Crosses to bear

December 29, 2014

This entry begins with a very necessary link to a particularly good blog entry by XX Committee entitled “Putin’s Orthodox Jihad”.  That is not to say all XX Committee blog entries are less than good, they are.  It’s just that the above linked is particularly good.

"Orthodox Jihad" photo from DNR summer 2014

“Orthodox Jihad” photo from DNR summer 2014

There is little that can be added to the XX Committee entry regarding the broad empirical brush strokes it contains.  Perhaps the only current theologian/”man of god” of real influence around President Putin failing to get a mention in the piece is Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, Mr Putin’s personal cleric and spiritual advisor.

Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov is also a fully fledged member of the Izbork Club, a quasi-governmental advisory/think thank/NGO of sorts.  It is an entity notable for several things.  The stature and prominence of its membership within the elite of the elite Russian society, and the fact it contains clear crosscutting cleavages across the otherwise fractious clan system, consistently fighting against each other for prominence within the Kremlin walls and access to the body – President Putin.  It is also an entity to which many of the Kremlin ultra-nationalist and ultra-orthodox leaders belong.  Indeed, a click on the link above, and its logo and picture gallery underline the fusion of religion and nationalism.

To name a few members of this highly exclusive club; Sergei Glazyev, Dmitry Rogozin, Mikhail Leontyev, Aleksandr Prokhanov and of course Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov.  There is no need to roll out a full list, suffice to say the likes of Alexandr Dugin do not make the entry grade.  His “Yevraziya” entity having to claim a mere association to the Izborsk Club on its website on 8th September 2012.  Neither does Konstantine Malofeev feature as a full member – this despite their ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox views, high profile and/or notable personal wealth.

There are few “non-governmental” contenders to the “influence throne” around, and with access to President Putin of more note.  Perhaps the Tagil Club of Igor Kholmanskikh, may make a similar, but less convincing, claim.

Whatever the case, the Izborsk Club was borne of Messrs Glazyev and Rogozin, in no small way to corral, manage and manipulate the thinking of the ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox – with Izborsk becoming prominent post “Russia without Putin” protests in 2011.  The platform seemingly an to attempt to bring the swivel-eyed back under Kremlin control.

Anyway, this entry is not about the Izborsk Club per se, or its members connections to events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine – though they exit.  For those interested in a more detailed, citation loaded, academic look, there are several thousand words devoted to the subject to be found in the print edition of Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia 2015 (Routledge) or on the Europa World website for those that are members – penned by yours truly.

The point of this entry is to zero in a little on the specific issues, more broadly raised in the XX Committee, that have already manifest themselves in Ukraine of an Orthodox flavour.

Way back on 2nd June, an entry was written relating to the prominence, and then fading of, Patriarch Kirill in the Russian media.  It raised the issue of only 15000 of the 27,000 Moscow Patriarch parishes actually being in Russia – the rest being in Ukraine.  The problem therefore being that the harder Patriarch Kirill pushed the ultra-conservative Russian Orthodox line as the Kremlin would wish, the more chance there was of some of the Ukrainian parishes defecting to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy.  Thus he was temporarily being faded out of the media for not being publicly zealous enough for the Kremlin.

This matter was briefly revisited about a month later in this entry, upon the then death of Metropolitan Volodymyr.

Unsurprisingly the gradual shift to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Kyiv Patriarchy under Patriarch Filaret (regardless of Canonical validity) is underway.  It is something that was almost impossible to avoid.  The Ukrainian Orthodoxy, duty bound to defend and tend its flock, led to the inevitable requirement to publicly speak out in favour of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.  It took the side of EuroMaidan quite early on – as did the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – and both have remained steadfast in their support of Ukraine in what came to pass thereafter.


The already existing Orthodox schisms are becoming slowly but surely more pronounced with 12000 Ukrainian parishes to play for.  That is a lot of worshipers, a lot of influence, and a lot of money.  Undoubtedly the beginnings of such a manifestation were foreseen by Patriarch Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchy, and in an effort to avoid it, the summer step backward into the political shadows of The Kremlin machinery as far as was practicable was taken.

That luxury will no longer be afforded to the Russian Orthodox Church by The Kremlin.  The purity and necessity of Russian Orthodoxy and its promotion is to be a prominent part of The Kremlin play-book looking forward.  A spiritual “them” and “us”, to marry up to the political “them” and “us” – regardless of whether Russia becomes something of an “Orthodox Iran” in pursuing this policy.

This leads us to the Ukrainian Catholic churches that have steadfastly supported Ukraine.  They, amongst many issues that will irk The Kremlin, refuse to acknowledge the illegal annexation of Crimea.  Quite rightly too – we are not about to witness The Holy See legitimise Kremlin action on the peninsula anytime soon.

However, the “authorities” in Crimea seem set to pick a fight with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and in doing so, The Holy See.  Recently, UGCC Patriarch Sviatoslav stated “Many times it was said that the UGCC and other denominations and Muslims suffer a certain pressure. Recently, the so-called Crimean government has enacted legislation according to which all churches and religious organizations must renew their registration. There are requirements that are difficult to comply with. For example, one must specify its highest body in the Russian Federation. If not, then in order to get the right to exist in Crimea, one has to undergo religious expertise in Moscow. De facto, this is law to liquidate churches that do not comply with the idea of loyalty to the existing government.

In short, the expectation is that Catholic churches in Crimea will cease to exist – as will many mosques too.

Quite how an evermore Ottoman (with a dash of “Brotherhood’) styled Turkey will react regarding the closure of mosques on a peninsula it has a far longer historical affinity to than Russia, remains to be seen.  Regardless – a dim view is certainly likely to be taken in the Vatican.

As such, several Russian Orthodoxy “fronts” are beginning to gather momentum in Ukraine.  From ultra-Russian Orthodox fighters in eastern Ukraine, the suppression of the Tatars and their Muslim heredity, to the schisms that are becoming chasms between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox patriarchies, to picking fights with the UGCC and ultimately the Holy See.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that Ukraine, and thus by extension both the Ukrainian Patriarchy and UGCC, find themselves more than a little reliant upon the steadfastness of the Protestant Angela Merkel in managing and maintaining the “European position” toward events within Ukraine and the region.

It is said that we all have our crosses to bear.  Some of those crosses are likely to become increasingly heavy and burdensome very, very soon.


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