Wherever the author uses the word “Liberal”, he uses it its proper, 19th century, sense. That is, it stands for a radical anti-statist, individualist, laissez faire Free Market, “conservative” ideology. In other words, “Liberal” stands for the extremist Corporatist/Globalist agenda of the current US Republican Party (or the British/Canadian Conservative Party). This means that Professor Svetozarsky opposes the Radical Rightwing politics of Victor Potapov, Rod Dreher, John Whiteford, and Jonas Paffhausen. Professor Svetozarsky speaks the Mind of the Church, in accordance with His Holiness… what does that tell us about the others I just named?
I’ve acquainted myself with the abstracts of Sergei Chapnin’s thesis, Church, Culture, and Russian Nationalism (Церковь, культура, и русский национализм), presented on 9 April 2011 at the Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. This forum attracts many influential people; they discussed, “How can we improve Russia?” One of the clear warnings was, “If our country doesn’t form a real cultural policy internally, it’ll be imposed by outside forces”. “Foreigners will ‘help us’”, O. Bender said, and, “It wouldn’t be hard to fit into a globalised society”. Well, yes, of course. It’s a no-brainer, it’s clear to everyone. Would they impose it using NATO bombers? I understand that, before we reach such a point, there’s an urgent need to get rid of the vestiges of the Soviet past. We must undertake a decisive and uncompromising break with the worst of the Soviet era. However, here’s the problem… here’s our nightmare… we’ve gone nowhere, “everything has remained Soviet or, more accurately, post-Soviet”. Besides, we don’t need a “frozen” post-Soviet reality; we need something actively alive. What can we do? The reality doesn’t tally with the concept, that’s obvious.
Recently, here’s something that happened to me. I stood on line for the chalice on Holy Thursday. Amongst those waiting to receive the Holy Mysteries was a man to whom my attention was strongly drawn… a powerful figure, with a striking demeanour, bearing on the lapel of his jacket a small, barely visible, pin with a well-known emblem. The “Sword and Shield”… everyone in our country knows what they mean. He was focused and reverent. I somehow thought that, under different circumstances, in his circle of close associates, he’s proud of the title “Chekist” (security officer), and of Chekist traditions, and so on. He finds meaning in all of that, but, here, in church, on the day when we commemorate the establishment of the Eucharist, we both proceeded to a single chalice, and we both partook of the one Bread. I’m not being treacly, nor am I being overly saccharine, nor am I issuing a call for mercy. I’m just saying that this is an image of our time. How many such images are around us? Both imperial and Soviet images live in our collective consciousness, although Chapnin posits, “We’re in a post-imperial state”. Such is our matrix. Imperialism is our modus vivendi. This isn’t ambition, and this isn’t nationalism, rather, it’s a measure of our responsibility for the fate of our country and our people, and, what’s more, of its readiness to help others. Go to Ossetia, and there you quickly find out from the locals the meaning of why Russian soldiers are there, and what “Great Russia” means.
An imperial outlook requires much effort, sacrifice, and austerity. That’s how we lived for a millennium. That’s an objective reality. We’ve been an uncompromising lot ever since we’ve emerged from the primeval forest. That’s an objective reality, too. Precisely, because we haven’t lost this spirit, we’re ready to fight the bandits in the North Caucasus; we treat our sick and we teach our kids, getting mere peanuts for truly resolute work. Our country priests from provincial Great Russia may be objectively poor, but they also unite the believers around them, they breathe in the incense, building living and functional parishes. If you travel enough around Russia, you find a positive image of our Motherland in the people, and, although our higher or pop culture doesn’t reflect them, it clearly stands out in reality.
When he laments, “We don’t like ourselves, therefore, we don’t respect each other”, and, therefore, we can’t “pretend to please others”, Chapnin proceeds to a synopsis of his main theme, which relates to original “know-how”. We turn to others, and our first question is, “Do I love you/Do I love you not?” I can’t name a single people where such a question would puzzle their intellectual élite. This is a specifically modern phenomenon. Like/dislike, spit/kiss. All of this is airy-fairy. None of these categories relate to real-world politics. However, in this world, we “love” the strong; we bow before those who’re able to defend their own interests.
Now, let’s get down to the main point… Victory Day and secular shrines. The disappointment of Chapnin’s submission is clear… there’s been twenty years of struggle… but they’ve only worn themselves down in that struggle. The “wrongheaded post-Soviet” people (I mean our people, not the “electorate”, not the “population”, not the “mob”) prefer a real celebration of our victory, they decry the historical bankruptcy of Vlasov, they prefer to remember Marshal Zhukov, and they don’t want to equate Stalin with Hitler. They don’t do so out of a sense of injured national pride, or an awakening of the instinct of self-preservation. These twenty years weren’t wasted. It was a time to reflect and look at the evidence. The people don’t believe you, gentlemen Liberals. They DON’T believe you. In the eyes of millions of people, you’re nothing but grinning marionettes and harlequins, covering over your robbery, treason, kickbacks, graft, monstrous thefts, and power-hungry cynicism with an ideological smokescreen… you represent everything that’s hateful to us in the contemporary Russian reality. You can, of course, try to scare us with talk of “nationalism” and try to seduce us with plans for the future, but isn’t it better to sit and yak on some Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, were everyone thinks alike, where they’re so screwed up that absolutely nothing happens? It’ll be fiasco leading catastrophe. You’ll draft papers on “Vlasov”, “Rzhev”, and the “Repressions”, and so forth, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’re not here to talk about our Russian ancestors. We have to be very honest with ourselves. We should remember that the gentlemen of the Liberal camp, who had a monopoly on the informational space in our country at one time, always related to our history as defeatists, much more than the Bolsheviks did in 1904-05 and in 1914-17. They’ve always used lies, verbal gymnastics, and distortion of facts. However, knowing our Liberals, I can say with confidence that you can’t have a dialogue with them. These guys are inwardly enslaved. They have many ideological and partisan prejudices; they’re shackled by their “principles” and “pragmatism”.
Here are our REAL heroes… not the Baltic legionnaires, not the Vlasovtsy, and not the UPA bandits…
Instead, “civil religion” will be the new centrepiece of their puppet theatre; it’s their new plaything. However, as with all new things… well, let’s forget all the things in the past. The late Professor Dunaev of the Moscow Theological Academy once told me about a priest who, in the 70s, calculated the distance at which Orthodox can safely walk from the Lenin Mausoleum. Besides that, an elderly Archimandrite talked about how, as a child in a village in Ryazan Oblast, adults and children spelled the word “Lenin” using 15 matches, and that it took the same number of matches to form “666”, the Number of the Beast. Those who don’t believe me can see for themselves. You see something similar in the passages where Chapnin cites the ominous symbolism of fire, spewing out stars whilst lying on the ground. All of this has happened. It’s nothing but a scarecrow… it’s just stars and lights. Yet, we lay wreaths on the graves, a bit of brightness to keep the dead in their graves. Somehow… it’s all contrived. Yes, if you want a horror story, read Bezhin Meadow by Ivan Turgenev. Be sure to do it soon, to reflect on Chapnin’s April Theses.
By the way, one of the clergy started the accusation, “Our children worship the satanic pentagram”. Well, what can cause such statements? On the practical level, the effect will be negligible, but it’ll be unpleasant. On 9 May, as per usual, the Russian people will come together to remember the fallen and to remember the Russian victory, they’ll lay down their flowers, they’ll stand in a moment of silence, then, suddenly, some pea-brain from the “enlightened church” set will yell, “It’s a sin to honour the Eternal Fire. Fr so-and-so said so!” Such priests should be ashamed of themselves… attacking something that can be godly! The media would play it up, to be sure. I think that this doesn’t please Chapnin himself, for that matter. It’s a pity that talk about “disastrous civil religion” has become another excuse to attack the Church. So why give encouragement to those who seek a pretext to attack us? The position of the Church on this issue is very clear and consistent regarding the events that started on 22 June 1941. On Victory Day, we serve thanksgiving moliebens for our victory, and we serve Pannikhidas for those who fell in battle, were tortured by the Nazis, or who died of starvation and exhaustion.
Another thing is that we have religious subcultures in our parishes, and that Chapnin’s thesis ought to mention that. However, he seems not to have mentioned this aspect at all. He forgot about it, I guess. Some of these groups are rather small, but they’re noticeable and grab media attention. The Liberal faction plays up the extremist politics of some church groups, and constantly strives to make out that their political views and their vision of the church and society is the general outlook of the Church at large. After all, strange revelations from people in cassocks or pious laymen aren’t a surprise to us anymore; you see them posted all over the internet. Well, what can we do? We’ve got to deal with this phenomenon. Firstly, let’s see what’s there. We should sort out who’s doing this stuff. The classification of religious subcultures is still unclear and extremely vague, although I really enjoy digging in and finding their underlying characteristics. If you talk with “Tikhonites”, who, consistently, refuse to use anything “Soviet”, you can feel that serious-seeming adults receive much positive emotional reinforcement from this game. However, there are many different sorts of people in these subcultures, with very different beliefs and dispositions.
Of course, there are secular “shrines”. The words “sanctuary”, “holy”, and “sacred” have different meanings in everyday colloquial speech. Nevertheless, at the same time, everybody understands the nuances of what they convey, and they see “shrines” as something sacred and sublime, something that’s of far greater worth than ordinary run-of-the-mill things, as well as being something that one shouldn’t defile. Just think… the “holy” baby’s cradle… our “holy” parents’ graves… and “holy” love and true friendship. For soldiers, their rituals and banners are “holy”. That goes for “holy” secular memorials, too; they’re civil shrines. Are those who come to the Eternal Flame with a sense of grateful remembrance of the fallen, who, by the way, fell “for their friends”, worshipping it? This is an obvious and dismal distortion of the facts…
19 May 2011
Professor Moscow Theological Academy
The dispute in Russia over whether the celebration of Victory Day is licit for Christians has turned into a real Slavophil vs Zapadnik food-fight. It’s not settling down… it’s getting more down and dirty with each passing day. The Church is solidly behind the Slavophil faction… where shall that leave Zapadnik fanatics such as the Blunder? One result is that it’ll magnify the role of Vsevolod Chaplin and Mark Golovkov… I don’t think that KMG is ready to deep-six the Blunder just yet (no doubt, he’s giving him a chance to mend his ways… shall he, though?).
Don’t forget… SVS is deeply enmeshed in Zapadnik syncretism (Hatfield did accept an “honorary degree” from his heterodox alma mater, after all (a very odd act for a convert, no?))… ADS brought that with him from St Sergius in Paris. If the Slavophil faction wins this dispute… and there’s good chance of that, as Vsevolod Anatolyevich came out with a public statement very close to the one made by Professor Svetozarsky… that’s not “good news” for SVS. Neither will it be “good news” for Potapov and JP… they’d have to choose between taking a public stand with the American rightwing Neoliberals, or, standing with the Church. If they chose to side with the Church… they’d be shunned by their American rightwing pals… if they chose to line up with the rightwing nutters… they’d run the risk of alienating KMG… not an enviable choice, is it?
This is turning into THE story from the Centre… and note well that SVS, Stokoe, the Larina/Psaryov duo, and Dreher don’t tell you about it… interesting, isn’t it? None dare call it “censorship”…
This will determine the Church’s course for the rest of His Nib’s reign… yes, kids, it’s THAT serious. Note well that the Church DOESN’T condemn socialism or the Great Victory… keep that in mind the next time you hear rightwing rants from JP, Potapov, Dreher, or any of the others (and keep in mind Professor Svetozarsky’s stinging contempt of their ideology).