What was the most important year ever? Andrew Marr suggests it was probably 1776, but Bruce Clark, The Economist's international editor, thinks otherwise ...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Summer 2009
On April 12th 1204, an army of Crusaders, supposedly bent on advancing Christian interests in the Holy Land, captured the greatest Christian city in the world and ran amok. Sanctuaries were defiled, works of art stolen and tens of thousands of people burned out of their homes.
It was this episode, rather than the formal split between Orthodox Christianity and Rome in 1054, which marked the real parting of ways between the Christian East (Russia included) and the Christian West. The bitterness left by the sacking so divided the Christian world that it became vulnerable to the advancing Ottomans: that in turn ensured that at least one Muslim world power (the Ottoman empire) would remain in existence even when Christian Europe was at the height of its global hegemony.
The unbridgeable intra-Christian schism also helped to give Russia a sense that it belonged to a different geopolitical block, and thus had a different historic destiny, from the Christian West’s. Even now, when the wealthy, well-armed nations of the West look east, they face a geopolitical landscape whose main features (including shifting and volatile relations between Islam and the Christian East) reflect the events of 1204, when Christianity split down the middle.
In the coming days, other Economist writers will cast their votes for the most important year ever (eg, 5BC), and then you can cast your own (see poll at right).
Picture credit: Alan Kitching
(Bruce Clark is The Economist's International section editor and religious affairs correspondent.)