Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Russia, Then and Now

A lovely article by Peter Hitchens, which is a must read.

Hitchens is wrong about the Ukraine and Crimea, and his disdain for Putin is, ironically, in contradiction to what he writes about the resurgence of Christian Russia.  He characterizes him as a tyrant.  We should be so lucky to have such a "tyrant" in America.

When Hitchens describes the rebirth of this land which began after Communism was swept away and the essence of Christianity started to creep back into the lives of the people, it awakened in me some new hope for Catholics who now live in this surreal world of disorientation and the almost total absence of the essence of Catholicism in their lives.  When the horrible "regime" of Modernism from Rome on down to the tiniest country church is at last swept away like the Bolsheviks were swept away perhaps Catholics will again experience a rebirth like the one occurring in Russia.  The Russians had to see just how bad life was without Christ when under the Communists.  Perhaps this is why God is allowing the decimation of the Church by its own leaders, so that we, too, will see how life is without Christ.

Then afterwards, hopefully, rebirth.  May God hasten the day.

Like most Englishmen, I grew up with a natural dislike of “abroad” and a belief in the inferiority of all foreign things. I think it took me five visits to France before I began to regret leaving that lovely country rather than to rejoice at my return to our safe and familiar island.
It often strikes me as quite funny that I spent so much of my life as a foreign correspondent, a profession for which I am so unfitted. When I went to live in Moscow in 1990, I felt that I had somehow betrayed my native soil. (I was born in the middle of the Mediterranean, but these are technicalities.) I still recall a brief return from the U.S.S.R. to my hometown of Oxford, during which I was asked for directions by an American tourist. “You must live here,” he said, impressed by my historically detailed advice. “No,” I confessed with a strange feeling of guilt. “I live in Moscow.” For the first time in my life I had chosen to live in foreign parts, and very strange and hostile parts they seemed to be.
Yet the experience of living in that sad and handsome place brought me to love Russia and its stoical people, to learn some of what they had suffered and see what they had regained. And so, as all around me rage against the supposed aggression and wickedness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, I cannot join in. Despite the fact that Moscow has abandoned control of immense areas of Europe and Asia, self-appointed experts insist that Russia is an expansionist power. Oddly, this “expansion” only seems to be occurring in zones that Moscow once controlled, into which the E.U. and NATO, supported by the U.S., have sought to extend their influence.
The comparison of today’s Russia to yesterday’s U.S.S.R. is baseless. I know this, and rage inwardly at my inability to convey my understanding to others. Could this be because I have been unable to communicate the change of heart I underwent during my more than two years in the Russian capital?
Let me try again, starting in a Moscow street called Bolshaya Ordynka. The existence of this place, at the end of the Soviet era, was a great shock to me. Moscow in 1990 was at first sight a festival of concrete. Its cityscape was the Leninist word made flesh, arrogant proletarian lumps deliberately defying all concepts of beauty and grace, the very suburbs of hell.
But Bolshaya Ordynka was not like this. Here was the Moscow of Leo Tolstoy, with trees and low classical houses, not ordained by some gigantic bureaucratic plan, but sweetly proportioned to human needs. On it stood a church with the haunting name of “The Consolation of All Sorrows,” something badly needed at that time of nervous shortage, abrupt catastrophe, and the ever-present fear of a midnight putsch with tanks grinding along the streets. (In August 1991 I woke from a fretful sleep to find those tanks coming down my Moscow avenue, Kutuzovsky Prospekt, barrels aslant in the morning light, throwing up dust as they tore the road to bits.)
This modest street, Bolshaya Ordynka, could outdo Paris in loveliness. Here, under many grimy and bloody layers of Leninism, neglect, and about three wars, lay Russia, a very different thing from the U.S.S.R. Unlike the U.S.S.R., it was profoundly Christian, rather glorious, and no particular threat to the West. Perhaps the Bolsheviks had not, after all, destroyed and desecrated absolutely everything, and a lost nation was waiting quietly to return to life.

Read the whole article here.

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