The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
Author: Paul E. Richardson
Page 4 ( 1 pages)
Back in February, I was researching a blog post for our website on the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill (we are significantly expanding our online offerings, by the way, be sure to check it out). The post explains the causes and consequences of the Great Schism of 1054 that led to separate Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. While reading historical accounts written from both sides, I was struck first by how events so well documented could be interpreted so differently, and second how such a massive chasm could develop over just a few words, a few differences in ritual, and a few personal slights.
But of course we are talking about matters of religion and faith here, and if history teaches us anything, it is that these are the most intractable of issues. They go to the root of who we are and how we see the world and our purpose here. Not an arena conducive to compromise.
We see a similar dynamic with the subject of our magazine (by which I mean the country we call Russia). Read the copious output from any of the Russian government-financed publications or Kremlin apologists (Russia Behind the Headlines, Russia Direct, Russia Today, Sputnik, Russia Insider) and you get a very different take on the same events than if you read non-Russian media like Radio Free Europe, Meduza, The Russophobe blog, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
“Where you stand,” the old adage has it, “depends on where you sit,” and once again the world is deeply divided over Russia’s actions and intentions. And it is not a trivial observation to note that this interpretive division greatly resembles the geographical division of the Catholic-Orthodox divide.
For our part, we sit in Vermont, so we are naturally drawn to interpretations of world events that bubble up from a society built on the traditions of western liberalism, democracy and free market capitalism. Yet we also spend a good deal of time reading and interpreting Russian media (the more independent the better), so we feel that also informs our tea-leaf-reading, keeping us well-balanced. Regardless, however, we are predisposed to be skeptical of anything any government espouses, and we are always on the lookout for whatever axe some outlet may have to grind.
It also helps that our magazine, while it is published by a Vermont-based company, is profoundly international. For example, the five main features for this issue were written by a Russian, a Brit, a Dutchman, an American and a Spaniard. For the first time in one issue we had to translate features from three different languages! And we have photographers submitting from all over the world, editors working on two continents, and a printer based in Fulton, Missouri. Which, if you know your history, is where Winston Churchill delivered his famous Iron Curtain speech. (History has a sense of humor.)
These are challenging times. But we can get through them if we have the courage to keep speaking truth to power, to focus on being sensible rather than right, and to commit to being better listeners than talkers (or texters or tweeters).
Enjoy the issue.
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