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Architecture can help heal cultural and political divides

The modern architecture movement known as Brutalism has done a great deal to unite the world. In spite of its monumentality, some of its messages to history have been subtle.




Contemporary events have made cultural dialogue between the Christian world, secular world and wider Islamic world, undeniably crucial. Although there ought to be many points of cultural contact between such societies, one of the most immovable and consequently noticeable art forms that ought to be considered as a primary source of contact, is architecture.

In particular, it is necessary to examine the case of Brutalism. In this context it is also necessary to understand the importance of Brutalism in the Communist world and non-communist post-colonial world.

Prior to the 20th century, architecture was typically a localised, regional or national phenomenon. Prior to the consecration of modernism, architecture denoted a combination of structural necessities preconditioned by local climates as well as the normative cultural imperatives of a particular society. This obviously evolved over time, but nevertheless, one could see a photograph of even a fairly generic piece of architecture and a moderately well-travelled individual could name the culture from whence such an edifice derived.

The dawning of modernism changed this not only in architecture, but in other art forms. Western orchestral music in particular lost its national characteristics which defined it in the 19th century. It became part of a wider international movement that replaced traditional harmonies with dissonant tones, but also one that replaced instrumental cultural poetry with either formalist experiments in sonic virtuosity or didactic works designed to propagate new internationally minded philosophies ranging from Communism to Futurism.

As architecture became internationalised (not that the ‘International Style’ was a giveaway), it held, as it still holds, the potential to offer cross-cultural symbiosis in ways that older styles of architecture determined by specific needs to reflect a particular culture, could not do.

Whilst Brutalism traces its origins to Western Europe, in many ways, it is less understood and appreciated in the west than it is outside of the west, in this case west is used to denote most of Western Europe and North America.

Much of classical European architecture was inspired by the idolatry of Roman Catholicism. This is most certainly true of the Baroque, elements of the Rococo and by the neo-classicism that was co-opted by the Catholic Church, most poignantly in the Vatican.

By contrast, Brutalism is monumental in its scope, its narrative and in its iconoclasm. Whereas neo-classical architecture is a kind of jigsaw puzzle of various didactic and illustrative pieces, Brutalist architecture explores the unitary notion of infinity by creating buildings whose heterodox angles intersect to form a singular monolithic piece of geometry; a singular statement.

On the one hand, the asymmetry of many Brutalist buildings reflects an age old concept that the hand of man is engaged in an exercise of arrogance when attempting to duplicate the symmetry that only a deity is capable of configuring. At the same time, the messages of communitarianism, of the inorganic interacting with the natural whilst clearly delineating the hand of humans vis-à-vis that of the organic, sends a message that man’s work can praise the divine without attempting to portray a godly figure nor copy the imagery implied in liturgical verses.

It is for this reason that Brutalist architecture has flourished most profoundly in revolutionary Communist countries, Islamic countries and countries looking to assert a post-colonial identity.

One of the most impressive brutalist buildings in the world is Louis Kahn’s National Assembly building in Dhaka. Although plans for the building begun when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan, after independence was declared in 1971, the project became more radical in nature. The building became symbolic of the fact that not only was Bangladesh free of colonial rule from London, but also free of its regional overlord in Islamabad. Kahn’s bold statement was at once modern, unrelenting and mighty whilst it also subtly paid homage to ancient trends in Islamic architecture. Gone were the trappings of neo-colonial classicism, this was a modern building which shunned idolatry in the name of an emergent self-governing Islamic state in Asia.

Louis Khan: National Assembly Building, Dhaka

Turning back to Pakistan, the Habib Bank Plaza building in Karachi is another example of the spiritual monumentality of Brutalism. Once the tallest building in all of Asia, the building is a clear break from the past, totally rejecting the neo-classicism of the Bank of England building or American Federal Reserve. Interestingly, it was designed by American architect Leo A. Daly. Louis Khan likewise, worked for most of his career in the United States.

Leo Daly: Habib Bank Plaza, Karachi

Whilst Brutalism in the Islamic world is consistent with iconoclastic aesthetics demanded of believers by sacred texts, in the Communist world, Brutalism has come to represent a rejection of royalism, aristocracy and the old social order.

Brutalism, in rejecting unnecessary ornate accoutrements and replacing them with a style where form, shape, texture and purpose are united, symbolises the collective values of Marxist-Leninist communism. Brutalism’s optimistic view of a future is guided by reason and a Marxist understanding of materialism, rather than a blind adherence to the superstitions and opulence of the past. Soviet government buildings like the George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania designed Ministry of Highways in Tbilisi reflect this optimistic spirit.

George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania: Ministry of Highways Building, Tbilisi

In Leningrad, now St. Petersburg (again), the Russian State Scientific Centre for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics is unambiguous in its desire to portray the scientific achievements of Communism. In this sense, the cosmos plays an important social role in Brutalism whether in the context of religious interpretations of the heavens or in secular/atheistic interpretations.
Russian State Scientific Centre, St. Petersburg

But it wasn’t only functional buildings in the communist world that employed Brutalism. In The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito commissioned a series of monuments or Spomenik throughout the republics of Yugoslavia. The brutalist inspired sculptures were designed to symbolise both the triumph of Yugoslav partisans against fascist forces during the 1940s and commemorate the triumph of socialism over nationalism and the independence of Yugoslavia and her ‘third way’ interpretation of socialism.

The fact that many of the Spomenik stand in disrepair, is analogous to the destruction of Yugoslavia and the dream of socialist unity that it came to represent for the region.

Spomenik of the former Yugoslavia

One doesn’t need, however to turn to the Communist world to see Brutalist inspired architecture symbolising a break from the past. In Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings represented a modern Brazilian renaissance in a new city designed to break fully with a colonial past which has caused many an identity crisis throughout Latin America. Niemeyer’s works in Brasilia are best described as a syncretic style blending elements of Brutalism with those of Neo-Formalism. By choosing to build a new capital city, incorporating Niemeyer’s architectural designs, Brazil has successfully created a global image and indeed brand whereby, the buildings of Niemeyer have come to encapsulate the modern Brazilian identity that is unmistakable in both the region and the world.

Oscar Niemeyer's Brasilia

Brutalism and its offshoots remain an important line of communication between western modernism and the contemporary culture requirements of non-western societies. Brutalism is a style which helps communicate social solidarity, respectful iconoclastic reverence for the divine and the assertion of cultural autonomy from old masters.

If this message could be more widely understood and promulgated, perhaps fewer buildings would be destroyed by war and more could be erected in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect.

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Vladimir Putin calls new Ukrainian church ‘dangerous politicking’

President Putin said creation of the “Orthodox Church in Ukraine” is against Church canon and that the West drove Constantinople to do it.

Seraphim Hanisch



In an interview with the Serbian newspapers Politika and Vecernje Novosti ahead of his visit to Serbia, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted the creation of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”, a schismatic agglomeration headed by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists was “dangerous politicking.” He further noted that:

The establishment of the new religious entity in Ukraine is nothing but an attempt “to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons.”

“Yet, hardly anyone in the U.S. or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this,” Putin said.

“Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking,” he said.

President Putin had more things to say in the interview, and we present what he said in full here (emphasis ours), as reported on the website:

Question: The Serbian Orthodox Church has taken the side of the Russian Orthodox Church in the context of the ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine. At the same time, a number of countries are exerting pressure on Patriarch Bartholomew and seek to ensure recognition of Ukrainian ”schismatics“ by Local Orthodox Churches. How do you think the situation will evolve?

Vladimir Putin: I would like to remind your readers, who are greatly concerned about the information regarding the split in the Orthodox community but are probably not fully aware of the situation in Ukraine, what it is all about.

On December 15, 2018, the Ukrainian leaders, actively supported by the USA and the Constantinople Patriarchate, held a so-called “unifying synod”. This synod declared the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, with Patriarch Bartholomew signing the tomos (decree) granting it autocephaly on January 6, 2019. Thus, it was attempted to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons.

Yet, hardly anyone in the US or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this, as the new church entity is an entirely political, secular project. Its main aim is to divide the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, sowing seeds of ethnic as well as religious discord. No wonder Kiev has already declared ”obtaining complete independence from Moscow.”

Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking. Likewise, we do not speak about the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It is de-facto fully controlled by Istanbul. Whereas Ukraine’s largest canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has never requested autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew, is absolutely independent in its actions. Its connection with the Russian Orthodox Church is purely canonical – but even this causes undisguised irritation of the current Kiev regime.

Because of this, clergymen and laymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being persecuted and deprived of churches and monasteries, and attempts are made to deny the Church its legitimate name, which raises tensions and only leads to further discord in Ukrainian society.

Evidently, Ukraine’s leaders have to understand that any attempts to force the faithful into a different church are fraught with grave consequences. Yet, they are eager to put interconfessional concord in the country at stake in order to conduct the election campaign of the current Ukrainian President based on a search for enemies, and to retain power by all means.

All of this does not go unnoticed by Orthodox Christians.

Naturally, Russia does not intend to interfere in ecclesiastical processes, especially those happening on the territory of a neighboring sovereign state. However, we are aware of the danger posed by such experiments and blatant interference of the state in religious affairs.

The situation continues to degrade in Ukraine, and though the Orthodox faithful of the Autonomous but Moscow-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church are the hardest hit, worry over Ukrainian lawlessless-made-law has the Jewish community in that country nervous as well. This is perhaps to be expected as the Azov Brigade, a neo-Nazi aligned group that is hypernationalist, is a good representation of the character of the “hate Russia at all costs” Ukrainian nationalists. A parallel piece in Interfax made note of this in a piece dated January 17th 2019:

[A] bill passed by the Verkhovna Rada introducing a procedure by which parishes can join the new Ukrainian church makes it easier to seize places of worship, and supporters of autocephaly have already started doing this across the country, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said.

“They need this law to seize our churches. You can’t just come with a crowbar to someone else’s barn, but now the law allows you to do so. They aren’t creating something of their own, but are trying to steal what’s ours,” Ukrainian Orthodox Church spokesperson Vasyl Anisimov told Interfax on Thursday.

The religious entity set up in December with Constantinople’s involvement and called the Orthodox Church of Ukraine “in fact doesn’t yet exist in nature. It’s fake. It doesn’t have any parishes of its own or government registration,” he said.

However, “the supporters of autocephaly don’t have plans to create anything of their own at all, so they have chosen the path of takeover, and the authorities are helping them in that,” Anisimov said.

“Hence, the legislation passed by the Verkhovna Rada today is in fact absolute lawlessness,” he said.

“If you pass legislation affecting an industry, you should talk to industrialists, and if it’s legislation on the agricultural sector, talk to farmers. And here legislation on a church is passed, and moreover, this legislation is aimed against this church, it is protesting, and Jews are protesting, too, because this legislation may affect them as well – but nobody is listening, and they change the law for the sake of an absolutely absurd and unconstitutional gimmick. But, of course, it’s the people who will ultimately suffer,” Anisimov said.


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May survives ‘no confidence’ vote as UK moves towards March 29 deadline or Article 50 extension (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 168.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the ‘no confidence’ vote that UK Prime Minister May won with the a slim margin…meaning that though few MPs have confidence in her ‘Brexit withdrawal’ negotiating skills, they appear to have no problem allowing May to lead the country towards its Brexit deadline in March, which coincidently may be delayed and eventually scrapped altogether.

Meanwhile Tony Blair is cozying up to Brussels’ oligarchs, working his evil magic to derail the will of the British people, and keep the integrationist ambitions for the UK and Europe on track.

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Via RT

The UK government led by Theresa May, has survived to fight another day, after winning a no-confidence vote, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, following parliament rejecting the PM’s Brexit deal, earlier on Tuesday evening.

The no-confidence vote was defeated by 19 votes – the government winning by 325 to 306. It’s a rare positive note for May’s Tory cabinet after the humiliating Brexit defeat.

Speaking immediately after the vote, a victorious May said she was “pleased” that the House expressed its confidence in her government. May said she will “continue to work” to deliver on the result of the Brexit referendum and leave the EU.

May invited the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with her individually, beginning on Wednesday evening.

“I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver on Brexit,” she said.

Responding to the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the House had “emphatically” rejected May’s deal on Tuesday. The government, he said, must now remove “clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would result from that.”

Labour will now have to consider what move to make next. Their official Brexit policy, decided by members at conference in September, states that if a general election cannot be forced, then all options should be left on the table, including calling for a second referendum.

Liberal Democrats MP Ed Davey also called on May to rule out a no deal Brexit.

The way forward for Brexit is not yet clear and May’s options are now limited, given that the Brexit deal she was offering was voted down so dramatically on Tuesday.

Gavin Barrett, a professor at the UCD Sutherland School of Law in Dublin, told RT that May will now have to decide if her second preference is a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. Her preference will likely be a no-deal Brexit, Barrett said, adding that “since no other option commands a majority in the House” a no-deal exit is now “the default option.”

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Final Steps in Syria’s Successful Struggle for Peace and Sovereignty

The war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus.



Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:

The situation in Syria evolves daily and sees two situations very closely linked to each other, with the US withdrawal from Syria and the consequent expansionist ambitions of Erdogan in Syria and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) takeover in Idlib that frees the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian aviation to liberate the de-escalation zone.

Trump has promised to destroy Turkey economically if he attacks the Kurds, reinforcing his claim that Erdogan will not target the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) once the US withdraws from the area. One of the strongest accusations made against Trump’s withdrawal by his opponents is that no Middle Eastern force will ever trust the US again if they abandon the SDF to its fate, that is, to its annihilation at the hands of the Turkish army and its FSA proxies. This, however, is not possible; not so much because of Trump’s economic threats, but because of Damascus and Moscow being strongly opposed to any Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria.

This is a red line drawn by Putin and Assad, and the Turkish president likely understands the consequences of any wrong moves. It is no coincidence that he stated several times that he had no problems with the “Syrians or Syrian-Kurdish brothers”, and repeated that if the area under the SDF were to come under the control of Damascus, Turkey would have no need to intervene in Syria. Trump’s request that Ankara have a buffer zone of 20 kilometers separating the Kurdish and Turkish forces seems to complement the desire of Damascus and Moscow to avoid a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the SDF.

The only party that seems to be secretly encouraging a clash between the SDF and Turkish forces is Israel, criticizing Ankara and singing the praises of the SDF, in order to try and accentuate the tensions between the two sides, though naturally without success. Israel’s continued raids in Syria, though almost constantly failing due to Syrian air defense, and the divide-and-rule policy used against Turkey and the SDF, show that Tel Aviv is now weakened and mostly irrelevant in the Syrian conflict.

In Idlib, the situation seems to be becoming less complicated and difficult to decipher. Russia, Iran and Syria had asked Erdogan to take control of the province through its “moderate jihadists”, sit down at the negotiating table, and resolve the matter through a diplomatic solution. Exactly the opposite happened. The HTS (formerly al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria) has in recent weeks conquered practically the whole province of Idlib, with numerous forces linked to Turkey (Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki) dissolving and merging into HTS. This development puts even more pressure on Erdogan, who is likely to see his influence in Idlib fade away permanently. Moreover, this evolution represents a unique opportunity for Damascus and Moscow to start operations in Idlib with the genuine justification of combating terrorism. It is a repeat of what happened in other de-escalation areas. Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly requested the moderates be separated from the terrorists, so as to approach the situation with a diplomatic negotiation.

In the absence of an effective division of combatants, all are considered terrorists, with the military option replacing the diplomatic. This remains the only feasible option to free the area from terrorists who are not willing to give back territory to the legitimate government in Damascus and are keeping civilians hostages. The Idlib province seems to have experienced the same playbook applied in other de-escalation zones, this time with a clear contrast between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that shows how the struggle between the two countries is much deeper than it appears. The reasons behind the Khashoggi case and the diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were laid bare in the actions of the HTS in Idlib, which has taken control of all the areas previously held by Ankara’s proxies.

It remains to be seen whether Moscow and Damascus would like to encourage Erdogan to recover Idlib through its proxies, trying to encourage jihadists to fight each other as much as possible in order to lighten the task of the SAA, or whether they would prefer to press the advantage themselves and attack while the terrorist front is experiencing internal confusion.

In terms of occupied territory and accounts to be settled, two areas of great importance for the future of Syria remain unresolved, namely al-Tanf, occupied by US forces on the Syrian-Jordanian border, and the area in the north of Syria occupied by Turkish forces and their FSA proxies. It is too early to approach a solution militarily, it being easier for Damascus and Moscow to complete the work to free Syria from the remaining terrorists. Once this has been done, the presence of US or Turkish forces in Syria, whether directly or indirectly, would become all the more difficult to justify. Driving away the US and, above all, Turkey from Syrian territory will be the natural next step in the Syrian conflict.

This is an unequivocal sign that the war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus. Several countries — including Italy in the near future — will reopen their embassies in Syria to demonstrate that the war, even if not completely over, is effectively won by Damascus and her allies.

For this reason, several countries that were previously opposed to Damascus, like the United Arab Emirates, are understood to have some kind of contact with the government of Damascus. If they intend to become involved in the reconstruction process and any future investment, they will quite naturally need to re-establish diplomatic relations with Damascus. The Arab League is also looking to welcome Syria back into the fold.

Such are signs that Syria is returning to normality, without forgetting which and how many countries have conspired and acted directly against the Syrians for over seven years. An invitation to the Arab League or some embassy being reopened will not be enough to compensate for the damage done over years, but Assad does not preclude any option, and is in the meantime demonstrating to the Israelis, Saudis and the US Deep State that their war has failed and that even their most loyal allies are resuming diplomatic relations with Damascus, a double whammy against the neocons, Wahhabis and Zionists.

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