During the Easter Season, Orthodox Christians will greet each other with the phrase:
“Christ is risen!”…and answer “He is risen indeed”.

And so, during the Easter season, I was delighted to see a symbol of this when watching Boris Yeltsin’s funeral on CNN Int yesterday: the “first Orthodox state funeral since Tsar Alexander III in 1894”.

Ah, the old drunk’s heart finally gave way. Years ago, he had a heart attack, then bypass surgery, then viral pneumonia. He got through all of them, but was health problems ultimately resulted in the clean living Putin taking his place, rolling back many of the democratic reforms of Yeltsin.

Ironically, Yeltsin will not be buried in the Kremlin wall along with other “greats” of political Russia:

” his final resting place was among the greats of 20th-century Russian culture, the likes of authors Gogol and Bulgakov, composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich and the opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin. “

Yeltsin’s funeral was held in  “the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow blown up on Stalin’s orders in 1931 but rebuilt by Yeltsin.”.

The history of the cathedral is that it was conceived as a monument to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon, whose aggressive secularism was stopped by the holy Orthodox Russia.

It was this idenitification of Russia with Christianity that infuriated the Communists. (Moscow is often called “the Third Rome, i.e. one of the three centers of Christianity, and in their thinking the church that has preserved the purist form of Christianity).

First, the church was desecrated, and later destroyed and a  plans were made to  build a “palace of the people” with a statue of Lenin on top…but for some reason construction workers found they could not stabilize the foundation for that building, and plans were abandoned and a swimming pool was put in the foundation instead.

With the fall of communism, the Orthodox church asked for it’s reconstruction, and the cathedral was quickly rebuilt, and seen as a symbol of repudiation of communism and as a way to commemorate those who suffered under the communism, and a symbol of the renewal of holy Orthodoxy.

Ironically, in a time when Europe is repudiating it’s Christian roots, Russia is reasserting them. Perhaps this is why a Putin, whose policies are often posited against the American government, nevertheless strongly defended George Bush against a BBC interviewer who asked a pointed question that aimed at getting a soundbite of criticism of Bush.

Without understanding the legends and beliefs of a people, you are unable to understand what motivates people. And without seeing the importance of an Orthodox Mother Russia that has more in common with Red State America than with an aggressively secular Europe, you are missing part of the story.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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