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Ukrainians divided on unified Orthodox church


Radonezh, 26 September 2000

According to the Interfax agency, 39.9% of respondents favor the idea of the creation of a united local Orthodox church in Ukraine and 42.8% are opposed. This information was the result of a survey conducted by the Ukrainian Center of Economic and Political Research (UTsEPI) in August of this year. In the course of the investigation 2017 persons over the age of 18 were questioned in all regions of Ukraine. The data are published in the current issue of the journal "National Security and Defense," published by UTsEPI.  It is interesting that one fifth (22%) of the supporters of the idea of unification could not answer which of the existing Orthodox churches could become the center of the unification. Only 14.4% of those questioned consider unification the obligation of the government while 63.1% are convinced that representatives of the government should not interfere in interchurch relations. At the present, of the 24,000 religious organizations existing in Ukraine, 12,500 are Orthodox.  The Ukrainian Orthodox church (Moscow patriarchate) numbers around 9,000 parishes. Schismatic of the so-called "Ukrainian Orthodox Church--Kiev Patriarchate" have around 3,000 parishes and the other schismatic false church, the so-called "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church" numbers more than 1,000 parishes.  Among the non-Orthodox confessions, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church has the largest number of parishes (3,500-3,700).  (tr. by PDS, posted 27 September 2000)

by Evgenia Mussuri, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
Kyiv Post, 21 September 2000

One of Ukraine's three Orthodox churches called for unification of  the country's divided congregations last week, but the country's  other two Orthodox denominations expressed opposition to the proposal.

At a congress held in Kyiv Sept. 14-15, the Ukrainian Autocephalous  Orthodox Church decided not to elect a patriarch, hoping that it will  soon be able to unite with the country's two other Orthodox churches  - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian  Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. "Awaiting the unification, our  church decided not to elect patriarch," Dmytro Poliakov, the church  spokesman, said.

The autocephalous church is the smallest of Ukraine's Orthodox  congregations, with only about 1,000 parishes all over the country.  Since the death of Patriarch Dymytry half a year ago, the church has  remained without a leader.

At last week's congress, the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox  Church in the United States, Constantine, was requested to represent  the church until the unification takes place.

"We believe that Ukraine now is in a process of unification and  therefore, all three branches should get together and under the  guidance of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew choose the one who will  lead the united Orthodox Church of Ukraine," Polyakov said.

The autocephalous church's proposal, however, did not receive a  welcome response from the other Orthodox churches.

"The autocephalous church does not have a patriarch and the patriarch  of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate sits in Moscow,"  said Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv  Patriarchate. "I am the only patriarch in Ukraine and since I was  elected by our followers, I have no intention of leaving them."

"The Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is [Russian Orthodox  Church Patriarch] Alexy II," said a spokesman at the Ukrainian  Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate."

Although Ukraine's Orthodox churches regularly declare their  willingness to unite, the unification talks have been stalemated by  their leaders' ambitions and disagreements over property and parishes.

In addition, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate does  not recognize the Kyiv Patriarchate church, accusing its leader,  Filaret, of proclaiming himself patriarch of Ukraine and, thus,  ignoring Orthodox rules that envisage a different procedure for  selecting a patriarch.

Observers say these obstacles will prevent the unification of  Ukrainian Orthodox churches from taking place any time soon.

Kochetkovite group barred from worship

by Elena Volkova
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religii, 27 September 2000

On the patronal day, 26 July, many new people came to our church of the Angel Gabriel which is in the Antiochean annex at Chistye Prudy. They were young believers, many with small children, who smiled pleasantly at one another. They arrived before the start of the service, pulled out thin booklets with the text of the liturgy, and they began praying ardently.  I rejoiced at their arrival and happily looked at their young, bright faces and thought, how fortunate it is that today our small parish has grown so much and that new people have come who obviously are not casual drop-ins or tourists but serious educated Christians. What a pity that this happens only on the holiday and afterwards our parish will again shrink. Indeed, do we even have a real parish? I know almost everybody by sight, but for many I do not even know their names, although I have worshipped with them for many years in the same church.

Our parishioners are divided into small groups which associate with one of the four priests and they have little association with one another. If somebody with whom I am used to joining in worship gets sick or, God forbid, dies, I do not even know about his problem or death. The isolation of the parishioners has always depressed me but I always  have relied on God and his help for the needy, which makes up for our isolation and indifference.

Bishop Nifon, the rector of the annex, gave the sermon and identified among the honored guests for the holiday Father Kochetkov. He even said it this way:  "We are happy to see among us today Father Kochetkov." He intentionally identified the priest by family name; obviously he intended that he not be confused with some other Father Georgy.  So I understood that a persecuted congregation was among us and the joy of their bright faces and their ardent prayers was overshadowed by my pity for them and fear for their fate.

"Our church is your church," Bishop Nifon cordially greeted the new parishioners at the next Sunday service and I sighed with relief. Finally, I thought, these fine, devout young people have found a shelter. I was grateful to our bishop for showing sufficient courage to open the door to the wandering homeless congregation. And I felt myself a hospitable host although that was not any of my responsibility. I was just a happy witness to Christian care for the stranger.

But my joy was short-lived. Soon I began hearing rumors that some priests and parishioners turned out to be unable to receive their brothers and sisters with love. They began bitterly calling Fr Georgy's congregation heretics and sectarians: why, they are reading booklets during the service and singing along with the choir; they even kiss one another and says "obscene" things to each other like "Christ is risen" in the middle of the summer. We showed our stupid ignorance and rebelled against the sacred books with the text of the divine liturgy and against genuine participation in the service by the people of God. The choir sometimes is a lay choir, consisting half of unbelievers who are professional singers, who in between singing can read entertaining magazines and casually exchange jokes (it is good that they cannot be seen in the choir lofts); can and should such people represent a worshipping church? Isn't it really our shortcoming that we do not all sing or respond to the declarations but rather turn over our prayers to other people who often are outsiders and do not know God?

So finally I had seen what I often had dreamed of, that in our parish we were going to know one another and join in praising Got with united lips, because we are the people of God and we want to fill our church with our own, and not hired, voices.

I recall how one time when I was in an Orthodox church in America I approached the cross and Father Mikhail, an American, tried to be pleasant with me and joyfully said in broken Russian: "Christ is among us," and I got confused and did not know what to reply so I muttered "May the Lord save you." I later found a text of the liturgy and found an explanation:  "The bishop exchanges a kiss with other priests and greets each in brotherly love, according to the apostolic command, from a pure heart: Christ is among us! to which the other replies: he both is and will be. . . . The ancients kissed one another. . . . When and for what reason this pious ritual has disappeared is not found in the history of the church" (see "Dogmatic, Historic, and Sacramental Explanation of the Divine Liturgy," 1894, reprinted in 1993 by the publishing department of the Moscow patriarchate). When I read that I was embarrassed by my own ignorance.

Our hatred, with which the Jews shouted "Crucify him, crucify!" at the cross and later stoned Archdeacon Stephen, has triumphed.

The church has been emptied. A rebuke was read against Fr Georgy's congregation in place of a sermon, and then they were barred from the church. And I stood in the empty church and cried the whole service. I was ashamed for my parish and I ask you, brothers and sisters, for forgiveness. Believe me that my feeling of shame and my love for you is shared by many of our parishioners. Forgive us that we in our two churches that stand empty during the services on weekdays, did not find a place for you and did not find in our hearts sufficient love and courage in order to receive you in a Christian manner.

With profound regret,
Elena Volkova,
parishioner of the Antiochean annex
(tr. by PDS, posted 27 September 2000)

Estonian archives implicate Alexis II


Patriarch Alexiy II received KGB "Certificate of Honour"

by Seamus Martin
The Irish Times, 23 September 2000

RUSSIA: The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All Russia, was a long-serving KGB agent and even received the agency's "Certificate of Honor", according to archive documents left behind by the Soviet spy agency in Estonia.

The papers detail the activities of Patriarch Alexiy, who was code-named "Agent Drozdov" (the thrush), in actions against orthodox clergy and believers.

Patriarch Alexiy has been a strong supporter of President Putin, himself a former KGB agent, and has issued public statements defending Mr Putin's conduct of the war in Chechnya and his stance on the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk. He has consistently opposed all proposed visits to Russia by Pope John Paul II.

Under his patriarchate the church has received special privileges, including the right to import alcohol and tobacco at reduced rates of duty for sale in the Russian Federation.

There have been allegations against the Patriarch for some time but they have been consistently denied by the church. The most recent denial was made on Wednesday by a church spokesman, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, who said: "There are no data indicating that Patriarch Aleksiy II was an associate of the special services, and no classified documents bear his signature."

But the Keston Institute, an Anglican religious rights organisation, has informed The Irish Times that it has "reviewed all the available documentary evidence from the various archives of the KGB" and has concluded that the allegations are based on fact.

Representatives of the Keston Institute have had access to documents in Tallinn which reveal that the Patriarch was recruited by the Estonian KGB on February 28th, 1958. Although he is referred to only as "Drozdov" the documents make it clear that they refer to the then Father Alexiy Ridiger as the personal details given match those of no other priest of the Estonian diocese.

The document in the Estonian State Archive (record group 131, file 393, pages 125-126) signed by the chairman of the Estonian KGB, Col I.P.Karpov, and the head of the Fourth Department "Belyayev" notes that Drozdov "positively recommended himself" to the KGB.

It adds: "During secret rendezvous he was punctilious, energetic and convivial. He is well-oriented in theoretical questions of theology and the international situation. He has a willing attitude to the fulfillment of our tasks and has already provided materials deserving attention which are forming the basis for documentation of the criminal activity of a member of the leadership of the Johvi Orthodox church . . .

"In addition, `Drozdov' also provided valuable material for the case under way against the priest Povedsky. At present he is working on improving his knowledge of German. After consolidating the agent's experience in practical work with the organs of state security in the cultivation of agents, we intend also to use him in our interests by sending him to capitalist states as a member of church delegations."

KGB papers in the Moscow archive state that Drozdov was sent to England in 1969 as part of a church delegation, that he and another agent were involved in "educational work" with monks in Pskov in western Russian in March 1983 and that he was sent on a mission to Portugal in 1985.

According to Keston, a file in the archive dated February 1988 states: "An order of the USSR KGB chairman was prepared to award Agent Drozdov the Certificate of Honor."  (posted 25 September 2000)

Putin's Orthodoxy questioned

Vladimir Putin told the whole world about his religious views

by Maksim Shevchenko
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religii, 13 September 2000

Last Friday hundreds of millions of television viewers of CNN throughout the world witnessed the interview of Vladimir Putin, which he gave live to the famous political showman Larry King. The interview contained many questions regarding foreign and domestic policies of Russia's president, as well as freedom of speech and the destruction of the "Kursk" submarine.

But it seems that what interests us most is the part of the interview in which Vladimir Putin's religious views were stated and his information about the situation in Russia regarding religion and politics. And here Russian viewers who are interested in this problem found some sensational discoveries. But let's reproduce the words of the president himself.

"When our troops went into Chechnia, the reaction of the local population was completely surprising for us. It turns out that in all the years when we were observing from the side the processes within Chechnia itself, we did not pay attention to several new phenomena.  Foreign mercenaries, in essence, had seized certain spheres of the administration of the territory of Chechnia and there was no leadership there; at the head of the districts were so-called field commanders. It turns out that a new ideological platform, a religious one, had been established in Chechnia. It came from the Middle East. They had begun imposing Sunnite Islam upon the local population. Our Caucasian residents are in the majority Shiites. This evoked a definite reaction on the part of the local population with respect to the mercenaries themselves and it facilitated the establishment of contacts with the local population."

The statement by Putin of the assessment of the religious orientation of the Muslims of the Russian northern Caucasus is exactly the reverse of the truth. The fact is that "our Caucasian residents" are "in their majority" Sunnites. Shiites of the Caucasus (to be sure, not "ours") are only Azerbaijainis, and not even all of them. One Lezhgin village exists in the mountains of Dagestan. Shiites (Azerbaijanis, Iranians) live in large cities.

The assurance with which the president broadcast to the whole world information that is essentially false forces one to ponder the level of the competence of the Russian government in the matter of resolving religious conflicts on the territory of Russia and CIS. What is all the passion of the struggle with "Islamic extremism" in the northern Caucasus worth if the supreme leadership demonstrates such obvious ignorance of the simplest realities of the region?

Either Putin should himself examine which wing of Islam he is supporting in Russia (and what the Russian Muslims believe in) or he should give to his advisors on the struggle against the "Islamic danger" an order to read the simplest handbook on this question.

After all it is sufficient to open the handbook "Confessions, cults, and religious movements," published by the Moscow government in 1998, in order to learn that "Russia's Muslims in their overwhelming majority adhere to the Sunnite movement of Islam."

But even more interesting are Putin's discussions of his relations with the church.

"Much is being said about you and your religious views. I have been told that you wear a cross. Have you been baptized? Are you a believer? What are your views on religion?"

"You know, I prefer not making a special point about this subject.  I think that there are things which a person should keep to himself. One should not make a display of faith. As regards the cross, in the past I never wore it. But when I went to Israel with my family as a tourist, my mother gave me the cross so that I could get a blessing at the tomb of the Lord. I did this, and now  I have it with me. I have a dacha outside St. Petersburg and a fire broke out there; something went wrong in the sauna. Before going into the sauna, I took off the cross. When the fire began, My comrades and I jumped out practically naked, because everything happened so unexpectedly. I must say that the cross was very precious to me since Mama had given it to me. I thought that nothing would be left of the cross, not even a trace since it was, you know, such a simple aluminum cross. There was no limit to my amazement when a worker came and dug in what remained of the building and opened up his fist and there was the cross. The building burned completely. This was amazing. Now I do not part with the cross."

"Do you believe in higher powers?"

"I believe in humankind. I believe in its good intentions. I believe that we all have come in order to do good. And if we do this all together then we can expect success. Even in relations between states. The main thing that we will achieve in this way is that we will achieve comfort."

The myth about Putin's piety that has been spread widely in recent times by the nationalist Orthodox circles and naively supported by the liberal mass media, which has described nonexistent "spiritual advisors of the president" has been demolished for certain and, one hopes, for good by the Constitution's guarantor himself. His views, especially the statements in his last answer, are extremely far removed from the views of an Orthodox believer. Now it is clear that the president of Russia is a consistent and principled humanist, who occupies the positions of the secular ideology of "the common good," and is close to the ideals of liberal masons of the end of the last century.

The celebration of human bases, the achievement of universal comfort and harmony on the world level, ignorance about the notion of the Last Judgment--it is these principles that occupy the foundation of the processes that have most often been defined as "globalizing." Such confidence deserves respect. Not one of the leaders of our country has yet formulated with such precision his social and religious views.  (tr. by PDS, posted 22 September 2000)

Patriarch was not KGB agent


MOSCOW. Sept 20 (Interfax) - The Moscow Patriarchate has denied a The Times of London report [see next item] alleging that the current head of the Russian Orthodox Church collaborated with KGB in the Soviet era.

Official spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchy Father Vsevolod Chaplin labeled such reports as "absolutely unsubstantiated" in a Wednesday interview with Interfax. "There is no data indicating that Patriarch Alexy II was an associate of the special services, and no classified documents bear his signature," he said.

"I do not think that direct dialogue between the current patriarch and KGB took place," Father Vsevolod continued. However, "all bishops communicated with representatives of the council for religious matters in the Soviet government, which was inevitable, since any issue, even the most insignificant one, had to be resolved through this body. It is quite another matter that the council forwarded all its materials to the KGB," he said.

"The Church not only can but also must maintain a dialogue and be in a collaboration with any powers that be," Father Vsevolod said, opining that its contacts with a state, including the Soviet Union, "must not be treated as something evil or disgraceful."

"Of course, the fact that the former authorities were of a theomachist [sic] nature attached some specific flavor to these relations. For instance, the officials from the council on religious matters could have written their internal reports and interpret the contacts with church representatives in a way that was to their benefit, like reporting on their successful atheist work," Father Vsevolod said.

At the same time, "even in those conditions, contact with the authorities was useful for defending the Church's interests and its participation in the state's and society's life, which existed, though to a limited extent, even under the Soviet power."

The Patriarchate spokesman found it difficult to respond whence came the pseudonym 'Drozdov' often attributed to Alexy II. "One of the authors of these libels is the fairly well known Gleb Yakunin, who has done and continues to do everything so as to maximally weaken the Russian church's authority. This person, a former cleric of the Moscow Patriarchy, apparently thought that he should have had some special role in the Church. But his radical position was rejected by congregation and clergy, and now he is probably trying to get revenge for not having succeeded in having a special post," he charged.

Father Vsevolod also said he believes that a reason behind such reports that besmirch the patriarch's reputation could be the fact that "there are sufficient forces both in Russia and abroad that would benefit from weakening Christianity in general and the Russian Orthodox Church in particular."

"It is natural that these forces would persistently look for any reasons to weaken our church and hurl all kinds of accusations against it," he said.  (posted 21 September 2000)

from Giles Whittell in Moscow
The Times (UK)
20 September 2000

The Russian Orthodox Church is mired in illegal or dubious business schemes ranging from money-laundering to selling candles at extortionate mark-ups, according to a report that was condemned by the Church yesterday as the work of atheists.

The fast-expanding communion had financed its growth through exploitation of parishioners, systematic tax evasion and international trading in oil, diamonds, cigarettes and alcohol, says a Moscow institute set up to study Russia's shadow economy.

The Church, which says its money-making activities are vital to maintain its independence from the state, had entered the bottled mineral water business with what was now one of the country's best-known brand names. It had charged increasing amounts for holy ceremonies and burial plots, and priced offertory candles at up to 40 times their wholesale value, the study said.

A church spokesman yesterday attacked the authors of the report - one of whom, Mikhail Edelstein, is the son of an Orthodox priest - as "the heirs of military atheism" of the Soviet era. "There are forces in this country that disapprove of the Church's new independence and its role in society," Viktor Malukhin, of the Moscow Patriarchate, said. "It's a great shame that Soviet prejudices live on in some academic circles."

Mr Malukhin denied that the Church was involved in money-laundering but did not address the report's more detailed claims. These include bribe-taking by senior clerics in return for sought-after jobs; the failure of larger churches to declare profits of up to 150,000 a year from the sale of icons, candles and grave sites; and criminals' use of the Church's tax-free status on sales of gold ornaments.

One myth destroyed by the Moscow study is that of tight control from the top. Geraldine Fagan, of Britain's Keston Institute, which monitors religious freedom in the former Soviet Union, said: "The impression is one of complete and utter chaos."

The Church has never been forced to answer similar past claims or to publish open accounts, even though Russian law requires them. President Putin is unlikely to press for action, not least because he and Patriarch Aleksi II share a KGB past. The Patriarch's codename as a Soviet-era informer was Agent Drozdov.  (posted 21 September 2000)

Anniversary of murder of Fr Alexander Men


by Aleksei Lavrukhin
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 9 September 2000

On 9 September 1990 the rector of the church of the presentation, Archpriest Alexander Men, was murdered on his way to the service. Today is the tenth anniversary of his death. Meanwhile Fr Alexander's murderer has still not been found.

Alexander Men was killed by an axe blow to the head. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime. The investigation was begun under the personal supervision of then USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. From the beginning the investigation was conducted by a team from the procuracy of Moscow province. Only in March 1997, in view of the complexity of the case and not the spontaneous public outcry, the case was taken over by the Procuracy General of RF. As an NG reporter learned at the Center of Information and Public Communications of the Procuracy General of RF, a great deal of work was conducted within the bounds of the case.  Around 800 persons were questioned, including parishioners, relatives, and acquaintances of the priest and members of various public political organizations. Specialists conducted more than 50 physical, technical, biological, criminal, and forensic medicine tests.

During the investigation around fifteen persons confessed to the murder of Alexander Men. Nevertheless the real murderer could not be discovered. The chief suspect was Igor Bushnev, who confessed that "in a half-mad state" he committed Men's murder, whom he took for a man who had beaten him several days before the tragedy. However the Sergeev Posad court acquitted Bushnev for lack of evidence. The investigator of the Procuracy General who conducted the investigation, Vladimir Parshikov, stopped it because there was no suspect. Now officials of the agencies of internal affairs are continuing the search for the criminal.

Despite the passage of ten years since Alexander Men's death, people still remember him. A chapel has been built at the spot of the murder. His books are still published. Relatives, acquaintances, and admirers of Alexander Men's talent are now preparing to commemorate the anniversary of Fr Alexander's death. In the Moscow patriarchate an NG reporter was told that on this day at the church of the Presentation, of which Men had been the priest, a requiem will be conducted for the deceased. In the Semkhoz settlement where Alexander Men lived, the foundation of a church that is being built will be consecrated. An evening of memory for Fr. Alexander will be conducted in Moscow in the Serafimovich Palace of Culture. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 September 2000)


by Mikhail Gokhman
Izvestiia, 9 September 2000

Ten years ago, on 9 September 1990, one of the most well known priests of the Russian Orthodox church was killed., Father Alexander Men. He was admired by his parishioners, the Orthodox intelligentsia, and hated by he "organs" and the government. In the past ten years we have seen dozens of prominent murders of politicians, but this one was the first. And here is the necessary conclusion:  yesterday the procurator general declared that the investigation into the case has been suspended. That means that the murderers and their associates have not been found and most likely they will not be found. The more time passes from the day, the more questions are raised by the work of investigation into the affair of the murder of the priest. Investigators are replaced one after another and the essential evidence has disappeared. "Murderers" have testified and then they have been acquitted in court.  Special agencies have investigated Fr. Alexander and they have refused to open their archives and accused one another. How the agencies of USSR dealt with this case was described recently for "Izvestiia" by a recently retired agent of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The department in which he served was engaged in special secret work.

--In which department did your serve?

--Earlier we were called the Seventh Division. The Agency of Covert Surveilance. In our jargon it was called the "seventh American navy." We were at the highest stage of mobilization and professionalism. We could leave at any time like "first aid." Except we had a different job.

--What, exactly?

--Essentially, covert recording, photographing, and surveilence. Addresses, associations, and contacts.  Also invasion, but this was earlier.

--Was there surveilence of Father Alexander?

--I personally conducted it.

--That is, during his lifetime he was the object of attention?

--Yes. Only I cannot understand why that was necessary. It is just the way it was. The order did not come from the director of the department but from the highest office.

--That is, from the head of MVD?

--Yes. The level was at least vice minister. If it had come from some other office--internal affairs intelligence, the general staff, or the KGB--it would have been a different matter and we would not have paid any attention to it. The order came from our ministry.

--And what tasks were you given?

--We were supposed to investigate the life style of this man, what he did; if something came up in the investigation then everything was taken care of. We spent about five days and during all this time he was working in the church. We did not discover any suspicious contacts, and thereafter, in accordance with our orders, the surveillence was ended.

--When did this happen?

--In 1988. Later, after the murder, I thought about all of this. It was a task which we had to do. It is quite possible that it came from the higher ranks of the clergy. He was an educated man and he wrote many books on religious topics which were published not here but abroad. This could irritate many people. We covered everything. Every place where he might show up. There were some people at his house and some at the church and the railroad station.

--Nevertheless, did they give you any introduction? Did they explain the reason for the investigation?

--We were not given any information. Moreover, possibly the instigators of the investigation and its purposes were known only to those who set it up.

--Well, you were not told the reason for investigating him. So what were you trying to establish?

--Mostly they wanted to establish his connections with dissidents. They simply wanted to confirm his contacts.

--Could they get orders from the KGB?

--Theoretically they could. But they could get it also from the top of our agency.

--If we now went into the archives could we resurrect the story of this order?

--No. The documents have disappeared. These papers were kept for three years.

--The murder occurred after two years. Do you think that he was followed during this time?

--By our agents, no. I would have known about it. But the responsible offices of KGB could not let him out of their control.

--What did you do after the murder?

--We were sent to the funeral. Now it is possible to say about this that we figured that the murderer would show up at the funeral and reveal himself. Videotapes were made, but now they are not among the materials of the case. The tapes were turned over to KGB because of the political issues in this matter. I am convinced that this affair is political. No local resident could have done this; everybody there respected the priest. And if some maniac had done this he would have been caught.

--What can your recall about the work in September 1990?

--Great efforts were summoned. There were a great commotion. All of us got in each other's way. This case had the highest priority. I think that this was unprecedented. It took up all our time. And there is nobody left who dealt with this investigation and nobody has survived these jitters. But in the end there is no suspect.

--Who, in your opinion, could be the murderer?

--He was a professional. This is absolutely sure. Of this there cannot be any doubt.

--So there really were not killers?

--No. There was just a person who knew his environment well and was able to hide under the appearance of a local. He had to observe the priest for a long time. He had to be a professional who knew very well the methods of the special services. That is why there have not been any suspects on tape. He did not show up at the funeral.

--That means that all talk about suspects on videotape, whom somebody recognized . . .

--There isn't any such thing. And this is another evidence that it was a professional who did the murder.  (tr. by PDS, posted 18 September 2000)


by Yakov Krotov
Segodnia, 9 September 2000

When masterpieces of Catholic piety are translated into the Russian language, they often are somewhat "softened" by replacing the names "Jesus" and "Christ" with the word "angel." In Russia it seems arrogant to claim to have fellowship with Christ "himself." The name is too venerable so that if it is pronounced then it is wrapped up in numerous  deferential additions:  "Our Lord Jesus Christ." On a single representation of Christ it is necessary to depict ten saints, "earthly angels," who are mediators of fellowship with God.

This often causes confusion, even among Christians. Life is short, there simply is not time to spend it on veneration of saints. The argument is not a weak one; only such an argument can somehow save us from the requirements of being occupied immediately in reading Daniil Andreev's "Rozy mira," or studying karma forces and appearances of the Mother of God in contemporary Egypt or some far off place. Not enough time; leave it to eternity!

The posthumous fate of Fr Alexander Men, however, permits one to feel a sense of Orthodox sensitivity. There seems to be some kind of inverse proportion between faithfulness to Men's spirit and the purity of recollection of him. On 8 September 2000 Fr Alexander was canonized by a congregation that actually is headed by the priest Gleb Yakunin, which is entirely autonomous in its Christian voyage. This church has a synod (which proves how much the existence of a synod guarantees the existence of a church); the synod issued a resolution and the ceremony of canonization was conducted; an icon of Fr Alexander (which incidentally is rather good) was painted. Of course, Fr Alexander Men himself was categorically opposed to the creation of such "alternative" Orthodox groupings. He knew the value of unity because he knew as well as Gleb Yakunin the value of the external grandeur of Russian Orthodoxy.

Nothing could be farther from Men's spirit than his canonization to spite "official Orthodoxy." Although, of course, it is humanly pleasing that Saint Nicholas Alexandrovich has now been balanced by Saint Alexander Vladimirovich. Clearly there are fewer reasons against the canonization of Men than against the canonization of the retired emperor. It is easy to imagine how in such a bacchanalia of canonizations Fr Alexander would smile his affectionate bandit's smile and would say something terse, like: "Like Rome, like the Pantheon."

The law of inverse proportionality between honor and purity of veneration shows up elsewhere. The one who speaks most often in public about her friendship with Fr Alexander is the director of the Library of Foreign Literature, a women who is reliable in all respects but who despite having a rather remote relationship to the evangelistic activity of Men has conducted in her library completely secular conferences on problems of the family and youth. But these conference also proudly bear Men's name. A theological institute, which declares most loudly that it was "founded by Men," in 1993 dissociated itself from the truly "Men-like" catechesis classes with great fanfare and mudslinging at the friends and disciples of Fr Alexander.  The more it has withdrawn into itself and the less such a mistake takes interest in the surroundings, the louder it professes its loyalty to Men. This is especially the case in dealing with foreign contributors who, of modern Russian Christians, know only Fr Men. Men occupies the role of a shield under the cover of which they are conducting a most diverse struggle.

It seems that Fr Men had few real parishioners, to say nothing of disciples or friends. Only a few dozen Muscovites attended the Sunday service, even in the very last years. The majority of them recalled their closeness to Fr Alexander only after his name had begun to be abused and they recall in order to defend him, they recall not in order to receive a grant or a free trip to Paris or New York or a foreign car "for economy of effort and time in proclaiming the gospel," but in order to receive a black eye. And this is worthy of Men. That's the way it is with faith in Christ. It is one think to talk about it when everyone around is unchristian; it is quite a different matter when absolutely everybody has become Christians. Many, meanwhile, have not stuck it out and have begun judging the people around them, excluding them from Christianity and consigning them to the enemies of Christ.  They enjoy playing the role of the seductive sheep among the wolves.

Today, thank God, there are many remarkable Christians who are engaged in work with charity, youth, invalids, ecumenism, etc. Sometimes it seems that it would be possible to speak less about charity or the history of the church, about unity of the church or saints, about humility and renovation, and it would be good to speak more about Christ. But this is only how it seems, until you meet someone who speaks only about Christ.

Father Alexander Men himself was able to speak about anything he liked, and he just blurted out about Christ. But these outbursts, at the end of a lecture or in a sermon, were worth more than all of his remarkable book about the Son of Man. It was not a matter of humility or pride, but honesty and tact. May God grant that in imitating Fr Alexander in his human reasonableness and activity, without concern for our own pride, we will go along with him in following the One whom he followed himself. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 September 2000)

American missionaries under attack


How much does the opium for the people cost, Lord?

by Dmitry Kliuchnikov
Krasnaia zvezda, 13 September 2000

The past decade has been marked in Russia as a time of the return of the church to positions it had lost. But this process has by no means been normal and beneficial for the moral health of the nation. One of the most obvious sicknesses here has been sectarianism, the waves of all forms of nontraditional religions that have flooded the vast Russian landscape. The country simply has been overwhelmed by foreign missionaries, charlatans who have enticed into their groups young people with unformed views. They act so vigorously and cleverly, bewildering naive youth by their ability to speak so eloquently about contemporary problems and the need to join together for their resolution.

At the present time a multitude of religious organizations are operating on the territory of Russia, including destructive ones, as they are designated in official documents. The work of some of these is associated with the activity of foreign intelligence agencies. Particular success in this area has been achieved by the American "Church of Scientology," which has extended its reach around the world. It has penetrated Russia as well. Centers of the so-called Dianetics are already active in thirty Russian cities. Incidentally, the governmental structures of the Federal Republic of Germany have designated the "Church of Scientology" as a "criminal commercial organization with elements of psychoterror."

Its advertisements usually offer taking some kind of test. Experienced psychologists begin working with whoever consents to this and comes to their center. They adopt a special program for each one, which makes the person psychologically dependent upon the organization. According to official information, the "Church of Scientology" has been accused throughout its existence of violation of the religious freedoms and rights of the individual. This is associated with the "program of cleansing" that was created by the founder of the church, Ron Hubbard, which leads to complete and unresisting submission of its members to the preacher.

The analytical study "On the national threat to Russia on the part of destructive religious organizations," prepared by experts of the State Duma, states that "the sect represents a danger for the individual, family, and society." Intelligence data of MVD characterizes the "Church of Scientology" as one variety of satanic sects, possessing "clearly criminal tendencies and actively using psychotropic substances for achieving personality control among its adepts." This sect has specialized cover structures that appear externally to be charitable. Such structures include Hubbard's humanitarian center. In conducting a detailed study of the "detoxification program" of the sect, the Ministry of Health issued order No. 254, in which it calls for not permitting the use of the methods that derive from the teachings of R. Hubbard in the practice of health care.

The so-called international society of Krishna consciousness also is included among religious organizations that cause harm to the health of citizens and society and that teach refusal to serve in the army. Krishnaite gurus encroach upon the psychological construct of the believers and the unformed psyches of minors, whereby they cause them irreparable harm. By holding believers spellbound in the Krishnaite "ashrams" their leaders are able to exploit the unpaid slave labor of the sectarian fanatics for their own interests. Ordinary members of the sect are deprived of items of personal hygiene, adequate sleep, and days off and vacations.

Or take a sect like the "Jehovah's Witnesses." The majority of its Russian affiliates are led by foreign agents. In order to recruit converts, members of the sect insistently visit residences, boisterously intrude into Orthodox churches, and take up positions in public transport, concert halls, and museums. In the suburbs of Petersburg they have created a whole settlement, Solnechnoe. In Moscow they already have encompassed the Begov district and one of the evangelists of the sect gave to me a packet of propaganda pamphlets in the "Otradnoe" subway. The writer of these pamphlets tries to justify the sect by calling its adherents "victims of a campaign of slander."  The pamphlets abound in quotes from various sources that give a positive evaluation of the sect.

The sect of the "Latter Day Saints," or Mormons, constitutes a whole empire. Their income amounts to around three million dollars. Forty thousand missionaries of the sects are working throughout the world. According to official data, 10,000 Mormons are active at the present in Russia. Special teams of Mormons are researching in state archives, museum and university document collections, city archives, registries, and church parishes.  In addition to direct evangelistic work, all members of the sect are constantly engaged in searches for new names and information in order to achieve the "mormonization" of as many people as possible. It is quite possible that in time the Mormons will declare their religion a native Russian religion in order to draw believers out of Orthodoxy. In a number of regions of Russia Mormons have penetrated governmental agencies and they are exerting influence on the decisions of city administrations, as recently happened in Orenburg. Specialists do not rule out the possibility that American intelligence is one source of support of the Mormons.

The essence of all new religious sects is the same. Exploiting people's need for faith, they make them dependent on the instructor and they manipulate them. At the same time the "instructor" or leader of the sect often is a typical cynic who does not dare to present himself to his disciples. Often he does not display himself and remains in the shadows and only extracts material output from the persons who have been deluded to join his ranks. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 September 2000)

Moscow Jews open major facility

by Ilia Morozov
Rossisskaia gazeta, 15 September 2000

The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, have been invited to the opening of the largest Jewish community center in Moscow on 18 September.  Several hundred foreign guests are expected to arrive, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The center, which was under construction for four years, was raised on the site of the burned out synagogue in Marina Roshcha.

After the fire in the synagogue, the leaders of the Jewish congregation in Marina Roshcha decided not to restore it on the previous site but a bit to the side. At the firesite itself the largest Jewish community center in eastern Europe was built. The construction was undertaken on means from the congregation and from sponsors. The overall size of the building is 7,000 square meters. The synagogue occupies the second and third stories, which also is the largest on the territories of the former USSR.  It will be able to accommodate up to 2200 believers at a time. Such a quantity of people does not assemble on ordinary days and thus the room will be divided into two parts, one of which is planned for use as an auditorium. "At the same time, on holy days up to 5,000 persons will attend," says the chief rabbi of Russia and the rabbi of the Marina Roshcha congregation, Berl Lazar. "Thus life itself has forced us to build such large premises."

The entire first floor of the four story building is taken up by a large restaurant. Up to 1500 people can assemble here. Until now there has not existed in Moscow such a place where Jews could celebrate children's birthdays or, say, weddings. Now a restaurant with kosher food will open its doors to all who want it.

Spaces for a sports gymnasium and movie theater are planned for the Jewish community center. The theater will show not only films about the history and culture of the Jewish people but also will stage productions of Russian and foreign theatrical troupes.  Every seat in the theater is equipped with apparatus for simultaneous translation of films and performances in foreign languages.

The building of the Jewish community center includes the residence of the chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, and offices of the Federation of Jewish Congregations of CIS. It will incorporate Moscow's largest library of literature on the traditions and culture of the Jewish people.

Substantial changes began to occur in the Jewish religious congregation at Marina Roshcha in 1990. This was connected not only with the general improvement of conditions in USSR, freedom of speech and religious confession, but also with the arrival at the congregation of a new rabbi. Berl Lazar came to Moscow from USA and he has lived and worked in Russia for ten years. He adopted as his goal to revive Jews' interests in their language, culture, and traditions. This goal has been achieved. In June of this year Berl Lazar was elected chief rabbi of Russia. "The construction of the community center is another step along the complex path that we have had to traverse," says the press secretary of the chief rabbi of Russia, Baruch Gorin.

Invitations to the opening ceremony for the Jewish community center at Marina Roshchina were received by more than 60,000 persons, all of whom the congregation has regular contact with. Invitations to the ceremonies were sent to rabbis of all Jewish congregations of Russia and CIS, and representatives of congregations from Israel, Europe, and USA. The festive ceremony will begin at seven in the evening, and the celebration will continue until late at night. In the area in front of the new building of the community center, stars of the Russian stage will perform.  All performances will be projcted on an enormous screen. At the conclusion of the celebrations a laser show and fireworks are expected.

The opening of the community center at Marina Roshcha should be not only a celebration for all members of the congregation but also for all Jews of Russia. The completion of the construction of the center can be a symbol of the significant changes that have taken place in Russian society in recent years. Only ten years ago Jews did not try to display their association with their nationality. Studying Jewish culture and language, to say nothing of going to synagogue, was forbidden. Everyone who attended Jewish holy days had to give account to the security services and these people had troubles at work. Nowadays everyone who wishes can study not only their language and their culture, but also can openly participate in national and religious holidays.

In recent years, with the support of the Federation of Jewish Congregations of Russian, in many cities of Russia new synagogues, schools, day care centers, libraries, and cultural centers have been opened. The Jewish community center at Marina Roshcha has become the most substantial of all projects that have been accomplished since the beginning of the democratic transformations in Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 September 2000)

Rapid decline in number of Jews in Russia


Trud, 15 September 2000

If the current trends in the area of emigration and demography does not change, then in 2080 not a single Jew will remain in Russia. This prediction was contained in the annual of the American Jewish Committee.  According to the handbook, the total number within the Jewish community on the territory of the former Soviet Union has declined sharply, from 1.5 million in 1989 to 440,000 in 2000. The main cause is massiv emigration. If its rate does not decrease and the birth rate does not grow, then in ten years the number of Jews in the former Soviet Union will be of the order of 160,000. In 30 years it will be about 23,000 and in 2050 there will be only 2,000-3,000.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 September 2000)

Putin talks about religion with Larry King

CNN Aired September 8, 2000

(excerpt from near the end of the hour-long interview)

. . . KING: There is much talk about Vladimir Putin and religious faith. I'm told that you wear a cross. Is that true? Are you religious? What are your feelings in this area?

PUTIN (through translator): I prefer -- I would prefer not to develop on that subject in detail. I think such things are sacred for everybody. Everybody's belief is not to be shown off, it's inside a man's heart. As regards to wearing cross, earlier I never had it -- once my mother gave it to me and when I visited Israel. I was there two times. First on an official invitation of the minister of foreign affairs of that country. The second time, I liked the country, and I traveled there with my family as a tourist.

So my mother gave it to me to have a blessing there at the Tomb of Lord. I did so and now it's with me always.

Incidentally enough, there was a story about this cross and since then I have always decided to have it on my body, now in the Dacha close to St. Petersburg, there was fire on the Dacha, it happened because of the fact that something went wrong with sauna.

Prior to entering the sauna, I took off the cross before entering the sauna, and then with my friend we jumped out naked, since it was so unexpected. And I cherish that cross very much, it was my mother's cross, and the fire was really in earnest at the time. So I was thinking about whether perhaps it could get even remnants of it, it was an aluminum-made cross, a very simple thing.

I was surprised completely when one of the workers, just muddling through those ashes of the remnants, found that cross intact. And the house fell, that was a surprise, a revelation, and therefore I always now keep it with me.

KING: Do you believe there is a higher power?

PUTIN (through translator): I believe in human beings. I believe in his good intentions. I believe in the fact that all of us have come to this would to do good. And if we do so, and if we do so together, then success is awaiting for us. And both with regards to our relations as people to people, or inter-state relations. And most important, we will achieve the ultimate goal, comfort in our own heart. . . .  (posted 15 September 2000)

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