Staunton, June 14 – Today, Patriarch Kirill consecrated the chief shrine for the Russian military, an action he said symbolized Russia’s return to Christianity after the Soviet era but one that other observers say points in a very different direction, one that highlights and deepens the divides among the Russian people.
“In ‘the wild 1990s, a sad joke circulated in Moscow: Those who sought to build capitalism in Russia, because of their education built it according to the model of capitalism described in Soviet political economy textbooks, one wild and barbaric,” Aleksandr Golts recalls in a Yezhednevny zhurnal essay (ej.ru/?a=note&id=35080).
Now, the independent commentator says, the opening of the military cathedral in Moscow shows that those in the Russian establishment who grew up instructed in scientific atheism and with a profoundly negative view of religious belief are approaching religion are acting in exactly the same way.
This shrine was built in record time – only two years in all, Golts notes. And those who promoted its erection did nothing to hide the fact that they intended to they were seeking to create “an ideology of the entire Russian state” rather than establish a place for religious worship and reflection.
The new building has as its God “not Jesus but the state in its present-day form.” That is why it is filled with icons not of religious figures but of rulers who fought for Russia, which is not the same thing at all. The patriarch did refer to God in his speech, but it was more in the way of business than anything else.
In this shrine, as a result, “militarism is triumphing not faith.” No one would go to this place to pray or reflect on what his or her religious belief required. This facility displays complete “emptiness” in this regard, and that is exactly what those behind this church intend visitors to find.
The latter obviously lack “any moral feeling,” Golts say. They bow down to national heroes but not religious ones, although apparently in their ignorance, they do not see “a big difference” between the two.
Other commentators were even more blunt. Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev, a regular critic of the Moscow Patriarchate, says that he noticed the irreligious quality of those who attended the service. “NONE of the people in epaulettes crossed himself,” and they apparently didn’t get what they wanted most, a visit by Putin (credo.press/231508/ and znak.com/2020-06-15/protodiakon_andrey_kuraev_raskritikoval_glavnyy_hram_minoborony_rossii_intervyu_znak_com).
And while in the facility, they didn’t seem to pay any attention to the combination of “communist and Buddhist motifs” in what is supposed to be a Russian Orthodox church, Kurayev says. Indeed, the whole place smacked of some movie spectacle about an otherworldly but not religious place.
Or as yet another observer put it, the whole place was a shrine to Mordor not to Christ and one designed not for prayers to God but for spreading propaganda about the military and aggressive behavior. He doesn’t say, but it seems clear that that is exactly what the Kremlin wants and the Patriarchate is ready to go along with (ehorussia.com/new/node/20982).