Christmas: A Parthian Shot

This post is an annual Committee of Public Safety Christmas tradition. From Wikipedia c. 2008:


The metamorphosis of Saint Nicholas into the more commercially lucrative Santa Claus, which took several centuries in Europe and America, has recently been re-enacted in the saint’s home town: the city of Demre. This modern Turkish town is built near the ruins of ancient Myra. As St. Nicholas is a very popular Orthodox saint, the city attracts many Russian tourists. A solemn bronze statue of the Saint by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, donated by the Russian government in 2000, was given a prominent place on the square in front of the medieval church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Suleyman Topcu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted the central statue to be more recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against this action were successful only to the extent that the Russian statue was returned, without its original high pedestal, to a corner near the church.


Alas, poor Russia. So far from God, so close to the North Pole.

15 thoughts on “Christmas: A Parthian Shot”

  1. also Russia`s once and future president. (bold is mine)

    Not so fast, Ralf. The election will be in March, and as the 10K+ meetings that’s going on all over Russia now show (first time in 15 years), there is no inevitability in this matter.

  2. Putin is an ex KGB Colonel who was stationed in Dresden I believe. Unless he had a “Road to Damascus” moment I can’t imagine him being a devout Christian…

  3. Ralf: then he will lose the game anyway, but with a loud bang, not with a whimper (as he could have, with accepting the popular anti-Putin and anti-United Russia party sentiment.) The time of ignoring the people’s will and trying to frighten them with muscle passed. The Army will not participate in a civil war, if that’s his threat.

    Bill, there is no contradiction. Two birds of one feather.

  4. “Alas, poor Russia. So far from God, so close to the North Pole.”

    For those who missed the reference:

    “Alas poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the USA.” — Attributed to Porfirio Diaz.

  5. Putin`s Christian belif might be a pretense, for Russia has nothing besides nationalism and religion to unite it in any way that approaches the effects of ideology. On the other hand, that is kind of hard to prove.

  6. @Ralf – Of course form a Christian perspective one has to say that only God knows Putin’s heart – but from that perspective one also knows that “a tree is known by its fruit” – not wanting to start a theological discussion but rigging elections is not a good sign from a Christian perspective ;-)

    From a political perspective my trip down the Volga 5-6 years ago was an eye opening experience. I could see why the communists were so antagonistic to the Church – to see the huge number of Churches all over Russia. The Church had/has a huge political influence over the country so perhaps in my cynical mode Putin finds in convenient to say he is a Christian.

    While Peter the Great started changing the Volga to allow ship navigation it was Stalin, and political prisoners, who really finished it. There are – I think – 9 locks between Moscow and St Petersburg.

    It was said for years the bones of those who died – estimated 160,000 – making it would wash up on the shore.

    If 160,000 died one can surmise that easily a million or more built it.

    An old Russian joke was that the waterway was built on one end by those who told jokes about Stalin and on the other end, those who listened to the joke.

    Along one section you can see the steeple of a church that was submerged in the 1930s – still above the water.

  7. Putin’s read his Machiavelli, and I think not just The Prince but also his Discourses. He knows that there is something fundamentally broken in Russia and without Orthodoxy, it is unlikely to get fixed anytime soon. All that doesn’t say anything about the sincerity of his belief. It’s merely indicative of his propensity to aid Orthodoxy.

    One thing that we shouldn’t confuse is belief and sainthood. Saints are generally not criminals in a society with just laws. But nobody’s considering Putin a saint, merely a believer. And anybody who thinks that Russia is a society of just laws hasn’t been paying attention. Plenty of princes in Christendom have rigged a vote. That does not make them excommunicant. It makes them sinners. Most christians are sinners.

    So is Putin a sincere believer? I think so. His personal intervention in the unification process of the “Red” and “White” Russian Orthodox Churches has no serious earthly political payoff. His investment in time and prestige into the process does not make sense except if taken as a leader who is a believer and who spotted a way to personally help the Church.

  8. It applies only tangentially, but I’ve always liked the bit of lyric from the the Rolling Stones tune about a murdering thug; “but when he gets home to his children he’s a family man”. Compartmentalization happens.

  9. Bill, you asked me for views/info on contemporary Russian political situation – and I said I’d take too much space and time to respond properly. It occurred to me now – why repeat somebody else excellent efforts if they already have an outstanding blog?
    It is my pleasure to refer you to Streetwise Professor and his to-the-point and on-target observations on the subject.

  10. Regarding Putin’s re-election prospects, perhaps another quote from a Latin American statesman is appropriate:

    “Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count.” — Anastasio Somoza

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