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It's been shown in some Ukrainian videos [NSFW!] and also claimed on Twitter (quoting the latter) that:

Russian forces now have an official religious prayer to Saint Barbara (who is revered in Eastern Orthodoxy as a protector against sudden and violent death) to protect against "Devil's Drones."

St. Barbara with wings and a drone with a skull on it

Russian text in the image, with formatting of the original:

Молитва от бесовских дронов

Святая Варвара, великомученица и 
покровительница,
Призри на нас, скорбящих и страждущих,
От бесовских беспилотников, что сеют 
смерть и разрушение,
Укрепи нас в вере и надежде, дай нам 
силы и мужество, 
Чтобы не унывать и не отчаиваться в 
борьбе за правду и свободу. 
Заступница наша, моли Бога о нас, чтобы 
Он пощадил нас 
И избавил нас от злого навета врагов 
наших. 
Аминь.

the claimed translation is:

Prayer From Demonic Drones

HOLY BARBARA, GREAT MARTYR and PATRONESS,

LOOK AT US, WHO ARE MOURNING AND SUFFERING, FROM THE DEMONIC DRONES THAT SOW DEATH AND DESTRUCTION STRENGTHEN US IN FAITH AND HOPE, GIVE US STRENGTH AND COURAGE NOT TO BE DESEASED AND NOT TO DESPAIR IN FIGHT FOR TRUTH AND FREEDOM. OURINTERCESSOR, PRAY TO GOD FOR US, SO THAT HE WILL SPARE US AND DELIVERED US FROM THE EVIL SCALE OF ENEMIES

Amen

Is that a real prayer brochure given to Russian forces? And how "official" is it?

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  • I can't prove a negative, but every mention I see is dated Devember 2023. No later mentions suggest the book either does not exist, was not mass-printed or circulated.
    – svavil
    Feb 19 at 17:01
  • What does it say? I can only understand the last word on each page. On the left it is about drones. Has Russia coined that term from The West? On the right it is Amen from Latin, Greek, Hebrew. Feb 19 at 20:15
  • @WeatherVane: there's a translation of the text on the right in the Reddit link, but I'm not convinced it's 100% correct. Anyhow, as you noted, it does seem to say something about drones on the left. The translation from reddit does use the word "drone" to translate a word on the right side too, but more literally that's "without pilots" (i.e. UAV), IMHO. But that's a detail. The real Q is if this is a genuine Russian prayer item or a made-up one by Ukrainian propaganda. I guess it's also possible this was devised a [dark] satirical device, but some Westerners deffo took it literally. Feb 19 at 20:51
  • 1
    Not conclusive, but if that's supposed to be Saint Barbara holding the drone on the left, it's a very unusual image, because saints (as opposed to angels) are rarely depicted with wings - apparently John the Baptist is a notable exception to this rule. I suspect Poe's Law here: it's a creative fake which someone has found and taken too seriously. Finding some other versions of that drawing separate from the prayer might lead to some clues to its origin.
    – IMSoP
    Feb 21 at 8:36
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    @IMSoP interesting angle: a google image search for Saint Barabara shows none with wings, although several show her holding a peacock feather. This image also suggests sitting on a cloud – perhaps the author has confused saints with angels. Feb 21 at 10:56

1 Answer 1

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No way.

(Left this as a comment under the question, but on second thought, it deserves an answer)

IMSoP correctly pointed out in a comment, putting it in an answer here for greater visibility, that in Orthodox Iconography, saints don't have angelic wings, with St John being a special exception due to his angelic attributes. No Orthodox priest/artist (of which the Russian army has lots on the payroll, including iconographers), would ever depict St Barbara with wings.

Another thing that jumps out is the wording of "беспилотников, что(chto) сеют", "drones that sow", 4th line. In Russian it should be "беспилотников, которые(kotorye) сеют". They both mean the same thing, but the choice depends on the declension of the preceding noun "drones". This can be verified by comparing to the usage for a real item in the same grammatical category as drones, tractors. If you Google "тракторов, что сеют" vs "тракторов, которые сеют"(tractors, that sow). You'll see lots of usages of the latter and none of the former.

I think it's because the Ukranian "that", has different declension rules, so it would be які(yaki) either way. Since Russian and Ukranian syntax is similar and can usually be translated 1:1, but not always, the Ukranian PSYOP guy translating "безпілотників, які сіють" from some preliminary draft when making this fake, screwed up. It's a natural mistake for a Ukrainian native speaker to make, but extremely unlikely for a native Russian speaker.

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    If the claim is that this is a Ukrainian psyop, then I don't get the point about wings. Ukrainians are Orthodox as well and have the same religious tradition as the Russian Orthodox church. If this was made by a Ukrainian, they should be familiar with the way that Christian saints should be portrayed.
    – SIMEL
    Mar 5 at 6:47
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    @SIMEL episode refreshed my memory, but wouldn't have thought of it otherwise. A Ukrainian urban professional working in Psyops would be in the same boat. But a churchman 100÷ wouldn't. This booklet is pretty standard style, Orthodox churches always have a ton of them in their church store, but they are made by centralized church print shops, run by monks/nuns, or in the church itself, if it's a big one with facilities. Angels and saints are a common theme. There is absolutely no way a mistake like that could be made for a real booklet. Psyops seems like the only likely option.
    – Eugene
    Mar 5 at 9:51
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    @AgentSmith at what?
    – Eugene
    Mar 6 at 5:08
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    Re: your second part about "что" vs "которые" - sorry, but that's incorrect. Substituting latter with former isn't common, but it is used often enough in Russian literature to add some pathos to the text so that it wouldn't raise any eyebrows in this context. Try searching for "что сеют смерть", for instance (tractors rarely require additional pathos). On the other hand - afaik, orthodox prayers avoid using both of those, opting to use participles instead (so "беспилотников , сеющих смерть" would be more likely). Mar 6 at 8:10
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    @Laurel The wings aren't my main point, it's something that I completely missed myself, noticed that IMSoP had pointed out in a comment under the OP and added it in, since IMSoP hadn't posted an answer and comments are a lot less visible. My main point is the un-natural grammar. As to authoritative online sources, there aren't any. Orthodoxy is pretty Luddite, they mostly do books, not websites, and the theology of saintly wings is a really esoteric topic. I searched online and it's all like that blog post and the 2 others I posted. But they all agree and there are none that disagree.
    – Eugene
    Mar 6 at 19:12

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