For the Christian world, Advent and Yuletide are a time of peace. But this year, peace is nowhere to be seen. The Islamic State continues its onslaught. The Syrian civil war rages on. Afghanistan is still troubled. Hostilities continue to smoulder in Mali. Very well, these are not Christian countries and perhaps they are not concerned by the dictates of a specific holiday tradition. But what about Russia, Ukraine, and the Crimea? President Putin recently announced that the Crimea is as important to Russia as Jerusalem is to Christians. That is actually an insult to just about everyone. It is an insult to Crimean Tatars who are indigenous to Crimea. No other people can pretend to that appellation. On top of it all, the Tatars are Muslims, and Russia has no right to speak for them. At the annual human rights conference held on 10 December at the Institute of Human Rights in Estonia, a Crimean Tatar representative, Mustafa Dzhemilev, enlightened the indigenous minorities panel on the Crimean Tatars’ situation.

It is also an insult to Ukrainians. Crimea was and is legally a part of Ukraine. The inviolability of Ukraine’s borders and the country’s territorial integrity were protected by the Budapest Memorandum signed by three superpowers in 1994 Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Russia has brazenly violated the obligations it took voluntarily.

Third, it is a slight against Russia itself, as by annexing the Crimea, Russia has become a confirmed deal-breaker. It also insults Jews and Arabs who consider Jerusalem their holy city and no business of Russia’s. Or does Moscow feel otherwise? It also insults Christians, as Moscow claims the right to portray Christianity as an aggressive faith that tries to rule over others, with Putin as its messiah. And furthermore, it sounds just as threatening as “the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” Moscow already moved to “make amends” for the tragedy in Crimea and Ukraine. What next? The entire former Soviet Union? Or the entire Russian empire? Jerusalem, too?

In this issue of Maailma Vaade, coverage is predominantly devoted to developments related to Russia and Ukraine. This is not out of a wish to focus on Russia, but an inevitability that Russia is forcing on everyone else. Russia’s aggression is not limited to military exercises on its own soil or occupied oblasts in eastern Ukraine. Russian submarines (allegedly, but who else could they belong to?) play hide-and-seek in coastal Swedish waters. Russian warships have even reached American and Australian waters. Russian air force runs mock raids above the Baltic Sea, regularly violating sovereign airspace. Russia has laid verbal claim to a larger part of the Arctic, neglecting the fact that other countries have rights on the planet Earth. What is Russia really seeking? Its activity is indicative of a desire to go to war against the world. And it would do so alone, as it has no allies in this project. Yet indifference breeds the illusion that no one will stop Russia, either.

But let’s leave Russia aside. There are also other regions where the situation is deeply unsettling. Take the case of the Assyrian Christians, who have been living in northern Iraq and northern Syria for millennia. They have been among the great nations of history. Surrounded by Zoroastrians, Muslims, Arabs, Kurds and Turks, they have experienced varying fortunes. But never before have they faced the prospect of complete destruction. The terrorists of the Islamic State have pledged such a genocide. As a small nation, the Assyrians cannot defend themselves. No one else appears interested in their welfare. Everyone thinks only about their own interests and well-being including the Arabs, Kurd and Turks. This issue of Maailma Vaade also features a story on the persecuted Assyrians.

 



Mart Nutt
is the Editor-in-chief of Maailma Vaade since 2014