Category Archives: Religion and Politics

War and Eschatology

by George Persh | ελληνικά | Русский

Image Credit: iStock.com/Manakin

Any conflict, especially a military conflict, needs a clear rationale for why it occurs. Usually, this question should be answered by official representatives of the state. However, the situation in Russia after the beginning of the armed conflict with Ukraine is gradually beginning to be explained in religious terms. This language has moved beyond the confines of the church. Today it is already being used by Russian officials and the media. At the same time, their rhetoric is more radical than that of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church; that is, official church preaching has become part of state propaganda.   

Russia’s war against Ukraine has made eschatological rhetoric and thinking key. Not only in a church sermon, but also in state propaganda, radical terms such as “desatanization of Ukraine” appear. Russian officials explicitly call the Ukrainian authorities “Satanists” and “open enemies of Christ,” and the cited goal is to “stop the supreme ruler of hell, whatever name he uses—Satan, Lucifer, or Iblis. For his goal is destruction,” according to Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev in his Telegram. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, even the Canadian authorities who imposed sanctions on Patriarch Kirill are Satanists.

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Apocalypse Delayed: Patriarch Kirill on Restraining the Antichrist in Ukraine

by Maureen Perrie | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

On 20 November 2022, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow celebrated his 76th birthday. At a reception to mark the occasion, held in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the Patriarch warned his guests in apocalyptic terms of the current dangers facing Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Without explicitly mentioning the war in Ukraine, Kirill called on the Church to play an active part in “the struggle of our Fatherland against global evil” and against “this movement of the Antichrist, which is capable of destroying both the entire world and Russia.” All the forces of the Antichrist, he claimed, would be directed against Russia, because the Russia of today was the “restraining force” (uderzhivuaiushchii) that was mentioned in Scripture in relation to the appearance of the Antichrist in the world. 

Speaking to the audience at his birthday reception that mostly comprised hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, Kirill evidently did not feel the need to explain the Biblical concept of the “restraining force.” Several months earlier, however, in a sermon he preached in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 7 April, Kirill had called for prayers to be said for peace in Ukraine and for the preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church. Why, he asked, had external forces attacked the “Russian land”? The Bible, he explained by way of an answer, contains a reference to a certain force that restrains the coming of the Antichrist into the world. It does not say what this force is: some think it was the Roman Empire; others believe it is the Church. The latter view is correct, Kirill claimed, but the restraining force is also “the entire pious people of all times and all countries, it is the Orthodox faith which lives and acts in the Orthodox Church.” This, he concluded, is why the enemies of the Church are now attacking its unity.

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Kremlin Notes in the Patriarch’s Christmas Appeal

by Sergei Chapnin

This essay was first published in Russian at the Moscow Times

Image Credit: iStock.com/ErmakovaElena

This year, on Christmas Eve, Patriarch Kirill wrote the shortest text in the fourteen years of his patriarchate: the appeal for a Christmas truce. This document might well have become a masterpiece of the anti-war, peacemaking stance of the Russian Orthodox Church.

However, it turned out quite differently. The appeal for a ceasefire is yet another manifestation of the close alliance between the ROC and the Kremlin and evidence of the patriarch’s complete misunderstanding of his place in the modern world.

The text of the appeal is worth quoting in full. It is simple and laconic: “I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, appeal to all parties involved in the internecine conflict to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from noon on January 6 until 12 pm on January 7 so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”

The call for a truce is a good thing, especially if it becomes a prologue to peace, and is based on a Christian understanding of peacemaking. However, the call for a truce can also be part of a political gamble, and church feasts can also be part of the instrumentalization of religion, a form of manipulation of religious feelings.

Which option is true in this case?

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War and Appeals to Magical Consciousness

by Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun

Conquest of Jericho
Image Credit: iStock.com/sedmak

As was noted many times, the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine is ideologically framed by a quasi-religious doctrine that promotes Russian civilizational exceptionalism and has been branded as the “Russian world.” This doctrine is not the only quasi-religious aspect of the war. Those who endorse the war try to justify it by bringing up a wide array of arguments that look religious. In my contribution to the Sweden-based Religion and Praxis blog, I argued that both Vladimir Putin and his counterparts in the Russian Orthodox Church are driven by a dualistic worldview, which is non-Christian and anti-biblical, and which sees the world in black-and-white, as being divided to essentially good and essentially evil parts. Russia, according to this worldview, incarnates the former part, while the West, the latter one. The Russian propaganda effectively appeals to and enhances this worldview among its target groups.

The same propaganda exploits some biblical references as well. For example, the TV channel Spas, owned and managed by the Moscow Patriarchate, has produced, and broadcasts a documentary series “God and the Bible.” It is based on the book with the same title by the Serbian Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović. In one of the episodes, the channel’s anchor Boris Korchevnikov and the priest at the parish affiliated with the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Fr. Igor Fomin, discussed possible biblical justifications for the ongoing war in Ukraine. They recorded the episode in Volnovakha, a Ukrainian city in Donbass occupied and almost completely destroyed by the Russian army. While standing against the backdrop of the city’s ruins, Fr. Igor mentions that “God gives a direct command to the Jewish people to cleanse the land from the peoples” that were impious and therefore destined by God to “go into oblivion,” so that other peoples could be “erected in their place.” This is nothing more but a clear justification of the Russian atrocities in Ukraine and effectively a call for the genocide of the Ukrainian people—on the Old Testament grounds.

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