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When the Fight to Gain Empire Causes you to Lose it: Justinian & President Putin

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

This past week I have been mulling over a recent blog post by Belarusian journalist named Yury Drakokhrust, "Putin, Justinian and the Revival of Empire," where he compares President Putin to Emperor Justinian.

For the last several months, much of the world has been inundated with news of the Ukrainian war. The names Zelensky and Putin are a part of our everyday conversation now. But if you think of it, the West has not seen full-scale, mechanized warfare" to acknowledge smaller European conflicts like the war in Bosnia. War is not part of our reality in the west. It seems foreign, like something from the past. It is particularly scary to a mind that is not used to watching unbridled ambition and meaningless conflict unfold.

But just as Drakokhrust says, this has happened before.

Enter Justinian, Emperor of the East

Emperor Justinian of the Eastern Roman Empire

In the 530s A.D Emperor Justinian set about to reconquer the lost territories of the Western Roman Empire, so too Putin is determined to reconquer Ukraine (and what else?) for the Russian Empire. It all seemed like a good idea at the time. But the various campaigns to retake lost territory in North Africa, Sicily and Italy took decades and involved heavy losses of life and resources for the East. Finally, in 554, the Romans had re-conquered their lost territory but they did not have the resources to hold it for long. And the territory that they had gained was so ravaged by a war that it was not fruitful for the next two hundred years. Looking back, one would ask if the campaign(s) were even worth the trouble.

Yury correctly points out that the brief "revival" of the Roman Empire turned out to be nothing more than its "last convulsion." Shortly after Justinian's death, his expanded empire collapsed and went into a long downward spiral from which it never recovered.

The Current President of Russia

I'm sure that by now you can see the comparisons between Justinian's ambitions and the ill-conceived propaganda-propelled ambitions of the current President of Russia. I suspect that the same will happen to Russia if their tyrant remains in power much longer. I further suspect that there will be lasting consequences to the Ukrainian people and their land after such destruction.

History will show us in the end.


We hope that you enjoyed our post comparing Emperor Justinian with President Putin.
Stay Tuned for the next post in our "Then & Now" Series.

Next Article: The Fascinating History of Kyiv

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