Voices from Russia

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Government and SYRIZA Clash Over Church Tax Proposal



On Monday, the relationship between the Greek state and the Church of Greece became the focus of a fresh clash between the government and the main opposition SYRIZA party after a leftist MP proposed the introduction of a new tax to pay clerics’ wages. SYRIZA deputy Tasos Kourakis said that the Church should start funding itself instead of relying on dwindling state coffers. Kourakis told a conference organised by the Theology Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki that another option would be to impose a church tax on all Greeks who declare themselves Orthodox Christians. He said that revenues from it could go toward church costs and clerics’ salaries.

The rightwing New Democracy shot down the idea, which likened the proposed tax to “Stalinist measures”. ND argued that such a levy would be unconstitutional, as it would discriminate between Greeks based on their religious beliefs. SYRIZA noted that Kourakis’s proposal was the MP’s “personal opinion”, but said that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had mooted a similar initiative in the fall of 2011 when the latter was head of the Foundation for Industrial and Economic Research (IOBE). Stournaras accused SYRIZA of distorting comments that he made during a TV interview, when he noted that other European citizens don’t pay clerics’ salaries through taxation without proposing however that Greece follow suit.

28 January 2013



Editor’s Note:

What SYRIZA proposes is nothing more than the system in place in Germany, where citizens pay a “church tax” that goes to the church of their choice. If one isn’t religious, the money goes into a general charity fund. “Stalinist” is usually “right-speak” for “we don’t like this and we want to demonise the people making this proposal” (such as Potapov’s recent crackbrained initiative concerning “Stalingrad” in the ROCOR). In short, the SYRIZA proposal isn’t leftist at all; it’s merely fair. It simply places the burden of support of the Orthodox Church on Orthodox believers. That’s as it should be, kids… New Democracy is sinking into irrelevance along with PASOK… SYRIZA is Greece’s future, as this common-sense proposal indicates. You can have SYRIZA or you can have Golden Dawn (which is neo-Nazifascist, racist, and xenophobic… that’s no choice at all)… that’s the real-world choice on offer… there’s nothing else. It’s clear that SYRIZA’s the better choice.



Saturday, 18 August 2012

Most Russians Against Church Meddling in Politics


A poll published on Tuesday by the state-run pollster VTsIOM revealed that about 75 percent of all Russians believe that the Church should stay out of political affairs. However, a sizable percentage of all respondents (43 percent) see the current Church/state relations as “balanced and harmonious”. The pollster said, “The Church’s political influence grows and its relations with the state are harmonious. However, the majority of Russians recommend that the church take a more active part in spiritual and religious issues instead of interfering with state affairs”. 63 percent of respondents see the church as an influential institution in society’s moral and spiritual life. About 50 percent of Russians feel the Church influences domestic policies, whilst 43 percent say it exerts some influence over the foreign policy as well. Some 20 percent of Russians believe that the Church is too active in the political life.

The VTsIOM report said, “Three-quarters of Russians are convinced that the Church should stay out of politics (75 percent). 44 percent believe that it should influence the spiritual and moral life of society as a whole, whilst one-third (31 percent) think that the church should limit its activities solely to religious matters. Those who consider active participation of religious bodies admissible in all spheres of social life, including politics, constitute a minority of 16 to 17 percent”. Those who believe that the church’s influence should be restricted to religious issues are mostly young people (37 percent of the subtotal) and have a higher education (33 percent of the subtotal). Most people who think that the Church has a political role are middle-aged (20 percent), with no higher education, living in smaller towns and villages (22 percent).

The survey was conducted 9-10 June 2012 with 1,600 respondents from 138 cities and towns taking part. The margin of error was below 3.4 percent.

18 August 2012



Wednesday, 11 January 2012

11 January 2012. Gleanings From My Mailbag…


Editor’s Foreword:

I’m in italics; my interlocutors are in plain type.



How do you know that Ireland’s “Bushmills” is the most popular whiskey on the former Soviet space?

Simple… I have Russian friends… and Nicky and I are fans of the sweet nectar… we bought a wee bottle for our celebration. 


Since the 1860’s, people in this country haven’t known war directly, except for the small percentage that actually went over (even smaller in today’s wars, which are so much more technologically-driven). Those who call for war don’t know what they’re asking… or, maybe, they do, but they know that they sure as hell won’t have to pay the butcher’s bill.


Gotcha… I’m no expert in Greek (I got bits n’ pieces)… which is why I didn’t translate the whole megillah before. The older I get, the easier it is to say, “Y’know, I don’t know that”… it’s LIBERATING…


Whew, I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes Robert Lentz‘s paintings! I have seen nothing but attacks against him for years… I have Christ of the Desert hanging up in my house, with the Aramaic writing.


“Orthosphere”… I LOVE IT! Why not mention how Huntington’s ideas were the same as Sergei Solovyov’s (yes, the father of the mad-hatter Vladimir Solovyov) in re “Civilisational Spheres”. This is the driving ideology behind the MP (Vsevolod Anatolyevich often uses it publicly)… it makes me wonder why KMG made the Western-leaning Blunder the editor of the ZhMP. My only thought is that he did so in order to keep the brat busy and out of real Church affairs. It does mean that one has to take statements in it with a block of salt. Interestingly enough, the Blunder doesn’t control Tserkovny Vestnik, which is more grounded and anti-Western.

Be good… you got the ol’ juices flowing again… remember, if you feel it, they will too. Writing isn’t simply a matter of putting words on paper; it’s an extension of your soul. Above all… keep it as short as you can. It’s the surest sign that you know your topic…

“God created wine… not grape juice… to gladden the heart of mankind”.


“Coercion will avail us nothing…” the Centre learned that the hard way from Nikon Minin... all that coercion ever leads to is Avvakum Petrov and ever-splintering “Old Ritualism”. We ARE going to lose some, no doubt. It’s inevitable. A konvertsy-led “Rump OCA” (hat-tip to Alex Riggle) is very possible; Fathausen would be its “First Hierarch”… it would be the polar opposite of HOCNA… and, thus, exhibit many of the same properties. Eric Hoffer was correct… “The extreme right and the extreme left are identical, ‘we few are going tell you many what to do’”.  

Be good… Christmas is Saturday… Ded Moroz is making a special trip for you guys… break open the jug and cheer! We haven’t gotten our first real winter snow in Albany yet (unusual)… we did get a freak snowstorm in late October, but it only lasted a day or two. What’s more, there’s been no snow up in the Adirondacks or Berkshires (both low mountain regions) either. 

“Winter is acumen in… but when, God only knows…”


I stand with you… the Red Rose symbol is beautiful…


It’s only a thought… but do pass it on to any friends at the Centre… Fathausen’s a wily bastard… he’s not intelligent, but he’s clever enough to know how to put people off their guard. Remember, he’s Podmoshensky’s disciple… and he allows a bishop nicked by the coppers for DUI to serve (Peterson in CA). I think that you’re overoptimistic concerning this SOB… and I say so openly.


As for Paffhausen, he’s obviously rather stupid and the Centre has his number. The policy is to give him rope. He will either save himself with the rope or else hang himself. Your guess is as good as mine which one, it all depends on the degree of his stupidity. I’m not over-optimistic; I’m just giving him extra rope… to do what he wants with it.


I make typos of this sort DAILY. It’s a function of how much I write and how quickly I do it. It’s a disease endemic amongst journalists (it’s why I NEVER harp about typos… my own plate is full of ’em).

As for “Old Calendarism”, I’m told (and I believe), “You can’t deny anything that’s Orthodox. You can disagree with it, but you can’t deny it. The New Calendarists are still Orthodox… no Council has anathematised them. You can’t leave a parish simply because they use the New Calendar”. It’s one of those things that I wish I had said… that’s what humility is all about (it’s NOT being “meek n’ ‘umble”… such sorts are the most prideful servants of Satan out there). In any case, in the diaspora, sometimes one has no choice… and that’s that. I simply don’t go to my parish on Christmas… we go out of town for Orthodox Christmas (7 January). Oh… I make NO fuss about the calendar… it’s not my place to do such and I’ve no warrant from anyone to do it. That’s how I feel and that’s the way it is… fanatics of either side don’t like me.

As for Russophilia… I’d simply say that I deny nothing that’s truthful. That being said, to be Russian Orthodox is different from being Greek Orthodox. They’re two very different worlds… both are Orthodox, but both are what they are, and you can’t mix the two. I love the Greeks, and often worship with them, but they’re not “family”. If you look at the Christian art that’s survived from the First Millennium, you find a common spirit in all of it. That spirit lasted into the 14th century… you can see it in Giotto di Bondone (the greatest of the pre-Renaissance Christian artists)… look at his Betrayal and the Raising of Lazarus, and you’ll know what I mean. After that, Western art descended into sensuality and sentimentality. There were still “religious” depictions out there… but they were fewer and rarer.

I’d say that this artistic transformation marked the real acceptance of the Great Schism in the West. The West was Orthodox in spirit until the 14th century… and if you go to Spain, Italy, Latin America, Bavaria, or Québec, the ordinary believers are indistinguishable from their Orthodox confrères.  I’m NOT talking the theology that they parrot… I’m talking about the way they incarnate their faith… I’ve been to the shrine at Ste-Anne de Beaupré, I know (eating in a Quebecois diner, the waitresses all had funny stories of some of the more woolier “pilgrims”… and a waggish priest was eggin’ ’em on). Have you been to Santiago de Campostela? Then, you’d know what I’m talking about, too.


Editor’s Afterword:

Thank God, for my “kitchen cabinet”, they keep me going; they keep me honest and they keep me focused on what’s truly important. I talked with Matushka Nina Stroyen today on the phone… she appeared to be doing well. She’s a wonderful sort, and I’m glad to have her in my life. Keep the faith… the night won’t last forever… it’ll just SEEM that way at times…


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.