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  • Why Did the Seamen Have to Die? The Kursk Tragedy and the Evoking of Old Testament Blood Sacrifice

    Elina Kahla

    Chapter from the book: Pynnöniemi, K. 2021. Nexus of Patriotism and Militarism in Russia: A Quest for Internal Cohesion.

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    This chapter addresses church-state collaboration in the context of ‘spiritual national defence’; it compares different views represented in cultural productions on the tragedy of the submarine Kursk, that which sank in the Barents Sea, on 12 August 2000. It suggests that the Russian secular leadership’s reluctance to deal with the management of the past, especially concerning the punishment of Stalinist oppressors, is compensated by glorifying victims – here, the seamen of the Kursk – having died on duty, as martyrs. Тhe glorification of martyrs derives from Old Testament theology of blood sacrifice (2 Moses, 24:8), and makes it possible to commemorate Muslim martyrs together with Orthodox Christian ones. Some theologians have claimed that Russia had needed these sacrifices to spiritually wake up in the post-atheist vacuum of values, and that the Russian people had to repent for having abandoned their forefathers’ Christian faith. In this line of apologetics of blood sacrifices and need to repent, the New Testament’s promise of Jesus’s complete purgation and redemption of sin through perfect sacrifice (Matt. 26:28) is not mentioned. My reading elaborates on the commemorative album Everlasting Lamp of Kursk by (then) Hegumen Mitrofan (Badanin) (2010), as well as on the drama film Kursk by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (2018), whose film illustrates pan-European visions, based implicitly on the New Testament promise.

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    Kahla, E. 2021. Why Did the Seamen Have to Die? The Kursk Tragedy and the Evoking of Old Testament Blood Sacrifice. In: Pynnöniemi, K (ed.), Nexus of Patriotism and Militarism in Russia. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-9-10

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    Published on May 27, 2021


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