Many assume the current tension between Russia and the west is the result of lingering hostility from the Cold War, though some say it goes back to the aftermath of World War II. But Glenn Beck on Monday showed how the tension stretches back more than 1,000 years, saying it is vital that Americans learn the full history of the conflict between Russia and the west to understand Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions.
"It is critical that you understand this, because this is the root," Beck said. "We've got to take you back over 1,000 years to the split of the Roman empire. ... The government power structure was in Constantinople. The religious center remained in Rome. ... Constantinople was famous for its defense and large number of soldiers; culture was heavily influenced by the Greeks. ... Gradually they move away from the Latin language, and they're increasingly alienating themselves from western Rome and the pope."
With the majority of the soldiers in the east, the pope became vulnerable when a tribe called the Lombards attempted to take power. The soldiers in Constantinople couldn't come to his defense in time.
"Desperate, the pope turned to somebody else -- to Charlemagne," Beck said. "Charlemagne was king of the Frankish empire. He agreed to help the pope. He swoops down and crushes the Lombards. He liberates Rome, but in turn, also ended up uniting most of western Europe. Christmas day, year 800, Pope Leo III is sitting on his throne. He crowns Charlemagne emperor."
Beck showed his viewers a map of how the east and the west were divided at the time, and how they were divided in the time of the Iron Curtain:
"Do you notice the division of power in Charlemagne's Europe and Cold War Europe is nearly identical?" Beck asked. "After Charlemagne's death, his empire was split among his sons. France and Germany's beginning stem from this moment, and from here on out, Rome is the spiritual center and Carolingian Christianity would dominate western Europe."
"So how does Charlemagne and his rescuing of western Rome over a thousand years ago matter to anyone today? It's all about values, or the stated values," Beck continued. "I want you to look closely at what Putin values in his 'new Russia.' There has been a trend now of events that indicate Russia is attempting to be one of the highest-profile international defenders of global orthodox Christianity."
Beck compared the situation to how Adolf Hitler used religion before seizing power, cloaking himself "as a defender of all that was good and decent and Christian."
"You'll recall it was Vladimir Putin who beat Obama to the national stage when denouncing the violence against Christians in the Middle East," Beck remarked. "Well everybody loves that, right? Except it's a little strange considering the guy kills journalists ... That doesn't exactly square with good Christian tenets, does it? Nevertheless, the pattern is now here. Putin himself was baptized in the Russian orthodox church. He had a high-profile meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2002."
Beck said Putin has made "strong religious allies" and is "attempting to appeal to the orthodox core of the country."
"Why? Because he knows trouble is coming, and he's got to cobble together an army," Beck said. "It appears to be working. Russia has aggressively sought far-right allies wherever he can get them. And if you don't pay attention to history and what he's really doing, you might think, 'I've looked into [Putin's] eyes and he's a good guy.'"
And how does all of that tie to Putin's recent actions in Crimea and Ukraine? According to Ukrainian historical accounts, the apostle Andrew visited Crimea and Kiev. The cities have been woven throughout Russian history as significant religious sites, and when Vladimir the Great was baptized in Crimea in 988, Beck continued, Crimea became the Christian center of the east the way Rome is the Christian center of the west.
Beck said Ivan the Great was aware of the power Russian orthodoxy had, and he declared Russia the third Rome.
"He adopted the Byzantine double-headed eagle as the official symbol of Russia, and it still is the coat of arms in Russia -- a constant reminder to all Russians of their responsibility as a successor to the Byzantines," Beck said. "Eastern orthodoxy would become fused into the DNA of every single Russian."
Vladimir Putin reiterated that point when he recently said that Crimea is as important to the Russians as Jerusalem is to the Jews.
"This fracture in history is critical to understand, because an ongoing dispute in the region is not about anything other than who is going to be the third Rome," Beck concluded. "Putin is appealing to the historic roots of the Russian people when he aligns himself with Russian orthodoxy. He is rallying them to a greater call than just his power, just his ego, just to ego or anything else. He is calling them back to God."
"This should send a chill down the spine of every living human being on planet earth," Beck said, referring to Putin's fusion of nationalism and religion. "The red storm is just beginning to rise."
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