EDITORIAL: A Russian Selection


A Russian Selection

In decision science they speak of a “Hobson’s Choice” in which the decision maker is given only a take-it-or-leave-it alternative, much as was the case in “elections” in the USSR.  Then there is a “Morton’s Fork” scenario, which which two actual alternatives are presented but they lead to the same nasty result.  This is what Russian voters faced in 2000 when they had to choose between a card-carrying Communist aparachik and a proud KGB spy for president.  Neither model is adequate to encapsulate the horror of decisionmaking in Vladimir Putin’s neo-Soviet Russia.  A new term must be found.

The Moscow Times reports that upon the demise of KGB spy and Russian pope Alexei II (who collaborated with proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin from the onset of Putin’s time in government and helped to assist Putin on the way to becoming a Holy Russian Emperor) the Russian church is offering two candidates for succession.  Russia will either have Kirill, a maniacal funamentalist, or Kliment, a shameless Kremlin shill.  It’s the same as choosing between Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Dimitri Medvedev as Vladimir Putin’s so-called successor.

Call it a “Russian Selection.”

Here’s the choice:  Kliment, Metropolitan of Kaluga, is a shameless Kremlin sycophant while Kirill, Metropolitan of Smolensk, is a fire-breathing fundamentalist.  The MT reports:

During President Dmitry Medvedev’s inauguration in May, Metropolitan Kliment sat in the front row next to Alexy while Metropolitan Kirill was relegated to the back of the Kremlin’s Andreyevsky Hall, noted one religious scholar. Kliment’s front row seat at the event could indicate that he has the Kremlin’s blessing, the scholar said, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The fact that then-President Vladimir Putin appointed Kliment to the Public Chamber in 2005 could also mean that he is favored by the Kremlin, said Alexander Soldatov, a Russian Orthodox Church researcher who runs the web site Credo.ru. Kliment, 59, chairs the chamber’s commission on cultural and spiritual heritage and is head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s administration.

As for Kirill, the MT states:  “In April 2006, Kirill announced that the Western concept of human rights contradicts Orthodox teachings and unveiled a church-sponsored human-rights platform proclaiming the primacy of religious tradition over individual freedoms.”

Paul Goble reports that there are two other possibilities, Filaret of Belarus and Yuvenalii, who designates sainthood for the Holy Synod.  Should Filaret be chosen, it might be a sign of impending union between Belarus and Russia.

According to Goble, it is  Kirill who is the more prominent of the two leading candidates, serving as “the head of the powerful External Affairs Department of the Patriarchate and often the leading spokesman for the church both within Russia and abroad” and described as “the second man.” Goble notes that Kirill “has his own radio and television programs.” and ” he favors instructing Russian school children in Orthodoxy.”  But “he actively supported Sergei Ivanov against Dmitry Medvedev in the campaign to be named Putin’s successor” and he has been actively engaged “in the church’s involvement in business, an involvement that many believe has corrupted both him and the church and something that some fear could be used by the authorities to control him.”

Kliment, by contrast, apparently has close ties with Medvedev’s wife.  But Goble says:

He has three obvious drawbacks from the point of view of senior churchmen and possibly the political elite as well. First, he does not have a high public profile and thus cannot play the kind of role that Aleksii did and that Kirill presumably could either as a church diplomat or a support for the regime. Second, his positions on many religious questions are far more liberal than those of Kirill. For example, he has said that he favors teaching Islam in schools in regions of the Russian Federation where there are significant numbers of Muslims among the pupils rather than requiring them to study Orthodoxy. And third, being both younger and more or an unknown quantity, Kliment would likely be patriarch far longer and might take the Church in new an unexpected directions, something many in the laity might prefer but that many in the deeply conservative hierarchy almost certainly fear.

It’s a classic Russian Selection.  No matter who ends up ruling the church, Russia will be the loser — just as is the case in the country’s presidential “elections” when a proud KGB spy faces off against a proud Communist apparachik.

3 responses to “EDITORIAL: A Russian Selection

  1. Harvard’s Samuel Huntington had a theory, which oversimplified, stated that as long as Eastern European countries remained orthodox, they would never be democratic.

    And here it is – self-proclaimed primacy of the wizards and warlocks of the oily mother rooskie orthodox church over everything, under the guise of “God – the rooskie god – told them so.”

    It’s also what comples the rooskie orthodox bearded partriarch wizards to be proud KGB members.

    Separation of church and state? The heck with that in the muddled mess that is roosha.

    (Side note to Barb: I told you so, in the comment to Lev Rubinshstein’s article not too long ago.)


  2. Here’s a bit more on the wizards and warlocks of the rooskie orthodox “church” – as the article says, 2 sides of the same coin with the state.

    And the state happens to be oppressive and repressive. So is the “church.”


  3. Actually, I wouldn’t dismiss elections of Alexy II successor as predetermined failure. The God works in mysterious ways and even ex-KGB agents and proud Soviet apparatchiks can become agents of change for good. Gorbachev is an example of Soviet apparatchik, who nevertheless was among key players ending communism and Cold War I. Reagan alone could not have accomplished the goals of defeating communism pretty much bloodlessly without Gorbachev cooperation. So who knows, maybe Kirill or Kliment will be the ones who will take more critical look at the current state of the Russian Orthodox Church as mere extension of the state and start trying to move church away from overdependency on Kremlin. Alexy II toward the end of his life offered mild criticism over the Russian war with Georgian republic. Who knows, maybe his successors will take criticism of Russian power a bit further.

    Of course, it could be wishful thinking, but you never know until you see it.

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