Category Archives: Russian Orthodoxy

Better the Godless East than the Immoral West
Great Power Logic and the Approach of the Russian Orthodox Church towards China

by Alicja Curanović | български | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Image: iStock.com/Oleksii Liskonih

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, experts have been scrupulously analyzing the Russian Orthodox Church’s (ROC) reaction to the conflict. Its support for the Kremlin triggered comments about the Church being a state-controlled ideology entrepreneur which has confused Christian values with imperial geopolitics. Indeed, the inclination towards geopolitics and great power logic can be noticed in the position of many representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, this is not only the case with Ukraine or post-Soviet territory. The ROC’s entanglement in geopolitics goes beyond this and often contradicts Christian teaching. This is well seen in the Moscow Patriarchate’s approach towards China, which is discussed here. It is intriguing to observe how a Communist Party hostile towards religion has become a desirable ally against the liberal West with whom Russia shares its Christian tradition.

The fact that the US is unable to convince China to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine confirms the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership. Russia’s reorientation towards China accelerated after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The cornerstone of the new opening between Moscow and Beijing was laid, though, in 2001, when the bilateral Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation was signed. The Plan of Actions foreseen by the treaty (2004) included a point which provided information about “initiating a dialogue and a cooperation between the ‘leading religions’” of both countries. This rather modest formulation has provided the Russian state and Church with the formal ground to address the situation of Orthodox believers living in China.

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Open Appeal of the Priests of the UOC-MP to the Primates of Local Orthodox Churches

Image: iStock.com/vladstudioraw

After Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, the question of the further existence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate became critical. Patriarch Kirill did not condemn the aggression and did not call the aggressor by name. He did not express any condolences to the families of the dead Ukrainians. Most of the Ukrainian episcopate condemned the invasion, but it was at a complete loss and failed to take an active anti-war stance. The initiative fell to the hands of parish clergy, a situation unprecedented for the post-Soviet space. First, at the initiative of priests in 22 dioceses, it was decided to stop commemorating Patriarch Kirill during the liturgy. The next step was an appeal to the Primate of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Onufry, calling for a Council of Bishops to withdraw from the jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill.

However, the most striking and bold initiative was an appeal by Archpriest Andrii Pinchuk to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, demanding a church trial against Patriarch Kirill. He admitted that he had intended to collect about 100 signatures, but in five days he collected 437, with priests from the vast majority of the dioceses in Ukraine responding. The letter was also supported by a significant number of priests who did not dare to put their signatures for fear of being subjected to repression by their bishops, but in private conversations with Fr. Andrii admitted to fully supporting him.

By today, an appeal was already sent to the heads of the churches, including Patriarch Kirill himself. But so far, there has been no response to the letter.

It is hard to guess what will be the reaction of the addressees, but there is certain dissatisfaction with the overcautious position of most of the primates of the Orthodox Churches.

Sergey Chapnin


Full text of Fr. Andrii’s appeal:

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Sergii Bulgakov: Easter Thoughts

with commentary by Regula Zwahlen

български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Image: M.V. Nesterov, from “Narod” Issue 1

This article was published in the first issue of the newspaper “Narod” (“People”), published in Kiev in April 1906, with Sergii Bulgakov and A. S. Glinka (Volzhsky) as editors. The newspaper “Narod” was conceived as a printed edition of the failed political project the “Union of Christian Politics.” In the period from April 2 to April 10, seven issues came out; then, the newspaper was closed by a court decision. All issues featured articles of Bulgakov.

The translated text is offered here with commentary by Regula Zwahlen.

SB: To the sounds of bells, with the rejoicing of nature and people, on the greatest of Christian feasts, we start our modest work.

Again the Christian world celebrates the final victory of good over evil, of life over death, of creative, constructive love over corrupting enmity; and it celebrates this victory, accomplished by the God-man and saving the world and people forever, as a pledge and an anticipation of the eternal resurrection of the world and transfiguration of creation. And, anticipating the final triumph by faith, the Christian world experiences it even now as a fact already being realized, as the shining of light in the darkness around us, as a flaming love and its joy in the midst of the kingdom of hostility and discord.

The Risen Christ still arises in the soul of every person, and in the soul of the nations and the bright radiance of the Risen One, breaking into the darkness of the night, not only blinds the joyful eye, but also pierces the darkness in which we live with the dazzling light of conscience, illuminating the Golgotha which we create from the world. And the singing of angels in heaven merges with wheezing and groans coming from the place of the execution. On the day of the Resurrection, we cannot forget about Golgotha, as long as we live, and we cannot and should not conquer Golgotha.

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Some Reflections on the Declaration on the “Russian World” Teaching

by Andrey Shishkov

Image: iStock.com/seungyeon kim

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is a turning point in European history, comparable to the beginning of both world wars. Therefore, it is completely understandable that theologians and ordinary believers would respond to it, first, with gestures of solidarity with the victims of the aggression, and second, with condemnation of the aggressors and those who support them. In an attempt to understand the spiritual causes of the war, a group of Orthodox theologians issued a Declaration on the “Russian World” teaching and denounced this doctrine. Today there are more than a thousand signatures under the document. As in other similar cases, people signed the declaration, on the one hand, out of solidarity, and on the other hand, with the desire to condemn the supreme leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, which directly or indirectly supports the war. While the document deals perfectly well with the first task, problems arise with the second.

I put my signature under the Declaration because I want to demonstrate my solidarity with other theologians and believers in condemning the war and supporting its victims. In addition, I am close to the intention of the authors of the document in trying to analyze the Russian World teaching formulated and promoted for many years by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. At the same time, I believe that this text does not achieve its goal, neither in its substance nor in its overall argument. It is impossible to formulate an indictment of this doctrine and its author on the basis of this Declaration, which does not deal with the real Russian world, which is killing innocent people, but rather with an imaginary world.

For purposes of discussion, I would like to outline three points on which I believe the Declaration on the Russian World falls short. I believe that my critique will serve as a constructive impetus to further develop this topic and better understand the spiritual malady that has led the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church to support aggression against Ukraine. I am glad that Public Orthodoxy, which was the first to publish this document, can provide a forum for such discussion.

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