EDITORIAL: The Holy Russian Empire?

Tandem II:  Putin & Kirill

Tandem II: Putin & Kirill

EDITORIAL

The Holy Russian Empire?

On July 9th, Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin and Russian Patriarch Kirill (the Slavic pope) paid a state visit together to the island of Valaam and its ancient monestary, a famous place of religious pilgrimage for Orthodox Russians.  The two have more than just Russian nationalism and religion in common:  It’s widely believed that Kirill, like Putin, was a member of the KGB.  Russia’s constitution, just like America’s, calls for separation of church in state; as with every other aspect of the document, Putin simply ignores it with impunity.

Russia is quotation mark nation these days.  Putin’s title is prime minister, but not even Barack Obama could use it with a straight face, repeatedly referring to Putin by his former title “president” while in Moscow recently.  Despite the nomenclature, Putin has held all the real power in Russia for the past decade, making the recent “elections” (shamelessly rigged and not worthy of the name) that brought in Dmitri Medvedev as “president” nothing but a public relations exercise.

It hard to understate the role the Russian pontiff is gaining in the halls of government these days.  Back in Moscow the next day, Putin’s party of power, United Russia, hosted Kirill at a meeting to discuss pending legislation.  That’s right:  The Russian Orthodox Church is developing a veto over Russian lawmaking.

With Russian tanks rolling into Georgia last August, is it too early to speak of a “Holy Russian Empire” developing under Putin as dictator?  Only one argument says yes, a scenario even more horrifying to contemplate, namely a radicalized Islamic Russia.

The next time you wonder why Putin is always playing footsie with Mr. Ahmadinejad in Iran, even going so far as to help him develop nuclear capacity, consider this:  Back in 2007 Putin advisor Vladimir Dergachyov predicted that “differences in growth rates of Christian and Muslim groups in Russia along with the arrival of Muslim immigrants from abroad will boost the percentage of Muslims there from 10 percent now to 50 percent by 2050″ and “told the Russian Orthodox online journal Stoletiye that many Russian political figures still fail to appreciate that increasingly important reality and thus fail to support or even openly question the efforts Putin and the Russian foreign ministry have made to develop ties with Muslim countries.”

Perhaps the single most stunning fact about Putin’s Russia is that while it holds a seat on the lofty G-8 and U.N. Security Council, it doesn’t rank in the top 150 nations of the world for average adult lifespan.  Russian men typically don’t live to see their sixtieth year — Slavic Russian men, that is.  The Slavs are dying off fast due to a horrifying mortality rate and a low birthrate, and this has given Russia’s nascent Muslim population the chance to dramatically expand and take over.

So Putin is playing a double game.  On the one hand, he’s trying to build a place for Russia in the Muslim world, bolstering Iran by blocking UN sanctions and providing nuclear power, and sending weapons to Syria and piles of cash to Hezbollah and Hamas.  On the other, he’s bringing the Russian Orthodox Church directly into the halls of government and seeking to revive Slavic nationalism in a last-dash effort to stave off transformation.

So it was that Kirill was summoned by United Russia.  Kirill is furious about efforts by the European Union and the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member,  to introduce sex education into Russian schools, and Putin responded by giving the church unprecedented authority to vet proposed legislation of all types before it ever reaches the working stage in parliament.  The Orthodox Church opposes sex education in schools even though Russia has one of the world’s worst looming AIDS disasters, just one of many factors contributing to its ghastly mortality rate.

What’s driving all this is the growing power of Russia’s ethnic groups, among which the Muslims are the driving force.  It all starts in the war-torn Chechnya region, where years of unsuccessfully fighting Islamic rebels for control has led ultimately to the Kremlin adopting a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy giving the local strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, basically carte blanche authority in the region in exchange for reigning in terrrorism against the Slavic population in the north.  The fighting in Chechya has subsided from previous levels, but now all the other Caucasus regions are boiling with separatist activity, looking for their own slice of the pie.   Assassinations and attacks on Russian forces are rife, calling Russia’s ability to safely carry out the 2014 Olympic Games, which it proposes to hold in the region’s epicenter of Sochi, into serious question.

Back in February, a pair of rabbis were expelled from Russia for alleged visa violations, but in fact their “crime” was aggressively seeking to expand the Jewish faith, something for which neither the Orthodox Church nor the growing Muslim population have much patience.  Ben Lazar of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, fairly close to the Kremin and one of Russia’s most powerful Jewish leaders, remarked ominously:  “Jews have begun to fear for the future of their community in Russia for the first time in many years.  In the negative environment of the [financial] crisis, when material problems become exacerbated, some start looking for someone to blame and declare those who are unlike themselves to be guilty.” 

So in light of that, it comes as little suprise to read from noted Russian religions scholar Paul Goble that Russia is trying to weaponize the Jewish faith as a wedge to divide, and thereby reconquer, Ukraine.  Goble notes, for instance, that in April 2008 Russian sources released a story that “an Israeli historian named Yury Vilner had published a book entitled Andrii Yushchenko: The Person and the ‘Legend.’” Its research supposed “proves that during the Second World War, the father of the president of Ukraine may have been a camp policeman and Nazi informer.”  The only problem was that, as far as anyone can now tell, no such book was ever published and there wasn’t a shred of truth to the allegations.  The President of the Ukraine, by the way, one Victor Yuschnenko, is ardently pro-West and has aggressively sought to bring Ukraine into the NATO and EU folds.  During his election campaign, his face was severely disfigured in a dixoin poison attack that he only barely survived and which many analysts attribute to the Russian KGB. 

The financial crisis, which has left Russia with double-digit inflation and unemployment and a stock market that has lost three-quarters of its value, of course only serves to toss gasonline on the incendiary situation created by the demographic crisis.  In such an environment, it’s quite handy for Putin to have Kirill at his disposal. The Russian Pontiff has been willing to link human rights and democracy activists with immorality, associating them with gambling and homosexuality and repeatedly denouncing them as contrary to Russia’s interests.  This gives Putin cover as he attempts to crack down on civil society, having already seized control of the major TV networks and newspapers and abolishing the election of regional governors, who now serve at Putin’s pleasure.

The church has not been shy about playing the role of enforcer, leading many to see the it as just another Kremlin ministry of power.  It defrocked a priest who dared to question the show trial and conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky after the oil baron began making noises about seeking the presidency.  It demoted another priest when he questioned whether the patriarch had too much power.  And it excommunicated a third who participated in a government commission that exposed a large number of Soviet-era clerics as KGB infomers.

At the same time, there is increasing nationalism on display among the clergy. One St. Petersburg cleric even created a holy icon depicting the homicidal dictator Josef Stalin, whose image is being rehabilitated by the Putin government in a series of new history texts.  In fact, within the church there is a burgeoning movement to canonize the Soviet overlord.

So it seems Russia faces a Hobson’s choice where religion is concerned:  Either impose totalitarian Orthodoxy and fight a never ending war with Islamic insurrectionists, or become part of the Islamic world and battle Slavic nationalists.  With no ability to manage democratic pluralism, the notion of an American-style melting pot appears to be off the table. 

25 responses to “EDITORIAL: The Holy Russian Empire?

  1. Actually, when practiced correctly, Orthodoxy is a “collegiate” religion where the voice of the lay members and minor clergy has just as much say as the patriarchs.

    Unfortunately Russian “Orthodoxy” is just Roman Catholocism in drag.

  2. “Assassinations and attacks on Russian forces are rife, calling Russia’s ability to safely carry out the 2014 Olympic Games, which it proposes to hold in the region’s epicenter of Sochi, into serious question.”

    I knew you won’t forget about this mantra.

    Sochi is actually quite far from the conflict zone, Krasnodar Krai not even included for the “Caucasian Emirate” project (and even separated through Adygea and vast Stavropol Krai).

    As of the “the region’s epicenter” claim (whatever it means):

    It’s actually (much) closer to Georgia, but it’s an another conflict.

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    We consider Georgia to be part of the Caucasus issue over which Russia has lost control, and your point is somewhat insane. Are you suggesting it would be easier for terrorists from the Caucasus to attack the games if they were held in St. Petersburg or Omsk? That’s nonsense, of course. The games are being held in the terrorists back yard, it’s an insult to them and a target far too tempting to pass up. However, it would be insane to hold the games ANYWHERE in Russia, given the country’s lack of control over the terrorist forces. That’s to say nothing of rewarding Russia for aggression in Georgia.

    • And I meant the separation through Karachay-Cherkessia (where there is some insurgency, but it’s really very insignificant even if compared just to Kabardino-Balkaria or North Ossetia).

      In Krasnodar Krai, just practically nothing related (you had actually much more of this in Moscow, yet you’re not obsessed about how supposedly “suicidal” would be visiting Moscow because of the various bombings and shootings and a mass hostage taking once).

    • Well, in this case there are no “Assassinations and attacks on Russian forces [that] are rife” by the Georgians (and the reason is of course to not give them a pretext for a new invasion).

      Sochi is in periphery of North Caucasus, not “the epicentrum”, and outside any armed conflict zones.

      “[Separatist] terrorists from the Caucasus” are simply not interested “to attack the games” more then they were (not) interested in attacking the recent Moscow Eurovision contest or whatever international event really. It’s as unlikely scenario in Sochi as in Omsk (or Vladikavkaz).

      It’s however an interesting question who and why explodes bombs in Sochi. And this should be a real issue here. But it’s an issue unrelated to “attacks on police and government officials” in “nearby Dagestan and Ingushetia”.

      Btw,

      “That means the world’s amateur athletes could be in serious danger if they are sent to Sochi four years from now.”

      I think you meant “the world’s professional athletes”?

    • And I guess it must be as much or maybe even more “suicidal” to visit New York, as thousands of people from the States AND from around the world were killed there in terrorist attacks during this decade. And so what that any new are unlikely. Right?

      • Never mind that Sochi has no infrastructure and that people are being exploited in an effort to create one… Do you really want to compare New York to Sochi? The IOC awarded Sochi the Games for one reason and one reason only- $$$ They have zero concern or interest in basic human rights. Allowing Beijing to hold the Olympics was shameful and Sochi is worse. The IOC and Olympics have become a farce-
        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105162265
        Only someone who completely hates Russians would support Sochi and all of its blood money and corruption-

        • @Do you really want to compare New York to Sochi?

          No I don’t want, I’m just saying it’s not “a suicide”.

          And so for example the attack(s) on the Ingush president’s motorcade in Ingushetia means only it’s a job that is bad for health and also it’s dangerous to drive with the Ingush president in Ingushetia.

          “However, it would be insane to hold the games ANYWHERE in Russia, given the country’s lack of control over the terrorist forces.”

          Actually, “the terrorist forces” would VERY much love to blow up (say) the Kremlin or Lyubyanka, yet these structures are somehow still standing. So there must be some “control” after all.

          And it would be actually “insane” to blow up “the games” anywhere (not just in Russia). Nothing to gain, everything to lose (the entire world against you, or at least on national level).

          In the only Olympic attack ever, Palestinian radicals in Munich attacked only the Israeli team (the drunken American team actually helped them to enter the compound), and even this was supposed to be a hostage taking and not a massacre.

          Yes, I know about the kill-all attacks against the western/any tourists in Egypt, Bali, Bombay and so on. There is still no connection with “terrorists from the Caucasus” (no such incidents in the now 15-year conflict).

          • I understand your point Robert. My protest of Sochi has more to do with the overall practices of Putinocracy and the absolute farce that Sochi is anywhere near being an appropriate place (based on basic infrastructure and lack thereof) to host the Olympics more than the threat of terrorism to the actual Games. Sochi is simply providing more proof of all that is wrong with Russia in addition to the blatant corruption within the IOC. It’s shameful-

  3. Russian bike show in Sevastopol – blessed by Patriarch Kirill I (http://s59.radikal.ru/i166/0905/0a/c03da03c7d02.jpg) and flying a Russian flag presented by Premier Putin :

    http://en.rian.ru/photolents/20090713/155510112_2.html

    Some good photos here as well:

    http://holmogor.livejournal.com/3163494.html

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    Thanks, Eugene. This may well be the only comment of value you’ve ever left on this blog. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a pattern.

  4. A word warmly said gives comfort even to a cat. :-)

    Hopefully, this photo will turn you into an arden Russophile – http://meridian.in.ua/images/uploads/Statyi_07/bikers_topless.jpg

  5. Yes, Russians love to claim that they are ‘Orthodox Christians’ despite more abortions than births and devastating alcoholism and AIDS. Claiming to be Orthodox and hanging an Orthodox Cross on your rear view mirror or putting an icon on the dashboard is nothing more than another version of twisted Nationalism. (most Russians haven’t a clue what Christianity is, what it means and since Liturgy is still done in Slavonic in Russia, they have no clue what Orthodoxy is about.) It has nothing to do with religion or faith.
    And eventually, Russians will grow weary of the Church as their ‘what have you done for me lately’ attitude catches up and they begin to wonder why all their candle lighting and kissing of Icons has yielded nothing in terms of happiness, a stable economy or basic human rights (or world domination). This is the reason respected, dissident Russian Orthodox Priests are members of the Orthodox Church of America and not the oh-so corrupt and state run Russian version- They’re very aware that is a political tool and treated much like a magic eight ball or lucky rabbit’s foot by most superstitious not religious Russians.

  6. About the ‘Moscow Patriarchy’ organization: Created by Stalin in 1943, (upon the ruins and the rivers of blood of the many millions of clergy and laity of that religion, which he and his commie-cohorts sent to their tortures and deaths in his efforts at mobilizing the Russian masses), to repluse the Germans, and to better control Russian hearts, most of whom at that time, were not athiest-comminists. What he created, was a pretend-continuation, a facade, of the historic Russian Orthodox Church, which truly ended (as an organized religion, though not in the hearts of average believing Russians) with the poison-murder of the last valid Patriarch, Holy New Confessor, Tikhon (Belavin) in 1927….who cursed the communists, and told the truth about the horrendous evils they were committing. So from 1943, Stalin’s pseudo-‘Patriarch’ Sergius Staragorodsky, a true traitor, was a total slave-servant of the Kremlin gang (though he himself needed to not be a direct KGB ‘agent’…i.e. he did and said what he was told, to SAVE HIS OWN SKIN as did his other ‘bishops’….all handpicked by the Kremlin. Those who refused Kremlin orders…..were shot, as many New Martyrs did! Bit by bit, over these past long years since the commies took Russia, total KGB & athiest specially-religiously trained, KGB agents, took over virtually all episcopal posts of leadership in this pretend ‘Russian Church’. On the lower local levels of this monolithic monstrosity, there were and still are many true religious believers, BUT THEY ARE ENSLAVED! And so it continues today. It exists to fool foreigners (such as when Obama and Kyrill II recently had a cordial visit) and to keep Russians under control. There are tons of evidence that the current ‘Patriarch’ Kyrill II (Mikhail is his old KGB operative’s name), is a KGB super-agent, and that whatever he does or pronounces….on any subject, is 100% the Kremlin’s current script. Thus, he is making the Moscow Patriarchy, MORE THAN EVER BEFORE!…..an open and direct tool of the KGB-gangster rulers, Putin at the top. He is a co-worker with Putin, pure and simple. Together, we are supposed to believe, ‘Church and State are working in harmony, to build up Russia’. They both are ‘doing’ their religious-act, again, to fool the world, and especially also…..they are playing to the East European Orthodox populations, Slavs and others, and also to ethnic-Orthodox Christian populations world-wide , as Orthodox Christian Arabs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians, Serbians, Armenians, GEORGIANS, Copts, etc., etc…..and those ethnic groups’ ethnic-diasporas in the West, especially here in America and in Australia, etc. as ‘the defenders of Orthodox Christianity’ (what role the Czars tried to perform previously, against the Moslem Turks and against Catholic Rome, mainly). Putin himself claims this neo-Czar role, together with his henchman, Kyrill II. The only real difference between them , is that they wear different costumes and hats, and they go by different titles, that’s all.(POOR Kyrill II!…all those long tedious Orthodox prayers and elaborate ancient rituals, which he HAS to perform OFTEN as part of his Patriarch-Act, ….when he is a proven total athiest, who has admitted to not believing that God even exists!) So, the Kremlin’s USE of this pseudo-church, this Moscow Patriarchy, which the world outside simply knows by it’s assumed false title, ‘The Russian Orthodox Church’ is getting more and more bold, to openly be a total tool of Kremlin propaganda and espionage…..all aimed against America and the west, and in order to restore former soviet ‘glory’.
    They are especially interested in FURTHER infiltrating/co-opting the popular and very influencial world-‘ecumenical’ movement, to better spread their Kremlin agenda lies and their ‘missionary work’, inside of foreign countries (many of which have had few if any Orthodox believers resident in them!)
    Many intelligent and those truly religious Russians, do not trust or like this situation and some dare to open their mouths and protest….at their great peril!
    Also, quite a number have formed dissident seperate Orthodox Churches in Russia,….not connected with the Kremlin’s entity,and they refuse to enter MP churches. but of course they are currently persecuted….regardless of what is guaranteed in the, useless joke, called, ‘The Russian Federation Constitution”…which grants full religious liberties to all. (ha! ha!)
    So what we have in Russia today, is a KGB controlled and run pseudo-church….masquerading as THE NATIONAL RELIGION (as in the days of the Czars), but doing the will of secular and indeed criminal gangster authorities, ‘for the good of Mother Russia’. (???)….hardly!
    Sorry, but I will have to stop here, and go and vomit!
    Reader Daniel, a member of a Russian Orthodox dissident church, who knows these disgusting facts.

    • Georgians actually have their own Orthodox Church (the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church), since the 4th Century, and from what I understand the Russia’s official Church is not very popular there.

    • Hmmmm….and what would Putin do if Kyrill II had an actual spiritual awakening and conversion. That is why in the Catholic Church we DO pray for our enemies. Not for them to grow stronger, richer, powerful, etc… but so that the Holy Spirit may show them the truth and help them change. Remember Saul/Paul–and he turned out to be one of the heaviest hitters in the early Church. Never, ever, underestimate the power of prayer.

      • To Barb, Yes in the Orthodox Church, like you, we also pray for our enemies….which of course is what Christ taught. But of course, God does not always answer our prayers, as…. we may wish. When we pray for Godless leaders, as Putler and his KGB gang, that that may be converted from their evil paths, etc. we do know, regardless, who they serve, which is clearly the Devil. Already too, since the commies took over Russia, we have countless examples of those who repented, and even ended as martyrs for the Faith. Even today, we have the truthful testimonies of a number of converted ex-KGB, who bravely expose their former bosses’ vile methods and plans. How many of these vocal Russian dissidents, started out as blind loyal party-members…but whose consciences could no longer bear with the atrocities and lies. In the end, God will triumph, that we most sincerely believe. And though these KGB actor-‘clergy’ may fool millions, they never fool God, Who sees the heart.
        Reader Daniel

  7. To Robert: Yes, Georgians had, many centuries ago, their own native church, that is true. St. George and ‘St. Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostles’, are their main national saints. The Armenian and the Georgian churches were among THE earliest local/national Christian churches. But, in the long tortured history of Russia and that region,and the Ottoman Empire, etc. there was a long period (the dates escape me) when their church was made subservient to/an integral part of, the Russian Church, in a time when Georgians were Russified, and their nation was a vassal part of the Russian Empire. Later on, they did regain some autonomy, both for their national church and for their nation. So it is today.
    As to what current thoughts are, among various Georgians, sure……for good reasons, many would HAVE to hate Russia. Their current ‘Catholicos-Patriarch Elias’, however, is considered by some, as another soviet-era holdover, and an admitted soviet-co-operator (supposidely now, repented). So, he himself is not above suspicion. In America, having hugh numbers of various sorts of ‘Russians’ and thus lots of Russian parishes (& a rather small number of Georgians here), in my experience, Orthodox Georgians have routinely integrated themselves into those Russian parishes, where they have always been quite welcome. They all speak Russian too, afterall. Archpriest Fr. Jason Kappanadze, a Georgian, was our honored/greatly beloved parish priest (for over 50 years in Cleveland, Ohio in a very large Russian parish of St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, years ago. Even after he retired, when he would walk into his former church, all present would instantly….kneel down in respect, as he was considered a living saint. In America, Russians and Georgians have always blended well.
    What we have now, in present KGB-run Russia, is not the best of what Russian culture has previously produced!
    Reader Daniel

    • The Georgian church was crushed by Russia (in violation of the treaties of “peace and friendship”, what a surprise) during the period 1810-1812. The actaul date of the Russian abolition of Georgian autocephaly was June 18, 1811.

      During WW2 in 1943 the NKVD controlled church of Russia gave lip service to the status of the Georgian church but this in fact changed nothing.

      The Georgian church finally regained its independance/autocephaly in 1990 when it was recognised by the patriarch of Constantinople during the Georgian bid for independance from Russia.

      Patriarch-Catholicos Illya II has admitted to collaboration with Soviet authorities during Soviet rule, but since the collapse of communism he has worked extremely hard to depoliticise the church and encourage reconciliation and non violent solutions between the different ethnic groups in Georgia.

  8. It would be hard to find two organizations more damaging to the people they police than the (former) KGB and the Russian Orthodox Church…

  9. An added point: The Kremlin has for many years now, been infiltrating and using and pressuring many local ethnic Orthodox churches, around the world, to join under it’s banner, to see it as a supremely good enterprise, and to be ulitilized for it’s aims., even as fifth-columnists or as useful idiots. Through it’s MP’s long profitable membership in the World Council of Churches (of which, IT is THE largest church, by a per capita membership count),and via it’s machinations around the world, the Kremlin has sought to influence ALL world religions, Christian or Jewish or Moslem, or whatever! and their governments, etc. The Kremlin thus, also is reaching out to non-Slavic Armenians, Georgians, Copts/Ethiopians (these last two, not technically historically) ‘in-communion’ with other Orthodox. Putin and his stooge, ‘Patriarch Kyrill II’ are trying to appeal to/fool….Georgians, as ‘fellow Orthodox’ to bow to Moscow’s wishes…..and….’for their own good health!’ (or else!). Unfortunately, among the various groupings of Georgians in Georgia, we seem to see a lot of division and confusion, in the face of all these Russian overtures/threats. Some Georgians appear to welcome Putin and his minions! ….as much as they seem to dispise Sakaashveli . If Georgia CAN hold together, and united stand up to Putin?…is one question. And then, the other big question: In the rest of the world, WHO Cares about Georgia??? Truly, one of the Kremlin’s accusation against the west, is not far off the mark: “the west is morally bankrupt!”….and thus, weak……., very weak.
    I am 100% a supporter of Georgia! ….but are the west’s political leaders?
    Reader Daniel

  10. The Russian Orthodox church today in Russia is just – a big, miserable Halloween costume ball, with plenty of rituals.

    Himmler tried to create a similar type of “church” for the Reich, complete with symbols and rituals.

    The true Orthodox church welcomes anyone. Just like the Catholic and Protestant churches today welcome anyone.

    Without the government telling them what to do.

    Soooo, Putler has decided that Roosha needs to look like Iran – a theocracy.

    For religious purposes?

    No – for power.

    And just like in Iran, which has its own set of costumes, the rooshan mullahs find it convenient that they have some power in government.

    • > that they have some power in government.

      At any rate, their “power in government” is less than that of the Church of England – headed by the Queen/King in person.

      • As usual Eugene shows his ignorance.

        As both the head of the Church of England and Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II is a figurehead, and her power can only be invoked if the government acts in an uncostitutional manner, say refusing to hold elections.

        The Church is acually administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Synod, just as the government is administered by the upper and lower houses of Parliament lead by the PM.

        The Anglican Church has no power in government.

        However in Russia the Church is a tool of the Kremlin.

        Many of the Russian churches doctrines are heretical when viewed from a proper orthodox perspective, and I am pretty certain that ROCOR is bitterly regretting being once again ensnared by the horror that is Russia.

    • “And just like in Iran, which has its own set of costumes, the rooshan mullahs find it convenient that they have some power in government.”

      Btw Iran, listen to this:

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