Staunton, January 6 – Moscow Patriarch Kirill has given Russian Christians on this holy day a clear indication of his intentions for the future: he has appointed Aleksandr Shchipkov, a lay expert who has equated liberalism with Nazism to be the first deputy chairman of the synod’s department for relations of the church with society and the media.
Two weeks ago, Kirill dismissed his longtime protégé Vsevolod Chaplin as head of the synod’s department for relations with society and announced that that department was being folded into another one headed by Vladimir Legoida, sparking concerns among some that the Patriarchate was going to become less active in this area.
But the latest move (patriarchia.ru/db/text/4325481.html) suggests that Kirill may have used the excuse of bureaucratic reorganization to oust Chaplin and that in fact he intends to be even more active in this public space than before, given that the new appointee will occupy the first deputy’s position in Legoida’s fiefdom.
This move is being welcomed by Russian Orthodox nationalists like the editors of Russkaya narodnaya liniya, who in a statement today indicate that their concerns about the consequences of Chaplin’s firing were overstated and that Shchipkov can be counted on to pursue the same line (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2016/13/06/vazhnoe_naznachenie/).
They say that Kirill’s decision to name Shchipkov thus constitutes “an important appointment” and that they are entirely happy with it. But if that wing of the Russian Orthodox Church is pleased, others are likely to be less so given the nationalist, traditionalist, and anti-liberal views Shchipkov has repeated advanced in the last several years.
Shchipkov, 58, is the director of the Moscow Center for Social Research, a longtime advisor to the Moscow Patriarchate, a sociologist of religion and a specialist on church-state relations. Among his recent publications, all in Russian, are the following:
Russia’s Bronze Age (2015; text at iknigi.net/avtor-aleksandr-schipkov/101695-bronzovyy-vek-rossii-vzglyad-iz-tarusy-aleksandr-schipkov.html).
Traditionalism, Liberalism and Neo-Nazism in Current Politics (2015; text at
The Turning Point (about the Justice of Tradition)” (2013; text at fictionbook.ru/static/trials/12/13/56/12135668.a4.pdf).
The Place of Executions (2015; text at fictionbook.ru/static/trials/12/13/56/12135633.a4.pdf).
In all these places, he advances a commitment to radical traditionalism and to a future path for Russia that many would call at best obscurantist. But Shchipkov’s views are perhaps most clearly expressed in two recent interviews in the Moscow media.
In April 2015, he told “Izvestiya” that liberalism is the same as fascism (izvestia.ru/news/585045); and a little earlier, he remarked to “Literaturnaya gazeta” that “the liberal establishment has crossed a red line and that if you consider yourself an intelligent, you cannot be a liberal” (lgz.ru/article/-50-6491-17-12-2014/intelligent-ne-mozhet-byt-liberalom/).
Such attitudes and the appointment to a senior Patriarchate position of someone who holds them do not bode well for either the Russian Church or Russia more generally.