Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A page from Louis De Bernieres' lotest novel, Birds Without Wings. Perhaps some of you read Corelli's Mandolin? The narrative voice here, btw, is Turkish.

Ever since the year 1189 in the Muslim calendar, which was 1774 in the Christian, the Russian Empire had exercised a policy of religious expurgation every time that it expanded into newly conquered lands. In the Crimea, in the Caucasus, in southern Ukraine, in Azerbaijan, Kars-Ardahan and Laz, the Russians massacred and displaced the Muslim population, swamping the Ottoman Empire with refugees with which it could not cope. It is impossible to calculate the number of deaths, or to reimagine the manner in which these murders were perpetrated. It was a perduring holocaust, but, unlike the more famous one of the Second World War, it is uncommemorated by the world because it received no publicity at the time or afterwards. No monuments have been raised, no dates of comemoration have entered the calendars, no religious services have been held, and no hindsighted pieties have been repeated for our edification. The Russians replaced these slaughtered populations with Christians, preferably of Slav origin, but in the absence of Slavs, they made do with Ukrainians and Armenians.

It is curious that the Russians, calling themselves Christians, and like so many other nominal Christians throughout history, took no notice whatsoever of the key parable of Jesus Christ himself, which taught that you shall love your neighbor as yourself, and that even those you have despised and hated are your neighbors. This has never made any difference to Christians, since the primary epiphenomena of any religion's foundation are the production and flourishment of hypocrisy, megalomania and psychopathy, and the first casualties of a religion's establishment are the intentions of its founder. One can imagine Jesus and Mohammed glumly comparing notes in paradise, scratching their heads and bemoaning the vain expense of effort and suffering, which resulted only in the construction of two monumental whited sepulchres.

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