Staunton, Sept. 13 – On the 80th anniversary of the date when Stalin permitted the election of Sergey as patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1943, his successor, Patriarch Kirill, implied that Sergey deserves credit not only for saving the church but also for saving the Soviet Union.
Kirill’s words are likely to be read by many as an apologia pro sua vita and a justification for his own slavish support of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Consequently, they deserve to be quoted more fully because of what they say about the direct continuation between the ROC MP under Stalin and its position under Putin (patriarchia.ru/db/text/6057619.html).
The key passage in Kirill’s remarks is as follows:
“This turning point in the relationship between the Church and the state occurred during the war, when I.V. Stalin eventually realized the enormous spiritual and patriotic role of the Russian Orthodox Church and realized that largely thanks to the patriotic position of our Church, what could have happened if the Church had entered into blind opposition to the authorities, especially in the occupied territories, did not happen.
“It is difficult to imagine how our people would have behaved if the Church had called them to fight the godless government of that time. But the Church did not do this - everything was aimed at preserving the Orthodox faith in our country and, of course, overcoming the alienation that took place between the authorities and the Church.”
Aleksandr Soldatov, who now writes as an observer for Novaya Gazeta, refers to this speed in an article describing the way in which Stalin and the Soviet security services played a key role in taking control of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church and how that role has continued to this day (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2023/09/11/rpts-gb).
“The classic narrative,” Soldatov writes, “that ‘Sergey saved the church (and where in all this was Christ?) has now been expanded to include the thesis that he also saved the USSR.” Consequently, the current patriarch is a worthy or at least perfect successor of the head of the church Stalin imposed.