RUSSIA, PUTIN AND CHRISTIAN VALUES
How has the faithful city become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers…
The Sunday of All Saints of Russia is a good time to meditate on the contrast between the past glories and present degradation of this, the most important of Christian countries. Indeed, the contrast between pre- and post-1917 Russia is difficult to exaggerate. By far the greatest right-believing empire in history, Russia before the revolution stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and had the fastest-growing population and fastest-developing economy in the world. Her armies, led by probably the finest man ever to sit on a throne from a moral point of view, protected one hundred million Orthodox believers within her own frontiers, and many millions more in the Balkans and the Middle East, while warding off revolution in the West. Within her frontiers she nourished great ascetics and saints, such as the elders of Optina and Valaam and St. John of Kronstadt; and she sent many missions led by holy men to foreign lands such as Persia, China, Japan, Alaska and the mainland United States.
After the revolution, by contrast, Soviet Russia exported, not true faith and morality, but militant atheism, lies and murder on a vast scale. No regime in history has directly murdered so many of its own citizens, and indirectly the citizens of so many other countries around the world. The only consolation and hope in the midst of this unparalleled evil and misery was the vast choir of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who from Priest John Kochurov of Chicago to James Arkatov of the Altai lit up the blackness of communism with the heavenly light of true sanctity.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, millions ardently hoped that the longed-for reversal, the resurrection of Holy Russia prophesied by several of the holy elders, was at hand. But then came the bitterest disillusion of all: after a democratic interregnum during the 1990s, the Soviet Union was born again on January 1, 2000 with the coming to power of the KGB colonel, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Gradually at first (so as not to elicit too much unwelcome attention), but then more confidently and aggressively, both the symbols and the reality of Soviet power, laced with liberal lashings of Nazi-style fascism, have taken centre-stage once more.
But with an important difference, a difference that has blinded the eyes and lulled the consciences of many Orthodox Christians: Putin claims to be the successor, not only of Stalin (whom he openly admires), but also of Tsar Nicholas II (although he recently called him “bloody Nicholas” out of ingrained habit). Out has gone the ideological apparatus of Leninist Marxism, and in has come Orthodox Christianity. And he has even claimed to be restoring “Christian values” to Russia by contrast with the decadent West…
This holier-than-thou propaganda campaign began in about 2006, at about the time, as we now know, that he was preparing his invasion of Georgia. It intensified during the recent Kievan counter-revolution. And it is reaching an hysterical peak now, when Russia has annexed Crimea and is destabilizing Eastern Ukraine.
The underlying pattern seems clear: when Putin realizes that he is about to lose favour with the West because of some imminent aggressive foreign policy move, he attempts to sow division among western intellectuals by eliciting those pro-Soviet and anti-American sentiments that have never been far beneath the surface of western life since at least the 1930s. This is an old trick used very effectively by Stalin – although he, unlike his admirer Putin, never claimed to be restoring Christian values! However, as we shall see, it is hypocritical to a supreme degree. Moreover, while the pro-gay propaganda of the West is indeed a very serious threat to the salvation of those living in the West, especially the school-age generation, supporting Putin can in no way be described as any kind of deliverance from it. On the contrary, supporting one evil against another is simply jumping from the frying pan into the fire…
At the Valdai forum in 2013 Putin said: We see that many Euro-Atlantic countries have de facto gone down the path of the rejection of… Christian values. Moral principles are being denied… What could be a greater witness of the moral crisis of the human socium than the loss of the capacity for self-reproduction. But today practically all developed countries can no longer reproduce themselves. Without the values laid down in Christianity and other world religions, without the norms of ethics and morality formed in the course of millennia, people inevitably lose their human dignity. And we consider it natural and right to defend these values.”
The strange thing about this statement is that Putin seems entirely unconscious of the fact that with regard to the “Christian value” that he cites here, “self-reproduction”, Russia performs worse than any western country. Thus even after taking migration into account, the twenty-eight countries of the European Union have a natural growth in population that is twice as high as Russia’s! And if he is referring not to the balance between the birth rate and the death rate, but to homosexuality as a factor that by definition inhibits reproduction, then the situation is little better in Russia than in the West. For in spite of Putin’s much-vaunted ban on pro-gay propaganda to minors, the vice remains legal among adults, and even flourishing in places from which it should have been banished first of all. Thus among the three hundred bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, 50 according to one estimate (Fr. Andrei Kuraev) and 250 according to another (Fr. Gleb Yakunin) are homosexuals…
The Lord said: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12.1). In relation to no other sin is the Lord as fierce as in relation to hypocrisy, and His contest with the Pharisees was the most critical of His life; it led literally to His death. Pharisaism is bad enough in the individual, alienating him completely from the life in Christ. It is even more dangerous when it seizes hold upon a whole people that has, or once had, the knowledge of God, and which then, in combination with the passions of hatred, resentment, wounded pride and xenophobic nationalism, exposes Orthodoxy to ridicule or disgust among the non-Orthodox nations. “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you”, said the Prophet to the Jews when they were still the people of God (Ezekiel 16.27); and these words were echoed by the Apostle Paul in reference to the Jews of his time, when they had already fallen away (Romans 2.21).
The same is true of contemporary neo-Soviet and neo-Fascist Russia, led by the Russian equivalents of Annas and Caiaphas, Putin and Gundiaev (the “Patriarch” of Moscow), whose Sanhedrin, the KGB, now controls Russian life more completely than at any time since 1917…
Under the watch of these self-proclaimed guardians of Christian morality – both are dollar billionaires many times over, Putin mainly from the proceeds of oil and gas companies (some of them, like Yukos, stolen from their owners), and Gundiaev from the tax-free import of alcohol and tobacco – Russia, according to United Nations statistics cited by Vladimir Ruscher, occupies the following positions in the world league tables:
1st in suicides of adults, children and adolescents;
1st in numbers of children born out of wedlock;
1st in children abandoned by parents;
1st in absolute decline in population;
1st in consumption of spirits and spirit-based drinks;
1st in consumption of strong alcohol;
1st in tobacco sales;
1st in deaths from alcohol and tobacco;
1st in deaths from cardiovascular diseases;
2nd in fake medicine sales;
1st in heroin consumption (21st in world production).
These statistics show that Russia, far from leading the world in the practice of Christian virtue, is perhaps the most corrupt country of all. As regards general criminality, theft, corruption and murder (including abortion), Russia is very near the top of the league, and this not least because the government itself has taken the lead in these activities, making Russia into a mafia state run by and for a small clique of fantastically rich criminals. Thus the general picture is one of extreme moral degradation.
No nation in such a catastrophic state should preach morality to others…
However, many Christians, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, are unfazed by such revelations. The important thing for them is that, whatever her citizens practise, Russia, unlike the West, preaches Christian morality. Hence the support given to Putin even by conservative American evangelicals such as Pat Buchanan. “We have to give him a chance,” is the view. And if he succeeds, then Christianity as a whole is the winner…
But this is a deeply mistaken and naïve point of view; for we have to ask ourselves, first: the chance to do what? The chance to transform the neo-Soviet and neo-Fascist Russia of today into the truly Orthodox Russia of tomorrow? But only someone in complete ignorance of Putin and his regime can believe such a myth. Can we really believe that Putin is like the Apostle Paul, and that after working all his life for Sovietism (he calls the fall of the Soviet Union “a geo-political tragedy”), he has had a Damascus experience and is now working to undo the terrible things he has already done to the country and recreate Holy Russia like a new St. Constantine? Everything we know about him and his regime militates against such a view. As Putin himself once said, “once a chekist [KGB agent], always a chekist”. And while there have been KGB agents who have repented of their sins, Putin is not one of them, and the penitent agents do not count him as one of their own…
More fundamentally, however, this argument fails to appreciate the principle that God does not accept the praises of sinners, nor truth from the mouths of liars. The Lord strictly forbade the demons who confessed that He was the Son of God. And St. Paul similarly forbade the girl possessed with a Pythonic spirit who confessed, truthfully, that he was a servant of the Most High God (Acts 16.18). For truth uttered from lying lips only increases the credibility of the lying source, thereby increasing the overall deception. That is why we pray: “Let not the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee, which maketh mischief in the name of the law” (Psalm 93.20). Putin is trying to make his “throne of iniquity” have the appearance of being in fellowship with God. And he “maketh mischief in the name of the law”, pursuing antichristian ends by putting himself up as a defender of Christian law.
Archimandrite Cyril Zaitsev of Jordanville once remarked that the most terrible aspect of the Soviet yoke was not the open atheism, the mass murder of millions of believers and the destruction of churches, but the attempt to clothe all this horror and blasphemy in the guise of Christianity. He was thinking in particular of the Moscow Patriarchate, controlled since 1927 by the KGB and now headed by Agent “Mihailov”, Patriarch Cyril (Gundiaiev). Boris Talantov, who died in a Kirov prison in 1972, called the MP an “agent of worldwide antichristianity”.
What we are witnessing now is the spreading of this “communist Christianity” from the official church to other sections of society. Many atheists in Russia now count themselves as “Orthodox”, which shows that “Orthodoxy” tends to be a marker of nationality rather than religion. In Eastern Ukraine the Russian separatists are combining the cross with the hammer and sickle on the same banner, which is equivalent to worshipping Christ and Satan simultaneously. In February a “Russian Orthodox Army” began to be recruited in Eastern Ukraine – it now has 4000 soldiers – whose attitude to the Soviet Union is extremely positive. All this demonstrates that most Russians today – of course, there are always distinguished exceptions – are going backwards spiritually; the Soviet demon has not been exorcised; on the contrary, it is manifesting itself with exceptional vigour, because it knows that “it has only a little time left”…
The real struggle today is not between Russians and Ukrainians, or Russia and the West, but between the real, Orthodox Russia and a resurgent Soviet Russia, possessed by the demon of “communist Christianity”. That old struggle is not yet over; the evil empire is fighting back. And until victory has been achieved over it, there can be no real hope for victory for Orthodoxy anywhere else…
June 7/20, 2014.
New Hieromartyr Andronicus, Archbishop of Perm.