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Was General Charles de Gaulle a mythological figure like King

Let us suppose that in some far distant aeon in the future, aliens, perhaps
human returnees from Mars,

visit Planet Earth only to discover that all

physical records of past civilizations, including our own, have almost completely
vanished as a result of some huge cataclysm, the crash of an asteroid, global
war, ecological collapse, whatever. Only records of certain names have survived,
among them that of General Charles de Gaulle. Alien philosophers, historians
and scientists will have cause to speculate whether de Gaulle really existed, or
was he a mythological or legendary figure like the Pied Piper or King Arthur?
His name may well suggest to some of these experts that the symbolism of his
name pointed to a

fictitious folk hero recalling Charlemagne, the Roman

province of Gaul.
We know, of course, that the General was very much a man made of bones,
flesh and blood, and it is perhaps timely to consider the relevance of his vision
for Europe has for us today. Have current events, albeit indirectly and in a
negative way, proved him right if only by demonstrating the dire consequences
of not heeding his warnings and following his aims? To recap, then, on his
main policies and ideas. Once installed as the president of France he turned
his back on French colonialism to the immense displeasure, one might say
gall. of the junta of French military men in Algeria who had hoisted him to
power. He saw the future of France in Europe, which he loosely defined as the
cultural and historically shaped entity that extended from the Atlantic to the
Urals. Understandably enough, the Soviet leadership was not altogether

by this notion for while it implied the exclusion of American

dominance over Europe, it questioned Russias retention of its vast territory in

Asia. However, this Europe would apparently ensure at least a measure of good
will and harmonious coexistence affecting the western and eastern wings of
Europe. Though de Gaulle respected the status of Britain as the power that
had redressed occasional excesses committed by Continental dictators, it was
not really in his view a part of core Europe , and it seems his stance has been
endorsed by the recently held referendum organized by a British government.
France has subsequently joined with other western powers in bashing
autocrats and Islamists in Africa and Asia under the protective umbrella of
NATO and the American superpower. Far from quelling unrest outside the
European area western military actions have effectively imported unrest and
violence into the heart of Europe. Instead of a harmonious relationship with
European Russia, we have a situation in which the West and Russia are
embroiled in bitter conflict in the Ukraine and Syria; so the questions remains:
what is Europe and how should its destiny be guided by a realistic and sober
understanding of its essential nature?
Essentially the European Economic Community that existed from 1957 until
1973 resembled the empire of Charlemagne, at least in geographic terms.
Francos Fascist Spain was still shunned. Britain woke up to the reality of
Europe rather late in the day and was rudely shocked by de Gaulles non to

admission in 1962. Exploring the situation of Europe in 1957 and

800 AD, we note certain parallels as well as obvious differences. Spain in 800
was largely under the control of the Moors. Germans to the East awaited
incorporation into the western system whether by forced conversion or being
clobbered by an unequal rate of currency conversion. Back in 800 there was no
Russia but there

was the Byzantine Roman Empire, which still laid titular

claim to the leadership of all Christendom. In deference to this claim the word

gubernans (governing) was added to Charlemagnes imperial title, implying

his possession of representative or delegated power as opposed to power based
on absolute sovereignty. However, a mark of differentiation between east and
west Christendom was

implicit in the filioque confession that attended

Charlemagnes coronation as emperor by the Pope in Rome.

it might now seem to be a mere subtlety in theology to assert that the Holy
Spirit proceeded from The Father and The Son, but in 800 the question had
far-reaching implications. In the first place, the confession refuted

fundamental tenet of the Arian faith which opposed the Nicene Doctrine of the
Holy Trinity.

The heretics

that most aroused the Roman Catholic churchs

were the Visigoths

and Vandals in Spain. However, it also

conveyed a residual reproach of the eastern branch of Christianity for this had
in western eyes at least flirted with the notion that the Son was not fully on a
par with The Father. Eastern Patriarchs

and even one Pope were tarnished

with suspicions concerning heresy in this connection. The eastern emphasis on

the primacy of The Father arguably encouraged a more patriarchal and less
dualistic attitude

of power, political power included, than the one that

pertained in the West. The contentious issue of the filioque clause contributed
to the Schism of 1054, and by this time the Western world was much more selfassured and prepared for aggressive ventures as the Crusades and occupation
of Constantinople would show in due course.
Theology and politics do not seem to mix in our modern enlightened age. Let
us recall that Stalin was a monk as well as a bank robber in his early days and
notions rooted in religious mysticism left a deep mark

in his psyche. The

propaganda film Ivan Grozny produced by Sergei Eisenstein during the Second
World War at Stalins instigation

emphasized the claims of Moscow to


the Third Rome,

according to

the doctrine promulgated

by an

orthodox priest in the sixteenth century. Was not Stalin himself the hero at
Tzaritsyn and the one who defeated the Whites in 1919, that town renamed
Stalingrad in honour of Stalins victory. Tzaritsyn was founded by Ivan the
Terrible as the first element Tzar- in the name

indicates. In the battle of

Stalingrad two rival notions impelled a conflict in which both parties claimed
the right to establish an empire modelled after Rome, either


the Third

Reich or the Third Rome as the successor of ancient Rome and Constantinople.
Those who speak all too glibly about the unity of Europe would do well to
reflect on a divisive aspect that existed even in the days of the Roman Empire
under the Principate of Augustus. The European Union of today represents the
western understanding of Europe and this was established in Rome on
Annunciation Day 1957 according to the Latin calendar. In the long run
Europe was not divided by the

Iron Curtain but yet there remains a more

subtle and tenuous line that separates Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, as well as the
Ukraine, Belo-Russia and the

Russian Federation

from the other parts of

Europe. The pendulum of military and political swings to and fro, allowing the
east to make inroads into the west or vice versa. Resultant claims to possessing
the totality of Europe create dangers and tension of which too many people
seem to be at most partly aware. De Gaulles vision of one Europe points to a
solution in this matter without specifying how it can be achieved.


Scene: The Kremlin.

Ivan IV (the Terrible): Your move, peasant: (aside) Clever for a peasant. I wonder
if he saw the point of my last move. I'll have his queen unless he's very, very,
So he moves his pawn forward. Shall I take it? What, and let his queen escape!
Now, for a sacrifice, I'll move my bishop so.
Aha! He refused the bait. He moved that pawn again. The fool! I'll take his
queen even sooner than anticipated. But not just yet.
That's strange. He moves his knight so as to threaten check or take my castle.
A diversionary tactic. I am not that easily fooled. Now I'll close the net.
That shook him! His queen is lost. Either she stays where she is - to be taken
by my knight, or takes my bishop only to fall foul of a defending pawn.
In my youth I occasionally lost a game, but since I became Czar, only one man
was foolhardy enough to declare checkmate. The game was never finished,
being suspended when I suddenly remembered a treasonable act committed by
my opponent. No, we were never able to finish the game.

So he moves. He has obviously given up hope of saving the queen. He moves

that pathetic little pawn forward again. I'm not one to despise a pawn, mind
you. It's very insignificance is its strength. The isolated pawn is indeed a
derisory thing, but together pawns can form formidable chains of defence -or
attack. But why should I be concerned with pawns when I can have his queen,
ha ha!
Funny, he didn't even bat an eyelid. It's almost if he were leering like one on the
point of triumph, not defeat. What did he say his name was? Vladimir? He
came as a replacement for Alexei who's abed with fever. He made all the
outward gestures of deference of one in his station, yet lacks that servility so
typical of his class.
(Aloud) Black to move!
(Aside) What lean hands he has. His skin has the texture of an ancient
parchment, so dry.
So, he takes the bishop, and the way is open for that pawn. It can advance to
the final row, and .. he could bring my king into check, if not worse..!
No, Alexei must have told him. The man's no fool.
(Aloud) Peasant, we are the Czar. To some we are known as the Terrible. Should
any mortal man seek to gain advantage over us, the Czar of all the Russias,
the successor of Constantine and Byzantium, that man had better look well to

ensure the continuation of his well-being, to reflect as to how his interests are
best served. We suggest you that you move your knight to protect your castle.
(Aside) He obliges, but now my king has no escape route in the case, the most
unlikely case, that he moves that pawn to the final row. He must have got the
message. Even so, it was very cunning how that pawn wormed its way toward
the final row. Just to be on the safe side, I'll move my bishop to the position
where it can dislodge his knight. In these parts the Church has wisdom enough
to comply with the wishes of the Emperor. Only in the squabbling and
disunited west has there been a cleavage between Church and State, Pope and
Emperor, the will of the ruler and the manifest interests of the ruled.
So he moves, he moves the pawn. Just one more move and it reaches the final
row, the field that turns the humble pawn into a deadly queen..
I can feel another of those attacks coming on ..
(Aloud) Sirrah! Sirrah! Go fetch my salts, advise the doctor I require his care.
Oh, and inform the executioner to sharpen his axe just in case his services are
required at extremely short notice.
(Aside) My move. In only two moves I could take his pawn with my queen.
Onemove too late, though. Surely he realizes.

(Aloud) We need fresh air. Page, bring a stool for our feet. They are as heavy as
lead. Bring warm water in a bowl to bathe them. They are as cold as ice.
Peasant, give us a little more time to consider our next move. We are
(Aside) It is as though some enemy had poisoned me. But why now? It was little
short of a miracle that I survived the murderous plots of those scheming
Boyars. They poisoned those whom most I loved, yet I, the heir of supreme
power, lived on - the Grand Prince of Muscovy, the Czar of all the Russias, the
successor of Byzantium and Rome. Poisoned that I was, a prey to those
dancing shadows that haunt men's minds, captive of fear, an exile from the
confidence of all and from the blissful land of sleep. I survived because I struck
whenever danger threatened, or seemed to threaten - my apologies to the
innocent. In rage I slew my son, my only son. My anguish and perhaps my
merit was greater than that of Abraham. And my consolation? That Providence
decreed that I should rise to a greatness not shared by other men. It was I that
made Russia mighty and respected among all nations. It was I who extended
her borders in the icy north, conquered Kazan and Tartary. Yet shall I possess
of all lands lapped by the Baltic Sea and deliver holy Constantinople from the
unbelieving sons of Hagar. I have opened the frozen seas of the west to the
plying of trade, and made a compact with Elizabeth, Queen of England. I have
overthrown the corrupt and treacherous brood of Boyars. Even when I had
Moscow set on fire, I had the interests of Mother Russia at heart. And shall I
now be humiliated by a peasant? Once a soothsayer said to me:
"Let the emperor fear none but the peasant's enmity, for he that turns the soil
knows no difference between the beginning and the end".

I feel so weak. Were he to make that final move, I would lack the strength even
to call the guard.
(Aloud) Peasant, leave our presence. We shall continue the game tomorrow --Doctor!
(Eerie Voice) Checkmate!
Should Heads of Governments Have a Board of Historians to Help Them?
A Potted History from the Time of Ancient Rome to the Crimea
Now It might seem to be only a matter of academic interest that the Crimean
peninsula was once a part of the Roman Empire. Even so, I submit the
somewhat surprising thesis that the present crisis in the Ukraine and the
Russian repossession of the Crimean peninsula trace their origins to Roman
times. Here goes. For us any talk of the tension between East and West brings
the Cold War to mind. In antiquity there was also what we might call a tension
between east and west and this emerged during the civil wars that beset Rome
during the decades that led up to the establishment of the Principate by
Augustus Caesar. In this connection we recall the rivalry between Julius
Caesar and Pompey and later between Octavian (later Augustus) and Mark
Antony. These conflicts gave rise to a propaganda assault against the East
entailing the image of an eastern seductress portrayed most conspicuously by
Cleopatra. Even the architecture of the Mausoleum of Augustus carried a
propagandist message as this was topped by a tumulus, a mound of earth, in
accord with native Italian traditions as opposed to the more sumptuous
designs of eastern-style mausolea. A lack of coordination between the western
and the eastern halves of the Roman Empire grew apace not so much as a
result of military rivalries as of economic and administrative difficulties, all of
which culminated in the official division of the Empire under Diocletian at the
end of the third century. It was not long after this that Constantine the Great

captured Rome, the capital of the Western Empire before becoming the ruler of
the Eastern Empire also. His commitment to Christianity led him to establish a
new expressly Christian Rome at Byzantium, which received the name of
Constantinople, a move which reflected badly on Rome itself, where paganism
held sway in the senatorial establishment. To cut a long story short, the divide
between the Rome of the West and the new Rome of the East crept into the
ecclesiastical domain, a fact that had deep political as well as religious
ramifications. After the extinction of the Imperial line in Rome in 476, to all
intents and purposes the Pope became the sole figurehead of Catholic
Christendom in the West until the coronation of Charlemagne by the Pope in
Rome on Christmas Day in 800. Charlemagne was modest enough not to
acclaim himself the new Roman emperor that should replace the emperor in
Constantinople, adopting more the role of his standard-bearer at the head of
Western Christendom. Tensions between the Western and Eastern domains of
Christendom surfaced in the form of theological tenets, and in one tenet in
particular, the one sometimes referred to as the issue of Filioque. This
expression is tied in with the question as to whether the Holy Spirit proceeded
from God the Father and God the Son, or only from God the Father, as the
tradition of the Eastern Church maintained. The issue first arose during the
contentions between the Catholic Church and Arianism, the form of
Christianity adopted by the Visigoths in Spain. Other issues complicated the
relations between Rome and Constantinople, such as those surrounding the
veneration of religious images, the celibacy of priests, the date of Easter, the
use of wafers for the celebration of the Eucharist and others. In combination
with an effort to convert the Khazars from Judaism to Christianity, the famous
missionaries Cyril and Methodius evangelized the lands now occupied by the
Ukraine and created the cyrillic script as the written medium in which religious
documents should be written. As it seems they had the Pope's blessing in this
matter the introduction of the cyrillic alphabet represented no slight against
Western traditions. However, after the famous comparison of Papal, Byzantine
and Islamic liturgies the people of Kiev accepted the Byzantine form of
Christianity, the same tradition that was later followed in Moscow. The Great
Schism of 1054 ossified the differences between the Roman Catholic and Greek
Orthodox branches of Christianity. . We now take a quantum leap to the battle
of Stalingrad , formerly named Tsaritsyn in honour of the Czar in 1589. It

became Stalingrad in recognition of Stalin's role in the victory of Tsaritsyn over

the Whites in 1919. Stalin evidently much admired Ivan IV, Ivan the Terrible
(Grozny), as we can judge from a film he promoted and which Sergei Eisenstein
produced depicting Ivan's victories. Ivan adopted the formulation coined by a
learned monk to the effect that Moscow was The Third Rome, after ancient
Rome and Constantinople. This finds a strange parallel in Hitler's concept of
The Third Reich as that which forms a line beginning with the empire of
Charlemagne and continued with the foundation of Imperial Germany in 1871
to reach its climax in 1933. The mindset evinced now by President Putin rests
in a tradition that sees Western incursions into Russia as some form of
crusade. The Russians, according to this analysis, beat back the Poles in the
seventeenth century, the Swedes in the eighteenth, Napoleon in the nineteenth
and Hitler in the twentieth. In such terms the West can now be seen as having
another bash at Moscow and going for Russia's jugular vein in Holy Kiev. Let us
proceed with caution.