MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE HAS YET TO CONFRONT ITS KGB PAST
by Geraldine Fagan
Keston News Service
30 October 2000
Nearly a decade after the collapse of the Soviet system, Russia has yet to undergo a process of lustration on anything like the scale of that embarked upon elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Many positions in social institutions are thus still occupied by those directly or indirectly responsible for the brutal crushing of dissent in the socialist period - and the Church is no exception. In 'National Protestantism and the Ecumenical Movement: Church Activities During the Cold War', published in late 1999, renowned German church historian Professor Gerhard Besier maintains that 'the Moscow Patriarchate does not seem to be interested in a genuine attempt at Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung (coming to terms with the past).' This conclusion would seem to be borne out by the Moscow Patriarchate's reaction to the book. In January their representative to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva Mikhail Gundyayev rejected as 'impossible to imagine' the work's assertion that Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Rostov collaborated with the KGB. Gundyayev countered that Nikodim had in fact undertaken 'great work to preserve the Church from the influence of the atheist regime.'
Using WCC archival material, Besier documented how Nikodim suddenly replaced Metropolitan Nikolai in July 1960 as head of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) following the latter's forced resignation in the wake of a speech delivered by Patriarch Aleksi I in defence of the persecuted Church in the Soviet Union. On his appointment, Nikodim instituted an abrupt departure from the Church's policy towards the WCC which Metropolitan Nikolai had set in 1948: that of refusal to join a body 'not in accord with the aims of the Church of Christ as they are understood by the Orthodox Church.'
Nikodim's November 1960 announcement to then general secretary of the WCC Willem Visser 'T Hooft that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was willing to begin negotiations for membership, the book reveals, came just three weeks after general secretary of the Soviet Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church (CAROC, which was later merged into the Council for Religious Affairs CRA), Vladimir Kuroyedov, had given an explanation of this U-turn in church policy to his Eastern European counterparts at a Berlin conference. It was necessary for the ROC to enter the WCC, Kuroyedov declared, in order 'to further the influence on believers abroad, to step up the fight against the Vatican, to weaken the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate' and as 'a blow against the church of the white emigres ("Our ROCA").'
In considering Nikodim's sudden ecumenical overtures, according to strictly confidential minutes of a February 1961 closed session of the WCC executive committee, there was 'distrust of the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church as KGB puppets.' Once the Church was in the WCC, according to the book, 'all interpreters who accompanied delegations of the ROC to ecumenical conferences were selected for this purpose in advance by the KGB and were answerable to them. Their written reports of each conference day, of which they had to submit five copies every evening, were given to Metropolitan Nikodim as delegation leader. He passed these on to the CRA at the ministerial council of the USSR, keeping one copy for himself.'
Speaking to Keston on 11 February, Fr Gleb Yakunin told Keston that 'the whole stance of being tolerant towards people of other confessions and ecumenism was an order from the KGB so as to gain information about them.' (Fr Yakunin was one of those who in 1991 had the opportunity to examine material in the KGB archives relating to KGB control of religion before the archives were again closed at the request of the Patriarch.) In an interview with Keston on 18 February, however, DECR press secretary Fr Vsevolod Chaplin maintained that the aims of the Soviet state were not a decisive factor in the Church's entry into the WCC, 'although Khrushchev was trying to be more open internationally at that time.' Fr Chaplin stressed that even after the ROC entered the WCC there were many hierarchs who thought that there was no need for ecumenism. 'There were really two different positions within the Church - each held sway at a different time and they were both right for their time.'
As the book co-authored by Besier is so far available only in German, Fr Chaplin had heard about it but was not familiar with its contents. When Keston asked whether Metropolitan Nikodim worked as an agent intentionally, unwillingly or unknowingly, he commented that 'no one has seen any clear evidence' and pointed out that Metropolitan Nikodim 'was very open to a lot of his western colleagues as well.' In his view, it was not true that hierarchs such as Metropolitan Nikodim had acted more in the interests of the state than the Church; 'the Church came first. They were obliged to inform the authorities about their activities.' Fr Chaplin maintained that the majority of those that reported to the CRA did not do so in order to harm the church or each other: 'you cannot evaluate those hierarchs who were more or less active [in the service of the Soviet security services] positively: but there were rules: they had to give information to the CRA, who obviously passed it on to the KGB. But it was largely a purely formal relationship.'
The so-called Furov report of 1981, a leaked document from the records of the Council for Religious Affairs to members of the Communist Party Central Committee, suggests otherwise. It notes that many years of observation 'reaffirm the loyalty of the episcopate towards the Soviet state' and draws up three categories of Russian Orthodox hierarch: those who 'prove their loyalty: are fully aware of the state policy on not expanding religion .. and are thus not very anxious to expand the influence of Orthodoxy among the population' (including then Bishop Aleksi of Tallinn and Estonia), those who are loyal to the state 'but strive to promote activity for an advanced influence of the church in personal, family and social life' (including Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Novgorod) and those who 'are attempting to by-pass the laws, some of them being conservatives in their religious attitude.'
Besier does not cite any document identifying Nikodim as a particular agent. His statement that 'it has been known from the KGB archives since 1992 that Nikodim was a KGB agent' is referenced by a January 1992 Izvestiya article by Vyacheslav Polosin entitled 'Eternal Slave of the Cheka', but this makes no mention of Nikodim. On 11 February Fr Gleb Yakunin explained to Keston how it was possible to identify agents in the ROC by comparing now inaccessible KGB reports containing their codenames with accounts of church activities in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate (JMP). This technique was famously used by Ogonyok journalist Aleksandr Nezhny in the 1992 article in which he identified Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Patriarchate's publishing department, as agent 'Abbat', Metropolitan Yuvenali of Krutitsy, a former chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, as agent 'Adamant' and Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev and Galicia, at that time Exarch of Ukraine, as agent 'Antonov'. In the case of the latter, KGB reports cited how various agents were sent to the Christian Peace Conference in Hungary in 1985 'with the task of orchestrating preparations: along lines acceptable to us', and to Italy for discussions with the Pope John Paul II in 1989. Metropolitan Filaret's was the only name common to reports of these two events published by the Moscow Patriarchate (JMP No 8 1985, Info Bulletin Nos 8-9 1989).
With reference to this method of identification, Yakunin doubted the claim in Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin's 1999 book 'The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West', currently available only in English, that Metropolitan Nikodim had the codename 'Adamant'. A 1987 report that Adamant - 'a member of the hierarchy of the ROC' - took part for the first time in a general session of UNESCO as a member of the Soviet delegation, he said, may be cross referenced with JMP reports which identify him as Metropolitan Yuvenali of Krutitsy and Kolomna. Metropolitan Yuvenali succeeded Nikodim, his cousin, as head of the DECR in 1975.
Andrew's book is largely based on research into the personal archive built up by Mitrokhin, a former KGB officer who spent 12 years smuggling out copies of material from the KGB archives, and in whose estimation the files on church collaboration contained 'a whirlpool of filth.' In identifying Adamant as Metropolitan Nikodim, it refers to a report from August 1969, which states that 'agents Altar, Svyatoslav, Adamant, Magister, Roshchin and Zemnogorsky went to England to take part in the work of the WCC central committee.' The endnote to this extract - of which Fr Gleb had previously been unaware - states that 'Mitrokhin did not see the file on the 1961 WCC Central Committee meeting. Another file noted by him, however, identifies Adamant as Nikodim.' In Andrew's view, the fact that Yuvenali can be identified as Adamant indicates that the codename was passed on to him at some point after his death 'it was not unusual for KGB codenames to be recycled.'
Keston believes 'Svyatoslav' to be a further possibility for Metropolitan Nikodim's codename. The JMP reported that Metropolitan Nikodim and then Archimandrite Kirill (Gundyayev) attended a session of the honorary committee of the WCC in Auckland, New Zealand from 8-12 February 1972, corresponding with a KGB report that agents 'Svyatoslav' and 'Mikhailov' were sent to a session of the WCC in New Zealand in February 1972. A 1973 KGB report states that agents 'Magistr' and 'Mikhailov' were sent to Thailand and India in January to participate in the work of the WCC, while JMP reports that Archbishop Antoni of Minsk and Belarus and Archimandrite Kirill (Gundyayev) took part in the WCC's World Mission Conference in Bangkok from 29 December 1972 to 8 January 1973. If 'Mikhailov' can thus be identified as now Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, 'Svyatoslav' would appear to be Metropolitan Nikodim.
When Keston related to Fr Yakunin on 11 February that the ROC representative in Geneva had rejected as inconceivable the allegations concerning Metropolitan Nikodim, he remarked: 'Why are they so surprised? The whole structure of the DECR was infiltrated by the KGB. It was impossible for the top brass not to be collaborators.' According to Yakunin, the relevant KGB archives were closed at the request of the Patriarch himself: 'As soon as he found out that I was looking in them he went to [chairman of the Supreme Soviet] Ruslan Khasbulatov and demanded that we be stopped.' In his view, Patriarch Aleksi and others had not admitted collaboration because 'if they admitted it they would have to repent, examine and step down. But they have defended what they did and said they somehow saved the Church.' In Yakunin's view, lustration had not taken place in Russia because 'no genuine democratisation occurred under Yeltsin - this would have been necessary in order to purge all social institutions.'
Asked by Keston on 18 February why he thought there had been no examination of the past in Russia in the vein of the Gauck Authority in Germany or the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Fr Chaplin explained that there had been no demand for examination on the part of society: 'I think the majority of people closely involved in building socialism thought that they were doing the right thing. With the years the number of people demanding lustration decreased - it was small to start off with.' One reason that there was no demand for the truth of what happened, he thought, was that 'there is disappointment in the system which replaced socialism - what they moved into was a wreckage of chaos, mafia, corruption. ' Although Soviet citizens had resented not being able to marry, divorce or travel abroad without the agreement of the authorities, he said, 'that did not lead them to condemn the whole system.'
Neither is outright condemnation the position of the church, according to Fr Chaplin: 'The aims of the church and state were not always diametrically opposed in Soviet times. Of course, in the case of atheist work they were, but there were areas where they were not, such as concern for the role of the Church in the world and the greatness of the country - and these remain common concerns.' Fr Chaplin was not aware of the 15 February public appeal by Romanian Patriarch Teoctist for forgiveness for concessions made by the church to the socialist state: 'I personally ask for forgiveness and I am doing it now because I didn't have enough courage before: in my heart I am sad: because I made a great number of the faithful suffer.' Agreeing that there was a difference between the stance of the Moscow Patriarchate and that of the Romanian patriarch - 'we don't consider that everything which was done in that [the Soviet] period was incorrect' - he commented that the Romanian position had arisen 'from political pressure which tries to insist that everything in the past was bad while the present is progress.'
Fr Chaplin pointed out to Keston that Patriarch Aleksi II had made a number of public statements of repentance during the past decade and added that although Archbishop Khrizostom of Vilnius and Lithuania had admitted collaboration, 'I don't think he maintained that it was completely incorrect.' (For an examination of the evidence of Patriarch Aleksi's identity as 'Drozdov', see KNS 21 September 2000, 'The Patriarch and the KGB '). When Patriarch Aleksi was challenged over the Furov report's description of him as one of the Soviet state's most loyal bishops in an interview in Izvestiya on 10 June 1991, he indeed conceded that he 'was sometimes forced to give way' to the authorities and apologised for 'such concessions, the failure to speak out, the forced passivity and expressions of loyalty of the church leadership.' By contrast, in 1992 Archbishop Khrizostom - who appears in the third, troublesome category of bishops in the Furov report - specifically admitted to deliberate collaboration with the KGB, but claimed to have denounced only 'those very KGB agents who had been infiltrated into the Church.' (The example he gave, Metropolitan Mefodi, whom he described as 'a KGB officer, an atheist, a vicious man foisted upon us by the KGB', is still metropolitan of Voronezh.) In Chaplin's view, however, public apologies are not required: 'I don't think that you have to repent necessarily if you gave information to the state - although Yakunin might think so.'
According to Fr Yakunin, the Commission for Investigation into the Activities of the Security Services within the Russian Orthodox Church, which was set up in 1992 and headed by Bishop Aleksandr of Kostroma was 'not doing anything'. Fr Chaplin confirmed that the commission had not been active 'in recent years', having already completed its inquiry. A report containing the results of the investigation, he told Keston, had not been published. On asking for further details about publication and its contents, Keston was referred to Bishop Aleksandr. On several occasions Keston was told by staff at Kostroma diocesan administration that Bishop Aleksandr was not currently in the diocese, and diocesan secretary Fr Oleg Novikov stressed that only the bishop would be able to respond to Keston's enquiry about the commission. On asking to speak to the bishop once he had returned on 7 March, a staff member asked what questions Keston wished to pose, took Keston's telephone number and said that a diocesan representative would call back with the bishop's answers. To date Keston has not received any answer.
In 1992 Archbishop Khrizostom said that at that year's April synod he had called for 'some kind of statement about the need to purify ourselves from all of this. I suggested that those who had acted unworthily take the necessary measures: the more access we have to information and documents,the more deeply and fully we should deal with these questions.' On 28 February 2000 Professor Gerhard Besier explained to Keston that one reason why this had not taken place was because the Russian Orthodox Church has always had a close relationship with the state and allowed itself to be led by the principle of a symphony between church and state: 'It always saw itself as the church of the people and served successive popular governments even when these rejected or persecuted the people.' As a result, he maintained, collaboration with the state secret services was never viewed as discreditable as from the western perspective.
Aleksandr Nezhny, however, certainly considers the idea of church hierarchs cooperating with a specifically antireligious totalitarian state as discreditable. On 21 October he commented to Keston that Metropolitan Nikodim was among those bishops 'of the Sergian mould, that is, those who have learnt to combine religion with the most inveterate servility. In the main they thought of the Church as a completely earthly institution, thereby casting aside its Founder.' Keston then put it to him that Fr Chaplin had argued that the aims of the Church and Soviet state were not always incompatible. 'You would have to be an utter cynic to speak, like Fr Chaplin, about some sort of common values of the Soviet militant atheist state and the Church,' he replied. 'Comrade Zyuganov may talk like that - and it is repulsive, but understandable. When an official representative of the Church comes out with such statements, then it only reminds us once again that Russian Orthodoxy is suffering from a serious illness.' With Archbishop Khrizostom's calls still unheeded, it certainly looks as if the Russian Orthodox Church has decided to leave to heal over the wounds inflicted upon it by the Soviet secret police without attempting to clean out any infection.
Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.
Source: Keston Institute
October 2000 Epistle of the Council of Bishops
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Epistle of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
to the Beloved Children of the Church in the Homeland and in the Diaspora
14/27 October 2000
Overshadowed by the presence of the miraculous Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, assembled at the Synod Building in New York, addresses itself to its faithful flock, scattered throughout the whole world and in our homeland, the much-suffering Russian land, wherein we perceive the beginnings of a genuine spiritual awakening.
We have never taken for granted that the return of the people of Russia to our common spiritual Orthodox roots would be simple and like a triumphal procession.
For this reason, with benevolent sympathy, we welcome the turn to prayer of the whole Russian people to all the holy New-martyrs of Russia, and especially the martyred Imperial Family, which has henceforth become possible thanks to the recognition of their sanctity by the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate. And we are likewise given hope by the adoption of a new social concept by that Council, which in essence cancels out the 1927 "Declaration" of Metropolitan Sergius by acknowledging the supremacy of the commandments of God over those demands of temporal powers which might lead to the violation of religious and moral principles.
We venerate the martyric struggle of the many Russian soldiers who, when they were captured by infidels during recent wars, refused to renounce the Orthodox Faith and convert to another religion, for which they endured torture and death. Such confession has shown that the Russian people have preserved faith in Christ within their hearts to an unexpected degree, despite eight decades of the erosion of the Faith by the godless regime.
However, our Council has noted the absence of any understanding by the Moscow Patriarchate of the position of the Russian Church Abroad, which has carefully been preserving the heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church. Especially lamentable are the aggressive actions of the Patriarchate in the forced confiscation of churches and monasteries from the Church Abroad, the preservation, and at times the salvation, of which has cost the Russian emigration great effort and represented a real struggle of sacrificial service to those Russian holy places which are beyond the borders of Russia.
To these grievous circumstances must be added the fact that at its Council, the Moscow Patriarchate in fact confirmed its dedication to broad participation in ecumenism, and took no steps to protect its own younger generations from that pan-heresy.
Nor did we see the Council of the Moscow Patriarchate offer an honest assessment of the anti-ecclesial actions of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), his Synod and their successors, even though the present Council came close to historical truth in its Act of the Glorification of the New-martyrs, and, both in the aforementioned Act and in its now social concept, obliquely acknowledged as praiseworthy the path of the confessors who refused to accept the path of Metropolitan Sergius.
Guided by the spirit of the Gospel, we acknowledge, with due understanding, how difficult it is to free oneself from the consequences of the Church's enslavement by the Soviet governmental structure with its atheistic ideology. This understanding moves us to deal sympathetically and kindly with the faithful of the formerly enslaved Church, and to welcome substantive steps toward the healing of Church life in Russia.
On the other hand, the relationship of these measures to the fundamental points which we have enunciated for many years in our care for the purity of the Church persuade us to remain faithful to the course of the Church Abroad. Even now we must fulfill our historic mission of standing for the Truth, until all who have been redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are convinced of it.
The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia addresses to its flock a new, urgent call to be loyal to the end. Your archpastors must be able to have confidence in your love and your trust in the Russian Orthodoxy of the Holy Fathers which is being preserved by our Church, a loyalty which all the members of the Council of Bishops, without exception, confess again and again in unanimity.
The eighty-year history of our exiled Church has borne clear witness before the world that we have not turned ourselves into an exclusive, self-enamored society, but remain a Church possessed of the fullness of soul-saving grace. Those who depart from us have not been able to undermine the authority of our Church, since its glory has not derived and does not derive from earthly power or any sizable membership, but from immutable adherence to the Truth, to the righteousness of God.
We hold it our duty to remind our flock of the paramount importance of each member of the Church preserving the personal piety which is the principal token of our salvation within the Church.
Frequently among us the critical stand taken against social vices, against the retreat of today's world from the divine and moral laws, begets an inattentive attitude toward one's personal spiritual peace, and as a result the level of personal piety falls. So it happens that, while criticizing apostasy, we ourselves become participants in the universal abandonment of piety.
Conversely, feats of personal piety: prayer, fasting, abstinence, repentance, brotherly love, patience, humility and meekness, have been, and remain, the principal weapon against the destruction of the whole world and the salvific means not only of one's personal salvation, but of that of the universal establishment of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Yet we will proclaim to the whole world our stand for the Truth in vain if the members of our Church prefer not the personal life of virtue but of suspicion towards others, arguments, the formation of groups for the condemnation of others, and various actions which shatter the life of parish and diocese. This ruination, which draws into everlasting destruction each who participates in it, inevitably besmirches the face of our whole Church and weakens its witness.
With gratitude toward God that we belong to the true Church which is founded on the Rock of Faith, our Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you to remain its faithful members and to strengthen its saving work by feats of personal piety, mutual love and the patient bearing of "one another's burdens" (Gal. 6: 2). Be mindful of the words of Christ: "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (Jn. 13: 35). Amen.
President of the Council
President of the Council
Members of the Council:
There were two different reactions to the synod's epistle. And two camps started to form.
Orthodox America Magazine
This most recent epistle of the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR should be greeted with joy by all those who sincerely pray for "the good estate of the holy churches of God and the union of all." Unfortunately, it has also been met with some objections from those who read in it a sign that the ROCOR has suddenly changed course. A more sober reading, however, would reveal that the Epistle's intent is simply to acknowledge positive developments within the Moscow Patriarchate: the recent glorification of the Royal Family and other New Martyrs; its strong statements concerning abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, drug addiction and other social issues; and its affirmation that the Church cannot and will not submit to any godless and unethical decrees of the government (effectively annulling the principle of Sergianism). At the same time the MP's continuing participation in the ecumenical movement and its attempts to seize church property of the ROCOR are duly noted and remain major stumbling blocks in ROCOR/MP relations.
In support of their objections, critics have been circulating on the Internet writings of various bishops, clergy and other members of the ROCOR, writings that stand in contradiction to the present Epistle. However, these are expressions of personal opinion (to which everyone is entitled), and they were written when the changes that have recently taken place in Russia were quite unforeseeable, while this Epistle is a conciliar statement reflecting the present state of church life in Russia, and it bears the signatures of all the bishops (including four from Russia and Ukraine), none of whom would sign against his conscience. It is the fruit of careful and considerable deliberation and of much prayer, and it should inspire our confidence.
We should continue to submit ourselves to those who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:17), and pray for our hierarchs that they continue to guide us, "rightly dividing the word of Truth."
Vernost: High Treason
In recent years, and especially since the onset of perestroika, changes have begun to take place in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA or ROCOR). At first, they were perceptible only to those who followed events closely, but then with the appearance of the October 2000 Epistle of the Council of Bishops, it became evident to anyone willing to read, that a new direction has been designed to create a path for communication and dialogue with the official Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) otherwise known as the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The Epistle, although heavily cloaked in admonishing its flock to remain busy with their own salvation and personal piety rather than meddle in church affairs, also recognized the Moscow Patriarchate as a legitimate church and canceled the infamous Declaration of 1927 by Metropolitan Sergii (Stragorodsky), later to become known as the first “patriarch” of the official Soviet Orthodox Church (ROC) - a church that worked hand-in-hand with the communist regime in the destruction of thousands of churches and monasteries as well as the brutal torture and murder of millions of faithful, in other words - the annihilation of Orthodoxy. It is only natural that the October 2000 Epistle was followed by a multitude of protests, only for them to be silenced and the clergy forbidden to serve - simply because they came to the defense of the Church Abroad and gave very plausible reasons why a rapprochement with the MP was not possible. Such treatment of dedicated clergy is an ugly and unprecedented event in the history of ROCOR and it resembles the tactics and behavior of the KGB-controlled MP, rather than ROCOR. The MP, which calls itself the Mother Church, despite the fact that it was established by Stalin and is younger than the pre-revolutionary Church Abroad - the MP is not a church but an organization that has been used as a tool to combat religion by the atheist communist regime...
Patriarch with a KGB Past?
The Washington Times, September 29, 2000 p. A17
Russia may have shut down access to Soviet archives but apparently there are still places where those archives are to be found, examined and made public. One of these places is Estonia, a onetime Soviet state for a half-century.
In August 1994, Russia removed its last remaining occupying troops and tanks from Estonia. What apparently Russia didn’t remove were the KGB archives. And a KGB file that has just been made public allegedly reveals that the present head of the Russian Orthodox Church, 70-year-old, white-bearded Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and of all Russia, was a “long-serving KGB agent and was even awarded the agency’s ‘Certificate of Honor.’ ”
The report comes from the Keston Institute, an Anglican religious rights organization, located in Oxford, England, and was published in the Irish Times on Sept. 23. One reason why the report appeared in an Irish daily is that Patriarch Alexiy II has adamantly opposed any visits by Pope John Paul II to the Russian Federation, a position supported by Russian President Putin. No reigning pope has visited Moscow since the Great Schism of 1054 split the eastern and western branches of Christianity.
The KGB papers describe the alleged activities of Patriarch Alexiy’s actions against orthodox clergy and believers. His KGB code-name was “Agent Drozdov,” Russian for the bird thrush. According to the archives, he was recruited by the Estonian branch of the KGB on Feb. 28, 1958, when he was known as Father Alexiy Ridiger. Although born in then independent Estonia before World War II, Patriarch Alexiy is an ethnic Russian. He served as an orthodox priest until he was seconded to Moscow during the Gorbachev era.
Patriarch Alexiy has been a strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin, himself a KGB agent for 15 years. The churchman has publicly defended Mr. Putin’s conduct of the war in Chechnya and his much criticized behavior in the aftermath of the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk.
Despite earlier denials by a church spokesman, Father Vsevold Chaplin, the Keston Institute, which presses for religious freedom in the former communist bloc, said it had “reviewed all the available documentary evidence from the various archives of the KGB.” Its conclusion: “Drozdov” and Patriarch Alexiy were the same individual since the personal details given in the archive match those of no other priest of the Estonian diocese.
There is nothing new in the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the czarist and Bolshevik regimes. Richard Pipes, the Harvard historian, has written that “since the time of Peter the Great, the Russian Orthodox Church was to an extreme degree dependent on the state... The clergy were duty-bound to report to the police any information of conspiracies against the emperor or the government, including that obtained during confession. They also had to denounce the appearance of suspicious strangers in their parishes.”
Although the church had been persecuted under V.I. Lenin and Josef Stalin, World War II forced a reconciliation. Stalin met with high church officials Sept. 4, 1943, and a deal was made. High clergy were placed on the same footing as high state and party officials. Churchmen were among the first to receive decorations after the war.
According to the historians Mikhail Heller and Alexander Nekrich, the church became “an active ally of the Soviet government” in July 1926 following the arrest of Metropolitan Sergii as the Patriarch. On his release in March 1927, he published a declaration of submission to the Bolshevik regime.
Control over the church took the form of control over the clergy, from the patriarch to the humblest lay brother. Admission to the three seminaries and church academies were strictly controlled. Each candidate was selected by local committees of the KGB. Seminaries had to listen to lectures such as “Lenin’s Teachings on Communist Morality and the Fundamental Principles of Moral Education.”
The documents about Patriarch Alexiy in the Estonian State Archive are signed by the KGB chairman, Col. I.P. Karpov. In one memorandum, he describes “Agent Drozdov” as providing “valuable material for the case underway against the priest Povedsky.” He added:
“After consolidating the agent’s experience in practical work with the organs of state security in the cultivation of agents, we intend also to use him in our interests by sending him to capitalist states as a member of church delegations.”
KGB papers in the Moscow archive show “Drozdov” was sent to England in 1969 as part of a church delegation, that he and another agent were involved in “educational work” with monks in Psko in Western Russia in March 1983 and that he was sent on a mission to Portugal in 1985.
• • •
reprinted in The Schwarz Report January 2001, page 7
Patriarch with a KGB Past
by Arnold Beichman
posted on Yahoo Group with this note added by an editor. (Editor of what? the Yahoo forum? the poster?)
Editors' Note: What this information shows beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the Communist regime
in the Soviet Union did not simply persecute the Orthodox Church, nor was the Church merely a
victim. Rather, the Communists turned the Moscow Patriarchate into an active arm of the KGB which
persecuted its own clergy and believers. The Church hierarchy cooperated with the atheists in the
oppression and imprisonment (and, oftentimes, the resulting death) of its own faithful.
March 2, 2000
To the Russian Orthodox People
A Statement of the ROCOR Bishops Concerning the Moscow Patriarchate (2000)
The leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate has now officially declared that it looks upon the property of the Russian Church Abroad as its own, for only it, and no other, is the "sole legal heir to the property of the pre-Revolutionary Church," which, consequently, "is being held by the schismatics abroad illegally," and that such a decision "is accepted by the Orthodox believing people of Russia with joy and profound gratitude."
This statement compels us, the hierarchs abroad, to address the Russian Orthodox people directly. It is essential that we clarify the essential question which has emerged over the last decade—the question of succession with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church and historical Russia.
I. On the eve of the fall of the Communist regime it seemed possible that the previous cause of the ecclesiastical division—the atheistic government—was already falling away, and that the rest of our problems would be resolved in a fraternal dialogue. The Council of Bishops repeatedly referred to this idea in its epistles, and in actual fact strove to open paths to this fellowship. In this, however, great difficulties were encountered, and later—as far as we are able to judge, due to the active interference of the authorities in Russia early in 1997—our attempts at clarification were broken off (the seizure of the monastery in Hebron).
Difficulties manifested themselves, firstly, in a totally different attitude toward questions essential to the Church, and our differences in this regard have not been resolved to the present day.
A) The question of the sainthood of the new martyrs and the Tsar-Martyr, the anointed of God, who were slain by the atheistic authorities. From our point of view, they fulfilled the principal mission of the Church of Russia in the 20th century.
B) The policy of collaboration with the atheistic authorities begun by Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) against that part of the Church "disloyal" to the Communist overlords, which brought about the destruction of the former. From our point of view, to defend this policy is to demean the struggle of the New Martyrs.
C) The ecumenical activity of the Orthodox in the World Council of Churches. From our point of view, this crosses the boundaries set by the holy canons and the Tradition of the holy fathers, infringing upon the very truth of Orthodoxy.
D) Relations toward the post-Communist leadership of the Russian Federation. From our point of view, they are introducing a non-Christian policy designed to break down the Russian people and destroy Russia. And this false spirit is in nowise offset by the gilding of domes and the restoration of church buildings in which these very leaders are praised.
Attempts at "dialogue" on these differences on various levels did not lead to the hoped-for results. We acknowledge that in this certain of our representatives are partly to blame, for in their haste to make the Truth clear they insufficiently understood the complex conditions of the turmoil in Russia. In the tumultuous sea of the last decade in Russia it was incredibly difficult to make our Russian brethren hear the Truth of the Russian Church by which we live—in unbroken succession and without the intrusion of malicious powers into our ecclesiastical life. We were mistaken in our response to the situation in Russia and in our search for reliable allies, being somewhat lacking in patience and love for those opposed to us—which soon even became viewed as arrogance in the eyes of the Russian people. Yet what we wished for was something quite different.
II. Over all the preceding decades, we had preserved spiritual fellowship with those who did not submit to militant atheism, preserving Orthodoxy; and our hearts were open to them, in whatever part of the Church of Russia they were to he found. This fellowship was in part also in accordance with the canons of the Church, so that when times of greater liberty came, these ties, this presence in Russia, were also revealed. This happened because there was preserved, and continued secretly to live, that part of the Church of Russia which did not accept the "Declaration of Loyalty" (1927) imposed by the militant atheists, wherewith Metropolitan Sergius tried to bind both the conscience of all Orthodox people in Russia as well as our conscience (demanding that each clergyman abroad personally sign an oath of "loyalty to the Soviet authorities").
As the years passed, the word "schism" began to be applied to us and others who were viewed as "disloyal"; this term continues to distort the eccelesial crux of the question to this day. We have never accepted this term, and we do not wish to apply it to others. This question is extremely painful, and must, from our point of view, be resolved in some other way.
As early as 1923, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad resolved:
"Having as our immediate objective the nurturing of the Russian Orthodox flock abroad, the Council of Bishops, the Synod, the hierarchs and priests, within the limitations of their powers, must show all possible cooperation in meeting various spiritual needs when asked to do so by the ecclesiastical organizations which remain in Russia or by individual Christians." In particular, it was stipulated: "Representatives of the dioceses located outside the boundaries of Russia, acting together, express the voice of the free Russian Church abroad; but no individual person, nor even the Council of the bishops of these dioceses, represents itself as an authority which has the rights which the whole Church of Russia possesses in all its fullness, in the person of its lawful hierarchy."
The concept of the whole Church of Russia and a lawful hierarchy, according to canon law, does not exclude the diaspora, but naturally embraces the totality of the Church of Russia in the light of the Pan-Russia Council of 1917-1918. It is impossible to restore this integrity by a process of rejection and exclusion which have their origin with the militant atheists, who tried to set the Orthodox people against one another, and for this purpose concocted the "Living Church" and other obstacles. We consider that the interpretation of historical and ecclesiastical judgment must be a joint task over which the Russian people—all of us—must labor with great patience, first of all with love for the Truth. Otherwise, there is the danger that we will fall to disentangle ourselves from the snares, or may fall into them again.
We reject the word "schism," not only as one which distorts the crux of the problem, but also as a lie against the whole Church of Russia concocted by the enemies of Christ during the most terrible period of persecutions. We have never accepted this lie concerning the Church, just as we have not accepted the lie concerning the Church contained in the "Declaration," in which, to please the regime of that time, patristic doctrine and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures were trampled underfoot. For this reason, our fathers declared in 1927: "The portion of the Church of Russia abroad considers itself an inseparable, spiritually united branch of the great Church of Russia. It does not separate itself from its Mother Church, and does not consider itself autocephalous. As before, it considers its head to be the patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, and commemorates him [as such] during the divine services." At that time, we discovered that the lawful first hierarch of the Church of Russia had rebuked his deputy, Metropolitan Sergius, from exile, for "exceeding his authority", and commanded him to "return" to the correct ecclesiastical path; but he was not obeyed. In fact, even while Metropolitan Peter was alive, Metropolitan Sergius usurped, first his diocese (which, according to the canons, is strictly forbidden), and later his very position as locum tenens. These actions constituted not only a personal catastrophe, but also a universal catastrophe for our Church.
We never left the Church, even though there have been those who began to separate and drive us out with the word "schism" from those most terrible of days even to the present—failing to grasp the main point, and still not being aware of it. It is impossible to resolve contemporary ecclesiastical questions by simply usurping the title "sole lawful ecclesiastical leadership," trampling the tragic truth of the Church in Russia underfoot.
Our readiness, even over the last decades, to help the believing people in Russia (as far as our weak powers permitted) in various ways (literature, bearing witness concerning the persecution of the Church, protests) has not changed. It has led to our receiving believers under our omophorion, and, for various reasons, a small number of clergymen in addition to those who already had had a secret existence for some time. In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, others were added which entailed at the time intolerable violations of the canons of the Church, and these were still uncorrected in 1989-1991. Then a tempest arose over the "opening" of parishes of the Church Abroad in Russia. We did not try actively to open parishes and foist ourselves on them from abroad, but merely "accepted" those Russian people who had learned more about the history of the Church and its life and yearned for ecclesial communion with us, despite the barriers of a propaganda inherited from past times. This little portion, for which our shortcomings did not overshadow the Truth and which, for this reason, decided to unite themselves in Russia to our prayers, has been subjected to persecutions, while our Church is slandered in all the official church publications.
Yet the same leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, which on the new stage of gradual liberation has exacerbated the situation by its own interpretation of events and has so bitterly fought against the "parallel structure," has itself, since the end of World War II, continuing to carry out the demands of the authorities then in power, created its own structures where its was only possible in the diaspora, and in Israel, in 1948, totally drove away our monastics when establishing itself. At that time this was, for us, although grievous, at least understandable—we saw the Church's lack of freedom and the enslavement of officially sanctioned ecclesiastical structures in Russia, which were fettered by the authorities and chained to the authorities.
These latter years have witnessed a new wave of forcible seizures by the Moscow Patriarchate of churches and monasteries from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in various countries, or attempts to seize them—with the help of the secular authorities (foreign and Russian), wherever such is possible—in Italy, Israel, Germany, Denmark, Canada. Now it is finally confirmed, even by the mouth of the primate of the Moscow Patriarchate, Alexis II, and representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Affairs, that they have no desire for unification with us on the proposed position of Truth. They prefer to resolve the indicated points of disagreement and the question of the history of the Church of Russia simply by eliminating the Church Abroad, by crushing it. In other words, the present leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate prefers to continue the policies of Metropolitan Sergius—only in a new form, at a new level.
III. Thus, when we pose the question of succession, we have in mind not only property title to the churches abroad. Regarding this question, it is well known that the Soviet regime refused them, as it did "ecclesial obscurantism" in general, when in the 1930's it announced its "five-year plan for atheism." It is precisely the Russian emigration which was able to save these churches from confiscation by foreign states and from destruction, carefully restoring them with its own means as Russia Abroad, which is open with all its heart both to the Russian past (tsarist Russia) and a Russia of the future. Therefore, this is in actuality our joint heritage—the heritage of the whole Russian people, and without fail it will be such as a result of the restoration of the one Church of Russia, which stands in the Truth. However, to our distress, the past decade has shown that the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate are avoiding true union, are not ready for it, for this would mean that they would have to give an honest account to the people and listen to its voice. This is also the reason why they are violently seizing churches which have not been preserved by their efforts, taking no account of the outlay of expenses, even though in Russia itself thousands of desolate churches need to be saved.
It is obvious that the principal objective of this is the smothering of our Church, and not the nurturing of the flock abroad, for here they do not in the least fear the terrible scandalizing of that flock. Who among the emigrants will enter those churches which have been wrested away by violence and wickedness? One cannot fail to see that they are attempting to eliminate us as a vexing and incorruptible witness to the 20th century history of Russia.
The main succession which we preserve and which our "opponents" in the Moscow Patriarchate are trying to uproot in our person, is historical and spiritual. After the militantly atheist Revolution, it was our Russian Church Abroad which became the linchpin of that small portion of the Russian nation which did not recognize the Revolution and chose as its path the preservation of loyalty to our Orthodox state. This stubborn stand for the Truth, despite its apparent "unreality," pressure from the Bolsheviks, from pro-Soviet hierarchs, and the surrounding democratic world, was realized among us as a "struggle for Russianism in the midst of universal apostasy"—in the hope that for this God would have mercy on Russia and give our people a last chance to restore its historic aspect. This was the primary purpose of the Russian diaspora. It is for this that we have been praying in our churches for eighty years: "For the suffering land of Russia" and "That He may deliver its people from the bitter tyranny of the atheist authorities."
This refers also to the post-Communist regime of the Russian Federation, which considers itself the successor not so much of historical Russia (this is declared only rarely, and in words only) as the successor of the Bolshevik regime. The entire legal system of the Russian Federation is founded on the Soviet legal system, and not on the pre-Revolutionary laws.*
The present democratically elected officials in Russia have preserved the majority of Bolshevism's atheistic symbols (the five-pointed star, etc.), monuments, street and city names, ignoring the people's original intent: that the Communist heritage be overturned, that the national tragedy of Russia in the 20th century be reassessed, that there be repentance. At the same time, a new, anti-Christian ideology has taken root in the Russian land. And so as to weaken the people's opposition to this, there is being waged an intentional, conscious, calculated demoralization of the people themselves by cutting them off from their true, historic and spiritual roots.
And all of this is going on with the permission, consent and even blessing of the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate which, in order to preserve its own power structures, is prepared to collaborate with any regime whatever, and to participate actively in ecumenism, not only with non-Orthodox Christians, but even with non-Christian political powers. "By our joint efforts we will build a new, democratic society," declared the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, Alexis II, in 1991, in an address made to rabbis in New York, where he preached peace for all "in an atmosphere of friendship, creative cooperation and the brotherhood of the children of the One God, the Father of all, the God of your fathers and ours." How a similar irenic activity answers to our fate is evident in the fact that not long ago, while in Israel for the feast of the Nativity of Christ, the primate of the Moscow Patriarchate performed three morally incompatible activities: he prayed to the God we have in common, Christ the incarnate Son of God, then reached an agreement with the Moslems concerning the seizure of one of our monasteries, and finally praised the destroyer Yeltsin for "laboring for the good of Russia" and for his "efforts in restoring the morality of our people."
IV. We are convinced that the intensifying persecution against the Russian Church Abroad throughout the world is one of the steps being taken toward the establishment of a new world order. Furthermore, peoples deprived of their own spiritual and cultural originality, and Christian principles are being perverted and undermined. Anti-Christian powers are achieving their objectives by employing various methods, among which is the inciting of certain nations and confessions against others, and often of a certain part of a nation against another, always encouraging within the local Orthodox Churches those groups which are deemed useful at a given moment, and denigrating those who oppose them. Is this not what is taking place right now in the midst of Russian Orthodoxy? Is it not obvious that there are powers which are striving to reduce the Church of Russia to an ideological instrument—both the authorities of the Russian Confederation and the "mighty of this world" who Stand behind them—for the control of the Russian people'? How can we fail to remember the image of the harlot church seated upon the beast, which is described in the Book of Revelation? And if the Book of Revelation tells us: "Power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations. And all who dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear" (Rev. 13: 7-9), then it would seem that over the past decade it has been entirely possible to discuss and clarify in a "dialogue" in what way one ought to understand, following a true, patristic interpretation of the Sacred Scripture (which every consecrated bishop is obligated by oath to keep holy), that "there is no power but of God" (Rom. 13:1-5). By this it may be possible to set aright the perversion of the Orthodox Faith, terrible in its consequences, which is to be found in documents being published in the name of the Moscow Patriarchate as in the name of the Church of Russia itself.
Encroachment upon the sense of Holy Tradition hinders spiritual healing. Our appeal continues to be ignored. the Truth of the Church is not being proclaimed; false teaching is not being condemned.
We know that a significant part of the people and clergy of Russia are aware of the danger of the situation, which is being manifested in many different forms. Still, the neo-Renovationists, the ecumenists, and their opponents within the "right-leaning" circles of the Moscow Patriarchate, who call themselves "true catacomb Christians" despite all their irreconcilable differences, not to mention the very leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, are united in spreading the selfsame slander against our Church.
We know that our being situated outside Russia can seem "unpatriotic" to some-as is proclaimed in the publications of the Moscow Patriarchate. Yet those who attack us for this should read St. Athanasius the Great's "Apology for My Flight," and the canons of St. Peter of Alexandria, to avoid unchurchly, secular reasoning and to understand how the Holy Church has actually treated similar questions.
We see in this fate of part of the Russian people, sent into the West by the Providence of God, a call to understand the universal scale of the impending apocalyptic period. We do not place our hope in foreign authorities when we appeal to them, pointing out the principles of Justice (as the holy Apostle Paul once appealed to his Roman citizenship so as to avoid violence united with iniquity) when we demand the cessation of the iniquity inflicted upon the "little flock" of Christ, our little Church. Justice is appealed to—as we avail ourselves of a traffic light on a road—so as to insure elementary order for all, among whom one may also consider the emigres who once saved themselves from annihilation.
We place our trust in the One Holy Trinity, Whom we confess, and on the wisdom of our people, who for a thousand years have confessed the unity of the Trinity amid all the vicissitudes of history. We hope that, taught by its new bitter experience, it will have learned a lesson from the 20th century through which it has has just lived. The fate of Russia is in the hands of God and the hands of the Russian people, if they desire to remain the people of God.
We, descendants of the various generations of emigres, who find ourselves exiles in a foreign land by dint of the bitter dregs which our people drained in the beginning, as well as many of the other peoples of the world (whose children have since come to us for the salvation of Christ), hope to hold out until that day when, through the supplications of our holy new-martyrs, Russia will be moved by prayer to carry out its final mission—to bear witness before the world concerning the Truth of Orthodoxy and the Orthodox form of government. As far as our scant powers permit, we will always bear witness to this for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Our goal, however modest, is not to allow anyone to drown this Truth in the ocean of impending apostasy.
Forgive us, compatriots who are dear to us in Christ, for our mistakes. And do not discard the Truth itself with our shortcomings and weaknesses. We call upon you to be aware of the universal scale of the present Church problems, to reunite with us in common prayer, and to deepen in our native land the struggle of being Russian amid the conditions of apostasy—despite the policies of those worldly and ecclesiastical authorities who do not value Russia's universal spiritual vocation. Why is our existence disturbing to those who call us "a tiny handful of schismatics?" Saint Mark of Ephesus demonstrated that the Truth is not measured by the number of ruling hierarchs. All of Orthodoxy can be defended by a single, solitary "schismatic." The holy apostles, the holy fathers and teachers of the Church, the holy martyrs, call upon us, for the sake of Truth, to withdraw from falsehood, from the imminent kingdom of the Antichrist, and to struggle in love for Christ, that we may be written "in the Book of Life of the Lamb, Who was slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear."
*In particular, ownership of church buildings, as before, is vested in the government of the Russian Federation, not in the Church. This means that the government is able, whenever it wishes, to deprive the Church of any given piece of property. We cannot forget that in gratitude for its support in the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the latter gave to the U.S.S.R. all the property of the Church Abroad located on territory controlled by the new state. Only a small portion of that property was transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate; the greater part was later sold back by the Soviet government to Israel at a purely nominal cost, in exchange, in fact, for oranges.
Translated from the Russian by the reader Isaac E. Lambertsen.
Deacon Basil Alexandrovich Yakimov writes to Acting Russian President Putin about Jericho
Dear Mr Putin:
Further to my previous correspondence on the subject of Jericho.
I have for many years been loyal to the ideals of Holy Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. At every opportunity I have defended Russia & Orthodoxy. I have written to your predecessors Gorbachev & Eltsin as required. I have written to the soviet patriarch Alexei and when I was posted in London between 1992-96 (Australian High Commission) even defended, in the English press - the then, President Yeltsin. The dilemma of the Jericho take over needs to be resolved quickly. This is not an inter-church squabble, this is a PROPERTY RIGHTS ISSUE. When ANY entity who has legal claim to property is arbitrarily evicted, all property ownership is put in jeopardy.
I know you - yourself worked for the KGB but I hope you did not betray the ordinary Russian people as some others have, including the majority of the hierarchs in the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). It has long been an open question which post soviet group or institution in Russian public life engages in behaviour most worthy of contempt. "The communist party built the church in its own image," says dissident orthodox priest Father Georgi Edelshtein, whose outspoken views mean he is ostracised by the Patriarchate. "All the bishops were carefully picked so that they would work with the soviet government. All were KGB agents. It is well known that Patriarch Alexy was recruited by the KGB, under the code-name of Drozdov. Today, they are preserving the same politics that they had 20 or 30 years ago.....
In some cases, members of the council for religious affairs, the soviet body charged with controlling religion, have found alternative employment in the bureaucracy of the church, with one prominent ex-member Victor Kalinin, now legal advisor to the Patriarch... This intimacy with government and power has brought the church dividends, such as state-sponsored ..... It has also resulted in such damaging and highly publicised scandals as the involvement of the church in the importation of oil and cigarettes...." The line of reasoning taken by Moscow Patriarchate in regard to Jericho seems to throw the whole system of Russian & international law in the bin.
On the other hand the Palestine Authority (PA) and the Russian Government imitate soviet methods with soviet style results.
I was also a former ardent supporter of the USA but with the end of the Cold War the US strategic position changed radically. We now have one superpower, the US. Its policy in Eastern Europe has destabilised relations with Russia because, at the behest of the US, NATO has extended the coverage to the Russian border & bombed Yugoslavia without a UN mandate. Now I am not sure if the conduct of your government is any better.. For the sake of all good people of the world I hope modern Russia will be an honourable country and your Presidency will hark back to the times of the last 3 great Emperors of Russia - who were known for their peace initiatives & other good works.
I emphasise that the actions of MP/Russia in Palestine are offensive to the 10+ million worldwide Russian White diaspora -- descendants of those who built and defended Russia over the centuries.
With respect & hope that we will all be working for a political process that will enable Russia to be a true powerful friend of all.
Basil Alexandrovich Yakimov
Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church (Abroad)
Canberra Australia - 27/01/2000
Canberra Australia - 27/01/2000