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The West doesn’t realize how moderate Vladimir Putin really is

Who Vladimir Putin truly is, and why you should thank God he’s president and not a more extreme candidate

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Putin is a moderate. The western portrayal of President Putin as a dangerous extremist is based on lies; it’s a narrative which can only survive so long as people are not educated about the real Russia, and the result of profound hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is the spirit which distinguishes politics of our age. Wherever you look, the Hypocrisy of western politics is far-reaching. The West supports wars in the middle east which kill millions and they can be described as “Humanitarian superpowers”, Russia allows Crimean people to reunite with their ancestral homeland in a transition which results in less than ten deaths, and somehow Russia is rebuilding the “axis of evil”.

To understand how a truly moderate statesman like Putin can be falsely portrayed as a radical, we must first understand how hypocrisy and split personality distorts one’s view of Russia.

Hypocrisy has created a madness in the west, an almost schizophrenic split personality, has taken root within the western soul. The split personality complex in the west has given rise to the two heads of the western establishment: The Neoconservatives and the Neoliberals. Together they form the Diarchy (rule of two) present in western governments, though perhaps the Latin synonym Duumvirate better describes it.

This split personality influences how they view reality.

Take for example their portrayal of Russia. There are two primary ways in which Russia is misrepresented in the west:

  1. As a toothless bear, a weak, anemic regional power nostalgic for old glory, incapable of letting go. A nation overall not unlike a destitute widow after the death of a great and powerful man, as Gogol described the Cossack lands of what we call Ukraine in Taras Bulba.

This is simply not reality.

  1. The dangerous bear, an Empire terrible and strong, ready to subject the world beneath the boot of an Imperialist, Fascist, Totalitarian, Communist, Soviet, Russian Orthodox Czar. If the West does not “do something” [the most terrifying words any third world country can hear] there will not be a free power in the world that will not kneel to the Czar of Moscow.

That statement is contradictory, primarily with the first image, but also with itself. You can not be a Communist or a Fascist, nor an Orthodox Tsarist for that matter all at once.

While the above examples are mutable to a degree, those are the prevailing stereotypes about Russia. They each serve two primary purposes:

  1. The portrayal of Russia as a declining power reduces panic when undesirable, for example when the Deep State feels comfortable with their position in society, and wish to promote their leadership as strong and stabilizing. It also reinforces overall pride and morale in the west. This is the favored personality of the Neo-Liberals.
  2. The portrayal of Russia as a resurgent, terrifying eastern horde on the verge of world dominance provides for the Military Industrial Complex, allows for increased military spending, and justifies both sabre rattling and adventurism, satisfying the warmongers. The portrayal of the Neo-Cons.

How does this split personality view Putin?

Putin is primarily viewed in a similar light by western pundits, though the dichotomy between two extreme portrayals is less pronounced – lines are blurred – to them, he is simply an Extremist. They cannot place him firmly on any end of the spectrum. Typically, when you do not fall on any extreme, that makes you a moderate.

They can call him a neo-Communist, nostalgic for Soviet power one moment and immediately compare him to the Russian Czars, saying he practically wants to create a Russian Orthodox Theocracy and rebuild the Russian Empire. Then they can compare him to Hitler, which is perhaps the most despicable and deplorable thing you can call a Russian. To the Russian people, Nazi is the worst “n-word”. His young brother died when the Nazis laid siege to Leningrad and killed MILLIONS in one city, show some humanity before you make such an insult to the entire Russian nation.

All of those ideologies are incompatible – you cannot be a Russian Orthodox Fascists Communist Statist Czarist Bolshevik all at once. Such an ignorance, a true lack of knowledge, to so easily throw these terms around in the same sentence proves those who do so fail to understand Russia and Putin. It also reveals the west is more interest in name-calling than in serious dialog. Find one moment where Putin outright insulted a western leader, in the same way as he was, to be called the most abhorrent of things – a Nazi.

So now that we have explored the falsehoods and hypocrisy, what is Putin?

The Truth:

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is a devout Orthodox Christian, and the President of the Russian Federation. Period.

It truly is nobody’s right to apply a label to him that he did not ask for. We would all do well to stop viewing people as Conservatives, and Liberals, Monarchists and Socialists, Easterners and Westerners, and simply seeing each other as Humans. Russian Orthodoxy, the religion of Putin teaches us we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and as a result, we must respect the dignity within every human, even our worst enemy. By longstanding Cossack tradition, we must first respect our freemen, before we can have any dealings with them. This lack of mutual respect and understanding is a major roadblock in Russian relations with the west – and it is not Russia that shows no respect.

In the interest in a conclusion, I would like to humbly offer this perspective. Given how Putin has portrayed himself by his actions and words, perhaps the best label to apply if such a thing is necessary is that Putin is a moderate.

Putin the Moderate

What is a moderate? Simply put, in this context, someone who exists between two extremes. It is popular to place Putin at two radical ends by various groups, both to criticize him and even to praise him. For example, American socialists, liberals, and progressives have this view of him as an authoritarian, possibly misogynistic, far right dictator. They would be surprised to realize he leads a country FAR more socialist than America. Russia has government-funded universal healthcare for all citizens, free education even at university level for those accepted, and a strong heritage of women’s rights (first woman in space, long paid maternity leave, etc.) He shows no signs of wanting to detract from any of that, he actually is quite proud of those things.

Western conservatives stuck in the cold war view him as a “Commie”, a socialist KGB agent trying to restore the Soviet Union and destroy the “moral” west. If only they knew Russia is PROFOUNDLY more religious than the west…beyond compare. Russia is a country of millions of martyrs, and Putin can be seen praying piously in the Russian Orthodox way, a faith far more ancient than western protestant sects, with a direct line of succession to first-century church, described in acts of the apostles. Putin is aware of this, he has met with the leader of Syrian Christians, the Patriarch of Antioch, and taken a keen interest in defending Syria particularly, because of shared Orthodox faith.

A great example of western misunderstanding is when they jumped on Putin’s recent comment about Lenin’s body and Orthodox relics. The implication was that Putin is implying Lenin’s body on red square is just as Holy as the relics of an Orthodox Saint which people venerate. While it’s not my right to speak for Putin, it is clear to me this was a misunderstanding, perhaps due to poor understanding of the Russian language, by non-native speakers.

Having listened myself, I can say the connotation of his comment was more like “What the communists did with Lenin’s body isn’t an unheard of concept, we Orthodox people venerate saints. They just stole an ancient Russian tradition and hope no one notices”. That is a total paraphrase, but I believe it better explains what he said, than the connotation of the English translation.

Putin is right to make the comparison. I do not say Lenin’s body is equal to that of the Saints, certainly not! But the Bolsheviks copied what the church did. They were jealous of the Church, they wanted to be the new Church. This is entirely true. The way Lenin’s body was treated is indeed a form of mimicking and mockery of the holy relics.

The Bolsheviks took an approach of if you can’t beat them, join them almost. They even studied Orthodoxy to uncover knew means of self-promotion. Rather than destroying its role in Russia, they merely usurped it as a central ideology. Whereas before we had cross processions, then we march with Lenin pictures. Before we said God Save the Czar,  then we said Lenin lived, Lenin Lives, Lenin will live again!

In a way, they understood that no people can be without religion or a central ideology. Rather than destroying that thing all humans need, they just replaced Orthodoxy with communism. But of course, they failed. Orthodoxy is the organic ideology of the Russian people, the Faith which founded Russia, it can never be replaced by a pale imitation. That is why Putin was comparing communist things to Orthodox ones, because the communists coveted the zealotry Russians have for their faith. They mimicked Orthodoxy because it was familiar to the people, and in many ways, if it wasn’t for Orthodoxy teaching Russians how to be so loyal to a belief, Communism would not have been successful.

In many ways, Russian communism and the Soviet Union was more influenced by Orthodoxy than Marxism; the religious zeal with which they received it, the marching and the imperial loyalty to their leaders are all something they learned from Czarist Russia, not from Marx. It also doesn’t make you a communist or a bad Christian to note, as Putin did, Orthodoxy and Communist economic theory share some basic commonality – care for the poor and all the peoples of the world. The difference was communism was materialistic whereas Orthodoxy is spiritualistic.

Contrary to the McCarthyites, calling him a communist, there are also the Alt-Right, and certain conservative factions, who have this fascination with Putin as an ultra-macho strongman, what they wish their western leaders were like. They look to him riding shirtless or shooting guns, his judo skills, they enviously lust for his strength, wishing they hat it within them. These people look to the “anti-gay law” in Russia, as proof that Putin is a “tough, white, heterosexual man” putting the world back in its place, and women back in the kitchen.

While Putin is obviously white and heterosexual, and you’d have to be crazy to say he is not tough, he does not support their extremist borderline fascist view of the world. Putin is Orthodox both in the sense of the religion, and in his very conservative, non-alternative lifestyle, he is a traditional Russian man, not an edgy alt-righter living in his mother’s basement who can’t get a girlfriend. He exudes the philosophy “talk softly but carry a big stick”. He doesn’t feel the need to remind people he’s tough – everyone knows that. He would MUCH prefer solving issues with dialog than with fighting, even though he is capable of the latter if need be, much like his country.

When Russians think of him, they picture him well dressed (not riding a bear shirtless), leading the country in a responsible, ethical, diplomatic manner. Putin is a statesman of the old world – a modern Caesar, Peter the Great, or even Churchill (with regards to his iconic association with leading his homeland). He respects the past, takes what was good, rejects what was bad, and tries to make Russia strong in a responsible way.

He is the definition of diplomatic. As much as many of us hate political correctness, he IS politically correct, only in as much as he does his best not to offend any foreign leaders. Putin is a statesman, he puts Russia first, above his personal feelings and ambitions, everything he does, he does selflessly for the nation.

The so called “anti-gay laws” simply prevent homosexuals from either directly or indirectly propagating harmful perverted sexual lifestyles to minors. Putin does not support violence against gay people at large.

Putin is strong in the fight against terror. He helped Syrians save their country, raining down fire and destruction upon terrorists, and he lead the countries security forces when Grozny, the Chechen capital was raised to the ground. He also leads the country which REBUILT Grozny into one of Russia’s most beautiful, newest cities. He is not an enemy to all Muslims, only to violent extremists. Muslims fight in the Russian armed services, and Putin has allowed children from Syria to return to Russia freely. He won’t tolerate cynics who claim infants and toddlers are terrorists just as he won’t tolerate any terrorist stupid enough to attack Russia.

He is a practicing Orthodox Christian of good faith, he has spoken of the Church’s crucial role in Russia, but he does not support creating a theocracy. Neither does the Church for that matter. Putin also meets many leaders of other religions. He is a devout practicing Orthodox, so he primarily honors the prevailing role of Orthodox in Russia history and culture, but that’s it. The west constantly portrays him as this ultra-conservative man that wants to become Czar, but that’s not reality.

The reality is Russia has far more extreme political views to the left and right of Putin. You have people who think he’s not being conservative enough, and then of course the leftist—and I don’t mean the mythical liberal unicorns, I mean the communists are the primary leftist party in Russia. The west doesn’t realize how moderate Putin really is.

He has spoken very critically of the Bolsheviks, and is no communist by any means, but he at the same time does not speak of communists like they are evil people. Some Communists were evil, some were good, somewhere in between, capitalism is also a satanic ideology from a religious point of view, it advocates for worship of money just like Communism seeks utopia without God. Both are materialistic, and Putin neither loves nor hates both systems.

Putin once told Oliver Stone that Judo taught him to be flexible, and this is one of his defining characteristics. Russia itself can be a country of extremes for better or worse, and Putin is a flexible moderate at the core, bringing the people together, doing his best not to alienate any large group, and trying to help build “Sobornaya Rossia” a united Russia. Russia has had so many extremes come and go in the last century, Putin tries to be a stabilizing constant to help the nation stand firm in trying times.

Putin actually sits in the middle of a spectrum of extremes, a peacemaker with the rare gift of calling all to order for the greater good of Russia. Those that wish for him to lose the election should be careful what they wish for, the result they get may be more than they bargained for.

The fact is Russian westernizing liberals are largely unicorns, they don’t exist, and when they do, they aren’t by any means popular. An alternative to Putin would not likely be Pro-Western, but the west may actually get to see a real Russian Communist, or Czarist, or authoritarianist.

Popular candidate Zhirinovsky for example, describes himself as the “drum” to Putin’s “cello.” He represents a group of Russians who actually think Putin is too restrained, that he isn’t tough enough. That may surprise you, but it’s true. Some Russians believe Russia should have actively intervened with full military might in Ukraine. Let’s face it, Ukrainians aren’t friends…they’re family. Russia’s family is being slaughtered in the Ukraine…yes…primarily by other Ukrainians, but this wouldn’t have happened if western backed fascists did not take power.

Zhirinovsky advocated for an intervention and occupation to restore legitimate Ukrainian rule before the fascist Kiev regime would have taken power in what the first east Slavic Chronicles call “The Mother of Russian Cities” – Kiev. Likewise, some Russians wanted to see Russia’s military take the fight to enemies on the ground in Syria, which could have potentially risked conflict with US forces occupying territory there.

The Communist party also advocated for Russia to do more to save Russian-Ukrainian people from fascist occupation. If Zhirinovsky or a communist candidate was president, Russia could have occupied all of Ukraine, or be currently fighting a war in the heart of Europe. Russia and Ukraine are twins, as a result, they both have that tendency to be a land of extremes. The difference is Putin, who kept the extreme ends of Russia from tearing each other apart, like what is happening in Ukraine.

Putin’s Russia is an incredibly diverse country. Unlike in the west, were the only real variety approved by the Deep State is Neoconservatism, or Neoliberalism, where the Right and Left are all the same on core issues where it counts, Russia is a country that truly offers diversity. Many diverse ideologies coexist in Russia, unlike in the west which claims to be the capital of diversity, the offer truly divergent and profoundly different worldviews.

For those who believe the Russian media is all the same, take a look at: Tsargrad, Komsmopolskaya Pravda, Pravoslavie.ru, RIA Novosti, Radio Mayak, Vesti, Sputnik, and RT, not to mention the plethora of openly anti-Kremlin websites which exist freely like Radio Svaboda. If people only knew the amount of anti-patriotic and anti-Russian fifth columns that are allowed to operate freely. This also doesn’t include pro-Russian and anti-Russian news from Ukraine.

Putin’s Russia is ideologically and politically far more diverse than most places, and that’s because it’s run by a moderate who welcomes dialog, and not an extremist who wishes to silence all descending voices.

Putin was the moderate who saved Syria from destruction, got the legitimate government back on its feet, then handed over the reigns and said, “Take it from here”. He was the moderate who reunited Crimea with Russia, but allowed Donbass to fight for itself, providing only humanitarian aid and fully supporting the Minsk agreements. Whether or not it’s right or wrong, his actions may have prevented a greater war.

Putin is a moderate, because he has miraculously and flexibly reconciled almost all aspects of Russian society, getting them to work together. Under Putin, for the first time, Communist leaders were saying “Christ is Risen” on Easter. Under Putin, Crimea was reunited, and Syria was saved without provoking a dangerous war with another great power.

Putin is a moderate, because he has encouraged all ideologies in Russia to collaborate patriotically for the common good, setting aside their profound differences. Putin’s work has been to stabilize Russia after centuries of storms, to help lead her into the future, so future generations of Russians will be safe and strong. Then will Russians choose whether to pursue for Russia a Monarchist, Communist, Traditionalist, Leftist, or whatever future for Russia. Because of Putin, they may build something entirely new. So call Putin a moderate if you’d like, it seems to fit.

Above all, Putin is a statesman for the stability of the country. He knows the importance of Orthodoxy as the foundation of Russian culture, which co-suffered with the people since the beginning. He is also an Orthodox Christian of genuine faith, and the lawful president with the people’s support.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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The Ukrainian President Signs a Pact With Constantinople – Against the Ukrainian Church

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via Strategic Culture:


Increasingly tragic and violent events are taking their toll on the plight of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine . After several fights over control of the church’s property, prohibitions and blacklists are starting to spread, affecting respected church figures coming from Russia to Ukraine. The latest news is that the head of the Moscow Theological Academy, Archbishop Amvrosyi Yermakov, was deported from Ukraine back to Russia. Amvrosyi’s name popped up on the black list of Russian citizens who are not deemed “eligible to visit” Ukraine. Obviously, this happened right before his plane landed in Zhulyany, Kiev’s international airport. After a brief arrest, Amvrosyi was put on a plane and sent back to Moscow. This is not the first such humiliation of the Orthodox Church and its priests that has taken place since the new pro-Western regime came to power in Kiev in 2014. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has been declared persona non grata throughout Ukraine since 2014. That decision was made by humiliatingly low-level officials. A department within the Ukrainian ministry of culture published a ruling stating that Kirill’s visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kiev “would not be desirable.”

Since the ancestors of modern Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians were first baptized in 988 in Kiev, the Patriarchs of the Russian Church have never had problems visiting Kiev, the birthplace of their church. Not even under the Bolsheviks did such prohibitions exist. So, for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church to be denied permission to visit Kiev can only be compared to a possible prohibition against the pope visiting Rome. Since 2014, there have also been several criminal cases filed against the priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC MP) because they have called the hostilities in eastern Ukraine a “civil war” and have discouraged the faithful from supporting that war. This has been interpreted by the Ukrainian state authorities as a call for soldiers to desert the army.

Why Poroshenko’s meeting with Bartholomew is ominous

Despite the fact that the UOC MP has become used to all sorts of trouble since 2014, things have been looking even worse for the canonical church lately, as 2018 draws to a close. In early November 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko broke the wall of separation between church and state in the most overt manner possible — he signed “an agreement on cooperation and joint action” between Ukraine and the so called Constantinople Patriarchate, the oldest institution of Orthodox Christianity, which is now based in Turkish Istanbul.

Rostislav Pavlenko, an aide to Poroshenko, wrote on his Facebook page that the agreement (not yet published) is premised on the creation of a new “autocephalous” Orthodox Church of Ukraine — a development that the official, existing Orthodox Churches in Russia and Ukraine view with foreboding as a “schism” that they have done all they can to prevent. Why? Because Poroshenko’s regime, which came to power via a violent coup in Kiev in 2014 on a wave of public anti-Russian sentiment, may try to force the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine to merge with other, non-canonical institutions and to surrender to them church buildings, including the famous monasteries in Kiev and Pochai, as well as other property.

President Poroshenko was visibly happy to sign the document — the contents of which have not yet been made public — on cooperation between the Ukrainian state and the Constantinople Patriarchate, in the office of Bartholomew, the head of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Poroshenko smiled and laughed, obviously rejoicing over the fact that the Constantinople Patriarchate is already embroiled in a scandalous rift with the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian sister church over several of Bartholomew’s recent moves. Bartholomew’s decision to “lift” the excommunication from two of Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic “priests,” in addition to Bartholomew’s declaration that the new church of Ukraine will be under Constantinople’s direct command — these moves were just not acceptable for the canonical Orthodox believers in Russia and Ukraine. Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), as well as Onufriy, the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, are protesting loudly, viewing this situation as a breach of two basic principles. First of all, the Ukrainian state has interfered in the church’s affairs, asking Constantinople to give the Ukrainian church “autocephaly,” which that church never requested. Second, Constantinople itself has interfered in the affairs of two autonomous national churches, the Russian and the Ukrainian. In the eyes of Ukrainian and Russian clergy, Bartholomew is behaving like the Roman pope and not as a true Orthodox leader who respects the autonomy and self-rule of the separate, national Orthodox Churches.

The Russian President sympathizes with the believers’ pain

Two days before Poroshenko made his trip to Istanbul, Russian president Vladimir Putin broke with his usual reserve when commenting on faith issues to bitterly complain about the pain which believers in Russia and Ukraine have experienced from the recent divisions within the triangle of Orthodoxy’s three historic capitals — Constantinople, Kiev, and Moscow.

“Politicking in such a sensitive area as religion has always had grave consequences, first and foremost for the people who engaged in this politicking,” Putin said, addressing the World Congress of Russian Compatriots, an international organization that unites millions of ethnic and cultural Russians from various countries, including Ukraine. Himself a practicing Orthodox believer, Putin lauded Islam and Judaism, while at the same time complaining about the plight of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, where people of Orthodox heritage make up more than 80% of the population and where the church has traditionally acted as a powerful “spiritual link” with Russia.

Despite his complaints about “politicking,” Putin was careful not to go into the details of why exactly the state of affairs in Ukraine is so painful for Orthodox believers. That situation was explained by Patriarch Kirill. After many months of tense silence and an unsuccessful visit to Barthlomew’s office in Istanbul on August 31, Kirill has been literally crying for help in the last few weeks, saying he was “ready to go anywhere and talk to anyone” in order to prevent the destruction of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Politics with a “mystical dimension”

Kirill said the attack against the Orthodox Church in Ukraine “had not only a political, but also a mystical dimension.” Speaking in more earthly terms, there is a danger that the 1,000-year-old historical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) — which now owns 11,392 church buildings, 12,328 parishes, and two world-famous monasteries in Ukraine — will be dissolved. The roots of the UOC MP go back to the pre-Soviet Russian Empire and even further back to the era of Kievan Rus, the proto-state of the Eastern Slavs in the tenth-twelfth centuries AD, when the people who would later become Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians were adopting Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. It is by far the biggest church in Ukraine, as Mikhail Denisenko’s non-canonical “alternative” church has only 3,700 parishes that include church buildings (fewer than a third of what is owned by the UOC-MP, despite the fact that Denisenko enjoys official support from the Ukrainian state).

What many Russian and Ukrainian believers fear is that the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew will eventually grant Kiev what is being called autocephaly. In that event, the UOC-MP may be forced to merge with two other, non-canonical churches in Ukraine that have no apostolic liaison. The apostolic succession of the UOC-MP consists in the historical fact that its first bishops were ordained by medieval bishops from Constantinople, who had in turn been ordained by Christ’s disciples from ancient Israel. Apostolic succession is crucial for the Orthodox Church, where only bishops can ordain new priests and where the church’s connection to the first Christians is reflected in many ways, including in the clergy’s attire.

Metropolitan Hilarion (his secular name is Grigory Alfeyev), the Russian church’s chief spokesman on questions of schism and unity, accused the patriarch of contributing to the schism by officially “lifting” the excommunication from Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic church leader — the defrocked former bishop Mikhail Denisenko. That clergyman stands to gain most from the “autocephaly” promised to Poroshenko by Patriarch Bartholomew. A hierarchical Orthodox Church is considered to have autocephalous status, as its highest bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stated that for Ukraine to be granted autocephaly from Istanbul, this would mean a complete “reformatting” of the country’s religious status quo and the severing of all links to Orthodox Russia and its “demons.”. Most likely, the new “united” church won’t be headed by the UOC MP’s Metropolitan, but by Mikhail Denisenko, who was excommunicated by both the UOC MP and the Russian church back in 1997 and with whom real Orthodox priests can only serve against their will and against the church’s internal rules.

Constantinople’s first dangerous moves

On October 11, 2018, the Constantinople Patriarchate made its first step towards granting autocephaly by repealing its own decision of 1686 that gave the Moscow Patriarch primacy over the Kiev-based Metropolitan. This 17th-century decision reflected the political reality of the merger between the states of Russia and Ukraine and established some order in the matters of church administration. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow gave the Ukrainian church complete independence in financial and administrative matters, but the two churches retained their cherished “spiritual unity.” “Constantinople’s decision is aimed at destroying that unity,” the ROC’s Patriarch Kirill explained. “We can’t accept it. That is why our Holy Synod made the decision to end eucharistic communication with the Constantinople Patriarchate.”

How Moscow “excommunicated” Bartholomew

The end of eucharistic communication means that the priests of the two patriarchates (based in Moscow and Istanbul) won’t be able to hold church services together. It will be maintained as long as the threat of autocephaly continues. The Western mainstream media, however, interpreted this decision by the Russian church as a unilateral aggressive act. The NYT and the British tabloid press wrote that it simply reveals Putin’s “desperation” at not being able to keep Ukraine’s religious life under control.

However, Patriarch Bartholomew seems undeterred by the protests from the Russian faithful and the majority of Ukraine’s believers. Bartholomew said in a recent statement that Russia should just follow the example of Constantinople, which once granted autocephaly to the churches of the Balkan nations. Bartholomew’s ambassadors in Kiev do not shy away from communicating with the self-declared “Patriarch” Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko’s adopted religious name from back when he was the UOC MP’s Metropolitan prior to his excommunication in 1997). For true Orthodox believers, any communication with Denisenko has been forbidden since 1992, the year when he founded his own so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Unfortunately, Denisenko enjoys the full support of Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and recently the US State Department began encouraging Denisenko, by giving its full support to Ukraine’s autocephaly.

The lifting of Denisenko’s excommunication by Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul both upset and embittered the Orthodox believers in both Ukraine and Moscow, since Denisenko was excommunicated by a joint decision of the Russian church and the UOC MP in 1997, after a five-year wait for his return to the fold of the mother church. So, by undoing that decision, Constantinople has interfered in the canonical territory of both the Ukrainian and the Russian churches.

The UOC-MP protested, accusing not only Patriarch Bartholomew, but also the Ukrainian state of interfering in the church’s affairs. “We are being forced to get involved in politics. The politicians do not want Christ to run our church; they want to do it themselves,” said Metropolitan Onufriy (Onuphrius), the head of the UOC-MP, in an interview with PravMir, an Orthodox website. “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been independent. Our church did not ask for autocephaly, because we already have independence. We have our own Synod (church council) and our own church court. Decisions are made by a congress of bishops and priests from all over Ukraine. We have financial and administrative independence, so autocephaly for us will be a limitation, not an expansion of our rights.”

Poroshenko’s premature jubilation

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Poroshenko did not conceal his jubilation about Constantinople’s moves. “This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness,” Poroshenko said when the news about the lifting of Denisenko’s excomnmunication came from Istanbul in early October.

Poroshenko said he wanted a “united Orthodox Church” for his country, and he openly pressured Patriarch Bartholomew to provide autocephaly to Kiev during his visits to Istanbul in the spring of 2018 and in November of the same year. Meanwhile, Denisenko said that the provision of autocephaly would mean the immediate dispossession of the UOC MP. “This Russian church (UOC MP) will have to cede control of its church buildings and famous monasteries to the new Ukrainian church, which will be ours,” Denisenko was quoted by Ukrainian media as saying. “These monasteries have been owned by the state since Soviet times, and the state gave them to the Russian church for temporary use. Now the state will appoint our communities of believers as the new guardians of this heritage.” Denisenko also made a visit to the US, where he met Undersecretary of State Wess Mitchell, obtaining from him America’s active support for the creation of a “unified” Ukrainian church.

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring. Poroshenko’s presidential aide, Rostislav Pavlenko, made it clear on Tuesday that the actual “tomos” (a letter from the Constantinople Patriarchate allowing the creation of an autocephalous church) will be delivered only IN RESPONSE to a request from a “unifying convention” that represents all of Ukraine’s Orthodox believers in at least some sort of formal manner. This new convention will have to declare the creation of a new church and elect this church’s official head. Only then will Constantinople be able to give that person the cherished “tomos.”

Since the UOC-MP has made it very clear that it won’t participate in any such convention, the chances of the smooth transition and easy victory over the “Muscovite believers” that Poroshenko wants so badly are quite slim. There are big scandals, big fights, and big disappointments ahead.

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Russia’s Next Weapon: A Church

The Russian military plans to build a military church to bolster the spiritual values of its armed forces.

The Duran

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Authored by Michael Peck via The National Interest:


Meet Vladimir Putin’s newest weapon: a church.

The Russian military plans to build a military church to bolster the spiritual values of its armed forces. Construction will soon begin of the Main Church of the Armed Forces, to be erected in Patriot Park outside Moscow, according to Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, deputy defense minister and chief of the armed forces’ Main Military-Political Directorate, a new organization responsible for political education of the troops.

The “new church will be one more example of the people’s unity around the idea of patriotism, love, and devotion to our Motherland,” Kartapolov told Russian journalists.

To say the church, dubbed by some as the “Khaki Temple,” will have a martial air would be an understatement.

“The walls of the military church are really made in the color of the standard Russian missile system and armored vehicle,” according to the Russian newspaper The Independent [Google English translation here ] “…From the inside, the walls are decorated with paintings with battle scenes from military history and texts from the Holy Scriptures. The projected height is 95 meters [104 feet] and is designed for 6,000 people.”

“Kartapolov is convinced that the modern Russian serviceman cannot be shaped without shaping lofty spirituality in him,” Russian media said. “Speaking about ideology, the deputy head of the military department pointed out that this will be based on knowledge of the history of our Motherland and people and on historical and cultural traditions.”

“Even though the Russian constitution states that ‘no ideology may be established as state or obligatory,’ the Kremlin continues to search for a unifying set of beliefs,” notes the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office.

Religion has long played a role in Russian military life, first through the Russian Orthodox Church in Tsarist times, and then—in a secular way—through Communism in Soviet times. “In late imperial Russia, when they began to build garrisons, every regiment sought to build a regimental church, but not a synagogue or mosque,” Roger Reese, an historian at Texas A&M University who has written books on the Tsarist and Soviet armed forces, told the National Interest. “In Putin’s Russia, the Orthodox Church seeks every opportunity to represent itself as the national religion and tie itself to the state as it had under the tsars, so this act represents continuity broken temporarily by the Soviet years. Of course the Soviet regime did not build churches for the army, but it did build the ‘House of the Red Army,’ shaped like a star, in Moscow dedicated to the use of the Red Army and its soldiers.

In some respects it was analogous to a USO [United Service Organization that supports American soldiers] building. So Putin’s dedicating one particular building to the use of the Russian Army soldiers for purposes of morale—and morals—is in line with that.”

While the thought of a military church will be distasteful to some, Russia is hardly unique in linking the military and religion.

Many armies, the United States and Israel included, maintain chaplains who wear uniform and hold military rank. Chapels are common on military bases, and soldiers are given time for – and sometimes pressured to – attend religious services. While a Russian military church is likely to favor a specific denomination – Russian Orthodoxy – even that isn’t unique: non-Christian members of the U.S. military have complained of religious discrimination , especially by Christian fundamentalists.

What’s interesting is how little things change. Be it the Tsar’s conscripts, or the Red Army’s draftees or the volunteers who comprise much of modern Russia’s military, some spiritual reinforcement is deemed necessary to get soldiers to fight.

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