Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Russian Cross with a Crescent

Russia has had a long history of conflict with Islam after the fall of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453 and before.  The Russian Orthodox cross with a crescent at the bottom speaks of that history.  For a time Moscow was referred to as the "Third Rome" (complete with the seven hills like Rome and Constantinople) and it was said there will be no fourth.  Manuscripts had been brought to Russia in Slovanic and Greek early when the church was first being established.  Russia and the Ukraine had been a land in which the Muslims would raid in the summers to collect slaves for the slave market in Crimea.  Then in 1652 the "Raskol" or schism happened when the Patriarch Nikon tried to update the church literature with the help of Greek scholars and manuscripts from the Greek Orthodox in the south.  Many were skeptical of the Greeks who by this time were living under the rule of the Turkish sultan.  The Old Believers and their tradition were not convinced and they were pressured out.  They can be found in various places in Siberia,  Manchuria, Oregon and Alaska where they fled.  This painting depicts a debate between some Old Believers and Patriarch Joachin.  The Old Believers held up two fingers while the reformers under Nikon held up one when they prayed.
Strange as it may sound we had an experience in Homer, Alaska with some very friendly Old Believers would not pray with us simply because they did not know how we would hold our fingers.  A persecuted church can become quite paranoid regarding outsiders.  This schism eventually lead to a weakening of the Russian church making it easier for Peter the Great to take an autocratic position over church and state thus the Czar (Russian equivalent to Kaiser or Caesar) could deal directly with schismatics like any dictator might.  In 1721, the Tsar did away with the Patriarchs and the Church Council assuming total control which alienated many.  When the state run Orthodox Church could no longer communicate with the Old Believers things began to unravel.  This paved the way for the Socialist October Revolution in 1917 in which atheists stepped in to solve the religion problem once and for all.  The rest is history, at least that is what they thought.  Islam continues to plague Russia as it always has, and the church in various forms continues to march forward. 

In 1853 the Russians, after being invaded for several hundred years by Ottoman Muslims collecting slaves, destroyed the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Sinop.  Russia was able to drive the Muslims out of their slave trading center in Crimea.
A problem arose however with the west because the Ottoman Empire owed its western protectors loads of cash.  The west did not want Russia to kill its cash cow and the west had military technology good enough to stop Russian expansion.