Russian politician stirs up opposition to movie with church and political support


100 thousand signatures for the right of falsification of history

Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 24 July 2017


State Duma Deputy Natalia Poklonskaya reported about a new round of struggle with Aleksei Uchitel's motion picture "Matilda." She sent a deputy's inquiry to the minister of culture, prosecutor general, and minister of internal affairs "about the adoption of measures . . . for prevention of offending the religious feelings of believers and of desecration of Orthodox sacred things by the plot line of the motion picture 'Matilda.'" Poklonskaya maintains that the inquiry was signed by 37 State Duma deputies, including the vice-chairman of the lower chamber of parliament. In her report on a social network, Poklonskaya did not mention the vice-speaker, but in photographs depicting her report the family name of Petr Tolstoy is visible.


To the deputy's inquiry are attached 100 thousand signature of citizens whose feeling are hurt by the fact that according to the plot of the film, the heir to the throne and future Emperor Nicholas II entered into intimate relations with the ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya.


A countrywide demonstration which has been planned by the Orthodox movement "Forty Forties" for 1 August should add weight to this "national expression of will." The activists met with Poklonskaya and delivered to her their leaflet. The movement consists of young, mostly muscular men, who have experience of participating in street confrontations. Thus, residents of several Moscow districts who are protesting against the construction of Orthodox churches in park zones have a notion of how persuasive "Forty Forties" can be when the dispute is conducted in heightened tones. At the same time, the movement receives support from the leadership of the Moscow patriarchate. Almost all mass measures of the RPTs, including those in which the patriarch participates, cannot do without patrols by militants in red tee-shirts with a white circle on their chests.


Although the movement consists of men of strong spirit and body, "Forty Forties" is declaring a peaceful "prayer vigil." But the backdrop for any initiatives regarding "Matilda" remains various extremist statements, for example, threats by the marginal movement "Christian State—Sacred Rus" to set fire to movie theaters in which the "blasphemous" film will be shown. We note that the premiere will be held in the Mariinsky theatre, the former imperial theatre in St. Petersburg.


The wave of events and initiatives organized by Natalia Poklonskaya with the approval of rather powerful politicians and public figures is ever more clearly conflicting with the patronizing attitude of Russian authorities toward "Matilda" and its creator. The irrationality of the situation is underscored by the fact that nobody has seen the film itself and according to rumors there have been only closed showings. The arguments of Poklonskaya and other offended believers rest only on clips from the trailer, in whose creation the main film crew did not participate, according to their statements.


What will happen after the premiere, which will be held on 6 October? It is possible that nothing will happen, and the anger of irate believers will dissipate like smoke. However there remains a precedent, and not just a precedent of interference by clerical lobbyists in the sphere of freedom of art. The one who for believers being led by Poklonskaya is an "Orthodox sacred item" is for the rest of citizens the last emperor who led Russia into a political catastrophe. In the opinion of a majority of historians, the cause of the inglorious end of the empire was Nicholas' weakness as a leader in conditions of unlimited autocracy.


Poklonskaya is offended that the cinematic image of the emperor does not correspond to the image of a saint who was canonized by the RPTs. But if today the deputy and her followers see blasphemy in the bedroom scenes with Nicholas, it is possible that afterward believers will begin to be offended by the very judgments about the shortcomings of the autocracy. If that happens, then today's attack on the director, Uchitel, may tomorrow call forth a restriction of the right to free opinion about the history of the Russian federation. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2017)



Orthodox activists plan Russia-wide demonstration of Navalny type

by Pavel Skrylnikov

Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 19 July 2017


On the day of the discovery of the relics of Serafim of Sarov, 1 August, the Orthodox movement "Forty Forties" intends to lead people in mass demonstrations in cities of Russia. "Russia-wide vigil of the Orthodox people of Sacred Rus—the Third Rome" will be directed against the screening of Aleksei Uchitel's film "Matilda." State Duma Deputy Natalia Poklonskaya confirmed her participation in it.


The chief slogan of the demonstration is the hashtag #WeWillStopMatilda that is now being spread by the initiators of the prayer vigil. The summons to take to the streets in the social networks of the movement begins with a quotation from the Strategy of National Security that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed in 2015. In the opinion of the Orthodox activists, the activity of "part of the intelligentsia and bureaucrats" that is not opposing the release of Uchitel's film falls under the definition of a threat to national security and is "activity aimed at the disruption of the unity and territorial integrity of the Russian federation and destabilization of the domestic political and social situation in the country."


It is noteworthy that the Orthodox activists are planning to organize the prayer vigil in the image and likeness of regional divisions of supporters of Aleksei Navalny. "We call our compatriots in other cities of the Russian world to create more actively offices of the vigil in your city and come out for us for coordination of actions," reads the announcement about joining the action "of our sister in Christ and hero of the Russian Spring," Natalia Poklonskaya, on the social network pages of "Forty Forties."


However "Forty Forties" also makes accusations of sympathies for "Bolotnaya characters of the Navalny type" against "intellectuals" and Konstantin Raikin personally, who displeased the movement with statements in defense of another "blasphemous production that violated the Strategy of National Security," the opera Tannhauser. We recall that the uproar with believers' protests against its staging in the Novosibirsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet" led to the cancellation of the performance.


"Forty Forties" also urges Muslims to participate in the prayer vigil, who, in the movement's opinion, understand the danger of offending spiritual and moral values. The Orthodox recall the exploits of the "Wild Division" and the oath once taken by Muslims to "the white tsar."


The date of the prayer vigil was not chosen by chance, the coordinator of "Forty Forties," Andrei Kormukhin, told a NG correspondent. "Serafim of Sarov said in his time that the one who praises him, he will praise. And the role of Nicholas II in the canonization of Serafim of Sarov was enormous: the discovery of the relics in Diveevo occurred with his immediate participation." The activist posits that the demonstration of public opinion is necessary for a prohibition of the "blasphemous" film. Orthodox believers should declare loudly their position in order for it to begin to be taken into account. "Until recently, the people have been silent, hoping that the film will be banned. Since time is passing and the premiere is scheduled for October, many politicians and the church hierarchy say that there must be support in order for there to be grounds for banning this film. In order for the film to hurt the feelings of believers there must be believers whose feelings are hurt." Kormukhin also stated that he hopes for support of the vigil from foreign fellow believers from Serbia, Montenegro, Austria, and Bulgaria. The film also insults the memory of the holy Empress Alexandra Fedorovna. She is depicted as a witch, which for Orthodox is a mortal sin, the coordinator of "Forty Forties" thinks.


However, not all structures of the Moscow patriarchate have determined the degree of their own cooperation with "Forty Forties" and their demonstration. Thus the vice-chairman of the synodal Department for Youth Affairs, Vadim Kviaatkovsky, told NG that it is still too early to talk about organized participation of volunteer youth organizations in the prayer vigil. "So far there has been only unofficial information," the representative of the RPTs says.


The "Forty Forties" movement, which was organized in 2013, regularly participates in events arranged by the Moscow patriarchate. Thus, its representatives have attended the World Russian National Sobor and Christmas Readings, and on 25 April of this year, the premiere of the male choir of the movement was held in the Hall of Church Councils in the church of Christ the Savior. In addition, the confrontation of supporters and opponents of construction of a church in the Torfianka Park occurred with their participation. At the same time, even harsher threats against the film "Matilda" have been voiced previously by Orthodox public organizations. Thus the movement "Christian State—Sacred Rus" warned that movie theaters in which it will be shown may be subjected to attacks by bombers. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2017)

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