Voices from Russia

Thursday, 13 March 2008

How Long Must the People of Alaska Suffer?

Filed under: Alaska,Christian,Orthodox hierarchs,Orthodox life — 01varvara @ 00.00

St Peter the Aleut, martyred by the Catholics in California. He is a fitting symbol for the suffering native Church in Alaska today. The OCA Holy Synod is treating the contemporary native peoples as contemptuously as St Peter was treated by the Franciscans.


You are what you do instinctively. Excellence, therefore, isn’t an action willed. Rather, it’s the disposition of one’s soul.

Captain Nicholas Alexander

Imperial Russian Navy

Dean of Students, Holy Trinity Seminary (Jordanville NY USA)


Firstly, let’s look at the current reportage from Alaska…

Nikolai’s Supporters:

It’s Really All about Money

Bishop Nikolai, his Chancellor Fr Isidore Brittain, and “Anna”, a “humble parishioner”, whose comments were posted on the diocesan website controlled by the Bishop, all offered different reasons yesterday for Nikolai’s troubles… and none of them mentioned the Bishop’s behaviour or actions.

Economic Reasons

In a posting yesterday morning on the diocesan website, “a humble parishioner”, identified only as “Anna”, suggested that the “dissenting” priests’ motives were largely economic. “Anna” wrote:

Instead of being focused on conducting church services primarily, it seems that their own incomes may have been prime concerns. …. I would venture that most of the priests made a habit, as did the ones that I am most familiar with, of pretty much shutting down their church from the end of May until late August in order to do subsistence. They want no responsibilities except to put up fish, berry picking, and moose hunting for the whole period… I really think the timing of their combined requests to the OCA is in the hope that it can all be resolved to their satisfaction so they can go back to having summer and fall off again to pursue commercial and subsistence activities. (Read the posting here)

At an 11.30 (Anchorage time) press conference yesterday morning at the Russian Orthodox Museum, Fr Isidore Brittain echoed the economic theme, but, said the real issue was a fight over “ownership of the diocese’s lands in Alaska”, lands that “generate about $100,000 in income a year”.

The bishop, meanwhile, reiterated he would not step down. The bishop again blamed the Metropolitan of “innovations” accusing “… national church leaders of not following proper church procedures when no formal allegations against him (Nikolai) have been filed.” Both the Bishop and his Chancellor were quoted in a front-page story in the Anchorage Daily News(Read that story here)

St Herman Russian Orthodox Church, Fairbanks AK

Rev Garklavs Responds

In an earlier story, also on the front page of yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News, published under the headline Season of Lent Marred by Orthodox Infighting, Fr Alexander Garklavs, OCA Chancellor and newly appointed Administrator of the Alaskan Diocese, revealed that he“expects to arrive in Alaska next week”. (Read that story here)

Fr Alexander offered a slightly different and expanded version of his plans to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. In an interview with Rev Garklavs published today, reporter Ralph Gibbs wrote:

Garklavs said because Bishop Nikolai is refusing to leave Alaska, he’s not sure when he will come up, but hopes by next week. Until then, he had a message for members of the OCA in Alaska. “Remember that the church is larger than the sum of its parts and therefore the church is larger then the Diocese of Alaska”, he said. “We are very concerned about everybody in Alaska, from Bishop Nikolai to the most recently baptised child, and just as soon as possible, we hope to be there and we hope we can maintain their faith and love at this time”. Garklavs said his appointment is just the first step of the healing process. The investigation into the allegations is another, and while he’s here he will be travelling and listening to members. However, he said that couldn’t begin until the bishop leaves Alaska. (Read that story here)

And, finally, in Syosset, Rev Garklavs posted a pastoral letter to the Diocese of Alaska today, a letter that aimed to encourage the faithful in Alaska. It also contained a warning to Bishop Nikolai. Rev Garklavs wrote:

By the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, on March 4, 2008, His Grace, Bishop Nikolai has been placed on an indefinite Leave of Absence. … The decision of the Holy Synod was done with much care and pastoral concern. A Committee is in the process of being formed, from the members of the Holy Synod, which will thoroughly investigate the situation in Alaska. This method is entirely Scriptural and canonical. Neither guilt nor innocence is prejudged, and ascertaining the truth is the only objective. Unfortunately, Bishop Nikolai is openly defying the Holy Synod and thus placing himself into a critical situation that may have serious canonical repercussions.

In the conclusion of his letter, Rev Garklavs announced that he “hopes to be able to convene the clergy of the Diocese of Alaska in the nearest future”. (Read his letter here)

Given the Bishop’s continuing, and increasingly public, intransigence, if Fr Alexander is serious about not visiting Alaska until the Bishop leaves, he may remain in New York, and the clergy of Alaska left waiting, for the near future.

Mark Stokoe

Orthodox Christians for Accountability



Let’s take care of the “silly stuff” first to clear it away. “Anna” obviously knows nothing of Alaska rural life. I don’t, so, I asked a friend who has been there. The priests have to engage in subsistence activities in the short summer so that their families can eat over the long and bitter winter. That is an unpleasant fact, and has been such from time immemorial. There are no supermarkets to go to, and many of the villages are so isolated that you can only reach them by airplane in good weather. This complaint is without foundation, and is obviously raised by a “Lower 48er”.

The income from the real estate owned by the Church goes directly into the bishop’s coffers. The native priests and faithful not only have no say in the disposition of the earnings, it is apparent from reports that little, if any, of the money is used for the local needs of rural Alaska parishes. The same reports speak of Nikolai’s fancy new vestments… hmm… is Fr Isidore afraid that the money shall go for its proper purpose? Another non-starter, I say.

Nikolai’s contention that proper church procedures are not being followed is ludicrous. In both recent cases of an episcopal investigation in the MP, the bishop involved was asked to step down whilst the investigation was underway. Apparently, Nikolai knows of canons unknown at the MDA or SPDA. He should quote them so that proper canonists (of which, I am not one) can determine his cause.

Nonetheless, the true “piece of work” in all of this is Rev Fr Alexander Garklavs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, no one person can combine being Chancellor of the OCA and Administrator of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska. It is physically impossible. There is no way that Rev Garklavs can carry out both responsibilities simultaneously. Therefore, since I believe that Fr Alexander did not initiate this posting, the Holy Synod of the OCA proved its utter detachment from reality by this appointment. In contrast, when there was a crisis in the Diocese of Sourozh (England) in 2006, the MP appointed Archbishop Innokenty Vasiliev of Paris as Administrator. He was on the scene, he was familiar with the principals involved, and it would not be costly or time-consuming for him to go personally to England “to see things for himself”. The OCA Holy Synod did not do likewise.

Has Syosset taken leave of its senses? It appears as though Syosset/SVS is not interested in finding the truth. Unfortunately, some of Fr Alexander’s recent statements are condescending in the extreme and they are not going to help solve the problem, indeed, he may have thrown petrol on the fire with them. Remember that the church is larger than the sum of its parts and, therefore, the church is larger then the Diocese of Alaska… We are very concerned about everybody in Alaska, from Bishop Nikolai to the most recently baptised child, and just as soon as possible, we hope to be there, and we hope we can maintain their faith and love at this time…

Two of our lovely Orthodox girls from Alaska

This is nothing more than the Great White Father telling the Little Brown Brothers that he, and not they, knows the actual import of the situation, and that they should be “patient” whilst their betters take care of the situation.

This is utter rot. What kind of weed was Rev Garklavs smoking? My friend from Alaska said that it would not play well, especially not with the Tlingit people (of whom she has some knowledge), who, apparently, have a warrior culture (I stand under correction in this). The native elders are being addressed as children, which is a grave error. Fr Alexander should have said, “I don’t know the situation in Alaska. I am going immediately, and I hope that the local Alaskans shall help me to understand what to do”. That is what I would say, for I know next to nil of the local mores and culture, and I would require much help to comprehend it all.

The arrogance and hubris of Rev Garklavs is breathtaking. It is time for all from the “Lower 48” to step back and allow the locals to take care of things. Let a diocesan assembly be called, with the sole purpose of giving advice to the metropolitan on who is a suitable candidate for ordinary of the Alaska diocese. Nikolai has lost all standing, and he must leave, for no one has any trust in him, and no amount of psychobabble from Syosset can change it.

To restore trust, the same sort of commission must be empanelled in Alaska as was convened in England in 2006. In England, the panel consisted of Vladyki Innokenty (the administrator of the diocese), two DECR archpriests, and Archbishop Mark Arndt of Berlin of the ROCOR (an impartial auditor, a very good idea, indeed!). All meetings of the commission were in public venues, they received ample and wide publicity, and all the faithful were welcome to speak and give their version of events. Oh, yes… the results of the investigation were published on the internet (both on official and commercial websites), some 100 days after the crisis erupted.

Ice Sculpture at St Herman Russian Orthodox Church, Fairbanks AK

Believe me; the faithful in Alaska would come forward. They would give their evidence, the information would be collated, and a report would be issued in short order. The boil would be lanced, the infection would be released, and the diocese would heal. I shall be brutally frank. The chances of this happening are nil. Not “next to nil”, NIL.

That is because Syosset has a juridical and legalistic mindset. It sees things in a “legal” sense. In fact, the so-called “Brum Doctrine” is an open adoption of papist ecclesiology on the part of Syosset. On the other hand, the problems in England and Yekaterinburg were handled in a “churchly” (I am thinking of the Russian word tserkovnost here) way. They illustrated sobornost in action. The hierarchs, clergy, and faithful all played their proper and traditional parts, and I must say that the lawyers played NO role in the proceedings.

It is well for us to notice that because a traditional path was taken, there is no longer any problem in either diocese. Yekaterinburg now has one of the most respected hierarchs in the Church, Archbishop Vikenty Morar, as its leader. It is one of the most vibrant dioceses in the MP, and Vladyki Vikenty is considered one of the most favoured candidates to succeed Aleksei Mikhailovich as patriarch. In England, the schismatic Osborne was only able to take some 9 clerics and 300 faithful into schism with him. Because the hierarchy attended to the infection of Osborne’s rebellion and schism promptly and openly, the diocese is healing. That is what happens when the hierarchy treats the faithful honestly and uses above-board procedures.

This crisis hit the OCA in October 2005, which means that it has been lingering for some 29 months. Such behaviour is an indication that the OCA Holy Synod is laggardly, dawdling, and shirking its duty. Its bishops are not only slowcoaches, they are slackers. The MP solved an analogous crisis in 100 days… the OCA has not reached a resolution in nearly three years… which do YOU say is the good tree?

Vara Drezhlo

Thursday 13 March 2008


The Catholicos and Patriarch of All Georgia, Elias II, may name the new King of Georgia in the very near future


His Holiness and Beatitude Elias II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, First Hierarch of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church

With increasing numbers of Russians looking forward to the restoration of an authentic Russian Orthodox (and not German Lutheran, as was the case in Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania) Monarchy, the following news has arrived from Georgia.

In his traditional Sunday sermon a few months ago, the Catholicos and Patriarch of Georgia, Elias II, spoke of the vital need for the rebirth of the monarchy in Georgia, but, did not name a specific date for this process to begin. In Georgia, his words were taken to indicate a distant prospect. However, in today’s issue of the Georgian newspaper All the News, the Rector of the Church of the Holy Cross, Archpriest Tariel Sakinchilashvili, has stated that the Patriarch will name and bless the Georgian monarch in the very near future.

“He appeared on earth thirty years ago, when our Patriarch was enthroned”, said Fr Tariel. “I am convinced that Georgia will discover the name of its monarch this year. At first, many will be amazed, public opinion may be divided, but, in the course of about three years, everything will take shape”.

“It can be supposed that the present authorities do not desire to see the rebirth of the monarchy, however, there is a readiness for such a turn of events among State organisations”.

“The Lord’s Anointed is among us now; he became thirty when the Patriarch announced that the rebirth of the monarchy was vital. Obviously, he is a representative of the Bagration royal family and an Orthodox Christian”. Fr Tariel declined to say whether the future monarch was born in Georgia or abroad. However, he insisted that very soon Georgia will no longer have a President, but a King, and that this will happen not through revolution and violence, but by the will of God.


15/28 February 2008

Orthodox England


Editor’s note:

If true, and, God willing, it is, this is great news for all Orthodox Christians. Our theology is more biased towards the traditional forms of government, not self-centred and hedonistic contemporary “democracy”, which is more a form of nihilism than anything else. If Georgia restores a God-anointed monarchy, the chances of Russia following suit are very high, indeed.

Monarchy does not rule out an elected legislature or prime minister, as the example of such people as Graf Witte and Graf Stolypin in Russia prove abundantly. It does rule out an electoral circus for the head of state, which is a very good thing. We should not forget that the communists glorified the American Revolution, for it overthrew an anointed king. A president lacks the theological and ontological “presence” of a king, and countries relying on such can degenerate into immoral and standard-less depravity, as the example of contemporary America proves abundantly.


Lenten menu is popular in the Kremlin canteens

Filed under: Christian,church in society,domestic life,Orthodox life,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Cabbage soup… the Russian staff of life… shchi i kasha, pishcha nasha… kasha and schi, that’s for me! Ask any Russkie about boiled potatoes and stewed prunes… now, THAT’S Lenten!

The Kremlin canteens now offer about 50 fasting dishes, as Lent started on Monday. “The menu varies every day and includes six or seven Lenten dishes, various snacks, vegetable and mushroom soups, and second courses”, Viktor Khrekov, the Presidential administration spokesman, told Interfax-Religion.Visitors can select sour cabbage salad with sweet pepper, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers tossed with a garlic dressing, Russian sour cabbage soup, potato cakes with vegetables and mushrooms, parboiled carrots with green peas, kissel, compotes, and fruit drinks. He said the recipes were worked out by cooks from the Kremliovsky catering complex and approved by Orthodox clerics. “15 to 20 percent of visitors select Lenten dishes. Their popularity is evident”, Mr Khrekov added. He relates that almost the same menu shall be offered at government, State Duma, and Council of Federation catering complexes.

11 March 2008



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