Autocephalic Ukraine And The Big-Ass Schism – Part III

Петру я послан в наказанье;
Я терн в листах его венца:
Он дал бы грады родовые
И жизни лучшие часы,
Чтоб снова как во дни былые
Держать Мазепу за усы.

“I was sent as punishment to Peter.
I am the thorn in the leaves of his crown.
He would give up native cities
And the best years of his year
For the chance, as in previous times,
To tug on Mazepa’s moustache.”

(AlexanderPushkin, “Poltava”)

Dear Readers:

Continuing with the Reeeelly Big Story about the Big-Ass Schism!

Which reminds me, for non-Russian readers I need to introduce the Russian word “raskol” (Раскол), which means “split” or “schism”.  Literature fans will recognize the name of Dostoevsky’s anti-hero Raskolnikov, from this root.  (Dostoevsky was in the habit of giving his characters meaningful names which reflected their personalities.  Sort of like Polly Trueheart or Dudley Do-Right, or in this case Dudley Do-Wrong.)

Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov had a split personality.

The etymology is rather straightforward:  ras– is the Slavic prefix meaning “apart” as in “to fly apart”, and kol– is the Slavic root meaning “to split or cleave”.  As in Beaver Cleaver, which, it goes without saying, is one and the same word:  From  Proto-Slavic *kolti descending from the (reconstructed) Proto-Indo-European root kelh₂-.  Meaning “to cleave”, but don’t forget to pronounce that Aryan guttural KHHH on the end, as if you’re choking something out of your throat.

Connoisseurs of Russian history are more than familiar with the Raskolniki or “Old Believers”, who split from the official Russian Orthodox Church, due to some disagreements about reforming the rites.  The heroine of the Raskolniki was a lady named Baroness Morozova who was carted off (in a hay wagon) to exile in Siberia for her refusal to put away her two-fingered “victory” sign.  In the famous painting (now hanging at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow) by outstanding Russian painter, Vasily Surikov, the fiery rebel is shown giving her fingers to her oppressors of the Russian Deep-State Police-Security-Religious Complex.

Baroness Morozova: Defiant until the end

But the Baroness ain’t seen nothing yet.  Just wait:  the entire Orthodox World, the world of Byzantium, now stands on the threshold of a new split, compared to which Nikon and the Old Believers will look like pikers.  How could such a thunderous event take place in our modern era?

Well, I have not even finished the Nechaev piece — I will get back to it — but first I have to bring in this rather cutting piece by the acid-tongued Dmitry Kiselyov.  Kiselyov has his own news show on Russian TV, and I watch it as often as I can.  (His English-language wiki page is quite negative about him, because he is pro-Putin, but I think he is actually quite good.)

Kiselyov’s piece on Patriarch Bartholomew has the sensationalist headline:

RASKOL:  The Ukrainian churches may become a place of new bloodletting!

The big catfight here, according to Kiselyov, is the freestyle match between Kirill, Patriarch of ALL Rus (and that includes you, Ukraine, hint hint!), vs Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.  Throwing down the gauntlet, Kirill accuses Bart of heresy for his recognition of the Ukrainian Raskolniki led by the excommunicated Patriarch Filaret!  And, to show just how serious this is, as of 4 or 5 days ago, the official Russian Orthodox Church Synod stopped mentioning Bartholomew in their ritual prayers.  This is akin to ex-communication!  And the plot thickens even more.

According to a rather waspish Kiselyov, the Heretical Patriarch Filaret of Kiev is nothing more than the charismatic leader of a totalitarian sect, that has nothing to do with true Orthodoxy.  Filaret is nothing more than a catspaw in the hands of Ukraine’s “offshore oligarchic President” Poroshenko.  Filaret is a co-sponsor of the bloody Maidan which destroyed the Ukraine but gives him the opportunity to acquire more money and power for himself.

Ukraine’s “Offshore Oligarch” President and Pretender-Priest Filaret

It gets better.  Kiselyov accuses Poroshenko of corrupting the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.  With what?  With MONEY$$$ of course!  The Ukrainian press (Komsomolskaya Pravda) reported that Poroshenko “collected from Ukrainian businesses” 25 million (American) dollars and promised this loot to Bartholomew if he would rule in favor of Filaret over Kirill:

“Around 25 million dollars was collected.  This (money) was supposed to go towards rewarding [bribing] Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew, in return for granting tomos to the Autocephalic Ukrainian Church.  However, according to sources close to the Guarantor [=Poroshenko], by the time of the meeting on April 9 Poroshenko gave him [Bart] only $10 million.”

Leaving the other $15 million in his own pockets.  That was back in April.  An angry Bartholomew protested and demanded that Poro cough up the rest of the dough.  In Poroshenko’s defense:  When his hands come in contact with money, he simply can’t help himself.  It’s a form of untreatable kleptomania.  But, according to an anonymous source close to the Constantinople crowd:  Bart threatened Poro very sternly:  If he didn’t fork over the 15 million clams, then Bart would refuse to come to Kiev to celebrate the big 1030-year anniversary gala of the Christening of Rus.  In the end, Petr Alexeevich could not risk his propaganda shindig being compromised in this manner; so he had no choice except to (reluctantly) hand over the rest of the cash to Constantinople.  Once the $15 million was nested safely in his own capacious pockets, Bart relented and arrived triumphantly in Kiev.  And this is how the Ukrainian church, in the end, received its tomos from Brother Bart.

1030 years ago, Grand Duke Volodimir christened Rus with Cross and Sword.

Which now leaves Filaret in charge (or thinking he is in charge) of the Autocephalic Ukrainian Church.  So what is his next move?  He will start grabbing more property away from the official Church of the Moscow Patriarchate!

And this land-grab has been going on since 1992, according to Kiselyov.  Already over 3000 churches have passed from the canonical and universally-recognized Ukrainian Orthodox Church into the grubby hands of Filaret and his Raskolniki.  As of 2015 the score stands something like this:

Official Church:  12,241 churches/cathedrals vs Splitters: 4,783.  Of which 3,000 were seized violently, in pirate fashion.

Monasteries:  207 for the Official Church vs 62 for the Splitters.  However, those 62 Splitter monasteries are practically empty,containing only 221 monks.  As opposed to 4,783 monks for the Officials.  [And I find it quite a curious coincidence, that there are exactly the same number of Official Monks as Splitter Churches!?  Is that some sort of Divine Numerology in action here?]

Will monks battle over the mummy of Ilya Muromets?

Kiselyov ends his piece on a somber note, reporting that the major battle ground of this historic Raskol lies ahead:  namely, the Kiev-Pechersky Lavra Monastery, i.e., the most valuable piece of real estate owned by the Moscow Patriarchate in Kiev.  With Imaginary God’s help, May it not come to such bloodshed — but Filaret and his Raskolniki may try to seize the Lavra by force; in which case, the Officials can be expected to fight back.  One can only shudder at the thought of 70- and 80-year old monks grappling and pulling each others beards.  Just as Peter the Great once tugged on Mazepa’s moustache!

Meanwhile, within that sacred space, hidden deep within the catacombs of the Lavra, lie, stacked tightly on bunk beds, the mummies of over 100 Saints.  Including the famed Russian warrior Ilya Muromets!

[to be continued]

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Autocephalic Ukraine And The Big-Ass Schism – Part II

Dear Readers:

Without further ado, let us dive into this piece by Alexei Nechaev, entitled

The Ecumenical Patriarch Has Been Accused Of Heresy

And yeah, we’re talking about YOU, Patriarch Bartholomew!  Russian Church people complain that Bartholomew has endowed himself with all the powers of a Roman pope.  Which is considered heresy in the less autocratic Orthodox world.  This horrible event happened on Wednesday, September 6, in the course of the Synaxis held in Stamboul (=Istanbul), the city formerly known as Constantinople.

The world’s first Synaxis: Archangels Gabriel and Michael, and their friends

What is a Synaxis?  Funny you should ask.  According to Wikipedia, “In Eastern Christianity (the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite), a Synaxis (Greek: Σύναξις; Slavonic: Собор, Sobor) is an assembly for liturgical purposes, generally through the celebration of Vespers, Matins, Little Hours, and the Divine Liturgy.”

The word Synaxis itself means “A Gathering” from the Greek συνάγω meaning “I gather”; it’s the same word as in the Jewish Synagogue.  And speaking of Jews, it was noted by perceptive observers that Victoria Nuland was seen lurking around the fringes of the Synaxis, respectfully wearing a head-scarf and passing out cookies.  [I made that last bit up.]

Anyhow, at this “gathering” Bartholomew made the big announcement that, from this point on, he is the guy who makes all the key decisions of the overall Orthodox world.  And that he, and only he, has the exclusive right to do so.  I don’t know what language Bart made his announcement in, I am guessing it was Greek; I just have the Russian.  Here is the exact Russian quote, followed by my translation into English:

«Вселенский патриархат несет ответственность за установление церковного и канонического порядка, поскольку только он имеет каноническую привилегию для выполнения этой высшей и исключительной обязанности. Если Вселенский патриархат откажется от своей ответственности и уйдет с межправославной сцены, то поместные церкви будут действовать «как овцы без пастыря»

TRANSLATION:
The Ecumenical Patriarch carries the responsibility for the establishment of Church and canonical order, since only he bears the canonical privilege for the carrying-out of this lofty and exclusive task.  If the Ecumenical Patriarch should waver from his responsibility and depart from the Orthodox stage, then the local churches would behave like “sheep without a shepherd”.
END OF TRANSLATION

It goes without saying that Father Bart’s hubris does not sit well with the other Orthodox Patriarchs, especially Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.  And it is also clear as daylight that Bart adopted such super-powers under pressure from the secular “powers that be”, in their zeal to split Ukraine away from Russia.  Not since Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn has the world seen a more egregious example of religious leaders simply ripping off the mask of piety, to reveal the crass geopolitical realities underneath!

Use PEE?? Huh?

Nechaev writes that one of the main agenda items of this particular Synaxis was the issue of granting tomos to Ukraine.  Bartholomew has said, on numerous occasions, that he feels he has the right to decide this question on his own, without input from the Moscow Patriarchate.  Bartholomew has stated that he feels Russia “is responsible for the painful situation in the Ukraine.”  Not one word of criticism for the EU, nor the U.S., however, who engineered the 2014 coup.  Only Russia is to blame.  It is crystal clear which team Bart is rooting for in the Donbass war.

In turn, the Moscow Patriarchate is not thrilled with Bartholomew nor his political ambitions.  Up until now, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been under the Moscow Patriarchate.  Which regards Bartholomew as, not only committing heresy, but also attempting to seize a valuable chunk of religious and actual (=real estate) property that belongs by right (they believe) to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Constantinople as the Second Rome

In an interview with VZGLIAD, Archbishop Andrei Novikov of the Moscow Patriarchate, accused Bartholomew of speaking utter heresy.  Not to mention that Constantinople, dwelling as it does in the midst of a Muslim nation (=Turkey) represents only 3% of the Orthodox population of the planet.  In which case, where the f*** does he get off acting like he is the Boss of All Orthodox people!  And yet, as we shall see a few paragraphs down, the Russian Orthodox Church itself regards the Constantinople Autocephaly as the First Among Equals.  A bit of a contradiction which will likely be resolved somehow, in the course of this shake-up, possibly even via Schism!

Vladislav Petrushko, a professor of Orthodox Religion, complains out that Bartholomew is straying into areas that are completely out of his purview.  Constantinople is, in effect, proclaiming itself to be the Fourth Rome (or is that the Second Rome redux?) and interfering in the internal affairs of the other Autocephalic churches.  Boo!

Meanwhile, that same urchin who informed us that the Emperor’s has no clothes, just raised his little hand to point out that modern Constantinople is located in a NATO country.  And anybody who doesn’t believe that all this mystical brouh-haha is about NATO expansion, then please take your place as a dunce in the back of the classroom.

Who Is Autocephalic And Who Is Not?

At this current time, Nechaev writes, there exist 15 recognized Autocephalic churches arranged in the following order of importance (as accepted by the official Russian Orthodox Church in their diptych):

  1. Constantinople
  2. Alexandria
  3. Antioch
  4. Jerusalem
  5. Russia
  6. Gruzia
  7. Serbia
  8. Rumania
  9. Bulgaria
  10. Cyprus
  11. Hellada (Greece)
  12. Albania
  13. Poland
  14. Czechoslovakia
  15. America

Of which (and this probably about to change), the Constantinople Autocephaly is considered the first among equals.

Russian autocephaly dates back to 1448, but from the very beginning there was a conflict with Lithuania.  Both Moscow and Lithuania (believe it or not) claiming leadership over Eastern Christianity.  Then, as now, much was at stake…

[to be continued]

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Autocephalic Ukraine And The Big-Ass Schism – Part I

Dear Readers:

One of the main stories in the Russian world this past week, has been the issue of Ukrainian Autocephaly.  And there have been shocking new developments, as you shall learn, if you were not in the loop before.  Bottom line:  It is looking like the Autocephaly is actually going to happen.  Coming as a one-two punch after the assassination of Alexander Zakharchenko, this is a further blow for Russia and the pro-Russian forces in the Ukraine.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew admires the Pope’s Infallibility.

Please recall that I began to “cover” this story back in July, with this 4-part series.  Religion is not my usual beat, I actually know nothing nor care nothing about the “spiritual” life of humans (like Doubting Thomas I only care about things that can be measured by scientific instruments) — but I am having to learn very quickly about invisible things, since this has become such an important component of the geo-political chess game being waged against Russia.  Please refer to my earlier series if you need to know the cool Greek etymologies for many of these terms, such as “Autocephaly” (=”being the head of oneself”) and Tomos (=”split off”), etc.

Here is a quick review of the cast of characters:

  • Mikhail Antonovich Denisenko, aka Patriarch Filaret of Kiev.  Filaret is anti-Russian and is allied with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.  Their goal is to get Ukraine into EU and NATO, and away from Russia, hence, on the religious front, to split the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate and make of it, it’s own thing.  That’s what “tomos” is all about.  Last July Filaret declared that, once the tomos was complete, then Ukraine would be able to win the war in the Donbass.  (People in the Donbass retort:  “Not so fast, Papa Misha.”)
  • Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (aka Istanbul aka Stamboul).  Bartholomew has revealed himself as pro-NATO and anti-Russian in this dispute.  Russians in the know figure that he has been pressured by the U.S. and Turkey to give his thumbs up to the tomos.  As if this is any of Turkey’s business, since they’re all Muslims now anyhow.  One of Bart’s goals is to get his hands on the most valuable piece of religious real estate in Ukraine, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra Monastery, and hand it over to Filaret’s goons.  Pro-Russian forces say they will fight for the Lavra, to make sure it stays with the “legitimate” branch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and of All Rus’ (всея Руси), which includes the Ukraine – duh!  In other words, pre-tomos, all of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is belong to him; hence, said tomos will be a huge blow to his Ecclesiastical Empire.  Which is why this big guy will duke it out to the end, and please don’t count him out until the final bell.

And those are just the religious guys!  I haven’t even mentioned Poroshenko, Trump, and Erdoğan, who are the puppet masters behind the scenes of this Punch and Judy show.  But after that whirlwind review, it is time to get to the latest news, so I have this piece by reporter Petr Akopov; and I also have this piece from a week ago, by Alexei Nechaev, which provides valuable historical background to this massive catfight.  Thrillingly enough, the Nechaev piece is entitled “The Ecumenical Patriarch Has Been Accused of Heresy!”  Namely, his detractors accuse Brother Bart of usurping all the religious power which, in the Western world, goes to the Pope.  Which is not the way things are supposed to work in the Wonderful World of Byzantium.

But we shall work our way backwards to that and start with the more recent news and all the headlines….

[to be continued]

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Zakharchenko Assassination – Part VI

Dear Readers:

Today concluding my post with this sad little coda on the Zakharchenko assassination.  Life must go on, for the million-some people living in Donetsk, just trying to live their ordinary lives.  It was Alexander Zakharchenko’s job, as is the job of any head of government, to lead these people and keep them safe.  Now that he is gone, new leaders must step up to the plate.  Everybody knows that, were the Ukrainian Nationalists to capture this besieged city, then they will show no mercy to the inhabitants therein.

The author of the piece is Alina Nazarova.  She reports that on 5 September, Natalia Zakharchenko, the widow, made the trip out to the front lines of the besieged city, to talk with the Separatist officers who served under her husband.  Together, Natalia and Alexander had four sons; given which, she is still youthful looking and rather attractive.

 

The video is 3 and a half minutes long.  We see Natalia, dressed in army fatigues, sporting a ponytail and headband, being greeted by the weary soldiers.  They lead her into the bunker.  A simple snack of tea and a plate of cookies and cakes is being prepared in the kitchen.  Natalia chats and even jokes with some of the soldiers.  The elderly guy (at 1:00 minute in) tells her that he has been fighting there since 2015.  Natalia pours the tea herself and serves it to the men.

They sit around the table, a very sad and forlorn crew.  Natalia is a simple-spoken woman:  She speaks directly and tries to buck up the troops:

“I came here to tell you, that I will help you.  If any of you have any kind of questions, problems, requests, please let your commander know [and he will communicate to me].  Please know that you will not be abandoned here without assistance.  You can speak to me as if you were speaking to him [my husband].”

Natalia then calls on the fighters to continue the cause of their fallen leader and  to “continue his plans and projects, that we all united to do, in 2014.
Like he always said:  In the army, the main thing is discipline.  I know that you all want revenge.  I want revenge too.  And we shall get our revenge, but only when the order is given.”

Natalia goes on to say, that the murderers in Kiev expected the DPR to fall apart in chaos after the death of her husband.  Instead:

“Everyone has united together.  We have a goal to strive for, to move towards, we have a cause to continue, something to fight for.  Because our children want to live, and we need to continue on for this reason.  All their hopes depend on us.”

Some commenters to this piece in VZGLIAD were upset by the “excessive religiosity” at the end of the vid.  Pausing at a little shrine set up for her husband, Natalia crosses herself three times and bows.  It is worth noting that the religiosity is most probably genuine and not staged for the cameras; it is a well-known fact that Zakharchenko himself was a fervent and devout Orthodox Christian.  And the woman who bore him four sons — most likely as well.  But it will take them more than just faith in a remote God to get the Donetsk people through this ordeal.  And they know that too, which is why keep their guns in good condition and continue to fight.

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Zakharchenko Assassination – Part V

Dear Readers:

Today concluding this Krutikov piece, and tomorrow, as coda, I will comment on this piece which includes a vid of Zakharchenko’s widow bolstering the DPR cadre.

Girkin the war-reenactor as a Roman General

Where we left off, Krutikov is analyzing why the assassins were able to get to Zakharchenko so easily.  Root causes include the irregular and informal culture of these unrecognized entities, their birthing under conditions of popular uprising and revolt, living in a state of “partizanshchina“, as the Russians call it, which takes quite a while to gel into more serious institutional formats.  And Krutikov doesn’t mention Igor Strelkov at all, but those of us who were following this conflict from the beginning, can recall the true anarchy and even comical absurdities that reigned during those first months of the Donbass uprising.  In addition to the horrors of war, there was also some pretty zany stuff going on.  I myself wrote some humbly humorous blogposts, including this one, and also commented sarcastically on the similarity of Girkin-era Slavyansk with Basil Fawlty in his Fawlty Towers.  Compared to those shenanigans, Zakharchenko was a stuffed shirt.  But still refused to change his core life-style and make of himself a captive to his own bodyguards.

In the arena of root causes, Krutikov also touches on the “romantic hero” aspect of these conflicts, and the need of the rebel supporters to see their leader fearless on the battlefield.  A manly man, a true “muzhyk” as the Russians say, riding boldly at the vanguard of the charge, and not cowering in the rear; nor scurrying around the deck to avoid bullets, as in the case of Captain Queeg!  This is actually nothing new; one only has to utter the name Che Guevara.  In Russian, these types are called “Field Commanders”; even if they were not initially professional military, they earned their medals and ranks quite honestly, right out there on the battlefield.

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Witch Hunting

Now from root causes to immediate causes, and this is where Zakharchenko’s bodyguards come in for their share of the blame.  Krutikov feels that they could have been more vigilant; they could have “sneakily” conducted more scouting of the routes and perimeters, even without Zakharchenko’s approval.  Obviously not in the case where their leader had just taken a spontaneous decision to go strolling off somewhere.  But whenever there was actually some time to poke around beforehand, it might have behooved them…

DPR: Trying to turn a rabble into a regular army

Another issue is one of trust.  As a young and unrecognized government, the DPR does not possess a foolproof method of verifying cadres, doing background checks, etc.  Krutikov uses the term “brigadization”, which means converting a rebel rabble into a regular army.  This is a slow and difficult process.  To this day the DPR has not been able to put into place a fully functioning modern counter-intel and government security force.  This will come in time, but not there yet.  Baby steps.  The DPR has a population of around a million, sort of the unofficial minimum for building a viable statelet.  It is lacking in qualified cadres, and the locals must not and cannot count on supplementing their ranks with Russian volunteers.  Also, those who attempt to inculcate standards and “bureaucratic” norms are often criticized as deviating from the “peoples” character of the uprising and war.

Krutikov recommends to the DPR, grieving for their leader, that they use this sad occasion to rethink some of their philosophical and institutional underpinnings.  Don’t start witch hunts nor repressions, he suggests; don’t blame nor punish the “lax” security guards.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Heads should not be rolling; heads should be thinking.  Let’s face it, there is more than enough blame to go around.  Instead of pointing the finger at others, focus on fixing what is broken and trying to do better next time.  The DPR needs to get its act together and move on from the “romantic rebel” shtick to a more pragmatic way of living life and waging war.  Because, sadly, war is also part of life.

Direct translation of Krutikov’s final paragraph:

Yes, Alexander Zakharchenko was, in many respects, a romantic and took his role as that of a “popular” and not a bureaucratic leader.  But it has been understood for quite a long time, that the peoples republics have, in Ukraine, a serious and unprincipled enemy, in the struggle against whom, any excess “romanticism” can prove to be fatal.  All the more is it necessary to observe a pragmatism of behavior, including the habits of daily life.  There is nothing shameful for a commander or politician to have a suite of bodyguards.  In war there are values that are worth more than “popularity” and personal traits of character.

Next:   Zakharchenko’s widow addresses the grieving troops.  In this traditional society with traditional gender roles, is this perhaps a sign that Natalia will now take on a bigger leadership role in the life of the tiny republic?

[to be continued]

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Zakharchenko Assassination – Part IV

Dear Readers:

Continuing with this piece by Evgeny Krutikov, along with this piece, about Zakharchenko’s widow.  Krutikov continues his root-cause analysis of the relaxed security atmosphere reigning in the Donetsk leadership, which permitted such an egregious assassination attempt to succeed.

Krutikov:  Nobody was able to convince the head of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) that his conduct was incorrect; that his life did not just belong to himself any more, but constituted an entire complex of political and and military instruments of government; and that therefore it (his life) especially needed to be guarded!

Zakharchenko mansplaining the situation to a Ukrainian officer

Krutikov goes on to recount how Zakharchenko thought nothing of strolling down the streets to meet the people without taking special precautions.  His friends should have told him that, if he decided to have dinner in the “Separ” café, he should allow them to go there first, a half-hour ahead, to poke around with gas-analyzers and explosive detectors.  They should have been poking “selfie-sticks” under all the cars, to make sure there was no car-bomb planted underneath.  And he should have always travelled in a convoy, with the leading vehicle equipped with a special apparatus to detect radio signals.  And if the good ole boys in Donetsk did not possess such special equipment, no problem, it could be brought in from Rostov!

Sadly, even if his best friends had suggested such measures, Zakharchenko probably would not have listened.  He was such a regular guy, that he even took captured Ukrainian officers to dine with him at the Separ, as a way of demonstrating to them the peaceful way of life enjoyed by the people of Donetsk.

Russian “Vympel” guys are not to be messed with!

Krutikov goes on to criticize the Russian curators of the DPR, who should have explained such basic matters to their friends.  The khalatnost was not just on the DPR side, and there is plenty of blame to go around.  But again, experience tells us that this is no easy thing to fix.  Flashing back to South Ossetia, 2004, Mikhail Sakashvili decides to stage a dress rehearsal of the aggressive war he was to launch 4 years later.  The South Ossetian so-called Counterintelligence Bureau was visited by some tough guys from Vympel, the Russian special-ops (anti-terror) branch of the KGB/FSB.  These are, if I am not mistaken, one and the same as the so-called “Polite Men” who helped out in the Crimean Unification; also known, more derogatorily by Westies, as the “Little Green Men”.  Anyhow, these Vympel guys showed up and attempted to explain to South Ossetia’s then-President Eduard Kokoity, that he can’t just go gallivanting all over the Caucasian mountains by himself dressed in camo and waving his automatic rifle.  Literally the very next day after this verbal rebuke, the Vympelites could only sadly shake their ski-masked heads at the appalling sight they encountered:  The President of South Ossetia holding court in a public café in the very center of town, in the company of one bodyguard and two rogue Vympelites.  Krutikov:  Such people are impossible to teach, and they learn nothing from history.

Eduard Kokoity inspects his attractive troops.

On the other hand, though, in his capacity as a local politician, Alexander Zakharchenko was very well served by these habits.  He was popular among the locals, who saw him as “their guy”.  He not only defended their new republic, he also worked to stimulate the work of the mines, and to keep people employed.  He raised the pensions of the retired miners.  He made himself accessible:  Any citizen of the DPR could approach him, literally on the street, with a comment or request.  This type of behavior is considered the norm among unrecognized leaders and field commanders of the so-called “romantic generation”.

Zakharchenko displayed such “romantic hero” form in the incident, filmed and uploaded to youtube, in which he was barraged by enemy bullets in Uglegorsk and didn’t even flinch or duck.  [Not mentioned in this piece by Krutikov, but there is a similar youtube in which Givi calmly picks up a fragment of hot shrapnel that is hurling towards his feet.  Both incidents show a physical courage and Lermontov-like contempt for death which thrill the younger generation.]

Here is the youtube video in question, watch as a physically exhausted Zakharchenko, talking to a reporter, barely reacts to the incoming barrage.  Ecce homo!  as the Romans might say.

Given these romantic/heroic proclivities of the popular leaders such as Givi and Zakharchenko, are their bodyguards hereby absolved of all blame when the men they have sworn to protect, get blown up by Ukrainian diversionaries?  Not really…

[to be continued]

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Zakharchenko Assassination – Part III

Dear Readers:

Continuing with this piece by Evgeny Krutikov, along with this piece, about Natalia Zakharchenko and her rallying of the saddened troops.  In his root-cause analysis of Zakharchenko’s assassination, Krutikov has pointed out a contradiction in the Donetsk culture of leadership, in which strict Russian-style military etiquette is combined with a rather shocking informality in daily life.

Pavel Dremov: Another partisan/victim of targeted assassination

Krutikov:  On the surface, everything looks correct.  A warring state (well, and any state) cannot survive without observing the obvious forms of governmental rule, including the person of the leader and unquestioning obedience in carrying out (his) orders.  Much effort was applied to inculcating such a system.  But in the atmosphere of Donetsk such a system betrayed itself in the least likely arena:  that of everyday psychology.

All of them:  Zakharchenko, Tolstykh, Motorola, Mozgovoi, Dremov, and several others, were all what one calls “regular guys”, who completely did not understand (and many people in Donetsk still to this day do not understand) the volume of power and responsibility which unexpectedly fell into their hands.

Moreover, they did not understand, or did not wish to understand, their own individual value, which grew exponentially as a result of that same power and responsibility (which fell to them).  Add to this psychological bias the popular (“peoples”) character of the revolution, the war, and the politics.

Zakharchenko loved Kobzon, and Kobzon loved the people of Donbass!

As a result of this, Zakharchenko refused to change his normal way of life.  In his final days, everyone had come to know that the “Separ” café was something in the nature of his semi-official “reception hall”, where the head of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) received his guests.  This was where holidays and memorials were celebrated.  In fact, on the Friday (of his assassination), they were celebrating a memorial for Joseph Kobzon[yalensis:  Kobzon was a famous and crazily-popular Russian crooner, sometimes known as the Russian Frank Sinatra; he died on August 30, just one day before Zakharchenko; their deaths will always be linked in memory, alas!]

[On the day the Seps were memorializing Kobzon] Zakharchenko himself was there (at the café) ordering the dishes and sending the young cashier-girls into a light stupor, and then paid for everything himself.

His “cortege of bodyguards” can be called such only by severe strain on the imagination.  His guard consisted of one permanent bodyguard and a few others who alternated on shift …. All it took was one grenade to blast all of them into the sky…

[to be continued]

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