodox Monarchists”, who were “offended” by the portrayal of the passion-bearing (rus. “страстотерпца”) low-rung saint Nicolai Romanov, BUT were not offended by the early 2017 movie “The Viking” about the equal to apostles (rus. “равноопостольного”) super-saint prince and baptizer of all Rus Vladimir “The Bright Sun” Yaroslavich – this is understandable. They are worth of each other.

    “Despite the best efforts of the Russian Revolutionaries, during those heady days of 1918, when they attempted to exterminate the entire nest”

    That would imply that there indeed existed a centrally planned and approved initiative to do just that. Which is simply not true. E.g. – the “Crimean Romanovs”.

    “As always taking the side of the Rich And Powerful”

    It was not always the case, though. One of the highly venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition Church Fathers Johannes Chrysostom comes to mind. St. John Chrysostom famously attacked the Empress Eudoxia for confiscating the property of a poor widow – not on the grounds that the Empress shouldn’t confiscate property, but on the grounds that the Empress shouldn’t leave a poor widow destitute. The default political assumption in Late Antiquity was that imperial power was absolute and the Emperor had every right to do whatever he wanted, as long as he wasn’t being cruel or selfish or exhibited other vices.

    “He was just an ordinary guy who liked ballet and kept mistresses.”

    And to shoot crows and stray cats from his hunting rifles – about which exploits he wrote many, many times on the pages of his diary which he kept for the most of his life.

    P.S. Epically funny review of the “historic” shit-movie “Viking” by Yevgeny “BadComedian” Bazhenov (now with Eng. subs!):

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    • yalensis says:

      1. So Ramzan is a Sufi, well, that would explain why he is such a good dancer!
      2. I hope to delve more into the issue why Ramzan formed this rotten bond with Poklonskaya, to me, as to you, it’s just a mystery.
      3. Yeah, you’re right about the Bolsheviks not really having a central plan to exterminate all Romanovs, such a plan would have been futile anyhow, as there are always a few survivors, just look at the War of the Roses in England, those two side were never able to exterminate each other either. More likely, the local Bolsheviks on the ground were more worried about the imminent impact of the Whites freeing up Nicky and his immediate family and putting them up as a rallying cry. So it was more like an action taken for the immediate exigency, and not a realistic attempt to destroy every possible future Pretender.
      4. It’s true that the Orthodox Church has a sociallly conscious side that cares about widows and orphans. Just like the Catholic Church does, in the West. There was even a “Liberation Theology” movement in the 1980’s, when local nuns and priests joined revolutionary fighters like Sandinistas and the like. But they were not formally condoned by, say, the Pope. I mean, Jesus himself was all, like, “help the widows and orphans”.
      5. Nicky shot innocent crows and cats? That’s absolutely appalling. How can such a monster be considered a saint of any rank whatsoever? Doesn’t the Church care about animals? I mean, it’s true that crows are annoying. I don’t like them either, but I would never shoot one just for fun.
      6. Thanks for movie clip, it looks marvelous, I’ll watch it later tonight, after buying some popcorn!

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      • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

        Saints (or Passion-bearers) were seldom people who’d lived spotless lives, and some of them had been downright wicked. Our priest described Vladimir the Great before his conversion as, and I quote, “a savage with four hundred wives”.

        The distinction is conferred because of the manner Nicholas II’s death, not because anybody claims he had led a totally exemplary life up to that point.

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        • yalensis says:

          True, but the Church assumed that Nicholas died a Christian death, like he suddenly had an epiphany: “Oh, I should have been a better person!”
          Or that he died for his faith.
          But it’s highly dubious his killers killed him because of his religion. They killed him more because of his political views, I would say.

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          • Ryan Ward says:

            By classifying Nicholas II as a “passion-bearer”, the church actually rejects the idea that he died for his faith. Many Russians did at the time, but not the royal family. If they died for their faith, they would be martyrs rather than passion-bearers

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        • Lyttenburgh says:

          Two things.

          1) “Vladimir had 400 wives” is obviously a copy-pasta added to the “Primary Chronicle” as a “shout out” to another virile monarch – king Solomon. It’s highly unlikely that the number was anyhow accurate (we know for sure only about 6 “wives” of Vladimir, plus 2 unnamed ones of unknown status). It was not like he travelled to every town and city of his realm, got a daughter of the local potentate into his tent and offered her “Be my waifu!”, for which she answered “Desu-desu!”. No! He was a pagan prince – he shagged whoever he wanted, had concubines, BUT also kept wives for political reasons.

          2) People don’t really understand what the word “saint” entails. It’s not really some sinless angelic being. No. Being a saint means only one thing – they are 100% in Heaven now. They serve as the object lesson of the second chance and repentance to others: “See? Even such flawed individuals turned out right in the end. So you, bloody sinners, are not hopeless!”

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          • yalensis says:

            Hence, NIcky is in Heaven, along with his wife and children.
            According to wiki, he didn’t get to bring all of his servants along though: “The Russian Orthodox Church did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Trupp was Roman Catholic, and Schneider was Lutheran.”

            I don’t know about Schneider, but Trupp could have obtained a spot in Catholic Heaven.
            Which is where Matilda would go as well, as she converted to Roman Catholicism later in life. Maybe the various compartments of Heaven have connecting doors…

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            • Lyttenburgh says:

              “Maybe the various compartments of Heaven have connecting doors…”

              Obligatory “The Simpsons” clip is obligatory:

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            • Lyttenburgh says:

              But to be serious – here lies the conundrum of “sainthood” as viewed by different churches. Since the great schism of 1054 Orthodox and Catholics do not recognize each other NEW saints. This means that, yeah, technically speaking, St. Patrikey is recognized as the saint by the ROC:

              Why? Because his canonization happened before 1054. Mother Theresa though? No!

              But – and here comes the juiciest part. You know the so-called “Greek-Catholics” aka the Uniates? The fellas with SUGS level over 9000 and stuff? Well, they are by rites AND theology are Orthodox Christians, who recognize the supremacy of the Latin Pope and are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Rome count them as “theirs” and they are more than happy with that. The controversy here? The Vatican thus recognizes (retroactively) all saints venerated by the Uniates – but they are mostly all those saints canonized by the Orthodox Church after the schism!

              When asked about this controversy Catholics (AFAIK) can’t come up with the smart answer.

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            • yalensis says:

              (1) I’m glad I’m not a theologian. It would be like making up new rules for Quidditch.
              This whole sainthood thing seems … er… non-scientific !

              And (2) will this great Christian schism thing between East and West ever be healed?
              Short answer: No.

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  4. Lyttenburgh says:

    “And (2) will this great Christian schism thing between East and West ever be healed?
    Short answer: No.”

    It’s mostly kinda like that:

    ^Pic by a friend.

    Like

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