Today I have these two short pieces, loosely tied together by the theme of religion. Not religion as theology, just its role in war and politics.
We will start with Ramzan Kadyrov. Who has shown himself, in this war, not to be afraid at all, when it comes to criticizing Russian generals. Today his target is Lieutenant-General Viktor Sobolev.
Sobolev had written that it was necessary for all troops in the Russian army to follow the same dress/hygiene code. In other words: No beards! He cited the general terms of the military charter which lay out all the rules, including the ban on facial hair. And said this was just a simple issue of elementary military discipline.
Well, this idea is anathema to the beard-loving Chechen soldiers. Since ancient times these Muslim warriors have considered it to be a religious duty to cultivate manly beards. They even believe that the facial hair endows them with extra strength and fighting spirit.
Hence, Kadyrov reacted sharply to the possible beard-ban: “This idea is a clear provocation, designed to dampen our fighting spirit.” Kadyrov went on to remind Sobolev that “These bearded ones liberated Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Lisichansk, and other towns, all the while carrying out all of the orders and completing all the assignments given by the General Staff.” He went on to advise Sobolev to focus on his own work and not worry about the 21,000 Chechen soldiers who have taken part in this war. And taunted him with the idea that, should he wish to verify with his own eyes that Chechens are observing the charter, he should behie himself to the front lines for an inspection.
One should note, in this regard that military rules can sometimes be bended. As far as I am aware, even the English army made exceptions for their Sikh warriors, allowing them to wear beards and turbans, as is their wont.
And speaking of the English… We know that Zelensky likes to compare himself to Henry V (“We band of brothers, yada yada…”) but lately he is acting more like Henry VIII. I mean, not in the sense that he is beheading his wives. But in the sense that he wants Ukraine to have its own religion. A “Church of Ukraine”, shall we say, just like Henry founded his own Church of England. The point being, he didn’t want his own subjects acting like a fifth column and obeying the Roman Pope instead of his august self.
Similarly, Zelensky is putting the final touches on his ban of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukrainian territory. Yesterday the Ukrainian Parliament took the first step by introducing a law aimed at the eventual ban of the “Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church” whose titular head is the Patriarch of Moscow. Even very religious people who will be shocked and angered by this anti-democratic step, they should, if they put their thinking caps on, see the political logic of such a step. It’s exactly the same reason why dear old Henry wanted his own church. Zelensky doesn’t want parishioners worshipping at a place where the local Priest answers to a leader sitting in Moscow. I mean, who knows what they are going to say during the sermon? Could be treasonous… Nonetheless, despite the political logic of this, the optics are really bad. Especially when people point out that the Jewish Prime Minister Shmygal is the guy who proposed the legislation. A guy who doesn’t even have a dog in the fight, so so speak!
Ukrainian Parliamentarian Taras Mel’nichuk explained the need for the legislation: They want to make it impossible for religious organizations to operate on Ukrainian soil “whose directing centers are located beyond our borders, in a nation that is currently at war with us.” This also explains the “double standard”, why they don’t intend to ban the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine. Because they are not at war with Italy. I can’t believe I am saying this, but it sort of makes sense to me. I mean, from the Ukrainian Nationalist point of view. Just like it made sense for Henry to become his own Pope. Whether or not this act will increase the split in Ukrainian society — well, I think it goes without saying that it will.
Earlier in the week, Zelensky had also signed a decree removing Ukrainian citizenship from 13 priests who belong to the Canonical Orthodox Church. Readers may recall that the Ukrainians have set up a schismatic Orthodox Church with their own phony Patriarch.