When you think of a great Russian military leader, do you imagine a princess warlord? If not, why not? Were it not for Saint Olga of Kiev, there may not be a Russia today. This Warrior-Princess conquered the tribe that killed her husband, enamored the Roman Emperor so much he wanted to marry her, burned a city to the ground using only birds, established one of the earliest tax systems, and is single handedly responsible for saving the very name of Russia.
Had it not been for her, what we call Russia today could be called Drevlia. Known as Helga in the Old Norse sagas, she was born in Pskov in the year 879, and is the grandmother of the greatest Russian leader in history. Her grandson Vladimir the Great, baptized the entire nation in the river Dniper, but before his baptism, she became the first Russian ruler to convert to Christianity, and she was a great inspiration to him not only in her faith, but because of her legendary skill in battle strategy.
Let’s take a look at Olga the Wise of Kiev, Sovereign and Defender of Rus’, Lady and Harbinger of Fire, Mother of the Motherland and all the Russias.
According to the Primary Chronicle, Olga was a daughter of one of the minor Kings that dotted the Russian lands. Their kin were called Varyagi, or Vikings in Russian, as they were originally of Scandinavian decent, though quickly assimilated to the Slavic culture. The greatest amongst them was Rurik, Russia’s founder, who landed at Novgorod, and sent his son Igor with his brother Oleg to Kiev. Kiev was the center of a major trade rout from Scandinavia to Constantinople, which brought early Slavs and Vikings as far as Baghdad. Igor took a wife from one of these lesser rulers – the future Olga of Kiev.
Olga’s husband Igor Rurikovich (Son of Rurik) called Ingvar in Norse, lead many campaigns against the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, and domestic foes. In his day, Christianity was threatened in the Russian land by both the presence of the Norse-Slavic pagans, and the Khazar Jews, neither of whom wanted to see it have any influence, and Igor remained himself a pagan.
Igor went to collect taxes from one of the Slavic tribes, the Drevlians (forest dwellers), and in return, they brutally killed him. They tied his limbs onto two birch trees that when released, tore him asunder. With the assassination of her husband, the Drevlians sought to force Olga to marry their prince, not only for her great beauty, but in order to conquer Russia. She had no choice but to defend herself. They would not only force her into marriage, and destroy her people, but likely murder her children to prevent her husband’s dynasty from living on; her young son was only three years old. By murdering her husband, they awoke a dormant fire in the princess, though she herself still a pagan, these men worshiped only fire and the sword, and so Providence ordained that the future Saint Olga began her rule of Russia, by avenging her husband with fire and the sword.
Please understand the actions which you are about to read about, were in an attempt to save her people from absolute destruction. These were brutal times, and actions we consider horrifying where common practice in the ninth century. All of the fighting occurred before she became a Christian, it is not the reason for her canonization. Though she was at this time a pagan, her fiery victory was a victory of the early seeds of Russian Christianity over dark and destructive paganism
The Drevlians underestimated her, because she was a woman, and they paid dearly. She entrapped their envoy in a sauna, and burned it to the ground, but then sent word to their Prince that she accepted his offer. She demanded he send his best advisers and officers to escort her to him. Incredibly, they fell for the same trap, not knowing their predecessor’s fate, and met the same fiery end.
Later in what would be a Russian red wedding, as bloody as the episode of Game of Thrones, she and 5000 of her soldiers destroyed a great host of Drevlians whilst they were drunk, and with their army weakened, and leadership crippled, she was ready to march on them, and she laid siege to their capitol.
In what may have been the most brilliant siege tactic in history, Olga said she would leave if they paid her tribute in all their birds, which they accepted thinking her a fool. Legend has it she then set the birds on fire, and they flew back to the city, burning it to the ground.
Her skill in battle was not her only talent, that would make her like her son Svyatoslav, who won every battle but lost every war. She was called Olga the God-Wise for a reason, whilst her military strategy preserved Rus’, it was her administrative tenacity that secured it as a great power. As she fought to unify the Russian lands, she simultaneously raised tribute and taxes among them. She understood the importance of peace, and only waged war in order to obtain it.
Her pogosts, became state owned trading stations, where local princes would pay taxes to Kiev, allowing them for the first time, to receive regular, predicable income based in law, not Viking style raiding. She learned from her husband’s mistakes. He failed to realize a true king doesn’t come down to his subjects making demands, he demands that they come to him. Igor personally traveled to collect tribute, and thus he was killed, but Olga the Wise understood that you don’t go take money from people, you establish the law so they must come pay taxes to you. Every pogost she built was marked with a symbol called the trizub or trident, which is the basis for the Ukrainian coat of arms, though each prince slightly modified it.
By spreading the influence and dominance of Kiev, she unified the Russian lands. Using her new income, she minted their first coins, ensuring they were marked with this symbol. Soon all that she owned from inns, to hunting grounds, to animals, and every last grivna (coins) was marked with it. She was brilliant, her plan was to use this revenue to build new infrastructure, some of which could generate sustainable income paying for itself. She would then ensure all infrastructure built was permanently associated with the state in people’s hearts and minds. She ensured everyone from the nobles counting their coins, to the peasants working the land never forgot who built their walls, filled their towers with grain, and who owns everything in Russia, by putting the symbol of Kiev always before them. She established the rule of law, and the power of the state, she made sure everyone knew that everything you can see is property of the State of Rus’
Later in life she traveled to Constantinople, and accepted orthodox faith, having impressed the emperor so much he wished to marry her. Wishing to be married only once, she tricked the Emperor into baptizing her, thus becoming her Godfather, saying she would marry him afterwards.
The Emperor accepted, forgetting that in Orthodox law, a godparent may not marry their spiritual children. She received baptism in the name of Saint Helena the mother of Emperor Constantine who’s life she mirrors, her grandson Vladimir, is like her Constantine. The four hold the title Equal-to-the-Apostles, earning this title because their piety, charity, and evangelism contributed to the baptism of an entire nation, a feat matched only by Apostles.
She returned to Kiev living out her days in penitent piety, trying hard to evangelize, and to established orthodoxy in Rus’. Unfortunately, her son Svyatoslav, like his father, remained a pagan and attacked Constantinople. He fought in many wars, but for as many Viking shield-maidens he brought with him, he ignored the council of his mother, and was slain. In her final years, she tearfully accepted God’s will, as nothing is harder than seeing the ones you love choose the wrong path.
Nothing is harder than trying prevent them from making the wrong choice, and being unable to stop them, knowing they are blind, and they go to their doom, and being unable to save them. But she never gave up hope that Russia would one day become Christian, even if she would not live to see it. She ended her life in a Christian way, blameless and peaceful saying
“God’s will be done! If it pleases God to have mercy upon my native Russian Land, then they shall turn their hearts to God, just as I have received this gift.”
Though she never saw all of Rus’ become Christian during her life, her dream was fulfilled by her grandson Vladimir the Great. With him, she shares possibly the highest honor of sainthood “Equal-to-the Apostles” counting Olga and Vladimir among the likes of Mary Magdalene, Emperor Constantine and Helen, and Cyril and Methodius. Through the blood and tears of Saint Olga, a red sun finally dawned over Kiev, dispelling the primordial darkness, and her grandson, Vladimir the Bright Sun, baptized Rus’ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Topiarian Hymn to Saint Olga:
Giving your mind the wings of divine understanding,
you soared above visible creation seeking God the Creator of all.
When you had found Him, you received rebirth through baptism.
As one who enjoys the Tree of Life,
you remain eternally incorrupt, ever-glorious Olga.
How is Germany using Covid health passes compared to other European countries?
In France the health passport is already in use for venues including cinemas, tourist sites and nightclubs and from the beginning of August will be extended to bars, restaurants, cafés, some shopping malls and long distance train or bus services. Find the full list of venues where it is necessary HERE.
The health passport can show proof of either; fully vaccinated status, recent recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test taken within the previous 48 hours.
It is required for everyone at the listed venues – visitors and staff – but staff have until August 30th to get vaccinated. The passport is required for all over 12s, but children aged between 12 and 17 do not have to start showing their passports until August 30th.
There is no fine for members of the public who do not have a health passport, but you can expect to be barred from any of the listed venues if you cannot show your passport to staff. Venues found not enforcing the health passport face being closed down.
The passport can be shown either on the French TousAntiCovid app – find out how that works here – or on paper. The app is compatible with vaccine certificates issued in EU or Schengen zone countries, and the NHS app is also compatible. The situation for those vaccinated in the USA is a little more complicated, but they should be able to swap their US certificate for a French one that is compatible with the app.
Italy’s green pass, ‘certificazione verde’, will soon be required to access more leisure and cultural venues, including indoor restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and other public venues.
Although it’s been in use since June, the Italian government announced on July 22nd that it would be extending its health pass scheme from August 6th.
From next month, people in Italy wanting to access most venues in Italy will need to show proof of being vaccinated – including those who have only had the first of two doses – having tested negative for coronavirus within the previous 48 hours or having recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months.
At the moment Italy’s digital health certificate is available to people over 12 years old who were vaccinated, tested or recovered in Italy.
The Italian version of the green pass is only for people who were vaccinated, recovered or tested in Italy. If that’s you, find out exactly how to claim it here. If you don’t fall into that category, here’s what you need to know about accessing Italy’s extended green pass.
If you’re from outside the EU, the rules are complicated or still being negotiated. At the border, Italy accepts vaccination certificates, tests results and medical certificates of recovery from the United States, Canada or Japan. However, there is currently no news on how travellers can access the green pass once they’re in Italy.
As for the United Kingdom, Italy does not currently have an agreement to recognise vaccinations performed in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Covid ‘health passes’ haven’t been imposed at a national level by the Spanish government, but two regions – Galicia and the Canary Islands – have opted to require proof of vaccination, testing or recovery for people to go inside bars, cafés and restaurants.
In both regions the scheme is only being applied in municipalities with particularly high infection rates, and although it seemed that it would initially only apply to the interior of hospitality establishments, the Canary government has extended the requirement to gyms and cultural events held indoors.
Other regional governments in Spain such as Valencia’s have shown interest in implementing a ‘health pass’ requirement, but this has been met with opposition from the hospitality industry for the economic losses and holdups all the checking could potentially cause.
The EU-approved Digital Covid Certificate issued mainly for the purpose of travel by Spain’s regions is the preferred means of proving Covid health status, although in practice bar and restaurant owners can accept other proof, paper or digital.
Neither the Galician nor the Canary government have announced what foreign tourists should show to access the interior of bars and restaurants in their territories.
Spain’s Digital Covid Certificate is only available to residents in the country but as the system is standardised across the EU, European tourists will likely be able to use their country’s Covid Certificates with a scannable QR Code to go inside hospitality establishments (not needed for terraces).
Sweden is part of the EU-wide vaccine pass scheme which means the Covid-19 pass can be used as an alternative to showing a negative test result in order to enter the country.
But aside from travel into the country, the pass is not used at all for access to things like events, museums, restaurants or bars. The government hasn’t ruled it out entirely, but has said the Swedish preference is to open up for everyone at the same time instead.
To access the Swedish version of the EU vaccine pass, you need to have either had both doses of your Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden, or at least the second dose, so it is not currently possible for people vaccinated elsewhere to receive it. Another group excluded from the pass is those without a Swedish personnummer or social security number; although the eHealth Agency has told The Local they are working on making it available to the thousands of people in Sweden who were vaccinated without this number, this is not expected to happen until September at the earliest.
Denmark controls access to certain activities and facilities – from indoor dining to cultural attractions like museums and sports games – using the scannable coronapas application, which tracks vaccination status, recent recoveries and test results.
The system is currently only available to Danish residents enrolled in the public health system, but it’s compatible with the vaccine certificates from other EU and Schengen area countries. People from outside the EU/Schengen area who received full courses of Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca can also use proof of vaccination in place of a coronapas. That documentation needs to meet a handful of requirements to be legally valid: the documentation must be in English or German and contain your name, date of birth, the vaccine you received and the dates for your first and second doses.
The coronapas scheme is set to twilight on October 1st, when Denmark is scheduled to fully reopen.
Norway’s domestic Covid pass is used to access large events such as concerts, festivals and football matches in addition to domestic cruises and tours.
To enter venues and events using the pass, you will need a valid certificate.
Certificates will be valid if three weeks have passed since your last jab, you are fully vaccinated, have had covid in the past six months and can prove so via the health pass, or have received a negative test result in the previous 24 hours.
The certificate is presented as a QR code and will scan green if valid and red if not.
It’s worth noting that a valid domestic covid certificate is not valid for travel as part of the EU’s health pass travel scheme. You can read more about how the Norwegian Covid certificate is used for travel here.
A paper version of the certificate can be ordered here.
Covid certificates in Norway require a national identification number and level four security electronic ID. Unfortunately, this means that it’s practically impossible for tourists and non-residents to access the Norwegian certificate and attend events that require a health pass.
Furthermore, as the Norwegian certificate’s domestic version is different from the version used for travel, it also means that EU health passes can’t be used as a substitute for domestic vaccine passports.
Austria was one of the first European countries to introduce a Covid-19 health pass system, having done so on May 19th as the 3G Rule.
The 3G Rule refers to ‘Getestet, Geimpft, Genesen’ (Tested, Vaccinated, Recovered) and describes the three ways someone can provide evidence they are immune to the virus.
As a result, the framework is relatively well established in Austria.
Austria’s Covid-19 health pass, known as the “green pass”, is needed to access bars, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, gyms, events and a range of other venues.
For entering nightclubs, you need to be either vaccinated or have received a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours. This information will also be included in your green pass.
As of July 1st, masks are not required anywhere that the green pass is required.
In effect, this means masks are required in public transport, supermarkets and museums.
Austria is a part of the European Covid-19 pass network since July 1st.
This means that if you are visiting Austria and you have the pass from your EU country, you can use it in Austria.
Unfortunately, people with Covid-19 passes from outside the EU cannot yet use it in Austria, however they can use paper documentation.
Also, as an Austrian phone number is needed to get the green pass (other than in Vienna), foreigners with documentation of a vaccination, recovery or a test cannot download it and use it when they are in Austria.
Please read the following link for more information.
Switzerland also has a Covid-19 health pass, known domestically as a Covid-19 immunity certificate.
However, this is only needed at large events (more than 1,000 people), nightclubs or discos.
Some bars and restaurants can choose to ask for the Covid certificate, upon which they are allowed to dispense with other rules such as mask rules and social distancing requirements.
In mid-July, Switzerland became a part of the EU’s Covid-19 pass framework, meaning that you can show your EU country pass in order to enter Switzerland.
Switzerland as yet does not accept other Covid passes, but this has been flagged as a possibility in future.
If you arrive in Switzerland, you can show the evidence of your vaccination to the authorities in your Swiss canton and you will be issued a Covid certificate.
Unfortunately, this only includes Swiss-approved Covid vaccines. According to the Swiss government, this is only Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, i.e. AstraZeneca is not accepted.
More information about getting the pass if you are visiting Switzerland is available at the following link.
Elsewhere around Europe
In Hungary immunity certificates delivered from the time of the first vaccine shot are required in health establishments and to attend sports and music events, as well as gatherings of more than 500 people.
In Luxembourg a pass is asked for in shops.
In Azerbaijan a health pass has been mandatory since the beginning of June to enter sports centres or attend weddings.
In Portugal such a certificate is required to stay in a hotel or play sport. It is also required to eat inside restaurants, but only at weekends in the most hard-hit regions.
In Ireland the health pass is for the time being only needed for indoor eating and drinking in restaurants and pubs.
In Russia the Moscow region in June imposed a health pass for restaurants but this was so unpopular it was scrapped three weeks later.
The British government is planning to introduce in September a health pass in England to enter nightclubs and other places admitting large groups of people. Professional football matches could be included, reports say.
The UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health policies.
Georgia is also planning a health pass.
Emilio Morenatti: ‘I would give up the Pulitzer to have my leg back. I’d even burn my work’ | Culture
Emilio Morenatti gets off the high-speed Barcelona-Madrid AVE train with his camera at the ready, even though he’s not on a job. The camera, he says, is his third arm. Dressed in a polo shirt and long pants, it’s impossible to tell he is missing his left leg.
Morenatti’s leg was blown off in 2009 by a bomb in Afghanistan when he was accompanying US troops on a mission that he was advised against going on.
The chief photographer for the Associated Press in Spain and Portugal is now waiting for a visa to enter the US and collect the Pulitzer Prize for his photos of the elderly and homeless in Barcelona during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. Morenatti says he is proud that, after all the restrictions he had to work around in order to take them, his photos were displayed as part of a state tribute to Covid victims. If he feels at all bitter about the obstacles that were put in his path, it doesn’t show.
Question. Is the revenge sweet?
Answer. In a way, yes. The authorities that asked for the photos are the same ones who denied us photographers access to hospitals and cemeteries. I could have refused them, but I am more interested in exposing the hypocrisy. We live in an aseptic society that doesn’t want to see certain things. But I think with this pandemic, there’s been a click. Something has changed. If this means making people think, I feel I have done my job.
Q. The Pulitzer is like the Nobel Prize of its field. What now?
A. Just keep working. If losing a leg – with all the family, professional and self-imposed pressures that entailed – didn’t detract from my passion or distract me from pursuing my career, this won’t either, even less so. That’s what I want to shield against; I still don’t want to sit down and edit someone else’s photos.
Q. Did the loss of your leg alter your perspective?
A. Yes, in particular my approach to victims. I feel vulnerable now; I see my two-legged colleagues and I’m the only one with one leg and I feel envious. I don’t hide my disability and, when I portray the vulnerable, I take certain liberties, as one cripple to another. It gives you empathy and the freedom to push through certain barriers.
The beauty of a photo is about trapping the viewer; it’s like those carnivorous flowers that attract you with their colors and then ensnare you
Q. “From one cripple to another!” That’s good but also tough.
A. A lame guy who saw my prosthesis once said to me, “I’m going to talk to you as one cripple to another” and I thought it was a great idea. Because being lame is not only physical, it’s mental. I miss my leg every day. Disability causes friction, pain and frustration. My mind gets used to it, but I deal with it every day. Before, I would go for a walk without thinking. Now, every outing requires logistics. It is not easy. It’s a subject that interests me a lot. That’s why the limp comes through in some of my photos.
Q. During lockdown, you went out to visit the sick with health workers. Did you also give a bit of that side of yourself to the people you photographed?
A. It felt a bit like that, yes. The elderly were very much in need of company, of human contact, of someone to pay them a visit. The doctors made the visit, but I went with them. In the Pulitzer series, there is a photo in which an old woman holds the doctor’s hand and also my own, while I took her picture with the other one. She started telling us about her life. That is also therapy, isn’t it? We could feel that people needed that support. And me too, of course.
Q. Is the camera your shield or weapon?
A. It is a part of me. Sometimes it is a shield. I have been very moved by some of the photos I have taken; they have been moments of great intensity. I remember [nursing home residents] Agustina and Pascual’s kiss that made me cry and, right then, I do remember I was using the camera as a shield. But the question is what it would be like for me not to have the camera. And that is Murphy’s Law. The day you don’t take it out with you, something happens, and that really tortures me: the photos I haven’t taken.
Q. What are the images you can’t get out of your head?
A. I remember an explosion in Gaza that landed very close to us. Those bombs are enormously violent. Everything inside you moves. There is a moment of silence, because your eardrums are blocked, and then you see smoke, people running and people who can’t run because they are dead, wounded, dismembered. I go over these kinds of situations in my head. And when it happened to me, when my leg was blown off, I watched the man who gave me a tourniquet and saved my life as if it was happening in slow motion. That slowness is something that happens again and again in my life. It is all accompanied by smells, screams, pain, nausea, all of which will accompany you all your life because your photo will never match the level of violence of a situation like that.
Q. But it is the photo that remains when the situation is over.
A. That is the privilege of this profession. And that’s what keeps me tied to it. It’s a privilege like being a superhuman or superhero. I have been in extraordinary situations, and the commitment that one acquires from being there and documenting them is what makes you do your best and say: I’m going to do it better than anyone else, even better than myself. It’s pure adrenaline.
Q. You won’t remember, but I met you while you were working at the 1992 World Expo in Seville. You were a young photographer at that time with a reputation for partying.
A. No, I don’t remember you! You’ll have to show me a full-length photo of yourself from back then [laughs]. I was a kid. I was always hungover. I was consumed by the drive and arrogance of my 20s. I was born in Zaragoza because my father is a policeman and was stationed there, but I grew up in Jerez. We were a big family of modest means in a down-at-heel neighborhood. I didn’t know anything about photography or English at that time. I did a lot of crazy things. I photographed Lady Di at the Expo, I also took myself on the island of Perejil [over which a turf battle in 2002 between Spain and Morocco] in an inflatable boat, and that brazenness was the springboard for my call from Associated Press. I’ve been a bit of a kamikaze, but as far as I’m concerned surviving means squeezing the most out of things.
I don’t hide my disability and, when I portray the vulnerable, I take certain liberties, as one cripple to another
Q. Did you feel marginalized by journalists?
A. Very much so. And I still do. I see my children and I think: they are going to have everything I didn’t have. I learned to survive on the job. Then I tried to educate myself intellectually, and I continue to do so.
Q. Have you already taken your dream photo?
A. No, and it’s impossible to do so, because it would have been during the Spanish Civil War. I dream of the Battle of the Ebro, of having worked with [photographer Robert] Capa. I would have loved to do what I’m doing now at that decisive moment in Spanish history.
Q. Would you like to cover a red carpet event?
A. I think that would be a drag. I would do it, just as we photographers do other things we don’t like, but it doesn’t interest me at all, like soccer. That, for me, is not photojournalism, which I understand to be a reflection of society. That particular element of society already has too much attention and doesn’t need to be given more. I focus on places where attention is scarce. My mission is to make visible…
Q. … what we don’t want to see?
A. Yes, so that it is discussed and not forgotten. And that’s where I think the language used has to be intelligent, because if not, there’s rejection. The beauty of a photo is about trapping the viewer; it’s like those carnivorous flowers that attract you with their colors and then ensnare you. That’s where I channel all my knowledge and 30 years of experience.
Q. Is there anything you do for pleasure to ease the suffering of injustice?
A. I would love to play the guitar. I am a lousy musician and I have already exasperated several teachers. But something happens to me: I’m practicing, I see a change of light through the window, I throw the guitar down and go out to take pictures. And that’s with just one leg. I’d have to be totally disabled to learn to play decently.
Q. How close are friends to asking you to take pictures at their weddings?
A. You’d be surprised. Friends in the south are calling me El Puli [after the Pulitzer], which is a way of putting me in my place in case I get too big for my boots. The other day, a friend I used to work on a newspaper with in Jerez said, “Do you remember when I told you they were going to give you the Pulitzer for the terrible photos you took? Well, now they finally did!”
Q. Well, thank you very much, Puli.
A. Thank you, but, you know, I would give up the Pulitzer to have my leg back and be able to use two legs again. I’d even burn my work. It might contradict everything I’ve just said, but that’s how I feel.
English version by Heather Galloway.
Viral Russian Parody of Smash Hit ‘Hideaway’ Depicts Typical Village Life (Music Video)
And on a lighter note …
One of upsides of life in Russia is the rich sense of humor here.
Here’s a parody of “Hideaway” by Canadian pop diva Kiezsa, (original video below) which gave the previously unknown starlet an astounding 90 million views on Youtube within 3 months of its release in February 2014.
The parody was made by the amateur comic dance duo, “Bonya and Kuzmich” of Perm, a provincial Russian city 800 km east of Moscow.
It has 5 million views on the Russian internet, but hasn’t really broken out into an international audience.
Before discovering internet stardom, Bonya was a shoe saleswoman, and Kuzmich a cafeteria cook in Perm.
It has a lot of witty references to Russian country life.
Here’s the original by Kiezsa:
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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