Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a massive overreach that has all of the other nations reeling. But many political experts understand that the Russian leader is trying to establish himself as the successor to Tsar Vladimir and Russia as the Third Rome. One rabbi sees this as the modern manifestation of Esau as an insatiable drive for global domination.
Russia as Third Rome
There is a prominent and long-standing Russian theological and political concept asserting that Moscow is the Third Rome.
Though this is geographically difficult to understand, it is chronologically consistent. Rome fell in stages, beginning in 395 CE. The Eastern Roman Empire survived as the Byzantine Empire, and although lessened in strength, remained for centuries an effective power of the Eastern Mediterranean with Constantinople, the Second Rome, as its capital. The end of the second Rome, marked by the fall of Constantinople, was in 1453.
In the 15th–16th centuries, the Tsardom of Rus formulated the concept of Moscow as the Third Rome based on three central ideas:
- A theology that is linked with the justification of necessity
- A social policy derived from the feeling of unity in East Slavic territories being historically tied through Christian Eastern Orthodox faith and Slavic culture.
- A state doctrine according to which the Moscow Prince should act as a supreme ruler of Christian Eastern Orthodox nations and become a defender of the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church. Herewith the Church should facilitate the Sovereign in the execution of his function supposedly determined by God.
Many political analysts have suggested that Putin is attempting to reestablish a tsarist empire patterned after Vladimir the Great. In 2007, Putin created a Russian World Foundation, which was charged with the promotion of the Russian language and culture worldwide, such as a cultural project preserving interpretations of history approved by the Kremlin. The organization has as one of its stated goals to make Russia a spiritual, cultural, and political center of civilization to counter the liberal, secular ideology of the West.
Putin as Esau
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prolific end-of-days-writer, explained that Russia is most assuredly the Third Rome, or, in biblical terms, the spiritual descendant of Edom/Esav.
“There are three main aspects of Esav today,” Rabbi Winston explained. “Russia is the brute force aspect of Esav that is evident in the Bible. It is interesting to note that red has always been the national color of Russia and the Soviet Union.”
“But Esav always identified as a religious man, even when he did not act like a God-fearing man, just as many despotic rulers do even today.”
Rabbi Winston noted that the concept of a Third Rome was not unique to Russia.
“The reason the Nazi Party named its government the Third Reich was that they perceived themselves as the Third Rome,” Rabbi Winston said. “It was ingrained in the minds of the European leaders to be the continuation of the Holy Roman Empire. Even the United States wanted to be the next Rome and patterned the construction of Washington DC after Rome.”
“The average person cannot understand this. We lust after simple things. But the same inner powers that drive a person to be a great leader come with a lust for even greater power.”
Rabbi Winston noted that when Esau reconciled with his twin brother, Jacob said “yesh li kol (I have everything) whereas Esau said “yesh li rav (I have a lot)”.
“Jacob was satisfied with everything God provided for him. It was everything he wanted. But Esau had even more than Jacob. But for him, it was a lot, but still not enough.”
“This is Putin. Why did he to invade Ukraine? He had everything. He had enough to do inside his own country. But he has the lust of Esau which drives him to go beyond that. This is the aspect of Esau that drives leaders to want to be the Third Rome, the true heirs of Esau and Edom. They always want more. They want to conquer the world just like Rome did.”
There is no bargaining or compromise that will satisfy this aspect of Esau. Putin will not even be satisfied if he gets all of Ukraine. The only thing you can do is what Jacob did with Esau; walk away and distance yourself.
Putin and the Church
If Putin does intend to reestablish tsarist Russia, he would necessarily do so by adhering to the three principles of Moscow as the Third Rome. It is important to note that in adherence to these principles, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a close relationship with the Church. Patriarch Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, has come out in support of the invasion of Ukraine despite millions of his followers being Ukrainian. Patriarch Kirill has called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God.”
In order to be the Third Rome and inherit the crown of Vladimir the Great, Putin must necessarily partner with the Church. This partnership of the Russian church and state was graphically manifested after the first invasion of Ukrainian Crimea in 2014. In 2020, a church on the outskirts of Moscow was dedicated in commemoration of the victory as The Main Church of the Russian Armed Forces. Putin’s image appeared in earlier versions of the cathedral’s frescoes, along with those of Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. However, the mosaic was removed after controversy, with Putin himself reportedly giving orders to take it down, saying it was too early to celebrate the country’s current leadership.
Putin wrote about the role of religion in a 2021 article published on the Kremlin’s official website and titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians. In the article, Putin claimed that the basis for this unity was religious. The central role of religion in Russian identity, Putin claimed, goes back to St. Vladimir, also known as Vladimir the Great, or Vladimir the Baptist of the Slavs, the Kievan Rus ruler famous for converting to Orthodox Christianity in 988 CE and making it the official state religion. Vladimir the Great married a Byzantine princess in order to generate close ties with the Byzantines. This also established another line of legitimacy and succession, traced through Constantinople.