NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

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Second thoughts about survival tactics

"ROOF"--DOES EVERYONE NEED IT?
by Sergei Fomenko, Radiotserkov

KHABAROVSK, 29 June. Today many people do not have a roof over their heads in a literal sense. . . . But we are talking not about such people but about "roofs" in a metaphorical sense. About groupings of people. Sometimes "roofs" are used to refer to mafiosi, or governmental figures, etc.

Thus, the state took under its "roof" the traditional confessions of Russia who had the fifteen-year status, by means of the new law on freedom of conscience, supposedly to protect our society from penetration by totalitarian sects. In their turn, small groups and religious associations who did not fall under the "roof" of the state tried to find their own "roof" from those who had received fifteen-year status. Thus, according to the senior presbyter for the Far East of Christians of Evangelical Faith--Pentecostals, immediately several dozens of Korean churches, mostly Presbyterian, and "Full Gospel" churches asked to be admitted to their union. Approximately the same number expressed the wish to enter the Baptist union of the Far East. Tendencies toward unification have emerged in these unions themselves, as if everything were clear and this is a worthy business--unification.

But how does God view such tendencies when people begin to seek protection from people and do not seek it from God; after all, his "roof" is the most hopeful refuge? Are not such people making a compromise with their conscience, to say nothing about God? After all, under good circumstances such things would never happen as they are happening now. It would be impossible to set two leaders next to each other who understand their doctrines in different ways and who now simply close their eyes to it and say that it is necessary to help. Some even take into account the material benefits from unification.

But how are those who could be considered "totalitarian" sects acting under the current circumstances? Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, who used to go door to door are continuing to propagate their faith in the same way, and no laws are hindering them. In Khabarovsk an invention of Mister Moon has shown up, this time under the "roof" of the "Federation of Women." In heavily populated places of Khabarovsk certificates are being distributed which proclaim true family values, marriage, education of children, and which propose loving people of the whole world. All of this under the motto "Federation of Women for peace in all the world." On the other side of the certificate is a form which is to be filled out and sent to some address. In this way everyone can join the ranks of the "Federation of Women."

Hasn't the time come to consider whose "roof" we are under and whether we need it? (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 30 June 1998)


Romanov leader explains stand on funeral

"WE SHOULD NOT LIVE IN THE PAST ANY MORE"
by Igor Sedykh
Segodnia, 19 June 1998

"It is sad that not everyone understands that it is necessary to turn this tragic page in our history," says the senior member of the house of Romanov in an exclusive interview with Segodnia

GENEVA, 19 June. The decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church, refusing the "Ekaterinburg remains" the right to a name, as the verdict declares, stirred up disarray in the large Romanov family whom life has scattered about the whole world. Only Prince Mikhail Fedorovich in Paris, as reported by ITAR-TASS, declared harshly his refusal to participate in the farce, "speaking in his own name and that of a majority of relatives of the royal family." In his words, "along with the royal remains they want to bury all doubts about their authenticity and forever conceal the truth of what actually happened to the royal family."

With great difficulty I managed to telephone the island in the Aegean where these days Prince Nikolai Romanovich Romanov is vacationing. He is the senior male of the third branch of the house of Romanov, coming from Grand Prince Peter Nikolaevich, and inasmuch as there is no nearer male to the royal line he now is the senior member of the family and has the exclusive right to speak in the name of all Romanovs.

At the outset Nikolai Romanovich declared that about thirty relatives of the last Russian tsar will go to Petersburg in order to pay last respects to Nicholas II, members of his family, and those who were faithful to them and were with them to the last hour. He also reported that he spoke by phone with Mikhail Fedorovich, who said that his words were misquoted and that, although he actually cannot go to Petersburg because of family circumstances, he could not speak in the name of all the others.

Nikolai Romanovich devoted enormous efforts for arranging the inquests which were conducted in special military laboratories in USA and England. Specialists, conducting comparative analysis of the genetic code, came to the conclusion that the remains which had been found belong to the last Russian tsar, his wife Alexandra Fedorovna, and three of their children, with 98 percent confidence. "I am convinced that the remains really are the royal family," Nikolai Romanov says. "Of course, it is not for me to judge just how convincing a figure of 98 percent is, but for me the proof is sufficient. In any case, they should not be left in boxes in an Ekaterinburg morgue."

However, the conviction of the senior member of the house is not based on the particular inquests alone. "One hundred percent certainty can never be reached, no matter how many inquests are conducted, and there always will remain a small possibility of a mistake. But let's look at it: they found the remains of two fifty-year-old people, with different genetic combinations, and three girls approximately twenty years old, with identical genetic structures, which match the genetic structure of the couple. Besides, there are remains of four persons with different genetic structures. That is, there are the remains of a husband, wife, and three daughters, buried in a single place. But in this area there is not another compact family group with identical gene composition which also matches Romanov relatives. Who else from the family could be in the Urals or nearby?"

--Why did the Holy Synod not agree with these findings?

--Its position is not surprising. One shouldn't confuse the approaches of the church and the family. The church must be fully certain, especially if the issue of canonization is introduced. That is quite a different ritual of burial and veneration. But this does not matter to us, laity, and for us the proof is sufficient.

--But the church has raised specific questions. How did it happen that the investigator Nikolai Sokolov, in 1919, and Gely Riabov, in 1979, found remains in different places?

--First, the bodies were dismembered and thrown into a mine, and they tried to burn them. Then they came and saw that they had not managed to destroy them completely; they took part of the remains and transferred them to a different spot. That is established. Sokolov found the mine; Riabov found the second spot. It is possible to settle all that fine.

--The churchmen also declare that on the skull there are no bone callouses which should have been left after the sabre blow from the Japanese police when Nicholas II was still the heir to the throne.

--The blow was made by the flat of the sword; and besides the Greek heir, who caught sight of the attack, managed to raise a stick to ward off the blow. It was only a cut that did not reach the skull. But even if there were a callous, it is known that the skull, like the body, was broken up and remains were in bad condition and there is little likelihood of finding that part of the skull where this small callous might be.

--Finally there remains the question of the precision of identification. The church insists that it be conducted by Russian scientists.

--With all respect to the patriarch, I do not think that he can find better specialists. It is better to say simply: we don't want to bury them. But our family nevertheless has gove for this: we gave blood.

--It is known that in the Orthodox church in Brussels in the wall there is a part of the finger of Alexandra Fedorovna, which Nikolai Sokolov managed to removed from Ekaterinburg.

--Unfortunately, it is impossible to confirm that. The emigre church will not give access to the relics. It also is impossible to influence it. For them the civil war is still going on: reds against whites. But that time has passed. It is necessary to bury the remains in order to turn the tragic page of the history which historians must study. We should not live in the past any more.

--Some affirm that the conclusion of foreign experts is a manipulation intended to conceal the truth.

--World experts have agreed to tell a lie? We live in a free world. If there were a conspiracy, someone always would be found who would make a declaration and get millions for it. The only sense which I see in these arguments is removing responsibility from oneself before the Russian Orthodox people. This is the only question on which the emigre church is close to the Moscow patriarchate. But, in my view, even it it turns out that these are not royal remains, it would mean that some other victims of the brutal period were buried, who can symbolize all of the fallen, whites and reds, men and women, including Lieutenant Nicholas Romanov, his family, and their servants.

--The patriarch suggested that the burial become an act of repentance.

--I can only welcome such an act. We honor the Romanovs and other innocent victims of the time.

--In your view, what could have produced the decision to diminish the status of the burial of the remains and to exclude the patriarch and president from participation in it?

--That is a delicate question. Each church has to think about its position in the country. It is known that an influential group of bishops are categorically opposed to canonizing the royal family or even considering them martyrs. The emigre church has canonized it and this puts the Russian Orthodox church in a difficult position. But I am convinced that the two branches of Russian Orthodoxy must draw closer together in order to act in harmony for the good of Russia. Several emigres have asked me: how can you fellowship with murderers; let them repent first. But these are the grandchildren of those who fought. How can grandchildren repent for the grandfathers? The grandfathers already have answered to God. Having buried the tsarist family and their faithful servants, we will give the signal that this horrible page has been turned. I am grieved that not everyone understands this. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text

(posted 30 June 1998)


Attempts to maintain Orthodox participation in WCC

WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES FINDS ITSELF ON BRINK OF SCHISM
by Vivtor Malukin
Segodnia, 26 June 1998

Uniting 325 Christian denominations, in the year of its fiftieth anniversary the World Council of Churches, the chief citadel of the world ecumenical movement, has run into a problem which is capable of placing into question, if not its very existence, then at least the authority and ambition of this influential international forum.

The stumbling block for WCC, where the protestant churches set the tone, has become the pan-Orthodox conference in Thessaloniki, which convened on the initiative of the Russian and Serbian canonical churches. As a result of the three-day consultation, a document was adopted which actually represents a collective ultimatum of World Orthodoxy to the leadership of WCC. The Orthodox, constituting a minority in WCC, demanded respect for their views, displaying the intent to force their neighbors in the ecumenical home to reckon with them, even at the cost of a partial moratorium of the inter-Christian dialogue.

The crisis in relations between the protestant majority and the Orthodox minority in WCC has been developing over three decades. Thus, in 1968 in Upsala, Sweden, the ecumenical majority considered the Orthodox refusal of joint communion with those who believe differently as a manifestation of dogmatism and an inability to accommodate the spirit of the times. The situation was repeated in 1975 in Nairobi, Kenya, where a "small flock" of Orthodox protested in vain against a resolution about the ordination of women to the priesthood. A new round of mutual misunderstanding took place at the WCC assembly in Vancouver, Canada, in 1983, this time in connection with the problem of naming God in the feminine gender, a problem inspired by world feminism. The latest collision of positions occurred in 1991 on the matter of the theological recognition by WCC of "spirits of local culture" (all kinds of pagan cults). At that time Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad for the first time declared publicly a crisis at the heart of WCC, warning of the possibility of withdrawal of Orthodox representatives from the organization. Now the Georgian church already has quit WCC and the Bulgarian church has reached a similar decision. Meanwhile the next regular assembly of WCC, which will take place in December in Harara, Zimbabwe, is planning to review the possibility of blessing same-sex marriages and ordination of homosexuals as priests. In connection with this the Orthodox community, so as not to be drawn into debates about such an abominable topic, decided on a preemptive step.

At the conference in Thesalloniki Metropolitan Kirill advanced a proposal to boycott the assembly in Harara if WCC refuses to carry out structural and procedural reforms. As a result of discussion, a more moderate decision was reached: to go to the assembly, but not to participate in religious ceremonies, refrain from voting, and use the podium for declaring a crisis in WCC and the Orthodox view of ways to overcome it. The dispatch of emissaries with a restricted mandate is intended as offering WCC one last chance to harmonize its attitudes with World Orthodoxy.

These events have sturred up orthodox forces within the heart of Russian Orthodoxy that brand the ecumenical movement as the "heresy of heresies," a "masonic-satanic international" and the "spiritual plague of the twentieth century." The Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, as well as the brothers of Valaam and the Holy Dormition Athos monasteries did not hesitate in producing a declaration in which they underscored their loyalty to Patriarch Alexis II but delivered sharp attacks upon Metropolitan Kirill, who is responsible for external church relations, despite the fact that all external church activity is conducted with the permission of the most holy patriarch and the Holy Synod, and Orthodox unity in opposition to WCC was largely moulded by Metropolitan Kirill. However, this paradox is easily explained in the context of the intensification of intrachurch polemics and the antichurch struggle on the eve of the bishops' and local councils of the Russian Orthodox church.

What will WCC do in response to the Thessaloniki ultimatum? Most likely in order to avoid the Orthodox display in Harara, WCC is trying to blunt the problem by means of "quiet conversations," having begun a series of consultations directly with the Russian Orthodox church. Assurances will be given and attempts made to disavow the conference in Thessaloniki, representing its decision as the result of the destructive energies of Metropolitan Kirill alone.

In a word, in advance of the bimillennium of the birth of Christ Russian Orthodoxy has made a responsible choice--it has taken a severe decision which both friends and enemies hardly expected. In Thessaloniki a new paradigm of inter-Christian unity was proposed: a world Christian forum, that does not have formal membership of churches and which opens the possibility for cooperation on a basis of equality.

And so, Russian Orthodoxy has decided to reject protestant embraces. At least until the time when the conflicted ecumenical household is put in order. In this the Russian church has insisted on its fidelity to the idea of ecumenical dialogue, seeing in it the mission of testimony to the truth before the world that believes differently, which has been entrusted to it. But, as is known, before unification, boundaries must be drawn. It is this process that is now underway in relations between World Orthodoxy and world ecumenism. If there is a final rupture in relations with World Orthodoxy, WCC risks being reduced to the dimensions of an international protestant club. Although in the absence of the Orthodox no one will hinder the aspirations of WCC to work out some kind of syncrtistic suprachurch spirituality. It would be like a broadening of the limits of doctrinal tolerance on the order of the wedding of a homosexual couple. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text

(posted 30 June 1998)


Growing intolerance and arbitrariness in church

AUTO-DA-FE IN EKATERINBURG
by Aleksei Maliutin
Moskovskie novosti, 16 June 1998

[article concludes with the following]

. . . The incident of burning "heretical" books is unprecedented for the Russian church. There is not even a word in Russian that designates such a form of struggle with those who think differently. It is necessary to have recourse to a word borrowed from the medieval European inquisition, "auto-da-fe." Is someone trying to introduce this custom into the Russian land? . . .

The auto-da-fe in Ekaterinburg permits one to draw several conclusions. Intolerance is intensifying in the Russian Orthodox church. Church leaders are paying less and less attention to the opinion of secular society about their actions and particularly to that of the press which they more often are viewing as deliberately hostile to the church. Finally, local bishops are beginning to act ever more independently, ultimately confusing the uninitiated about the real position of the church on any particular question. (tr. by PDS)

Full text English translation and Russian text: Autodafe v Ekaterinburge

(posted 26 June 1998)


Patriarch speaks publicly about funeral

CHURCH DOUBTS AUTHENTICITY OF REMAINS
ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, 26 June. "The church has no assurance that the remains that were found near Ekaterinburg are authentic remains of the tsarist family," Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus declared today, commenting at the request of reporters on the decision of the Holy Synod about the imposibility of the RPTs primate's or any bishop's participating in the ceremony of burial which is planned for 17 July in the cathedral of Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg. This conversation was held after a meeting with the president of Argentina Carlos Menem in the cathedral of Christ the Savior.

His holiness called the results of the study conducted in 1918 by the investigator Nikolai Sokolov and the contemporary examination "mutually exclusive." "A month after the shooting of the tsarist family the investigator Sokolov could not find the remains which were found seventy years later, without any traces of the hydrochloric acid or fire which they tried to use to destroy the bodies," Patriarch Alexis II said. "All of this," the primate of the Russian church emphasized, "cannot but evoke doubts in the church and in society. It is because of this that the Holy Synod suggested burying the remains in a symbolic grave-monument to victimes of the repressions of that horrible time and to continue the investigation." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 26 June 1998)


Prison archive reveals new information about Patriarch Pimen

PATRIARCH PIMEN, CAMP PRISONER
Krasnoe znamia (Komi)
25 June 1998

On 3 June 1971 the fourteenth patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Pimen, was enthroned, i.e. solemnly elevated to the position of head of the Russian Orthodox church. For Vorkuta he was not only an historic personage but also its resident. Concerning his "Vorkuta period" I learned from the documentary film "'Those who hope in You will not perish:' The church in the years of trouble." In it Father Tikhon Trilessky describes his personal meeting with the patriarch in 1938 in one of the camps; as Fr Tikhon puts it, "in the 102nd quarter in Komi, Pyeldino district."

The priest recalls that he arrived at the horse barn (in Pyeldino they were engaged in forestry and the trees were hauled out on horses) and he caught sight of a bed. Quoting further: "On the bed lay a foal. It was covered with a blanket and only its head was visible. I look at this cell and thought: the person who lives here is not an ordinary man. After some time I warmed up a bit. The stove was burning. A tall young man came in. I said: tell me, please, why do you have a colt on the bed? He said to me: It's an orphan. Its mother broke a leg in hauling wood and it was killed as they do in the camps. Each prisoner got ten grams. A similar fate awaited the colt. I pitied it and took it to raise it."

Father Tikhon asked the resident of the cell: "I see that you are not an ordinary man?" (In his conception "not ordinary" meant a churchman.)

The future patriarch answered: "Yes, I am a monastic priest."

"How did you get here?"

"This is my second time. The first time I was in Vorkuta and worked in the mines. I was sent here as a person without a fixed residence and occupation. Article 7-35."

Patriarch Pimen (Sergei Mikhailovich Izvekov) spent one of his terms in Vorkuta until 1938. I am acquainted with two of his biographies: in the dictionary "Christianity" (M., 1994) and in the St. Petersburg publication "Orthodox calendar for 1996." They are silent about this fact. In the dictionary everything is condensed as much as possible: "Pimen (Izvekov Sergei Mikhailovich, 1910-1990). Born in Bogorodsk, Moscow province (renamed Noginsk in 1930) in a worker's family. . . Ordained a monastic priest in 1932 and until 1952 had various church and clerical responsibilities in various dioceses."

The calendar gives a few more details: "25 January 1932. Pimen was tonsured a monastic priest and served his novitiate as precentor of Dorogomilov Epiphany cathedral. For some time he was imprisoned and exiled to Central Asia. There, having natural literary talent, he loved to write poetry. In the Great Patriotic War he was mobilized into the active army."

And so, official sources mention only exile to Central Asia. Perhaps Fr Tikhon Trilessky is mistaken? In the Vorkuta archive where data about former prisoners are stored I was given the following note from his file: "Izvekov Sergei Mikhailovich. Born in 1910 in Noginsk, Moscow district, in worker's family. (Everything matches) Education: incomplete higher. Not a party member. Specialty--feldsher. Sentenced by military tribunal of Moscow garrison on 15 January 1945 under article 193-7D to ten years from 29 November 1944 to 29 November 1954. On 4 March 1945 arrived in Vorkuta by Moscow convoy. At mine no. 1 "Capital" from 6 March 1945. Liberated in the amnesty of 15 September 1945." That is, the fact of the patriarch's residence in Vorkuta is certain. However the date of the Vorkuta archive (1945) does not match the date of Fr Tikhon (before 1938). I dare suggest that the fate of this righteous man was not easy and he was subjected to persecution by the authorities more than once: he was in Vorkuta before 1938, working the mines; he was imprisoned in Pyeldino in 1938; exiled in Central Asia; after a severe wound received in battle he returned to Moscow and soon was again exiled to Vorkuta. But the times were different. Stalin had become more tolerant and solicitous toward the Russian Orthodox church, or new facts of the case were found; but in 1945 the future patriarch was amnestied.

The saints often keep secret the travails of their life and thus little is known about them. Perhaps someone will respond to this publication and reveal something more of the unknown fate of Patriarch Pimen. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 26 June 1998)


Uzbek war on Islamic fundamentalism

ANOTHER TRIAL OF WAHHABIS
by Madina Abdulaeva
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 June 1998

In the Supreme Court of the republic preliminary hearings have begun in a case against members of an extremist religious group from the Fergana valley. The trial in Tashkent was supposed to complete a series of open trials of Wahhabis accused by the authorities of attempts to overthrow the constitutional order and establish an Islamic state on the territory of Uzbekistan.

This time a group of eight persons ranging in age from 17 to 42 were presented before the court. One of them, a thirty-year-old resident of Namangan, Talib Mamajanov, was charged as a direct accomplice in the murders of seven persons. In his testimony he wrote that from 1994 to 1997 he participated in a criminal group at whose hands altogether twelve persons died, including eight officers of law enforcement agencies of Namangan region and the deputy head of the administration of Andizhan region. In court Mamajanov admitted that his actions were inspired by disagreement with the policies of the administration of the country with regard to believers and also by the illegal actions of law enforcement agencies. "In 1992 the government began an undeclared war against Muslims and we then also began a war with the government," Mamajanov said. The second co-conspirator and main perpetrator of the murders, Abduvali Yuldashev, at the present is being sought and probably is hiding in Tajikistan.

The other defendants are not co-conspirators in the murders. They are accused of hiding the direct perpetrators of the crimes and also of possessing weapons and drugs. In particular the defendants include the younger brother of Abduvali Yuldasheva who is in hiding and two of his relatives. The trial should last more than a week and sentance may be pronounced at the end of June.

As already reported, in December 1997, after the murders in Namangan of an official of the district highway police, three city policemen, and the director of a collective farm, interior forces were introduced into the city. It was then that the authorities laid all the reponsibility for these crimes on adherents of Wahhabism. Use of this term began recently with respect to all of militant Islamic fundamentalism. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan sentenced seven members of extremist religious groups to prison terms of six to ten years. Earlier in May the Namangan regional court also sentenced twelve persons to prison terms of five to eight years. It has been suggested that the participants in an extremist religious group whose trial is underway in Tashkent will be sentenced to terms of up to twenty years. The basic accusation includes such articles of the criminal code as infringement upon the constitutional structure and exacerbation of national, racial, and religious hostility. Official Tashkent is concerned that the uncontrolled growth of religious and national consciousness against the background of economic problems and external influences may lead to an outbreak of extremist attitudes. Uzbekistan has tried to counteract the threat of the penetration of findamentalism into the country, which could find a broad social base in the most densely populated region of the former Soviet Union, the Fergana valley, where Islam traditionally has deep roots.

The law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" adopted at the session of the country's parliament was intended to draw legal boundaries around the activity of religious organizations. The seriousness of the intentions of the administration of the country is attested by the recent introduction of changes and additions in several legislative acts. Thus, the criminal procedural code was supplemented by articles providing various measures of punishment for violation of the procedure for teaching religious doctrines, and for preparation or distribution of materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism and calls for pogroms or forcible expulsion of citizens from their residences. These actions will be punished by a fine of up to 100 percent of the minimum wage (about 900 dollars) or arrest for up to six months, or deprivation of liberty from three to five years. Such actions, committed by a group using an official position, or financial or other aide from foreign religious organizations and citizens of other countries, will incur deprivation of liberty for terms of five to eight years. A number of harsh standards were introducted into the Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Responsibility. This includes, for example, an article forbidding citizens of the republic of Uzbekistan to appear in public in liturgical clothing except for ministers of religious organizations. Violation of this prohibition will incur a fine of administrative arrest for up to fifteen days. The authorities intend to give the most careful attention to the procedure for registration of religious organizations and the conduct of religious meetings. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Eshche odin protsess

(posted 26 June 1998)


Evicted congregation finds home

NOVOKUZNETSK PENTECOSTALS HOLD SERVICES IN OLD FACTORY
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov

NOVOKUZNETSK, 25 June. The church of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Novoilinsk microdistrict of Novokuznetsk finally has found a home. For a month and a half it has been homeless against its will. Now parishioners assembly in one of the shops of a former shoe factory. The factory has been inactive for a long time and has been broken up and robbed; on the external steward has been preserved. The premises have been set to order by the efforts of the parishioners. All 300 mbmers of the congregation can be accommodated easily in it. Although there is no water in the shop and a lantern had to be brought for light, services are bing conducted.

The conflict of the church with the city's mayor, who would not permit the church to rent premises and even forbade them to gather on the street, has settled down for the time being. The respite, according to the administrator of the church, Nikolai Pogrebniak, is because the church has disappeared from the eyes of city bureaucrats. The shoe factory that has given them refuge is located at the very edge of the city.

Pastor Ilia Bantseev has amassed now sufficient information to file suit against the bureaucrats in court. However the parishioners for the time being are bearing the arbitrariness of the authorities. Besides, as Nikolai Pogrebniak says, the church's task is something different: to tell people of Jesus Christ. This is what the Novoilinsk church now is trying to be engaged in, despite everything. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 25 June 1998)


Why Ukrainian Orthodox think apocalyptically

ESCHATOLOGY AND POLITICS
by Alexander Rudakov
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 17 June 1998

Ukrainian Orthodox church in expectation of end times

On 15 May the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox church met under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all-Ukraine. The session heard a report from the chairman of the synodal theological commission, Bishop Avgustin of Lviv and Drogobych, regarding the conclusions of the commission relating to the intentions of the Ukrainian authorities to introduce in the state a universal identification system pursuant to an order of the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine, "Concerning measures for introducing identification numbers of individuals" of 6 November 1997. The reason that the Holy Synod was engaged in this investigation of materials which seem to be far removed from church life as administrative innovations of the Ukrainian authorites was rather serious. Believers of UPTs had begun to imagine that identification numbers could be that very "seal of the beast" of which the Revelation of St. John the Divine speaks.

Eschatological expectations have become one of the manifestations of the severe spiritual crisis which has hit Ukrainian society. Expansion of totalitarian sects and the flowering of satanic cults, a repetition of the apocalypse staged in the cathedral of Holy Wisdom of Kiev by the "living gods" Tsvigun and Krivonogov in the autumn of 1993, and the forcible expulsion of Orthodox from the buildings belonging to them have acquired in the consciousness of believers the character of warning signs foretelling the invasion of the forces of evil and infernal chaos. Special significance has been given to the appearance of the pseudoreligious organization led by the former metropolitan Filaret Denisenko aspiring to supremacy in Ukraine, which is taken as a blasphemous and graceless parody of the Orthodox church. In the religious mentality of Ukrainians there are very many traditional, even archaic, elements, and thus the consequences of the spiritual crisis are felt especially sharply and painfully. Such, in particular, was the reaction to the initiative of a number of deputies of the Supreme Soviet proposing by the year 2000 to "unite" all Ukrainian "Orthodox churches" into one; that is, by means of governmental compulsion to liquidate UPTs as "ruled from abroad" and "having its center in a foreign state." In this atmosphere the story about the identification numbers has become the final push turning eschatological fears into an object of church discussion.

The agitation assumed a mass character, becoming a churchwide problem requiring special investigation by the theological commission. Having become acquainted with its conclusions, the synod of UPTs sent a letter to the president, parliament, and the government of Ukraine, as well as to all believers of UPTs. The preamble of the document was devoted to the crisis of spiritual values and the globalization of world processes and the role of western civilization in these events. "The contemporary western world in continual talk about freedom and free development in reality by its style of life is making the individual a complete slave of passions and spiritual lusts. The noxious antichristian spirit ever more vigorously penetrates our daily life through an insistent intrusion of western values: idols of comfort, self-assurance and indulgence," the letter says.

Having stated that the concern of believers with regard to identification numbers was not baseless, the synod of UPTs nevertheless considered it premature to say that the government of Ukraine was compelling the acceptance of the "seal of antichrist." The hierarchy of UPTs came to this conclusion for two reasons. First, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers the seal of antichrist should be universal for all humanity. Second, in the opinion of the Holy Synod, in itself the system of enumeration apart from any kind of context could not qualify as an anti-Christian procedure. Nevertheless in its appeal the hierarchy of UPTs(MP) stressed that "as a result of the enumeration system and subsequent creation of a data bank for all citizens of the country control over each individual will grow enormously." Subsequent international unification of the computerized system of control, as indicated in the same document, will create "all the preconditions for the appearance of suprastate administrative structures which could be transformed into the predicted 'world government.'"

Such harsh rhetoric, which resonates with declarations of oppositionists and radicals in Russia and Ukraine, to a great degree is caused by the reaction of UPTs to the continual attacks upon the church on the part of the "Kievan patriarchate," Uniates, and autocephalists, which enjoy substantial support from abroad. This is explained to a great extent by contemporary Ukraine's having become a distinct buffer zone as an intermediate space between "Orthodox civilization" (in the classification of Samuel Huntington) and western civilization. One often has occasion to hear from Orthodox Ukrainians that inclusion in the "European home" and melding into the cultural space of the West will lead to the destruction of authentic Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Not surprisingly, this opinion was reflected in the contents of the letter of the Holy Synod of UPTs, in which the Orthodox bishops, who usually are extremely cautious and restrained in matters having a political subtext, expressed for the first time in such a radical way their evaluation of westernization and the consumer society of a western type. It may be suggested that the issue of the identification codes served merely as an occasion that gave the possibility to the synod of UPTs also to express its attitude toward the religious policies of the present Ukrainian government, regarding which Orthodox believing people cannot be indifferent.

It is no accident that the UPTs synod warned that the introduction of the identification code may lead to destabilization in society and popular loss of confidence in the government. The hierarchy of UPTs appealed to the state agencies not to impose criminal or administrative penalties on those who do not want to accept identification numbers, out of religious considerations. Such people, judging by all indications, will be few. Today for professing Orthodox in Ukraine the problem of state-church relations has transcended the bounds of a social conflict and has become something else with metaphysical dimensions. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Eskhatologia i politika

(posted 25 June 1998)


Threat to Unification Church association called off

BELARUSIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY WITHDRAWS SUIT

MINSK, 25 JUNE.- On 25 June the final court hearing took place in the suit brought by the minister of justice of the Belarus republic, Mr. G.N. Vorontsov, to liquidate the student association CARP. The suit had accused the student association of conducting activities aimed at violently changing the constitutional order and kindling national, religious and racial hatred, while violating the regulations contained in Article 3 of the Belarus republic law "On Public Associations." The trial, which a Belarus business newspaper called "unprecedented," started June 18 in the Supreme Court of the Belarus republic.

An expert conclusion submitted to the court by Belarus State University, Journalism Department graduate Ms. Galina Ruzova stated that while being a part of the Unification Movement of Rev. Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, and while delivering lectures on "Pure Love," CARP contributed to a cholera epidemic and damaged the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Belarus people and the republic's budget.

During the trial the CARP representative submitted to the court more than 50 letters of gratitude which the student association had received for its campaign to prevent AIDS and drug abuse, its charity work with orphanages and boarding schools, and its lectures given on campuses and in dormitories about preparing for family life. During the final hearings the Ministry of Justice withdrew its suit completely, accepting that the activities of the student association CARP are entirely lawful. After the court's decision Nadezhda Dudareva, an associate of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, said that the case set a precedent, because until now the Ministry of Justice of the Belarus republic has never withdrawn a demand to shut down a public organization.

(courtesy of Konstatin Krylov)

(posted 25 June 1998)


Government press conference on funeral

CHURCH'S ABSENCE DOES NOT DIMINISH RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF FUNERAL
ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, 24 June. "The participation of the church in the ceremony of burial planned for 17 July was restricted by decision of the Holy Syond. It recommended that bishop no participate in the service," declared Viktor Aksiuchits, an advisor to a vice premier of the government of RF for relations with public, political and religioius organizations. He briefed reporters on the schedule for the funeral but he could not say for sure whether the church would be represented by priests of St. Petersburg diocese. "Whether there will be some priests is a magger for the church inasmuch as this was not explicitly prohibited but it was one recommendation," Aksiuchits commented on the position of the church hierarchy on this question. Nevertheless he considers that "the religious aspect and value of the ceremony itself will not be diminshed in the least."

According to Nemtsov's advicor, "In no place and by no means did the church, by its decision, cast doubt on whether the remains belong to the emperor and his family. The leadership of the Moscow patriarchate shied away from full participation in the ceremony of burial because of completely different, intrachurch problems."

He advanced his own version of such an approach, declared that "the leadership of the patriarchate is concerned that if it takes a more definite position, several parishes could transfer to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which categorically denies the authenticity of these remains."

FUNERAL WILL BE STATE AFFAIR
ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, 24 June. The ceremony of burial of the remains of the last Russian emperir will have the "status of a state funeral," Viktor Aksiuchits confirmed. Speaking today at a press conference at ITAR-TASS, he stressed especially the uniqueness of this historic event. "A democratic government is burying a monarch with the status of a state funeral," he noted, adding that this act should be viewed, primarily, as "the possibility of restoring the historical succession of the historic justice and repentence." This was the reason that the state assumed responsibility for preparing and conducting the ceremony, refusing help from any public organizations.

Viktor Aksiuchits reported that the official representatives of the government at the ceremony will be Boris Nemtsov and Minister of Cutlure Natalia Dementieva. The government of St. Petersburg will be given five million rubles from the reserve fund for expenses associated with the funeral events.

In St. Petersturg, besides the delegation of the government there will be representatives of the administration of the president, the chambers of the Federal Assembly, and courts, and delegations from component entities of the Russian federation as well as foreign guests. Viktor Aksiuchits said that abundance of invitees and othere wishing to attend the ceremony represents special complications for the organizers. The cathedral of Peter and Paul, where the burial will take place, can accommodate only 300 persons. While applications for credentials already have been received from 400 foreign reporters. It is known that guests from more than fifty countries will arrive on invitation from MID. Besides this, more than fifty relatives of the last Romanovs will come to Russia.

Viktor Aksiuchits denied the reports in some of the media that the grave will not have a name designation. "The government has made a decision on the basis of the decision of the state commission," he said. "This is a matter of the burial of the remains of the emperor, his family, and their househond, and all of the names will be indicated."

LITTLE PROSPECT OF FINDING RELICS OF ANASTASIA AND ALEXIS
ITAR-TASS

The prospects for finding the remains of the children of the last Russian emperor Anastasia and Alexis are still very small, according the an investigator of the procuracy general, Vladimir Soloviev, at today's press conference at ITAR-TASS. He said that information about the suggested place of the burial of these remains, which was reported several months ago to Sverdlovsk governor Eduard Rossel, turned out to be wrong. Preliminary searches conducted by the Urals Institute of Archaeology and History produced no results. "In these regions a young forest has grown up and investigations now are extremely difficult," he said.

At the same time he categorically denied the notion that the children of the emperor had been rescued. Vladimir Soloviev said that so far not a single report about supposed "tsarevnas" and "tsareviches," of which there already are 140 according to his information, has been confirmed. "No genetic tests of these offspring will be conducted," he emphasized.

Vladimir Soloviev is 100 percent convinced that the remains belong to the royal family, but he noted that models of the patterns of several skeletons will be made for further tests "out of purely scientific considerations."

Answering a question about the dating of the notes of the Yuriev document by which the modern investigation was guided, the senior investigator of the procuracy general answered that he did not know it. "For now such data are not in the archival documents," Vladimir Soloviev said. The memo, in his words, was of interest to the investigation only from the point of view of determining the place where the bodies were buried. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 25 June 1998)


Political eploitation of tsar's funeral flap

DO WE WANT TO LEARN THE TRUTH?

by Sergei Chapnin
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 17 June 1998

Speculation about the "tsarist" remains is continuing

The events of recent weeks connected with the "Ekaterinburg remains" have shown clearly that a spiritual crisis is being experienced not only by the government authorities but also by a part of the Orthodox public. As to the former nobody is nourishing any illusions--the government has solved its problems. For it the matter has nothing to do with the present of Russia, let alone with its past. One gets the impression that it is consumed by frantic, pointless activity. And if government bureaucrats are asked directly, "Why have you undertaken all this?" some of them can barely find an intelligible answer. The results of the work of the state commission appear more painful. Instead of an explanation of history there is an ordinary forgery. Instead of repentence there is clumsy self-justification. And in the end instead of civil peace, conflict is growing in society.

Despite all this the government continues to prepare for a ceremony of a solemn burial. Boris Nemtsov's commission has worked out the ritual and is urgently seeking funds for preparing the casket for the "Ekaterinburg remains." Once again the words spoken by the Savior about the leaders of the Israelite people seem pertinent: "Woe to you who build the graves of the prophets whom your fathers killed. By this you testify about the deeds of your fathers and consent to them" (Lk 11.47-48). Word for word everything is being fulfilled today; human consciousness has remained as it was before. It is impossible to escape the question of responsibility for regicide by remaining silent. Even if a long time has elapsed, the present Russian government is obliged to answer the question of who is guilty of the murder. Without this, from a moral point of view the activity of the government commission is empty fuss, an attempt to buy off the past. Obviously the criminal indifference of the Russian political elite to historic truth is one of the consequences of the spiritual crisis of the government.

Another consequence of the crisis is the loss of the very ability to listen. At least since February the White House has been unable to hear the voice of the church. Not because the church cannot speak loudly and not because it speaks unclearly. The bureaucrats do not want to hear. Incidentally, the situation that has developed is a fine answer to those who accuse Orthodoxy of being a state religion. By maintaining a position distinct from that of the government the church shows its independence despite pressure on the part of the government.

It seems that there are no human words which can persuade Russian bureaucrats to change the decision regarding burial of the remains. The only thing on which hope remains is that there is no money in the budget. Orthodox are convinced that neither the tsar-martyr nor the unknown martyrs whose remains are being prepared for a burial by royal procedure would object if the enormous sum of money, up to ten million new rubles, were to be spent not on a pompous display that offends the feelings of believers but for the salaries of teachers, physicians, and miners.

The surprise of recent days is the hypocritical position of part of the Orthodox public. Externally everything seems in order: it unreservedly supports the Holy Synod and condemns the actions of the state commission. However there are times when it is possible to hold one's peace. In particular, when people deal with their own personal problems at the expense of the church. The only one who can manage to make a stand for truth is the one who does it disinterestedly without turning it into a commodity.

The public hearings held in the State Duma at the end of May on the initiative of the Congress of Russian Societies (KRO) and the Radonezh society showed that the Orthodox public still is not prepared to act disinterestedly. Indeed, everything was correct formally. Misunderstandings arose in trying to understand why was it so late, only a half year after the commission on the remains finished working, that the public activists led by the head of KRO, Dmitry Rogosin, and the president of Radonezh, Evgeny Nikiforov, decided to proceed with public action in regard to the "Ekaterinburg remains"? Why did neither Rogozin nor KRO assign any meaning to this problem earlier?

After the unsuccessful election campaign for Valery Zubov in Krasnoiarsk Rogozin immediately had to organize "something" with broad political and public appeal. It seemed that the problem of the "Ekaterinburg remains" appeared better than anything else, since there was a complete "gentleman's collection" of the necessary conditions for the necessary effect. It was possible, first, to criticize the government harshly and second, to support the Orthodox church with a broad gesture. If such action were conducted in the State Duma the attention of the press and the public inevitably would be drawn to the KRO initiative. And the shameful loss in Krasnoiarsk would be forgotten quickly. The main thing is that it is necessary to repeat all the time: "Our goal is not to permit the politicization of the issue and to elucidate the truth" (from the preamble to the materials of the hearings).

"Elucidation of the truth" is firmly linked with the clarification of the question of the possibility of a ritual murder of Emperor Nicholas II. This is a most delicate question. It is impossible to ignore, but at the same time it is very simple to vulgarize it. The leader of the "Christian Renaissance" union, Vladimir Osipov, maintains, not without basis, that Nemtsov's team "fears recognizing the ritual character of the murder like the devil fears incense." However what was selected as commentary was the article of historian Mikhail Nazarov, who in the opinion of the organizers was the most competent to shed light on the problem. At the hearings in the State Duma serious discussion was devoted to the theory which was well worth such investment. Nazor maintains that by the beginning of the twentieth century "by the force of God's judgment the basic part of the Jewish people were found on the territory of the Russian empire and they did not have equality of religious rights because Russian tsars had not been able to grant them to a religion that was hostile to Christianity and that bore the traits of racial exclusivity." Thus Orthodox Russia became the "main political and religious enemy of world Jewry and Masonry, and the Russian tsar was the personification of this enemy." From this it follows that the "murder of God's Annointed and Preserver (i.e. the tsar--NGR note) had a ritual and mystical meaning regardless of whether the perpetrators themselves were aware of it. For the investigation it requires only the participation in the murder of those who could recognize the spiritual meaning of this act." In other words, the organizers of the hearings, which included duma deputies, maintain that the Jews are guilty of the murder of Nicholas II regardless of whether this will be proven or not.

A fine conclusion! Only why then the hearings, why the inquests and the commission, if it is possible to make an assessment "regardless" of the results of the investigation? And how does this relate to the declared goal of "elucidating the truth"? It seems antisemitism has become the background for the political activity of several para-Orthodox organization not only in street demonstrations but also within the walls of state institutions. It is a pity that Orthodox themselves have chosen such a refined device for defaming the memory of the last Russian emperor.

However, from the church's point of view the last word in the affair of the burial of the "Ekaterinburg remains" already has been spoken. At its June session the Holy Synod resolved that participation in the solemn ceremony of 17 July by Patriarch Alexis II as well as by any other church hierarch was impossible. This decision was final. At the same time the church will not deny anyone a religious funeral and priests of the St. Petersburg diocese nevertheless will perform a requiem in the cathedral of the holy apostles Peter and Paul in the Peter-Paul fortress.

The restrained response of the church pertains only to the ceremony in St. Petersburg. The eightieth anniversary of the passion-bearing death of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family will be marking by the church rather widely: in all churches requiems will be conducted with the special prayer "for the repose of the souls of the departed servants of God, the murdered Sovereign Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, their children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexis, and their faithful servants and all those martyred and murdered in the years of horrible persecutions for the faith of Christ." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Khotim li my uznat pravdu?

Related story: "State Addresses Burial Conflicts," St. Petersburg Times, 19 June
"For the first time since burial plans were announced in February, the government has made statements which clearly indicate its unhappiness with the stance church leaders have made on the July 17 funeral ceremony for Russia's last tsar, Interfax reported Wednesday. . . ." remainder of story

(posted 24 June 1998)


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