Voices from Russia

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Sysoev Case Distorted on OrthodoxNet.com… or, Why I Make Fresh Translations From the Russian

Filed under: Christian,internet,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00

Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009) with young parishioners


I was very saddened to see a post on a website on OrthodoxNet.com. The title was Orthodox Priest Who Converted Muslims Murdered in Russia. I wondered, “How could anyone distort the facts so?” I followed the link and found that it directed me to an article in English on RIA-Novosti. There was no background detail in the piece, and there was nothing on the context of the crime. Unfortunately, I’ve found that English translations from Russian on the web are often inadequate (often, they’re over-literal, resulting in a loss of meaning). When you add to that problem the confusion that results because of ignorance of the Russian situation… well, you can see my point.

Firstly, one always goes to a Russian original and makes a fresh translation. It’s the only way to get the whole story. They don’t translate most of the “good stuff”… all too often, only “fluffy” material is “Englished” (a notable exception in this is Voice of Russia World Service, but, I always check the Russian original… it’s often a little different in emphasis… the English is often “dumbed down”). For instance, Interfax translated four articles into English… I utilised 22 articles in Russian for my translations. That’s quite a difference, and a LARGE difference in detail. I must add that there was much more that I read in Russian that I did not translate because it was redundant, and only backed what I had translated.

Secondly, the context to the crime was missing. There has been a problem with terrorist attacks on clergymen; in fact, the majority of the victims have been Muslims. Most of these assaults have been in the Northern Caucasus… but, not all of them. Many of my Russian friends believe that some of these killings have foreign connections… but, not Muslim ones! As one friend of mine wrote, “The Americans want to set the Muslims and Orthodox at each others’ throats”. If one reflects on the links of the CIA with the thuggish SBU goons of Yushchenko (they beat up Fr Dmitri Sidor, a Carpatho-Russian Orthodox activist), this is not lunatic maundering; it is all too probable in some cases. Add to that the fact that the USA is up to its ears in the deep kimchi in Georgia… I needn’t go any farther, must I? Fr Daniil’s work was not merely with Muslims… indeed, that was only part of his ministry. He was a parish priest, worked with counterculture youth, preached amongst the students, and he was active in the Orthodox section of Nashi. To focus on the Muslim aspect was unfortunate.

Thirdly, Americans have no idea how big a “story” this is in Russia. For example, when I was at the funeral for Vladyki Laurus in Jordanville, there were Russian TV crews present and they were televising live from the scene. These were not “religious” stations… they were from Vesti and Pervy Kanal… “regular” secular TV. In short, this was on the Russian equivalent of CNN (reflect on the fact that Russian secular TV has been to Jordanville more than once and NEVER once to televise the poseurs at SVS… interesting, no?). That is also true with this, as Fr Daniil was a prominent public figure in Russia. He was a friend of such people as Fr Vsevolod Chaplin and Bishop Mark Golovkov… no small beer, either one! Was Fr Daniil a “celebrity?” Perhaps… but, I don’t think that publicity, of itself, is evil… it’s how one uses it. He was on TV often enough and he wrote prolifically. Of course, TV is covering it… wouldn’t the American media cover it if someone like Billy Graham were murdered? They would!

Lastly, most Americans lack a historical framework… ergo, an event is seen as an isolated incident, when we really must view it as part of a living entity. It’s why I don’t comment much on the Greek Church… I’m not Greek and I lack the knowledge necessary to make a reasonable argument on many Greek topics. It’s why I reject the so-called “pan-Orthodox” lunacy thoroughly and absolutely, by the way… there’s no such thing… there shall not be “unity in our time” (Paffhausen was unbalanced to state such… and in front of OCL, a bunch of rebellious pirates). Of course, Greek or Arab priests are priests and one can receive the sacraments… but that doesn’t erase the very real differences between “Greek” and “Russian” Orthodoxy. When one knows the historical context, one can say that we have a chance of uniting “Russian” Orthodoxy in this country in our time, but, nothing else, I’m afraid. It is the same with the Sysoev case. There’s a real and long history of interaction between Orthodox and Muslims in Russia. It goes back to the conquest of Kazan in the 16th century by Ivan Grozny. Most Americans are unaware of this and make incorrect conclusions as a result.

To wrap it all up… Fr Daniil Sysoev wasn’t “killed by Muslims”. He wasn’t “killed for converting Muslims”. Either an unbalanced individual or a criminal under contract to a foreign special service (that’s how it’s done, for the purposes of “deniability”) killed him. It’s not so “neat”… but, that’s probably what happened. Pray for the soul of Fr Daniil and pray that they catch his killer and that the court gives ‘em the max (the Butyrki is no rest home or Club Med)… it’s the only Christian thing to do.


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