The Sunday Sacrilege

Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Center, writing in the Washington Post:

The Russian Orthodox Church called on government authorities this month to condemn the Soviet communist regime. It’s odd that the church should think about this now: It’s been two decades since Mikhail Gorbachev initiated an avalanche of public disclosures about the horrors of the gulag and the masterminds of the bloody communist dictatorship — Lenin, Stalin, their accomplices and their followers.

That national journey into history was followed by the collapse of communism and then the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, evolved as a passionate anti-communist and banished the rule of fear and repression that had plagued the nation for seven decades. In the following years, the government and public organizations sought to restore the historical record.

But Russia’s next president, Vladimir Putin, distanced himself from his predecessor’s outlook. During his presidency, anti-communism was strongly played down. Some communist symbols, including Stalin’s national anthem, were brought back, and references to Stalin’s crimes all but disappeared from official discourse. Government rhetoric promoting Russia as a strong state and warning of a hostile Western world seeking to harm the country boosted admiration for Stalin, which never quite died out during the post-communist years, and a general nostalgia for Soviet times.

The church’s anti-communist initiative may serve the interests of the Russian leadership, which appears to look for ways to denounce communism while avoiding raising questions about today’s regime and its association with the communist past.

The interest in a denunciation of communism may have to do with appeals by former Soviet states for an international condemnation of the massacres and other crimes committed on their territories by the Soviet regime. Ukraine, for instance, seeks to hold Russia responsible for the mass famine of its peasants during Stalin’s collectivization. Russian officials may be enraged, but they’re not in a position to say the death toll estimate is false, not least since Russian peasants fell victim to the same villainy. So the trick for Russia would be to admit crimes but not to take the blame for them, lest Ukraine or other nations seek compensation.

The church, the state’s traditional ally, is an appropriate candidate for this mission. Because of its notorious collaboration with the Soviet regime, it has its own reason not to go too deep in denouncing communism. In several statements over the past couple of weeks, a church spokesman urged the government, in very general terms, to honor the memory of victims; to change the names of cities and streets associated with prominent communist figures of the past; to remove “statues of bloody leaders from central squares”; and more. This “de-communization lite” made no mention of Stalin or other perpetrators of the Great Terror, or of the monstrous state security forces that tortured and executed millions on the orders of the Communist Party.

The church’s call for de-communization helps the state further marginalize the public effort led by Memorial, the Russian human rights group that, since the late 1980s, has researched and published information on communist crimes. Unlike the Russian Orthodox Church, Memorial wouldn’t keep denunciations of communism within “reasonable limits.” Little wonder that the church’s anti-communist campaign conveys the impression that the church is the only organization concerned with confronting communist horrors.

Putin’s Kremlin consistently sought to sideline organizations that wouldn’t compromise their autonomy and that pursued agendas that did not conform with the official line. Lately, Memorial may have raised more concerns: As Memorial’s board chairman, Arseny Roginsky, told me, public support for his organization has increased. Backing anti-Stalin initiatives, he explains, may be seen as a mild form of opposition by people who regard overt political activity as risky and pointless. For example, construction of a national memorial to gulag victims is again the subject of public discussion. Gorbachev and other prominent public figures are taking an active role. And Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper that Gorbachev co-owns, has published a series this year devoted to the victims of and participants in the Great Terror.

Interest in the dark side of Soviet history is modest now compared with the nationwide yearning in the late 1980s for the truth about the Soviet regime’s crimes. But it may be enough to make the Kremlin want to preempt or control such interest. If its plan is indeed to enlist the church in a mild anti-communist campaign while marginalizing Memorial, the government has abundant power and resources to do so. Of course, even a limited condemnation of Soviet communism is better than nothing, but these political half-measures cannot supersede a national effort to come to terms with Russia’s history.

6 responses to “The Sunday Sacrilege

  1. The Russian orthodox “church” is not a church – it is a political tool which has always been tied in with the government, whether it be tsars, commissars or oligarch thugs.

    Ivan the Terrible had his own “church” where he would “pray” every morning for several hours before going out and killing and torturing people.

    They made a saint out of a murderous tsar Nicholas.

    And even today, they try to exert political power in other countries.

    They instruct their “faithful” in Ukraine to protest against — NATO!

    They dress up like silly wizards, and instead of joining in the celebrations of Christianity in Ukraine, the chief rooshan wizard gets his nose bent out of shape – just like a little kid in costume.

    Here’s an article about the celebration of 1,020 years of Christianity in Ukraine, which is being attended by representatives from around the world – except for “special” arrangements for the wizard from roosha, and, in typical fashion, lots of whining and belly-aching on the part of roosha:

    Excerpts demonstrating roosha-style “Christianity”:

    Russian Patriarch Alexiy II is attending after securing an agreement that the independent Kyiv-based church will stay away.

    In an indicator of tensions, Ukraine’s ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry and told the festivities were staged “with a lack of respect for the Russian Orthodox church and the feelings of millions of believers.”

  2. Tower Bolshevik

    Contrary to the anti-Russian bigotry what Elmer spews, the Russian Orthodox Church is a reactionary institute like any other church. The Russian clergy openly supported the Whites during the Civil War, hence so to their American, British, and other imperialist backers. The Russian clergy was the builder of faith for Russian White exiles, and served as a propaganda tool against the Soviet workers state. The Russian Revolution stripped the clergy of power, and violated “moral christian values”: legalization of abortion, decriminalization of homosexuality, giving women and minorities voices, etc. I wonder if Elmer’s grandfather was in the SS or SA, and later participated in Operation: Barbarossa.

    I can tell that Masha Lipman has truly no credibilty, and speaks only from her own frustrations of her darling “democratic” government. It always amuses me when such people condemn the Great Terror since 90% of those killed were Communists: Lenin’s old comrades, the original Red Army officers, anyone to do with the October Revolution under the orders of Stalin. The fact that she down plays the reactionary role of the Russian Orthodox Church, is irresponsible. It serves the very some people as the Vatican serves.

  3. It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true, and it ain’t anti-rooshan “bigotry” if it’s true.

    The wizard of Maskva, with the big pot on his head, says that noone can pray to God unless they bow down to the big wizard first.

    Sick, sick rooskies.

    And there’s “tower,” sick sovok that he is, re-writing history just like the sovoks did. Ignoring the fact that the rooshan oily orthodox church were a bunch of KGB agents.

    Rooshans claim, when it’s convenient, that Ukraine and roosha are all “one language, one culture.” But the sick puke rooskies in Ukraine screamed like stuck pigs during elections in Ukraine, because the names of the candidates were in Ukrainian – and the sick puke rooskies screamed that they couldn’t tell who the candidates were as a result.

    Ah, one more thing – for “tower,” there it is – the evil Vatican. Noone can pray to God unless they bow down to the little wizard of maskva first. That’s rooshan “Christianity” for you.

    What a bunch of sick pukes the rooskies are.

  4. La Russophobe


    You seem to be somewhat detached from reality. Your ability to comment on this blog is a privilege, not a right, and a sensible person would understand that and act with a sense of restraint. Your abusive, crazy-sounding comments about Elmer and Masha Lipman will not be published. Your credibility is seriously undermined by your arrogant, unhinged rhetoric and we are probably doing you favor by withholding publication.

    Think before you write.

  5. Tower Bolshevik

    Isn’t that a bit hypocritical of you? I’ve seen you continuously insult people for making simple criticisms. Using words like “moron”, “fool”, “idiot”. Hence I didn’t think it would be such a tragedy to reply to what I deemed as a bigoted and ignorant post. As for Masha Lipman, I merely said she has no credibility. I believe I gave my reasons why. I hardly think that’s abusive. You need not do me any favors:)

  6. La Russophobe


    If you would take the time to actually read the blog you are commenting on before writing, you would see that our comment policy very clearly states (access it through our sidebar) that you are free to make personal attacks on us and we will reply in kind. THOUSANDS of personal attacks on us have been published as comments on this blog.

    What you are not free to do is to launch personal attacks on other commenters. You attacked Elmer, calling him a “bigot” when he was not even talking to you, and then you escalated when he quite rightly responded. Hence you were censored.

    Do you really think that accusing us of hypocrisy (quite falsely) is a good way to assure that your viewed can continue to compete with ours on our blog?

    Do you really think anyone will take you seriously when you imply you are as significant as the great Masha Lipman?

    Think again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s