Copyrighted material. For private use only.

If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came.
It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL,

Luzhkov demonstrates against antisemitism

by Will Englund, Sun Foreign Staff
Baltimore Sun
July 22, 1998

MOSCOW -- Yuri Luzhkov, the burly and outspoken mayor of Moscow, is one of those people who believe in Russia for the Russians. He also believes in Ukraine for the Russians, and Latvia for the Russians, among other places.

He's a nationalist -- crude, energetic, loud and, above all, Russian, in a land where most minority religions are not considered Russian.

But there he was at the recent rededication of Moscow's Marina Rosha Synagogue, wearing a yarmulke and giving a speech -- or shouting one, actually -- about how much Russia and Moscow owe the Jews.

This in the land that invented the word pogrom. Where nationalism and anti-Semitism always have been in league with each other. Where Jewish emigration to Israel became a river after the old restrictions were torn down. And where the Marina Rosha Synagogue was being rededicated because someone tried to blow it up May 13, causing some structural damage but no injuries.

"He's very, very close to the Jewish people," said Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Italian-born and Brooklyn-educated leader of the synagogue. "He feels the Jews are giving so much to this country, and should stay here to contribute what they can to building this country as a democracy."

And Luzhkov isn't timid about it.

"As for the Jewish nationality," he declared at the synagogue before 4,000 people, practically thumping the lectern, "we all should treat the Jews of our Russia and of our Moscow with the utmost respect, because they are talented people, we should understand this, and because they are patriotic people. These are people who want the country to be happy and prosperous."

He denounced the "scoundrels" of chauvinism and their "black deeds."

And in case anyone hasn't caught his meaning over the years, he has made two trips to Jerusalem, in the sort of pilgrimage that plenty of U.S. politicians could understand.

His detractors scoff that the mayor is nothing more than an opportunist with no principles of his own, and would be happy to turn against the Jews if he thought that would advance his career.

"Luzhkov can wear a yarmulke today, tomorrow appear with the imams -- for him it's of no importance," said Maxim Shevchenko, the religion editor of the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, referring to Muslim leaders.

Luzhkov and Russia's other leaders, he said, act as though they can take the Jews, the Tatars, the Chechens, the Russians, and lump them altogether in one big multinational "virtual reality," that ignores the consequences of deeply rooted historical grievances.

And they have no feel for their own traditions, said Shevchenko, who is a devout Russian Orthodox believer.

But stirring up ethnic hatred, particularly against the Jews, might not be the most appealing alternative.

Nikolai Petrov, scholar in residence at the Moscow Carnegie Institute, is not as critical as Shevchenko, though he agrees that Luzhkov is probably not driven by principles in his embrace of Moscow's Jewish community.

What the mayor wants, Petrov believes, is ethnic peace in the city, an image for residents of a very strong state and an image abroad of tolerance and progress. All this could stand him in good stead if he makes a bid for the presidency in 2000. spite the periodic police sweeps of Azerbaijani traders off Moscow's streets, Luzhkov has shown support as well for the city's Islamic leaders.

"The task of the authorities," Luzhkov said at Marina Rosha Synagogue, "is to ensure that every nationality which lives and wants to continue to live here in the capital of Russia feels that it lives in its own home.

"And I say -- I always say this because this is the way I think -- that only national unity, national patience and national concord can save and ensure continuity of our common motherland -- Russia."

Petrov reduces that to a more practical, political formula: "Muslims are very numerous. Jews are very influential."

Luzhkov has appointed Jews to positions in his administration (as has President Boris N. Yeltsin), a significant change from the Soviet era, when Jews were excluded from important posts. And it hasn't cost him politically, though perhaps only a politician like Luzhkov can get away with wearing a yarmulke here.

"He's so Russian in his essence and appearance," Petrov said, "that it won't hurt him to demonstrate anything like this."

Lazar rejected the suggestion that the mayor's tough-Russian image might be inconsistent with good Jewish relations. He believes a mayor such as Luzhkov, "who can put his foot down," is the best ally Jews here could have against the sort of anti-Semitic youth groups probably responsible for the two arson and bomb attacks against the synagogue since 1994.

"If anybody can fight them," the rabbi said, "Luzhkov can."

(posted 14 August 1998)

Political meaning of religion law

by Sergei Dunaev
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 15 July 1998

The law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations that was adopted by the State Duma in July 1997 in the face of all criticisms of it (they pertained to the flaws in the procedural stage of its adoption and certain amateurish absurdities initially in the preamble) was nonetheless the first measure of postsoviet Russia that was intended to protect the religious sovereignty of the state.

Attempts to defend society from the uncontrolled invasion of totalitarian sects had already been foreshadowed in 1993. At that time it had become obvious that existing legislation had been unprecedentedly and even, as appeared later, irresponsibly liberal in order to reflect contemporary understanding of the standards of a secular, democratic state. The law on freedom of conscience that was adopted in 1990 was unique in world legislative practice in its recognition of absolute religious liberties. Extremist sects that are generally forbidden in their own homelands came to Russia, finding here a Klondike for unfettered experiments exploiting public naivete in the religious sphere. The privileges established in the law for any movements that simply called themselves religious permitted the establishment of structures of foreign influence which were explicitly cultural and often even political.

The story of Aum Shinrikyo, which for several years had spread its vaguely troublesome doctrinal system that seemed a kind of variation on Buddhist themes but which really was a terrorist organization, was the first to demonstrate that the state should (and must) defend its citizens from psychological aggression in the religious sphere (somewhat earlier a similar warning could have come from the story of the "White Brotherhood," that aimed at the destruction of the psyches of those who fell under its influence). Many of the "missionary" sects led to the same antigovernmental activity. The stories of the Hubbardite movement, Moonies, or Mormons are generally known; they all are ideologically oriented to the creation of a world on the model of the "pax americana" and do not hide their intentions to lobby, under the guise of religious preaching, for the interests of their governments and the standards of their civilizations.

In the West religious legislation never made the mistake of such a thoughtless understanding of religious liberties. It clearly establishes where religious preaching ends and ideological influence begins, the difference between a cult (even when nontraditional for a given country) and a totalitarian sect, and what standards should limit the uncontrolled expansion of sectarianism that takes on insane and clinical forms. In French universities the categorical prohibition on propaganda of any religions whatsoever (which is absolutely legal for a secular state which, incidentally, Russia is) immediately leads to measures of a frankly repressive character--Muslim students are forbidden to wear head scarfs within its walls because this might be interpreted as implicit religious propaganda.

Russian educational institutions have experienced in the past five years an invasion of sectarians trying to introduce their own educational curriculum (a separate subject is the attempts of the Moonite Unification Chruch or the Hubbardists, which under the guise of purely educational activity have penetrated the Russian educational system, including the child care centers). For a secular state such aggressive conduct by foreign sectarians, reinforced by the financial infusion against a backdrop of the inability of native religions to compete, has become a problem of national survival. From the very beginning suggestions about changes in the religious legislation operated on the premise that no single religious belief would be forbidden; the law must simply establish prioritized spheres that will restrict the interference of foreign sects. That this interference was not very straightforward was shown by the ways in which various heretical centers overated within Russia.

At the beginning of the 1990s protestant organizations from USA bought air time for children's programs on the first channel for the movie serial "Superbook." Like all programs of this type, the script did not promote the conversion of Russians to protestantism. Investigators have quite clearly acknowledged that by evoking interest in Christianity the usual result was a conversion to traditional Orthodoxy, although at the same time the new converts had absorbed a protestant understanding of religious standards. In 1993 the Supreme Soviet raised questions about the scope of the financing of protestant programs on channels one and two and on radio station "Maiak." It was impossible to consider "nonpolitical" the fact that Russians' worldviews were being formed at the expense of American financial sources. Some of the sects that arrived, especially the Mormons, are semi-governmental and they do not hide this. Not only do they use religion to dictate to their converts their political (especially foreign policy) values but they also are connected with governmental organizations. The Mormon church does not hide the fact that it makes its missionaries available to American intelligence agencies to strengthen the influence of USA in the world.

The new law, which restricted foreign policy missionary activity, was adopted by the duma only one year ago. It immediately evoked protests from leaders of western countries--Bill Clinton and the Roman pope even appealed to President Yeltsin not to sign the "totalitarian" decree of the duma. Even weightier measures of intimidation were used: the American Senate adopted a law on foreign aid that cut financial programs that were supposed "to facilitate the development of Russian democracy" to 40 million dollars.

That the president nevertheless signed the law after adjustment of some of its formulations in September was a significant success of the analysts of his administration who did not accept the ultimatum tone of the American senators. An understanding of the political elements of the law (after all the issue was a change in the terms of privileges for missionary centers which is a financial matter; there was absolutely no restriction of the profession of any religion) was the main achievement, although at the same time the deputies did not manage to deal so effectively with other questions. The preamble itself contains signs of an extremely dense understanding of religiosity (which wasn't accidental; after all the law was promoted by the communist party of the Russian federation which replaced militant atheism with "regard for beauty," which is how Mr. Ziuganov characterizes his own spiritual aspirations). It turned out not to be very beautiful: in the introduction naming the religions that are traditional for Russian Islam was designated "multimillion," which is simply stupid from the point of view of the Russian language, and Old Belief was completely ignored. Some proposed standards evoked concerns that in dealing with the matter so hastily the communist duma has replaced the liberal defect in a way consistent with its habit of prohibition, simply abolishing the registration of all confessions that it does not like. This could apply to Russian protestantism, which has a long and tragic history, and several non-Christian confessions, particularly the Krishnaites, who were subjected to persectuion under the communist regime. The parliamentary committee on freedom of conscience, headed by one of the leaders of KPRF, Viktor Zorkaltsev, committed a number of procedural violations which gave a basis to call the law repressive and obscurantist.

Both the liberal deputies and the mass media did not fail to exploit these, declaring the "attack of the duma upon religious liberties." The informational campaign about the impermissiblity of adoption of the religion law showed the direct political engagement of the religious "research" centers, who called the scope of their activity "international," although from the point of view of logic it would be correct to say that only their financing is "international." Especially active was Anatoly Pchelintsev's Institute of Religion and Law, which took upon itself the mission of defending Russian believers and counseling Russian deputies. In doing so the institute joined its research programs with the American "International Association of Religious Liberties," which does not hide that its goals include opposing the strengthening of the position of traditional Orthodoxy in Russia under the pretext that this would inevitably entail a restriction of the freedom of other confessions.

At press conferences conducted under the aegis of Pchelintsev's institute, dissatisfaction with the law was expressed by representatives of the self-designated bishops of the "Russian Orthodox Free Church (RTSTs)," who expressed the extremely original suggestion (from a theological point of view) to all sectarians who were offended by the duma that they pronounce a "joint anathema" on the premise that through its "energy" such an act could be especially powerful. Such notions adopted by the bishops of RTSTs obviously under "new age" influence show in the clearest way possible how until quite recently the religious life of Russia was to a great extent assigned to those with most exotic views, while they themselves in these questions have been politicized in a most unseemly way. The attempt of the state to establish elementary order (no less appropriate than cleaning the streets and locking up bandits) was taken as a "reversion to totalitarianism,"in the same way that Russia's adherence to the International Convention on the Struggle with Piracy could be interpreted as an overt refusal to allow people who raise black flags over the vessels they have seized to live as they choose. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: God nazad

(posted 6 August 1998)

Patriarch addresses nation about funeral

14 July 1998

Dear brothers and sisters

In the upcoming days our country will mark one of the tragic dates of its history. Eighty years ago, on 17 July 1918, the family of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas Alexandrovich, was shot. Not only the emperor and empress, Alexandra Fedorovna, suffered death but also their children, the incurably ill young Tsarevich Alexis and his sisters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Along with them their faithful servants met their end.

Time steadily removes us further from that day when this evil deed was committed. Several generations in these years have succeeded one another, but the murder of the tsarist family is now a heavy weight on the national conscience, for our ancestors, by means either of direct participation and approval or of silent assent and indifference, are guilty of this sin. Repentance for it can be achieved only by means of profound recognition of all that happened in our country and our nation in the last eight decades. The visible fruit of repentance and of God's forgiveness should be the spiritual and moral regeneration of our fatherland, the establishment in it of peace and concord, and the removal of the disorders and conflicts in which, unfortunately, this declining century has been so rich.

Just like five years ago, we have sent a message to the pastors and flock in which "We call to repentance our whole nation, all of its children irrespective of their political notions and views of history, irrespective of their ethnic origins or religious affiliation, or of their attitudes toward the idea of monarchy and the personality of the last Russian emperor."

On 17 July requiems with commemoration of the murdered members of the royal family, their faithful servants, and "all those martyred for the faith of Christ and murdered in the time of bitter persecution, whose names the Lord alone knows."

It is regretable that the sad anniversary of the murder of the tsarist family is marked by bitter debates about the remains that were found several years ago outside Ekaterinburg.

On 26 February of this year our church proposed a way out of the situation which had arisen that was acceptable to all, rational, and principally peaceful. It is obvious to us that the remains belong to victimes of the militantly atheist regime for the place itself, Ganina Yama, was a place of mass shootings in the first years of the civil war, and finding there collective graves posed no special difficulties. Without getting into the discussion about the specific identity of these remains and concerned that they still had not been buried, the church suggested burying them in a symbolic monument grave. In this was the moral obligation to millions of innocent victims, including the tsarist family, would be fulfilled. As regards the identification of the specific remains, the time will come what other interests that have no direct connection with the search for historical truth have passed away. Unfortunately, the day after the session of the Holy Synod, which had proposed this way of solving the question, the government ordered the burial of the "Ekaterinburg remains" on 17 July as those of the tsarist family.

At the same time in the church as well as in all of society there is extremely great doubt regarding whether the state commission had drawn the final conclusion about the attribution of the"Ekaterinburg remains" to the tsarist family. People's concern grew that the course of scientific investigations, conducted at the request of the commission, was not very well known by a broad circle of scientists, to say nothing of the general accessibility. Only at the last minute have the official documents of the commission become available. Many question why the results of the latest investigation completely contradict the conclusions drawn right after the event by the commission headed by the investigator of especially important affairs Nikolai Sokolov in 1918 to 1924. Materials of this investigation have been published frequently both in Russia and abroad. Besides, the methodology of conducting a genetic examination evoked serious objections from both foreign and native investigators, including the prominent specialist of the Center for DNA Identification and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lev Zhivotovsky.

The discussion of the question of the identification of the "Ekaterinburg remains" within the church and secular public was divisive and took on a clearly painful and confrontational character. In this situation the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church, which has the duty of being concerned for the unity of the church and facilitating civil peace and harmony, refrained from supporting one or another point of view and consequently also from participating in the ceremony of burial of the "Ekaterinburg remains," which could have been interpreted as acknowledging that they belonged to the tsarist family.

I know well that such a position of the church is not accepted by some. I wish to explain especially to these people that any seeming fully convincing scientific conclusions can not be considered established regarding the matter of the "Ekaterinburg remains" as long as no less weighty scientific objections exist. The church's obligation is to know the will of God and it searches for the collective agreement of the episcopacy, clergy, and people of God, that is, the entire plenitude of the church. In this regard we have a special responsibility that the upcoming local council of our church review the question of the possibility of canonizing the tsarist family. If the emperor and his relatives are canonized as passion-bearers, then their remains will be venerated as saints' relics, and it is completely unthinkable that there be in the church an absence of agreement regarding their authenticity.

But canonization is primarily a spiritual act. It can be accomplished in the absence of holy remains, as has happened already more than once. And there is no need for there to be remains to have a church funeral and prayers for the deceased. It is not correct to say that the church has refused to hold the funeral of the tsar and his family. Actually the funeral was conducted back in 1918 in many cities and areas of Russia and the world, after the news of the murder of the tsarist family was received.

Even if at the given moment it is not known where the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family are resting, the church believes that the souls of the victims have been granted peace with the Lord. And the church prays for their peace and it prays while recalling the evil deed that was done and repenting before the Lord in the name of the whole nation.

My dear friends. I call all of you to pray on 17 July for peace not only for the tsarist family but for all who were murdered and suffered in the years of militant atheist, so that in a spirit of harmony, not yielding to the pressure of empty disagreement that is alien to the church's and nation's welfare, we may get out of this difficult time which now or country, nation, and church is experiencing. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Moscow patriarchate

(posted 5 August 1998)

Tests of constitutionality of religion law begun

by Liliia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 25 July. On 14 July in the National Press Institute the director of the Institute of Religion and Law, Anatoly Pchelintsev, the president of the Christian Legal Center, Vladimir Riakovsky, State Duma deputy Valery Borshchev, and the pastor of the "New Generation" Christian church of Yaroslavl, Viktor Tatach, issued an official announcement about the dispatch to the Constitutional Court of RF of materials regarding an appeal against certain provisions of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." The plaintiffs include the religious association "Christian Praise Center" (Abakan, Khakasiia), the religious organization "Evangelical Lutheran Mission" (Tuim, Khakasiia), and the religious organization "New Generation Christian Center" (Yaroslavl). They appeal to the Constitutional Court of Russia for an evaluation of the constitutionality of point 1 of article 9, point 3 of article 27, and point 5 of article 11 of the federal law. These points pertain to the existence of a fifteen-year probation period for registration and the activity of religious organizations. The interests of the plaintiffs in the Constitutional Court of RF will be represented by the director of the Institute of Religion and Law, Anatoly Pchelentsev, and an attorney of the Moscow City Collegium of Attorneys, Galina Krylova.

The president of the Christian Legal Center, Vladimir Riakovsky, stated that the law on freedom of conscience contains sixteen provisions which, in his opinion, violate the constitution of the Russian federation. Although today's announcement regards the unconstitutionality of only three of these items, in the future materials on the unconstitutionality of the other provisions of the law also will be prepared.

It is expected that the Constitutional Court of RF will review the complaint early in 1999. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov


HRWF (27.07.98) - The Religious Community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Yaroslavl has filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation against certain provisions of the federal law "On the Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations" that it believes violate the Russian constitution.

On July 15, 1998, the secretariat of the Russian Constitutional Court reported that the complaint "meets the requirements for filings with the Constitutional Court", and was forwarded to its judges for review.

The grounds for the complaint is the demand of the Yaroslavl District prosecutor's office that a local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses prove that they have existed in Yaroslavl for at least 15 years, without which it threatens to impose restrictions on the community's work. The applicants claim that the prosecutor's demands violate the constitution.

Thus, the new Russian law on religion, which had invoked a wave of criticism both in Russia and abroad, will once again be subject to scrutiny, but this time in court as to its constitutionality.

Artur Leontyev and Lubomir Muller, lawyers with the St. Petersburg International Bar Association, are representing the applicant. They feel that the law violates constitutional principles of equal rights and freedoms, as well as standards of international law, which are officially recognized by the constitution as having priority in Russia.

(courtesy of Ray Prigodich)

(posted 4 August 1998)

Monk disputes "evidence" against Fr Kochetkov

by Hegumen Innokenty Pavlov
Russkaia mysl, 2-8 July 1998

When exactly a year ago the deliberate action happened (in the language of the holy canons this is called "synomosia," a plot or conspiracy, IV Ecumenical Council, Rule 18), as a result of which the extended (in the spirit of the former custom of soviet times) ban from ministry of Fr Gerogy Kochetkov and the deprivation of the church community which he led of the church building which they had restored, I promised my friends who belonged to it to deal with this event in print, giving it an appropriate historical and canonical assessment. However I did not do this when the event was fresh, considering that at the time quite a few argumentative statements in defense of Fr Georgy had appeared and it was shown that he had broad support in the church public, in which I also took an active part.

Nevertheless I never forgot for a day my promise, realizing that in this matter the issue was not an ordinary incident but a significant milestone in the current history of the Russian church, and, as we know, what is significant "is seen from a distance." So now I want to turn attention to what, without doubt, has become the most important event of the past year in the church life of Russia. After all, no other single event happening in the Russian church in the past year evoked so many publications and such a stormy public debate within the church and around it.

I will not now begin again to recount the course of events, which is well known to everybody who is interested. I propose only to review that key document and those documented facts to which sufficient attention has not yet been devoted, but which allow one in the first place to speak about the fabrication of the accusations that were advanced against Fr Georgy and members of the church community that he led.

Thus, as is known, at the base of the accusation advanced against Fr Georgy was the reply of the chief of the 18th police precinct of the 7th regional adminstration of internal affairs of the central administration district of the city of Moscow, Sr. Lieutenant A.L. Rimsky, to the query of Archbishop Arseny of Istria, No. 3052 of 1 July 1997. The obvious stupidity of those who were conspiring against Fr Georgy consisted in their twice reproducing this answer (see Olesia Nikolaeva, Orthodoxy as dissent, Nez. gaz, 26 July 1997; and idem, Radonezh, no. 12, 1997, p. 14). It is possible to suggest that this supposedly official reply was at the disposal of the famous activist of the Moscow PEN-Center even before it arrived at the addressee (on the facsimile that was published there is no registration stamp indicating a document received in the chancery of the Moscow patriarchate). However in this matter there is something much more interesting. I did not describe this reply as "supposedly official" casually, because in the light of the most elementary requirements of official procedure it can in no way be viewed as official. To be sure, this reply was written on official paper of a state institution and it contains the signature of the chief of the given institution, and moreover it is stamped with the seal (which incidentally is quite superfluous on a document of this kind since it is not a decree nor an affidavit nor a certificate nor a document of strict fiscal accounts), but it lacks one other necessary element which would give this reply the force of an official document, to wit, the number under which it was registered in the log of outgoing documentation of the 18th police precinct. Instead in the blank "No. ____ " of an official form there is a handwritten, nonbinding "b/n," that is, "without a number." Thus, at the base of the investigation conducted by the Moscow patriarchate was a document which is commonly called a "useless scrap of paper," in other words, a document having no legal force. I do not know what education and qualifications St. Lt. Rimsky has, but that he has elementary literacy in legal matters is obvious. This let him get out of the tricky situation in which he found himself by signing into force, for reasons unknown to us at someone's prompting (whose, I think, is not hard to guess) contrived nonsense, but protecting himself in case this matter should be taken up by law enforcement agencies. But as regards Sr. Lt. Rimsky's addressee, he right away at least showed his elementary legal illiteracy by putting this "forgery" into circulation.

But let's consider this "document." Let's review its chief details from the point of view of authenticity. First let's turn attention to this pearl: "Having arrived at the site the quick response squad discovered a fight in progress in the altar area between two priests, one of whom was subsequently determined to be Mikhail Vladimirovich Dubovitsky, who manifested traces of beating and was wearing disordered ecclesiastical vestments. Breaking up the fight, the police officers asked for explanations of what had happened from those present. One of the priests participanting in the fight, named Kochetkov . . .,"--there is no need to continue inasmuch as not only numerous witnesses who were in the church at the time but now many video viewers who saw the film "Expose," made by the Radonezh video department using the video tapes made on 29 June 1997 in the Moscow church of the Dormition in Pechatniki, have seen how Fr Georgy proceeded to the altar behind the police officers when they went in and thus was in no way able to participate in the "ongoing fight" which, moreover, the videocamera, never leaving Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky out of sight, also did not record. However, let's again turn to Sr. Lt. Rimsky's reply. It follows from it that the police officers, not satisfied by Fr Georgy's explanation about the psychologically inappropriate conduct of Fr Mikhail, referred to the need for "compulsory medical examination" of the latter. "After this," Mr. Rimsky writes, "ministers of the church called 'first aid,' which took Dubovitsky for examination to the 14th psychiatric hospital."

Thus in signing the "document" under review, Sr. Lt. Rimsky nevertheless was forced to recognize the propriety of the summons of psychiatric first aid to the church. As regards the hospitalization of Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, the decision about this was made by the physician G.L. Shafran, and it, as is known, was recognized as proper by the commission of the ministry of health of the Russian federation and the Meshchansky inter-district procuracy, which in October of last year denied the request of the wife of Fr Mikhail, T.V. Dubovitskaia, to develop a criminal case on the basis of article 128, part 1, of the criminal code of the Russian federation (illegal commitment to a psychiatric hospital). On this see the material by Andrei Platonov in Nezavisimaia gazeta of 27 February 1998.

But the most remarkable pearl of Sr. Lt. Rimsky (or his coauthors) was set at the end of the reply under review. We produce it in full: "Earlier similar events connected with parishioners and ministers of the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki also took place, in regard to which the leadership of the precinct persistently has asked you (i.e. Archbishop Arseny) to take all measures for the immediate restoration of order in the given church which belongs to the Moscow patriarchate." From what has been said the conclusion follows that the indicated "parishioners and ministers" are unrestrained hooligans who start fights. But in any case measures regarding them should have been taken directly by the police, specifying the date, time, and place of the violations of the law and also the names of the criminals, who should be held criminally responsible. Otherwise the reference to "similar events" could be viewed as an indictment of the whole church community.

Now several words about the video film I mentioned. This really is an expose, more accurately a self-expose of the Radonezh society and of all those who developed the conspiracy against Fr Georgy and his community. I will not begin to weary the reader with a recounting of this artifact in the style of the soviet agitprop. What is distressing is that this style along with other unsuccessful cinematographers have penetrated the church boundaries. The unbiased viewer will notice the obvious contradiction between the documentary video material and the intents of the creators of the film "Expose." It is rather obvious that the plot of this film deals with a certain monastic priest Nikandr from the Moscow monastery of the Presentation. The name of this monastic priest became known to the church public a year ago in connection with his actions that clearly fell under article 213, part 1 of the criminal code (hooliganism), expressed in his destruction of the royal doors in the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki, in his falling under the wheels of the first aid ambulance, and in his incitement of citizens to illegal actions. Viewers of the video "Expose" have seen all of this with their own eyes. Against the background of the documentary information the monastic priest's discussion in the film, trying to justify his inappropriate actions, seems, to put it mildly, unconvincing. Similarly unconvincing is the discussion by Mikhail Dubovitsky. The impartial camera recorded his conduct on that day and, frankly speaking, I do not know what Moscow church would begin to tolerate such disorder as is shown in the film. But what strikes me especially was how he walked around the church. His gait showed obvious contempt for the sanctity of the place which most obviously testifies to his inappropriateness on that day. It must be said that the film "Expose" evokes a whole series of questions. We see in its non-documentary parts only actors who are assigned this or that role. But I believe that the day will come when a church trial, which will happen in the Russian church after the canonical structure has been restored, will cite the names of the script writers and directors and give a comprehensive evaluation of their actions and deal with them in accordance with the holy canons. (tr. by PDS)

29 June 1998

Russian text at St. Filaret's Institute

see also "Anniversary of attack on Kochetkov's community"

(posted 4 August 1998)

Disputes among "totalitarian sectarians"


by Sventlana Stepanenko,
Radiotserkov, 25 June 1998

SLAVIANSK. According to a report from the Religious Information Agency, the state committee on religious affairs of Ukraine received a request from ten residents of Kiev for the registration of the charter of the religious society "World Church of the Great White Brotherhood Yusmalos" in order to receive rights of legal entity.

As is known, the "White Brotherhood" had divided into two wings. The conservative wing comprises the followers of Yury Krivonogov, who is now in prison. The leaders of the liberal wing include Maria Krivonogov and Vitaly Kovalchuk, who also has been in prison until now. Documents for registration were submitted by ten representatives of the liberal wing of the "White Brotherhood," who have concluded that for promotion of its ideas the organization must change its doctrines and gain official recognition. Maria Krivonogov is not among the ten. According to other information, she submitted a request for emigration for permanent residence in a country of western Europe.

The committee on religious affairs of Ukraine still has not made a decision regarding registration of the "White Brotherhood" charter. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 3 August 1998)

Patriarch intervenes in Ekaterinburg dispute

by Svetlana Dobrinina
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 15 July 1998

On 26 June Fr Oleg Vokhmianin was restored to his clerical ministry by Bishop Nikon. He had been banned after he protested against the burning of books of theologians that displeased Bishop Nikon. The NG reporter learned about this from Father Oleg himself. Press secretary of the Ekaterinburg diocese Boris Kasinsky originally confirmed the fact of the restoration of the priest and then gave an official answer that "information about the punishment and transfer of clergy is not the prerogative of the press service. This is an internal church matter."

As early as Saturday, 4 July, having returned from disgrace, the priest confessed parishioners of the church of All Saints, located in the cemetery of St. Mikhail in Ekaterinburg. According to information from NGR reporter, parishioners welcomed joyfully the return of their priest.

Father Oleg was ordained on 15 August 1997. On the day of the Holy Trinity this year he was publicly excommunicated by Bishop Nikon for "heretical teaching in the spirit of Catholicism." This punishment came after Fr Oleg refused to renounce what Bishop Nikon and members of the diocesan council considered the "heretical" books of John Meyendorff, Alexander Schmemann, Alexander Men, and Nikolai Afanasiev. This was the way in which Fr Oleg Vokhmianin had been banned from ministry by Bishop Nikon (as was said in the edict of prohibition) "forever, without right of bestowing blessing." He refused to respond to our reporter, citing the bishop's prohibition of giving an interview without his personal permission and his promise to observe this prohibition. But NGR has learned that after his banning, Fr Oleg wrote a request to the most holy patriarch, in which he emphasized that he "never was a heretic and, with God's help, never would become one." Possibly the help actually came from the patriarch. If this is so, then the story of the restoration of Fr Oleg to his office is the first case in a long time--and an extremely happy one--of a successful "appeal" by a priest who had been wronged by a bishop to the supreme ecclesiastical personage, the patriarch. It is no secret that ordinary priests who frequently suffer offence from their bishops find it practically impossible to penetrate the enormous bureaucratic apparatus operating at the chancery of Chisty Lane, shielding the patriarch from simple Orthodox priests and laity. Provincial priests who often lack the necessities of life are forced to spend weeks in Moscow contending with the rudeness and arrogance of the almighty patriarchal chancery bureaucrats. In order to get their case to the patriarch or to get a reception with him they usually have to take recourse to so-called "gifts."

The most holy patriarch not only symbolizes authority for the overwhelming majority of members of the Russian Orthodox church but also personifies justice. And the Ekaterinburg case has shown that this is not in vain. Really, one can say with assurance that rumors that the patriarch supposedly does not control the course of church affairs are lies. Or that the patriarch supports one or the other of the groups within the church--liberal or conservative. The absence of an official reaction to the Ekaterinburg incident is quite well compensated by what the patriarch has done in this case without taking recourse to public statements. It also is obvious that to a considerable extent the truth was brought out by the efforts of the secular press which investigated the scandalous incident. However, there also are those who consider that any negative information about intrachurch life is impermissible. But if the Orthodox church aspires to a special role in the establishment or restoration of Russian civilization, if its hierarchs speak of the church as the most important social force, then it seems that Russian citizens, independent of their religious confession, must know everything about those who offer them metahistorical projects. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 31 July 1998)

Patriarchal version of Ekaterinburg incident


Patriarch Alexis speaks unofficially about the Ekaterinburg auto-da-fe and evaluates the situation in the church

by Maxim Shevchenko
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 15 July 1998

How many versions are there of what happened on 4 May in Ekaterinburg in the local diocesan school? Until recently there were at least three.

The first version came from NG: the burning of the books of Schmemann, Meyendorff, and Men took place; they were burned in an iron box in the middle of the yard in the presence of many people who, however frightened they may have been and under whatever solemn oaths they may have been placed, nevertheless know and have told the truth.

The second is the version of Bishop Nikon, recounted in his conversation with the commissioner on religious affairs of Sverdlovsk region, Viktor Smirnov: only the books of Men were burned. The works of Schmemann and Meyendorff were not burned.

The third was originally pronounced by the administrator of affairs of RPTs, Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, and supported by radio "Radonezh": there was no book burning at all and all of this is a lie of the "parachurch" and "antichurch" press. To be sure, Radonezh added to Master Sergius a version that all of this "information campaign in the media" was developed and virtually proclaimed by "Kochetkovites" (which is how they now call not only the supporters of the Muscovite priest Georgy Kochetkov, who is well known for his radical attempts at experimentation in the sphere of parish and liturgical life and has been under ban since July 1997, but also all who are resisting the aggressively fundamentalistic faction within the church).

Not so long ago a fourth version appeared which is perhaps the most authoritative from the point of view of simple believers. It was expressed by the most holy patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Alexis II in his letter addressed to the head of the Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Feodosy.

Master Feodosy had sent to Patriarch Alexis a confidential letter in which he expressed the concern that had grown up in the American Orthodox church in connection with the events in Ekaterinburg. It had been by the efforts and authority of Archpresbyter Alexander Schmemann that the autonomous Orthodox church in USA and Canada had been born. It has not been recognized as autocephalous (independent) by the patriarch of Constantinople and it constantly is attacked "from the right" by the emigre Orthodox (RPTsZ). Virtually the only guarantee of its existence is the Russian church. And if the theologian whose ideas brought life to the Orthodox Church in America is recognized by Russian bishops as practically a heretic (in agreement with the emigre Orthodox), then it is not very far to the recognition of the whole church as heretical. Schmemann and Meyendorff were active in the ecumenical movement, against which there is a sharply negative attitude among several members of the Russian church, as NGR has reported frequently. It is generally known that in several stauropigial monasteries of RPTs (theoretically under the direct control of the patriarch himself, but actually outside the control of both the patriarch and local bishops), which grew up no more than six or seven years ago but have already pressed claims to leadership in the church, they already have excommunicated Orthodox who have gone over to the so-called "new style church calendar" which is used in part in the Orthodox Church of America.

It is evident that the Ekaterinburg auto-de-fe blends in fully with the religious landscape of "postsoviet" fundamentalism. There are many bases for the concerns of the American Orthodox. It is quite possible that when the forces whose ideology has been described above have triumphed within the Russian church, relations with all "new-stylists" and "ecumenists" will be disrupted and union with the Russian church abroad will become reality on its ideological foundation--"antiecumenism; old style; and monarchism as Orthodox dogma." Then they will start burning not only the books of "Americans," "Menites," and "Kochetkovites."

We reproduce Patriarch Alexis' answer to Metropolitan Feodosy, with some abridgment of personal references and items. This document came into the possession of the editorial board of NGR because in USA the letter of the primate of the Russian Orthodox church also was sent to relatives of archpriests Meyendorff and Schmemann and made public.

The patriarch's answer seems more significant to us because it contains an evalution not only of the Ekaterinburg incident but also of the general state of affairs in the Russian Orthodox church.

". . . I am distressed by the alarm which you have felt, dear blessed Master, in regard to the local incident to which public attention has ascribed enormous significance. I will say right off that I belong to the generation of clergy of the Russian Orthodox church who view the blessed memory of fathers Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff with gratitude and respect as persons, pastors, and theologians. The late fathers Alexander and John and other pastors and theologians, who worked following the revolutionary epoch outside of Russia, belong to the ranks of prominent continuers of the Russian theological scholarship whose overt creative life was impossible within Rus over the course of many decades because of the persecutions and restrictions of the militantly atheistic regime. Only in emigration was it possible to develop theological thought in a way that publicly responded to the demands of changing society and gave it the unchanged Gospel and the heritage of the Orthodox tradition in forms that it could understand. Within the rapidly changing cultural conditions and the circumstances of progressive western secularization, this enormously difficult achievement was accomplished in emigration for the testimony to the truth of Christ within Russia as well, which had been forcibly isolated from free fellowship with the rest of the world.

"But the time has now come when the works of Orthodox theologians outside of Rus are accessible, and they now can be studied, discussed, interpreted, and applied to the reality of public consciousness of the new, regenerated Rus. This process is complex, just as the search for social harmony in the transitional period is complex, and I do not have room in this letter to analyze it. But I will say that a decade after the beginning of the "second baptism" of Rus the church and society face a dual task as before: on the one hand, it is necessary to revive in social life and thought what is best in the heritage of the millennium-old tradition of Orthodox Rus, which during the past decades was torn from hearts and minds and naturally could not participate in the free establishment of the contemporary worldview of the majority of Russians while at the same time acquiring new forms of expression; on the other hand it is necessary to establish communication and creatively and critically apply to conditions of the contemporary Russian mentality (in all of its frequently paradoxical variety) those riches of spiritual, theological, and intellectual experience which are possessed and have been developed by the heirs of the Russian Orthodox spirit, mind, and culture outside of Rus.

"In the face of the many, increasingly very practical tasks of the regeneration of church life-- especially at the parish and diocesan levels where the majority of the simplest matters must be raised often not merely from ruins and ashes but from absoutely nothing and against a background of external ill-will or insistent demands on the part of outside observers--it is impossible to expect harmony and perfection in the processes of regeneration and development.

"As regards the specific occasion of your letter, dear blessed Master, I consider it necessary to say that Bishop Nikon stated in a communication to the latest session of the Holy Synod that certain journals were removed from circulation in the seminary, which had nothing to do with the curriculum. To dispose of the unnecessary journals the means chosen was burning, which, one should understand, did not have a demonstrative character. Nevertheless, Bishop Nikon was told that the burning of literature is inappropriate and impermissible, since this was viewed as contradictory to contemporary cultural and ethical standards, even if it does not bear a symbolic character of condemnation of the writers. According to Bishop Nikon, the books of fathesr A. Schmemann and J. Meyendorff and other theologians were not involved.

"In conclusion, let me assure you again, dear Master, as primate of our American sister Orthodox church, that we respect the memory and meritorious labor of the lives of fathers Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff, which you mention in your letter and which no critical responses of some theologians to one or another private theological opinions contained in their works can change.

"Inasmuch as I received letters on this matter from Mother Juliana Schmemann, Mother M. Meyendorff, Archpresbyter Thomas Hopko, rector of the Saint Vladimir Theological Seminary, and others, I shall take the liberty of enclosing with my answers to them my letter to your holiness.

"With prayer for the unity of the holy Orthodox church and sincere fraternal love in the Lord. . . ."

The patriarch promotes a fourth version of the event: journals were burned "which did not have anything to do with the curriculum."

Obviously, if the patriarch admitted the fact of the burning of Orthodox theologians' books, then Bishop Nikon can hardly remain ruling bishop. Such a step would not be easy; besides Master Nikon is still a rather young man and, possibly, the patriarch hopes that he will change some of his views and abandon some of his tactics.

We remind those who doubt that the burning of books happened that in September 1994 Bishop Nikon already had burned books of Schmemann, Meyendorff, and Men, as well as, for some reason, the works of the conservative thinker Ivan Ilin, in the course of the struggle with the emergence under his predecessor Archbishop Melkhizedek (now of Briansk diocese) of Kochetkovite parishes (ecclesiastically united groups of the independent Orthodox liberal intelligentsia) . The reality of this four-year-old action has been confirmed by a multitude of people and evokes no doubt. Ilin wrote in the collection "Our Tasks": "The church as the bearer and preserver of Christ's revelation is a living source and not civil rule; it is a source of love and gracious counsel, and not pedantic pressure on human life; it is a call and not an order. It is called not to alienate people from the world as in Buddhism but, on the contrary, to send them into the world as bearers of that which the Spirit has committed to them not in order to secularize the world but in order to spiritualize it." (style and expression of original preserved--NGR). Unfortunately, in today's Russian Orthodox church these words can be taken by many as "antichurch propaganda," "undermining the authority of the church hierarchy," or "baseless heresy." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Chetyre versii sozhzheniia knig

(posted 31 July 1998)

Note from editor: In the issue which contained the monthly religion supplement, Nezavisimaia gazeta also printed a historical article by Gleb Yastrebov, "The Fires of Intolerance." After a survey of the history of book burning, contrasting the far greater incidence of it in western Christianity with the general tolerance of eastern Christianity, he concluded: "As regards the burning of books by Orthodox priests. It seems to me that it is possible to draw a definite conclusion: we see a tendency that is not distinctive of Orthodoxy nor the Russian spirit but which really is a betrayal of the Russian church tradition. We face what Dostoevsky warned about in his Legend of the Grand Inquisitor. This is a threat to the spiritual rebirth of Russia: a struggle with the West bound to western methods--the worst, which even the Catholics have long ago denounced. " The English translation of the full text is available at the link indicated above.

Life path of an Orthodox clergyman

Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 29 June 1998

KIEV. On 28 June the consecration of a new bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, Amvrosy, was held in the caves monastery of Kiev. The consecration was conducted by the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all-Ukraine, Bishop Antony of Khmelnitsky and Shepetov, Bishop Sofrony of Cherkass and Kanevsk, and Bishop Gury of Zhitomir and Novograd-Volynia.

Bishop Amvrosy, whose secular name was Andrei Polikopa, was born on 20 September 1943 in the village of Zalivanshchina, in Kalinov district of Vinnitsa region, in a peasant family. Before being drafted into the army and after his discharge in 1965 he worked in various enterprises in Odessa. In 1967 he enrolled in the Odessa ecclesiastical seminary and in 1970, in the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy. Upon completion of the second year in the academy he married. On 8 October 1972 he was ordained a deacon by Patriarch Pimen, and on 15 April 1973 he was ordained a priest. In 1974 he was sent for parish ministry to Kharkov diocese, where he was appointed secular priest of the Annunciation cathedral church by Metropolitan Nikodim of Kharkov and Bogodukhovsk. In 1987 he was widowed; his wife and son were killed in an automobile accident. On 19 May 1998, by decision of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, after his tonsuring as a monk, Archpriest Andrei Polikopa was promoted to the rank of archimandrite and made assistant bishop of Chernigov diocese with the title "Novograd-Seversk." After the ceremony of episcopal consecration, Master Amvrosy left for Chernigov. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text from Metraphrasis

(posted 30 July 1998)

Orthodox theological education advances


by Dmitry Suslov,
Radiotserkov, 29 July 1998

KAZAN. By decision of the Holy Synod of RPTs, the status of higher educational institution was conferred on the Kazan Ecclesiastical Seminary. Although the work of the seminary was revived only in 1997, the elevation of its status became possible because of the strong staff of teachers, selection of the disciplines being offered, and the availability of literature. At the present time there are two divisions active within the seminary: the practical division, preparing pastors, and the academic division, whose graduates receive the degree of bachelor of theology. This year around forty persons have expressed the desire to become students of the seminary. Twenty of them were accepted for the entrance exams, which are going on now. (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 30 July 1998)

Father Kochetkov's enemies do not relent


All draw their own conclusions

Russkaia mysl, 2-8 July

A year ago an event occurred in Moscow's church life which has developed over a long time: the priest Fr Georgy Kochetkov, the rector of a church in the center of the capital, with a large and cohesive parish, was dismissed from his post and banned from the priesthood.

This event has become a cause. Not only because of the case of dismissal--others have also fallen under ecclesiastical ban. And not merely because this time it fell upon Fr Kochetkov, who is known because of his activity in the area of catechesis and the development of parish life, for which many pastors are concerned.

The fame of the event is something else: it turned out to be an ordinary victory on the "intrachurch front," a successful achievement of the next stage in the struggle which is being waged by "traditionalists" against "neo-Orthodox." The ultimate goal of this struggle is to drive out from the patriarchal church by any means all priests and active laity who do not occupy an aggressively conservative position in the region of church life. But at the same time one indubitable fact evokes great amazement--the silence of those bishops who now do not have the right to remain silent because the stakes are too high. What is at stake is not merely the "shape" of the church but its faithfulness to its essence, which is expressed in its daily life and the activity of its bishops, clergy, and laity, its parishes and dioceses, the entire "plenitude" of the Russian Orthodox church, as official documents are so prone to declare.

Radio Radonezh, 29 June

On 29 June the brotherhood of Saint Mark of Ephasus issued a declaration which stated: "The twenty-ninth of June marks the sad anniversary of the unrestrained renovationists' action upon the priest Mikhail Dubovitsky. The renovationists have decided to mark this infamous action of the Kochetokovists in their own way. They settled on revenge. Their prime target was Ekaterinburg bishop Nikon, who dared to place under ban a Kochetkovite priest who refused to distance himself from the controversial works of Fr Alexander Men in the Ekaterinburg diocese. Against Master Nikon the entire oppositionist propaganda machine has been energized with full might, from the informal mouthpiece of the Department of External Church Affairs, NG-religiia, to the abhorent church-public channel. In connection with this the Orthodox brotherhood of St. Mark of Ephesus has summoned all zealous Orthodox Christians not only to defend Bishop Nikon from baseless attack but also to stand couragously for the Orthodox faith in the face of new trials.

Notice: On 26 June, that is, three days before the brotherhood's statement, Bishop Nikon rescinded all restrictions upon Fr Oleg Vokhmianin.

Radio Radonezh, 29 June

Question to Archpriest Vladimir Siloviev during a live broadcast: "Father, perhaps today Radio Radonezh will finally ask forgiveness for its slander of Fr Georgy Kochetkov and his parishioners? After all, all documents from both the procurator and the ministry of health have testified that they are completely innocent, and even the videotape to which your sources appeal contains no evidence of a beating or anything of the sort. All of this was only biased commentary. Tell us, Fr Vladimir, aren't you ashamed for your sources who have been shown to be guilty of judgment and false witness? After all, in fact, even the measures taken against Fr Georgy Kochetkov were based on slander and upon a false police report."

Archpriest Vladimir Siloviev: "Mother, everything is working out. Father G. Kochetkov is a well-experienced priest who is leading a certain amount of dupes and I think Fr Georgy should himself call us and put this question, not his dupes. The most holy patriach acted in the interest of correction, not punishment."

Radio Radonzh, 29 June

Radio Radonezh director Sergei Gerasimov: "I have here an article that says, 'Until now there have been no objective documents confirming "violence and abuse" against Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky and now one can affirm the juridical and moral innocence in all that occurred in their church on the last Sunday of June.'"

The attorney of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, V.I. Solomonov: "I was forced to fulfill the request of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods and to send materials to the court for legal action against the commission of the ministry of health for violation of the requirements of the law. They affirm that Fr Mikhail was in an acute reactive state, but I have to raise the question: in what state were the members of the congregation of Fr G. Kochetkov who committed this crime? We have the materials that were published in the newspaper "Shield and Sword" under the title "The Church of the Dormition from the Legal Standpoint" right after the event which provide evidence for evaluating the actions of Fr Kochetkov's congregation. Unfortunately, our law enforcement agencies, and particulary the Meshchansk procurator, were not up to snuff and I object. I do not agree that this conflict will begin to die away of itself; on the contrary, the article "Yet we live. . ." is enough to show that we cannot take comfort.

(tr by PDS)

(posted 19 July 1998)

Coprighted material. For private use only.

If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came. It is not necessary to credit this Web page.