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In a small Internet brushfire, a Russian militiaman called Igor Mangushev has caused a controversy by appearing on stage with a skull—a skull that supposedly belongs to a dead Ukrainian soldier, a man who Mangushev believes currently “rots in Hell”. The general consensus is that the skull was purchased online or, more likely, borrowed from a friend—after all, Mangushev handles it with a black glove, as if it were some loaned antique. Surely Ukrainian skulls are not so rare and valuable today? Surely, if anything, there is an oversupply? Surely this is some antiquity he borrowed from a Goth friend?


Whatever the truth, it will be taken as an example of Russian barbarism—and perhaps Mangushev would be happy to have it taken that way. However, to contextualise the image, consider the above picture from LIFE magazine, circa 1944. The picture shows a war production line worker in Arizona who has received a genuine Japanese skull in the mail from her sweetheart, a naval officer. She looks a little bemused, but the photo is very staged—so who knows how she really took it. The article notes that the military frowns upon this practice.


In an earlier article, I noted that Jeffrey Dahmer ate the people whom he loved so as to possess them forever—and he especially preserved and painted their skulls to form a shrine. Further, primitive man would often eat the heart or liver of a fallen opponent. In line with a Cormac McCarthy novel, the truth is that the divide between life with a cinnamon bun and a frappuccino at an air conditioned Starbucks and the desire to build a high dais from the skulls of your enemy while you paint your face with their blood is rice paper thin—put your tongue to it and it melts. In war, man reverts to trophy hunting—mainly of body parts from fallen opponents, whose energy he absorbs. What appears abhorrent at first glance is man’s typical martial-spiritual state.

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