When You Hear That the Russians Have Captured Crimea
Rabbi Elijah of Vilna (also known as the Vilna Gaon) was a Jewish scholar in the 18th century well known for his writings about the coming of the Messiah and was the one who predicted the capture of Crimea by the Russians. Shortly before his death, the Vilna Gaon said,
“When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah have started, that his steps are being heard. And when you hear that the Russians have reached the city of Constantinople, you should put on your Shabbat clothes and don’t take them off, because it means that the Messiah is about to come any minute.”
Two things need to be explained here in order to understand what the Vilna Gaon probably meant, because it is important to understand the rabbi’s prediction in its entire context. First, the capture of Crimea by the Russians.
The recorded history of the Crimean Peninsula begins around the 5th century BC when the first Greek colonies were established. Then for almost two thousand years Crimean was part of the Roman Empire (47 BC – 330 AD) and part of the Byzantine Empire (330 AD – 1204 AD). In the medieval period, it was acquired partly by Kievan Rus (the cradle of modern-day Russia) followed by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries.
In 1783 Crimea became part of the Russian Empire and after 1917: part of the Soviet Russia. In 1954, Crimea was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR by the Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev, who then was the First Secretary of the Communist Party and leader of the Soviet Union. For his birthday, Nikita Khrushchev made Crimea his birthday gift. Of course, at that time the border between Russia and Ukraine was just a line on the map; it meant nothing since no Soviet leader had even thought that USSR could have possibly disintegrated one day.
Crimea was Ukrainian territory until 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, and remained a part of Ukraine from 1991 until March 2014, when Russia assumed again the peninsula after sixty years.
When the Vilna Gaon made his prediction about the coming of the Messiah, Crimea was part of the Ottoman Empire or today’s Turkey. Therefore, in 1783 and 2014, the first part of the Vilna Gaon’s Messianic prediction came true when Russia annexed Crimea.
But why did Russia’s President Putin take this drastic act of invasion in 2014 of what had been Ukraine’s territory for sixty years?
First and foremost, Putin feared the U.S. influence in Ukraine after the coup of the pro-western forces that took over the country and ousted the pro-Russian president of Ukraine. If Putin had not acted in such a decisive manner, there could have had a great threat for Russia to lose its only warm-water navy port in Crimea for its Black Sea fleet.
However, there is a second part of the prediction of the Vilna Gaon concerning Russia. According to his prediction — the Russians have reached the city of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul, Turkey) — Russia would also capture Istanbul, the largest city of today’s Turkey. We should recall that Constantinople was once the capital city of the Byzantine empire, the center of the Eastern Orthodoxy, and when Constantinople was conquered by the Turks, Russia saw itself as the “New Byzantine” and the only defender of the Orthodox faith.
The ambitions to reconquer Constantinople for the Orthodoxy were not chimera for the Russian tsars, which was partially fulfilled in the last Russo-Turkish war, when Russia defeated the Ottoman empire and the last Christian people that was under the Islamic rule, Bulgaria, was liberated. Russia did not go far enough to capture Istanbul, though.
But will there be a second chance for Russia? And is it so realistic to expect Russia to reach the city of Constantinople again and conquer it?
It is the present author opinion that this might have already come to realization by different means, namely, through Turkey’s military alliance (by convenience) with Russia in the Syrian civil war. This alliance is in odds of Turkey’s alliance with the United States and NATO, but this alliance is already eroding.
The things have gone so far that Russia and Turkey discussed the supply of Russian S-400 missiles to the Turkish air-defense system, all despite the tension after the downing of a Russian bomber over Syria by Turkey. Moreover, voices have been heard that Turkey may give an air-force base for the Russian air operations in Syria.
So, the Vilna Gaon’s Messianic prediction of reaching Constantinople might have come to realization not through a Russian invasion or war with Turkey, but through the military cooperation between the two countries: Russia has indeed reached Constantinople but by other means.
For further knowledge on the matter, the reader may do well to read what we have written in our commentary on the Messiah’s coming in Chapter The Signs of the Messiah of the present author’s book The Reckoning of Time and The Ordained Time for Messiah’s Return — Part 1 and 2 of Time of Reckoning Ministry
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.