Tag Archives: Russian World

Patriarch Kirill, the “Russian World” Myth, and Genocide

by Jaroslav Skira | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Also available in Ukrainian (pdf)

Destroyed Ukrainian church
Image: Church of the Nativity of the Virgin (UOC-MP), built in 1862. Village of Vyazívka Naroditsky district of Zhytomyr region. Damaged by the Russian shelling.

Suggestively linking a Russian Orthodox primate, an ideology, and genocide may seem provocative or sensationalist. For me, given the current unjustified Russian war on Ukraine, the connections between them are far from that. In this moment in our common history as a human family, ‘naming” a reality is utterly important here for assessing the horrific events in Ukraine and the ideology that is complicit in such violence against the very innocence that characterizes the people of Ukraine. Naming is a profoundly ethical choice.

Genocide is not an abstract concept in this present moment for the people of Ukraine, its diaspora, and all people of good will. Genocide is the eradication of racial, national, ethnic, or religious groups. Although there are scholarly debates on this concept, I’ve chosen to approach it within an ethical conceptualization and from a victim-centered viewpoint. Genocide is a term first coined by Raphaël Lemkin during WWII, which he defined as the elimination of differences among “colonized groups” in order to impose the cultural and political identity of a “colonizing group.” Those who hold different identities from the dominant power group are either suppressed, exiled, or killed. Genocide destroys existing bonds of social or civic solidarity of groups and the potential for their self-determination. Further, Lemkin identifies genocide within a much broader framework, since he does not restrict genocide to any one act, like killing or forced famine, since genocide is constituted by various cumulative acts toward the destruction of an identifiable group of people.

In our current context, the quasi-religious ideology complicit in genocide is the “Russian world” (Russkii mir) myth.

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A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii mir) Teaching

“For the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God,
and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.”

(Divine Liturgy)

български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

This text is also available in pdf format in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, and Ukrainian

Croatian, Estonian, and Hungarian translations are also available (external links)

Icon: Gathering of the twelve Apostles, church of Zoodockos Pigi (Life-giving Spring), Vyzitsa, Pelion, Greece; Photo: Damaged Ukrainian church in the village of Bobryk, Kyiv region (source)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, is a historic threat to a people of Orthodox Christian tradition. More troubling still for Orthodox believers, the senior hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church has refused to acknowledge this invasion, issuing instead vague statements about the necessity for peace in light of “events” and “hostilities” in Ukraine, while emphasizing the fraternal nature of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples as part of “Holy Rus’,” blaming the hostilities on the evil “West”, and even directing their communities to pray in ways that actively encourage hostility.

The support of many of the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate for President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is rooted in a form of Orthodox ethno-phyletist religious fundamentalism, totalitarian in character, called Russkii mir orthe Russian world, a false teaching which is attracting many in the Orthodox Church and has even been taken up by the Far Right and Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists.

The speeches of President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill (Gundiaev) of Moscow (Moscow Patriarchate) have repeatedly invoked and developed Russian world ideology over the last 20 years. In 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea and initiated a proxy war in the Donbas area of Ukraine, right up until the beginning of the full-fledged war against Ukraine and afterwards, Putin and Patriarch Kirill have used Russian world ideology as a principal justification for the invasion. The teaching states that there is a transnational Russian sphere or civilization, called Holy Russia or Holy Rus’, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people throughout the world. It holds that this “Russian world” has a common political centre (Moscow), a common spiritual centre (Kyiv as the “mother of all Rus’’), a common language (Russian), a common church (the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate), and a common patriarch (the Patriarch of Moscow), who works in ‘symphony’ with a common president/national leader (Putin) to govern this Russian world, as well as upholding a common distinctive spirituality, morality, and culture.

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