Zelensky invokes religious war, declaring, “Christ has risen!”
Hashem is in its midst; it will not be toppled; by daybreak, Hashem will come to its aid. Psalms 46:6
Ukraine’s embattled president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, sent out a video Easter message from the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv to his people.
Despite being born a Jew, Zelensky ended his religion-laden speech with the emphatic declaration, “Christ is risen.”
Easter address: nationalism as Ukraine’s new religion
The cathedral, built in the 11th century, is threatened with destruction by the Russian invasion. Zelensky cited the structure’s history of withstanding the onslaught of previous Russian armies, Asian hordes, and the Nazi occupation as a basis for his country’s ability to stand up against the current Russian invasion.
Zelensky then described the Easter holiday in nationalist terms:
“Today, we all believe in a new victory for Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “And we are all convinced that we will not be destroyed by any horde or evil. We are all enduring dark times. And on this bright day, most of us are not in bright clothes. But we are fighting for a bright idea. On the bright side. And the truth, people, the Lord, and the Heavenly light are on our side.”
It is odd for Zelensky, who was born Jewish and whose great-grandparents died in World War II, to invoke a deity from inside a church.
It should be noted that despite his family’s Jewish history, Zelensky has been elusive about the details of his family’s Holocaust history, referring instead to his family being wiped out in “the war.” In his address to the Knesset, he rewrote history, claiming that Ukrainians helped Jews during the Holocaust. This is counterfactual as most Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazi occupation from its outset. Over one million Ukrainian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Zelensky also compared the Russian invasion to the Holocaust, referring to it as “the final solution.”
Oranta: Mary above the world
Zelensky continued his Easter speech while standing under an image of Mary, the Jewish mother of Jesus, referred to in Ukrainian Orthodoxy as Oranta.
“The power of the patron saint of the human race, Oranta. She is above me. She is above us all. The unshakable pillar of the Church of Christ, the unbreakable will of the main stronghold, Kyiv, the unbreakable wall of the state.”
It should be noted that Jews avoid using the term ‘Christ’ when referring to Jesus as it is an explicit acknowledgment of Jesus as the messiah.
“As long as there is Oranta, there is Sophia,” Zelensky said. “And Kyiv stands with her, and the whole of Ukraine stands with them.”
The church was not named after a specific figure or saint but was dedicated to the “Holy Wisdom,” as was the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
Replacing Jerusalem with Kyiv
Zelensky then quoted Psalms 46:6.
“Above the image of the Oranta are the words from the Psalms: God dwells in that city. It cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.”
The verse in Psalms was, of course, referring to Jerusalem and not Kyiv, as Zelensky stated.
“Oranta in Latin means one who prays’,” Zelensky continued. “We have all been praying for the last two months. And in the Resurrection of Christ, which symbolizes the great victory of life over death, each of us asks the Lord for one thing. And speaks the same words to heaven. The words of a great and united prayer.”
Zelensky then made an impassioned plea to save all of his people, after which he waxed religious.
“Great and Only God! Save our Ukraine!” Zelensky invoke.“Protect those who protect us! Heaven, protect those who defend the native land. Strengthen the will of those who protect us from captivity. Save those who save Ukraine. Save all Ukrainians! We did not attack anyone, so give us protection. We have never destroyed other nations, so do not let anyone destroy us. We did not seize other people’s lands, so do not let anyone seize ours.”
Many Jews would dispute this claim as Ukraine has a history of centuries of pogroms and anti-Semitism.
“We believe, God, that in your judgment you will not forget them all. All those who have forgotten all your commandments…” he continued. “Let them and all of us hear the fireworks of victory.”
“Christ is Risen”
He then urged his people to struggle towards victory.
“Dear Ukrainians, last year we celebrated Easter at home because of the pandemic. This year we also celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, not as we used to. Because of another virus. Because of the plague called war. Both last year’s and the current threat are united by one thing – nothing can defeat Ukraine.”
“The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win! And on Easter, we ask God for great grace to make our great dream come true – this is another great day – the day when a great peace will come to Ukraine. And with it – eternal harmony and prosperity.”
“Take care of yourselves. Take care of your loved ones. Take care of Ukraine!”
Zelensky ended his address with a bizarre declaration that belied his Jewish roots:
“Christ is Risen!” he declared. “He is Risen Indeed.”
Zelensky’s final declaration is not only perplexing but is also deeply troubling, amplifying the war into a religious conflict. Of so, this would establish Ukraine and Russia as being opposed along religious lines. Many political analysts have suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to reestablish a tsarist empire patterned after Vladimir the Great as a Third Rome based on the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church. Despite millions of followers in Ukraine, the Church, led by Patriarch Kirill, has come out in support of the invasion of Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill has called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God.”