Orthodoxy and the Multipolar World


Back in the Middle Ages, Christianity was playing a major role in spreading literacy and knowledge.

Interestingly, during the 11th century East-West Schism, when Christianity was being split into what is now known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, one of the theologian disagreements between two churches, apart from disputes over the procession of the Holy Spirit, was whether the holy texts should be translated into other languages.

The Western view was that all the holy texts should remain written in the original languages they were passed on in, namely old Hebrew, Aramaic, Biblical Greek and.. Latin, and that all the Church services and all the prayers should be read in Latin. They argued that God communicated his messages in those languages and that, therefore, all the holy texts should remain conserved in the original scripts, so that if anyone wanted to become closer to God, they should learn those languages and adopt the imposed paradigm. People were required to learn Latin, or, at least, memorise prayers in that language.

As result, Latin quickly became an international language in Western Europe, with churches, religious schools and, later Universities teaching knowledge in Latin, with scholars using that language to communicate ideas. An Irish monk, for instance, could travel around and be well understood everywhere among the elites, be they in Rome, Spain or Scandinavia.

The Eastern Church, in contrast, was saying that nowhere in the holy texts does it say that those messages can’t be translated into local languages and dialects, and that, therefore, the very idea that Bible should only be read in the original biblical languages and Latin is obscene heresy that limits the spread of the holy word.

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Various Greek and Byzantine scholars and missionaries were working hard to adapt holy texts to various local cultures and languages, at times assisting the entire ethnic groups in developing their standardised alphabets and writing systems. As such, the Cyrillic alphabet was developed for Eastern Slavic tribes.

Cyrillic writing system, in its modified form, is being used nowadays by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, Bulgaria, and even by most of the Central Asian countries, thanks to the later Russian/Soviet influence.

Some would argue that even nowadays, when religion doesn’t play such significant role in culture and public relations anymore, the difference in approach to international politics between “Western West” and “Eastern West” still remains within similar paradigms.

Think, for instance, of how Washington and European Union with NATO have been (nominally) preaching values of Liberalism, Democracy and personal freedoms, as if those values were universal, regularly using them as a formal pretext for sanctions and military interventions (same as Catholics were using religion to justify Crusades, and such), and how different it is to Moscow’s current paradigm of multi-polar world, which is more relaxed in accepting the differences between various cultures and world-views, at least nominally.

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