Ring of Fire

For the moment, forget about those manufactured media sideshows cluttering the minds of the Beltway blitherati – U.S. budget lockdown, Syrian chemical weapons, playing nice with President Rowhani.  Far better to focus your attention on the infotainment value reliably provided by Comrade Bear whenever the “official” narrative becomes too, too predictable.  In a nutshell, on the surface, here’s the message: in Russia, the only political publicity stunts permitted are those of Comrade Bear himself.  So when Greenpeace trespasses on the Gazprom Ocean, “it is absolutely obvious that they are not pirates, [but] they tried to seize the oil platform,” broke Russian and international law, and these crimes must be investigated.  Port of call: Murmansk.


Comrade Bear once again displayed his trademark deadpan invocation of a hypothetical, potential terrorist threat to justify nearly any forceful response by the organs of public order and security:

The Coast Guard “didn’t know who was trying to seize the platform under the guise of Greenpeace.  Especially in view of the events in Kenya, really, anything can happen,” he said. … Environmentalists viewed Putin’s comments as a conciliatory move.

Luckily, Comrade Bear was in a magnanimous mood on that particular Wednesday … although the specific reason why is a matter of some debate:

In an interview with the Izvestia daily, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov directly responded to chatter on the Internet that Putin [last] weekend married gymnast Alina Kabayeva at a secret ceremony at the Iversky Monastery on Lake Valdai in northern Russia where the president had been attending a discussion forum.  “This is all from the realm of the imagination and it is useless to deny these (rumors) or call them rubbish. We have done this already a hundred times,” Peskov said. “The rumors stay alive, what can you do about them? But they have nothing in common with reality,” he added.  The rumor had been started by a former government official in the Caucasus who tweeted that he had been told Putin had married Kabayeva at the monastery, which had been [closed] to the public.
“Why the monastery was [closed] off, I cannot tell you,” added Peskov.

Back when he still wore a wedding band.

Back when he still wore a wedding band.

Lunghu wouldn’t marry her either: among European Olympians, he prefers German rowers to Russian gymnasts. But lest we be too hasty in dismissing the mere possibility of this heavenly love match, let’s review some relevant aspects of matrimonial customs in the Orthodox Church:

A wedding ring is a metal ring indicating that the wearer is married. In Eastern Orthodox tradition the wedding ring is worn on the right hand rather than the left.  Among Eastern Orthodox Christians, the exchange of rings is not technically part of the wedding service, rather they are exchanged at the betrothal … The actual symbolic act of marriage is not the exchange of rings, but the public exchange of wedding vows.  In the Eastern Orthodox Service of Betrothal, the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross with rings over the bridegroom’s head while saying three times “The servant of God (Groom) is betrothed to the handmaid of God (Bride), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”. This is then followed by another three times over the bride’s head with the names reversed, after which the rings are exchanged three times (either by the priest or by the best man).

Let’s take a closer look, invoking the spirit of former President Bill Clinton to parse the literal (translated) words of Dimi Peskov:

  • “Whether he has a wife or not, let us leave that to him and not interfere,” Peskov said.
  • “This [wedding story] is all from the realm of the imagination and [has] nothing in common with reality,” he added.
  • “Why the monastery was [closed] off, I cannot tell you,” added Peskov.
  1. Peskov isn’t saying Putin is married, and he isn’t saying he’s not.
  2. Peskov states that a Putin wedding did not occur at the Iversky Monastery.
  3. Peskov says that he can’t tell you why the monastery was closed to the public, not that he doesn’t know.

Iversky Monastery

All these statements can be literally true, and Dimi Peskov can remain a truthful spokesman, if the Iversky Monastery was closed for an Orthodox betrothal ceremony (the exchange of rings), instead of an actual Orthodox wedding ( the public exchange of wedding vows). Congratulations are perhaps in order for Comrade Bear and Comrade Foxy: they’re not (yet?) married, but maybe they’re betrothed!  Best of all, from the point of view of those concerned:

The central and unifying feature of Orthodox monasticism is Hesychasm, the practice of silence.


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