Orthodox Greater Russia

On some prior posting, long ago, I ran into a link that lead to a site that was written by a Russian. It advocated the point of view that the Eastern Orthodox Church was the cultural tie to bind Russia and all the Russian Related areas together. That the destiny of Russia was, in some way or other, to construct (or re-construct) an empire based on that range of Orthodox Christianity.

In general, I just figured it was Yet Another Crazy Idea. However, it does have a germ of cultural truth in it. The literary and religious histories of the areas are intertwined and share many common threads. They are, to greater or lesser extent, “kin”.

So I was looking for a map of this kinship, and found an interesting map on the wiki:

Orthodox Christianity by Country

Orthodox Christianity by Country

You can click on this for a bigger size.

Original Image

We care about the blue bits in this context. The darker the blue, the higher the percentage. The scale is as follows:

Eastern Orthodoxy
Main religion (more than 75%)
Main religion (50% – 75%)
Important minority religion (20% – 50%)
Important minority religion (5% – 20%)
Minority religion (1% – 5%)

So mostly we care about the 2 or 3 darkest regions.

I think this map (and a language map of Slavic languages) makes it much more clear where the Russian Affinity Group lies (at least as Russia might see it).

A discussion of the recent Russian ‘activist’ behaviours relative to Iran, Syria, and the area near that end of the Mediterranean and Black Sea had broken out, down in the comments area on the China Property Bubble thread:


Inspection of the above map tends to focus the understanding as to ‘why’.

Each end of Turkey is a strong endpoint of the Eastern Orthodoxy range. The places where Russia expresses the most concern about U.S. bases and missiles are those European nations with the most linguistic and religious affinities.

Add to that a map of the distribution of modern Slavic languages and you get a pretty good idea of the “Russian Kinship” extent:

Modern Slavic Languages

Modern Slavic Languages

Though I have to emphasize that this map leaves out Eastern Russia and much of the Russian incursion southward in those areas…

Original Image

In particular, notice the small stripe of Orthodoxy that is in Syria (though a mix of blue and redish, Eastern and Oriental).

I suspect that this historical perspective gives some insight into ‘why’ a Russian government and people would feel some particular “involvement” in areas like Syria, Ukraine, and The Balkans. They will have been raised with the histories of Orthodox range and scope, the maps of related language areas, and the awareness that ‘these are related’ in some way. Much like a Canadian, Australian, and US American are all ‘similar but different’ (many even of different language and racial histories, yet with a ‘kinship’ of culture and history). Or perhaps a better analogy in some cases, for the much more distant groups, would be like the relationship of England and the USA to Germany. The Angles and Saxons were from there, long ago, and the languages are ‘related but different’. We seem to like having wars with each other from time to time, but don’t like it if others attack one of us…

In summary, I think it important to have these maps and this view in mind when listening to various Russian Pronouncements about where they are unwilling to accept American Intrusions and where they feel at liberty to plant their own defenses. In short, I think “History, Religion, Language and Culture” all matter. Borders matter too, but the others tend to define where the borders will be. Russia feels, for various of these places, some affinity based on the history, religion, language, or cultural similarities (or some mix of them) and it would be a very good idea to recognize that. A particularly hard thing for Americans to do as we are indoctrinated into the idea that there is no common culture, we are ‘multicultural’, and we ought to expect everyone else to just be happy in their differences and take no notice of to whom they are similar. This is a cultural blindness that can only hurt us.

It will be interesting to watch this collision of the Historically Aware Russian culture with the ‘multicultural idiots’ of the West who know nothing of culture and ties that bind.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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27 Responses to Orthodox Greater Russia

  1. George says:

    Russia in many ways sees itself historically as the last bastion of the Roman Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, to be precise). They adopted the alphabet, the religion and even certain other things. Tzar is Russian for Caesar (as is Kaiser in German).

  2. R. de Haan says:

    Great article.
    Now you know, based on historic religious bonds, why the Russians make such a deal of the Kosovo and the Serb minority.

    They regard the UN troops stationed at the border as an occupying force.
    and talk about NATO violence. I know, it’s all propaganda but in the mean time…. we risk a second Cold War.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    Thanks, glad you liked it. A bit short, but I think it captures the salient points. I’m thinking of adding an update with some Slavic longer term migration history in it, now that Turkey is done… Then again, a nap sounds good too ;-)

    FWIW, I suspect that “shortly” in historical terms Russia will have a “unification” of some sort back into those Slavic homelands. A New Orthodox Renaissance. The biggest questions are more about when and how.


    Hadn’t thought of it in terms of the Byzantium angle. Nice point… Have to look up the historical connections between The Rus and Byzantium… I could easily see the mythology of Moscow as New Byzantium, last bastion against the Barbarians from all of East, West, and South… (And frankly, given the nuttiness in the USA, EU, and the instabilities in the Muslim World, coupled with the Chinese Puzzle / Theatre… they might well be right.)

    Would NATO really do anything if Russia and the Slavic Balkans formed a Slavic Union claiming to be modeled on the E.U. – even with Russia ‘first among equals’? I suspect we would do a lot of gnashing of teeth and blustering, then enquire quietly if the oil and natural gas would still flow smoothly and might we be assured of peace in the region? Then slink away.

    Not only is the entire NATO alliance flat busted broke, but we’re up to our eyeballs in overcommitment and military spending cuts. No way we would do ANYTHING to stop it.

  4. R. de Haan says:

    “It will be interesting to watch this collision of the Historically Aware Russian culture with the ‘multicultural idiots’ of the West who know nothing of culture and ties that bind.”

    I think they do but use immigration in the same way they use peak oil, climate change to bring us down.

    Watching the map civilization as we know it really stops east of the borders with the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia.

    Yes, there are some insulated islands of civilization beyond those borders but you can’t travel this region safely without taking precautions.

    East of the Bosporus the level of civilization deteriorates quickly.

    You make that experience when you fly this region and find out that basic services like weather info simply cease to exist.

    Interesting enough EURASIA is the home to 70% of the world population and the land mass contains about 70% of all our known resources, production capacity and wealth.

    The struggle to control this continent is ongoing for thousands of years and there is no indication whatsoever that we will see a long lasting peace within our life time. On the contrary.

  5. dearieme says:

    “…it’s all propaganda …”: really? Do you think NATO was wise to attack Serbia over Kosovo?

  6. R. de Haan says:

    NATO (and the EU and the UN) did a terrible job, not only in Kosovo but also in Sebreniça, Bosnia Herzegowina, Croatia and Republca Srpska and I really think it was a mistake to attack Serbia over Kosovo.

    I still think we should have stayed out of the conflict all together but somehow we don’t do that even if the same goes for the Russians, the Chinese and even the Muslim Extremist’s who were also involved and.. the trajectory of an land based oil pipe line.

    However I used the remark “it’s all propaganda” in reference to the current media frenzy about Kosovo in the Russian press.

  7. George says:

    Would NATO really do anything if Russia and the Slavic Balkans formed a Slavic Union claiming to be modeled on the E.U. – even with Russia ‘first among equals’?

    Oh, you mean if they re-create the Warsaw pact?

  8. boballab says:


    The connection between the Eastern Orthodox Church to Constantinople is direct. The fissure of the Church started right after the splitting of the Roman Empire due to competing political and Religious practices. It was the Sacking of Constantinople by the fourth Crusade in 1204 that caused the final break and is part of what is called the “Great Schism” which started in 1054.

    What is funny is that it was the Western Roman Empire being overrun by Germanic Barbarians in the 5th Century that actually led to WWI due to the competing political and religious ties. One of those Germanic tribes was the Franks and the leader of the Franks at one point was: Charlemagne.

    Charlemagne in turn made what is now known as the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) with the Pope in Rome as the primacy of it’s official religion. One of the groups that were tied to the HRE was the Croats in 1102 through Austria. Later on the HRE fell apart after the Napoleonic wars (Even before that it wasn’t what it used to be) and the Austro Hungarian Empire was left in place under the Hapsburg family and the Croats stayed tied to it and to the new German nation.

    On the other side of the equation the Eastern Roman Empire prospered after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and at times made forays into capturing Rome in the 6th Century (See Belisarius). During the 7th Century the Serbs started converting to Orthodox Christianity and it became the state religion in the 9th Century. Also starting in the 9th Century the Rus people started to convert to Orthodox Christianity. After the fall of Constantinople the Russian branch basically got leadership through default since the former ruling Patriarchs were now in Ottoman hands. Peter the Great then did to the Orthodox Church what Philip the IV of Spain basically did to the Catholic Church in his country and Henry the VIII did in forming the Anglican Church: Made the Church answer to the State. It was through this that the ties of the Serbs transferred to Russia.

    So the political and religious differences between the Croats and Serbs dates back to the Schism between Rome and Constantinople and how the Roman Catholic Church got “influenced” by the Germanic Barbarians.

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    Not quite a New Warsaw Pact, as it included some non-slav groups (like half of Germany, Hungary, Romania,…) but the same idea with more linguistic and cultural affinity markers in the members.


    Interesting snippet:


    Russian Claims

    Within decades after the fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on 29 May 1453, some were nominating Moscow as the “Third Rome”, or the “New Rome”. Stirrings of this sentiment began during the reign of Ivan III of Russia who had married Sophia Paleologue. Sophia was a niece of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor, and Ivan could claim to be the heir of the fallen Byzantine Empire.

    The story of “Third Rome” (“the second Constantinople”) started in Tver, during the reign of Boris of Tver, when the monk Foma (Thomas) of Tver had written The Eulogy of the Pious Grand Prince Boris Alexandrovich in 1453. The idea crystallized with a panegyric letter composed by the Russian monk Philoteus (Filofey) of Pskov in 1510 to their son Grand Duke Vasili III, which proclaimed, “Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!”. Contrary to the common misconception, Filofey explicitly identifies Third Rome with Muscovy (the country) rather than with Moscow (the city). In addition, Moscow is placed on seven hills, as is Rome and Constantinople.

    It also points out that the Russian coat of arms has the same ‘double headed eagle’ as Rome (s)…

    So looks like a “New Byzantium” map might be “on the cards” too ;–0

  10. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: This is a more intelligent approach to real changes in history. A few years ago, when the APEC Summit was held in Peru, S.A.,, I saw on tv a journalist naively asking the president of China as to how he could explain the capitalistic orientation of China confronted with the communist nature of the ruling party. The president of China answered, as I remember it: “if the French Revolution began in the XIX century and we don´t know if it has finished already, how can we say something about the Chinese Revolution?”
    The journalist was left dumbfounded….
    Translating the answer, he meant that such “democracy” as the one promoted by the French Revolution was dying, as we can see it now in almost all countries we call the “occidental culture”, where politicians have been incapable of taking any decissions whatsoever regarding the current economic crisis (in Europe and also in the USA-the “super committee”-).
    It reveals that there are deeper troubles: the lack of principles, the lack of a morality, which secular countries and the atheistic french revolution could not replace with empty words as “Liberte,fraternite, egalite” and also decaying philosophical and scientific paradigms.
    At the same time, the seeds of the new “weltanschaaung” have already sprung, the Apocalypse is here:(Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis; “lifting of the veil” or “revelation”) is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted.
    You are one of those who are lifting the veil….

  11. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.. Who did say this (during the time of the Stalin government): “From Russia comes the hope of the world”
    I couldn´t believe it when I read it in 1964…and he continues saying;“China would become “the cradle of Christianity, as applied in the lives of men.”
    The man who said these words was an american: Edgar Cayce

  12. dearieme says:

    ” I really think it was a mistake to attack Serbia over Kosovo.” Me too.

    “However I used the remark “it’s all propaganda” in reference to the current media frenzy about Kosovo in the Russian press”: I stand corrected.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks for the compliments… though now I’m pondering a Coat Of Arms that shows a dragon with a knight (me?): Lance tip lifting the veil on the Dragon and about to experience the Apocalypse…

    @Dearieme & R. de Haan:

    Clinton thought to buy favor with the Muslim World by coming to the defense of a Muslim population. Instead he pissed off Russia (that had been starting to be sort of OK with us) by killing kindred Slavs and got nothing but derision from the Muslim world. Just stupidity, blind mindless stupidity.

    What I advocated then, and still think would have been the right thing to do, would have been for the US to state publicly “We have no national interest in the region.” and stay out. Now I’d likely add “And suggest that Russia, as it speaks a related language and has a similar culture, being highly familiar with the region, take the lead on a regional peace keeping mission with volunteer NATO country participation from the European sectors of NATO … ” The sheer shock value to the Russian Paranoia of having some Polish, German, and maybe even French troops flying NATO banners under THEIR direction would have changed the world….

    YugoSLAVia would have reached peace much quicker. Russia would likely be a close partner of the EU and NATO now (perhaps even a member). And not much would be different in the Muslim world other than they likely would have done LESS attacks as they might not have thought us as completely idiotic and transparent as they did from the “Clinton buying a friend” attempt at a ploy.

    Frankly, I think we need to stop provoking Russian Paranoia and instead offer them a participation role that recognizes their “Slav ‘Monroe Doctrine’ sensibilities”. Offer that any ‘counter Iran’ Missile Bases have BOTH NATO and Russian missile defense systems sited on them, side by side, with JOINT command structure (either side “ok” to give launch code for south facing sectors, only BOTH in agreement for ‘go code’ for east / west ‘rogue launch’ scenarios). That ought to be fine… if they REALLY are ‘aimed at an Iranian threat’… Sometimes you need to hand your prospective ally a hand grenade -pin still in place- to show some trust… just make sure they really do understand that both of you are stuck in the same room before you do it ;-)

  14. kuhnkat says:

    EM, your idea on how to approach Russia sounds excellent. I am in agreement in our actions in the Balkans beign STUPID, but, a number of people were probably stuck in the Cold War mentality thinking they were pushing back the evil empire with our internal Muslims helping our blindness along. Speaking of our internal Muslims, i believe western governments are too compromised at this point to generally realize that if we are going to be allying with people we should be allying with Russia over Islamic regimes. Not sure but with Russia and China working with Iran and other Islamic regimes it would seem the stupidity is all over.

  15. Sera says:

    “MOSCOW – In a stunning example of the resurgence of Christianity in general and the Russian Orthodox Church in particular, President Medvedev marked the adoption of Christianity in 988 with a new public holiday. This is the latest demonstration of the Kremlin’s support for an Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.

    Some rights groups have criticized the new holiday, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, as undermining Russia’s secular constitution.”


    “In February 1990, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission from the Soviet Government to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. A temporary cornerstone was laid by the end of the year. The restorer Aleksey Denisov was called upon to design a replica of extraordinary accuracy.

    A construction fund was initiated in 1992 and funds began to pour in from ordinary citizens in the autumn of 1994. In this year the pool was demolished and the cathedral reconstruction commenced. About one million Muscovites donated money for the project.”


  16. Pascvaks says:

    The more we understand “history”, the wiser we act in the present, and the more we may be able to shape the future toward an outcome of our own liking.

    As incredible as it may seem, Americans are still brash, thick headed, obstinate, pandering, low browed, stupid, and obnoxious. Just imagine how we must seem to the rest of the world.

    It is very dangerous to think of the world as a “village”. It is not. To think of something in a way that it is not is to invite disaster. Who ever came up with such an idea in such stupid, simple, childish terms?

    When the Cold War ended no one told the United States. I wonder why? Maybe everyone thought we already knew?

    There are now seven spheres – Europe, Asia, Oceania, N. America, S. America, N. Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa. Within Europe there are four major players (UK, Fr., Ge., Ru.) and a double handful of minor players. Within Asia there are three major players (Ru. Ch., In.) and a bunch of minor players. Within Oceania there are three major players (Jp., Au., Indonesia) and a bunch of minors. N. America has one supper daddy. S. America has one fat daddy. N. Africa is a mess. Sub-Saharan Africa is a bigger mess. And, for what it’s worth, there are millions of “villages” in each sphere, all different.

    Regardless of what you may have heard, there are no Superpowers on planet Earth. There are Continental Major Powers. Any power that thinks it’s “Super”, or “The One And Only” is in for a mighty rude awakening.

    Religion and philosophy are part of history, as well as the present, and will last into the immediate future, as far as I can tell. Unless there’s a damn good reason to not do so, they should always be factored into every equation and by people who know what they’re talking about. (I don’t think anyone in the US State Department is qualified to address a single religion or philosophy.)

    I think the Cold War was too, too long. Now American’s just don’t know how to live without government telling them how to think, or what to do. Crying shame if you ask me. Unless they relearn how to live life on their own without someone telling them what they can and can’t do, they’re toast. I still don’t know why no one ever told us the war was over and that we could now go back to being ourselves. Why?

  17. P.G. Sharrow says:

    That was not what “THEY” had in mind. But now the American are beginning to wake up. Bad news for “THEM”. pg

  18. R. de Haan says:

    E.M.Smith (22:49:48) :

    “Frankly, I think we need to stop provoking Russian Paranoia and instead offer them a participation role that recognizes their “Slav ‘Monroe Doctrine’”sensibilities”.

    “Sometimes you need to hand your prospective ally a hand grenade -pin still in place- to show some trust… just make sure they really do understand that both of you are stuck in the same room before you do it ;-)”

    Wise words E.M.

    But didn’t we offer cooperation on many occasions”

    Didn’t we invite Russian observers with all our NATO meetings from 1992?
    Haven’t we cooperated with Russia since Peter the Great came to Holland to study how we built our ships?

    Paranoia in the case of the Russians is self inflicted and the only possible way to treat the patient is from within, that is if any cure is available at all.

    Today Russia has a Czar who, just like Lenin and Stalin, simply murders his opposition even if they escaped Russian territory and went to Switzerland or London (or Mexico for that matter). Russia now has a Czar who simply jails his opposition, steals his assets despite (too mild foreign) protests and gets away with it. Today we have a Czar who simply shuts down gas pipelines to paying customers in Europe mid winter to win a regional dispute.

    That said, Russia has a long tradition in paranoid behavior and as far as I can see it, it’s systematic and possibly not curable at all.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    Um, I didn’t say “cure” I said “stop provoking”. BIG difference… I’m just looking at how to get along with the paranoid in the bus, not cure them…

    And yes, we have the New Czar and all that comes with it…


    Nice description of the real global structure. I’d only add that some of the regional powers are paranoid, some have senile dementia, a few are braggarts fat in their old age and looking for someone to buy them another beer for another story, and some are more devious and slowly planning conquest…

  20. R. de Haan says:

    E.M.Smith (22:49:48) :

    I really don’t see how we can do that.

    Just watch what’s going on off the Syrian coast today

    US carrier strike force enters Syrian waters. Russian carrier en route
    DEBKAfile Special Report November 26, 2011, 11:33 AM (GMT+02:00) Tags: Syria US aircraft carriers Russian warships Arab League Turkey

    The USS Bush enters Syrian waters
    The Syrian crisis aassumed a big power dimension this week with the build-up of rival United States and Russia naval air carrier armadas in Syrian waters, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
    The USS George H.W. Bush arrived Wednesday, Nov. 23, in the wake of the three Russian warships anchored earlier opposite Tartus which established a command post in the Syrian port. They will be augmented by Russia’s only air carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, which is due in mid-week.
    By deploying 70 ship-borne fighter-bombers plus three heavy guided missile cruisers and five guided missile destroyers opposite Syria, Washington has laid down military support for any intervention the Arab League in conjunction with Turkey may decide on.
    Bashar Assad can see for himself that Washington has hoisted a nuclear aerial umbrella to protect its allies, Israel, Turkey, and Jordan, against the retaliation his armed forces high command pledged Friday for the deaths of six Syrian air force elite pilots in an ambush Thursday.
    For some time, Ankara has been weighing the creation of a protected haven for rebels and refugees inside Syria. France has proposed slicing “humanitarian corridors” through Syria for them to flee safely from military tank and gunfire and secure supply of food, medicines and other essential supplies to the cities under army siege.
    Both plans would depend on being safeguarded by substantial ground and air strength inside Syria which would certainly face fierce resistance from Assad’s military.
    The Arab League has scheduled weekend meetings to decide how to proceed after Damascus ignored its Friday deadline for accepting hundreds of monitors. Saturday, Nov. 26, AL finance ministers will discuss economic sanctions. In the past 48 hours, at least 70 people were reported killed as the Syrian army continued its crackdown in the face of spreading armed opposition.
    The Russian Kuznetzov carrier and its accompanying strike vessels will join the three Russian warships parked opposite Tartus for more than a week. It will enter the same Syrian offshore waters as the USS Bush and the US Sixth Fleet, which is permanently posted in the Mediterranean.
    The Syrian crisis is therefore building up to a superpower face-off unparalleled since the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union ended in the nineties, DEBKAfile’s military sources note.
    While Washington clearly stands ready to back operations against the Assad regime, Moscow is drawing a red line around his presidential palace in Damascus. The Kremlin is warning the US, NATO and the Arab League that they will not be allowed to repeat their feat in Libya of overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi against Assad.
    In the face of this escalating big power standoff and the high possibility of the Syrian ruler deciding to lash out against his country’s neighbors, the Israeli, Jordanian and Turkey armies have declared a high state of war preparedness.

  21. R. de Haan says:

    In fact Russia has been dogging the US, EU and NATO with opposing stands wherever and whenever they can.

    This leaves ample room for any policies based on mutual consent.

    All this despite joint space programs, cultural exchange programs,etc.

    What’s more striking however is the fact that Russia has managed to trail the US in arms exports up to a level where they are in par and managed this in a very short period of time.

  22. Pascvaks says:

    Tell the Russians it’s their problem. There. Fixed. And if they need any help, not to wait too long to come out and say so. Problem solved. Next..

    (This Solomon stuff is a snap!;-)

  23. adolfogiurfa says:

    Come on! don´t worry about Damascus or the Russians. Have you realized that you have 15 trillions of “collateral damage”. You don´t feel it yet because the printing machine has not stopped yet…
    If you stop it right away and follow the rational advice of economists you will suffer just a couple of years and afterwards everything will begin to be normal.
    It´s like having a mad wife burning up all your credit cards: Better get rid of such a lady. :-)

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    Well, now you’ve done it. Got me looking at the whole Russian / Syria thing… The result?


    A bit too much to put in a comment ;-)

    But in short: Yes, we COULD have gotten Russia more comfortable with us, back when they were essentially Economic Zombies. Or maybe even somewhat later… but not now. Now it’s too far gone and they are already wound up for belligerence. We could have helped them with their Chechen problem, or handed them the Kosovo / Serb issue. We could have given them CONTROL of what they cared about then, and gotten a friend. WE didn’t, so now we can’t.

    So my above descriptions of what we could have done are just hypotheticals for now. NOW we’ve got a large hungry bear who’s very suspicious that someone is trying to hide the bacon…


    But as fast as the mad wife burns them up, the Chinese Prostitute issues new ones ;-)

  25. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Putan is a player of that old game and is at the peak of his power.

    The Chechens will kill the chief oligarch. Who is assisting the Muslims behind the scenes. Putan? pg

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