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...