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East was steeped in mysticism; Views of the North.

MICHAEL Baldasea's letter "Spirituality in decline in the West" (Views of the North, February 18) made the point that in Eastern Europe "priest-training seminaries an publication are full", summing up the difference in temperament between Eastern and Western Europe.

Religion in Eastern Europe has developed differently from the West, as Eastern Europe never underwent the Reformation and was less affected by the Enlightenment and the impact of science.

There was at one time a saying which summed up this difference - "the mysticism of the Slavs".

Up to the Russian revolution the ambiance of tsarist Russia resembled that of medieval Europe with wandering holy men, or stari, travelling on pilgrimage from shrine to shrine. Arguably the most famous stari was Rasputin.

In addition there were strange sects, such as the Khlysti and the Doubokhours. Tsarist foreign policy included the protection of the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and Moscow considered itself the third Rome, after the Vatican and Byzantium.

The religious temperament has held fast there so that even after 50 years of communist rule, religion and religious beliefs were not eradicated, although persecution was rife.

It is interesting to note that Stalin was a former seminarist and it is important to note how he guided communism as a religion.

Stalin realised the hold religion had on the mind of his compatriots and he built on this temperament.

He had Lenin, the founder of the USSR, embalmed and placed in a shrine in Red Square, ironically next to St Basil's Cathedral.

Moscow then became the centre of pilgrimage for all those who believed in this secular religion. During the Second World War he attached a priest as well as a commissar to all army units.

Poland was second only to the Vatican in the fight against totalitarianism, where Cardinal Mindszenty opposed communism. Finally it was a Polish pope who saw the fall of communism.

Call it religion, religiosity or spirituality, man must have a belief.

JACK FLETCHER, Chopwell, Tyne and Wear
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4E0EE
Date:Feb 25, 2012
Words:330
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