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Archive for the tag “Russian Orthodox Church”

Is Putin’s "secret weapon" going to blow up in his face?

More contrasting views from Russia and the West. According to Time the Orthodox faithful constitute Putin’s new “secret weapon”. Russia: Pussy Riot and Putin’s Religious Backing | World | TIME.com:

The prison sentence handed down last week against three members of Pussy Riot, a group of activists opposed to President Vladimir Putin, will restrict a lot more than the personal freedoms of the young women convicted. Judge Marina Syrova sentenced them to two years in prison for offending the faithful of the Orthodox Church by performing a crude anti-Putin song near the altar of a Moscow cathedral in February. While many were offended by the gesture, the judge’s verdict has put the state’s seal of approval on the righteous anger of one community, and that anger is proving hard to control.

But according to a Russian source something different is going down Russian Orthodox to Form Party | Russia | RIA Novosti:

Autocratic Russia and the Union of Orthodox Citizens are planning to register an “Orthodox” political party, Izvestia daily reported on Thursday.

The organization’s founders said they see Russia as a monarchy with a special role for the Russian Orthodox Church and the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia as the country’s spiritual leader.

Does that mean Putin is going to leave his own political party, and join this new one?

Pussy Riot: crossed wires

I’ve been reading many differing opinions about Pussy Riot, the punk rock group whose members are on trial in Moscow after inturrupting a church service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral with a political song.

Reading different opinions is one thing, but reading different facts is another. For example the US branch of Amnesty International is claiming that it was a case of mistaken identity, and that the three facing trial are not the same people as the ones who sang the song in church. Take Action Now – Amnesty International USA:

Three young women are being detained by Russian authorities for allegedly performing a protest song in a cathedral as part of a feminist punk group “Pussy Riot”.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich were arrested in March 2012 and charged with “hooliganism”. If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to 7 years.

The three women deny any involvement in the protest although even if they took part, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful – if, to many, offensive – expression of their political beliefs.

Tell the Russian authorities to drop all charges and release them!

Where did Amensty International get their information from, or are they deliberately trying to mislead people?

Forty years ago I got thousands of Christmas cards from people all over the world, thanks to Amnesty International. It must have kept the Security Police quite busy back then. But in this case they seem to have come up with “facts” that are known only to them, and that don’t seem to be known even to the defendants in the case.

For instance, according to a report of the trial in Rapsi News:

Defendant in the Pussy Riot case Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has called the “punk prayer” performed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior an “ethical mistake,” stressing that she had no intention of offending anybody, the Khamovnichesky District Court told the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI/rapsinews.com).

Tolokonnikova’s defense attorney Violetta Volkova read out her response to the indictment. The defendant noted in her address that her conduct had only political and artistic motives.

How could they have had “no intention of offending anyone” by their conduct, if, as Amnesty International maintains, they weren’t even there in the first place?

There have been wildly conflicting accounts of what they are charged with. According to one news report they are charged with “disorderly conduct”, for which, we are told, they could face up to seven years in prison.

According to another report

On February 21, five girls wearing brightly colored balaclavas stormed the altar of downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform an anti-Putin protest song entitled, “Holy Sh*t.”

Prosecutors have maintained that the Pussy Riot members “inflicted substantial damage to the sacred values of the Christian ministry…infringed upon the sacramental mystery of the Church… [and] humiliated in a blasphemous way the age-old foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Other reports hav said that they sang “Mother Mary, save us from Putin”.

Since the incident has been widely publicised on YouTube, surely there must be some place, somewhere on the web, where what they actually sang is accurately reported?

I asked if anyone knew what they were actually sining, and my daughter found a link that provided a translation:

Punk-Prayer “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away

(choir)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)


Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness
Women must give birth and love

Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
Become a feminist, become a feminist

(end chorus)

The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class – bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)

Russian religious revival

During the Bolshevik era the Russian government was officially atheist and actually promoted atheism through quangos like the League of Militant Atheists. The number of working Orthodox Churches had dwindled to 7000. Now there has been a quite spectacular revival. Interfax-Religion:

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia cited the statistics that 23,000 Orthodox churches have been restored in Russia over the past two decades…

Patriarch Kirill emphasized that this had been done against the backdrop of economic, political and social confrontation, rather than at a time of economic and political security and social well-being.

The religious revival actually began before the end of the Bolshevik era, and was in no small measure responsible for the collapse of Bolshevism.

Back when that was just beginning a Russian bishop and some diplomats met with some leaders of the NG Kerk in Pretoria, and it became clear that just as some people were feeling their way uncertainly into the new South Africa, so Russians were feeling their way uncertainly into a new Russia. They were uncertain because in both cases the rules had changed, and freedom was beginning to appear on the horizon, and the old certainties of a world in which whatever was not forbidden was compulsory no longer applied. Here’s an excerpt from my diary for Sunday 5 July 1992:

We went to the Liturgy at Brixton. Bishop Victor of Podolsk was there. He had come to bless the offices of the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He spoke briefly on the church in Russia, and said that the church buildings and monasteries were being handed back by the government, but the church had no money to maintain them. He came to tea afterwards, but had to rush off to another engagement.

In the evening went to Prof Johan Heyns’s house, and bishop Victor was there, together with the ambassador, Alexei Makarov, and three others from the Russian Chamber of Commerce – the Vice President, Alexey Leonidovich Kolomeichuk, the public relations officer, Vladimir Michaelovich Korostelev, and the local representative, Vadim A. Mejnikov. Johan Heyns asked how I had become Orthodox, so I explained that I had originally been Anglican. The bishop said that the Russian Orthodox Church had had dialogue with the Anglicans for many years, and felt some theological affinity, but that they had broken off the dialogue when the Anglicans ordained women.

After we had supper the bishop explained the position of the church, and said there had been a spiritual hunger in Russia in recent years, and millions of people were
flocking to the church, but the church did not have resources to minister to them. They were ignorant of the rudiments of the faith – they were seeking God, but did not know why they were seeking, or in many cases they did not know what they were seeking. Henno Cronje asked why this spiritual hunger had appeared so suddenly now – had political changes caused it. The bishop replied that it might have been partly responsible for the political changes, and Dr Makarov said something similar. Henno Cronje also asked if the bishops had been appointed by the government under the communist regime, and bishop Victor said he had only been a bishop for two years, so he could not speak from personal experience, but he knew the government had had the power of veto on the election of bishops.

The DRC people said that they thought there were a lot of affinities between South Africa and Russia – but the ones they gave, even Piet Meiring, were different from what I expected. I thought the most obvious similarity was that both were beginning to emerge from decades of oppression under totalitarian governments, and that they were both discovering that freedom is not without its problems. But they spoke of the mystical identification of the church with the soul of the people, the patriotism, and the love that Russians and South Africans had for their country.

Henno Cronje asked about the meaning of ikons, and the bishop explained how they differed from Western religious painting – that they were not representations of physical objects, but that they had a spiritual meaning. Vadim Mejnikov translated, but obviously had some difficulty with theological terms. At the end all the
Russians, except the bishop, said they were not members of the church, but it seemed that even as the bishop spoke, some kind of spiritual hunger was being awakened in them. As the bishop spoke about the longing for God, it seemed that they were hearing new things, and responding.

One thing that amused me, though I didn’t record it at the time, was that all the solemn DRC dominees giggled like naughty schoolboys whenever the Russians said “kak”, which means “how” in Russian but “shit” in Afrikaans.

The Russian Ambassador, Makrelov, was quite emphatic about the religious revival leading to people’s disillusionment with Bolshevism and contributing to its fall.

It is rather sad to think that both Alexei Makrelov and Prof Johan Heyns died in tragic circumstances not long afterwards. Alexei Makrelov died in a domestic accident, when his wife, who was carrying a tub of hot water, slipped and spilt it on him. Johan Heyns was murdered by an unknown assassin on 5 November 1994.

Independent report blames Georgia for South Ossetia war

A year after the war in South Ossetia the politicians are still bickering, while church leaders are trying to promote peace (Hat-tip to ROCOR UNITED: Independent report blames Georgia for South Ossetia war.

Independent report blames Georgia for South Ossetia war | Deutsche Welle:

A new report commissioned by the EU said that Georgia started the South Ossetia conflict last summer, but also found Russia’s response illegal. Both Georgia and Russia have claimed the report supports their version.

According to the report, carried out by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini and presented to the European Union on Wednesday, there is no evidence to support Georgia’s claim that Russia had already sent troops to annex South Ossetia before Georgia began its attack on the region’s capital Tskhinvali on the night of August 7/8 2008.

‘There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation,’ the report said. ‘There is the question of whether the use of force by Georgia in South Ossetia … was justifiable under international law. It was not.’

And while the politicians are still trying to score points off each other, church leaders have been trying to bring peace. Directions to Orthodoxy – Russian, Georgian patriarchs plea for peace year after Ossetia war:

Orthodox church leaders from Russia and Georgia called for peace while their political counterparts lobbed charges of aggression in marking the one year anniversary of the South Ossetia war.

The Russian and Georgian patriarchs also commemorated the victims of the short, brutal war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church stressed the common spiritual heritage of the warring sides, continuing the line taken last year by Ilia and the late Patriarch Aleksei II of the Russian Orthodox Church, who had sought reconciliation as the conflict raged.

At a panikhida, or memorial service, at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 8 August, a year after Georgia is said to have begun shelling the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, Patriarch Kirill said that the war, which he called the result of ‘aggression set off by evil political will’, was ‘a tragedy of three fraternal Orthodox peoples’.

Reviving the Russian Soul

One of the most popular recent films in Russia is Ostrov (The Island) which indicates that despite the dominance of the communist and capitalist visions of materialism, interest in spiritual life continues to grow. As the authors of this review point out, “Ostrov’s story of repentance and faith in God hardly seems to be the stuff that blockbusters are made of” — at least not in the West. I noted my own response to the film here, but this article describes the effect on Russian culture, and the response of the actor who played the protagonist is also interesting, since he is apparently a hermit in real life.

Reviving the Russian Soul, by Mike Kauschke and Elizabeth Debold.:

The story of the film’s principal actor Pyotr Mamonov may offer some explanation. Back in the eighties and nineties, Mamonov was the lead singer in an avant garde Russian rock band that reached cult status. But these days, he lives as a religious hermit near Moscow, and apparently it took a great deal of effort to get him to commit to make the film. Ostrov director Pavel Lungin says: “In a certain sense, this is also a movie about Mamonov’s life. He transformed from being a rock star embroiled in scandals into a deeply religious man.” Lungin realizes that both Mamonov’s life and the life of the monk he plays are resonant for Russians today. “The times of perestroika are over and we need to think about things like eternity, sin, and conscience,” he observes. “These have disappeared from our lives in the rat race for success and money. But people can’t just live for material things alone.”

Clash of civilizations redux

A new book on the role of the Orthodox Church in the new Russia seems to confirm Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis.

Garrard, J. and Garrard, C.: Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent: Faith and Power in the New Russia.:

In the new Russia, the former KGB who run the country–Vladimir Putin among them–proclaim the cross, not the hammer and sickle. Meanwhile, a majority of Russians now embrace the Orthodox faith with unprecedented fervor. The Garrards trace how Aleksy orchestrated this transformation, positioning his church to inherit power once held by the Communist Party and to become the dominant ethos of the military and government. They show how the revived church under Aleksy prevented mass violence during the post-Soviet turmoil, and how Aleksy astutely linked the church with the army and melded Russian patriotism and faith.

Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent argues that the West must come to grips with this complex and contradictory resurgence of the Orthodox faith, because it is the hidden force behind Russia’s domestic and foreign policies today.

Thus far, however, all the glowing comments and reviews seem to be from Western scholars. It would be interesting to see what Orthodox scholars have to say about it.

Hat tip to Eastern Orthodox Librarian.

Saint Stalin?

Could Josef Stalin be made a saint? – Telegraph:

The Communist party in St Petersburg has petitioned the Orthodox Church to canonise Josef Stalin if he wins a television poll to nominate the greatest Russian in history…

The Soviet dictator, who was responsible for the deaths of around 15 million people during his 31-year reign of terror, is in second place in online voting for the Name of Russia competition.

Stalin last week surrendered a narrow lead to Nicholas II in the contest, which is based on the BBC’s Great Britons series.

Is that chutzpah, or what?

Who’s next? Decius? Diocletian?

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