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Hit Russian film ‘The Island’ masterfully portrays ‘mad’ monk’s redemption

“She’s not crazy. There is a daemon inside of her, torturing her…I know him personally”




The film Ostrov (“The Island”) is one of the greatest recent portrayals of the conflict within the human soul through the eyes of Russian Orthodoxy. It tells the tale of Father Anatoly, a Russian monk living at farthest end of the world, on a lifelong quest for redemption from a dark and bloody past.

A profound tale worthy to be compared to the psychological thrillers of Dostoyevsky, the film was released in 2006 and received praise from then Patriarch Alexei. Not religious? It’s okay, you don’t have to be, in order to watch the film.

If you are interested at all in a story which displays humility in profound suffering, as a person’s soul struggles to atone for past misdeeds, and on how even a slightly mad man can have great virtue and wisdom, this is a film for you. It also explains part of the Russian soul better than almost any other film.

Check it out below with English subtitles. I will attempt to provide a brief review below, without spoiling the amazing story, however, if you want to go into the film as blind as possible, here is your spoiler warning.

“Ostrov” tells the tale of Father Anatoly, who is tormented by a bloody betrayal in the Great Patriotic War (WW2), when a gun was put to his head, and he can hardly forgive himself for what he did.

After a second chance at life, from what should have killed him, he began his life as a monk in the northern reaches of Russia, at the edge of the world where perhaps he can become a better person, even as he pushes his mind to the edges of human sanity.

Father Anatoly is a miracle worker, though he sees himself as the worst among sinners, even if people from far away come to him as a “Holy Elder”.

He embodies the Orthodox concept of a “Fool-for-Christ”, which is a Saint known for their “blessed insanity”, as it were. It is incredibly hard to qualify what this is, but to be sure, it does not mean being insane is a qualification for Sainthood.

Rather, Holy Fools are people who may have seemed crazy to the world, but they, in fact, had deep insight into the human soul, and a true rejection of worldly life to the extent that those of us within the world can’t help but find them a little mad.

Despite his apparent madness, and hysterical habit to cluck like a chicken at times which caused us to burst into laughter, in an otherwise serious moment, he has deep insight into the lives of tortured souls, being one himself.

He is able to help people whom no one else can, because they’ve never been to his level of inner torture. He knows what it means to suffer, and suffering souls can feel that.

Due to his innate ability to understand people, he becomes popular amongst people and renowned as a true miracle worker, becoming unnatural to others not only for his alleged insanity but by virtue of his sanctity. As a result, some clergy become jealous of him, thinking him a prankster and a troublemaker, lacking in discipline compared to those with higher education and academic understanding.

He eventually earns everyone’s love and respect, when they realize he seems crazy to them, only because they haven’t reached his level of holiness yet. There is one scene where he conducts an exorcism that is particularly fascinating.

It happens nothing like in western movies. If this was a western movie, the actress would be convulsing and projectile vomiting everywhere, as if the movie was intended to portray the most profane and demonic behavior of a human being, rather than to show the soul as being deeply tortured by the daemon, as if clinically depressed and mad in ways no one can understand.

Both actors did a phenomenal job in handling the scene, and you can almost feel a dark shadow be lifted from the girl when it was finished, yet in subtle ways.

At this point it is worth noting the cinematography is amazing, a masterpiece of Slavic storytelling, following in the traditions of Gogol and Dostoyevsky, portraying the stark and terrifying realism of the human nature in ways western film, with the focus on the ideal and the dramatic, falls short. The film has a gritty, melancholy setting, enhanced by the frigid Russian north, but maintains a hopeful wonder throughout.

Kem, Northern Russia

The film is set in a monastery that could represent a variety of places in the Russian North, but was filmed in Kem in the Republic of Karelia, Russian Scandinavia, one of the most beautiful regions of Russia.

One can see the stark similarities between the real life village and the film, proving how the film stayed true to the realism of Dostoyevsky rather than creating some exaggerated backdrop.

When Father Anatoly labors, suffers, cries, prays, and lives his life, you feel transported along with him.

The end of the film, when everything fades into silver mist will have you crying not so much out of sadness, but because you felt privileged to no one such as Father Anatoly.

Solovetsky Monestary Isle, another place in the Russian north no stranger to suffering

The actor who played Father Anatoly, Piotr Mamanov was a former rockstar and devout Orthodox Christian, perfect in his role, personifying the concept of a Holy Fool for a generation less familiar with it.

The film will take you on a profound trip through not only the human soul, but the Russian soul as well. If you really want to understand Russia, watching this film will go a long way to helping you, as Russia is truly best understood through the lens of Orthodoxy.

The Russian soul may seem complex and profound, often not so much depressed but melancholy, and able to process joy and great sadness together. The more analytical western mind may find it hard to understand, but the Russian soul, like the film is something that if you follow it to the very end, you just may see a rainbow.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch



One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:

To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.





Via RT…

If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.




Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for

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