Monday, January 30, 2023

Many Russian Orthodox Priests Reject Imperialist View of Patriarchate and the Kremlin and Condemn Putin’s War in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 26 – Because the Kremlin controls most of the media in Russia and because the dangers of dissent are so great, few Russian Orthodox clergy have spoken out against the war and the imperialist vision of Russia that Patriarch Kirill and his entourage accept and promote.

            That has contributed to what has become the received opinion that most of the ROC MP clergy share this view and are even spreading it to their congregations. Some undoubtedly are, but many are not, and their voices are now being heard via the independent Russian Orthodox portal Ahilla as part of its project, “Russia, The Russian Orthodox Church and the War.”

            The portal has sent questions to various Russian Orthodox clergy and laity to learn how they view the war in Ukraine and the slavish support the Moscow Patriarchate continues to give to it, allowing respondents to publish under their own name or anonymously depending on their own desires.

            One of the first to reply is a serving priest who remains in place and chooses to write under the pseudonym, Andrey Svistoplyasov ( Below are some excerpts from his words.   

            “I am a member of the ROC clergy, a free-thinking Orthodox; that is, something of a renewalist, ecumenist, reformer, modernist, and the other curse words” some use for people like himself, he writes. Despite that, he remains at his post believing that there is no real use of leaving and value in trying to promote his views. “By leaving,” he says, “I won’t stop the war.”

            Svistoplayasov joined the church in the 1990s when it was an entirely different organization, not close to the state, “poor and modest.” He became a priest in the early years of this century when Patriarch Aleksii II remained as true to the values of Orthodoxy as best he could.

            With the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill, “everything changed for the worse, especially during 2022.” Indeed, the anonymous priest says, “Kirill has discredited the ROC more than any atheist could.” The current church ruler has turned the ROC intro a branch of the state with its own power vertical where the top decides without caring about the views of anyone else.

            Most priests aren’t going to deviate in public from the position the hierarchy requires, but that doesn’t mean that most agree with it. They are horrified by the war in Ukraine and the way in which it is destroying Orthodox there. After all, no Ukrainian can continue to be a member of a church that calls for the destruction of his or her nation.

            Svistoplyasov says he has no plans to quit his post or to emigrate and that he hopes that Russia “will become free.” But he says that he “fears that this is something that will not happen in the near term” and that recovery will be long and hard for Russians because “the consequences of the insane decisions of rulers always are born on the shoulders of the whole people.”

            “I cannot find words which would ease the suffering of Ukrainians and reduce their hurt and bitterness from losses. The main thing I wish for them now is the most speedy liberation of their lands and then peace.” As for Russians, it is a matter of great pain that Russian soldiers are dying abroad “on the land of others without knowing why.”

            And he concludes: “I wish for Russians that they will leave behind all these insane imperial ideas and pretensions.”

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