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Media frenzy on tsar burial controversy


Advisor to Boris Hemtsov is not bothered by church's position

by Ivan Otdelnov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 18 June 1998

Viktor Aksiuchits is not at all bothered by the position taken by the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church with regard to the burial of the remains of the royal family. "This is an internal church matter," the advisor to the vice premier and head of the state commission on identification of the Ekaterinburg remains, Boris Nemtsov, stated yesterday. Besides, in Aksiuchits' opinion, the mass media have "not always adequately" treated the decision of the Holy Synod. Neither the synod nor its members have every publicly doubted the results of the scientific examination that was conducted, he declared. It is a different matter that the church is concerned about the disputes that have arisen in society with regard to the attribution of the remains and does not want to support either of the sides of the conflict that has arisen.

Besides, Viktor Aksiuchits stressed, the church has not by any means declared its refusal to participate in the burial ceremony but only reduced the level of its representation in it.

The farewell for the imperial family will begin 15 July in Ekaterinburg, Aksiuchits reported. Here a liturgy and requiem will be conducted. On 16 June the remains of the royal family will be sent by plane to St. Petersburg where they should arrive at two o'clock in the afternoon. In accompaniment of a funeral cortege they will be taken to the Peter and Paul cathedral. At eleven o'clock in the morning of 17 July the official ceremony of burial will begin. Participants will included relatives of the slain emperor, representatives of the government, Federal Assembly, and local adminstration offices. As regards official personnel from Moscow, Viktor Aksiuchits was able to name definitely only one participant in the ceremony, his boss, Boris Nemtsov. It is known for sure that the president's role will be limited to a message which will be read at the grave. In Aksiuchits' opinion, Boris Yeltsin would come to St. Petersburg only in the event that the patriarch himself took part in the funeral. (tr. by PDS)

by Celestine Bohlen
New York Times, 18 June 1998

MOSCOW -- The burial of the often-disturbed remains of Nicholas II, Russia's last Czar, and his family next month was planned as an occasion rich in pomp and symbolism, complete with honor guards, a solemn procession through the streets of the old imperial capital of St. Petersburg and a 19-volley salute.

But with the recent announcements that neither the head of the Russian Orthodox Church nor President Boris N. Yeltsin nor representatives of Russia's old nobility, including members of the Czar's own Romanov family, will attend, Russia's last royal burial has been downgraded from an event of state to an unusually elaborate church service.

The burial is to be held 80 years after the Czar and his family were executed in a basement in the city of Yekaterinburg.

As the bottom falls out of the guest list, preparations for the ceremony have been quietly scaled back. "It will be modest, without pomposity, without excessive spending," said Deputy Prime Minister Boris Y. Nemtsov, who is charged with organizing the event.

He added that it was Russia's "historic duty and human responsibility" to put the royal family's remains to rest.

Instead of a hoped-for moment of national reconciliation, the burial has reopened two of the most delicate debates that have swirled around Nicholas II -- the authenticity of the bones unearthed outside Yekaterinburg and the Czar's proper place in history.

He is venerated by some Russians as a martyr, derided by others as a weakling and a despot, but seen by most as a victim of one of the Russian Revolution's most cold-blooded crimes.

The Czar, his wife, Alexandra, their five children and four family attendants were banished to the city of Yekaterinburg as Russia was swept by civil war. On July 17, 1918, they were herded into a cellar room by their Bolshevik captors and killed in fusillade of bullets and stabs of bayonets. The Czar had been forced to abdicate in March 1917.

Bones found at the bottom of a pit outside Yekaterinburg in 1979 were kept secret until 1991, when Russians were finally allowed to explore the violent history of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Since then, the remains of Russia's royal family have been in restless limbo, submitted to a series of scientifically conclusive forensic tests that have still failed to produce unanimity on their identity, and battled over by regions competing for the honor of their burial place.

Ostensibly, it was the issue of the disputed bones that drove the Russian Orthodox Church to announce last week that Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, would not attend the ceremonies, citing a "split in the church and secular society" over the authenticity of the remains. The church's Holy Synod called the split "obviously confrontational and painful."

The burial service (funeral services for the Czar and his family were held in Russia soon after their death in 1918) will be officiated by a local priest on July 17 at the Romanov family vault inside the Petropavlovsk Fortress, while Aleksy II will lead the faithful in prayers on that day for "all those killed at the time of severe persecution."

No sooner did the church make its announcement than others who had been invited began to decline, in rapid succession. Speaking at a conference of nobility clubs that opened with the singing of the old Russian imperial anthem "God Save the Czar," Andrei Golitsyn, head of the Russian Noble Assembly, announced that its members, too, would stay away.

Like the church, he said, the assembly believes that a Government commission established to examine the authenticity of the bones had "overlooked a number of questions that arouse doubts and explanations contradicting the official one."

Some Romanovs will attend the ceremonies, but Grand Duchess Maria, the head of the house, has said she will make a final decision at the end of this month.

By Tuesday, Yeltsin confirmed that he would not attend, a decision seen as heavily influenced by the church. "Let's put it this way," said Viktor Aksyuchits, an aide to Nemtsov. "Yeltsin is not coming because the Patriarch will not be there. The level of representation has definitely been lowered."

Aksyuchits said the church's real motives in keeping its distance from the burial had more to do with a division among its members, some of whom support a proposal to canonize Nicholas in the year 2000.

"For them, it would be more convenient to have the burial after canonization," he said. "That is why they want to drag it out.

"We consider that that doubts about the authenticity will only redouble as long as there is no burial. The debates will always be there."

After six years of research, including a DNA analysis done by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington and forensic work done in Russia and Britain, a Russian Government commission concluded in January that the skeletal remains were those of Nicholas, Alexandra, three of their five children and four family attendants.

These findings confirmed a long-secret report by the Czar's chief executioner that two of the bodies taken from the Yekaterinburg cellar had been burned, and the rest buried. The missing bodies belong to the Romanov heir, Alexei, who was 13 when he was killed, and one of his sisters, either Maria, then 19, or her 17-year-old sister Anastasia, a romantic figure who keeps returning as a popular Hollywood legend.

But critics of the commission complain that it cloaked its work in secrecy, which only led to new theories about the fate of the Czar's family. Some far-right Russian nationalists contend that the Czar was a victim of a conspiracy of Jews and Masons, while others steadfastly refuse to believe any evidence that was collected during the Soviet era.

The proposal to canonize Nicholas II has powerful supporters within the Russian Orthodox Church, which would be following the example set by the migr-founded Russian Church Abroad, which has venerated Nicholas II and other members of the Romanov family, along with tens of thousands of other victims of the Russian Revolution, as martyrs for their faith since 1981.

"The possibility of canonization is the reason why the church is dealing with the issue of authenticity very attentively," said the Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, secretary for church and society at the Moscow Patriarchate. "If someone is canonized, then their remains are venerated as relics. And there can be no doubt about the authenticity of a holy relic."

(c) New York Times

Other stories of this week:

"Nemtsov to attend funeral, not Yeltsin," St. Petersburg Times

"Russia vows pomp for tsar's funeral," Associated Press

"British royal likely to attend tsar's burial," St. Petersburg Times

"Tsar burial controversy blamed on Russia's past," Reuters

(posted 18 June 1998)

Russian-French connection

Segodnia, 16 June 1998

A highly placed representative of the Moscow patriarchate visited the French city of Cahors and brought back from there 20,000 bottles of the remarkable wine of that brand and a gift--the relics of three saints from the church of Diuravel. Back in the eighteenth century the Russian Orthodox church made the decision to use Cahors for conducting services and now it would like to restore that tradition, interrupted by the bolshevik rise to power. The priest Sergei Konobas already visited Cahors in March 1997 to get samples and demonstrate them for the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus. Alexis II decided that the wine fully corresponds to tradition and gave permission for purchasing a large supply, since every day each of the 18,000 Russian churches needs one bottle of wine, symbolizing the blooc of the Savior. In the course of his first visit Fr Sergei learned also that a sarcophagus of the church of Diuravel in Cahors there were the relics of saints "very much respected in Russia," Hilary (third century), Agatho (fourth century) and Pimen (fifth century). The bishop of Cahors presented them as a gift to the Orthodox church and in return he received another holy item, an icon that is especially valuable because it had never left Russian soil. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 17 June 1998)

Additional state rules for implementing religion law

Rossiiskaia gazeta, 16 June 1998

In implementation of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" the government of the Russian federation orders:

1. To confirm the procedure for conducting state examination by religion studies specialists as submitted.

2. To assign the organization of the conduct of state examination by religion studies specialists in the case of state registration of centralized religious organizations that include local religious organizations on the territory of two or more component regions of the Russian federation to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation.

3. Agencies of executive power of the component regions of the Russian federation must take necessary measures for organization of the conduct of state examination by religion studies specialists on the territorys of the respective regions in accordance with the procedure confirmed by the present order.

Chairman of the government of the Russian federation.
S. Kirienko

Procedure for the conduct of state examination by religion studies specialists

1. The present procedure regulates the conduct of the state examination by religion studies specialists at the time of performing the state registration of religious organizations by agencies of justice of the Russian federation (hereafter called registering agencies).

2. The state examination by religion studies specialists (hereafter called examination) in accordance with point 8 of article 11 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" is conducted by decision of the registering agency during registration of a centralized religious organization or a local religious organization that does not possess certification of membership in a centralized religious organization of the same religious confession provided by a centralized organization in the event that there arises for the registering agency the need of conducting a supplementary investigation into the question of recognizing the organization as a religious one and checking the validity of the information relative to the fundamentals of its belief system and practice corresponding to it.

3. The basic tasks of the examination are
--determination of the religious character of the organization being registered on the basis of the constituent documents presented and information about the fundamentals of its belief system and practice corresponding to it;
--checking and evaluating the reliability of the information contained in the materials relative to the fundamentals of its belief system, which have been submitted.

4. The examination is conducted by examination councils formed for these purposes.
In the state registration of a centralized religious organization in the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation the examination is conducted by an examination council formed by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation.
Upon request of the registering agencies of the component regions of the Russian federation the examination is conducted by examination councils formed by agencies of the executive power of the respective regions of the Russian federation. When needed the registering agency of the region of the Russian federation has the right to request a conclusion from the examination council created by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation.

5. The examination councils include employees of the agencies of state power and specialists in the areas of religion studies and of relations between the state and religious associations. Specialists who are not members of the council as well as representatives of religious organizations may be invited by the examination council as consultants in its work.

6. An inquiry about the conduct of an examination is sent by the registering agency for review of the respective examination council along with copies of the documents provided for in article 11 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations," which have been submitted by the religious organization for state registration.
In its inquiry the registering agency should state the need for conducting the examination as well as the questions that require expert evaluation. An inquiry of the registering agency submitted in cases not provided for by point 2 of the present procedure is not subject to review, in which case the examination council informs the registering agency.

7. Inquiries of registering agencies, the documents submitted for the examination, and other materials used during its conduct, must be recorded.
The date of the presentation of documents is the date of their actual submission to the examination council.

8. The examination is conducted within three months of the date of presentation of the inquiry by the registering agency to the examination council. When explanation about the documents submitted from religious organizations or when supplementary materials and information from diplomatic representations of the Russian federation in foreign countries are needed the term of the conduct of the examiniation may be extended for a month, about which the registering agency is informed.

9. The examination council has the right to request from agencies of executive power and public and religious organizations information needed for conducting the examination on matters lying within their knowledge.

10. The review of the request from the registering agency regarding a specific religious organization should be conducted, as a rule, in the presence of its authorized representative, invited in a timely manner to the appropriate session of the examination council. In the event of the nonappearance of the representative of the religious organization at the session of the examination council, the examination's conclusion may be made in his absence.

11. On the basis of the results of the conduct of the examination of the documents presented, the examination council makes an examination's conclusion, containing the basic conclusions regarding the possibility (impossiblity) of recognizing the organization as a religious one and the validity of the information regarding the fundamentals of its belief system and practice corresponding to it. The examination's conclusion is adopted by majority vote of the members of the examination council.
The examination's conclusion in written form is sent to the registering agency that submitted the inquiry with copies of the materials used in conducting the examination and minutes of the corresponding meeting of the examination council. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text from INFORUS

Link to other substatutory regulations on religion law

(posted 16 June 1998)

Catholics and Jews denied their worship buildings

by Igor Alenin, Radiotserkov, Moscow 14 June 1998

According to a report in the newspaper Russkaia Mysl, "in April 1998 the first deputy of the governor of Orel, Vitaly Kochuev, signed an order for the return to a Catholic parish of the building of a Catholic church that had been confiscated during soviet rule. However a week later the governor, Egor Stroev, cancelled the order of his deputy. At the department of the administration of relations with religious organizations, the priest, Fr Joseph, was told that the return of the Catholic building "might be taken as a precedent." It turns out that the city already has a precendent of the nonreturn of a synagogue to a Jewish community. Thus the precendent of return could set the Jews on a still more energetic defense of their rights. Already in their defense statements have been made by the council of the city of Chicago and the governor of Illinois, Jim Edgar. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 16 June 1998)

Romanovs will attend burial; Yeltsin will not


GENEVA, JUNE 15. -- About 30 members of the house of the Romanovs are to visit St. Petersburg, attending the burial of remains belonging to the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family at the Peter and Paul cathedral. This was disclosed in an exclusive RIA-NOVOSTI interview here the other day by the Romanov family's eldest member Nikolai Romanovich Romanov. We are going to come there in order to cherish the memory of our near and dear because we are convinced by the degree of those remains' authenticity, which has been verified by US, British and Russian experts (approximately 98 percent). And we'll take part in the burial of Nicholas II, his family members and those people, who had remained loyal to them till the very end, July 17, Romanov went on to say.

Nikolai Romanovich also noted that he has talked to Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov over the phone, with the latter denying a statement to the effect that most Romanovs won't attend the funeral. According to Nikolai Romanovich, Mikhail Feodorovich intends to make a statement and to set forth his position. However, Mikhail Feodorovich won't be able to come for family reasons, Nikolai Romanovich added. Replying to a question about the Russian Orthodox Church's position, Nikolai Romanov stressed that he is embarrassed by that confusion between the church and the Romanov family because the clerical position and that of laymen should not be mixed up. We understand the church's position to the effect that it can't recognize the authenticity of the tsarist family's remains at a time when such authenticity is still being doubted to some extent (all the more so as the question of canonizing the tsar and his family is now being posed). However, this doesn't concern us, laymen, who have the right to make their own choice, he added. Should, God forbid, they fail to confirm the authenticity of such remains, in that case we are going to cherish the memory of unknown people, who will symbolize all the victims of that ruthless period -- Whites and Reds, men and women alike (including Col. Nicholas Romanov and his family). Nikolai Romanov thanked the authorities of St. Petersburg for their efforts to contact all members of the Romanov family and to invite them to attend the forthcoming ceremony.

Reuters, 15 June 1998

MOSCOW -- (Reuters) President Boris Yeltsin has decided not to attend the burial of the remains of the last czar Nicholas II following a similar decision by the Russian Orthodox patriarch, RIA news agency said on Monday.

RIA quoted Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov as saying after meeting Yeltsin that the burial would still take place on July 17 in St. Petersburg, exactly 80 years after the czar and his family were murdered by Bolshevik rulers. Nemtsov oversees the government's involvement in the ceremony, which was originally intended to be a major act of national reconciliation. In the absence of Yeltsin and Patriarch Alexiy II, it will be seriously downgraded.

The Kremlin could not immediately confirm the news agency report.

The Holy Synod decided last week to allow only relatively low-ranking clerics to conduct a requiem over the remains, unearthed from a forest near the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in 1991.

The Synod explained the decision by saying it did not want to take sides in a row over the identity of the bones, which have a huge political resonance for post-communist Russia. Nemstov's aide, Victor Aksyuchits, has said the Holy Synod's decision was rather a reflection of power struggles within the church than of genuine doubts over the remains.

He said church representatives had previously accepted the results of research conducted both in Russia and abroad indicating the remains were indeed those of Nicholas, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children.

The Kremlin had hoped the funeral would be a way to reconcile a society still bitterly divided over its past.

from Johnson's Russia List #2223, 15 June 1998

(posted 16 June 1998)

President of Buriatiia subsidizes new church


ULAN-UDE. 11 June. Services in an Old Believer Orthodox church have begun in the ancient Transbaikal village of Kuitun where descendants of Russian Old Believer settlers live. The church of Nicholas the Wonderworker became the first Old Believer church erected in Buritiia after 1917. Before this the descendants of those who fought against the "Nikonian reforms" were able to conduct their rituals only in small prayer buildings.

The new church was built in the village by everyone. Simple laity and the local "Iskra" collective farm took part in the construction. The president of Buriatiia, Leonid Potapov, rendered aid to the Old Believers by allocating 80,000 rubles for construction of the church. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 15 June 1998)

Church, mosque, and synagogue to be built together


UFA, 11 June. Plans are being made in Ufa to erect a joint religious building complex comprising an Orthodox church, Muslim mosque, and Jewish synagogue. It will be unique not only for Russia but for all countries of CIS. Construction of the complex is scheduled to be completed in time for the bimillennium of the birth of Christ. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 15 June 1998)

Book burning signifies spiritual schism in church

by Andrei Platonov, 12 June 1998

Sharing the assessment given in the NG article, I must make one qualification: in the article and subsequent publications, what has predominated is an assessment or judgment of the incident of the book burning and not a review of its causes which demonstrate the existence of a spiritual schism in the Orthodox church. I have already written, in commenting on the letter of the historian D. Pospielovsky to Patriarch Alexis, that the watershed lies at the question of church freedom, as the blessed Augustine said: "in essentials, unity, in the rest, freedom, and in everything, love." As long as in our country the "nomenklatura" bishops, who made their careers with the consent of the theomachistic regime, rule, freedom in the church, the necessary condition for the manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit within the body of the church, will be subordinated to intrachurch persecution.

But it is impossible to accuse the bishops of the "old" generation of all wrongs. A significant part of the church is accustomed to the old style of church life, the "soviet" style, which was developed in the defensive struggle against the communist power and which absorbed what the power permitted, meaning not the better characteristics of church life of the nineteenth century. The growth in the church of forces that were not connected in the past with the regime, of course, represents a danger for politicians who have the oppoturnity by using their old connections to exploit the church. Thus the aforementioned spiritual schism of the church can by seen as a struggle with the church within the church, which actually perpetuates the old tradition of comrade Tuchkov.

This assessment of the ties of the church with the communists is made also by the Karlovci church abroad, which, unfortunately, since it was in emigration was not able to develop, and it chose the path of bondage since it considered stagnating in the old style to be for the good. However, the substantial influence of various political forces on the Karlovci synod is undoubted. In the nineteenth century there began to open gradually the possibility of acting freely, of studying and developing the better aspects of the heritage of our church. This development, which led to the local council of 1917-1918, was disrupted by the soviet regime. Emerging again in the sixties, eighties and nineties, the movement of renovation (of of "inner" Christianity, as was said in the time of the youth of his holiness Filaret of Moscow at the beginning of the 19th century) still has small support in our church although it is growing rapidly and is needed by our society and our nation which is seeking in the church those vital forces of love, freedom, and spiritual knowledge.

The struggle against the heritage of fathers Afanasiev, Schmemann, Men, Meyendorff, and others is not at all accidental. Already the call has even gone out to overthrow their authority within church and society. The militant opponents of renovation of the church speaks explicitly of them as leaders of renovation. Semi-official organs of the church treat their heritage generally as ideas for renovation in the church; the ideas are good but these are renovationists or neo-renovationists--fighting for them caused them much damage. Soon to the slogans "The Carthaginian lie must be destroyed" [title of Radonezh article] and "Orthodoxy or Death" they will add "The only good renovationist is a dead one."

They was to focus attention on the fate of books; church politics and ideology should not be more important than the fate of people. Something significantly worse that the destruction of books is happening. Without a moment's hesitation the lives of people, faithful Christians, priests of God, are being ruined by the arbitrariness of bishops and for ideological reasonos, and communities are being disbursed. In Ekaterinburg Fr Oleg Vokhmianin was banned "for life" (?). Unfortunately, this and other such incidents did not evoke such a sharp reaction as book burning.

As similar situation developed also in the case of the community of Fr Georgy Kochetkov. In the fall, when Fr Georgy was banned from clerical ministry without cause the overwhelming majority preferred to remain on the sidelines and even those who, it would seem, are fighting for the freedom of the church and freedom in the church and who criticize the "procommunist" hierarchy (as for example Fr. Edelshtein in the article "On the party affiliation of the apostle Paul") preferred to present the case so as not to evoke sympathy for those subjected to persecution. This attitude toward the largest Moscow parish community continues to the present.

Everything should not be focused on the actions of one bishop who graduated from an accounting school. Under the slogan of the struggle with "heresy," a schism in the church is being carried out energetically. Behind the facade, political forces are using this as an ideological screen for maneuvers that will guarantee the continuity of their power over the church. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text from the author

(posted 13 June 1998)

Western reactions to book burning varied

Metaphrasis, (13) 1-7 June 1998

Orthodox activist from Holland Jim Forest sent a letter on 2 June to Patriarch Alexis II:

"It was a great sorrow to read reports from Ekaterinburg of the burning of books written by respected Orthodox theologians and to learn that this act of vandalism was committed at the orders of the local hierarch, Bishop Nikon.

Such an action brings shame not only to the bishop responsible but will be seen by many people as revealing the mind and soul of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This event resembles in character the infamous Inquisition that occurred within the Roman Catholic Church centuries ago.

It is our hope that you will personally respond to this event in an appropriate and public way. (Metaphrasis, 2 June)

Metaphrasis, (13) 1-7 June 1998

Priest David Mozer (USA): "I agree that fathers Alexander, John, and Alexander really are teachers and perhaps even great. I agree that what they taught had great influence on the society of the newly converted. I myself use the book by Fr John devoted to the history of theology in Byzantium as a source, along side "Dogmatic Theology" by Fr Mikhail Pomazansky, and I read Fr Alexander a great deal before my conversion to Orthodoxy. As regards the works of Fr Alexander Men, I am little acquainted with them although I understand that they have given great heop to others. I our extremely intellectual society we are inclined to glorify reason, placing it above everything and we want to make great scholars and teachers who have devoted themselves to reason into saints very quickly, perhaps too quickly. However, that these priests are great teachers in no way makes them saints. I am speaking not against the memories of fathers Alexander Schmemann, John Meyendorff, and Alexander Men, but against the distortion of their memory and the use of it for propagandistic purposes.

As regards the burning of books, this is a visible icon, a method of teaching that is vivid and emotional. In bypassing reason it penetrates to the heart and makes an impact even on the will of a person. I do not know why Bishop Nikon ordered the burning of books, but I do know that it can be an effective teaching device, the kind of teaching device that the icons in our churches and homes are. Books in our intellectual society have become icons; we do not dare to treat them with disrespect and we think of them with awe. There is a mass of people who consider that if something is written in a book it must be true (I have had occasion to meet such people). For those who make books the object of a cult, burning their idols is the quickest, most effective, and sometimes even the only way to break them out of their idolatry. Sometimes we make those who write books cult figures and, accordingly, in burning a book we are burning not a person but the idol which he has become. Let's not be hasty in judging the situation about which we know very little." (Metaphrasis, 6 June) (tr. by PDS)


Christopher Enkapera (USA): "Let's consider the simple people who lightly trust everything they read. How will they react when someone burns their books? I think that it will 'grieve their souls,' and give them a psychological shock, but it will not in any way open their hearts. Or let's consider stubborn people. Will such an act have a good effect on them or, on the contrary, evoke in them outrage and anger? But let's return to reality and talk about the people for whome the books have become idols. What if the books became idols for them only after the burning? I do not know what fathers Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff symbolized for thse who burned their books, but I suspect that for them the books had become idols to a much greater degree than for all the others, and it would be necessary to burn not the books but the idea or intent of those who considered that by doing such a thing they were doing something useful." (Metaphrasis, 6 June) (tr. by PDS)

Metaphrasis (13) 1-7 June

Bishop Tikhon (bishop of San Francisco and the West): Archpriests Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff were, in the first place, outstanding, even great, teachers. Neither of them pretended to the crown of a great theologian and actually anyone who when meeting Fr Meyendorff called him a 'great theologian' saw on his face a bewildered smile and heard the embarassed (without any false modesty) words that "theologian" was too great a title and should not be taken in vain. Fr. Alexander was not and did not consider himself a theologian. His chief lifelong interest was church history. He was an extremely profound historian and to his pen belon several brilliantly written and persuasive works on liturgical theology, and object which still has not been acknowledge by all scholars as a theological discipline. But as a teacher Fr Alexander stands in the ranks of the greatest.

Archpriest John Meyendorff, with the above qualification (I am sure he would agree) is the author of works of great theological value. He was not only a great teacher but also a great scholar. No one, even one with extremely modest intellectual ability, can deny this.

As regards the unfortunate Russian bishop who burned their works, he probably continues in a state of 'blissful ignorance.' Nevertheless, everyone should try to realize how few were the possibilities of getting good theological education outside the narrow bounds of dogmatic theology in the Russian church in the period before glasnost. The Russian church is experiencing an extremely difficult time of renewal. These difficulties are intensified by the fact that the church in Russia is no longer isolated. This is a very large church, but it is Orthodox completely. May it be one! The struggle for the soul of the Russian Orthodox Chruch Abroad is only a small part of the great struggle for the soul of the Russian church. May the Lord Almightly preserve it from schism.

Eternal memory to the great teachers of the church, archpriests John and Alexander. As regards the burning of books, this is one of the stupidest means of dealing with dissent imaginable. People like Bishop Nikon always burn the books that everyone is reading." (Metaphrasis, 4 June) (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Metaphrasis

(posted 12 June 1998)

Press reports about Romanov family contradictory

Segodnia, 11 June 1998

Some in the Romanov family are upset by the decision of the Holy Synod regarding the impossibility of the participation of the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Alexis II, and any of the bishops in the burial of the remains of Nicholas II and members of his family and by calling them the "Ekaterinburg remains," according to one of the members of the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity since only the oldest member of the Romanov family, the nephew of the last emperor, Prince Nikolai Romanovich, has the right to make official statements. According to the representative of the House of Romanov, "the fuss of the church leaders" around the burial cannot but evoke amazement. Especially amazing are the conclusions issued by the Holy Synod. Thus, the wound suffered by Nicholas II during his visit to Japan was superficial and the formation of bone callus could hardly have taken place. As regards the investigation conducted by the Kolchak investigator Nikolai Sokolov, despite all his diligence he did not produce any direct evidence. Members of the family also are convinced that all living relatives should be present at the burial of the remains of the tsarist family, including the great grandson of Alexander II, Prince Georgy Yurievsky. No one should be given special privileges, since they all have equal rights as relatives. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Romanovy potriaseny


PARIS, 10 June. Prince Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov, great grandson of Nicholas II, one of the most respected and active members of the Romanov family, expressed profound doubts about the authenticity of the remains of members of the royal family found near Ekaterinburg as well as fear taht the upcoming burial in St. Petersburg would be turned into an "advertising and tourist campaign." A participant in the antifascist opposition in France during the war years and later famous as a leading French cinematographer, Mikhail Romanov today issued a statement before Russian journalists in Paris in which in his own name and that of a majority of descendants of the royal family he declared their refusal to participate in the "royal funeral" scheduled for 17 July as it currently is planned. Citing the telegram he received from the Petersburg authorities, he reported that the funeral of the royal family will not be performed according to state procedure. Not only will the president of the Russian federation and the patriarch not be there, but even representatives of the military services will be absent and the promised liturgy in St. Isaac's cathedral will not be conducted. On the grave there will be a plaque stating that in it "may be" the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

All of this, Prince Romanov says in his statement, threatens to turn the burial of these remains into a regular farce. And considering the organization of special tours for the funeral of Nicholas II by tourist companies, one concludes that this is not about the reestablishment of historic justice but about some extremely dubious action.

"The strange and contradictory methods of identification of the bones, in which the American and British secret services took part, give us pause. The Russian Orthodox church also expressed doubts in this regard and so far has not recognized that the remains are genuine." It is possible, the document notes, that "the procedure of the burial in some way is connected with plans that we do not know about of some persons in the West, which would explain why they want to bury, along with the 'royal remains,' all doubts about their authenticity and cover up forever the truth of what really happened to the royal family." "Therefore," the declaration stresses, "the intent to use the Romanovs as a screen for covering up the real goals of this procedure is truly regretable and will not find support on our part." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 12 June 1998)

Orthodox and Baptists talk, with reservations


by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov

KEMEROVO, 10 June. An extraordinary meeting took place in the Kemerovo church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, the first of its kind in the seventy-five year history of the church. The presbyter Pavel Bak and the director of youth Evgeny Bakhmutsky received as guests representatives of the Kemerovo diocese, the rector of the church, Fr Evgeny, and the editor of the Orthodox newspaper Golden Cupolas, Fr. Dmitry. The latter also was the inItiator of the meeting.

Fr. Dmitry described his intentions as determining the range of questions on which the two confessions disagree and conducting dicussions about them, for example, on the subject of veneration of icons, the Eucharist, infant baptism, and others. The result of the meeting is that such discussions possibly will be held in the autumn, although not in the house of prayer but in the regional academic library. Orthodox lectures regularly are held in that place. Within its walls interconfessional dialogue also will be conducted. It is expected that it will draw a large audience.

We add that at the meeting Fr Dmitry expressed the hope for a return of Baptists to the bosom of the Orthodox church. The priest declined their suggestion of cooperation in some social programs as well as in the struggle against contemporary heresies and cults. Although the priest's visit was a private matter, it is possible that he expresses the official point of view of Kemerovo diocese. Apropos, it is clearly illustrated in the large display titled "Beware, Sectarians," which has hung since last year in the Presentation cathedral church of the regional center. On it are fastened the covers of books produced by various Christian confessions, including the Evangelical Baptist brotherhood. We shall hope that in such complex conditions representatives of the two confessions will nevertheless find a path to agreement and joint labor in the field of God. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 12 June 1998)

Government pressure on church unsuccessful


by Sergei Chapnin
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 11 June 1998

In the evening of 9 June the regular session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church ended, at which the question of participation in the burial of the "Ekaterinburg remains" was decided finally. The synod did not change the decision made in February of this year. We recall that the government earnestly sought the personal participation of Patriarch Alexis II in the solemn funeral ceremony which is supposed to occur on 17 July in St. Petersburg. The ceremony is timed for the eightieth anniversary of the shooting of the last Russian emperor and his family.

In February the synod declared that the "decision of the State Commission on Identification of the Remains Found near Ekaterinburg that they belonged to the family of Emperor Nicholas II has evoked serious doubts and even conflicts within the church and society. . . . In this regard the Holy Synod has spoken in favor of an immediate burial of these remains in a symbolic grave-monument. When all doubts regarding the 'Ekaterinburg remains' have been removed and the causes for confusion and dissension in society have disappeared, then it will be necessary to return to a final resolution of the question of the place of their burial." On Tuesday these words were cited in the final synodal document.

The ability to take steps that seem to the public to have no purpose appears to be a characteristic trait of Russian authority. This has again been demonstrated by the government of Kirienko, which with evident earnestness is seeking for the procedures necessary for conducting the solemn ceremony of burial "in accordance with the royal order."

The precise estimate has not been confirmed yet, but by several calculations the total of expenses may reach ten million rubles. Having identified the "Ekaterinburg remains" as royal, the government not only refused to take into account the opinion of the Orthodox church but by promoting the St. Petersburg as an action of governmental signification actually is aspiring for national approval of its actions. However the ceremony can hardly be considered of a general national character if the president and patriarch do not take part in it.

Several days ago Procurator General Yury Skuratov sent to Patriarch Alexis II a letter in which the described the investigation in detail and declared that the analysis of the existing data gives reason for a "categorical conclusion" that in 1991, near Ekaterinburg, the grave of Nicholas II and members of his family and entourage really were found. After this Premier Sergei Kirienko also directed a request to the patriarch to determine the form of the church's participation in the burial and besides "to fulfill its moral obligation to innocent Orthodox people who were slain." Despite growing tension in society, the government as before has comforted itself with the illusion that the burial will become "an act of repentance and reconciliation of Russian society." Just what kind of character such "reconciliation" may assume and what may be its consequence cannot be better illustrated than in the event of 29 May when the veteran Artur Eliseev decided to blow himself up in the imperial vault of the Peter and Paul fortress. Eliseev announced that he intended to do this as a sign of protest against the burial of the remains of the royal family. After conversations with GUVD Eliseev reversed his plans.

The synod, meeting on 9 May in Saint Daniel's monastery in Moscow, again affirmed that Partiarch Alexis' participation in the ceremony, as well as that of any other church hierarch, is impossible. At the same time the church will not deny anyone a church funeral and the Holy Synod authorized Metropolitan Vladimir of St. Petersburg and Ladoga to send priests for conducting requiems in the cathedral of the holy apostles Peter and Paul in the Peter and Paul fortress.

It is interesting that the extremely restrained reaction of the church deals only with the solemn ceremony in St. Petersburg. The eightieth anniversary of the day of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family, whose canonization probably will occur at the next local council, will be noted by the church rather widely; in all churches requiems will be conducted with the special prayer "for the repose of the souls of the deceased servants of God, the murdered Sovereign Emperor Nichilas Alexandrovich, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, their children, Olga, Tatiana, Mariia, Anastasiia, and Alexis, and their faithful servants and all those martyred and slain in the time of fierce persecutions for the faith of Christ." Besides, the synod addressed a special message to believers timed for this tragic anniversary. Most likely the center of the church's ceremonies will become Ekaterinburg, where at the site of the shooting of the royal family a service under the open sky will be conducted and thereafter it has been proposed to construct a memorial chruch "on the blood." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Patriarkh ne budet xhoronit

(posted 12 June 1998)

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