Blogger arrested after hunting Pokemons in church


by Andrei Melnikov

Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 4 September 2016


Over the course of all last week, the Moscow patriarchate has been balancing on the brink of a large, noisy scandal and did enough to cause the scandal finally to erupt. At first were heard anecdotal remarks by a prominent priest about "condom-killers," which gave a good laugh and then were forgotten. Then participants in protests against building a church in the Torfianka park of Moscow were arrested, but even this case did not produce great effect.


The thunder roared on Saturday when Ekaterinburg blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky was arrested and sentenced to two months in an isolation cell. The proper effect was produced by the combination of the severity of the prosecution and the comedy of the act. Moved to action by threats of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs) against those who were trying to hunt Pokemons in churches, the blogger went on a hunt for virtual monsters in the church consecrated to the memory of Nicholas II. A video shot by someone during Sokolovsky's walking around the church with a smart phone in his hands showed the blogger issuing obscene bursts simulating liturgical chant along with sarcastic comments against believers and their convictions.


It seems the Pussy Riot story was being repeated. Just like then, an investigation was begun because of the spread of the video on the Internet and the scandal grew like a snowball. Aleksei Navalny spoke out for the bloggers as he did once for Pussy Riot. And official representatives of the RPTs gave assurances that "they do not thirst for blood," but they do not want something similar to be repeated and therefore they await repentance from the "blasphemer." Like in 2012, when Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev wanted to minister to the members of the action in the church of Christ the Savior, now Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotur Kirill Nakonecheny dreamed of introducing the "blasphemer" from the Church on the Blood to deeds of mercy. Finally, probably not without intent, Sokolovsky had encroached upon the church that is associated with the autocratic ideal being developed nowadays.


This ideal still may play a bad role in relations of the peoples of Russia. RIA Novosti reported that the authorities of Orel province have decided on a date for erecting the first monument to Ivan the Terrible in Russia--the ceremony will be held in Orel on 7 September. At the same time the first deputy head of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of the Russian federation, Damir Mukhetdinov, spoke out harshly regarding a monument to the autocrat who defeated the Kazan khanate. "Isn't it a provocation to revive now old sores, and sprinkle salt into wounds--for the Tatars about Kazan of 1552 and for all Russians about the Oprichnina? Isn't it the language of enmity? Isn't it a disruption of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional peace?" the Islamic leader wrote in his blog. We recall, Patriarch Kirill recently supported the erection of a monument to Ivan the Terrible, calling the tsar "a mighty statesman."


The arrest on Tuesday of a group of opponents of construction of a church in Torfianka Park was a unique prelude to the law enforcement and church scandal regarding the Ekaterinburg blogger. According to police reports, activists attacked the construction site under cover of darkness and tried to demolish a worship cross. Then searches were conducted in the Svarog athletic club, one of whose members had been arrested at Torfianka. Law enforcers think that the action against the construction of the church in the park was initiated by nationalists from this club, which is associated with neopagansim.


The neopagan version, in which it is extremists who participate in the protests against the construction in the park, and not local residents, fits well into the propaganda strategy of the RPTs. Along with Svarog, circles near to the church include within the forces opposing them the opposition parties of the KPRF [communists], Yabloko, and PARNAS. It is noteworthy that the information war over the church theme is heating up on the eve of elections to the State Duma and local legislative assemblies. We recall that it was because it was connected with the elections of 2011-2012 that the Pussy Riot case developed so dramatically. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 September 2016)



RIA Novosti, 6 September 2016


The Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs) is prepared to ask for mercy for Ruslan Sokolovsky, who was arrested for hunting Pokemons in a church, if he publically repents and reforms, an official statement of the Ekaterinburg diocese says.


Earlier Sokolovsky published on his YouTube channel a video in which he is hunting Pokemons during a service in the Ekaterinburg Church-on-the-Blood, playing Pokemon GO. In the video, obscene language simulating church singing is used and at the conclusion the video-blogger speaks sarcastically about the foundations of Christianity. The video drew a half million views. After examination, investigators opened a criminal case on the basis of articles "violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religious confession" and "inflaming hatred or hostility along with demeaning of human dignity." On Saturday, 3 September, the blogger was imprisoned for two months and an indictment was prepared against him. A representative of the diocese, Hegumen Veniamin, told journalists on Tuesday that the church does not intend to exert any influence on the trial, in order "to appear to be pious."


"To express the hope that Ruslan Sokolovsky acknowledges his moral error, repents for committing blasphemy in the same open and public way as he committed his offensive act, and in the event of full and decisive correction he deserves the church's intercession for mercy. And to recommend to all who insist that forgiveness and intercession for release of Ruslan Sokolovsky from accountability before the law should follow on the church's part, regardless of repentance and correction, that they not confuse Christian forgiveness with the Stockholm Syndrome or Orthodoxy with Tolstoyanism," the diocesan council's decision says.


In the event of "principled nonrepentance" by the blogger, the diocese decided "to treat his conscious choice with respect and not undertake to force him into Christian forgiveness, for which he does not ask, and Christian love, which he rejects."


The RPTs also calls attention to the fact that "the basis for the Investigative Committee's detention of Ruslan Sokolovsky is not the mere fact that he hunted Pokemons, but the accusation of extremism, in which a blasphemous and offensive video was just one of the characteristic episodes, and not the basis." (tr. by PDS, posted 26 September 2016)

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