Russia’s definitive turn to the East that is presently much discussed in the Western media comes as another historical comeback of the recent years. Here, Vladimir Putin acts as Alexander Nevsky, making a choice between the antagonistic West and the more traditional China, now epitomised by Xi Jinping.
The 13th Century in Russian History: A Choice between the West and the East
Back in the first half of 13th century the Papacy went berserk against everyone that was still not subdued to the power of the Roman throne. The barbarian Albigensian Crusade and the siege and capture of Constantinople as the highest point of the Fourth Crusade were insufficient. The Slavic and Baltic tribes of the Eastern Europe remained pagan or Orthodox, and they had to be
converted coerced into Catholicism.
The Livonian Order successfully converted or exterminated several Baltic tribes before reaching the borders of Rus near Novgorod the Great. The story of Alexander Nevsky’s overthrowing the Catholic knights in two decisive battles (the Battle on the Neva River, 1240; and the Battle on the Ice, 1242) is well known.
At practically the same time the Mongols came in hordes and subdued the fragments of the Ancient Russian state that fell apart as a result of feudal disunity. Arguably, the Tatar-Mongols were better equipped, and they acted as one force, whereas the Russians were divided, and this explains why there was little resistance to their onslaught. The Mongols were strong, the Russians were weak – although not too weak against the Catholic knights.
Yet there was another reason why the Mongol yoke seemed the lesser of two evils. The Mongols left unscathed the Orthodox Church. If an occasional temple did perish in the flame, it was because the Mongols burnt the entire city, and not because they strongly opposed the Russian religion. As a result, not only did the Orthodox church and faith survive, they also became the building block of the Mongol resistance and played the pivotal role in the first victory at Kulikovo Field in 1380.
Needless to say, this would be absolutely impossible if the Papacy had its way. The Papacy’s sole aim was to expand its power beyond the known limits, to make it universal. There would be no Orthodox order, but only the Roman Catholic. There would be no Russian churches or that peculiar ancient Russian culture we all admire. And there would possibly be no Russians as a nation. The Papacy gave an example of discerning between the heretics and faithful during the Albigensian Crusade: kill them all, and God will know the difference.
Russia and China Today
Centuries later we are back to the same configuration in politics, and once again Russia opts for an alliance with traditional, Orthodox-friendly China against the West, which has clearly lost sight of things in its servile devotion to “progress” and a staunch opposition to Orthodox Christianity.
Hence, Alexander Nevsky’s not-so-difficult choice has been upheld by Vladimir Putin.