Tuesday, July 12, 2022

 This article is reprinted from Ukrainaska Pravda

"The atrocities committed by the Russians are their reaction to the fact that they are nobody in their own country." 

Interview with a historianWednesday, 6 July 2022, 11:37

The full-scale war that began on 24 February has been, for many Ukrainians, the first experience of hostilities and their consequences. What the cities of the Ukrainian region of Donbas have been experiencing for 8 years, Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv and other cities have now also had to go through. 

The greatest tragedy facing the Ukrainian people is the genocidal actions of the Russians, which we had previously only read about in books about the Soviet "Great Terror" [the Great Terror, also known as the Great Purge, was a cruel political campaign by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to kill dissenting members of the Communist Party and anyone else he considered a threat] or the German occupation during the Second World War.

It seems that we have survived everything: shootings, tortures, deportations and sexual violence.

We discussed the crimes committed by Russians in historical perspective with Dr Larysa Yakubova, a researcher in historical sciences specialising in the study of the "Russian world".

"Ukraine has been able to elude the state that has been destroying Russia"

- The term "Russian world" is not new for you, and you have devoted many publications to it. Did you foresee the war, knowing all that?

- People had feared that something bad would happen, and 24 February was the point when it finally did.

It had already been clear since November that war was coming, and that it was a matter of weeks.

When you are just a scientist who is engaged in studying the "Russian world" and you know enough about it, then this burden completely suffocates you and does not allow you to live fully.

- The Russians are trying to use their own historical myths against Ukraine. Before the full-scale war, we listened to a speech by Putin in which he denied Ukrainian statehood. Can we say that Ukrainians already have a certain degree of immunity to this?

- I have been studying Russian propaganda for 8 years - it is quite difficult for an average person to understand it.

In the area they refer to as the "Russian world", people have long been living in a "virtual world" that can’t be called our history, Soviet or Russian history - it is an alternative history in which the same commonly used word forms seem to float around, but they are combined in such a way that we find ourselves immersed in Orwell's reality or that of other outstanding fiction writers.

I believe that for 30 years we, as historians, have been doing things right in Ukraine. Ukraine was able to elude the state that has been destroying Russia, namely, the state of unwillingness to know anything about its real past, of forgetting and erasing it from memory, of refusing to repent of anything and seeing only progress and victories.

As a result, Russian historians ceased to be historians and deprived the people of Russia of understanding where they are and who they are.

The difference between our countries in this sense is enormous. That is, Ukrainians today are people with their own true history, whilst Russians are still wandering through the swamps with their 17th-century hero, Ivan Susani

- Will the Russians ever be able to get out of this state?

- They will not get out of this dead-end for another 50 years, because it is impossible to write a new history just from Wikipedia.

There need to be tens of thousands of professional historians, but they hardly have any left. The current cohort, who were trained in the past 30 years, are propagandists who do not have the tools for professional work.

First, it is necessary to train young professional historians, explain the difference between propaganda and historical science, and then they all have to go to real archives, which are currently closed to researchers, to work and think for a couple of dozen years.

The results should then be published, put into mass circulation, and it will take 10-20 years for society to accept it.

"For 30 years, the Russian people were deliberately led by their government into a state of atrocity"

- Why do Russians draw on historical perspective to destroy Ukrainians? The Holodomor [the great famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 caused by Soviet policy], repression, destruction of culture and memory, and now the public denial of Ukrainian statehood and atrocities committed in the occupied territories.

- It’s all very simple, because the "Russian world" is a virtual picture of an alternative history. Researchers quite often use the cliché that Russians are people with a false self-identification.

There are many examples when families have kept silent about their origins. Russians can go through their whole lives and learn only near old age that they are the descendants of repressed Greeks, Finns, Jews or Ukrainians.

That is, we are talking about negative selection, where Great Russian chauvinism is a necessary prerequisite for being promoted through the levels of internal hierarchy.

Although Stalin was a Georgian by nationality, he was also a Great Russian chauvinist. So was Lenin. Not to mention the tsars, who could not have become imperialists simply by the fact of their birth - they were brought up in the tradition of Russian imperial historiography.

-Were the Bolsheviks also brought up on imperial historiography?

- They also shared an imperial historiography. It could not have been otherwise, from a historical point of view.

The main task of Ukraine at the current stage is to ensure that Russians leave us alone; to separate this two-unit matrix on which the basic historical reflection on the question of origins is based. And where are the origins of historical reflections on Russia?

- Since the time of Kyivan Rus...

- Here's the answer to why they pick on us: because the internal system of coordinates in the personality structure of every Russian dictator takes its starting point in Kyiv.

However, a common starting point and the present-day community are not the same thing.

If that were the logic, then Kyiv could claim that Moscow should become a region of Ukraine. But no - because at some stage, Vasily Klyuchevsky [a 19th-century Russian historian] de facto transferred the emphasis on continuity from the "mother of Russian cities" [Kyiv] to the "dynasty". Thus, the focus switched to the notion that, for some reason, Kyiv should be a province, not Moscow.

Until the Russians accept their true history as part of their mentality, until then there will be a terrible mess that will bring death and war everywhere.

- Most Ukrainians were shocked by the scale of torture and abuse in Bucha and Irpin, but if we open a textbook on the history or study of Soviet terror, we will see that this behaviour is typical of Russians...

- The Russian people have been deliberately brought to a state of brutality by the authorities over the past 30 years. This is a side effect of a totalitarian society as such.

They were deliberately pushed into a totalitarian matrix, although it should be noted that they have never actually left it behind. There was a period that saw a degree of easing, sometime before the First Chechen War.

Russia is moving in the direction of a large Gulag [the government agency that administered the prison camps in the Soviet Union, and also refers to the network of those prison camps] covering the entire territory of the state. And the totalitarian matrix dehumanises every person at every level.

We consider their leaders, we look at Putin: he stands completely stone-faced and proclaims the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Not a single muscle on his face moves, although he must understand that he is condemning an entire nation before the eyes of the whole world.

And with a similar stone face, 70-80% of 140 million [Russian] people say "okay, that's how it should be."

Atrocities are their reaction to the fact that they are nobody in their own country. This is no longer an army, but an armed bunch of scumbags who will do whatever it takes to follow  their orders.

- Can this behaviour of Russians be considered the norm for them?

- The civilisation praised by the "Russian world" [mentioned earlier] was brought to such a state by 30 years of work on the mass consciousness of people by the Russian authorities. This was done on purpose, because only in this way can there be a totalitarian state and power that does not change and is cemented. This is a country where historical time and social development have stopped.

But we should understand that this side effect is the norm in totalitarian regimes; the same thing happened in Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and in post-war China.

When totalitarianism wins as a form of social organisation, mass brutality is its direct consequence. And every war is an atrocity, regardless of who wages it. The exception is the country that defends itself.

Why do Europeans repeat "Never again"? Because they understand that any nation can be brought to such a state, and everyone can turn out to be a victim or an "animal".

We have something to be proud of in this situation: we are holding our ground, and the Russians will have to live with it. Our task is not to lose our humanity. And once we persevere and win, we must ensure that in the end, all the guilty parties are punished. But Russia is playing around with history in order to avoid this.

"The tools of interaction with society are all the same: basements, tortures, mutilations, camps, interrogations"

- If we compare what the Russians are doing now to the Soviet terror of the 1930s and the German occupation during the Second World War, can we say that they have increased the atrocities to a new level?

- Such comparisons are not correct from a historical point of view, because people were different 70 years ago, even if we are talking about your grandfather. The majority of Russians at that time had not completed 4 years of education - we are not talking about the intelligentsia or elites here.

The mass of individuals who lived under the Nazi regime at the time were burghers who had gone bankrupt after the First World War. Moreover, they were people who did not have an average, full-fledged Western European primary education. They were told that a Jew is not a person, and that a physically disabled person can be killed without remorse in order to "purify the race".

It was explained to the Germans that Ukrainian lands are their living space. The Nazis came to Ukraine to get a large piece of land, where they planned to start farms, create a colony where their children and great-grandchildren would rule, and drive Ukrainians into slavery.

And today we see a Russian man, allegedly an educated person, with access to the Internet, raping a girl.

It is possible to compare them, but in making a comparison one should not forget about the internal structures of the countries which commit crimes against the population.

NKVD [The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated NKVD, was the secret police agency of the Soviet Union 1934-46, subsequently renamed the KGB]

After all, if we consider that every Russian is capable of doing this, then we will come to a dead end. That's how they think about us, and genocidal practices grow out of such assumptions: when an entire nation is denied every right to remain human.

- Have the working methods of the Russian special services changed since Soviet times?

- The tools of interaction with society are all the same: basements, tortures, mutilations, camps, interrogations. If you look at a study of what was done during the "Great Terror" of 1937-38, you will see that the same thing has been done for 8 years in the basements of the "DPR" [self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic] and "LPR" [self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic].

The only difference is the scale. The only thing is that mass war crimes are the crimes of another structure, the so-called Russian army. It is now not an army, but basically a terrorist organisation.

And it [the Russian army] is doing the same thing to Ukraine as to Syria. That is, it is  technically possible to turn every Ukrainian city into Aleppo. There are orders, there is no honour, there is no dignity, there are no human values.

After all, the Nazis did the same thing. Our catastrophe is that we will have to live with this terrible neighbour for a long time, because I do not see the leaders of Russia radically changing its internal settings in the near future.

The next 30 years will be very difficult for all of us, and in this situation it is very important to be down-to-earth.

- Sexual violence is one of the types of terror in Russia today. How common were such cases during the Soviet terror in the 1930s?

- From a purely scientific point of view, sexual violence is a reflection of barbarism. We have to understand that it is present in every war, because all the violent attitudes, the dehumanisation of the enemy are the archetype of the behaviour of a barbarian warrior who comes to the land he has captured.

The first thing a barbarian does before a defeated enemy is to rape women, daughters and sons, kill the master and begin to rule over all those who have been humiliated. After enduring such stress, one must have a very strong inner core not to break down and to continue the struggle, and even to continue to live.

This topic is studied on the basis of what happened in the Second World War, during Soviet occupation, and from Western European material. Let's consider what happened after the capture of Berlin, where wives and daughters were raped in front of the captured officers, after which those officers committed suicide.

Rape in public places is an act of humiliation and moral murder. When all the information is available, we will talk about what we are dealing with today.

Fortunately, now the Ukrainian army is working quite well, and it will be difficult for them [Russian soldiers] to reach the boys, men, and women, and this may hold them back. In the first stage of the war, when they marched in in full uniform, they had a sense that it was open season.

- You have done a great deal of research on the history of Donbas. Is it now symbolic that the fate of Ukraine is being determined there?

- If our border with Russia was in Ternopil Oblast or Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, then the symbolism would lie there.

We recaptured Kyiv Oblast, Chernihiv Oblast, and Sumy Oblast not because there is less support for the "Russian world" there than in Donbas. The problem is that Donbas has been a stepping-stone for the past 8 years.

Donbas was chosen as the zone that was easiest to "sway". At that time [in 2014], the fugitive president Yanukovych was "the leader of the common man from Donbas", just as the average Russian now identifies with Putin. That is, these slogans worked there because of a high level of social tension, not because of "pure love" for Russia.

Secondly, it was a zone of chronic social depression, and this weakened Kyiv's position. Similar zones of social disaster in Russia are now zones of support for Putin's "special operation". Their residents thus strive to "establish order" in Ukraine, when they have no influence on anything and live on the edge of survival [within their own territory]. 

We have taken a huge step forward in these 8 years. I don't like it when they write that if it weren't for Putin and the war, there would be no Ukrainian nation.

The symbolism of Donbas is that in 2014, the Russians wanted to "revive" Novorossiya ["New Russia", the historical term for a region that was part of the Russian Empire and included part of present-day Ukraine], but they failed.

After that, they would state, on various platforms, look: Putin's Russia is a nightmare, and we will build a "new, beautiful Russia" in Donbas. So what happened? It turned into a festering cesspool of terrible degradation: intellectual, moral, economic, and social.

These pseudo-republics, like metastases, spread to the mental body of Russia itself. And now we see that the insignificant "LPR/DPR" [self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics] have turned out to be a projection of the totalitarian future of Russia itself.

But we have different projections: we will retake Ukrainian Donbas and we will "live our own lives", building a future of peace and freedom.

Mykhailo Zahorodnii, Ukrainska Pravda. Zhyttia

Monday, June 13, 2022

Japanese people put a curse on Putin

 Japanese People Put a Curse on Putin

Photo: Pakutaso

Straw dolls with Putin's photo keep getting nailed to town’s shrine trees

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Summer is the traditional season for scary stories in Japan, and right on cue, we’ve got a spooky tale coming out of Chiba Prefecture. It’s also a pretty bizarre situation, but we’ll start with the creepy aspects.

In Japan, there’s a kind of doll called a wara ningyo. That translates to “straw doll,” but wara ningyo are no innocuous arts and crafts projects. Instead, they’re Japan’s version of voodoo dolls, created as an effigy for someone you wish harm to befall. Instead of damaging the wara ningyo directly, though, you’re supposed to nail it to a tree inside the boundaries of a Shinto shrine between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m., in a ceremony called ushi no toki mairi, or “shrine visit during the hour of the ox” (in the old Japanese time-keeping system, the hour of the ox was designated to what we now call 1 to 3 in the morning).

▼ A wara ningyo

Photo: Pakutaso

The standard curse inflicted by wara ningyo is supposed to be death, but these days most people with murderous intent tend to opt for more direct means. Because of that, the dolls are now pretty rare outside of horror movies and anime, but since the start of last month, wara ningyo have been found nailed to trees on the grounds of seven shrines in the town of Matsudo, about 20 minutes east of downtown Tokyo. In a modern twist, each one of them also has a photograph of the same person’s face attached to the head.

So just who is the intended target of this dark magic? None other than...

… Russian president Vladimir Putin. Oh, and just in case whatever spirits are supposed to carry out the curse don’t recognize the Russian head of state by sight, at least one of the dolls, the one found at Masudo’s Kanegasaku Kuamano Shrine, also had a piece of paper folded up inside of it with Putin’s full name, current age, and date of birth, all written in Japanese, as well as the message “Praying for his death.”

Even prior to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin wasn’t the most popular politician internationally, and the ongoing conflict hasn’t done anything to improve his image in Japan. That said, it’s pretty shocking to see such old-school methods employed in protest, as Japanese Twitter reactions show:

“I was actually at one of the shrines where this happened and saw the wara ningyo nailed to the tree. Couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“Having a hard time imagining Putin dropping dead because some Japanese person put a curse on him.”

“Do wara ningyo curses have the kind of range to hit people overseas?”

“Those are some really beautifully made wara ningyo.”

“Hammering a nail into a shrine’s sacred tree? That’s gonna get whoever did it some divine retribution raining down on them.”

As alluded to in the last comment, in the Shinto religion nature is held to be divine, and a shrine’s trees in particular are often considered sacred. At Kanegasaku Kuamano Shrine, for example, the doll was found nailed to its camphor tree, which is more than 200 years old and predates even the shrine itself. Priests and shrine caretakers are asking that whoever is carrying out the ushi no toki mairi cease and desist, and while the curse itself is not a chargeable offense, local police are investigating the incidents as crimes of trespassing and vandalism.

Click the link to see a TV news report.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Hitler learned it from the Russians

Hitler Learned Nazism from the Russians

Left top to bottom: Ivan the Terrible, Michael Romanov, Right top to bottom: Lenin, Putin, Center Hitler with Prussian Eagle, left and Russian Eagle, right 

To understand how Russia was a forebearer of Hitler-ism or Nazism, it is necessary to define terms. Nazism is no more than a specific subset of Imperialism. Imperialism is the increasing of ones own lands by conquering other states, through war or other means. In the ancient world this was common and war was constant. This was true of Greece, Persia, Rome, Mongolia, China, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. It was also true of tribal warfare and even the United States can be considered an Imperial power in relation to its wars against the native American tribes whose land was taken by force. 

The differences between all these empires are ones of the era in which they evolved, and their specific characteristics: their methods, motivations and administration. Since about the end of the 19th century, three such attempts at Empire building stand out. Of the three, Russia, Germany, and China, China came much later and will not be discussed extensively here.

Taking motivations first, these are generally of two types: the desire for gain and the desire for protection. In the past, states that were targets of conquest tended to be adjacent states, states along important trade routes, and states with riches of one sort or another-including slaves. Some were seen as buffers to protect the original state from direct attack: essentially the same as building a moat around a fort. Conquered states were generally plundered for their riches and resources, their women taken as brides or concubines, and their men taken into the conquerors army or used for other types of forced labor. Motivations do not distinguish Russia and Nazi Germany from any other Empire builders in history. Administration does.

Once a state was captured it needs to be administered in one form or another. This usually involved surveys of land and other possessions, headcounts, and tax assessment and collection. It also required the deployment of troops as a police force, for boundary protection, and a judiciary. Another important aspect of administration involves seeing to it that the native culture and religion are suppressed in favor of adopting the culture and religion of the conqueror. This is how Christianity spread from it's middle east origins to all of Europe.

Though war and conquest is a nasty business, it is relatively straightforward. The difficulty for the conqueror and the conquered comes partly in the methods used in the conquest but especially in the administration. Before getting back to the specific subsets of Imperialism represented by Russia and Nazism, I will step back further in history.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, Byzantium, which was essentially the Eastern branch of the Roman Empire, continued as the center of Christendom. At various times it was made up of Asia Minor, southern Italy, and the Baltic states. After the Turks captured Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453, Ivan the Terrible of Russia wished to claim the title of "third Roman Empire" as the premier Christian Orthodox state of the day.  He was the first to assume the title of Czar (Cesar). One of Ivan's wives, Anastasia Romanov, was distantly related to the Byzantine Palaeologus family, who were Emperors of Constantinople until about the 16th century. This dynasty used the 2-headed eagle as a symbol and it seems that Anastasia encouraged Ivan to adopt it as a mark of Imperial ancestry. About 60 years after Ivan, Michael Romanov was elected head of state by the Russian Parliament (Zemsky Sobor). Anastasia was his great-aunt. This was the beginning of the Romanov line and the pre-modern Russian state which still employs the double-headed eagle.

The combination of the secular and the sacred has been a hallmark of almost every society that ever existed. Originally, the ruler was seen as a living God. Later, the desire of the people was that the ruler be anointed by and protected by God. That protection was thought to flow through the ruler to the country. None of this is unique to Russia. Maybe the clearest example of a break with this tradition is the United States with it's enshrinement of the separation of church and state. This separation went hand in hand with the concept of freedom of religion. In other words when the state no longer received its legitimacy from one specific God, then the citizens were free to worship a god of their choosing and still be considered good citizens—so long as they fulfilled their civil duties. It also meant that the power of the church was greatly diminished. European societies also followed this pattern to one degree or another.

Orthodox Christian (Eastern Christian) Russia, retained the symbiotic relation of church and state until the revolution of 1917. Though the post-war Soviet Union is associated with the rise of Communism, and the symbol of the hammer and sickle, the vast majority of Russian history is Imperialist, conservative, and Orthodox Christian. Karl Marx famously said "religion is the opiate of the masses" and the Soviet Union became a strictly secular state for about 80 years. An apparent separation of church and state alla the USA. But it also staunchly opposed capitalism and Western liberal values as they developed from the 18th century. In other words anti-freedom of choice. It suppressed religion. As such, both Imperialist and Communist Russia were backward-looking states that feared other than proscribed ideas and values. With all channels for evolution of the society cut off, Russia inevitably faced (and still faces) constant revolution in order to release the pressure that builds up from suppressing change. As with all such fearful, dictatorial societies with a hard shell and a soft core, so to speak, it is more likely to self-destruct than be destroyed from the outside.

So finally we come to methods. A point always comes with empire when it is too big and has taken in too many peoples of different cultures and religions to sustain the original idea of a single state. But by then, it's too late to go back. Allowing any of the states it has collected to become independent is seen as a sign of weakness and a potential danger to the original core state. The Eastern areas of Russia were the last to be annexed, including Finland, which was the eastern half of Sweden, in 1809. Other areas came from the annexation of Poland and Lithuania (between 1772 and 1795) after the defeat of Napoleon. These were added to the Western-most area called Pale of Settlement, which already included a large part of Ukraine. The inclusion of these new territories greatly increased the size of the Jewish population in Russia. Existing since 1791, the newly expanded Pale was basically the only territory in Russia where Jews were allowed to reside permanently—about 5 million in total. In other words, a large ghetto.

In Russia, the preferred method of compensation, for the failures of administration, for losses in wars, and a host of other problems, was to blame the Jews. As in many Christian European countries of the day, Jews were considered outsiders and either undesirable or tolerated as a necessary evil under severe restrictions. But in Russia conditions could be extreme. For example after an uprising of Poles was put down in 1864, 80,000 Poles were exiled to Siberia. Jews in Europe were particularly hated for a number of reasons including, 1. Christians blamed the Jews for having Christ crucified. 2. Because Jews were often expelled from countries they tended to be nomadic. This led them to taking up trade as a livelihood, which could be very lucrative and made many rich. Banking and money lending were part of the culture. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of Russian Jews were poor. 3. Because they were not allowed to fully integrate into European societies in any case, they formed self-help groups and networks which made them largely self-sufficient. 4. This network of self-help, kahals or kabals, became part of the false idea of an international Jewish conspiracy that developed later, and became an urban myth that continues worldwide to this day.

Jews in Russia became easy targets for all the frustrations of the society. This resulted in constant pogroms. A pogrom is basically a mass assault on one community by another. These assaults, basically riots, were often directed by the authorities or supporters of the Czar and the Orthodox church. For example, after Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, the Jews were blamed and a wave of pogroms resulted in a great loss of life and business. Naturally, the authorities responded by placing greater restrictions on the Jews. Known as the May Laws, these included quotas for work, education, and residence. It also caused the creation of revolutionary populist movements filled with minorities and Jews.

In 1905, there occurred a mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin, after a humiliating defeat by the young Japanese Navy. The crew killed the captain and commandeered the ship and sailed to the port of Odessa, where a general strike was already underway. Riots destroyed much of the port. This mutiny spurred the growth of revolutionary organizations, such as the Bund, which had existed in Russia since the late 1800s. Many Jews joined these new groups and many took leadership positions. 

In, St. Petersburg, hundreds of peaceful protesters were fired on and killed in what came to be known as the Bloody Sunday massacre. The Potemkin and Bloody Sunday incidents triggered widespread revolts and forced the Czar to agree to some reforms including the creation of the Duma, an elected body with which he was supposed to consult. This is considered the First Russian Revolution and Jews were very active in it. But another result was the proliferation of extreme right-wing, Monarchist groups, which were strongly antisemitic. This was the age of the Black Hundreds and continuous pogroms aimed primarily at "the Yids" (Jews). The idea of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world became prominent at this time (see above). Such ideas were spread by right-wing newspapers and publications such as the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This was originally part of a French satire directed at Napoleon III, which was modified to read like a secret plot by Jewish Elders to destroy Christians and dominate the world. It's final revisions were made by the Czar's secret police. Right-wing extremists, to this day, continue to promote it as a real historical document.

Another method of administering the population arose in the late 1800s through the Pan-Slavic movement. Though originally organized as a benevolent society aimed at supporting Christian Slavic people living under the Ottoman Turks, it morphed into an aggressive, support for bringing all Slavic nations under the protection of the Czar. It helped bring about the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78. Then, in 1914, WW1 engulfed most of Europe. The war pitted Russia, Britain, and France against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. After 1917 it included the United States. The countries aligned with Russia were the very ones the Monarchists and right-wing groups that made up the Black Hundreds, blamed for the liberal ideas they fought against. The desire of these groups was a strong alliance with Germany which they saw as the natural partner. But after a sound defeat by the German and Austrian armies the pressures of war caused another revolution in Russia, this time deposing the Czar and ending Russia's participation in the war. This was the beginning of the Soviet Union.

As the Bolsheviks (Communists) began arresting and killing anyone associated with the monarchy, as well as rival progressive groups, many fled to other parts of Europe. Many of the anti-Soviet emigres gathered in Germany. Fedor Vinberg was a Russian army colonel, a prolific writer, member of the UAM (the Black Hundreds core group), and rabid anti-Semite. He also pushed the idea that the Bolshevik revolution was a Jewish conspiracy. He was arrested by the Bolsheviks and served 3 years. His close associate, Shabel’skii-Bork, brought to Germany a copy of the Protocols from which the first German translations were made. Vinberg was part of a German-Russian organization named Aufbau, that had strong ties with the German Workers Party, the forerunner of the Nazi Party. Here is where Vinberg held many discussions with a young Adolf Hitler.

Another prominent Russian emigre in Germany was N.E. Markov who was formerly the president of the URP, prominent Black Hundreds anti-Semite, and member of the Duma. "Within Markov’s worldview, it was nearly impossible for any upheaval to occurindependent of Jewish influence; if the situation were analyzed properly, the all-powerful black hand of the Jews could always be uncovered somewhere." Markov warned that an alliance with the British would cause Russia to go to war with Germany, and urged an alliance with the Kaiser Wilhelm, stressing the two countries had common interests. When the Czar was overthrown the provisional government arrested Markov and sentenced him to 3 years. When he was released, he emigrated to Berlin in 1920. He organized a congress in Berlin made up mostly of other Black Hundreds emigres. Their purpose was to restore the monarchy in Germany and Russia. Markov always bragged that the Black Hundreds represented the "exact prototype" of fascist movements.

When Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925 he quotes from the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the idea of the need to crush the "international Jewish conspiracy" was a cornerstone of his philosophy as was his hatred of Marxism. In the early 1900s, Russian Monarchism, Imperialism, conservative Orthodoxy, antisemitism, targeted pogroms, mass-deportations, segregation of Jews, and continuous war, produced the model of Nazism before the word was coined. Only the gas chambers were a Germain innovation. 

Of course, Nazism did not stop with the defeat of Hitler. The Russians continued the very same methods, motivations and administration as the Nazis. Only now it was called Communism and it blights the planet to this today. Communist nations mimic all the habits of Nazism: increasing ones own lands by conquering other states, seeing to it that the native culture and religion are suppressed in favor of adopting the culture and or religion of the conqueror, deployment of troops as a police force—not to protect the populace—but as a means of control. Constant surveillance, arrest, and summary execution, as well as scapegoating and persecution of "undesirable" populations is the method of administration. When Russia "liberated" Eastern Europe after WW2, it was not called living behind the "Iron Curtain" for nothing. In 1953 Stalin was on the verge of a mass-deportation of Jews to Siberia when he suffered a stroke and died.

By all these definitions, Russia and China are now the leading examples of Nazism in the modern world. Russia, still hates Jews and supports every type of Muslem extremist group, but deals with the Israelis because they can be equally ruthless (after all, they learned from the best). China has no "Jewish problem" but does not hesitate to suppress any perceived threat. So it was that Mao Zedong attacked Tibet and killed more than a million Tibetans. So it is that Xi Jinping kills, sterilizes, and confines to massive concentration camps, millions of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other minorities, not to mention the mass arrests and the total suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. One party, one-man rule, severe suppression of freedom and human rights: the core principles of all totalitarians no matter the country, the era, or the name.

For some insightful contemporary discussions, please see the following articles:

On Putin


On Jews


 On the modern Hundreds


On Putin's "brain" Alexander Dugin



Friday, April 29, 2022

Putin the Poisoner

Election by Assassination: Putin Wins by Killing the People's Choice

putin the poisoner

Photo from Timeline.com

In March 0f 2022, President Joe Biden said of Putin, "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in Power." To which, Putin's pompous puppy, Demity Peskov, piped up, "That's not for Biden to decide, the President of Russia is elected by Russians." Well, that must come as quite a surprise to the Russians!

One of the most surprised would have to be Alexei Navalny, who famously labeled Putin's political party, United Russia, a "party of crooks and thieves". He was allowed to run for Mayor of Moscow twice, but not allowed to win. He was also arrested on trumped-up charges of "embezzlement" twice. So he decided to conduct his own embezzlement investigations which culminated with a film which focused on approximately1.2 billion USD embezzled by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Naturally, when he tried to run in the 2018 presidential election and, due to popular support was sure to win, he was barred from running by the Central Election Commission due to those trumped up convictions. This caused massive demonstrations. Fearing his ability to motivate people and confront monsters, he was poisoned in 2020. Novochok was spread on his underpants likely on orders from Putin. He was evacuated to Germany where he received life saving treatment. Being less fearful of Putin than Putin was of him, he returned to Russia and was arrested for violation of parole. He celebrated by releasing his newest documentary, Putin's Palace. History of the World's Largest Bribe, about Putin's massive corruption operations. A must see. He is serving 11.5 years in prison. Now, with the release of a new film by Daniel Roher, Navalny, about his poisoning and arrest, he may never see the light of day so long as Putin lives. So much for the Russians choosing their president.

Boris Nemstov also thought it was up to the Russian people to decide who they wanted to be president. Wrong again. Nemstov who was the deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin was expected to succeed him. He was nudged out of the way by Putin but continued to campaign against corruption and the illegal 2014 takeover of Ukraine's Crimea. Five days before he was to  march at the head of a massive protest, he was gunned down in the street in 2015, in broad daylight, within meters of the Kremlin. This is the cost of running for president in Putin's Russia. It was blamed on "Chechens". But now some astute investigations by Bellingcat, The Insider and the BBC reveal that Putins FSB was behind it. Not that anyone needed convincing.

Certainly not Alexander Litvinenko, the intelligence agent who defected to the West and was poisoned in London where he lived in 2006.This was a gruesome and lingering death brought on by having his tea laced with deadly radioactive polonium-210. Two Russian agents,
Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, were convicted of the crime but flew the coup back to Moscow. Killing Russians in Russia is one thing but killing them on foreign soil is another, you might say. 

But don't say it to Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia. Skripal was a Russian spy recruited by the British in the 1990s. This sort of thing happens all the time and he was not a "high-level" guy. He was arrested by the Russians and released in a spy swap with America in 2010. In March of 2018 he and his daughter Yulia were found, foaming from the mouth, on a bench at a beach in England where they lived. They had been poisoned with Novochok, possibly sprayed on the door handle of their home. Very luckily the poison was not enough to kill them and they recovered. But thanks to the who-gives-a-shit attitude of Putin's assassins, who discarded the "perfume" bottle in the neighborhood in which they used it, another woman died after she accidentally found the contaminated bottle. Her husband, who also handled the bottle did not die but did go blind. Skripal was a guy who posed zero threat to Putin. But Putin fancies himself the "Godfather" and once he thinks you crossed him, he must have revenge.

However, in fairness to a fiend, he is only following in a long line of poisonous Russian politics dating to at least the 15th century, as this excellent article by Linda Kinstler explains. Ancient history aside, it was the "father of the Revolution", Vladimir Lenin, who really got the ball rolling with his KGB Poison Factory, better known as the Kamera. For the Soviets, who—due to their own mistrust and paranoia—spent as much time killing each other as they did the enemy, poison was a natural choice. It fit perfectly with their habit of carrying out a crime and then disclaiming any knowledge of it. Discovering "evidence" that someone else was the perpetrator, the so-called "false flag", is often part of the plot. But Putin has raised the "technique" of his namesake to an art and deployed it in total contempt of other countries sovereignty.

Alexander Perepilichny and Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky were not running for office but both were involved in exposing massive theft from the Russian state coffers, carried out by Russian officials. Again, nothing of this kind can be carried out without Putin's okay and without him getting the biggest cut. One of the perks of being an absolute dictator. Perepilichny handed over documents showing how 220 million was stolen through Heritage Capital Management. Its a complicated story which you can read about here. The point is that things got too hot for him in mother Russia, so he left to live a quiet life in England. However he suddenly dropped dead while jogging in 2012. Toxin from a Chinese flowering plant Gelsemium was found in his stomach but no proof of how it got there was established. Sergei Magnitsky was a mild mannered tax advisor who also reported massive theft by Russian officials in regard to the same company. He was rewarded with arrest and thrown in jail in 2008. He died after being held without trial for 11 months. The United States passed the Magnitsky Act, "barring those Russian officials believed to be involved in Magnitsky's death from entering the United States or using its banking system." (Wikipedia) The other part of the story is that one of the founders of Hermitage, American Bill Browder, who set up the fund in 2005 believing that Putin was on track to clean out crime and modernize Russia, became one of the most vocal critics of the regime when he saw the massive theft that was going on. Now he fears for his own life though he hasn't stopped speaking out. Putin even suggested to Trump that he hand over Bill Browder in exchange for letting Robert Muelller go to Russia as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the American election.  

Vladimir Kara-Murza is another critic of the regime of "crooks and thieves" (and we must not forget, murderers). He was poisoned twice but refused to die. At least, not that way. After the second poisoning in 2017, he left Russia and lived for awhile in the USA. Now he has returned to the "old country" because, like Navalny, he refuses to be isolated from those who continue the fight for freedom. Now he has been jailed on charges of “deliberately disseminating false information about Russian military forces”, a charge which can bring a 15 year sentence. He did an interview for Frontllne in 2017 which is a brief and clear history of the rise of Putin. A must read.

Viktor Yushchenko was fortunate in that he did not run for President of Russia but of Ukraine. Even so, running against Putin's hand picked man, Viktor Yanukovych, was tantamount to the same offense. The Ukrainian system requires one of the candidates to garner over 50 % of the vote or face a runoff. In the 2004 election, neither candidate did and in a runoff, Yanukovych was the clear winner. Except that he wasn't. Massive fraud was the winner and the Ukrainan people were not standing for it. Huge demonstrations, which came to be known as the "Orange Revolution" forced a new election. This was won by Yuschenko who immediately took sick and had to be transported to Austria for emergency treatment. Pictures of his badly distorted face, the result of having digested a massive dose of toxin, were widely posted at the time. He survived and went on to serve as president for five tumultuous years. After 5 years of battles between parties, strongman Yanukovych was ready to throw his hat in the ring again. He was elected but immediately began moves to cancel a pending European Union membership in favor of accepting a bailout and closer ties with Russia—which was clearly not what the people wanted. This led to violent clashes between protestors and the police, known as the "Maidan Revolution".  Putin lost another chance at controlling the country through a puppet regime when Yanukovych fled to Russia and the parliament fired him and held another election in 2014. He now enjoys a comfortable retirement in Putin's warm embrace. 

But the whole incident was just another reason for Putin to hate Ukraine and determine to get his revenge. Which he did immediately by marching into the Crimea and proclaiming it part of Russia. He also moved troops into Donesk and Luhansk all under the pretext of protecting Russians living in the area. Ukraine was just trying to rebuild it's government and had little power to organize a resistance. The world protested, cut some ties, but did little to punish Putin. Ironically, it may have been this very lack of attention that he found so dissatisfying: dictators love to stand on balcony's while the loving masses applaud, you know. So he decided to invade and gain the admiration he truly deserves. But the poison he has been sprinkling so freely around the world's kitchens has now come back to pollute his own pantry. And, even as he has made thousands of graves in Ukraine, it is the place where he too will be buried.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Holodomor: Murder by Starvation


Murder by Starvation and the New Stalinism

From history.com/news/ukrainian-famine-stalin

The following information is primarily from history.com with additional text by Shinto Shrines of Japan.

"At the height of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine under Joseph Stalin, starving people roamed the countryside, desperate for anything to eat. The Ukrainian famine—known as the Holodomor, a combination of the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death”—by one estimate claimed the lives of 3.9 million people, about 13 percent of the population. And, unlike other famines in history caused by blight or drought, this was caused when a dictator wanted both to replace Ukraine’s small farms with state-run collectives and punish independence-minded Ukrainians who posed a threat to his totalitarian authority."

"In 1929, as part of his plan to rapidly create a totally communist economy, Stalin had imposed collectivization, which replaced individually owned and operated farms with big state-run collectives. Ukraine’s small, mostly subsistence farmers resisted giving up their land and livelihoods. In response, the Soviet regime derided the resisters as kulaks—well-to-do peasants, who in Soviet ideology were considered enemies of the state. Soviet officials drove these peasants off their farms by force and Stalin’s secret police further made plans to deport 50,000 Ukrainian farm families to Siberia, historian Anne Applebaum writes in her 2017 book:

Stalin appears to have been motivated by the goal of transforming the Ukrainian nation into his idea of a modern, proletarian, socialist nation, even if this entailed the physical destruction of broad sections of its population.”

"Collectivization in Ukraine didn’t go very well. By the fall of 1932—around the time that Stalin’s wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who reportedly objected to his collectivization policy, committed suicide—it became apparent that Ukraine’s grain harvest was going to miss Soviet planners’ target by 60 percent. There still might have been enough food for Ukrainian peasants to get by, but Stalin then ordered what little they had be confiscated as punishment for not meeting quotas."

"As the famine worsened, many tried to flee in search of places with more food. Some died by the roadside, while others were thwarted by the secret police and the regime’s system of internal passports. By the summer of 1933, some of the collective farms had only a third of their households left, and prisons and labor camps were jammed to capacity. With hardly anyone left to raise crops, Stalin’s regime resettled Russian peasants from other parts of the Soviet Union in Ukraine to cope with the labor shortage."

"Ultimately, although Stalin’s policies resulted in the deaths of millions, failed to crush Ukrainian aspirations for autonomy, and in the long run, may actually have backfired. “Famine often achieves a socio-economic or military purpose, such as transferring land possession or clearing an area of population, since most flee rather than die,” famine historian de Waal says. “But politically and ideologically it is more often counterproductive for its perpetrators. As in the case of Ukraine it generated so much hatred and resentment that it solidified Ukrainian nationalism.”"

"Eventually, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine finally became an independent nation—and the Holodomor remains a painful part of Ukrainians’ common identity."

As with this and other Russian atrocities before and after WWII, the death of millions is never an obstacle to Russian mega monsters like Stalin and his loving admirer Putin. But likewise, the senseless tragedy will never prop up a dying regime that offers nothing but totalitarianism and grief. Today, Ukranians who have not fled to the West or been killed, are being packed off to far flung regions of Russia to be "reeducated" as good little Russian robots. Another Russian "present".

Of course, as I've said elsewhere, this will all come crashing down on Russian heads as well. As this article from the Telegraph explains,

"The Kremlin has started planting Soviet-style political commissars into Russian government ministries and state-owned companies to report back to the president's office on the "emotional state and mood" of staff.

"In a plan that harks back to the paranoia of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s, these "political officers" will also push Vladimir Putin's political agenda and ensure official support for his war in Ukraine stays on track."

"In another sign of the ways in which the official narrative is starting to leak into different parts of Russian society, textbook publishers have reportedly been told to delete any references to Ukraine. Kremlin officials have increasingly said that they want to wipe Ukraine off the map."

“You can mention how we saved Kyiv, but it is no longer possible to talk about any independence of Ukraine as a country,"

In a future article, I will highlight an important fact of history of which readers may or may not be aware: the Nazi's (which Putin ostensibly hates so much) learned most of their dirty skills from the Russians.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Return of the Black Hundreds

Return of the Black Hundreds

In 2018, with the blessing of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church split from the
Russian Orthodox Church. This was inevitable especially after the ROC and it's Putin-lovin' leader, Patriarch Kirill, endorsed the illegal invasion and takeover of Crimea. The ROC is just another arm of the Russian dictator. Church and State are again comfortably ensconced in each other's bosom as they were in the good ole' days of the Tsar and Tsarina. But Kirill and company were very angry about losing control over Ukraine (the third-largest Orthodox community in the world). One more reason for Putin, the self-annotated Emperor of the Orthodox Slavs, to make war.

I don't know how many readers of this blog may still be under the illusion that Russia is a Communist country. Not that the "philosophy" has ever been little more than a thin red veil over the black face of brutal dictatorship, but for several decades now even the veil has fallen. There was a brief time when it was hoped that the face behind the veil would be one of democracy. So much for hopes.

The history of the Black Hundreds reveals the corruption and antisemitism that is endemic to Russian soil. It also hints at how the latest expression of Russian brutality will end: by the massive weight of its own venality.

For those interested in a complete picture, I strongly recommend reading the above linked thesis by  Jacob Langer. Briefly, the Black Hundreds were a loose network of right-wing, monarchists centered on the URP (Union of Russian People) and several other right-wing groups. These groups grew up partially in reaction to the Revolution of 1905 and were financially supported by the Tsar and others who were desperately trying to cling to power. The main activities of these groups consisted of marching with black and yellow flags, beating and vandalizing Jews—the favored target of dictators and their Christian supporters whether portrayed as revolutionaries or gypsies—assassinations and thuggery in support of the Tsar and (more importantly) themselves.

After 1905, by which time Russia had been defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War, and the subsequent mutiny of the Potemkin and the Black Sea Fleet, the Tsar signed the October Manifesto ceding some power to a newly formed legislature (Duma). Men were given the right to vote and some basic freedoms of assembly. But the Tsar reserved veto rights over anything decided by the Duma. He also had the power to dissolve the body—which he did repeatedly. But after World War I broke out in 1914, things went from bad to worse until he abdicated in 1917 and he and his family were slaughtered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. By that time, about 1.7 million Russians had been killed or died in the war.

Through all this, strikes and opposition to the Tsar continued as did the increase in the activities of the Black Hundreds. One of the more relevant aspects of the "movement" to today's environment, was it's staunchly anti-Ukrainian aspect. To quote Langer, "Black Hundred ideology typically denied the ethnic distinctions of Ukrainians and Belorussians, defining both groups as ethnic Russians. Its credo professed a generally derogatory view of Russia’s other ethnic minorities, especially Jews, as well as rebellious nationalities such as Poles and Finns. The Black Hundred also found inspiration in the Pan-Slavs’ visceral opposition to the West. "All this sound familiar?

Fast forward, read this article from 2015 after Putin ordered the assassination (never proven, of course) of his rival, the popular successor of Boris Yeltsin, Boris Nemstov. Here is an extended quote: "Radical nationalism has long been one of the leading threats to Russia’s national security, a danger noted by Putin himself during an appearance on a call-in show last month. Over the past decade several large-scale underground nationalist groups have been crushed by law enforcement authorities. At the same time, the Kremlin has tried to co-opt the nationalists to use them to mobilize the population behind the Ukraine war. They have been allowed to hold large-scale rallies in downtown Moscow and to stage publicity stunts, such as Putin publicly riding with the Nationalist Night Wolves biker gang. Some groups probably quietly receive financial or political support from elements of the leadership." History repeats itself.

What all this has to do with Putin is embodied in the expression "throw it against the wall and see what sticks". Putin has ostensibly become focused on returning Russia to the Great Imperial Motherland that he perceives it to have been when the Romanov's held sway. He rails against the "threat" of NATO (although no NATO country has ever attacked Russia while quite the reverse is true), he makes vague statements about Nazi's (a word to which he gives new meaning), and he rattles the nuclear saber. But the truth is much more frightening and much more simple: like his ideal, Joseph Stalin, he will try anything and stop at nothing in the brutal preservation of himself: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

If you think this is all hyperbole, read the words of a man who knows. Just two interesting quotes here. Speaking of Putin: "The reason he’s doing this is not because of NATO … (or) Ukraine joining the European Union. He is doing this because he needs a war in order to stay popular and stay in power. He has been a dictator for 22 years, he’s stolen an enormous amount of money from the Russian people and, absent the war or some other highly visible way of riling his people into a fervor of patriotism, he would no longer be in power. And so this is his way of staying in power." One more, "The oligarchs aren’t powerful in their own right. Basically, they used to be before Putin. But their role now is to basically provide financial assistance to Putin — to look after his money for him, and to take financial actions as directed by him. And so they’re effectively the financial arm of Vladimir Putin." 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Butcher of Mariupol


The Butcher of Mariupol

 This blog is about Shinto shrines. So why am I writing about Putin's slaughter of Ukrainians? Let me answer this way. Long before I began research and writing about  Shinto, I found a group of knowledgeable people on something called the Shinto Mailing list. This was a place for questions and answers about Shinto and a place to discuss aspects of the religion. At that time, the subject turned to politics and after one heated exchange someone said that politics should not be discussed on the list because it had nothing to do with religion. In rebuttal I said, " When has religion ever been separated from politics." The answer to that question is, of course, never: they have always been joined at the hip. Man is the alpha and the omega. Religions are run by men who take advantage of believers, not to do "God's work" but their own.

The "Butcher of Mariupol" and some of the butcher's buddies would like to paper over every atrocity with vague references to "Nazi", "economics", "Rule of law", or "God". I am writing to clear away some of the smoke: this war is all about one blood thirsty man's endless desire for wealth and power and men with the same ambitions who have thrown in their lot with the monster the world is now stuck with. It will end badly for everyone.

Not only for the unfortunate people of Ukraine who found themselves in the bloodsucker's path, but I predict that Ukraine will also be the graveyard of Russia and Putin will be the headstone. Russia is finished. And yet again, it is her own people who have done her in. Let's briefly review the history.

The vast Imperial Russia was ruled by the corrupt and brutal Romanov's until their own venality caught up to them in the form of severe defeats in external wars and revolution  from within. This revolution was quickly usurped by the Bolsheviks who immediately began killing any of their countryman who opposed them, then turned on each other and never stopped until the Germans were at the door. By this time, Stalin had murdered his way to the top and tried to do a deal with the Nazi's to save his own skin. Of course Hitler was no more trustworthy than the Russians and reneged on the deal. So Stalin was forced to fight to the bitter end. And it would have been the end if not for the Americans and Europeans doing the heavy lifting in destroying the Nazi and the Japanese war machines.

Stalin rewarded these efforts by further brutalizing his own people and refusing to leave the countries of Europe (and part of Japan) which he had "liberated".  Fast forward to the modern era of venal Russian leaders (Kruschov, Breshnev, Andropov, Chernenko). At that time the Russians "saved" Europe by building a wall to keep people from running away from their incarceration and torture paradise. But once again, the Russian "paradise" collapsed under the weight of it's own corruption and brutality – not because it was attacked from the outside.

So now here we are again, after a brief 20 years or so since the age of Gorbachev and lessened Russian demagoguery and violent takeovers of it's neighbors. Again, Russia suppresses opposition at home and inflicts a massive wound not only on a sister country but on itself. Again Russia will destroy herself and enter a dark era for another 20 or 30 years. Not because of NATO, or any attack from a real or fictitious enemy, but by another self-inflicted death blow. And good riddance. Because it must be asked, "What is it in the water that consistently breeds such monsters in Russia?"

Again, I call for the people of Russia to rise up. Throw your bodies in front of the tanks and stop the slaughter before the bombs start to drop on your own heads. Regardless of the cost to Russian lives it must be paid. Why should the birth of yet another Russian monster be charged to the Ukrainians or anyone else when it it the Russian people who must take responsibility for Russian leaders. Is it not that Russians mistrust each other, first and foremost, that finds them unable to band together and overcome one puny dictator after another?

I am well aware that this is an over simplification of history. But the matter is urgent and time is running out for Ukraine and Russia both. The Emperor has no clothes. He can threaten but he cannot poison and arrest everyone. Stand together to defeat the Butcher or be killed separately in your beds as you sleep.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Vampire of Bucha

 The Vampire of Bucha

 This is a blog about Shinto shrines. Some will say I should stick to the subject. But the only important subject now is stopping the slaughter of thousands of people by a brutal dictator. 

A number of the readers of this blog are in Russia. This post is addressed to them and the people who support them. The world cannot standby while a handful of ruthless and ambitious men destroy a hard-won peace that has stood against blind savagery since WW2. 

I call on all others in the free-world with any kind of internet presence, from shopping site to political blog, to send the message in anyway you can: dethrone the monsters and stop the slaughter! However small, raise your voice. 

And to those in Russia, living under the fear of torture and death, throw away your fears! Act against your leaders who are spreading chaos and would cover the world in blood. Throw your own bodies in front of the tanks to stop them before the bombs start to drop on your heads too! 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples for Disease Protection and Good Health

Buddhist temples

Yakushi Nyorai of Horyuji in Nara courtesy Horyuji' website (Note that not all Yakushi representations include a medicine jar in the left had, especially older statues.)

At a time of heightened concern about the corona virus, I offer this short list of shrines and temples where you can pray for good health and protection against disease. The idea of praying at a specific shrine or temple for a specific purpose dates in Japan to at least to the 6th century and the assimilation of a mountain kami known for its healing powers, into the Buddhist cult of Yakushi Nyorai: commonly known as the medicine Buddha. This is according to the book Practically Religious by Ian Reader and George Tanabe. The concept of genze riyaku, which is the subject of this informative book, is usually translated as "this-worldly benefits".

Naming the concept may make it seem like something particular to Shinto and Buddhism. But if we consider prayer as a sort of dialog, with whoever we conceive of as a God who can answer our prayers, it is clear that all prayer is a plea for help. That plea may be as vague as asking for "guidance" or as specific as praying for relief from pain or debt. In fact, it is probably impossible to think of prayer which does not involve asking for something or thanking God for benefits already bestowed. Bhaiṣajyaguru – the original Sanskrit name of Yakushi (Nyorai basically means Buddha), was transmitted from India to China in the 4th century with the translation of the Sutra of the Master of Medicine (Bhaiṣajyaguru vaiḍurya prabha rāja sūtra). This according to the website of my old friend Mark Schumacher http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/yakushi.shtml.

Regardless of any amalgamation with Shinto deities, Yakushi was always a Buddha who vowed to bring care to the sick. This is by way of the above mentioned sutra, in which Yakushi makes 12 vows. Vow number 6 says:

I vow that, after my reincarnation and having attained Perfect Enlightenment, those beings who are physically inferior, with imperfect senses, such as... leprous, lunatic, or sick in many respects, shall all of them, when they hear of my name, regain their normal appearance and become intelligent. All their senses shall be perfectly restored, and they shall not suffer from disease. 

Yakushi's statue usually depicts the Buddha with a small pot of medicine held in the left hand. Perhaps the oldest temple for praying to this Buddha is Horyuji temple in Nara. But Yakushi-ji, also in Nara, is usually considered the most famous. Built in the Asuka period in the capital of Fujiwara-kyo, by Emperor Tenmu to pray for the recovery of his consort (the later Empress Jito) it was moved to Nara around 718. The massive building, located not far from the more famous Buddha of Todaiji, (457 Nishinokyo-cho, Nara City, 630-8563) is flanked by two pagodas (gojunoto) in a symmetrical layout. The temple hosts a Yakushi Triad with the main figure flanked by two bodhisattvas, Nikko and Gakko.

Arai Yakushi Baisho-in Temple https://www.araiyakushi.or.jp/en 

Arai Yakushi of Baisho-in (courtesy jalan.net)
Address: 5-3-5, Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, 165-0026
This temple in Tokyo's Nakano area, is accessible from Nakano Station on the Chuo-line. The temple has information in English at the website above. One interesting feature of this temple is their hidden Buddha statue which is displayed only in the year of the Tiger (a substitute is always on display). The next Tiger year is 2022. This Yakushi is historically linked to efficacy in curing diseases of the eyes.

Yakushi-ji Temple, Tokyo Betsu-in https://yakushiji.or.jp/tokyo/

Yakushi of Tokyo Betsu-in (courtesy Tokyo Betsuin)
Address: 5-15-17, Higashi-gotanda, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, 141-0022
Information about this temple comes from the website of Akadama Japan. According to that site the interesting thing about this temple, a branch temple of Yakushi-ji in Nara, is the chance to do shakyou. Shakyou is the practice of sutra copying. Copying sutras by hand was once the only way to reproduce them. These concise and terse expressions of received wisdom are the Eastern equivalent of scripture. Normally the practice of monks, it is believed that anyone can gain merit by copying sutras. No appointment is needed and the temple is open for shakyou from 9 to 5, 365 days of the year. The cost is 2,000 yen and apparently your copied sutra will be saved at Yakushi-ji in Nara. Tokyo Betsu-in is a short walk from Gotanda Station

Hinata Yakushi Temple (Hojobo Temple) http://hinatayakushi.com/

Hinata Yakushi (courtesy ANA's website)

Address: 1644 Hinata, Isehara, Kanagawa, 259-1101 (300 yen admission)
Get out of the city and travel to Mt. Oyama in Kanagawa to visit what, a number of other websites have called, one of the three greatest Yakushi temples in Japan. Whenever I hear "three greatest" something or other, I run for cover. So lets take one thing at a time. For one, it is said the temple was founded in 716 by Gyoki. This would make it one of the oldest temples in Kanagawa. This is not the place to get into it but Gyoki is a very significant figure in the history of Japanese Buddhism. I will just say that he may rightfully be considered one of the chief proselytizers of the religion, wandering throughout the country at a time when monks were mostly cloistered, ostracized by the elite, until he was recruited by Emperor Shomu to save the failing construction of Todai-ji.

For another, the main building (hondo) sports a large thatch roof that was rebuilt in 2016. An excellent site to read about the restoration (and many other topics) is Japan - Insights. A small quote from one of this site's excellent writers, Alice Gordenker, relates to another aspect of the temple.

"Although many temples in Japan preserve ancient Buddhist images, Hinata Yakushi houses an unusually high number of rare and important wooden statues of Buddhist deities, including six that are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties. Because the statues are so valuable, they have been moved for safekeeping into a fireproof building next to the main building, where they can be viewed for a small fee."

A final reason to visit Hinata Yakushi is the location. Mt. Oyama, considered one of the principle sacred mountains of Japan, is a traditional destination for worshipers of both Buddhism and Shinto. The natural environment is spectacular and at least as conducive to good health as prayer.

Nihon-ji Temple http://www.nihonji.jp/index.html

The Great Buddha of Nihon-ji (courtesy ANA's website)

Address: Nokogiriyama, Kyonan-machi, Awa-gun, Chiba, 299-1901 (600 yen admission)

A Yakushi temple that has several things in common with Hinata Yakushi: another of the oldest temples in the Kanto, another temple founded by Gyoki, and another opportunity to refresh mind and body in spectacular nature. According to the temple's website, Nihon-ji was founded by order of Emperor Shomu, 1300 years ago in 725. While Gyoki had no choice but to walk everywhere he went, several interesting methods for getting to Nihon-ji are available to you. Drivers can cross the combination bridge and tunnel called the Tokyo Aqua Line, which lets out relatively close by. The other is a ropeway from JR Uchibo station that brings you up the mountain.

As the photo indicates, the temple itself may be the least of the attraction here. Mt. Nokogiriyama, where the temple is located, has a fantastic view of Tokyo Bay and the mountain side is peppered  with devotional sculptures – such as the 1,553 rakan – culminating in the 31 meter, carved stone, seated Yakushi. The original dates from 1783, restored in 1969.

Finally, there is Jigoku Nozoki, "hell lookout", an overhang that affords a 360 degree view. The lookout is typical of Shugendo sites, such as the Three Shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan), where pilgrims hang over the edge held by the ankles, while they confess their sins out of fear of imminent death. Gyoki and his followers are usually referred to as ubasoku (layman) rather than bo (monk). The most famous ubasoku is En no Gyoya, considered the founder of Shugendo (mountain asceticism) and a contemporary of Gyoki.

Shinto shrines

Sukunahikona Shrine (courtesy Osaka Heritage Navigation)
Shinto has many kami and praying to any number of them may have some efficacy in curing disease but there is one that is immediately identifiable as a kami of medicine: Sukunahikona (or Sukunabikona) no kami. The small amount of information on this kami comes from the Kojiki, the Izumo and Harima fudoki, and Nihon Shoki. It is a curious and complex tale, so I will let Kokugakuin tell it.

The appearance of the smallest god in Japanese mythology, Sukunabikona, is filled with mysteries.

One day, a small god clothed in the feathers of a wren crossed the sea on the sheath of a metaplexis vine to where Okuninushi was. Okuninushi, wanting to learn the truth behind this mysterious deity, asked nearby gods. A toad told him that Kuebiko likely knew. Kuebiko is the ancient word for scarecrow. The knowledgeable Kuebiko said this small god was Sukunabikona, child of Kamumusuhi.

Kamumusuhi in heaven said that Sukunabikona was too small and fell through his fingers, and that now Sukunabikona should join Okuninushi as a brother in working to build the country. This was the beginning of their task to build the country.

The Kojiki does not describe the details of what they did to build the country. However, since the identity of Sukunabikona was revealed by toads and scarecrows in the fields, it can be assumed it had something to do with rice cultivation. This is pointed to by Harima no kuni no fudoki and Izumo no kuni no fudoki (works describing the geography and people of ancient Harima and Izumo, located in modern Hyogo and Shimane prefectures respectively), which both depict Okuninushi and Sukunabikona as carrying rice plants, together.

Also, in the Nihon shoki, these two gods are said to have established methods for healing people and farm animals. In other words, they spread knowledge of medicine. According to the remnants of Izu no kuni no fudoki (a work describing ancient Izu, located in the modern Izu region in Kanagawa Prefecture), Okuninushi and Sukunabikona pitied how quickly humans died and taught them how to use medicine and hot springs. The use of hot springs to improve health has been known in Japan since ancient times. The existence of these two gods attests to that. There are shrines to these two gods in hot spring areas around the country.

The tiny Sukunabikona who fell from heaven brought with him to Earth the advents of medicine and bountiful harvests. 

There are many shrines that worship Okuninushi. Many of them enshrine both kami. Two of the most famous are Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture and Omiwa Jinja in Nara Prefecture. This kami is also called Omononushi and Onamuchi, the explanation of which is too complicated to get into here. I will say only that Okuninushi is worshiped for other things such as wishes for a good marriage and childbirth but, despite the strong agricultural connections, Sukunabikona is thought of as a god of medicine. Interestingly, the Chinese ruler Shennong (Jap. Shinno) is said to have taught the people agriculture and the use of herbs to concoct medicines. He is worshiped as  a god of medicine and often conflated (in Japan) with Sukunabikona.

Even today, many drugs are made from concentrating the active ingredients of certain plants. China has a very long history of using plants as medicine and much of this knowledge was transferred to Japan by Buddhist monks who traveled to China in search of doctrines and teachers. Almost coincidentally, they brought back the knowledge of using plants for health benefits. Many Chinese monks who came to Japan did likewise. These plants were often infused in hot water and drank as a tea. They were also mashed into pastes and dried and processed into powders. Along with this knowledge of medicines, the worship of Shennong came to Japan.

But since Japan already had a kami of medicine – Sukunabikona – Shennong (or Shinno), was conflated with this kami, which only served to strengthen his reputation as a kami of medicine. Thus it was that in the Doshomachi area of Osaka, which became the center of import and sale of Chinese medicines by the 16th century, also became the home of some of Japans largest pharmaceutical companies. It was only natural then that in 1780, a shrine to Sukunabikona and Shennong was founded which is commonly referred to as Shino-san. Today, the shrine is reached by walking through a narrow alley between two tall modern buildings, one of which is the shrine office that also houses the Doshomachi Pharmaceutical and Historical Museum on the third floor.

Sukunahikona Jinja (Shinno-san) http://www.sinnosan.jp/index.html

Haiden of Sukunahikona Jinja (courtesy of the above website)

Address: 2-1-8 Doshomachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi 541-0045.
The Sukunahikona kami enshrined here was originally brought from Gojo Ten Jinja of Kyoto, and combined with the Chinese god Shennong. As I mentioned above, Osaka became the import-export capital of Japan, and this was likely due to its good access by ship, and its proximity to the capital of Kyoto. It also quite naturally became a hub of trade in Western medicine, or rangaku (Dutch medicine), as it was called at the time. The area gave birth to Takeda Pharmaceuticals in 1781. The company's main office is located a short distance away but it is now a multi-national company. Another company, which later became Tokyo Tanabe, was founded in Doshomachi in 1678 by a descendant of Tanabeya Matazaemon who was a trader in medicines appointed by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1604. For those familiar with Japanese history this may come as a surprise since we are taught that Japan was closed to trade with the outside world at this time except through the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki.

While you are in the area you may as well visit the Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Historical Museum but be warned that reservations are necessary. Another point of interest in medical history is the Tekijuku of the famous rangakusha, Ogata Koan. Founded in 1838 to teach medicine, it is considered the ancestor of Osaka University. Guided tours are offered on their website.

Gojo Tenjin Jinja 

Haiden of Gojo Tenjin Jinja in Ueno Park. Tokyo (from Wikipedia)

Address: 4-17 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo. Sukunhikona of Doshomachi is said to be divided from Jojoten Jinja in Kyoto, but as many times as I searched the internet for the shrine, is is the Goto Tenjin-sha in Tokyo's Ueno Park, which always shows up first. For that unreasonable reason, I have listed it first here. Onamuchi no mikoto is also enshrined here. According to shrine legend, the foundation date is 1486. Apparently the shrine was moved several times due to expansion of neighboring Kanei-ji Temple, during the Edo period. Unfortunately, its current location near the Ameya Yokocho entrance, is a little obscure. To confuse matters further, it seems that the kami of learning, Tenjin, was also enshrined here in 1641, hence the name.