Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Nothing is more Russian than self-flagellation when they can make themselves appear the victim of any situation. Unfortunately, Russia is the victim of their own doing. Russia had a good thing going with Ukraine, then Russia literally overstepped the boundaries, and pissed off an entire country. A former friendly country is now an avowed opponent. Most Ukrainians would even call Russia an enemy.
Russia has lost the “War of the Orthodox Churches”, yet they continue to dig their hole deeper. Is that hole a grave?
Russian arrogance, Russian bravado, and Russian childish playground bully tactics caused the Universal Patriarch to side with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.The Russian Orthodox Church gave birth to the Khlysts (whips in Russian), who were rumored to use self-flagellation. Some habits die hard.
Another update, the Russians are indeed playing out their game plan here, as it has been described by a number of observers over recent months.
True to form, the Russians are very openly blameshifting their self-anathema unto Constantinople. Always the evil outsiders hurting victim Russia …. this trope has been central to Russian propaganda possibly as far back as the Mongol-Tartar Horde, a recurring theme over and over again.
Applebaum’s excellent essay is getting a lot of visibility.
Paul Goble Staunton, September 24 – The Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate remain totally opposed to autocephaly for the Ukrainian church, but in recognition of near certainty that the Universal Patriarch is going to extend that independent status to Kyiv, Moscow is increasingly thinking about how it can exploit this event for Moscow’s political and religious benefits. That shift does not mean that the Kremlin or the Moscow Patriarchate is going to stop opposing autocephaly for Ukraine; and it certainly does not mean the Russian government and the Russian church won’t do what they can to blacken the reputation of the Ukrainian church by propaganda or by active measures. Thus, they are already attacking officials and churchmen in Ukraine – for an especially egregious but sadly typical example, see versia.ru/ukrainskuyu-pomestnuyu-cerkov-mozhet-vozglavit-sekretar-sovbeza-aleksandr-turchinov – and Putin’s longstanding use of provocations, including organizing violence that Moscow blames on others, will likely play a role. Kyiv and the West must be prepared for that because if there is violence against Russian Orthodox believers or churches in Ukraine, the Kremlin propaganda machine will work overtime to ensure that many will believe its version of events and blame the victim, in this case Ukraine, as has happened so often in the past. But more significantly, Russian officials and Russian Orthodox churchmen in Moscow are now talking about what they can achieve from the split in world Orthodoxy they plan to promote when Ukraine’s church gains autocephaly. Indeed, some in the Russian capital believe, despite the obvious losses the Moscow Patriarchate will take, they may come out ahead. On the Versiya portal, commentator Ruslan Gorevoy discusses what he calls “The Orthodox War” and asks “what will the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate lose and what will it gain from the split the Universal Patriarch has provoked” (versia.ru/chto-poteryaet-i-chto-mozhet-priobresti-rpc-mp-ot-raskola-provociruemogo-vselenskim-patriarxatom). The losses that the Moscow Patriarchate will suffer after autocephaly are obvious: Ukrainians are more religiously active than Russians are, and the Moscow church will lose many of its bishoprics and parishes, a major source of income and an essential part of its claim to be the largest Orthodox church in the world. But, Gorevoy suggests, the Russian church will pick up something possibly more valuable. Up to now, Orthodox churches have viewed the Constantinople Patriarchate as first among equals, often deferring to it. Now, even before autocephaly but as a result of Constantinople’s actions, ever more of them are looking toward others instead – most prominently to Moscow. Given the size of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and its wealth, both from church collections and the kind of economic activities the Putin regime has allowed it to engage in untaxed and unreported, the Moscow Patriarchate is in a position to “help” other churches view it and not Constantinople as the center of Orthodoxy. Consequently, Gorevoy says, Universal Patriarch Bartholemew has overplayed his hand in the Ukrainian case, leading many of the existing autocephalous churches offended and looking for leadership elsewhere. Their desire for communion thus works for Moscow which has cast itself in this case as a defender of the status quo. As Gorevoy points out, “among the leaders of world Orthodoxy, Bartholemew is counted first among equals. After all the Constantinople throne is the oldest in the world, one thought to have been founded by the apostle Andrey the First Called. But ‘oldest’ does not mean the wealthiest or the most influential.” Only three percent of the world’s Orthodox are under its rule, and it is a very poor sister to Moscow which can deploy funds to encourage other Orthodox churches to support its positions, something it has often done overtly and likely covertly including during the current controversy. According to Vladimir Shmaly, the former secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s theological commission, Bartholemew wants to make Constantinople into “an Orthodox Vatican;” and to do that he has to “destroy the Moscow Patriarchate” by splitting off its churches and bishoprics in Ukraine. Thus, “the goal of an autocephalous Ukrainian campaign by Constantinople is not Ukraine but ‘the expulsion’ of the Moscow Patriarchate from the community of Orthodox churches,” thus allowing Bartholemew to “play the role either of a Byzantine emperor or an Eastern pope,” Shmaly says. Moscow political analyst Lev Vershilin sees an even more disturbing possibility in Constantinople’s actions. In his view, the Universal Patriarchate wants to put the Moscow metropolitanate under a Kyiv patriarchate, “a first ‘symbolically’ and then in reality,” and over time, declare other autocephalous churches in Siberia, the Urals and the Far East.” Another Russian analyst, Rostislav Ishchenko, says that by declaring a religious war in Ukraine, Constantinople is pushing true Orthodox Christians to form their own militias to combat this effort. As a result, he says, there will be “rivers of blood” in Ukraine. “As a result, the Ukrainian state will be destroyed,” and Constantinople will suffer a clear defeat. It would appear, Gorevoy concludes, that “Moscow should act in a more restrained fashion” than Ishchenko says others will lest it lose its credibility and the influence it has gained because of Constantinople’s overreaching. But of course, what the Russian government may do covertly and then blame on the Ukrainians is another thing altogether.
The Moscow Patriarchate insists that the initiative to provide the autocephaly for Ukraine is ‘anti-canonical’. The Synodus of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church called on Patriarch Bartholomew not to interfere with the internal affairs of the Church. The exarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate are asked to leave Ukraine. The respective statement sounded at the Tuesday session of the Synodus, the press office of the Moscow Patriarchate of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church reported. ‘This assignment was considered a rude interference with the internal affairs of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church and violation of its canonical territory. Respectively, the Synodus of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church urged Bartholomew, the Partiarch of Constantinople to stop interfering with the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and not to violate its canonical area’, the message says. The Church also stated that exarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate must leave the canonical area of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, ‘since their actions are non-canonical and breach the confessional peace in Ukraine’. There will be no more joint services with the churchmen of the Constantinople Patriarchate, the Synodus ruled. The Church authority also urged the believes ‘to pray more intensely for the unity of the Holy Orthodoxy’. Besides, the Synodus also asked Ukrainian MPs to retract the three draft bills, which offer to change the status and the order of subordination of religious communities in Ukraine. ‘Any forced changes to the name or the status are illegal and pose a direct interference with the internal affairs of the Church’, the statement reads.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios made it clear on Sunday that he would not change his stance as regards supporting autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, stressing that the Istanbul-based seat of the patriarchate will neither issue threats nor respond to them. During a speech at the Aghia Foka church, welcoming a Czech theologist, Vartholomaios referred to the Czech and Slovak churches, the youngest autocephalous churches to fall under the umbrella of the ecumenical patriarchate. “Now it is the turn of Ukraine to receive the status of autocephaly in due course, I hope, despite the existing reactions and this will happen because it is [the church’s] right,” the patriarch said, apparently referring to the objections of the Russian Orthodox Church. He added that it was also the right of the ecumenical patriarchate to grant autocephaly as it has done to a series of churches, starting with Russia’s in the 16th century. As for the criticism from Russia regarding his position on Ukrainian autocephaly, the patriarch said, “We are not afraid of threats.” The patriachate “neither issues threats nor makes them,” he said.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said on Sunday, September 23, that he would not change his position on supporting the provision of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Deutsche Welle has reported, with reference to Greek newspaper Ekathimerini.
Last year’s commemorations of the Russian Revolution — the Ten Days That Shook the World — were a long way from the triumphalist jubilees that the outside world had expected and for which loyal communists had hoped. Ambivalent and often muted, it would be hard to describe the events that marked
Paul Goble Staunton, September 22 – The issue of Ukrainian autocephaly and its consequences has so dominated news about religion and politics in the former Soviet space over the last several weeks that other religious developments there which also have enormous political significance risk being overshadowed (cf. credo.press/monitoring-smi-strong-tretij-rim-petushki-strong/). Three developments this past week fall into that category. They include a call by a Jewish leader to increase the number of synagogues in Moscow to 20, a reported agreement by the Armenian Catholicos to retire and give place to someone closer to the new government there, and the visit of Pope Francis to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. First, in an interview with Izvestiya, Aleksandr Boroda, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, says that Moscow needs “a minimum of 20 synagogues” and that other Russian cities need new synagogues as well (iz.ru/791073/valeriia-nodelman/aleksandr-boroda-v-moskve-budet-bolshe-sinagog). He says that they won’t be put up all at once and notes that his organization does not have any agreement with the city of Moscow to open them. Instead, Boroda says, “we seek to purchase something, reconstruct it or rent” facilities. And he stresses that synagogues because they do not involve services that reach into the streets should not be a problem for anyone. But Boroda’s call is likely to create problems nonetheless. On the one hand, many Russians, driven by anti-Semitic attitudes or simply NIMBY sentiments, are likely to oppose the opening of so many synagogues for the relatively small Jewish community in Moscow, the center in their view of Orthodox Russian civilization. And on the other, his appeal is likely to lead Muslim leaders to renew their drive for most mosques in the Russian capital. At present, there are only six officially registered ones for a community that numbers more than two million. Muslim leaders are likely to invoke Boroda’s plans as the basis for making a claim of simple justice for their own faithful. Second, Yerevan’s Zhokhovurd newspaper reports that Catholicos Garegin II, the patriarch of the Armenian Orthodox Church, has agreed with the new government of Armenia that he will step down in the near future, supposedly giving health as the explanation for the change (https://armlur.am/ժողովուրդ-թերթ/ in Armenian; credo.press/219877-2/ in Russian). Many of the demonstrators who brought Nikol Pashinyan to power have been pressing for Garegin’s retirement given his close relationships over the last 27 years with now-discredited former Armenian presidents. They even staged demonstrations outside his residence in Echmiadzin. The changeover at the top of the Armenian church will send shock waves through Armenia and the large Armenian diaspora around the world. But among the most powerful will be the signal it sends that post-Soviet states in their efforts to distance themselves from Moscow are going to be focusing on the leadership of religious groups as well. Many of the most senior leaders were appointed in Soviet times. Now, ever more of them are likely to be forced out, including perhaps most prominently and, somewhat ironically, the longtime and often controversial head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate of the Caucasus, Allashakhyur Pasha-zade, who is based in Baku, Azerbaijan. And third, Pope Francis has begun a four-day trip to the three Baltic countries, going first to Lithuania, which is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, and then to Latvia and Estonia which are not. His visit, like that of John Paul II in 1993, is being viewed by the Baltic peoples as one more sign that they are fully part of the West (echo.msk.ru/blog/frolnataly/2282652-echo/). In his appeal to the Baltic peoples on the eve of his visit, the Holy Father more than met their expectations. He declared that his visit was timed to coincide with the centennial of the acquisition of independence by the three Baltic countries and that he wanted to show his respect to all those who had fought and died for “real freedom” (youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=su8ewso6GjI). “Freedom as we know is a treasure which must be constantly defended and transmitted as a valuable inheritance to future generations,” Francis said.
The never-ending conflict is altering attitudes, leading to what has been called “the geopolitical divorce of the century”: the separation of two countries that have been part of the same empire for centuries.
It is ironic that the Russian invasion, originally intended to punish Ukraine’s Western-oriented government, has pushed the country towards the west.
Russia’s interference in a once-friendly country has made it an enemy.