THE STORY OF JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN IN A NEW KEY

by Olesia Alexandrovna Nikolaeva, poet, member of the PEN-center executive committee

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 4 October 1997

In statements connected with the tragedy in the church of the Mother of God in Pechatniki, where violence against Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky was committed, we have been persistently faced with a version according to which these events were provoked by the Moscow patriarchate in order to dispose of Fr Kochetkov, who is inconvenient to them. The case is made to seem as if the patriarchate, by transferring Fr Mikhail from one "intellectual" parish to another, not only had planned beforehand the crime that happened here but also initiated it.

Dmitry Gorin, in his article "Who orders the beating of priests?" following Fr Kochetkov assiduously pushes upon us the idea of an evil plot which involves the participation of both the clergy led by the patriarch himself and the health agencies which gave to Fr Mikhail on the very same day of his forcible hospitalization a statement that "he does not manifest signs of psychiatric disorder." Indeed the health agencies which gave evidence of violence are placed under suspicion in Gorin's mystery reality. Reporters are pursuing ghosts: the medical commission is lying, the police are lying, the emergency room is lying.

"All of us know very well how one gets such affidavits in Russia," the journalist makes a self-exposing admission. It is curious nevertheless whom he has in view when he declares that this is well known to "all of us." Because all of us, for example, do not know this by any means. We get simple affidavits only with difficulty. But we would not try to pass of the chief mystery clue of the tragic plot with violence and forcible hospitalization of a psyhologically healthy man if we were not trying to compromise the patriarchate, portraying it not only as the procuror of false statements but also as a covert provocateur of the plot in Dormition church.

However, it would be possible not to see either the statements or the evidence: nothing except the video tapes themselves which the Kochetkovites made by their own hands on that fateful morning. The video tapes before whose court they so naively have tried dramatize their good intention. Alas. The videocamera, which does not lie, recorded things that they woould not wish to show: it coldly and dispassionately recorded all the "breaks" and "cuts" of this badly edited criminal performance.

So, a plot really did exist. One of its key figures was the parishioner and secretary of Fr Kochetkov, a kandidat of medical science, a retired psychiatrist, a former employee of the 13th psychiatric hospital, Alla Danilovna Vasilevskaia, equipped with rich specialist experience, which, it must be, she gained at that time when psychiatry performed guard duty in the struggle against dissident activity. Obviously it was in her reformed head that the plan took shape: to corruptly turn over to her former colleagues "for treatment" the inconvenient Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky.

There is no basis for imagining that Fr Kochetkov and his group were ignorant about the strategy dreamed up by Alla Danilovna: the whole two months while the young priest ministered in Dormition church he was insistently subjected not only to insults but also to threats served an extremely specific intent. Like the brother of Joseph, the plotters decided to betray him to the Ishmaelites in order to dispose of him by means of alien hands.

The warden of the church S.I. Matveev declared to Fr Mikhail: "You would sent off for five years!" Alla Danilovna firmly settled on a chair in the altar with a thick notebook in her hands on whose pages she kept a diary of observations of the psychological state of Fr Mikhail while he served at the altar.With truly maternal concern she recorded for him those articles of the criminal code by which, as it seemed to her, he could be "sent off." Fr Kochetkov assured the young brother: "We have other methods besides ecclesiastical ones by which to work on you."

The idea that a priest could be dragged from the altar not only was put into the minds of the Kochetkovites but it even was transformed so as not to seem amazing. The "Sretensky Leaflet" (N. 7), issued by this community, wrote: "It is impossible not to notice that two or three centuries ago a priest would be removed from the church for such actions by parishioners. One can only be amazed at the patience of the parishioners who have not done this."

So in the service of All-Saints of Russia, they were well armed. In the church they ran two movie cameras and turned on a recorder. Fr Mikhail served matins. When they began to read the canon, Fr Mikhail, as the officiating priest, was alarmed that without his approval the service was abbreviated in an improper way. The readers refused to obey him and he began reading himself. Suddenly Fr Kochetkov approached him and tore the service books away from him so that the lectern on which they were lying was swung around. The service was interrupted.

Fr Mikhail decided to phone the ruling bishop and ask whether he could continue the service which was so in contradiction to liturgical rules; but he was not permitted to use the church telephone. There remained the possibility of calling from the nearest church, about a minute away. "Don't let him leave the church!" the shout of the warden Matveev rang out. The videotape shows how the acolytes and parishioners barred his path. "Don't let him outside in vestments," Fr Kochetkov shouted. Fr Mikhail knew that there was not specific church prescription on this account; priests go outside in vestments when they meet the bishop and when they make processions and when they must serve in the out-of-doors. Thus he continued to stand and merely asked: "Let me out."

The camera give evidence how those surrounding him in a human ring insulted him: "Father, are you a believer? Do you believe in God?" "He is silent," one of the activists remarked with a smile. "Good, perhaps nurses have helped him? He's not likely to fight with them, although who knows," Fr Kochetkov said into the camera. "Perhaps we'll not call the psychiatric ambulence now?" Having ascended the pulpit, he turned to the floct with a call to pray for "the upset, agitated" Fr Mikhail who is "possessed" and "serves the devil."

Fr Mikhail returned to the altar room. While there, in the altar, a gang of five fell upon the priest, five on one, while they began to tear the cross and robe and vestment for no clear reason from the person who, by Christ's command, absolutely is not permitted to raise a hand against anyone. Although there is the irrefutable evidence of the disinterested videocamera how Fr Mikhail, now without his vestments but in a cassock, was beset on all sides by the acolytes holding him and repeating like a incantation: "So who is not letting you leave; what are you imagining; no one is bothering you." As proof they even wave their hands: take our picture, movie camera, spin your film. But the camera sternly records that their feet are only partly in the frame and they are living a separate life: excuse me, the rear end of Viktor Maksimovsky standing with his back to us is twitching and Fr Mikhail falls, like someone who has been shot. The priest cries: "Help" "But how can we help you, get Alla Danilovna, let's call the psychiatric ambulence." And she apparently is working on this case for a "history of disease." "The condition is unsteady, now worse, now better. Can you see something, can you hear? Perhaps it is hallucination, voices?" The acolytes agree: "Now the bishop will come to you." By "bishop" they mean the physician in the ambulence.

Meanwhile Fr Mikhail's shouts were heard in the church. Fearing that they could not help him, his parishioners summoned the police. Alla Danilovna was introduced to the police by the acolytes as an "expert of highest grade," who has been "in psychiatry forty years." Fr Kochetkov explained to the police that Fr Mikhail is a psychologically abnormal person (NG 26 July 97). Taking Kochetkov's words the policeman M. Shunaev declared : "The father is not himself." In order to calm the agitated crowd he said: "No violence has been committed," which at that moment was the truth.

Finally the ambulence arrived. Alla Danilovna went out to meet the physicial and huddled with him, furnishing him "technical psychiatric" information. What kind of information Alla Danilovna made up for her colleague Shafran, perhaps that Fr Mikhail was a psychiatric patient, or that he poses a danger for himself and those around him, or that he had "hallucinations and voices," all of this was a fabricated lie and an abuse of her status as a medical worker. Fr Kochetkov also talked with the physician. "I agreed to the hospitalization," he testivies in his report to the patriarch. Fr Mikhail himself categorically refused to go to the psychiatric clinic. He stated: "Awful violence is being committed here against a priest; they have not let the priest leave; they have humiliated him and beset him and insulted and beaten him." "That's called psychiatric delirium," Alla Danilovna explained. "I have an education. That is pure delirium."

On orders from Fr Kochetkov the acolytes (and not the attendants) took hold of Fr Mikhail and led him to the ambulence. Six men threw the helpless priest into the ambulence. Since men held him by the hair and beat his head on the vehicle when he broke away. They kicked him and threw him down. Six men (as the poet said, "we recall by name all who raised their hand": Alexander Kopirovsky, Alexander Boikov, Dmitry Gasak, Vladimir Yakuntsev, German Chuev, Sergei Matveev)--the core of this "most intellectual" church. Two of them were wearing vestments, the same liturgical dress in which two and a half hours earlier they did not permit Fr Mikhail to leave the church. In the same way, without taking off his liturgical vestments, Fr Kochetkov himself went outside.

To accompany Fr Mikhail to the psychiatric hospital they chose the same Alla Danilovna and the acolytes Vladimir and Dmitry, both of whom were claiming their heartfelt "Christian love" for Fr Mikhail. They all called themselves his "relatives" and thus "by right of relationship" they referred to him by "thou" and called him "Misha." "It's all right, Misha; they'll take care of you there; they'll make you better."

Fr Mikhail asked: "I am dying of thirst. Buy me some water. I will give you the money." The ambulence went off to the no 13 psychiatric hospital, that is the precise alma mater of Alla Danilovna, this "mommy" for Fr Mikhail who chattered with all those fine platitudes: "Your native hearth. Here everyone is my 'own.'" However Alla Danilovna's "own" didn't show up as she lamented on the way back: "I didn't know the physicians and thus nothing worked out. You didn't have enough vodka."

At the no. 13 hospital where she tried to use her connections for the treatment of "our Misha," Fr Mikhail was not admitted, perhaps because they were frightened by the signs of a beating on his body and generally they could not understand why he had been brought to them. Hospitalization from "first aid" is conducted strictly by district. Someone--we can guess who--gave "first aid" a phony address for Fr Mikhail so that he was taken to his "home" territory. Then the "brothers" with "mommy" took the priest to district 14 psychiatric hospital. Fr Kochetkov admitted to the church officials: "We thought that they would keep him two or three days, treat him, make him better, and discharge him with a prescription for medication." In the evening of the same day Fr Mikhail was examined by a commission of three psychiatrists and declared psychologically healthy and sent home without any "prescription." The next day he went to no. 7 clinical hospital where they pumped out of him the manifestations of brother love of the "most intelligent" community. And the Kochetkovites?

These days it is possible to find them in the most varied inhabited places and in the most unexpected roles. That mysterious someone appeared at no. 14 psychiatric hospital and having introduced himself as a representative of the patriarchate asked for a record of Fr Mikhail's stay there, however one in which there was not mention that he had arrived with signs of physical violence. The description of the "false Dmitry" was very much like Alexander Kopirovsky, with whom we are acquainted from the videotape, where he was pushing Fr Mikhail into the ambulence. The image of the same Kopirovsky "with his gang" appeared in the office of the chief of the 18th police precinct, A.L. Rimsky. It's strange that this group showed up there as "friends of the sister" of Rimsky, who were bringing "greetings" to her "favorite brother." When it turned out that he never had any such sisters, they proposed to him to copy or somehow touch up a document which he had composed for the patriarchate in connection with the events in the church.

Conducting a journalistic investigation, we exposed this strange company of the new "children of Lieutenant Shmidt" or Bulgakov's "Panaev and Skabichesky," and those Koroviev, Azazello, and Behemoth Cat revisiting Moscow, these writers of mysteries and purveyors of forged affidavits, in which the executioners are called the "persecuted" and their victim is called the "persecutor."

And so a psychologically healthy person was declared abnormal. Despite the fact that he was examined by psychiatrists three times and declared healthy, they--the Kochetkovites and the reporters engaged by them--continue to accuse him of insanity.

Fr Mikhail is ready to undergo another psychiatric evaluation, it seems, but not by Alla Danilovna or her "acquaintances." But by what logic and by what right do people who arrange for him this "seance of exorcism," becoming some kind of punitive action, remain themselves above suspicion regarding their own psychiatric health? Why aren't they sent for a psychiatric examination? To be certified as the entire "most intelligent" community. By the whole world. Because a society in which with such bolshevistic impunity the elementary rights of a person are violated and in which the accusation of insanity is a method of struggle with an opponent cannot but be a sick one.

The story of Joseph and his brothers has been carried out again literally: "When Joseph came to his brothers, they took from him his coat of many colors which he had on and bound him and threw him into a pit that was empty and in which was no water" (Gn 37. 23,24). (tr. by PDS)

Russian text