Staunton, November 23 – There are Russians who are Muslims and Russians who are Jews, but they like Russians who are Orthodox recognize that “Orthodoxy formed Russia just as Protestantism formed America and Catholicism formed Italy,” according to Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s office for relations with society.
“A Russian,” he said on TV Center yesterday, “is someone who recognizes Orthodoxy as the basis of our culture, as the force which shaped Russia.” It is now time to proclaim this rather than somehow being ashamed of it or hiding behind euphemisms or outright distortions of reality, Chaplin continued (rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=68570).
Chaplin, a protégé of Patriarch Kirill and one of the chief ideologists of the Moscow Patriarchate, offered a number of other observations noteworthy because they almost certainly constitute the position of the Orthodoxy Church in any policy debates that may be taking place in Moscow.
With regard to the fight over whether Russians should identify in ethnic or civic terms, Chaplin said that as for himself, “the term ‘Russky’ is much more definite and correct than the term ‘Rossiyanin,’” arguing that “all efforts to form an all-Russian, all-European, all-world identity have today failed.”
Those who argue that only these “supra-ethnic and supra-religious identities will work” are wrong, he said. “They do not work! Neither with us nor in the West.” No one should be ashamed of his or her ethnic identity: Such identities “will not disappear but will only strengthen … No one has thought of anything better.”
“For many,” Chaplin said, “their ethnic identity and their religious identity is the most important thing.” As for himself, the fact that he is Orthodox is “much more important than citizenship or ethnic membership.” That is a reality and those who feel that want others to respect that reality.
With regard to church-state relations, the churchman said that “the Church has always blessed the powers that be. They and the people are not enemies … The normal state of a Christian, the normal state of the Church, the normal state of a Christian people is Christian statehood.”
That does not mean that the state is always right or that the Church must avoid criticizing it. Chaplin said that “as a church official,” he spends “70 percent of his time arguing with government officials.” Fortunately, the Russian state is moving in the right direction and has gone a third or even a half of the distance it must go.
Patriotism, Chaplin continued, is “the natural state of the Christian.” If someone criticizes the state in order to improve it, then he or she is “a normal patriot.” But if he seeks to destroy the state on behalf or “foreign forces or because of egotism, he is an anti-patriot and a sinner.”
Russia, he concluded, has “a single history.” Lenin and Trotsky tried to destroy that and they failed. Stalin had to bring back much of it. Then, Khrushchev tried again to break it apart as did Gorbachev, but neither succeeded. And today, the underlying values of Orthodoxy and thus Russianness are reemerging as “the basis of our future.”