An Expression of Melancholy
Retired Soviet intelligence official, Alexander Fidorovich—
Terrorism emerged during the perestroika times a number of conflicts emerged on the periphery of Soviet Union, in Tajikistan, in Uzbekistan, in Azerbaijan, in Karabah, in Armenia… On those southern borders where the majority of the population is Muslim, this is where those radical movements emerged, and terrorism followed. Chechnya is also the result of this perestroika.
Bruskin—In fact H-Hour is dedicated to the image of the enemy, to the image of the enemy in all of its incarnations. The enemy who is fought, the enemy in our subconscious in Jung’s meaning, the enemy in the form of traditional death on a horse, time as the enemy. And in particular, there are five saint warriors not like enemies, but like adversaries. Though an adversary is also an enemy, to some extent. These are five figures without sex, because they are androgynes. I should say that there are two types of commentaries for these characters.
One commentary is a saint warrior. In this case, it is interesting for me, how the image of the saint warrior is created, starting from for instance, Michael the Archangel, who fought Satan and the satanic army, and Saint George, who fought the dragon for the Christian faith and defeated the dragon, and ending with the saint warrior Yevgeny Rodionov.
It’s a man, who as a young guy, fought in the Chechen war. He was beheaded, because he refused to take off the cross. Now he is depicted in contemporary Russian icons created in the old Byzantine style with elongated proportions. There is also God blessing him from Heaven. The angel is flying to him, and is greeting him. He has Saint George’s red mantle, but at the same time he also wears a contemporary camouflage suit. And instead of Saint George’s spear, he holds a Kalashnikov machine-gun in his hands that makes a great impression. In fact, Saint George’s spear, was the weapon of that time.
The contemporary weapon is the Kalashnikov, but Kalashnikov is, in general, a weapon of mass destruction, and therefore it makes quite a great impression. This theme was also interesting for me, when I was depicting the saint warriors. The faces of these characters, these righteous warriors reminds me of images from the 17-18th centuries, from the religious sculptures with an expression of melancholy on the face. This very contrast between the expression of melancholy and a barbaric weapon of murder represents several pathos of these sculptures. For me, that is a right metaphor,” Bruskin analyzes.
Burt Patenaude examines freedom and religion in the Gorbachev years.
Patenaude— Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader not preoccupied with an anti-religious agenda. Starting with his ascension to the post of General Secretary of the CPSU in March 1985, he decided to maintain the status quo on religion in the USSR—although he did pay lip service to traditional Marxist anti-religious views on occasion.
It was only in 1988 that Gorbachev’s policy toward religions, Islam in particular, began to change in the direction of tolerance—all under the general banner of “glasnost.” By 1988 Gorbachev won his battle against anti-religious hardliners in the Kremlin and moved to introduce a new law on freedom of conscience, which was formalized on October 1, 1990.
Grisha had left the country in 1989, I believe, but still the atmosphere of tolerance, even if not yet the law by then, was already being felt. The law contained 31 articles, with article 3 articulating the right of freedom of conscience and placing “only those restrictions necessary for protecting public safety and order, life, health and morality, as well as the rights and liberties of other citizens.” Article 11 provided for the establishment of religious educational institutions, and article 13 extended legal status to religious organizations. Starting in early 1989, Islam became recognized in the USSR as one of the free religions, and old mosques and holy shrines began to reopen and become the scene of religious ceremonies and festivals in Central Asia. This new wave of freedom gave rise to Islamic radicalism in the Caucasus and in Central Asia.