With Visions of a Rebuilding a Holy Rus – Putin’s Russia Attacks Ukraine

In the face of invading Russian forces, a young democratic nation’s resistance has galvanized world attention and support. According to Tufts University Associate Professor of Political Science Oxana Shevnel, Russian President Vladamir Putin will not stop with Ukraine. In this episode, we take a closer look at the context behind the conflict and explore how national identity, religious politics, and faith are playing a role within institutions and on the ground.

Ukrainian National Identity Was Forged by Putin
As Russian President Vladamir Putin ordered Russian troops to the border with Ukraine, he sought to reframe the way the world sees Ukraine. Instead of separate and unique, Putin engaged in what Dr. Oxana Shevnel describes as retroactive nationalism. Putin’s speech on February 21st before the invasion began betrayed his ambitions – his references to a common Christian lineage tracing back to 1,000 years – underscored his empire-building ambitions. To Shevnel his quest will not stop with Ukraine. An expert in the geopolitical struggles of Eurasia’s post-Soviet countries she has closely followed the complicated forces influencing the political developments in Ukraine. In this opening segment, she shares how the country has seen several presidents try and fail to develop a national identity bridging divides that have existed for many years. That is until now. She credits Mr. Putin for accelerating a sense of Ukrainian national identity and aspirations to join the West. Pointing out that not long ago the country was split on whether it sought to look East to Russia or West to the European Union. However, things changed in 2014. The time she marks as the beginning of the Ukrainian Russian war and she describes how the soft power of the Orthodox Church in Moscow aligned itself with Putin’s war ambitions. Shevnel describes the religious politics and dynamics in the predominantly Orthodox nation that is fighting to survive as heavy bombardment and Russian and Belarus forces breach the country from the North, West, and East.

I feel called to stay and minister here in the bomb shelter
Instead of leaving Ukraine for the United States when the conflict erupted, Pastor Benjamin Morrison explained this is home and his calling is to minister and support those in need. He along with his wife and two teenage children are offering humanitarian aid and support to Ukrainians from the East fleeing West. Nestled in a small port town of 45,000, Morrison is raising funds from American churches for Ukrainians in need. For two decades he has developed a network of Protestant clergy across the region, now they are turning to each other for comfort and using their voices to raise awareness about the Russian aggression and the need for support.

The Sanctuary Was Full
On Sunday, February 27th, 2022 Ukrainian Catholic Churches around the world held prayers for Ukraine in concert with faith communities around the world. On that day, when Father Hitchens opened the church doors he was overwhelmed to see the community solidarity. Beyond regular parishioners, the church has become a source of support and organizer raising to urge for greater political support and resources to assist Ukrainians. In this conversation, Hitchens describes how the Ukrainian Catholic Church offers the rites and rituals familiar to those from an Orthodox tradition while remaining in communion with the Roman Catholic church.

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