Voices from Russia

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Vandals Take Chainsaws to Orthodox Crosses

A vandalised cross in Arkhangelsk Oblast in Northern Russia


The Russian Orthodox Church is calling for the punishment of vandals who used chainsaws to topple at least four wooden crosses in two regions over the weekend, prompting widespread outrage that some fear might lead to religious unrest. Unknown vandals cut down three wooden crosses in Chelyabinsk Oblast and one in Arkhangelsk Oblast. The motive was unclear, but the actions occurred two weeks after Ukrainian feminists sawed down a memorial cross in Kiev to denounce the harsh two-year prison sentences handed down to Pussy Riot musicians for singing an anti-Putin song in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Anna Shevchenko, a member of FEMEN, the Ukrainian feminist group behind the Kiev incident, endorsed the chainsaw attacks in Russia and called for them to continue. However, Shevchenko, speaking during an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on Sunday, didn’t claim responsibility on behalf of Femen for carrying them out. Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, who oversees Church/state relations in the MP called for the police to find those responsible and punish them, telling Interfax, “These actions speak clearly about the moral values of those who encroach on the church. By these symbolic actions, they’re trying to impose their will over the majority of the people”. Police said that they were looking into the incidents as acts of vandalism. They hadn’t opened any criminal cases as of late Sunday afternoon. Vandalism charges can carry up to three years in prison. The church found an unlikely ally in Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the three jailed members of Pussy Riot. He condemned the vandalism and said the female punk group had nothing to do with it.

The church’s image was tarnished by a series of leadership scandals, including the Pussy Riot trial, which cast the spotlight on the close ties between the church and state; Patriarch Kirill’s ownership of an expensive Swiss Breguet watch and luxury residences; and a recent car crash involving a priest. Nevertheless, some observers see the sawing down of crosses as an attack on ordinary believers. Andrei Zolotov Jr, a RIA-Novosti journalist who closely follows the Orthodox church, wrote on his Facebook page, “There’s something meaningful in the fact that destructive power is turned, not on gold-plated houses or Mercedes cars believed to be driven by priests… but on a simple wooden cross… a very primary, very central, very indubitable Christian symbol. Is it because this symbol is the most defenceless?”

On Sunday, Fr Vasili, the top clergyman in Vnukovo Raion in Moscow’s Western Administrative Okrug, described the cross vandalism as, “Incivility in the worst sense of the word. All of our churchgoers are educated people, and whilst they look at the Pussy Riot action with a bit of humour, they observe these actions against the crosses with a deep sense of sadness”. A priest in Ryazan was more circumspect. Speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid reprimand from his superiors, he said, “We’re the ones provoking this situation. People dislike the authorities, and, in their eyes, the church is closely connected to the state. Even the muscle that we flex is state muscle”.

Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin criticised the vandals as “cowards” and demanded that they offer a public explanation of their actions. He said the vandals should borrow a page from Narodnaya Volya, or the People’s Will, a leftist terrorist group in the 19th century that assassinated Tsar Aleksandr II Nikolayevich, saying in an interview with Russian News Service radio, “They often stayed at the crime scene because they saw their outrageous crimes in the context of their ideas and they were ready to take responsibility for them”.

26 August 2012

Aleksandr Bratersky

Moscow Times


Editor’s Note:

I don’t think that these vandalisms are politically-inspired. Only Moscow-based zapadnik pseudo-intellectuals and their Western backers think that. Rather, as they occurred over the weekend, it leads reasonable people to conclude that they’re vodka-fuelled impulsive acts of juvenile hooligans. Reasonable oppositionists wouldn’t do this… not even the FEMEN people. The opposition isn’t all that powerful, nor, even well-organised. Trust me, it wasn’t the work of such organised groups as the KPRF or Left Front. They’d track down the perps and give them “rough justice” with the belt to inspire them to follow the straight-and-narrow in future.

It DOES take all kinds…


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