Voices from Russia

Friday, 8 June 2012

Scandal Surrounds the Russian Church in Casablanca

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In the Moroccan city of Casablanca, the Russian Orthodox parish of the Assumption of the Mother of God is the centre of scandal. The church, built by First Wave Russian émigrés and their families in 1958, can fold at any time. Not only did the MP’s faithful and other Orthodox Christians in Morocco rally in defence of the cathedral, but the local Muslims did so as well. Assumption parish is one of the two Russian Orthodox parishes in Morocco. Archbishop Mark Golovkov, the head of the MP Secretariat for Foreign Institutions, said, “This scandal, which now threatens the very existence of the parish, began with the sudden sale of the church building. Recently, the parish was under the omofor of the ROCOR. Lately, it’s lacked a rector, as the ROCOR Holy Synod defrocked the priest who served there. He’s the leading light behind the sale of the church building to commercial interests. Unfortunately, the ROCOR wasn’t able to react in time”.

On 1 February 2012, some local residents broke into the church. They not only damaged valuables on the iconostas and threw down icons from the walls, but also tried to disturb some relics stored here. The new owner of the building said that since the parish complex is in a chi-chi area of the city, he will tear down the church and build a more cost-effective and showy building. However, since the sale was an illegal transaction, the Moroccan courts must annul it. Fr Maksim Massalitin, the rector of Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church in Rabat told VOR, “Now, as the criminal investigation’s done, we look forward to see what happens as a result. They made out an inventory of what was sold with the church building, and they found that someone had to obtain specific permission to sell the land on which it stands. The notary who recorded the transaction said that they didn’t receive any special permits, so, we’re now contesting the act of selling the property. Any day now, we expect a judgement from the procuratorate of the kingdom”.

On 4 June, Russians living in Morocco took to the streets of Casablanca in a peaceful demonstration. It didn’t take long for Orthodox and Muslims in the city to join hands. Fr Maksim said, “Morocco’s a very tolerant country, and no there’s no animus against Christians here, and they don’t persecute Christians at all. Orthodox Christians who live here have always been grateful that the King grants them the opportunity worship in Morocco, which means that they can maintain their faith here. Despite the Islamisation process taking place throughout the Muslim world, which also affects the Kingdom of Morocco, Morocco has a well-valued tradition of religious tolerance”. Despite the fact that government officials in Casablanca had no immediate comment on the parish scandal, after the peaceful demonstration, they set a 24-hour-a-day round-the-clock guard over the building, not only to prevent the removal of relics and items, but also to prevent any unauthorized demolition of the church building before the court verdict.

6 June 2012

Milena Faustova

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2012_06_06/77273081/

Editor’s Note:

Morocco has a “mixed” legal system; it uses the Code Napoléon in civil and criminal matters, but nearly all family and personal law is rooted in Sharia and Fiqh. Therefore, if the priest didn’t have the proper permits, or obtained them fraudulently, it’s no problem for the parish. It doesn’t hurt that the Russian government and the MP are exerting subtle pressure on the Moroccan authorities in favour of the parish, either.

This is why the present structure of the ROCOR has to go. The ROCOR, as constituted at present, lacks the means to correct miscreant and corrupt clergy. It simply lacks the money, full stop. It’s a powerless and bootless joke of an institution. That’s why some of the rebels didn’t want reconciliation in ’07 (others were Langley hirelings who saw the “writing on the wall”)… they saw that the Centre would take over (for the good) and enforce what it said. There’s no doubt that the MP can use the legal mechanism of the ROCOR in lands outside the CIS, and that the present ROCOR clergy have an experience in acting in (an often apathetic, if not hostile) Western environment. That being said, the present ROCOR is a relic of the Civil War, and it has to go. It’s much like the OCA, which is a beached relic of the Cold War.

Mind you, a structure known as the ROCOR will persist after the Centre remodels it. It will still have a First Hierarch (as do the UOC/MP, and the MP Churches in Latvia, Estonia, and Central Asia); it’ll still have a formal headquarters in New York City, but its real centre may become Jordanville… the Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America may live and rule from the monastery (just as the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East lives and rules from Damascus). Note well that the parish in Casablanca was a former ROCOR parish… the parishioners got tired of hearing, “Our hands are tied. We can’t do anything. You’ll just have to live with it. Concentrate on spiritual things and don’t poke about in church politics. They’re friends with the circle around the bishop”. That has to end… and it shall. Do note who’s involved… Mark Golovkov… not only a “name to know”, but also a “man to watch”.

BMD

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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sweden Won the Eurovision Song Contest 2012… Buranovskiye Babushki Came in Second… Good on the Grannies

Loreen (Lorine Zineb Noka Talhaoui) (1983- ), the winner of the 20012 ESC, although Loreen was born in Sweden, both of Loreen’s parents are from Morocco, and Loreen is of Berber descent

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At the end of voting, from 42 countries, Sweden’s Loreen (Lorine Zineb Noka Talhaoui) won the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in BakuRussia’s Buranovskiye Babushki came in second place. Loreen garnered 372 points, only 15 points off the absolute record established by Alexander Rybak in the 2009 ESC of 387 points. Eighteen countries gave Loreen twelve points, the highest score possible:

Austria
Belgium
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Israel
Latvia
the Netherlands
Norway
Russia
Slovakia
Spain
UK

The following countries gave Loreen ten points:

Cyprus
Lithuania
Romania
Serbia
Slovenia
Sweden

The following countries gave Loreen eight points:

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Georgia

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Russia placed second in a bitter struggle for the most points with a singer from Serbia. The Buranovskiye Babushki scored 259 points. The only European country not to give them a single point was Switzerland. The other countries scored them as follows:

COUNTRY POINTS SCORED
Belarus 12
Azerbaijan 10
Italy 10
Latvia 10
San Marino 10
Belgium 8
Denmark 8
Estonia 8
Finland 8
Norway 8
Portugal 8
Slovenia 8
Spain 8
the Ukraine 8
Germany 7
Iceland 7
Serbia 7
Sweden 7
Turkey 7
Bulgaria 6
Croatia 6
Lithuania 6
Moldova 6
Austria 5
Cyprus 5
Georgia 5
France 4
Greece 4
Macedonia 4
Montenegro 4
the Netherlands 4
Romania 4
Albania 3
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3
Malta 3
Slovakia 3
UK

The following 26 countries ended in the finals of the competition after the two semi-finals:

Albania
Azerbaijan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cyprus
Denmark
Estonia
Macedonia
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Lithuania
Malta
Moldova
Norway
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Spain
Sweden
Turkey
the Ukraine
United Kingdom

The Buranovskiye Babushki took the stage sixth, after the participants from the UK, Hungary, Albania, Lithuania, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The audience greeted their performance with applause and cheers, which didn’t abate as they sung their song. People got up and danced due to the influence of the Babushki’s song. During their performance, the Babushki had a Russian-style stove in which they baked Udmurt pies. The Baba’s singing captivated the ESC audience. After the semi-finals, the bookies laid odds that the Babushki would “place” (take second place), and, in fact, that’s what happened, as most pundits predicted that the Swedish singer would be the most likely winner long before the semi-finals.

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Željko Joksimović from Serbia also performed according to the bookies’ predictions; he took the “show” position (third place). Russians were mildly optimistic about our entry in the contest. According to VTsIOM, more than half of Russians didn’t doubt that the Buranovskiye Babushki would be amongst the “top ten”, 14 percent thought that they’d be amongst the “top three”, and 13 percent though that they would win. The Babas won the right to represent Russia at the ESC by winning a national selection. They performed their song Party For Everybody and outran 24 other competitors. The votes of a jury comprising eminent pop music figures and the votes of television viewers, each taken in equal proportion, were the basis of choosing the winner. Baku hosted the ESC 2012 after Azerbaijani duet Ell and Nikki (Eldar Gasimov and Nigyar Dzhamal) won the 2011 contest in Düsseldorf performing the song Running Scared, by winning 221 points.

This was the second time that the Babas took part in the national final. In 2010, they were among the leaders, but could not overcome the internet votes for Pyotr Nalich. This year, they finally met with success; the audience in the national selection gave the performance of the “golden age” artists a hearty and joyful reception. Their artistic director, Olga Tuktaryova, remembered the audience’s reaction to their performance, saying, “There was such a roar that we were moved to tears… we couldn’t sing, we could only cry. That was true for me, at least, it seemed, because I felt such energy from the audience. Moreover, these are youngsters, and we’re grandmas. The intensity was just so very strong. Was this for the Babushki… oh, yes, it was!”

NB:

Click here for the official Eurovision 2012 site

 26 May 2012

Svetlana Maksimenko

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2012_05_26/75973231/

Friday, 3 February 2012

“Red Lines” on the UN Resolutions Concerning Syria

Vitaly Churkin (1952- ), Russian Ambassador to the UN

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Russia reiterated its position that it’ll veto a UN Security Council resolution on Syria if it finds it mistaken or if it worsens the conflict there. According to Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, the domestic conflict in Syria could still be resolved, the conflicting parties have to confer, but someone has to initiate negotiations. 

After a Security Council meeting on Syria, Ambassador Churkin explained to journalists the differences between the two approaches concerning the Syrian crisis, and related a bit about the atmosphere of the negotiations, saying, “Our Western counterparts conducted themselves very correctly. They were careful to abstain from any critical remarks concerning Russia. I appreciated that. I’ll tell you a little secret… as a result, my statement wasn’t as aggressive as it could’ve been, and the meeting had a much calmer atmosphere than it could’ve had under different circumstances. It created a favourable climate for working on a resolution that would not only overcome the Syrian crisis, but for one that would be consensual as well”.

The diplomatic standoff has persisted through a number of Security Council meetings. After all, the fate of a nation-state and its people are at stake. Right now, there are two draft resolutions on Syria, from Russia and Morocco. The latter, although formally presented by the Moroccan delegation, was prepared with the unofficial participation of France and some Arab countries that aren’t members of the UN Security Council. Morocco is the only Arab country on in the Security Council at present. The Moroccan resolution doesn’t rule out third-party military intervention in Syria. Bluntly speaking, Russia won’t accept that. The resolution also supports a plan suggested by the Arab League that requires President Bashar al-Assad to resign and hand over power to his vice-president.

Ambassador Churkin said, “The Arab League resolution is too over-specific to end the political standoff. It doesn’t only stipulate the creation of a ‘government of national unity’ in Syria, but, for example, it dwells on how this government should interact with the Vice President and what problems it should tackle first. Damascus has already rejected this proposal, so it’s really out of the question to consider it at all. Of course, there isn’t any point in a ‘dialogue’ if you know in advance what the end will be. Naturally, the Arab League has a right to express its opinion. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the UN Security Council just doesn’t have the statutory authority to dictate specific political outcomes, or to force political decisions on other countries, even if they’re in crisis. The Security Council can’t adopt resolutions calling on this King or that Premier to stand down. So, there’s still much to talk about, but it has to be genuine palaver, engaging in dialogue”.

There isn’t such a thing as a unilateral “dialogue”. Churkin said, “Diplomats and politicians alike should talk to their opponents, particularly in times of national crisis. Syria has the potential to get out of this crisis. Opposition forces in Syria must find the political courage to enter into negotiations with the government”. Russia’s ready to host talks between the conflicting Syrian parties in Moscow. The Syrian government confirmed its willingness to take part in such a proposed confab. However, Burhan Ghalioun, the chairman of the Syrian opposition Syrian National Council made several counter-proposals. There’s been no official reply from Moscow and Damascus to his demands. For instance, Ghalioun said that he’d consent to come to Moscow only on the condition that Russia agreed to the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad first. For its part, Moscow insisted that talks between the Syrian factions must go ahead without any preliminary conditions. Yes, Russia does have a list of “conditions”. It won’t support an arms embargo against Syria or even a hint at one. Nor will it approve any use of force, third-party military intervention, or sanctions against Damascus. Russia won’t cross these “red lines”.

2 February 2012

Olga Denisova

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2012/02/02/65139125.html

New UN Resolution on Syria Watered Down… Churkin says “Nyet” to Western Aggression against Syria Disguised as “Humanitarianism”

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On Thursday, the BBC reported that UN Security Council diplomats toned down a resolution on Syria in a move apparently aimed at overcoming Russia’s opposition to an earlier draft. The new text, submitted by Morocco, no longer explicitly calls on President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power, which was a key point of an Arab League plan to settle the Syrian conflict. According to the UN, the Syrian government‘s 11-month crackdown on protests killed at least 5,400 people. Syrian authorities blamed the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda, and said that more than 2,000 soldiers and police were killed. Russia, along with China, already vetoed a European-drafted resolution containing the threat of sanctions against Syria in October 2011.

Amnesty International advised Russia against blocking international efforts to end ongoing violence in Syria and to join a binding UN Security Council resolution. Russia, one of Assad’s firm supporters during the uprising against his régime, indicated earlier this week that it would veto any draft resolution calling on Assad to step down and providing for “further measures” should he refuse. Moscow proposed its own draft, which the West criticised as being too soft. Some Western countries tried to persuade Moscow to support a resolution effectively authorising a military operation, but Russia repeatedly insisted that the Western drive for a stronger crackdown on Syria is a preparation for a “Libyan scenario”. In Libya, rebels ousted and killed long-standing dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after a months-long military standoff in which they received assistance from NATO forces. On Wednesday, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Ambassador to the UN, said Russia would vote against the Morocco-submitted draft on Syria if it turned out unacceptable for Moscow.

2 February 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/world/20120202/171102149.html

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