30 May 2016

Remembering Holy Neomartyr Vukašin of Klepci and the Neomartyrs of Serbia

Yesterday was the feast day of Holy Neomartyr Vukašin (Mandrapa) of Klepci, one of the many faithful Serbs who lost their lives in the struggle against the Nazis during the Second World War. He and his compatriots are worth remembering, firstly and most importantly because they clung to their faith so fiercely in the face of true evil, in the face of a persecution whose viciousness and bloodiness are best illustrated by the gruesome manner of Holy Vukašin’s martyrdom. Secondly, the Holy Neomartyrs of Serbia are worth remembering because they illustrate that the ethnophyletist heresies of the so-called ‘Traditionalist Youth’ here and elsewhere, the unholy madness of Codreanu and his ilk, practically never turns out well for us Orthodox in the end. Thirdly, they are worth remembering because the Serbs as a people are still suffering from a wrongful view, unfortunately fashionable in the modern Anglophone West, that they are somehow among the Balkan states uniquely blameworthy for the bloodshed of the 1990’s.

The story of Holy Vukašin, an elderly and pious Herzegovinian peasant, should put the lie to this. His tormentor, one of the Ustaše, kept trying to force him, as he tortured and mutilated the poor man, to bless Ante Pavelić, and he would stop. But Vukašin refused over and over, saying only to the Croat, ‘My child, do what you must!’ In the end, Vukašin made the sign of the Cross with his hand, which his torturer then cut off before he killed him. The executioner ultimately was driven to drink and madness by what he had done, and he told his story to the physician who was treating him for his psychological disorder.

During the Second World War, the Serbian people were at the forefront of the resistance to the Nazis in the Balkans, peaceful (as Vukašin’s was) and otherwise. They have a long and well-attested history of righteous resistance to evil governance, from the tradition of the Hajduci who resisted the oppressive and exploitative overlordship of the Ottoman Turks. Even though anti-Semitic sentiments were sadly given occasional voice among the Serbs (as they were pretty much everywhere in Europe of the time), Jews enjoyed a great deal of freedom in interwar Yugoslavia, and when push came to shove, the Serbian people were by far and away the most active in ensuring the safety of their Balkan Jewish neighbours from Nazi persecution, with Yad Vashem having honoured 131 Serbian nationals with their highest recognition of ‘righteous among the nations’. The Serbs suffered dearly for their principled stand. The Croatian Ustaše sent over 320,000 Serbs to their deaths, along with over 30,000 of their Jewish and Romani neighbours, at the Jasenovac concentration camp.

For a bit of background, the heinous regicide of King Aleksandar I. Karađorđević of Yugoslavia in 1934, a man who had dreamed of a multi-confessional and multi-ethnic kingdom in the Balkans and had exerted so much of his efforts into building it, put a historically-calamitous end to that dream even as the Second World War was beginning. (The regicidaires were, along with the Ustaše, the same fascist-aligned IMRO who had killed Aleksandar Stamboliyski, the radical peasant leader in Bulgaria who had sought an active peace with the Yugoslav kingdom.) The Serbs, sensing that a religious war against them was brewing, sought refuge either with the monarchist Četnici under General Draža Mihailović, or with the multi-ethnic Communist Partizani of Marshal Josip Broz. Neither man nor group was, shall we say, immaculate of hand in the struggle, though each of them was clearly preferable to the Nazis. But that the Serbs could find such voices of moral clarity even in their commonest ranks as the peaceful and long-suffering Saint Vukašin, who would not pay even the slightest tribute to evil even under pain of death, shows that God was quietly and patiently at work even in this darkest of times, when the servants of evil and confusion were everywhere on the march.

Blessed Vukašin, our father among the saints, right-believing martyr, pray to God for us!

29 May 2016

The Five P’s

From left to right:
Ion Mihalache, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, Vladimir Solovyov,
Hans Morgenthau and Our Lord Jesus Christ

I have been meaning to post something like this for some time, but never got around to it, and always feared that it would come off as self-indulgent or self-righteous. But I am doing it now, as much for the sake of tying these things together as anything else. For those of you who think this blog is perhaps politically hard to follow, it generally follows the following ‘Five P’s’. As a caveat, most of them are ‘isms’ but I don’t hold to them ideologically. Some of them can occasionally overlap or contradict. I make no pretension to political consistency, but I muddle through somehow. These are general tendencies, more than anything else.
  • POPULISM. Standing up for the little guy. Opposing the Money Power, Wall Street, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Privatisation Fad, Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma. Supporting unions, guilds, worker and farmer co-ops. Subjecting marketing to deep scrutiny. Fighting corporate-bureaucratic control of what rightfully belongs to the family or to the small town. I take inspiration from the People’s Party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation of Canada, the Non Partisan League of North Dakota and the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota; also from Russian славянофильство, Yugoslav задругарство, the Social-Revolutionary Party and the Green Rising of Eastern Europe during the interwar period, which followed similar lines. Call me a ‘Jim Oberstar Democrat’ if you like. Better yet, an ‘Ion Mihalache distributist’.

  • PERENNIALISM. The idea that tradition inherently contains more than just a grain of truth, and that old and well-loved things are valuable in themselves. The awareness of fallen human nature. The avoidance of ‘chronological snobbery’. The wisdom of the six canons of Russell Kirk. The notion that probably Socrates, Plato and the old monarchical states might have been onto something. Respect for ancient cultures and traditions, even those other than my own - especially and most dearly the Chinese path of Confucius and the Iranian path of Zoroaster.

  • PERSONALISM. All human beings are icons made in the image and likeness of God. Each human life contains its own world, infinitely precious, and of worth surpassing any material exchange that might be made for it. Human beings are superior, ultimately, to any ideology that seeks to flatten them to their constituent parts, or sever them individualistically from their moorings in their given communities. This means opposing categorically and with equal vehemence: abortion, euthanasia, torture, capital punishment, eugenics, and the odious ideologies which dehumanise by race, sex and class. Nikolai Berdyaev, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Solovyov are my guiding lights here. But also Dorothy Leigh Sayers, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., who made many of the same conclusions and draw from the same canons as the former three.

  • PATRIOTISM. Buying American when possible. Make that: buying second-hand when possible. Keeping old things longer. Not watching TV. Supporting family-owned and local businesses. Opposing war and imperialism - particularly the imperialism of good intentions! - and putting my own country's interests first. Embracing foreign policy realism as the only sane option: especially the realism of Hans Morgenthau and Andrew Bacevich.

  • ПРАВОСЛАВИЕ. The most important ‘P’ is pretty self-explanatory, and deceptively non-political. Honouring Our Lord Jesus Christ, his mother the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and his disciple, my patron saint the Holy Apostle Matthew. Keeping to the mind of the Church in all things, and holding to the faith of the Fathers. Decreasing my own will and my own wants. Fighting temptations to exert my will over others. Praying twice a day. Fasting twice a week. Attending Liturgy when I can - ideally once a week.
There it is, I suppose. I don’t fit very neatly into the American party system, and I certainly don’t fit neatly on a one-dimensional left-right axis, and even a two-dimensional grid like the one at right, though more helpful on the nakedly political side of things, is still frustratingly one-sided and inept when it comes to looking at other intellectual tendencies. Anyway, for those who get confused either by my Facebook feed or by this blog (and I feel for you; I get confused myself sometimes!), I hope this outlines a bit where I am coming from.

28 May 2016

On the Slavophil Anglophiles

Ivan Aksakov, Slavophil and Anglophile

Presbyterian Russia scholar Peter J Leithart noticed two whole years ago what has taken me a long and circuitous time to realise, though my own intellectual trajectory from an Anglo-Catholic Anglophile Tory to Eastern Orthodox believer really ought to have suggested it to yours truly long, long ago. But I suppose I’m just thick that way. Do bear with me!

The Slavophils - Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky and Ivan Aksakov in particular - were ardent Anglophiles. Being traditionalist members of the lesser gentry, hostile to serfdom and to Western political developments, but looking on grassroots Russian piety with admiration, this seems perhaps a bit of an oxymoron; but then, the Slavophil doctrines themselves were paradoxical and dialectic in ways that do not always make logical sense. I have touched briefly on Khomyakov’s infatuation with British culture and the Tory tendencies of the English people before, but Leithart adds something I did not know, which is this: ‘Slavophile Aleksei Khomyakov asserted that the term English or Anglian “was just the nasal form of the Slavonic term Uglichi,” the lost tribe of Eastern Slavs, and that the Anglo-Saxons and their Protestant heirs had thus conserved the essence of Russian native justice and Orthodox Christianity. Shakespeare, Byron, Dickens and Thackeray all became embedded in Russian culture. Hamlet cut Russian rulers so much to the quick that both Catherine the Great and Stalin banned it, but novelists found Shakespearean figures all around them: Ivan Turgenev in “Hamlet of Shchigry District” and “King Lear of the Steppes”, Nikolai Leskov in “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”. Dostoevsky’s work was shaped by David Copperfield, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace by Vanity Fair.’

As for Kireevsky, the similarities of his legal thinking with that of Edmund Burke are simply too close to be coincidental. This is probably also the underlying reason for Kireevsky’s similarities to another, modern-day Burkean and Anglophile, the Chinese traditionalist Confucian Jiang Qing. As for Ivan Aksakov, though not much of an original thinker, the one concept he lent to the Slavophil idea was that of общество, literally, ‘society’: that element within the people that has a deep awareness of the historical and cultural background out of which it arises, and is able to give it a full and articulate voice. As Stephen Lukashevich sums it up: ‘общество cannot be restricted to one class and it is not based upon class distinction… [it] speaks on behalf of the people while retaining its roots in the people itself, because the individuals compose общество only if: “they are conscious of themselves as a part of the people, only if they are developing a self-consciousness as a people”.’ In Aksakov’s thinking, the truest expression of общество was to be found in… yes, England.
Aksakov felt that the best example of a country ruled by общество rather than by a Parliament was England. In a letter to Countess Bludova, he exclaimed: ‘Don’t you know that England is strong non par ses lois, mais malgré ses lois. It is precisely this established force, which makes England strong, that I defend…’
Aksakov clearly did not want Russia to follow in the same path as England, but he looked to England for inspiration all the same on how Russia was to achieve her own special path, that path so desired by his elders Khomyakov and Kireevsky, and his contemporary Yuri Samarin. And he did not look to England’s written laws, in the same way that Japan looked to Germany’s constitution. He looked to England’s sub-legal awareness, her awareness and her respect for her own past, the value she placed on the old and well-loved and impractical: in short, the Tory England of the rural gentry and farmers (and emphatically not the Whiggish England of industrialisation, trade, imperial war and globalist empire) was his guide.

Interesting indeed that this connexion exists. Leithart was indeed onto something, and I still feel like I am playing a lot of academic catch-up on this subject.

27 May 2016

Social Orthodoxy blooming, root and branch

Times are hard for many Orthodox countries, and also for so many of the ordinary people therein. Greece has been riven by economic and social disaster ever since the meltdown of 2009: ballooning deficits, sky-high interest rates, mass unemployment, an austerity-heavy structural-adjustment scheme that hasn’t worked. The social ills that have come with it – poverty, substance abuse, radicalism and street violence – have been pronounced as well. Syria has been beset by a bloody civil war which has basically turned into the Assad-led Syrian government fighting various factions of politically-radicalised Sunni terrorists. The Ukraine has degenerated into a completely dysfunctional and corrupt mess, with Crimea having rejoined Russia and the Donetsk Basin still wanting to secede, street gangs and far-right pro-Kiev paramilitaries committing horrendous violence in the east of the country, and Orthodox churches loyal to Metropolitan Onuphrius and the Moscow Patriarchate being torched. And Russia has been blamed by the West for practically everything that has happened both in Syria and the Ukraine, and is currently suffering from artificially-low petrol prices combined with sanctions from the West.

But amidst all this doom and gloom, there is actually quite a bit of hope. Orthodoxy has had to get socially and politically creative. Two examples of this creativity have shown up in my e-mail and Facebook news feeds of late. Firstly, in Greece, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been funding a markedly-distributist solution to the economic travails of Greece’s unemployed men: worker-owned agrarian cooperatives, at this point aimed at creating economies of scale in production of food.
Worker cooperatives, or co-ops, formed to help small farmers and other trades by providing training on farming or industry-related techniques and training to improve their yields and profitability, also help by providing support networks, help small producers bring products to market at scale and create meaningful, sustainable jobs and income for underserved families. As part of the "Give for Greece" program, IOCC is providing assistance to co-ops made up of farmers, fisherman, bakers and agricultural product producers who play a pivotal role in revitalizing Greece's rural communities.

One of the biggest obstacles to their success however, is the lack of funds needed to expand their businesses and employ more people. IOCC and Apostoli, the humanitarian arm of the Church of Greece, are helping 24 co-ops in northern Greece succeed with assistance to increase their production and profits. They are receiving agricultural and business training, as well as funding to buy supplies, equipment and machinery needed to sustain and grow their operations. In return, participating co-ops donate a portion of their products to local social welfare institutions such as orphanages and elder care homes.
Additionally, the Russian Orthodox Church has released a working document with strong bearings on the questions of political economy. They’ve come out stridently swinging, much as they have done before (I took special pleasure in noting), against racism and phyletism, against laisser-faire economic theories, against crass consumerism, against modernisation theory, against the financial exploitation of Third World resources, against usury and against debt-based checkbook monetary systems (and in favour of an international system for control of interest rates, which to my reading looks suspiciously similar to a Safety Fund). At the same time, though, the document is critical of mass migration, and sceptical of the effects mass migration has on local cultures and economies. An interestingly-balanced document; one which displays a few of the strengths of nuanced Orthodox thinking on the relationship between the nation and the state.

Please do have a look at the excerpt translations provided at Katehon, gentle readers. I must confess, reading the document (both in translation and a little bit in the original) warmed the contrarian cockles of my left-wing Tory heart. Axios! I look forward to seeing the full final version when it is finally released by the Danilov.

26 May 2016

The war in Iraq was a war on truth

Iraqi Assyrian Christians displaced by the war

When I say that the war in Iraq was a war on truth, I do not mean merely that it was waged on several false pretexts in rapid succession (namely: that Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda, that he had weapons of mass destruction, that he posed an imminent threat to American security and to the international order, and that a transition to democracy there would be swift and painless) – though naturally all of these pretexts were invoked in the press, and all were indeed false. I also do not mean merely that the war’s democratic justification was totally manufactured in the Chomskian sense, or that its opponents (and we were many and vocal) were ridiculed, slandered, ignored or even sacked by press and pundits alike – though certainly both were also the case. I also do not mean merely that it was a continuation and extension of the belief that American military power is always, and always should be, exercised selflessly and for the good of our revolutionary principles – though that conceited and self-righteous liberal idealism was among the chief factors which drew together the war’s supporters. No, I mean that there is something much more insidious at the basis of the Iraq War, a precept that we are now seeing play out before our eyes in this election cycle. The Iraq War was a hubristic demonstration, a demonstration of the Antichrist, that the truth itself is something that must be subjected to the human will, that it is human will that shapes reality and not the other way around.

Consider this: a Methodist president thought that God had spoken to him directly, telling him to go to war in Iraq. But he rebuffed his own church’s representatives, and when his own religious community cried out against this injustice, he imprisoned his own bishop. And the war he declared destroyed one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The American military under Bush offered no protection to the Christians its actions had endangered. In fact, the neglect was so systematic that it could not be anything other than deliberate, rendering our country, supposedly under the guidance and protection of God, a ‘silent accomplice’ to ‘incipient genocide’. As Ramy Youssef, an Iraqi Christian, put it: ‘This is America’s fault. It’s the Muslims who are killing us, but this never would have happened if the West hadn’t turned our lives upside down.’ Whatever god it was which spoke to Dubya, was a god which licensed the will to act, yet never remonstrated with him about the real-life consequences of his actions, the truth of what he had done.

Consider again: among that odiously mealy-mouthed and narcissistic genre of liberal-hawkish epistolary punditry, the ‘Iraq apology’, has there been yet one of them who in any material way repented of their support – for example, by opposing the wars in Libya and Syria, both of which have now likewise turned out to be unmitigated disasters? Have they ever shown the faintest inkling of introspection, the realisation that their judgement on matters of war and peace might in fact be fallible? The answer, apparently, is no in practically all cases. Not for Anthony Blair. Not for Fred Hiatt. Not for Paul Berman. Not for Michael Tomasky, nor for Anne-Marie Slaughter nor Kenneth Pollack nor Jonathan Chait… To truth they are all still very much blind.
Among the laws that govern the world of the mind, there is one whose severe, divine justice does not admit exceptions. Every undeserved insult, every injustice strikes the perpetrator more painfully than it does the victim. The victim suffers; the perpetrator becomes corrupt. The victim can forgive and often does forgive, but the perpetrator never forgives. The crime implants in the perpetrator’s own heart a seed of hate that constantly grows until an inner renewal occurs to purify that person’s whole being.
The great Russian religious philosopher Aleksey Khomyakov was completely right about this, of course, from a psychological standpoint. It is far easier for the wronged to forgive than it is for the wrongful to forgive. The neocons and the liberal interventionists could never forgive the anti-war contingent for doubting the purity of American hearts and the sanctity of our national intentions, and they could certainly never forgive the Iraqis for daring to live in a country we had ruined, and thus attest to our crimes. That is why you see such vitriol and even violence aimed nowadays at those on the left who have the effrontery to speak truthfully about Hillary’s record.

Let us be clear. This war, this awful, bitter, bloody, wretched war, this war which has shovelled thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into their graves, and which has mutilated and disfigured and displaced millions more, has never gone away. The ghosts of Iraq still haunt us, and not only in their Libyan and Syrian echoes. They hover over this election, thick as fog. We have on the one hand an unrepentant and still deadly-serious warmonger, and on the other hand a reality-television clown whose presence on the national stage can only be understood by acknowledging the sullen and slow-burning wrath so many of us feel at the total mendacity of our entire political establishment, beginning yet certainly not ending with Iraq.

But here’s the funny thing about truth. That ‘inner renewal’ Khomyakov spoke of will happen. No matter how much the powers try to keep it down, no matter how long the dusty veil might lie in place, the truth always manages to come to light in the end.

22 May 2016

Of China, conservatism, constitutions and Communist revivals

Cross-posted from Oriental Review:

As I have said before, the modern Chinese thinker I admire most – both on an ideological level and on a personal level – would probably be the late great Fei Xiaotong, who is not without reason sometimes considered the Alexis de Tocqueville of China. Not only was the good sociologist remarkably profound in his compassionate understanding of the social outlook, the capacities, the desires, the fears and even the shortcomings of his fellow Chinese, but he actually went to bat for his writings, and (imperfectly, as so many did during the Cultural Revolution) stood up with personal integrity for his colleagues, his discipline, and the peasants for whom he had so often been the ‘plaintiff’. To his credit, even though he clearly belonged to China and to the Chinese people, he never neatly fit into any contemporary political category. Dr Fei was a fierce and unrelenting critic of the Nationalists, whom he regarded as hopelessly corrupt and brutal, and indifferent to the plight of the peasantry. Moreover, he was far too collectivist in his psychology, far too sceptical of rapid Western-modelled modernisation, far too vocal an advocate for the poorest and most downtrodden in Chinese society, to fit in well with the Nationalists – and the Nationalists in kind regarded him as a Red. And yet, even though formally among their number, he was also an explicit critic of the blinkered, narrow economism of the Communists, and a defender both of the rural peasant way of thinking and of the need for a Chinese sociology – and Mao’s Communists in kind regarded him as a rightist. He suffered for his principled stand throughout the Cultural Revolution. And yet, in one of the ironies of history, the late 20th-century economic successes of Taiwan can be attributed in part to the land reform and household industry policies Fei Xiaotong had advocated on the mainland, even though his books were formally banned by the Nationalists.

It is Fei Xiaotong whom I keep in mind, and whose opinion on such matters I wonder about, whenever reading essays, whether in the Diplomat or in the Atlantic or in the Wall Street Journal or in the New York Times, on China’s ongoing struggle to articulate for itself a role in the international community independent of American and Western European leads. Even at this late date, to my frustration and no doubt to the frustration of many other old hand China-watchers, too much of the Western journalistic conversation presumes a very narrow range of concerns and opinions. It seems de rigueur in Western circles to paint President Xi Jinping in the ominous hues of a rising Chairman Mao redux, even though Xi’s homages to Confucius and calls for public displays of filial virtue don’t match up at all neatly to the Great Helmsman’s hostility to the lao shehui 老社會 – the ‘old society’. Likewise, many of the neoleftist activists and academics who nowadays use the language of the ‘mass line’ – Dr Wang Hui of Tsinghua University, for example – are committed democrats and constitutionalists who hold no truck with the tired old saws about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Clearly something much more interesting is happening than the usual angle taken by corporate media, of China’s ominous government pitted against its plucky-but-beleaguered civil libertarians, internet users and ethnoreligious minorities.

One of these interesting trends is that China’s left is beginning to take on shades of cultural conservatism, as has been demonstrated by the online survey conducted last year by Jennifer Pan and Xu Yiqing of Harvard University. In some ways, this trend was presaged by Fei Xiaotong himself, who was a committed social reformer and democrat on political matters, but whose cultural instincts were deeply, passionately conservative and even traditionalist. Even as he advocated for the uplift of the rural population from poverty and misery, he took strong issue with the reformers (even if they happened to be Communist) who would seek to geometrically change their very way of thinking, or who would univocally impose rules presuming an individualist, rights-based mindset foreign to the people they claimed to be helping. He was convinced that any useful, healthy and lasting reform would be locally-based and locally-overseen, and that it would have to pattern itself on the chaxugeju 差序格局, the ‘differential mode of association’, which is so deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. True, in his own time Fei Xiaotong did consider himself a democrat and a constitutionalist. But in the civil war he lambasted the Guomindang for their callousness toward rural people in the pursuit of political modernisation. And he sacrificed his career and reputation to an insane and brutal cultural-revolutionary régime when he delivered his pleas for caution and sociological awareness in rural reform. It’s highly unlikely he would be impressed by the modern liberals who naïvely and shortsightedly advocate for China’s adoption of Western ideals of civil society and constitutionalism.

Given the trend of the left in the same direction now, I tend to be sceptical of the recently-vented fears (on the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, conveniently enough) that China is returning to a cultural-revolutionary frame of mind under Xi Jinping. If Pan and Xu’s data are anything to go by, the folks in China who tend to be the most concerned about inland poverty and income inequality, and who tend to look on China’s socialist past with rose-tinted specs, are also the folks who trust in Chinese medicine (once reviled as a ‘feudal superstition’ by doctrinaire Communists) and who would never dream of raising their hands against their parents. The Chinese left has been preoccupied since the 1990’s with fighting: the erosion of the public sector; the entrenchment of corrupt business élites; the degradation of the environment; and the rich-poor, coastal-inland and urban-rural disparities that have arisen as a result of China’s ‘reform and opening up’ and integration into global finance capitalism. This has understandably given way to a more positive re-evaluation of China’s local and particular assets, including the cultural assets once devalued as ‘feudal’. To give just one example, Gan Yang, a Hangzhou-native American-educated intellectual and former Tian’anmen activist, and one of the pre-eminent scholars of the New Left, has emerged as a champion of Confucian learning. Likewise, Jiang Qing and Kang Xiaoguang, both traditionalist advocates of what might be called ‘institutional Confucianism’, actually began with concerns about environmental protection and the plight of workers and farmers, in an era where both concerns are systematically overlooked by governmental and business leaders.

The intellectual landscape of modern China is therefore much more interesting than many of us tend to think – if only because we are stuck in Nixon-era habits of thinking when discussing the topic. Both the old models we’re used to dealing with: of a brutal, authoritarian ideological government arrayed against the people; and of a government and society equally obsessed with short-term state-led capitalist GDP growth – are rapidly becoming defunct, if indeed they aren’t defunct already. If there was ever a time to start paying greater attention to Fei Xiaotong, and start treating seriously a collective, differential-associative sociology of China – now would be it.

16 May 2016

Confucianism and the left: partners of convenience?

I don’t know quite how or why it took me so long to pick up on this, but I recently read an article by Dr Zhang Taisu of Duke University on the growing alliance (and a more recent one here – unfortunately behind a paywall), as illustrated by the paper put out by Jennifer Pan and Xu Yiqing in April last year, between China’s Confucian cultural conservatives and the advocates of the Chinese New Left – Gan Yang, Jiang Qing and Chen Ming in particular. It is a topic of very great interest to me, naturally, so I was interested to see Dr Zhang’s take on it. In short, the good professor makes a valiant attempt to gauge it neutrally and fairly, but at the end of the day it seems he is unwilling to acknowledge any basis other than a purely prudential one for the alliance. As he sees it, the ‘River Elegy’ school of liberal denunciation of traditional Chinese culture on the one hand, and the more subtle lip-service acquiescence of the neo-Confucians in the Chinese diaspora to Western political norms on the other, were what prompted the neoleftists and the mainland Confucians to begin listening to each other (as opposed to any substantive body of shared values).

There are a couple of historical points on which I find myself differing with Dr Zhang. The first is his narrow identification of the 4 May movement with the contemporary left (a stance which implicitly cedes to the CCP its claim to the whole legacy of the student movement of 1919). What this leaves out is that the father of Western-facing Chinese right-liberalism, Hu Shi, was also a major contributor to the 4 May movement, and that many modern right-liberals share a greater intellectual continuity with the aims of the 4 May movement than they do with anything prior.

The second is (and I do realise and defer to Dr Zhang’s expertise on the Qing economy) the idea that the Qing society itself had perfect continuity with Confucian notions of statecraft, or the implicit claim that Confucianism was univocal on matters of governance. There are indeed supports for the idea that Confucianism supported a limited state, particularly looking back as far as the Song Dynasty and thinkers like Sima Guang – but it seems a far cry from there to assume that the entirety of the Confucian stream even in early modernity could be characterised as supporters of ‘small government’ in the modern libertarian sense of the word. The go-to example on this question would be Kang Youwei. It’s important to realise, though, that he was not alone in his positions but rather represented a particularly radical evolution of the Changzhou school, which in turn has roots in the thought of Dong Zhongshu and He Xiu. This ‘leftist’ (if I may use the fanciful anachronism) Gongyang Zhuan school of Confucian thinking was hardly in ascendance in Qing times, but it has a valid continuity stretching through the late Qing back to the Han.

But overall these are minor nitpicks with two quite astute articles. Dr Zhang rightly notes the convergence of elements of the Chinese left with elements of Chinese traditionalism; however, I suspect that there is far more to this convergence than a simple alliance of convenience. Certainly, as a populist myself with a mix of left-wing and traditionalist views (and one with a particular love for and interest in the well-being of the rural China in which both views tend to have prominence), I can empathise with those Confucians and those neoleftists who are currently attempting to bring about an intellectual détente.

14 May 2016

Honour culture and political correctness

What would the honour-cultures of Northern European Late Antiquity – cultures like Anglo-Saxon England, Kievan Rus’, mediæval Iceland – have thought of trigger warnings, microaggressions, safe spaces and language-policing – in short, what would they have thought of our postmodern campus culture of victim-mentality? Given how insistent the critics of the undergraduate identitarian construct are on making it out to be a deviation, unique in human history, from ideals of manliness of the sort we have inherited from Late Antiquity, this seems to me to be a valid and rather important aspect to the question. First of all, though, we have to make a few observations both of the defenders of this victimhood culture, and of the critics.

The critics are a bit easier to pin down, and they include names like Laura Kipnis, Edward Schlosser, Michelle Duguid, Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt, Jonathan Chait and Caitlin Flanagan, along with a number of stand-up comedians. By and large, the defining traits of the critics are twofold: a commitment to a libertarian ideal that free speech unconditionally serves the good (underwritten by the assumption that the best, the strongest and most fit ideas should win out in an undifferentiated ideological marketplace), combined with a quasi-Stoic idea that individuals (rather than groups however defined) should take responsibility for their ideas without making them into badges of ‘identity’. The political-correctness culture, on the other hand, they view as being fundamentally at odds with both. They see this culture as both a pathetic, unmanly abandonment of the necessary intellectual-emotional work of developing one’s own opinions responsibly, and as an insidious threat to the ideal of free speech. However, the cultures of Late Antiquity, replete with their hardy ideals of manhood, are possibly both closer to the political-correctness culture, and further from the free speech ideal, than either group realises. (Assuredly, the undergraduate lifestyle-leftists would be scandalised to think that they have anything in common with the dead white men their ilk have scorned for so long. Ah well; so much the better.)

But the thing about the critics is that they are half-right, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Pace the wishful thinking of libertarians, the honour-cultures of yesteryear were hardly coercion-free individualist paradises. Certain obligations had to be met, and even if the state would not enforce them itself, the state’s proxies (that is to say, lords and heads of households) would not hesitate to do so – no honourable man in such a society would countenance, for example, the attested libertarian belief that mothers and fathers have no duties to their children. Every man has socially-enforceable duties, in such a society, to his kin, to his lord, to his home and to himself – duties that cannot be abrogated with appeals to the legal abstractions of ‘liberty’. Freedom in an honour culture is always context-based, and tied to a corresponding social role or duty.

As such, a free man in 10th-century Iceland, for example, was meant to be jealous of his reputation and the reputations of his near kin. This was, in an age where one’s whole family’s well-being was dependent to such a degree on one’s good name and good standing, utterly needful for their protection and welfare. You could not simply say anything you liked in his presence and expect the law to protect you: if you insulted him, his wife, his parents, his brothers or sisters or cousins, or his lord, depending on the severity of the insult, he would be justified under the law if he killed you on the spot for it. Words could be a life-or-death matter, and therefore had to be chosen with care. As might be expected, Icelandic society was both well-armed and (contrary to the usual stereotypes) polite. The ‘free speech’ of a fool, a drunkard or a níþing was not respected even by the law – and make no mistake, the men of Late Antiquity would understand much of what passes these days for ‘free speech’ activism as foolishness: ‘to the heedful comes seldom harm… Let the wary stranger who seeks refreshment keep silent with sharpened hearing’, and ‘the hasty tongue sings its own mishap if it be not bridled in’. Those who wag their tongues too loudly about a man’s character, a man’s standing or a man’s kin-grouping would do well to look to their heads.

Even deeper than this, though, the dright of Late Antiquity would likely be bewildered by the libertarian, free-speech advocate’s assertion that all opinions are equally worth defending and protecting under the law. He would not share the conviction, born of a capitalist ethic foreign to him, that good advice and bad advice are of equal value to one’s lord, and deserving of equal hearing. Unrede, or bad advice, can lead to death – of oneself, one’s lord, one’s family – if it is taken seriously. Even if not taken seriously, it can lead to an equally-deadly indecision. Bad advice is deserving of formal scolding, not of protection.

In one important respect, though, the dright of Late Antiquity would indeed agree with the advocates of free speech, at least insofar as the new political-correctness culture is concerned. It is not wrong, taking the view of the Northern European man of the end of the first millennium, to defend one’s kin and one’s home and one’s honour even from the words of the witless; however, it is laughable and weak to do so without having first laid down one’s own resources and well-being – that is to say, a man or woman who throws challenges around and cannot back them up is untrustworthy, and likely a coward. If words can do harm, then one should be willing to throw oneself in that harm’s way.

It’s probably oversimplistic to say that the cultures Western traditionalists like to associate most with ‘manliness’ would have viewed free-speech libertarians as fools and our illiberal postmodern identitarians as cowards – as I noted before, the libertarian neutrality with regard to the substantive value of specific opinions might also be regarded as cowardly in such societies, or at the very least counter-productive – but it is hoped that this may make for a good rough sketch.

09 May 2016

Thoughts on Victory Day

The ninth of May is, of course, the day on which the end of the Great Patriotic War is celebrated in Russia, as the fascist menace in Europe was brought to a stop. It is when we look at the sheer scale of the number of victims of that war – both civilian and military – that we realise what a massive sacrifice was made by the people of Eastern Europe and Asia. Though we Americans like to think of ourselves as the victors of the Second World War, in truth the greatest brunt of the cost fell upon Soviet – that is, mostly Russian – shoulders. Somewhere between 9 and 14 million Soviet soldiers fell fighting the Nazis between ‘41 and ‘45, and a comparable number of Soviet civilians perished as the war went on. It is hardly a surprise, therefore, that a country which has suffered so much and fought so hard, would see fit to remember the day that it ended, using the imagery which had been used at that time.

Of course, displays like this have the danger of drowning out historical truth, and this is something understood all too well by veterans of the Great Patriotic War, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose experiences in the war, whose witness of crimes committed by the Red Army against the civilians of defeated Germany, led him to critique it loudly enough to result in his arrest and his interment in a gulag. The historical truth already is served by the cause, in that fascism itself was a falsehood – a kind of neopaganism erected around the worship of the nation, of the national destiny, of the race, of the leader – which deserved to be destroyed utterly and finally. I am convinced wholeheartedly, both as an American of Eastern European Jewish descent, and as an Orthodox Christian, that the Soviet Union happened to be on the right side of this conflict. Hitler killed my relatives for their heritage; Stalin and his proxies did not. Stalin could, in this instance, be negotiated with; Hitler could not. But authors and soldiers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would tell us: that truth is what we fought for, and we do that cause a disservice by lying about what was done in fighting for it.

The celebration deserves to be had; the ribbons of St George deserve to be flown; Rodina Mat’ deserves to stand tall. But let the celebration be truthful; let the ribbons fly soberly; and let the Motherland stand in forgiving, but full, knowledge of herself and her children.

04 May 2016

Defending Russian Orthodoxy as Orthodox and as Russian

It so happened this year that our bright and glorious Pascha fell on 1 May. Both on the Orthodox right and on the secular left, this proved an occasion for some chest-thumping and articulation that one side or the other deserved to triumph. However, for those of us on the crunchy Orthodox left (such as Fr Dcn Aaron at Logismoi, and yours truly), the juxtaposition was just too good to pass up, and we wrote in defence of both, the lesser celebration in the resplendent light of the greater. Indeed, Fr Dcn Aaron made the following point:
Today is not only Pascha, but also Mayday. Let’s celebrate the 8-hour work day and other rights of workers! As the motto of my state has it, borrowing from Virgil, ‘Labor omnia vincit.’
Which I then followed up with:
Celebrating the two together is not only not contradictory, but indeed makes perfect sense.

Christ perfectly kept the Sabbath having rested his earthly body on Holy Saturday, and tore down the gates of Hell on the bright and glorious Sunday following. It is therefore meet and right, and perfectly in keeping with the theology of the Incarnation, that workers should likewise defend their rights to both rest and worship.
To expand on this point, it is indeed with reference to the Incarnational reality of Christ’s earthly mission, and His reference to both agrarian and artisanal trades in His parables, that the social teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church (not dissimilarly from Catholic social teaching, in point of fact) explicitly promotes and champions the rights of workers to a just share of the fruits of their labour, to decent working conditions, to freedom from oppression. In advocating for an eight-hour workday remunerated at what were then ten-hour rates, the activists in Chicago who began the Haymarket affair were seeking to secure all three. (And before the objection is raised, the Haymarket activists themselves were not even necessarily Marxist, but represented a broad contingent of the labour left.) As a result of the Orthodox social teaching even in its nascent form, it is a secret which deserves not to be so well-kept that the Orthodox hierarchy, Russian as well as Greek, falls consistently to the left of the Orthodox laity on economic matters, and well to the left of the American Orthodox laity in particular.

So who could possibly object to the fact that Orthodox believers are keeping May Day celebrations? Well, certain Polish Latins who apparently get their jollies spending holidays they do not celebrate dumping on people who do, for one.

I have discussed both my own complicated relationship with nationalism, and the peculiar Orthodox orientation (pun intended) regarding nation and state as deserving of distinct relationships with the Church and with each other, at length before. Artur Rosman is wrong, of course, and he argues in that vulgar way which is sadly all too common, comparing the very worst (as he sees it) of Orthodox praxis with the very best of Latin theoria in a way which conveniently elides the virulent and murderously racist forms which Latin, Catholic nationalism has been known to take in, for example, Croatia, Ukraine, Hungary, Lithuania. (By way of contrast, for all the anti-Semitic noises which issued from that country prior to the war, both the Serbian Church and the Serbian people resisted the Nazis and aided the Jews to far greater effect than any other nation in the region.) But even more so, there is a fascinating kind of psychological and philosophical projection Rosman engages in, which gets even the Orthodox theoria itself very badly wrong. Indeed, it’s little wonder he reads Nikolai Berdyaev – a French-Ukrainian, an anti-imperialist, a committed anarchist and, for all his Slavophilia, as often a sceptic as a supporter of Russian nationalism – so badly, to the point where one wonders whether in fact he’s read The Russian Idea at all.

As I have stated before, the Orthodox theoria – unlike the Latin one – separates out the nation from the state and the Church’s relationship with each. It does not do so, pace Berdyaev, for anarchist reasons – though when it comes to the (wholly-Western) Westphalian concept of the nation-state, it is relatively easy to see why he can and does interpret it so. Having been the state religion of a multi-ethnic (ergo, multi-national) Eastern Roman Empire, in fact, there are perhaps historical, prudential reasons for the Orthodox orientation here. Be that as it may, Orthodox social teaching does encourage both obedience to the state and an active and loving loyalty to the narod; this is the half-truth that Rosman shows. But it does so in a way that separates the two, that situates the Church between the two, and places strong conditions on each.

It’s crucial to understand the way in which the theological differentiations between East and West have worked themselves out historically. In the West, the one-dimensional structure of the Trinity promoted by the late-mediæval hierarchs of Rome, with the Father superior to the Son, and both superior to the Spirit, bolstered in practice the creation of an ecclesiastical feudal state, absolute in authority and universal in jurisdiction, that in theory stood superior to all earthly kingdoms. In practice, however, the butting of heads between earthly princes and the heavenly-earthly prince in Rome over the appointment of bishops, led directly to the Investiture Controversies. (Note that the investiture controversies have never gone away, and continue to be a problem, particularly for third-world Catholics.)

On the other hand, say what you will about the Byzantine (later Bulgarian, and Kievan-Russian, and Serbian) model of ecclesiology vis-à-vis statecraft. It has often enough been mired in intrigue and corruption, and in practice it did often shade over into an Erastian model of governance (as in Russia following Tsar Peter the Great). But it never truly resulted in an open power struggle between Emperor and Œcumenical Patriarch. This arrangement was only possible because church and state a.) had a collaborative relationship; but b.) understood the differences in their fundamental purpose. Cæsaropapism may have been a fact of life in the East in several of its epochs, but even under particularly autocratic emperors like Saint Justinian, it never managed to find a theological justification.

Thus, getting to the psychological-projection part of Rosman’s argument: is it indeed the Orthodox imagination that confuses the church with the state? Orthodox thinking may be accused of much, but not of providing any justification to its Patriarchs arrogating the temporal powers of state to themselves. On the other hand, the Latin Pope has literally been (and still is) a head-of-state, and has defended this state-of-affairs in doctrine. Indeed, much as I admire the present Pope, even he is not immune from behaving this way. This particular accusation is not one which can with justice be levelled at any Orthodox Patriarch, even a Russian one.

And from my own American standpoint, I have reason to be glad that the Russian patriarchs had the relationship they did with the Russian Tsarist state; Metropolitan Saint Filaret of Moscow and Tsar Aleksandr II together were one of the most important reasons that the American republic still exists, and was not destroyed by the Civil War – a Civil War, it should be noted, in which the Pope took the side of the rebels precisely in his capacity as the head of the Papal States.

I had some tidbits on the subject of China’s Christianisation that didn’t really tightly fit into this piece, so with the exception of the hint above that the investiture controversies are not over, I didn’t include them. I intend to get more in-depth into how the minefield of church-state relations (in both Christian East and West) has contributed to the development of political and theological orientalism in the West – with particular attention to the excellent writings of left-wing Chinese historian and social theorist Wang Hui, and China’s new traditionalists (particularly Jiang Qing and Fan Ruiping). The question of the political role of the Church – and the difference between Orthodox and Latin interpretations of that role – plays a central part in that particular development, and the fight between the Chinese government and the Papacy is in no small way related.

01 May 2016

Remembering Holy Right-Believing Shāh Saint Tamara of Georgia

Queen Saint Tamara of Georgia

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Today is the Sunday of Pascha, the Great Feast of our Holy Orthodox Church, and the day in which we commemorate the triumphant rising of Our Lord Christ from His tomb. The first ones to see and understand what happened on this day – even as the disciples of Christ were scattered, lost and in despair at having witnessed the death of the Messiah – to bear them the good, and indeed incredible, news of Christ’s defeat of the power of death, were women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salomé, Joanna, and Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus; our Tradition names them as the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women, because they had come to the tomb of Christ to anoint His body in lamentation – a risky task, given that he had gone to the death of a bandit and a political enemy of Rome. What awaited them was an even greater surprise: they were witnesses to something that had never yet been demonstrated. The Messiah they thought had failed, the man they had seen crucified to death, and now wept and lamented over, had returned to life. This gift was given to the Myrrh-Bearing Women, rather than to the disciples, because the women remembered Christ even after it seemed all hope had been lost.

It is fitting, therefore, that we also commemorate on this Sunday of Pascha another woman, born over a millennium after this single and defining event in history, who throughout her life showed a similarly unflagging faith, and the bravery and inward strength of a lioness. In 1160, a daughter was born to the High King of Georgia, Giorgi III. Bagrationi, and his wife Burdukhan, Princess of Alania (described by historian Donald Rayfield as ‘strikingly beautiful’). Giorgi III. was, unlike his father, an energetic and dynamic ruler, who kept his kingdom from being swallowed up by, Seljuq and Qypchaq Turks and Khazars, and who enlisted the Armenians in freeing their own homeland from an oppressive Seljuq rule. His newborn daughter, Tamara, proved to be of the same bold and lively temper – as her father was said to have remarked at her birth, ‘a lion cub is just as good, whether male or female’. Her father’s rule, though it actively expanded the borders of Georgia, swelled the ranks of his army with Armenian and Turkic volunteers, and proved a considerable opportunity for commoners of high ability to rise through the ranks, was for these same reasons not well-greeted by the noble families of Georgia, who more than once attempted to curtail (or end) Giorgi III.’s rule – behind Giorgi’s nephew Demna and behind an ambitious Armenian nobleman named Ivane Orbeli. Giorgi had both of them put to death along with Orbeli’s kinsmen, and then in a public ceremony transferred his royal crown, girdle and sword to Tamara, his seventeen-year-old heiress, who then served as his co-ruler until his death six years later.

If her father faced a stiff resistance from the Georgian nobles for his energising and innovative rule, Tamara faced a double one: not only did she serve to legitimate that rule, but she was a woman into the bargain. Tamara and her sister Rusudan had been educated by their aunt (also named Rusudan), and the new Queen-Regnant of Georgia had acquired from her a high respect for the Church and for the authority of tradition. For the first years of her reign, she bowed meekly to the demands both of Catholicos-Patriarch Mikel IV. of All Georgia, and of the nobility. Soon after her rule began, however, she was faced with a noble rebellion under the greedy royal Treasurer Qutlu Arslan. She didn’t hesitate to detain the Treasurer while two of her lady-courtiers stalled for time, until she could hail her army to put down the rebellion for good. She was unfortunately, however, manoeuvred afterward into a singularly unhappy, purely-political, unconsummated marriage with the dissolute Yuriy Bogolyubskiy, a Russian prince of Novgorod who had been expelled from his homeland. However, on account of his bad behaviour, Tamara divorced him and expelled him from Georgia (again on her own initiative) in 1187, and married instead a man suggested to her by her aunt Rusudan: the Alanian prince Davit-Soslan. This marriage proved to be a happy and fruitful one: she had with Davit-Soslan a son (the future Giorgi IV. of Georgia) and a daughter (Rusudan), and he served both as Tamara’s co-reigning King-Consort and as the most loyal and capable of her generals.

Tamara and her generals – Davit-Soslan, along with the Kurdish brothers Zak’are and Ivane Mkhargrdzeli – mounted a wildly-successful continuation to Giorgi III.’s policies of expansion and defence of Christians in the Caucasus. The knights of Georgia, led by Davit-Soslan, utterly crushed the armies of Sultan Abu Bakr of the Ildeghizians. The armies of the Mkhargrdzeli brothers reclaimed vast swathes of Armenia and what is now eastern Turkey from the Muslim dynasts who ruled it, and destroyed the Emirate of Karsi. Under Tamara, the Kingdom of Georgia expanded to its broadest geographical extent, and claimed all the lands of the Circassians, the Alans, the Azeris and the Armenians as tributaries. Her aid in the rebellion of Trebizond against Constantinople, and its establishment as a dependent kingdom, further expanded Georgia’s influence into the Crimea and along the Anatolian Black Sea coast. Tamara was active in the use of her position and newfound prestige, to shelter vulnerable Middle Eastern Christians and pilgrims, to send missionaries all around the Caucasus and into northern Iran, and to support monasteries, hermitages, churches and hospitals as far afield as Sinai, Athos, Cyprus, Thrace and Petritsoni.

Queen Tamara could indeed be a lioness – as brave, as decisive and as driven as her father had been – but in spite of her often-bitter political wrangling with Georgian Church and nobility, her devotion to her faith and to her country were equally fierce. After her generals’ victories in Armenia, for example, the Seljuq Sultan Suleyman II. of Rūm led a large force into Georgia. His messenger approached Tamara with an insulting letter calling her a ‘simpleton of a queen’, and demanding that she surrender Georgia to him, convert to Islam and become his wife; if she refused, Suleyman would exterminate the Christians who would not convert – and she would be kept as a concubine. This demand was so outrageous that Zak’are Mkhargrdzeli punched the messenger in the face and sent him sprawling to the ground. Tamara, however, sent the messenger back with a substantial gift by way of apology, and a polite reply to this effect:
Your proposal takes into consideration your wealth and the vastness of your armies, but fails to account for Divine Judgement, while I place my trust not in any army or worldly thing but in the right hand of the Almighty God and the infinite aid of the Cross, which you curse. The will of God—and not your own—shall be fulfilled; the judgement of God—and not your judgement—shall reign!
Tamara went with her trusted husband, the brothers Mkhargrdzeli, Ivane Toreli, and the brothers Shalva and Ivane Akhaltsikhe, and a great army of Georgians, Alans and Armenians, to meet the armies of Rūm and their allies. She accompanied them as far as the cave-monastery at Vardzia, and stayed there to pray for their victory before an ikon of the Holy Theotokos as the army marched toward Basiani. There they faced an army of 400,000 Muslims gathered from throughout the Caucasus, and the Georgians fought them bitterly at Basiani for days, with many of the Georgian cavalry unhorsed and fighting on foot until two wings held in reserve could swoop down and flank the Turks, utterly routing them and taking many valuable hostages. The effective prayers of Queen Tamara and the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos which kept up the courage of the Georgian knights, surely cannot be discounted!

Queen Tamara differed in some very important aspects from her father, however. For example, she would not torture, mutilate or execute her captives, and (very much resembling, rather, Prince Saint Vladimir, Baptiser of the Rus’) she opposed and forbade the cruel and dehumanising practices in her kingdom. Her piety and her generosity both were utterly sincere. Before councils with the Hierarchs of the Georgian Orthodox Church she would, as Emperor Saint Constantine had done before her at the First Ecumenical Council, honour them as a commoner, and sit keeping silence while they deliberated. She slept on a bed of hard stone and kept her prayers barefoot, which took a toll on her health. She also hand-sewed vestments for priests of the Georgian Church, donated the needlework and embroidery she did to the poor, and gave alms from the royal jewels she had inherited. In one instance, she offered a ruby-studded girdle she had done on to the ikon of the Holy Theotokos at Gelati, out of remorse for having taken too long in dressing and thus having failed to give alms to a beggar on the way.

Although she focussed many of her attentions westward – both in terms of almsgiving and in terms of expanding Georgia’s influence along the Black Sea Coast – Tamara was very much an ‘Oriental’ ruler, looking culturally especially toward Persia for her primary influence. Both her mother and her husband were Iranian-speaking Alans; her generals the brothers Mkhargrdzeli were Christianised Iranian-speaking Kurds. In regard to her humane compunctions, her territorial ambitions and her self-designated role as the protector of religious liberties in her region of the world, her rule mirrors to a surprising extent that of Kourosh-e Kabir – Cyrus the Great. She styled herself, as her father had done before her, with the Persianate titles Shāhanshāh and Shirvanshāh. She, having inherited the striking exotic beauty of her Alan mother, has therefore always been portrayed in Georgian art and iconography according to a Persian standard of beauty. And much of the copious cultural output of her rule of Georgia – particularly the epic poetry of Shota Rustaveliowed a great deal to Persian forms and inspirations.

Queen Tamara ruled over what is rightly considered to be the Golden Age of the mediæval Kingdom of Georgia, and as Georgia’s Queen-Regnant she may be characterised as devout, brave, humane and kind to the poor. Before she reposed, God gave to Tamara a sign and welcomed her into His Kingdom, and into His hands at the last she entrusted the people and the kingdom which, for a short time, she safeguarded and kept for His sake, and also her soul.
O Thou whom thy people called a king in justice and truth,
The father of orphans and the judge of widows,
Thou sun which shone on the Georgian land,
Thou who spent all thy strength defending thy kingdom,
Rise up, O Tamara, and defend us now also,
And by thine intercessions with Christ, save us from sufferings.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery. ‘Kontakion of Tamara, Queen of Georgia’. Brookline, MA, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2016.
Hunter, Ryan. ‘Queen, Saint and Stateswoman: Commemorating the “Lion of Georgia”’. On Juicy Ecumenism, last modified 2 May 2014.
Machitadze, Archpriest Zakaria. ‘Holy Queen Tamar (†1213)’. In Lives of the Georgian Saints. Platina, CA, St. Herman’s Press, 2006.
Rayfield, Donald. Edge of Empires: a History of Georgia. London, Reaktion Books, 2012.

Христосъ воскресе! Воистину воскресе!

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
A most happy Easter to one and all!