Moscow's Embrace

Moscow’s Embrace
Vadim Yarmolinets
“CIVITAS”
January 29, 2009

Having left the former Soviet Union 20 years ago, I told myself that door is closed and that old life has no bearing on me anymore. In the USA, I found my own Russia with its language, cultural milieu, and my church – ROCA. The collapse of the USSR, the new regime, the new freedoms, the new censorship of Putin, was nothing more than distant noise. That is until that historic moment when Putin arrived in New York and met with the ROCA episcopate and their First Hierarch, Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla). The process of union, which was started, financed, and controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) and its patrons in the Kremlin, led to a painful split within the ROCA; dividing parishes, priests’ families, and damaging ordinary relations between people who had taken communion from the same chalice for decades. Suddenly, the political frenzies of the far-off homeland intruded into my life in America.

The MP administration cares little for the wounds it inflicted on the ROCA. Its main task was to organize yet another grand event and put a check on the to-do list of the government and its new party, of which they were now a part. The Russian regime could not find itself a better ideological partner. The promise of the communists to create heaven on earth proved unattainable, so the promise of heaven once a person has ended his life on earth provides an ideal type of contract to ensure obedience without a person having to agree to various obligations.

The main defense of those who supported union and followed the now-deceased Metropolitan Laurus was that after all Russia was a free country and the persecution of the Church had ended. In some regards, that is true. There is no persecution of the ROC MP, because the new rulers of Russia have made it a participant of its business ventures and its partner. Gazeta.ru stated, “In the elections of the patriarch, as in all elections in today’s Russia, the candidate whom the Kremlin supported, won.”

This raises a question, if the election of the new patriarch – Kirill – was preordained, and the second and third candidates were called onstage just to demonstrate the democratic nature of the Council, then why suppress the opposition? The affair with “Portal-Credo.ru” is very telling. The new regime showed that it is a worthy heir of the old regime. In fact, it is the old regime – the terrifying Cerberus with the nasty habits of a junkyard dog. “Portal-Credo.ru” was never one of the more popular religious websites in Russia, and considering how few people have access to the Internet, its influence on their opinions was negligible. Nevertheless, they blocked it, without even any official explanation of this action. And what about the laws protecting the mass media? And what about the decisions of the courts? Don’t ask. One day “Portal-Credo.ru” is there, the next day it is gone. As they say in the Ukraine, “You were there and suddenly you are not.” (“Des tut buv i raptom znyk.”)

The MP knew about the elimination of “Portal-Credo.ru”, and as the Portal Editor, Alexander Soldatov, asserts, took part in the decision to block it. This cooperation between the church and a government which declares itself to be based on rights, while it engages in criminal methods, is a far better illustration of this partnership than the descriptions given by the correspondents of “Portal-Credo.ru”, who tried to stay within the norms of journalistic objectivity. The silence of the Russian press in this matter (with the exception of only Grani.ru and Civitas.ru on the Internet and “CIVITAS – a Russian society bulletin”) only underlines that the press is a friend and enabler of the regime, just like the MP. We’ve arrived, please disembark, “Soviet Union” station.

Oh how I wish this affair would be a lesson for the bishops of ROCOR(MP). That they would understand finally that they, having grown up in the warm and naïve confines abroad, have been twisted around a little finger like some country bumpkins. That they have not united with the Mother Church, but with the Putin-Medvedev government apparatus and have become a part of it and will carry out its orders, while disguising it as caring for their flock. And what difference does it make, who was elected patriarch, when the actual head of the ROC MP walks around today in a suit and tie and not in the vestments of a patriarch?

1 comment:

Joanna Higginbotham said...

Around the time of the election (January 27-29) in several places in the press there was quoted a Moscow gov't official (I think) as saying something like, "everything is going according to plan" referring to Met. Kyrill winning the election.

At first this quote was everywhere I looked, it seemed, and now I can't find it anywhere. If anyone comes across it, please point it out to me. It was a slip of the tongue - they admit they had the election planned!