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Correspondence

Putin and the West's Suicide

The town of Penza lies 12 hours southeast of Moscow by train.  I had barely heard of it before I went there last December.  The town’s broad streets were busy yet strangely silent because of the thick carpet of snow that dampened all sound.  On the river Sura, fishermen sat huddled in the dark over holes they had cut through the ice.

Penza is much like other provincial Russian towns: Laid out on a grid, its streets are full of the modern clutter of shop awnings, while the people are well dressed.  There is a comforting sense of normality.  One thing, however, distinguishes Penza and its region (which is one of the 83 units of the Russian Federation) from every other political entity on the Eurasian continent.  Some years ago the regional authorities decided to adopt as their official logo a 12th-century icon of the Holy Face.  Jesus Christ therefore flutters from administrative buildings all over the place.

The decision to do this was not unaccompanied by controversy, but it went ahead.  It is a decision that is completely unimaginable in the West.  American separation of Church and state and rampant secularism in Europe (to be more precise, hatred of Christianity) make such a choice unthinkable in countries like Britain, where a British Airways employee is still being persecuted for wearing a small crucifix on a chain round her neck,...

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