I have been very caught up in trying to follow the ebb and flow of events in Ukraine and Russia for the past few years, with the inevitable predictable result that very little seems to make sense to me anymore. This corner of the world is becoming more surreal with each passing day and the main characters are becoming more and more like caricatures than real people. I have become increasingly frustrated with being unable to find any rational sense or historical pattern in what has been happening.
In situations like this, I knew there was only one way to regain some semblance of understanding of the situation and to put my mind at rest. It was time to confer with my cousin Hryts, the sagacious prophet of Pidkamin and garlic master of Western Ukraine.
I fired up Skype and managed to reach him on his smart phone one fine fall evening, as he was sitting under the walnut tree in his back yard, presumably contemplating the latest theories on the origins of the universe.
“Hrytsiu” I began, trying to sound as jovial as I could under the circumstances. “How are things in Pidkamin?”
I heard the definite echo of a derisive snort at his end before he replied – “Things in Pidkamin are just fine. The crops have been good, the garlic is of vintage quality this year, and Yevdokia has been in a good mood these past few weeks, deluding me into thinking that maybe I am on the right track towards becoming an adequate husband. Of course, that may be due more to the fine batch of mead I made last month. In any case, I have nothing to complain about, though I sense from your voice that your shorts are in a knot again over some mental perturbation or other.”
“I can see that your perceptive skills are as sharp as ever” I replied sheepishly.
“Well, yours would be sharp too if you exercised your brain cells a little more, and ate more garlic and horseradish and real food that you grow yourself instead of those artery and brain clogging monstrosities that you call Poutine and big Macs. The health of your body and mind are the direct result of what you pass through that mouth of yours. In your case, I sometimes think it’s a miracle you are still alive!”
“Hrytsiu,” I continued, “You may be right, but I did not call you to discuss nutrition. I am troubled about the on-going conflict between Ukraine and Russia. As you know, I am fairly well read in history, but I am having trouble with figuring out what Putin is up to, particularly in the broader context of Russian history as a whole.”
I heard Hryts trying to stifle a chuckle at his end, followed by a sigh before he finally replied.
“Oh dear, my young turnip! I do believe you are developing sclerosis of the brain. What Putin is doing follows the essential law of historical inverse symmetry. I presume you are knowledgeable with Russian history, and in particular, the role played by Peter the, and I hesitate to use the word, Great?”
“But of course!” I shot back. “Before Peter came along, Russia was a backward and primitive society. He almost singlehandedly raised it kicking and screaming up to the standards of the then more advanced and civilized countries of Western Europe. He was in many ways a progressive force, making Russia a country to be reckoned with. Of course, like most of his predecessors and successors, he was an absolute tyrant and despot whose legacy was built on a rather large pile of innocent bones. So, how does this tie into Putin, and what do you mean by historical inverse symmetry?”
“Oy yoy yoy!” I heard him say with a trace of impatience. “Why it’s as clear as the spirit coming out of my neighbor Fedya’s still. Historical inverse symmetry is in essence a mirror image of a previous sequence of historical events though with opposite results. In this case, Russia’s latest tyrannical and despotic Tsar, Putin, is taking a fairly modern and technological advanced society and country, and singlehandedly dragging it down into bankruptcy and into a new dark and primitive age where Russia will collapse and revert to third world status. Historical balance will be restored. The Universe and divine providence has a marvelous propensity to correct human failings.”
The simplicity and brilliance of Hryts’ analysis left me agape and amazed as usual. Perhaps one day, I will collect all his wisdom and reflections on life, the universe and everything, and put it into a book titled The World According to Hryts.