Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Russian Army Instituted the Post of Assistant to the Commander for Religious Work

On 1 December, the RF Armed Forces introduced the post of Assistant to the Commander (of a military unit) for Religious Work. Clergy would be appointed to fill this role, but, they would technically remain civilians, said Colonel Igor Sergienko, the head of the Section for Patriotic Education and Liaison with Community Associations of the General Directorate of Educational Work of the Armed Forces, at hearings Wednesday that focused on the topic of religion in the forces held by the Commission of the RF Public Chamber. He said that clergy would report directly to the unit commander, they would work in accordance with the daily routine of a military unit, and they would act as spiritual fathers of believers only when the troops were off duty, according to regulations concerning the armed forces.

In an interview with our Interfax correspondent, Colonel Sergienko noted that the first group of Orthodox clergy appointed to this post should be with the troops by the end of December. Nine of the 13 priests involved shall receive postings to units at Russian military bases abroad, and the remaining four will work with units in the North Caucasus Military District. According to Colonel Sergienko, the implementation of the institution of military clergy will be in full force in 2010. “In the second phase of the introduction, which begins on 1 January 2010, priests of the MP will serve in all units of the Armed Forces down to brigade level inclusive, and would act as spiritual advisors to soldiers of other religions such as Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews”, he said. He explained that, in units where 10 percent or more of the soldiers belong to another religion, the assistant commander for religious work would cooperate with the clergy of that religion.

According to studies and surveys of the sociological centre of the Armed Forces, currently more than 70 percent of the personnel in the Army and Navy consider themselves believers. Of these, about 80 percent identify as Orthodox, about 13 percent say that they are Muslim, about 3 percent are Buddhist, and 4 percent are adherents of other faiths. At present, some two thousand clergy of the MP do pastoral work in army and navy units and there are 530 churches on the property of the Defence Ministry.

9 December 2009




Patriarch Kirill asked President Medvedev to Confer State Awards upon Priests and Imams Attacked in the Northern Caucasus

Russian priests and imams who minister to the Russian forces… they stand together, as is right. All those who refuse to applaud this may most sincerely… you know where I’m going, don’t you? Don’t mess with the best. Cheers.

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias urged the state to confer state awards upon Orthodox and Muslim clergy who were victims of terrorist attacks in the Northern Caucasus. “Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to [President Medvedev] proposing to confer state awards upon Orthodox and Islamic religious leaders who were attacked in the Northern Caucasus”, said Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Department of Church-Society Relations, in Moscow on Wednesday at the opening of a conference of the Moscow State Linguistic University devoted to spiritual education in the CIS.

According to Roman Silantyev, the head of the Human Rights Centre of the World Russian People’s Council (VRNS) and Associate Professor at MGLU, the letter of Patriarch Kirill to [President Medvedev] “was the logical culmination of an initiative of the Human Rights Centre of the VRNS. Patriarch Kirill (who is also the chairman of the VRNS) proposed that state awards be given to several dozen Orthodox and Muslim clergymen who were victims of terrorist attacks in the Caucasus over the past 15 years, and recognise those Muslim leaders who were wounded by such attacks, but survived”, he told Interfax-Religion during a  break in the conference. Professor Silantyev said that Patriarch Kirill’s letter of sent his letter to the president this past summer. Currently, the presidential plenipotentiary for the Southern Federal District is considering the implementation of this initiative. Professor Silantyev noted that the idea of recognising religious leaders would help to strengthen inter-religious peace and cooperation between different religious communities in Russia.

9 December 2009



Editor’s Note:

On certain other websites, there has been a steady (and inane) repetition of, “The Muslims did it”, ever since the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev. Mostly, they appear to be ignorant fans of talk radio with no idea whatsoever of Russian history. Christians and Muslims have lived together in Russia ever since the fall of Kazan to Tsar Ivan Grozny in the 16th century. That’s a good long time, friends and neighbours. The Muslim faith has always been respected and never persecuted (except for the communists, who persecuted ALL religions, of course).

The USA and its allies fomented a good deal of the trouble in the Caucasus in an attempt to destabilise the area. Note well that many of the victims of the terrorist attacks are Muslim clergy… not Christians. This meddling started under Madeleine Albright, who was rabidly anti-Russian. I believe that she advised William J. Clinton to break President Reagan’s promise to the Russians that NATO would not expand eastwards. One of the things done in the 90s was a blatant attempt to destabilise and break apart the Russian state, for Ms Albright felt that “one state shouldn’t control so much of the world’s resources”. It failed. The legacies of that ruined thesis are an increasingly unpopular dictator in Georgia, a moribund Ukrainian state (the RF had to ship flu vaccine to it as aid), Baltic statelets that glorify the Waffen-SS, and dead Christian and Muslim clergy killed by thugs who took Uncle Sugar’s shilling. Such people have the gall to lecture the world on morality and righteousness… please, God; do excuse me whilst I retch.

That’s not as racy as, “The Muslims did it”. They didn’t. They’re not so stupid. However… can we say the same for some of those who made such an accusation? Hmm…


It Doesn’t Come From Thin Air

The OCA is out of money… need I say more? It doesn’t come from thin air…


My analysis of JP’s trip to Moscow was not based on thin air… I based it on the facts that surround it. Let’s look at them. I had an enlightening telephone chat on Sunday night with Matushka Nina Stroyen… she is one of the “elders”… she’s been around the block more than once. Her late husband, Fr Basil Stroyen, was the first Orthodox chaplain in the US forces. In short, she’s seen a great deal in her life and her probity is beyond question. One of the major items that she passed on to me was that the OCA was running out of money and that its recent fundraising efforts were fizzling out. Apparently, JP is looking for cash to keep SVS operating… let’s see, he threw Tassos from the train (his Great White Hope treasurer), then, two more operatives bit the dust, including Jarmus, his Director of Communications… now, according to Matushka Nina, he’s threatening to close St Tikhon’s (she is on the Board of Trustees, so, she would know). According to her, the board is looking at the papers of incorporation to see what they can do. In addition, the FOS drive hit a brick wall.

Why has the OCA ground to a standstill? Firstly, the OCA refused to live by the budget that it published earlier this year. There was nothing in that plan for legal fees or for junkets by JP and Lyonyo Kishkovsky (there were three that we know of, to Russia, to Georgia, and to Kazakhstan, not counting the present excursion… not cheap, no?). There was money allotted for a treasurer and for a Director of Communications, both of which have been axed by JP. One of my sources told me that Matthew Tate (a twice-married HOOMie who is now an OCA priest close to JP) reports that JP and Co have wildly overspent their travel budget. In addition, Matushka Nina also told me that the true reason why the OCA has stopped printing its journal is that it lacks money (don’t listen to talk of a $36G surplus… that was only after two paid officials got the boot). This was the background to my analysis, amongst other things.

There were three possible explanations for JP’s jaunt to Moscow. Number One is that the version on oca.org is wholly true. If such was so, why did the trip occur suddenly and without prior announcement? JP was not going to East Podunk… he was going to Moscow, the centre of the Orthodox world. Supposedly, this trip was official. If so, why was there a lack of prior notification on oca.org? Bishops normally publicise their schedules; it’s what’s done. The fact that Alfeyev met him is no indicator of the truthfulness of the oca.org account. Alfeyev is the head of one of the factions in the MP, nothing more. Indeed, HA is not as close to KMG as some others are. Bishops do not travel with only a subdeacon as a companion… that is strange, in and of itself. No… the oca.org account is something that “the apprentice ran up whilst the blacksmith was out”.

Number Two is that this is a “personal trip arranged with Zacchaeus Wood and he went to Moscow to buy vestments”. Actually, I had heard this on Saturday and rejected it out of hand. Why? It’s quite simple… it makes JP look like a feckless and foolish spendthrift, that’s why. Never assume that someone is irrational. The OCA is firing officials for lack of cash (at least Jarmus and Tassos); the legal fees are piling up, and the repayment of the defrauded 9/11 funds has been put on hold. This is not the “least injurious” scenario. To believe this means that one has to conclude that JP is a boob who spends money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Without positive evidence, I shall make no such assertion. Oh… this ISN’T “OCA bashing”. If a group is running out of money, it’s in trouble; I don’t care if it is religious or secular.

Number Three is most probable as it fits all the facts and credits JP with some rationality. It says that Moscow sent him a return ticket so that he could go to Moscow to answer questions. After all, there is a session of the MP Holy Synod this month with an announced agenda… it is going to discuss the situation in the diaspora. JP is a hierarch from the diaspora, so, it is logical to summon him to give evidence. What is JP going to do? Is he going to refuse? I think not… the OCA is a creature of the MP and it is utterly dependent on Moscow’s good will. The fact that material showed up on the official MP website means nothing… HA has members of his faction there and they’ll post what he wishes them to. It went completely unnoticed by the Russian secular media… who’ve given much coverage to such figures as Laurus Škurla and Hilarion Kapral (a visit of a real First Hierarch to Moscow always gets at least a small Interfax item, for instance). So… it DOESN’T come from thin air. Neither does money… something that, apparently, is in VERY short supply in Syosset. Tassos and Jarmus are gone… who’s next? Perspirin’ minds want to know…

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Albany NY

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