The Battle for History – Part II

Author: Vladimir Karpets

Translator: Yulian Orlov

Zavtra no. 21 (914), 25 May 2011


“Relinquish your blood and accept the Spirit”, the ancient Church Fathers said (Saint Peter of Damascus, blessed father Longinus, and others). They themselves did not invent this utterance. We are dealing with a deep metaphysical unity, and not just in the ascetic and moral sense, which are, of course, also present.

Blood has a dual nature. It consists of two fundamental elements: red cells and white cells. In Orthodox liturgy, the red vestments of Passion Week are exchanged for white robes on Great Saturday and again exchanged for red ones during the night of the Holy Resurrection. The symbolism of white and red accompanies the entire history of the human race. In medieval natural philosophy, the images of red and white wine were used. The ancient Aryans considered white to be the color of the priestly varna, and red the sign of the ruling and military class. Later, white was linked to purity and red to holy fury and holy war.

The “whites” and “reds” have fought since ancient times (priests against warriors, the Priesthood against the Ruler), but they could not do without each other, as in itself this battle has always had a sacred meaning. Later, the pure delineations of the ancient varnas were erased: thus, the wars of the Scarlet and White Rose looked like a confrontation within a single royal line, while during the French Revolution the “white” united the clergy and aristocracy, while the “red” was captured by the bourgeoisie and common people. But the reason for this is not just in the mixing of the varnas. The fact is that the Sacred Emperors, in a certain sense, united within themselves the sacred and the militant. Without this, we also cannot understand the meaning of our own “civil war.”

I am consciously writing this term in quotes. A “civil war” is only possible in a place where there are citizens: an autonomous, urban, bourgeois estate (“bourgeois” actually means “citizen”). The Russian Empire was the home of the subjects of the Tsar, and “citizens” appeared only during the Empire’s decay, and even then, they formed a minuscule minority. The subjects moved against the Tsar, after which they started on each other. This is not a “civil war”, it is a classic time of troubles [1]. This is why it continues to this very day.

The symbolism of the ancient Assyrian-Babylonian kings (and the Russian Tsars were successors of the Roman Empire, which, according to the Book of Daniel, succeeded the Babylonian empire – Russian scribes developed this inheritance in the “Tale of the Kingdom of Babylon” and the “Tale of Borma Yaryzhka” [2]) included a red bull and a white falcon (or white deer). The Russian Tsar was a White Tsar, that is to say autonomous, not dependent on anyone (in the social sphere, the “white kingdom” is related to the “white towns” and “white clergy” [3]) and a Red Tsar, the anointed commander of the host. The February conspiracy was led by generals and the episcopate [4]. This last point must be acknowledged, as it does not contradict the Soviet (and its mirror opposite, the anti-Soviet) version of the “monarchist clergy.” Investigations by the historian, Dr. Mikhail Babkin, have laid this problem bare. They also explained extremely well why the idea of an Orthodox monarchy is unpopular in contemporary Church circles.

The beginning of the Russian troubles of the 20th century was the destruction of Imperial power as the center of united blood and spirit, the white and the red. The whites and reds marched against each other. This is identical to the red and white cells in fanatical (gay?) medical practice. A famous song of that time (set to the tune of a Hassidic melody) sings: “The White Army and the Black Baron [5] / are preparing the Tsar’s throne for us again / but from the taiga to the British sea, / The Red Army is the strongest of them all” – this is a complete alchemical formula.

The Red Army was not Lenin and Trotsky’s creation. It was a creation of the Imperial High Command. The military aristocracy stood at its origins. The Russian officer class was split into two. The author of this article has already had the occasion to write on this subject in the article “The Lenin-Potapov Precedent” (Zavtra, 2010, no.16). However paradoxical it may seem, the “social factor” is secondary. 

Both the Whites and the Reds were right. The Whites had aesthetics and ethics (by the way, what ethics could be spoken of after the rule of the Tsar?). The Reds primarily had the rejection of the buying and selling of land (“The land belongs to God and the Tsar, and thus belongs to nobody”), precisely because land is Blood and Spirit (“on Whit Monday, it is the Land’s name day” [6]). The paradox lies in that the Whites, who acted in the interests of a “one and undivided Russia”, found themselves to be the hostages of foreign interventionists (mainly the English) who tried to divide Russia; the Reds, in turn, once again united the Russian land from the Carpathians to the Pacific, all the while holding speeches on the “Internationale” and the “right of nations to self-determination.”

But the revolution itself was the “black” component of the formula. Neither the Whites nor the Reds were equal to the “black blacker than the black masses” – the anarchists, however, were. Anarchy is the mother (in the literal sense) of order. It is that what comes before, the Damp Mother Earth [8]. Having hidden the Tsar within herself, she is bound to resurrect him. Neither the Whites, nor the Reds, nor the anarchists understood this. V. V. Rozanov wrote [9] that if the banners of the revolution did not carry the words “Workers of the world, unite!” but “The fashion of this world passeth away [10]”, everything would have been different. Thus, the Whites failed in the “white task”, and the Reds in the “red.” That is to say in the long run, and if we look at the entire history of the twentieth century.

Therefore, uniting these two streams of Rus (these dews or veins) is our final raison d’etre and goal. In the political-historical sense, we can (or cannot) call this “social-monarchism.”

“And a bright red rowan

On a chalk-white bluff”
(Anatoly Zhigulin [11]). 


Translator’s notes:

[1]: The Russian term смута cannot be translated directly to English. It is related to a root meaning “sorrow”, and signifies a time of great, dreadful catastrophe. It is most often used to refer to the Time of Troubles of the early 17th century, which nearly proved to be the Muscovite state’s undoing.

[2]: These are both old Russian folktales that were borrowed from the Byzantines and given a Russian coloration. Both tales state that the Byzantine/Russian emperor sent a diplomatic mission to Babylon, after which the diplomats return with an emperor’s crown and a document that confirms the emperor in question as the rightful successor to Babylon.

[3]: “White towns” (белые слободы) were tax-exempt settlements in Muscovite Russia. The “white clergy” (белое духовенство) refers to those members of the clergy that are allowed to marry. The “black clergy” is forbidden from marrying and consists of monks and bishops.

[4]: A reference to the February Revolution, in which representatives of the Russian Supreme Command, high clergy, and political elite gently forced Nicholas II to abdicate the Russian throne.

[5]: The “Black Baron” referenced here is baron Pyotr Nikolaevich Wrangel (1878 – 1928), a cavalry officer and White general who was feared by the Reds for his loyalty to the Tsar and skill on the battlefield. 

[6]: This difficult to translate Russian proverb (в Духов день Земля — именинница) has two important elements: first, Whit Monday is often called the “Day of the Holy Spirit” in Eastern Orthodoxy; second, Whit Monday is (according to the proverb), the Earth’s name day. “Name days” are an ancient Slavic custom that resemble the Western practice of birthdays, with the change that a person is honoured on the same day that the saint that person shares a first name with is venerated.

[7]: Another sentence that is difficult to translate into English (черному чернее чёрной черни), this is a reference to the peasant class in Russian society, which has been historically called “black” (чернь). A more expressive translation would be “blacker than the blackest black”, but I felt it necessary to forego sacrificing a precise translation of чернь.

[8]: The Damp Mother Earth (Мать Сыра Земля) is a personification of the earth in Slavic mythology. It later became a folk-Christian appellation for the Holy Virgin. 

[9]: Vasily Vasielevich Rozanov (1856 – 1919) was a Russian journalist, literature critic, theologian, and philosopher who exerted a small, but significant influence on Russian Silver Age poetry and philosophy. He is most famous for his attempts to reconcile sexual activity and Christianity.

[10]: 1 Corinthians 7:31 (KJV).

[11]: Anatoly Vladimirovich Zhigulin (1930 – 2000) was a Russian poet and prose writer who is now best known for his “Black Stones” (Черные камни, 1989-1990), a series of autobiographical poems and stories. The lines cited here are from the poem Belogorye (translation mine).

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