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LOOKING AHEAD

February 21, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)

Roman Bagdasarov

PILGRIMAGE AS A SYMBOL

Reflexion of Putin's Munich speech in Jordan's waters

During his tour across the Middle East, the President of Russia paid a visit to the Eastern bank of the Jordan River, where Jesus received baptism from John the Baptist. It would be useful to remind that Vladimir Putin has thus become the first Russian leader ever to reach the place from where the outreach of the Gospel originates.

It is noteworthy that this pilgrimage was not the first experience of Vladimir Putin's presence in the Holy Land, which geographically encompasses three states – Israel, Palestine, and the Kingdom of Jordan. In 2005, on the Easter eve, Vladimir Putin visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other places, associated with evangelical history.

Still, the last arrival of Russia's President at the right bank of Jordan can’t be overstated. A month before his visit, King Abdallah II lavished a gratuitous gift to the Russian Orthodox Church, allocating a hectare of land at the bank of the Jordan River. Urging Russian businessmen to open up this piece of holy land, Vladimir Putin implied that he was contemplating this visit as a starting point of a long-term pilgrimage endeavor, prompting Russians to communicate to the sources of Christianity.

It is hardly an occasion that the series of Putin's meetings with the Prime Minister of Italy, scheduled for this year's spring, is going to take place in the two European cities, most acknowledged by Orthodox Christianity – in Rome and Bari, where the remains of St. Nicholas Thaumaturgus indwell. On 2007 Christmas, Vladimir Putin visited the New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow, which is designed as a small copy of the Holy Land and the Christian world as a whole. Earlier, Russia's President paid a visit to Mount Athos, becoming the first leader of Russia to reach the center of Orthodox monkhood. Putin's route of pilgrimage actually reconstructs Russia's sacral geography, which indicates Russia's place in the global historical context, not being restricted with its titular territory of the Russian state.

The fact that Vladimir Putin's trip to the Jordan River took place right after the remarkable Munich speech, and was a part of a similarly unique tour across Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, allows us to perceive the three events in a relationship. All the resolute changes in Russian policy in the context of the traditional civilization are followed with an address to the foundations the building of the country, the state, and the nation rests upon. In this way, particular policy moves are verified in the context of global history.

The foreign policy of Russia's leadership in the end of the XX century was characterized with a reckless embezzlement of geopolitical capital, accumulated for centuries before. The first term of Vladimir Putin's rule was dedicated to re-establishing of the abandoned lines; by the end of the second term, this line achieved a more firm articulation, until it reached, in the most recent period, its conceptual expression. As Vladimir Putin emphasized in Munich, "Russia has always used its privilege to conduct an independent foreign policy. We are not going to yield up this tradition today as well. At the same time, we clearly see how much the world has changed, and we realistically assess our potential. And certainly, we would like to deal with equally responsible and independent partners, with whom we could cooperate in construction of a just and democratic world order, guaranteeing security and prosperity not for a selected circle but for everyone".

The contraposition of "the selected" to "everyone" is crucial for understanding of the social message, expressed in the words of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. In this regard, Putin's visit to the place where They met, right after the speech, clearly expressing Russia's international creed, reveals a profound symbolic meaning of the developments in the world of today.

Most of the historians of the New Testament associate the works of John the Baptist (Hamtabbel, literally "The One Who Dips”) with the circle of Essenean communities, residing to the south from the site of Baptizing, in Wadi Qumran. The Esseneans gave the name of "New Testament" to their community yet before Christ was born. Opposing Alexander Jannaeus, the Archpriest King, as well as the Hasmoneans, the Herods and others usurpers of power, they fought for freedom of their land, for re-establishing social justice, and for purification of their faith. The reverse side of this heroic movement was extreme religious intolerance, fanaticism, and contempt towards all the Jews who have “deviated from the Truth”, not speaking of other peoples. The fact that John the Baptist had to feed himself with locust and wild honey, indicates that he had once been a member of the Essenean community of the New Testament, being later excommunicated from it (traditionally, an Essene could accept food only from the hands of another Essene, while in case of expulsion, he could only feed himself with raw food, or to die, as it used to happen to castaways).

What was John actually expulsed for, and what was the implicit reason for his recognition of the Teacher from Nazareth, whom he urged his disciples to follow? If you compare the Essenean manuscripts with the text of the Gospels, congeniality of metaphors would strike the eye. One source can't be completely understood without the other. John viewed the future of the New Testament not in sectarian insularity but in worship of penitence, addressed to the whole of Israel. The Prophet, "the greatest of those born by wives", anticipated a severe ordeal, facing the Jews, and realized that only a spiritual rebirth in the river of Jordan would provide them an opportunity to survive. However, his address to the broad community was disapproved by the narrow circle of the Essenean leadership. Accepting Baptism from The One Who Dips, Christ opened the gates of Truth not only for the Israeli but also for all the other peoples. Exactly this openness became the major reason of ostracism of John, and later of Christ by those who regarded only themselves as "the selected".

Today, the conflict between the "selected minority", taking shape in the “Atlantic axis", and "the rest of the world" has become the crucial essence of global policy. Comparing the conditions in which Russia enters the XXI century with other periods of its history, one realizes how weakened the nation is. Still, even in this shape, Russia continues to perform its stabilizing mission, required by a multitude of states in the pseudo-unipolar world order. A strong Russia, free from externally imposed obsessions of guilt and dependence, is primarily needed by countries seeking true sovereignty, following their own independent way of modernization, inherent in their population. Declaring the necessity of establishing a just world order, which gives an opportunity for the whole mankind and not to a 'selected minority", Russia returns to the authentic trajectory of its historical route.


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