Cleric raises alarm about Orthodox fundamentalism

by Hegumen Innokenty
Segodnia, 10 October 1996

Hegumen Innokenty warned that Russian Orthodox "fundamentalism" poses a threat to both the internal life of the church and its mission in Russia. He says that this threat exists not because Orthodox fundamentalism actually is a substantial force but because it is perceived as more important than it really is.

Innokenty starts by noting that the label "fundamentalism" comes from American circumstances and it properly applies to Protestant literalistic biblical traditionalism. When this term is applied to Islamic societies it is changed. In fact, the most traditionalist Koranic societies, like Arabia, do not evoke alarm about "Islamic fundamentalism." It is really the revolutionary societies like Iran that do. And in such a case the issue is not a matter of strict adherence to scriptural teaching but vigorous rejection of westernization.

In the sense of antiwesternism, Russian Orthodox "fundamentalism" is like the Iranian form rather than the Protestant. But Russian fundamentalism differs in important ways from the Iranian. It lacks truly charismatic leaders, like the Ayatolah, and it has little appeal to university students equivalent to the strong appeal of the Iranian revolution to students. Innokenty names specifically as leaders of Russian fundamentalism the late Metropolitan Ioann Snychev and Tikhon Shevkunov. "So in Russia there is no need to be upset. A fundamentalist reaction under an Orthodox banner is no threat. . . . Unfortunately, the issue is somewhat different. Although our homebred Orthodox fundamentalists are socially marginalized and spiritually and culturally decadent, nevertheless they are a rather active force which is having a very destructive effect both on internal church life and on the mission of the Orthodox church in Russia. As a practicing pastor I have often had occasion to deal with people who have recently come to the church, but they already have been blasted spiritually by the broadcasts of Radio Radonezh, which, alas, many view as practically the official radio station of the church. It is sad when a young person or a retired woman (usually these people are unstable mentally) begins to talk about dreams of an 'Orthodox monarchy' and to see the cause of all Russia's ills in the Masons, and to identify right and left the 'heretics' among certain contemporary Orthodox theologians and, what is the greatest sin, to condemn someone for 'attending Kochetkov's congregation.' No less dangerous is the way the leadership of the Moscow patriarchate, alienated as it is from the real life of church people, views the 'Radonezhites' as a significant public church force. Clear testimony to this appears in the recent fuss about canonization of the last Russian emperor and his family. But incomparably greater harm is done to the church's mission by Radonezh broadcasts like 'Antichrist in Moscow' by driving away from the church the average folk who typify Russian society."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Vsegda ya rad zametit raznost

Complaint against muzzling of reformist priests

by Alexandra Kolymagina
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 22 October 1996

A letter by Kolymagina, identified only as a "parishioner of the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki, complains that the work of Orthodox priests Georgii Kochetkov and Alexander Borisov is poorly understood because of a concerted effort by elements in the Orthodox church and the news media to prevent the publication of accurate information. "The overwhelming majority of writers prefer not to speak (at least seriously) about what is going on in these parishes by way of training of laity, beginning from careful preparation for baptism all the way up to serious theological educatin. No mention is made of the active charitable activity, the interesting and substantial work with children and youths and academic conferences. Although the reader learns all of the details that are associated with the so-called 'neorenovationism.'"

Kolymagina cites material from several publications that states what she considers to be falsehoods about the priests of the churches of the Dormition and of Cosma and Damian in Shubina. "Instead of open collegial discussion of real problem of social, parish, and liturgical life there is opposition and a complete absence of dialogue." She identifies the chief cause of the distortions about the reformers and the muzzling of their attempts to respond as the "Orthodox Fundamentalists who want no clarification of positions and no discussion." Kolymagina relates the current situation to a prophecy made by Mother Maria (Elizaveta Yurevna Skobtsova) in Paris in 1936 in which she addressed specifically the question of what would happen if the Communist persecution of the church ended. "If it were to occur, then the church that receives toleration from the regime will be entered by new people who have been created by this regime and who will be completely unprepared for the unregulated thought." Unable to deal with the clash of opinions, "soon they will begin to speak in the name of the church, clothing themselves in a mantle of infallibility. It is possible to say, with some exaggeration, that they will levy fines for making the sign of the cross incorrectly and they will exile to Solovki those who do not make confession. Free thought will receive capital punishment. There should be no illusions; in the case of the recognition of the church in Russia and growth of outward success, it will not be able to count on any human resources other than those that have been trained in the uncritical, dogmatic spirit of authoritarianism."

Kolymagina concludes by saying that "the sad predictions have already been partly realized."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Gde dukh tam i svoboda

Criticism of patriarchate's cooperation with Yeltsin's government

by Vladimir Petrovich Semenko, Christian publicist
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 October 1996

Semenko cites several incidents of the past three years that lead him to conclude that the Moscow patriarchate is guilty of an unholy alliance of the church's hierarchy with civil authority and the criminal and capitalistic elements that support the latter. Semenko argues that the church should relate to the world as an essentially alien object and not be identified with it.

Semenko criticizes Patriarch Alexis II's participation in the inauguration of President Yeltsin in August. "The broad public long ago recognized that the Most Holy patriarch is a church politician and not the primate of Christ's Church who stands above all earthly authority. Completely consitent with this was the preelection agitation by the patriarch and several other representatives of the church in favor of one of the sides (which side is absolutely irrelevant). And where is there any essential difference between the participation of the patriarch in the inauguration of the president--who constitutionally is not an Orthodox sovereign and defender of the true faith but is not even Orthodox personally and implements a policy of heterodox and sectarian proselytism--and the recent 'struggle for peace' and the election of metropoitans to the Supreme Soviet? It seems that the present hierarchy has taken a step forward, or rather backward, to Stalin, for it explicitly blesses the atheistic regime. This is a complete continuation of Sergian politics. It is not the spiritual nurture of the state with a goal of leading it toward Christian values but service to a secular state, to put it mildly. The paradox of our present church situation is that the overwhelming majority of bishops and secular writers speak against an Orthodox state and for a worldly, secular state, while at the same time they want to cooperate closely with it."

Among the events in which he sees the complicity of the patriarchate with impiety Semenko cites a meeting between Yeltsin and several bishops where the latter petitioned the state for permission to receive financial proceeds from natural gas transportation, the failure of the state to return the Vladimir Mother of God icon to its rightful place in the Dormition cathedral, the use of the icon for political purposes during the civil strife of September-October 1993, and the reconstruction of the cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The restored cathedral Semenko sees as a "symbol of the false symphony between church and state which is developing before our eyes. It is a "symphony" not between the Orthodox church and an Orthodox sovereign, a defender of the true faith, but between the Moscow patriarchate and the notorious atheistic, unjust state and state-criminal capitalism which donated the money for its construction. Another symbol of this false symphony is Yeltsin's speech two years ago from the patriarchal bacony at the Saint Sergius Holy Trinity lavra in which he declared: 'the people elected me and only the Lord God can remove me.'" The article concludes with the report, repeated from the Moscow News, that the Moscow patriarchate received permission to import into Russia 50 thousand tons of tobacco which would yield about 1.2 trillion rubles, a figure greater than the total of all other tobacco imported in the first half of 1996.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Dukhovno-gosudarstvennaia struktura

Secular newspaper revisits Metropolitan Sergius' 1927 declaration

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 October 1996

In an article of more than 3000 words, the Independent Newspaper presented an analysis by Russian historian Olga Yurevna Vasileva of the circumstances of the Declaration of Loyalty issued in the summer of 1927 by the deputy of the acting patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church. To introduce the article, the paper observes that criticism of Metropolitan Sergius continues. As an example, Father Gleb Yakunin's brochure "The True Face of the Moscow Patriarchate" is quoted: "According to the rules of the eastern church, all acts of Metropolitan Sergius and his synod, beginning from the time Sergius declared himself "deputy of the acting patriarch," are ecclesiastical crimes. For the schism that he caused, in accordance with the apostolic rules, Metropolitan Sergius deserves to be unfrocked and expelled from the church."

Vasileva gives a general defense of Sergius, refuting claims that his declaration was a cowardly or willing cooperation with the theomachistic Bolshevik regime, based on several premises. His action, she says, was a continuation of the policy of Patriarch Tikhon as expressed in his testament published 12 April 1925. Sergius did not act unilaterally but in consultation with other bishops and in accordance with views expressed by the churchmen imprisoned at Solovki. The bishops issued the declaration under severe duress inasmuch as they were threatened by the GPU with renewed attacks on the church. Those attacks were to be the state's response to actions perceived as oppositional, including the attempt to conduct a secret election of a new patriarch. The published text of the declaration was, in fact, an edited version of the original draft Sergius submitted into which GPU agent Tuchkov had inserted such lines as "Now, when we are about to achieve our goals, the attacks of our foreign enemies have not abated," and criticism of the Russian Church Abroad (Karlovtsy). Vasileva cites the letter Sergius sent to the emigre church advising Orthodox outside Russia to accept the jurisdiction of the Orthodox hierarchies of the countries in which they had settled, a statement that she considers evidence that Sergius expressed a pastoral concern for the diaspora. Tuchkov also had excised Sergius' statement of the ideological incompatibility between Bolshevism and Orthodoxy.

Vasileva specifically refutes the claim that Metropolitan Sergius was cowardly: "Metropolitan Sergius never feared anyone. And he knew in advance what would be the reaction of the authorities to his September letter to the foreign bishops, but he went ahead primarily for the sake of the Karlovtsy themselves, giving them the possibility to move to other jurisdictions. Metropolitan Sergius agreed to the secret election of the patriarch knowing what the reaction of the authorities would be." Vasileva's discussion also includes an explanation of the canonical basis of Sergius' authority.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Zhrebii mitropolita sergiia

Priest Yakunin protests raid on mosque

Ekspress khronika.

MOSCOW (E-C) On 4 October the Committee for Freedom of Conscience appealed to Interior Minister Aleksandr Kulikov about a police raid on Moscow's historic mosque. The document, signed by committee chairman Father Gleb Yakunin, expresses concern with the scornful attitude of the Interior Ministry to the religious feelings of the 20 million Muslims who are citizens of Russia.

"On 1 October this year," states the appeal, "for the first time in all the post-war period, the law enforcement organs entered a temple during prayer time: even during the period of persecution for religion, it was strictly forbidden to insult religious feelings of believers and interrupt religious services." Yakunin points out that "it is doubly sad that the object of the raid was the historical mosque in Moscow - constructed in recognition of the heroism of the Tatar corps of the Russian army in the war against Napoleon, that is, it has an equal significance as Christ the Saviour Cathedral for Orthodox Christians."

Yakunin reminds Kulikov that the actions of the police officers towards believers at prayer in the mosque is a direct violation of article 16 of the RSFSR Law "On Freedom of Religion."

See also: Police raid Moscow mosque
3 Oct 1996

Orthodox Church plans canonization

Holy Synod to Canonize Nicholas II

By Sophia Coudenhove
Staff writer, St. Petersburg (Russia) Times

MOSCOW - As early as next year, Russians could be venerating the last tsar, Nicholas II, as a saint on icons and in their prayers, following a decision by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to start the process of canonization.

The synod's decision, announced by church officials Wednesday, sets the stage for a nationwide polling of church opinion on the issue and for the church's highest council to make a final resolution as soon as early 1997.

A decision to add Nicholas, his wife and five children to Russian Orthodoxy's roughly 10,000 saints would dramatically reverse the image of the past 70 years of Nicholas as a bloody tyrant. It would also prove politically divisive.

Historians, clerics and even the tsar's family acknowledged Wednesday that most of Nicholas II's life was not particularly saintly. But they said it is the manner of his death that counts.

"Nobody is going to judge the performance of the last tsar as a politician. That's immaterial," Nicholas Romanov, third cousin of Nicholas II's children, said by telephone from Switzerland.

"What counts is the way he faced certain death and the last months of his life. That is where sanctity appeared."

It is now all but certain that the tsar, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were shot together with several servants, the family doctor and a pet dog by Bolshevik forces in July 1918, in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. Their bodies were dismembered, burned and then thrown down a mine shaft.

Almost 80 years after their death, the Romanovs' reburial in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg is still being delayed pending the final result of DNA tests on the charred bones found at the mine in 1991.

While the Romanovs appear to have borne imprisonment with courage and piety, they did not die voluntarily and would therefore not be considered martyrs by the Catholic church, for example.

"He's not your most obvious candidate for martyrdom. You or I could have been killed like this," said the historian Dominic Lieven. "He was not in any sense a martyr for his faith. He was a martyr because he got in Lenin's way."

Orthodox sanctity can depend as much on external events that are beyond the saint's control, said Father Alexander Fostiropoulos, a priest at the Russian Cathedral in London.

"The church recognizes the holiness of a person not necessarily for what they've done but for what's happened to them," Fostiropoulos said.

While Nicholas abdicated as tsar in March 1917, following the February uprising, he remained head of the Russian Orthodox Church and many saw his execution as a symbol of attempts to destroy the church's role in Russian society.

"Nicholas' death stood as a sign of his times. Something sacred was destroyed - I don't mean the monarchy but the belief in God," Fostiropoulos said. "This is not so much about Nicholas himself as it is a statement about what was said by his death."

from St. Petersburg Times (complete text)

Additional items: Chicago Tribune Last Russian czar almost certain to be church's new saint
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 October 1996 Confessions, by M. Shevchenko.

Georgian church leader in Moscow

by Maksim Shevchenko
An interview with Georgia Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, born 1933 (translated excerpts)

"The Georgian Orthodox church was and remains the national chruch, the only force which unites and strengthens our nation. It has endured difficult times, but despite all it has preserved its spiritual strength. And today its significance for Georgia is extraordinarily great. . . .

"A time of construction has begun. There now are two ecclesiastical academies, four ecclesiastical seminaries, gymansia and sunday schools. Last year by joint resolution of the president and patriarch the Gelati academy of science was established, operating under the aegis of the church. The center of the academy is in Kutaisi, an ancient city with very rich traditions. Its goal is the reconciliation of science and the church. . . .

"It is impossible to accuse the Georgian church of nationalism. Of the former republics of the USSR, Georgia is one of the most multinational states. All residents of Georgia, members of the Orthodox church and those who are not, enjoy equality of rights. Very few people emigrate for national reasons. . . .

"The nations of Abkhazia and of the former South Osetia are members of the Georgian Orthodox church with equality of rights. We support close contacts with them despite all the problems that have arisen. I was born in North Osetia. . . . The confessor of our family was Osetian, Father Mikhail Dzatsoev. . . . For eleven years I was the bishop of Sukhumi-Abkhazia. . . .

[comment on the notion of the subordination of the Sukhumi-Abkhazia diocese to the Moscow patriarchate] "I know about such ideas. In Russia there are hotheads who are trying to achieve such goals. . . . We discussed this question with Patriarch Alexis II. . . . We talked about priests who had been sent from the Russian Orthodox church to Abkhazia to minister to the believers. I declared to His Most Holiness that in no case can this be tolerated. . . .

" The Estonian question was very complex. We did not support either Constantinople or Moscow. We simply called for creation of synodal commissions and conversations. Which is what happened. And, as we know, by God's mercy it came out extremely successfully. . . .

"When we speak about strengthening ties between our nations, we always have in mind that the joining of Georgia and Russia came about primarily on the basis of the one Orthodox faith. . . ."

Ilia was elected catholicos-patriarch on 23 December 1977. In 1978-1983 he was a president of the World Council of Churches. In 1986 St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York bestowed on him the honorary degree of doctor of theology.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Tserkov sposobna primirit narody

Warning on changes in Russian religion law

Segodnia, 3 October 1996 (translation of complete text)

In October there will occur in the State Duma of the Russian Federation the second reading of the draft of the federal law "On amendments and supplements to the law On Freedom of Religious Confessions of the RSFSR." According to Sergei Kuzmin, a member of the duma expert consultative council on matters of freedom of conscience, the draft law in its present form leads "to the selfdestruction of Russia," since it reproduces an American model which in our circumstances will lead to the domination of the totalitarian sects. If this ls had been in effect earlier, then, for example, it would have been impossible to liquidate the Aum Sinrikyo sect. It would have been necessary for the victims to file civil suit.

It is worth noting that among the drafters of the law was Gleb Yakunin, a priest who was defrocked by the Moscow patriarchate and who now is an aid to a deputy of the State Duma, who, according to the expert, created the "Committee on Religious Confessions" along with the priest Viacheslav Polosin. The first point of the charter of this organization, according to Kuzmin, declares: "Opposition to Orthodoxy as a state religion and support of religions that are not traditional for Russia."

On 2 October there was a theological conference at the patriarchal Kruitsy annex, organized by the All-church Orthodox Youth Movement and the Khomiakov Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Nontraditional Religions of the missionary department of the Moscow patriarchate. Here was discussed the problem of the destructive and antichristian activities of sects. The participants were warned that sectarians are attempting to infiltrate state, legal, and educational institutions. For example, the Moonie "Church of Unification" produces a textbook "My World and I," from which children in 2,000 Russian schools are studying. And this is happening despite laws that supposedly forbid such activity.

Besides the universally known orgtanizations like "Church of Scientology," "Church of Christ," "White Brotherhood," Moonies and Mormons, others also were named. The "Sect of Peter" and the sect of the false-christ Vissarion and "Children of God" present, in the opinion of the priest monk Anatoly Berestov, the greatest danger.

At the conference the draft of the law on freedom of religious confessions was discussed and the conclusion was reached that "it does not take into account the cultural and historical traditions of the peoples of Russia and the experience of church-state relations and, thus, of the interests of the basic religions." A number of amendments were prepared, which will be presented to the State Duma.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Zakonodatelei prizvali rasobratsia s sektantami

Police raid Moscow mosque

RFE/RL 3 October 1996

Moscow, 3 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has defended a police raid on the main mosque in the Russian capital.

The raid, which happened just before evening prayers on Tuesday night, outraged Muslim leaders who accused police of beating worshipers and of failing to show respect by removing their shoes before entering .

Luzhkov said today that only one police officer went inside the mosque who was himself a Muslim. Luzhkov said the officer did take off his shoes beforehand in accordance with Muslim custom.

But Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, head of the Union of Muslims in Russia, has said that worshipers, who included ethnic Chechens and Ingushis from southern Russia, were beaten and detained during the raid which he indicated had involved more than one officer.

The raid has fueled longstanding complaints of discrimination from people from Central Asia and the Caucasus region and people of minority religions.

It also comes amid growing Russian concern over Islamic fundamentalism, sparked in part by events in Afghanistan, where fundamentalist fighters now control much of the country.

1996 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Analysis From Washington: Moscow's Latest Muslim Problem, by Paul Goble

(posted 3 October 1996)