Friday, July 11, 2008

“Throne and altar” comeback in Russia

Wed, Jul 9, 2008

One has to wonder whether there’s something in the Russian ‘blood’ that yearns for authoritarian rule. From the Tsar to the Communists to Putin. Here a Putin version of an old Soviet joke

Stalin appears to Putin in a dream, says: “Valdimir Vladimirovich, I have two pieces of advice for you. One: Kill all your enemies, without fear or favor. Two: Paint the Kremlin blue.”

Putin: “Why blue?”
The Russian Orthodox Church, pals of the Tsars, got left out in the cold by the Communists. Putin has invited it back in, and the embrace between state and church is firm. From Time
Indeed, rather than first give thanks to God in his speech, the head of the ROC, Patriarch Alexy, paid homage to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Patriarch emphasized that the reunification could happen only because the ROCOR saw in Putin “a genuine Russian Orthodox human being.” Putin responded in his speech that the reunification was a major event for the entire nation.

Nationalism, based on the Orthodox faith, has been emerging as the Putin regime’s major ideological resource. Thursday’s rite sealed the four-year long effort by Putin, beginning in September 2003, to have the Moscow Patriarchate take over its rival American-based cousin and launch a new globalized Church as his state’s main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument. In February press conference, Putin equated Russia’s “traditional confessions” to its nuclear shield, both, he said, being “components that strengthen Russian statehood and create necessary preconditions for internal and external security of the country.” Professor Sergei Filatov, a top authority on Russian religious affairs notes that “traditional confessions” is the state’s shorthand for the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Church’s assertiveness and presence is growing — with little separation from the State. The Moscow City Court and the Prosecutor General’s Office maintain Orthodox chapels on their premises. Only the Orthodox clergy are entitled to give ecclesiastic guidance to the military. Some provinces have included Russian Orthodox Culture classes in school curricula with students doing church chores. When Orthodox fundamentalists vandalized an art exhibition at the Moscow Andrei Sakharov Center as “an insult to the main religion of our country,” the Moscow Court found the Center managers guilty of insulting the faith, and fined them $3,500 each. The ROC had an opera, based on a famous fairy tale by the poet Alexander Pushkin, censored to the point of cutting out the priest, who is the tale’s main protagonist. “Of course, we have a separation of State and Church,” Putin said during a visit to a Russian Orthodox monastery in January 2004. “But in the people’s soul they’re together.” The resurgence of a Church in open disdain of the secular Constitution is only likely to exacerbate divisions in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Russia.

From the Telegraph (Feb 08)

The president, a proud adherent, has allowed the Orthodox Church to regain much of its Tsarist-era lustre and has won the enthusiastic support of religious leaders in return.

With his hand-picked successor almost guaranteed victory in the March 2 poll, Mr Putin is determined to maintain the arrangement by holding on to the reins of power as prime minister.
The relationship might seem odd. It was the KGB, after all, that led persecution of the Church in Soviet times, when priests were regularly jailed, tortured and executed. Neither this nor accusations that Mr Putin is restoring many of the attributes of Soviet rule seem to bother Alexei.

Although he has never confirmed it, the patriarch, like the president, is a former KGB agent codenamed Drozdov, according to Soviet archives opened to experts in the 1990s.

Many in the Orthodox hierarchy are also accused of working as KGB informers, a fact that critics say the Church has never fully acknowledged.

“Essentially, the Orthodox Church is one of the only Soviet institutions that has never been reformed,” said one priest, who declined to be identified for fear that he could be defrocked. That fate already befell another colleague, Gleb Yakunin, in the 1990s when he called on Church leaders with KGB links to repent.

Yet it is not just the KGB that binds the Church and the Kremlin. In the Tsarist era, the Church was a committed supporter of the imperial rallying cry “orthodoxy, autocracy and nationhood.”
Critics say that Mr Putin, who draws as much of inspiration from imperial Russia as he does from the Soviet Union, has adopted the same mantra - making the president and the Church ideal bedfellows.

Both have blossomed from the relationship. The number of Russians who identify themselves as Orthodox has doubled in the past decade, with two-thirds of the 140 million population proclaiming the faith - quite a feat after seven decades of official atheism.

Yet most Russians say they follow Orthodoxy for national rather than moral reasons. Deeply patriotic and with a declared intention of making Russia great again, the Church has milked the sentiment.

Priests are regularly seen on television sprinkling holy water on bombers and even nuclear missiles, a blessing that reinforces Mr Putin’s own militaristic philosophy.

The Church has even supported Mr Putin’s repression of democracy, with a senior bishop last year comparing human rights activists to traitors.

When a prison chaplain suggested that the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a personal enemy of the president, was a political prisoner, he was promptly defrocked.



Fr. Gregory Jensen said...

First, thank you for your blog. I have found a great deal of food for thought in things you have posted here A similar question about the attraction to authoritarianism of at least some Orthodox Christians has been raised on my own blog as well. I confess w/o shame, I find this tendency worrisome. More than that, I find that-at least potentially--the willingness of some to cozy up to bully boys and the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and weak may very well undermine the confidence of many in the Church. To be direct, this kind of behavior is what encourages Orthodox Christians to become uniates.

Again, thanks for the post--I'll cross post in on my own blog if I may.

Sophocles said...

Father bless,

Thank you so much for visiting here, Father and thank you for your kind words regarding this blog I keep.

Forgive me for my late response to your comment. I had surgery on Sunday and recovery has been very painful(and time consuming--task I could breexe through take me a lot longer now and of course, many things I normally do have fallen by the way side in preference to letting my body heal.

And it is an honor to have this post linked up on your blog and feel free anytime you run across anything of value here to use at your leisure however you see fit.

This blog is maintained for several reasons. First and foremost because I enjoy doing so. Second, I want to create a sizable reference source of the lives of the Saints and the Holy Feasts of our Church which I am accomplishing one day at a time, one profile and icon at a time. This also goes goes for the news. By posting this news I hope to create, store and have readily available an archive of news information which can be accesses by visiting this blog's sidebar and clicking, for example, on "Orthodox News-Russia", which as I write, has 353 pieces of news items. I also attempt, for the reader's satisfaction, to "follow" stories. If I post a story and know that I have already posted on the same story, after providing the "SOURCE" link I also provide a link: "READ THE PREVIOUS POST RELATED TO THIS STORY:" and some stories have many tracebacks in this fashion.

A quick note on the stories themselves that are posted. VERY rarely do I provide commentary anymore mostly because of the sheer volume of stories I post. I don't have the time.

As well, let the reader know I often don't even like the stories I post for whatever reason; whether it be the opinion of the story's author I disagree with, the story's blatant errors, the story only providing a gloss of the history which needs much more development but does not get it and many other reasons I don't like an article.

I post them any way. One reason is to provide the reader with a better understanding of the culture from which within the Orthodox Faith is now held came from.

I always cite "SOURCE:" at the bottom(unless I forget) to let the reader know I did not write the story. This allows the reader to track the story to its source and author to dispute or comment on the story.

And a quick comment on your take on this post '“Throne and altar” comeback in Russia'.

There is a certain worldview inherent in the Orthodox Catholic Faith which does not always make sense to us who have been raised in a democratic society which by its pluralistic nature levels all "truths" down to a field where none is higher, better, or more true than any other truth and when one makes the claims of the Orthodox Church their own, by this very association, this person is stepping out of the millieu of our democratic system into something completely other, because the Church has a very definate self understanding or consciousness which She knows sets her apart from other "truths" because She derives Her being from the Truth Himself. The world will never understand this and Holy Scripture tells us as much.

Without getting much deeper along this line of reasoning's emanation, I think we should be a little more fair to Russia. I believe what we are witnessing in Russia is a nation behaving as an Orthodox Nation. Please allow me to clarify a bit, though, because obviously, not all is well there.

She grasps to her ancient past, from the very soil she sprang from, to once again discover who she is. As she does this,(I am giving the nation a personality for the sake of illustration), she knows that Protestantism should not exist, that it is a vibration from the Faith she received in her baptism.

But the form of governmnent in the world which is seemingly acsending, the pluralistic democracies in which no truth can be better than any other, view a nation like Russia, just as a people who all believe that there are many or no paths to the Divine(pick your own flavor) tend to look askance at an individual who believes in something so narrow as:
"there is only one Way to the Divine".

Russia goe back to the time befor schism in her understandings and formulations of confronting this modern world. Her concept of what "person" is, what a society constituted by such "persons" is and how it ought to be as it, the society strives to emulate The Eastern Romans("Byzantines") in their striving to make their society mirror the Holy Trinity in its sublime an ineffable be-ing. "Imitate me as I imitate Christ".

Of course, the Eastern Romans fell far short of this as did Russia pre Revolutioin and she will stumble post Revolution as well.

We people of the New World, simply cannot fathom in all its ramifications a society that looks to the Faith as does Russia. I t makes us all very uncomfortable.

As for the Unitates, that's a big topic in itself. I happen to believe the creation of this religious movement was purposeful and malevolent. But perhaps Russia's actions on the world stage may influence some to enter this fold.

Sorry for the length of this response and I hope it made some sense.