If ever there was a time the world needed the return of the Master, it is today. The inhumanity of man towards his fellow is reaching levels never seen before. The beheadings of innocent civilians by Islamic extremists in Iraq, the vile treatment of prisoners in the custody of US authorities, the mass slaughter of impoverished people in Sudan have all been eclipsed by the dramatic siege of a school in Southern Russia and the slaughter of over 300 men, women and children. Remarkably, this last event has been turned into another forum for the Russian president to restate his political ambition to rebuild the mighty Soviet empire.

On his first official visit to West Germany in May 1989, Mikhaïl Gorbachev, whose ambition was to save his country from decline and ruin through an innovative policy based on restructuring (perestroïka) and openness (glasnost), informed Chancellor Kohl that the Brezhnev doctrine had been abandoned: Moscow was no longer willing to use force to prevent democratic transformation of its satellite states. This was the kiss of death for East Germany in the shortterm, for her very existence had no justification apart from ideology.

A Return to the Old Days?

Later, on October 7, the then East Germany celebrated its fortieth anniversary, but the celebrating turned into protest against the régime which made over 1000 arrests. As guest of honour, Gorbachev was welcomed in front of the Palace of the Republic by demonstrators’ pleas of “Gorbi, help us!”

The Berlin Wall, the symbol of the East- West divide across Europe, fell on November 9 in the same year, which subsequently led to the unravelling of the Soviet satellite nations from the grips of Kremlin control, the collapse of the USSR and the ousting of Gorbachev.

However, amongst the many that benefited from the former Soviet regime, including President Putin, there has been a longing for a return to the previous ‘glory’ of the USSR. The recent tragedy in Beslan of 340 dead and many more injured proved too good an opportunity to miss to reaffirm his desire to rebuild Russian greatness.

“Let The Weak Say, I Am Strong”

It is almost incomprehensible that as the grieving parents and relatives pull the bodies of their children and friends from the rubble of School Number 1 in Beslan, whilst the haze of the smoke from the botched assault on the terrorists still lingered in the air, Putin took political opportunism to a level not seen in recent times.

As he rushed to the scene of a tragedy that has rocked the entire nation, he boldly “warned the nation in a solemn televised address that international terrorists had declared ‘a full-scale war’ against Russia and that due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation was weakened and unable to respond effectively as it must” (Canadian National Post September 4, 2004), adding that “Weak people are beaten.” (CNN International Edition September 4, 2004).

Since the collapse of the USSR, the Russian nation, which was the centre-piece of the old Soviet regime, has struggled to gain the ascendancy in most fields of endeavour. Its foray into a market economy has resulted in a weakened currency and a shadow of a stock exchange; its demoralized military sit by watching their naval ships rust away in port because they cannot afford to put to sea and continues to fall behind with outdated and inefficient equipment; and, its people worry for their security as mostly Chechen terrorists indiscriminately unleash their bombs in major cities and in the air.

The Russian President cynically used an occasion of widespread national grief and suffering to posit that if the glory days of the previous USSR were still part of the present, the nation would not experience the spate of terrorism that afflicts it.

With what is remarkable consistency with the sentiment of the words of Joel 3:10, President Putin has fundamentally used this occasion to urge the weak to rise up and say they are strong.

The Bear Stirs

This latest lament of the loss of greatness is but one of many overt hints that Putin is bent on making Russia great again and that he remains in control of the nation as a latter day czar. A scan of the media since Putin came to power reveals an amazing trail of decisions taken ever so slowly, revealing the icons and policies of the bygone Soviet era are returning.

Well known author of “Late Great Planet Earth”, Hal Lindsay, commented in his web site only twelve months after Putin became president, that he “has slowly been restoring the infrastructure of the old Soviet system into Russian society.”

In a relatively short time, according to Lindsay’s analysis, Putin had

  • drastically reduced or eliminated entirely the freedom of the media and other democratic freedoms
  • much to the chagrin of the US, become very active in pursuing a political agenda that included renewing
  • relations with Cuba, which is still an important eavesdropping post for the Russians
  • boosted his standing with the military by promising to beef up the Russian military, increasing its budget and
  • continuing weapons development programs despite signed arms control agreements
    resumed arms sales to Iran and concluded a defence agreement that makes Iran’s enemy the Kremlin’s enemy

• introduced a ‘new’ state security service that will make the old Stalinist system look inefficient by comparison.
The China People’s Daily (December 27, 2000) noted in a piece with the headline, “Putin Endorses Soviet National Anthem As Russia’s State Symbol”, that President Vladimir, by signing into effect federal constitutional bills on state symbols and ensuring the Soviet-era national anthem as Russia’s state song, reversed decisions of the former President Boris Yeltsin to use as the national anthem “The Song of Patriot”. However, Putin insists on his own political stand, stressing that the Soviet history should not be negated completely.

In another decision with very overt overtones of harking back to the military domination of the past, Putin restored what was once the most recognized icon of the Soviet Union after the hammer and sickle, the five-point star. Whilst it never vanished, it was all but phased out after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Putin returned the star officially to the military’s enormous parade banners, and the adornment of the star to military caps and belt buckles followed.

A US regional daily, the Portsmouth Herald (November 27, 2002) reported that Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Ivanov, said at a meeting of top generals broadcast on television, with a frowning Putin seated behind him that, “The star is sacred for all servicemen. Our fathers and grandfathers went to battle with the star.” The report continued to say that Putin hopes the resurrected symbols will help mend deep rifts in society by acknowledging achievements of the Soviet past that older generations cherish. But critics say the revivals send a powerful, potentially troubling, signal to the rest of the country. Some fear the return of authoritarian icons could herald a return of a Soviet-style authoritarian regime. Others say the symbols could be abused by Russians too young to understand their meaning.

Perhaps more significant is a report carried in the London Daily Telegraph (January 27, 2002) headlined: “Pro-Putin Cult Urges Return to Soviet Glory”, which stated that “a sinister new organisation, backed by the Kremlin, is urging the Russian people to reject pro-Western views and go back to the ‘glory’ of Soviet Russia.”

Fifty-thousand strong, the group says that they “want to create a new generation to help the president bring Russia out of crisis,” according to its founder, Vasily Yakimenko.

The reports states that the Kremlin’s clear involvement can be traced back to the group’s beginnings. Mr Yakimenko left a job in the Kremlin administration, where he was overseer of state-run charities, in May 2000 to create this new group, which calls itself “Walking Together”.

The report in the Daily Telegraph continued by saying that the senior patron of the movement is Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration and it is vehemently pro-Putin. Further, at its first public action, a huge rally in November 2000 to celebrate his presidency, they wore T-shirts emblazoned with Putin’s face and gathered near the Kremlin and spoke of their love for the president. Mr Putin later received the organisers of the rally in the Kremlin.

And then hard on the heels of the Beslan massacre, President Putin made a decisive move to wind back democratic reforms introduced under the Yeltsin regime. He issued a decree which means that he has centralized power through direct Kremlin control of the election of regional Governors and at least half of the seats of the Duma, the Russian parliament. A report carried by the San Francisco Chronicle (September 15, 2004) quoted analysts as saying the new “control is a return to Soviet centralization”.

“Thus Saith the Lord”

Hal Lindsay concluded his analysis that is quoted above by saying: “All of these developments do not come as a surprise to this writer. In the scenario of cataclysmic last-days events, the unerring prophets of the Bible give Russia a major role. The prophets Ezekiel, Joel and Daniel foresaw Russia, along with a Middle Eastern confederacy, igniting a war that will envelop the entire planet. So if you thought Russia was finished as a major military power, just watch; you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Whilst he has overlooked the role of the European nations as part of the confederacy, he clearly concurs with our understanding of the role of Russia as outlined in the Scriptures.

If it is so obvious to those who know not the Truths of the Scriptures, then how much more should we be looking for and loving the appearing of the Lord (2 Tim 4:8), who will soon come to judge the world in righteousness.

We have been looking for these events since Brother Thomas penned those timeless words in the Author’s Preface of Elpis Israel: “When Russia makes its grand move for the building-up of its Image-empire then let the reader know that the end of all things, as at present constituted, is at hand. The long-expected, but stealthy, advent of the King of Israel will be on the eve of becoming a fact; and salvation will be to those who not only looked for it, but have trimmed their lamps by believing the gospel of the kingdom unto the obedience of faith, and the perfection thereof in fruits meet for repentance.”

Are we ready? Let us make the most of the Day of Opportunity.