Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Russian Church in a post-Soviet world

(The Economist) - Contrary to some impressions, Russian Orthodoxy is not, or not yet, a political monolith. Nor is it an army marching in perfect obedience to President Vladimir Putin. In some ways, its ranks include more openly expressed diversity than the country's legislature or academic establishment. For example, a leading hierarch has given an all-too-rare reminder of Stalin's "monstrous" crimes, though the church (like Russian society in general) includes plenty of people who are nostalgic for the tyrant. But in the view of one of the faith's most articulate public voices, Sergei Chapnin, things are moving in an ominously monolithic direction. This is how he put it in an interview with the magazine Slon:

The parishioners of the Russian Orthodox church are people of different political views, members of different parties and social movements. They are united in Christ, but to say that they should therefore have a single [political] ideology...that is not part of church tradition. In my opinion, even attempting to create such a [single] ideology is extremely dangerous.

Mr Chapnin knows those dangers. Last week, he was fired from a senior job in the publishing arm of the church, which involved editing the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate. The immediate cause of his dismissal was a report he wrote for the Carnegie Moscow Centre, a think-tank, which warned of the increasing influence within the church of militaristic movements which glorified the use of force. As Mr Chapnin explained to Slon, he felt obliged to speak out in part because another prominent figure in the Patriarchate had portrayed Russia's intervention in Syria as a "holy war"; the journalist feared that "we are only half a step away" from describing the conflict in Ukraine in similar terms.

Mr Chapnin, who was born in 1968 and joined the church in 1989, gives a longer-term view of the trends at work in the Russian church in an article for First Things, an American journal. In the time-honoured manner of Russian intellectuals, he offers a dazzingly pessimistic analysis. As he recalls, for the first decade or so after the fall of Soviet Union, a reviving church was struggling honestly to become a counter-cultural force. It was part of an effort to overcome the conformist, herd mentality of the communist era and "de-Sovietise" society. It was trying to draw on the rich spiritual resources of Tsarist Russia, whose final years had seen a powerful renaissance of religious thought. At that time, he writes, "most people were attracted by what the church had preserved: a culture that was Russian and traditional, but non-Soviet."

If this effort had been successful, he suggests, the church could have become a powerful factor in exorcising the Soviet ghost. But almost the opposite happened. Instead of the church de-Sovietising society, the church itself became re-Sovietised, and it began to focus its energies on cultivating relations with an increasingly imperialistic state. He writes: "After 2000, the Russian state abandoned the democratic model for an imperial one. It did so out of a desire to play a larger role in international politics and to overcome, in the eyes of Russians, the humiliation it had suffered with the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the state became more imperial, so did the church."

Is there any reason to qualify his pessimism? In Tsarist times, the church was both authoritarian and diverse. As pastor to a Christian emperor and his army, it was "imperial" in a much more literal sense than the current church is. But the pre-revolutionary church also encompassed many shades of cultural and political opinion, from ultra-traditionalist to progressive. Its ranks ranged from sophisticated urban intellectuals to ascetic monks living in remote places to people who straddled both those worlds. Most of that variety was crushed under the Soviet steamroller, or else exported to Russia's quarrelsome diaspora. The very existence of maverick voices like that of Mr Chapnin is a reminder that today's diversity has not yet been crushed. But if he is right, the steamroller is moving.


  1. The problem with this viewpoint is that behind it lies a conception of Church, state, and society that is distinctively "protestant" and of the liberal secularized west. In a word, it is a "reformed" view.

    The thing is, Russia (and much of the Slavonic Church - and Greece, etc.) are not "reformed" countries - they never suffered (and our modern society reveals just what a "suffering" it is) a protestant "reformation". The Communist revolution was many things, but is was not a classical "reformation" of Church, state, and society in the protestant pattern.

    Thus, the author of this piece is simply projecting his reformed prejudices when he uses terms such as "imperialistic state" and accuses the Russian Church of becoming "re-Sovietised". What he really means is that Russia is not become a nice, liberal democracy and the Russian Church is not taking it's place as a small and insignificant partner in to the modern state and it's project of "progress".

    Unless one is already committed ideologically to a modernist "reformed" vision of Church, state, society, and "the future", the article is really nothing more than a bunch of (culturally and historically ignorant) whining and complaining that other people actually have a different way of living. The irony of his complaint of a lack of "diversity" is a shiny cherry on top of this intellectual manure pile...

  2. The Economist is the typical Western liberal journal devoted to wasting ink to define opponents it doesn't understand with whatever disinformation it can contrive to label and assault them. The Economist has declared war on the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Since I am Russian Orthodox and understand pretty well the difference between Imperial, Soviet and "democratic" models of the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in society, I should like to share a few observations.

    With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian church was tasked with addressing stagnation, persecution and compromise in its historical presence during the Soviet era. It did so by reassessing what the Church's role was during the Imperial period especially, but also by examining what a disestablished, but de facto, state church could look like in a nation pursuing a Western course in the twenty-first century.

    The Truth became apparent in two ways:
    1). The Church during the Imperial era was functionally just as enslaved but had its identity and rituals interwoven into notions of civic duty.
    2). The Western world had regressed to the point to where its ideal understanding of the Church in society has come to coincide with that of Leninists of yore, ie that the Church and its influence must be done away with - it must be deprived of any influence on the culture and society - and by all means possible relegated to the fringes so that its last aspects can be become topics of museum exhibits. Such Western views buttress themselves by advancing the "progressive" elements in the Church to "modernize," "revise," "renovate" the Church, that its influence progessively nominalizes, Faith becomes intentionally, socially disengaged and banal until it is relativized to the point of "revealing its absurdity" and rejected in an atheist future.

    So at this juncture both considerations have been weighed where the inertia is moving toward reestablishment of the state church as a civic institution acting in symphonia intentionally using a Soviet model to unite disparate ethnicities to advance a united view of morality, Truth, religion, spirituality within a reassembling multiethnic state.

    The peoples' inertia is significantly resting on the restoration of a Soviet peoples' empire, if you will. So there are elements which are leftovers of both imperial nostalgia, which is only valued for the sake of historical linkage, AS WELL AS the would be liberal modernizers of a Yeltsin era seen by today's Russia as a type of Weimar betrayal of the nation, yet whose value tests in creating a language and mechanism of linkage reconciling Imperial, Soviet, Yeltsin "democratic" Russian Orthodoxy into a Neo Soviet Red Symphonia for a reemerging superpower.

    Russian Orthodox do not want Renovationism. They want modern tools and modes of expression for historical linkage to make a state church an effective civic, cultural and religious organism. The Church today has a rallying power it hasn't had for centuries. Its challenge is implementing a model of symphonia for a nation wanting it to emerge as an organ of national unity, strength, definition, reconciliation, spiritual rebirth and social justice. Only a NeoSoviet model can make this happen.

  3. With that stated, in the banderofascist Ukraine, open persecution has been brought upon the Church as a means of ethnic cleansing. Churches are seized by schismatics and renovations with slogans of derussification and ukrainization, brutally, oppressively. If they cannot be seized, the courts and state are actively engaging to invalidate deeds, close churches and/or turn blind eyes to violence, corruption, coercion, vandalism, illegal taxation and "protection rackets." Just today in the Rovno oblast a parish loyal to the canonical Church is undergoing a siege where far right Banderofascist paramilitaries are surrounding the building to seize it for a schismatic group or destroy it. They have hospitalized several parishoners by beating them within an inch of their lives. They have threatened the Priest and his family. They have tried to set ablaze the temple with the parishoners in it. The authorities have told the NeoNAZI banderists that it is bad press to burn the people to death so they must not but they, the lawful authorities, will acting with organs of Ukrainian ethnic hygiene "to facillitate a peaceful transfer" of ownership of the parish by forcing the parishoners to obtain hostage replacements if they wish to maintain control of the parish. The banderofascist government is seeking ways to seize historical churches and institutions from the canonical Church either by contesting deeds or rewriting the tax code or by simple eviction. Both the Pochaev and Kiev Caves Lavras are in the crosshairs. The state has begun to pressure the Church into ecumenist compromises and Renovationist modernization with yesterday being used to state that a Ukrainian state must have institutions which celebrate holidays with the West and on the Gregorian calendar. Such is the state of banderofascist, Uniate persecution of the canonical Church founded by St. Vladimir in 988 AD in the city of Kiev.

    Western outlets and "willing accomplices" in Russia have in turn began a campaign to turn a blind eye to what the fascist, colonial regime is doing in the Ukraine by spreading articles like this which are fiction, written by people out of the loop and hopelessly lost in understanding what is going on. Disinformation disseminated to spark strife, enmity and infighting in Russian Orthodox circles as well as delegitimizing the image of Russian Orthodoxy in the West.

    The second prong in the attack has been broadcasting agitprop to sensationalize such things as patriarchal yachts and posh, episcopal residences to invite class war between believers and the hierarchy of the Church. Information is often from murky sources, does not report popular work toward social justice and ignores hierarchs and other clerics who do not surround themselves with opulence but rather share the hardships of the people.

    The sources presenting this information notoriously never report the excesses of Western supported religious groups within Russia and the successor states, and they never curiously look into the luxury excesses of the pope or the Dalai Lama.

    But the intent here is to act as a cover for colonial backed banderofascist, Uniate persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Russian Orthodox church. Propaganda like this article hpping to steer public opinion to animus with the hopes of creating a civil war in Russian Orthodoxy.

    This hit piece is a classic Western intelligence agency attempt at diversion, deflection, agitprop and destabilization. Any time "democratic elements" or "emigre voices" are cited as authorities to showcase the failures of Russian Orthodoxy beware. Such authorities are disconnected from the reality on the ground and often simply superimposing their ideological templates to intentionally disparage what they personally don't like for money given them by Western institutions opposed to the reestablishment of the Russian Orthodox state church.

    1. Thank you for continuing to expose the truth and not these western and Russophobic lies.