The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has approved a chanted prayer for jobseekers for use in regular worship services.
The prayer mentions work that will be of benefit and yield worthy fruits, as well as help [the supplicant] to observe the church commandments, RIA Novosti reports. We have previously written about [which saints] to pray to in such instances, but now there is a single standard [for how to pray to them].
Now we humbly pray to Thee: grant Thy servant (insert name) to do good and all that is useful for Thy glory and for the good of Thy house, and make the fruit worthy of his labors, so that, having prospered in Thy commandments and in Thy love, he will sing and thank Thee, and Thine Eternal Father, and Thy Most Holy and Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
A monument entitled The Happy Family was unveiled in the park near Kaliningrad’s Lower Lake. Located between the Palace of Creativity of Children and Youth and the Regional Trade Unions Federation building, the site was transferred to the church in 2012. In 2022, the Kaliningrad Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church applied to the Kaliningrad administration for permission to beautify the park. However, by that time the square had already actually been landscaped, only the promised sculpture was missing.
The unveiling ceremony took place on Thursday, May 11. The Happy Family is represented by a woman sitting on a bench with a small child surrounded by two more children, a man and a dog. On the same bench there is a sign saying “Do not look for your happiness in other people’s families. You won’t find it there.” A less noticeable sign is attached to the back of the bench, stating that “Happy Family Park was created by the Kaliningrad Diocese with the support of the Governor of the Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov and Yevgeny Verkholaz.” Ivan Melnikov, a sculptor from Samara, authored the composition.
Both Governor Anton Alikhanov and Regional Legislative Assembly deputy Yevgeny Verkholaz joined Archbishop of Kaliningrad and the Baltics Seraphim in unveiling the monument. Verkholaz, in particular, called on everyone wishing for a happy family life to stroke the members of the sculpted nuclear family unit and make a wish, explaining that he himself, for example, had stroked the girl and fathered a daughter.
The event was also attended by the chairman of the Regional Legislative Assembly Andrei Kropotkin, the head of the Kaliningrad administration Elena Dyatlova accompanied by the new head of the city Oleg Aminov, State Duma deputy Marina Orgeeva, and Senator[sic]Alexander Yaroshuk.
Yulia Slavyanskaya is a Russian singer of spiritual and patriotic songs. In 2002, she recorded her first album Wake up, Soul!, which was a real success! The singer attracted numerous fans who value spirituality, a positive attitude, and patriotism in music. Yulia writes her own music based on the poems of contemporary poets and classic poets.
Even the youngest listeners like the songs of this beautiful performer of contemporary songs [sic] about the soul and for the soul, songs about love for each other and for one’s Motherland. Her extraordinary lucid voice cannot be confused with anyone else’s!
For many years, Yulia Slavyanskaya has been performing solo concerts all over Russia. She has been joyfully welcomed in Donetsk, Gorlovka [sic], Belarus, Serbia, Abkhazia, Kirghizia [sic], and Montenegro.
She has been a prizewinner at many Russian and international festivals of spiritual song. She was awarded the Republic of Abkhazia’s highest honor, the Akhdz-Apsha (“Honor and Glory”) medal, in the third degree, and has received numerous awards from municipal, public, and religious organizations in Russia and other countries.
Yulia Slavyanskaya’s concert and performances can be viewed on the TV channels Spas, Soyuz, A Minor, and My Joy. You can also get to know her work on the website юлия-славянская.рф and social networks on the Internet.
Yulia Slavyanskaya’s concerts are attended by whole families. Her work is filled with amazing light and purity! At the concert in St. Petersburg, Yulia will perform songs from all six of her released albums.
By tradition, the little children who attend Yulia Slavyanskaya’s concert will become its active participants.
Source: Bileter.ru, via their weekly email newsletter. Ticket prices for the concert range between 700 and 1,500 rubles. Translated by the Russian Reader
Today in St. Petersburg, the trial in the case of the defrocked Orthodox priest Ioann Kurmoyarov on charges of disseminating “fake news” about the army continued. Kurmoyarov had claimed that those who invaded Ukraine would go to hell.
A theological discussion unfolded in court. Imam Fayzulla Karimov, who barely speaks Russian but was revealed to be the “expert linguist” who had assessed Kurmoyarov’s theological videos, testified as a witness for the prosecution.
It transpired that a specialist of his profile was required by the investigation to evaluate Kurmoyarov’s statement that “those who consider themselves Christians and support this war should change their religion and convert to Islam,” thus, allegedly, “inciting interfaith discord.”
From the questions posed to the “expert witness,” it transpired that he, as a native of Tajikistan, had not formally studied Russian, but had graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Dushanbe in 2004 and the Islamic University in 2014.
Kurmoyarov had been bringing the imam round to the idea that Islam, unlike Christianity, has a concept of holy war in the literal sense of the word, but the judge struck down his questions.
Here is an example of the dialogue between the judge and imam, demonstrating the latter’s level of knowledge of the Russian language (although he travels to Russia for short visits, he lives permanently in Tajikistan):
Judge: Are you acquainted with Kurmoyarov? Imam: I am acquainted. Judge (forcefully): Are you acquainted with Kurmoyarov? Imam: I am not acquainted.
On the early morning of November 30, the security forces came to the home of Tomsk musician and teacher Anna Chagina: this was how she found out that she been charged with the criminal offense of “discrediting the army.” Chagina had been detained at an anti-war rally on March 6. In September, the Prosecutor General’s Office blocked Chagina’s page on VK over anti-war posts, which have now served as the grounds for the criminal charges against her under Article 280.3.1 of the Criminal Code. The maximum penalty is up to three years in prison.
On December 1, the court imposed pretrial restrictions on Chagina: she was banned from using the internet and mail, leaving home after ten o’clock in the evening, and attending mass events. On the evening of December 1, after the court hearing, Chagina talked to Sibir.Realii’s correspondent about her criminal case and her scenarios for how and when the war would end.
“Gentlemen, this is my house and my rules”
On the eve of the visit from the security forces, Chagina celebrated her birthday, and her guests had left late. She hadn’t sleep half the night because her nineteen-year-old daughter had a fever, and at six a.m. the doorbell rang. Anna opened it and saw an entire brigade: “There were two witnesses, two field officers from the FSB, an investigator, a special forces soldier, and a lawyer.” Only after returning from the temporary detention center, where she had spent the night, did she discover that the peephole in her door had been prudently sealed with a sticker on the stairwell side. At the time, Chagina had been too busy to notice it: she says that fear had made it hard for her to breathe and she was constantly thirsty. The second feeling she had was indignation.
– As soon as they came, I said, “Gentlemen, this is my house and my rules.” I insisted that they take off their shoes. They rifled through all my books and looked through all the folders. I have a lot of papers — printouts, sheet music, archives. They confiscated computer equipment and a bunch of flash drives and phones, including ones that didn’t work.
To calm her nerves, Anna picked up a guitar and put on a concert. She sang children’s songs and Okudzhava.
– Actually, I rarely give concerts, but then and there I realized that there would be no such opportunity anymore. I was trying not to pay attention to them.
– Did you have a lawyer present?
– They brought a lawyer with them. The court-appointed lawyer was both theirs and mine. At my request, she telephoned my friend Igor, but during the search she didn’t tell me, for example, that I could write in the report that I was against their videotaping during the search. We added that when I was already at the Investigative Committee. My daughter had also wanted to film the search on camera, but her smartphone was taken away. I was scared that I would first be locked up in a temporary detention facility for forty-eight hours, and then immediately sent to a pretrial detention center for two months.
The police search of Anna’s house lasted about three hours, after which she and her daughter were taken to the Investigative Committee.
– My daughter had a temperature of 39 [degrees Centigrade — 36.6 degrees Centigrade is considered normal body temperature]. I asked that she be questioned first as a witness and released, and after that they could talk to me. But first I was interrogated for four hours, and my daughter waited ll that time. The court-appointed lawyer told me that with such a temperature she could have refused to go in for questioning, but for some reason she told me that after the fact. Today, my daughter was taken away by ambulance with pneumonia.
– I verbally said that I did not admit any guilt, but, in my opinion, this was not included in the arrest report. They gave me some document about cooperating with the investigation and asked me to read it carefully. But I refused to cooperate, and I wrote on this document that I did not consider it necessary to read it. Copies of the search and arrest reports were not given to me because, they said, the the court-appointed lawyer had photographed them.
– And then you were taken to the pretrial detention center?
– Yes. To have something to do there, I took a pocket Bible with me from home. I was in solitary confinement. It was cold, and the sink and toilet stank. By law, I could be kept there for forty-eight hours, so I asked for cleaning liquid or power to wash the sink and toilet. They brought it in the morning.
The light does not go off at night. Radio Vanya, a pop station, was playing in the cell until ten p.m. I am a musician, and have other musical preferences. To keep this music from seeping into my mind, I meditated. I read the Bible. I spent the time well.
– How did the court hearing go?
– I had petitioned for a change of counsel, and the attorney I had retained was already at the hearing. We were able to keep the hearing open to the public. The investigator asked the court to impose pretrial restrictions that would prohibit me from using all means of communication. The lawyer asked for a mitigation, and I was still permitted to use the telephone.
Chagina is now forbidden to use the internet and mail, leave home after ten o’clock in the evening, or attend mass events.
– They put a Federal Penitentiary Service tracking bracelet on you. How do you like it?
– When I would see such a bracelet on others, I would think, Those are the fetters of Satan! It’s fine so far. I haven’t tried doing yoga in this bracelet yet. I’ll work out, and it’ll be clear how it feels… I’m talking calmly and even joking, but in fact I’m in shock. Once I saw a man who, after an accident, was standing there with a split skull – his brain was clearly visible, but he was talking calmly. He was in shock from the pain. Something similar is happening to me now.
– How much will the court-imposed pretrial restrictions, the ban on using the internet and leaving the house in the evening, complicate your life?
– Things couldn’t have been worse even before the criminal case came along. In September, the Prosecutor General’s Office blocked my VK page, which had a very strong impact on me, because I used this page to advertise private lessons and find music students. I have a very low income. I was selling my apartment to buy a smaller dwelling and pay off my debts, but due to the fact that I am now a criminal defendant, I cannot wrap up the deal.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
Chagina recalls how she gave a concert on the eve of the March anti-war rally.
– There were about a hundred people there. Before playing, I openly spoke out against the war. I played one of my favorite Ukrainian carols on the violin. It was very warmly received. After the concert, a woman from the audience approached me: “My son is going to the [anti-war] rally on March 6th. I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid.” There were others. They were surprised: “You say that war is always bad. That it was Russia who attacked.” But even these people did not condemn me, but shared their misgivings with me.
My daughter went to a solo anti-war picket on March 3 and was immediately taken away. This was even before the laws were tightened, which occurred on March 5. I was afraid to go out on March 6, but I couldn’t stay away. My friend, who is seriously ill, went to the rally with her family. I can’t tell you her name, because I’m afraid that they will start pulling in everyone again. Her husband was detained. I thought hat she would be detained next. She had come out with a placard that read, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I took the placard from her and held it up. I stood there holding it for ten minutes before they put me in a traffic police car and took me to the Soviet District police department. I was later fined on administrative charges of “discrediting the army.”
– How long have you been in the protest movement?
– Protest rallies are not the most important thing in my life, but I’m used to openly voicing my opinion. I went out to protest for Navalny and for TV2 [the Tomsk independent TV channel shut down by the authorities in 2014 — SR]. In 2014, when Crimea began, I went to a protest rally carrying a placard that read, “Don’t shoot your brothers.”
– Why are you personally against this war?
– I am against any war. Violence cannot solve any conflict. I sincerely admire the martial arts, if it is an honest one-on-one duel without weapons. But you can achieve only universal death through wholesale slaughter.
I rethought a lot of things after February 24. The war enabled me to separate what I love from what I hate. I had wanted to leave Russia for many years before the war. I hate it when a person endlessly tolerates what cannot be tolerated — humiliation, filth, an unseemly life — and does nothing about it. War is an attempt by such people to resolve the logjam of problems through violence and hysteria.
– What do you like about Russia?
– I love the nature. I love a certain kind of simplicity. Not the the kind of simplicity that is worse than thievery, but the kind of simplicity that can be called openness. The war made it possible to find out that there are many honest and decent people among Russians. Before the war, I was little interested in politics, and I didn’t closely follow the events in Donbas. I was busy with my family, my art, and my work.
When the war began, Tomsk showed a new side to me. I have reached a different level of social connection and communication here. Despite the fact that we don’t agree about everything, we still manage to keep in touch. This is very important to me. It is for the sake of this that it is worth going to protest rallies. Love will save the world.
– You had already been found guilty on administrative charges of “discrediting the army” for your posts on VK, which eventually served as the pretext for the criminal charges. Did you understand what the consequences could be?
– I understood. But it was important for me to convey my position to people. I am mentally ready for the fact that the state will punish me for this. I haven’t yet talked in detail to the lawyer who is defending me. But, as far as I understand, I face either a prison sentence or a huge fine. I’m not afraid of either.
I felt like I was being watched, but I couldn’t quite believe it. I saw some people outside, standing below my apartment. The FSB field officer who escorted me today said that he had personally shadowed me. And the investigator said that all the investigators at the Soviet District police department know me. Apparently, they were all here pulling shifts. By Tomsk standards, I have a rather large social media following — more than a thousand people on VK. And I have a lot of acquaintances from very different circles that do not intersect in any way.
– Which posts on VK did they deem “discrediting”?
– I have only read the arrest reports so far, not the stuff in the criminal case file. As far as I understand, the incriminating posts are the ones featuring texts by the Christian thinker Pavel Levushkan and the philosopher Nikolai Karpitsky, as copied from Facebook and posted on my VK page, with the authorship of the texts indicated. Karpitsky is a philosopher who lived in Tomsk and headed the Tomsk Anti-Fascist Committee, but now lives in Ukraine. He talks about necrophilic imperialism and about why Russians behave this way, both in war and in peacetime. Plus the comment “No war!” which I wrote below someone else’s post on VK.
“I am also to blame”
– Anna, why do you think there is no mass anti-war movement in Russia nine months after the start of the war and even in the wake of the mobilization?
– Because no one wants to go to prison. But when mobilization began, the war affected even those who had hoped to remain observer. I am acquainted with a Tomsk family in which the husband works at Gazprom and the wife teaches at a university. The husband earned good money, and the family traveled a lot around the world. But when the war began, they did not object to its officially stated aims, nor were they surprised by the claims of the propagandists that Putin was fighting NATO and gay parades in the west. But then the husband received a conscription summons, and their point of view changed immediately. The husband fled abroad.
– Speaking of emigration. You’d already had an admin. You saw that you were being followed. Why didn’t you leave?
– I had obligations. I didn’t emigrate due to my family. My daughter has health problems. My mom is here. I have a grandmother and a grandfather who are already ninety years old. Finally, my romantic partner is here.
– And you don’t even consider such a possibility for yourself in the future?
– I consider it, of course. More precisely, I would like to travel around the world, immerse myself for a long while in a different culture, in a different linguistic environment, and live in a different climate. I am a very curious person. Before the war, I had such plans: when the children grow up, I’m off! But I wasn’t thinking about the kind of emigration in which you leave and burn all your bridges.
– In your opinion, who is to blame for the fact that this war began?
– Putin, first of all. He signs off on all the decisions. But he’s not the only one to blame. I am also to blame. I voted for Putin the first time he was elected. It was the only time I voted for him. He seemed like a man who could do something good for the country. I was very naive, and I didn’t know anything about Putin’s past. The epiphany came when I noticed that Russian reality had begun to resemble C.S. Lewis’s science fiction novel That Hideous Strength. There is this character, the Grey Shadow, in the novel. He is nowhere and everywhere. His henchmen on the ground resemble him and poison the atmosphere. And there, as in Putin’s Russia, they endlessly repair what doesn’t need to be repaired and generate the semblance of busyness.
The “castling move” and even the “nullification” seemed mere absurdities. But I didn’t expect the scale of demonism that we see now. Like Stalin or Hitler, Putin is a demon who stole my country.
– How long can this war last, and how will it end?
– I have three scenarios: reasonable, mystical, and punk/optimistic. Which one would you like to hear?
– Let’s hear all three in turn.
– Reason says that this is going to go on for a long time, for many years. Even if the fighting against Ukraine ends in the foreseeable future — within two years — it is unlikely that everything will end quickly in Russia itself. But I don’t want to talk about a civil war.
The mystical point of view says that the war is part of an ongoing struggle between Good and Evil, which just touched us personally now.
And the punk scenario says that “We will leave the zoo,” as Yegor Letov sang. Lately, before the criminal case, I wanted to forget everything, and just believe that sooner or later we would stop being monkeys who piss on each other. That we would exit our individual cages and become human beings.
– Do you see any rudiments that give you hope that an epiphany, a kind of purification, is possible in Russia?
– I see them. Many of my friends say, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to build something here. This is my homeland, and I won’t surrender it to anyone.” Among them are calm optimists who believe that “this too shall pass,” and determined folks who are ready to fight.
An acquaintance of mine supported Navalny and left for California forever to avoid criminal charges. But his friend, an American, on the contrary, moved to Altai from California ten years ago, became a Russian farmer, and has no plans to leave Russia. I love the Russian language and Russian culture, but I’m not a nationalist — I’m a globalist. I am for a world without borders, and I hope Russia will one day become a part of this world.
– You took a Bible with you to the temporary detention center. Do you consider yourself Orthodox? How do you feel about the fact that the ROC has been stumping for the war?
– I practice integral spirituality, but I still seek guidance in the Orthodox Church and consider myself a Christian. The ROC’s official position [on the war] is a disgrace, and all [other] Orthodox churches have condemned it. Real Russian Orthodoxy and what it is associated with today are heaven and earth. What is the Christian conclusion here? God is merciful. And He is merciful to those who labor under delusions, too. Another thing is that everyone suffers for their delusions, including the deluded themselves.
– All the independent media that reported your arrest wrote that you are a musician. What kind of music do you play?
– I graduated from music college as a violist and I play the viola. I teach violin. I’ve had a bunch of musical groups in the past. I’ve played rock, punk, folk, and Celtic. In addition, I’ve played with an ensemble of violinists. I worked in a symphony orchestra for a year.
– Is there a particular kind of music that serves as a lifeline for you nowadays?
– I’ve been listening to very little music lately — I’ve been overloaded. But Bach is always a lifeline. One of my relatively recent discoveries is the Petersburg singer Sasha Sokolova, who, unfortunately, died of cancer. I can say of her music that it’s about our time.
– Do you imagine that the court could acquit you?
– I’m not counting on it… When I was dozing in the cell at the temporary detention center, I thought it would be cool to open my eyes in the morning and see the ocean, clean and transparent. In exactly the same way I believe that the court could hand down a fair verdict — as in a pipe dream, as in a miracle. I believe this war will end. I admit that a miracle is possible.
Since the new articles of the Criminal Code and the Administrative Offenses Code on discrediting the Russian army and disseminating “fake news” about it came into force, more than 100 criminal cases have been launched in Russia and around 4,500 reports of administrative offenses have been filed, according to Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, speaking at a session of the State Duma on October 19.
According to OVD Info, a total of 352 people are under suspicion or facing charges in so-called anti-war criminal cases launched in Russia between February 24 and November 24. As of 23 November 2022, 5,159 administrative offenses cases have been instituted in Russia under Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code (i.e., for “discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”).
On March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law criminalizing “fake news” about the actions of the Russian Armed Forces. Russians can be fined up to 1.5 million rubles or imprisoned for up to three years for violating the new Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code, defined as “Public dissemination of deliberately false information about the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes “discrediting” the Russian army, stipulates a sentence of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to a million rubles.
Another criminal case has been opened against the Orthodox church deacon from Kirov who opposed the war, and he has been put on the federal wanted list.
On September 7, a new criminal case was opened against Deacon Dmitry Bayev, this time on charges of “exonerating Nazism” (per Article 207.3.4 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). The charges were occasioned by a video entitled “Thank you grandfather for the victory” and the comment to it (“The last parade in the Russian Federation is a parade of samovars”) which the deacon posted on the VK group page Kirov Online on May 9.
The investigators argued that these publications “offend[ed] the honor and dignity of veterans.” Bayev was placed on the federal wanted list.
The 33-year-old deacon of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kirov left Russia after he was charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army due to his anti-war posts on VKontakte. On March 17, by decree of the Diocesan Bishop, Metropolitan Mark of Vyatka and Sloboda, Deacon Dmitry Bayev was banned from the ROC clergy.
Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 10 September 2022, who cites “@ASTRA” as his source, which I have been unable to locate. Translated by the Russian Reader
Citing sources in the agency, Newslerreports that the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into disseminating “fake news” about the Russian military (as defined by Article 207.3.d.2 of the Criminal Code) against Dmitry Bayev, a 33-year-old priest in the Orthodox parish of the Church of John the Baptist in Kirov.
The criminal case was opened on March 23. According to the investigation, Bayev published posts in support of Ukraine and its army on his VKontakte page. In his posts, Deacon Bayev claimed that the Ukrainian military had “dispatched 17 thousand 500 orcs to the next world.” According to him, the Russian armed forces — he called them “Russian occupiers” — have suffered significant losses of equipment every day. Bayev’s page was blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office on March 24.
After the charges were filed, the deacon did not delete the entries against the war in Ukraine from his social media page.
“The purpose of the posts is the hope that before my page is blocked, at least one person will have been able to escape the intoxication of propaganda or at least doubt it, begin to understand the real state of affairs, and put things in order in their head after reach the right conclusions,” Bayev said in a comment to Idel.Realii.
If the deacon’s guilt is proven, he faces a fine of three to five million rubles, five years of community service, and five to ten years of imprisonment.
On Forgiveness Sunday, Priest Ioann Burdin delivered an anti-war sermon in the Orthodox church in the village of Karabanovo, Kostroma Region. After one of the parishioners filed a complaint, Burdin was summoned to the police. The Krasnoselsky District Court found Burdin guilty of “discrediting” the Russian army (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) and fined him 35 thousand rubles [approx. 560 euros]. At the very outset of the war, about 300 members of the Russian clergy published an open letter condemning the war in Ukraine.
Archbishop Pitirim of Syktyvkar has called on his parishioners to rally not around Christ, but around Putin, calling the West “the enemy of the human race.”
“After [hearing] the appeal made by His Eminence the President (on supporting the war – ed.), I considered it my duty to appeal to all the clergy, monastics, and God-loving laypeople of the Syktyvkar Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as to all the patriots of our Northern Region, to rally even closer around our supreme military and political leadership and our valiant army, which, as in the years of the Great Patriotic War, is defending our earthly Fatherland from the insidious enemy of the human race.
“Only by joint prayer and tireless military efforts will we be able to contain the enemy and erect a strong barrier to the West’s aggression.”
It should be noted that “the Great Satan” is Iran’s traditional name for the United States. Meanwhile, the Head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of the Russian Federation, Mufti Albir Krganov, invoked the same metaphor in a speech he made during Eid al-Adha.
Previously, Pitirim (who had already taken holy orders) expressed his pride at being awarded the rank of Cossack colonel.
Source: Sota, 11 July 2022. Photo courtesy of Sota. Translated by the Russian Reader
The officers who raided Father Ioann Kurmoyarov’s home reportedly seized his mobile phone, a laptop, two icons, a cassock and a wooden cross.
He was taken to a police station in St Petersburg, and allowed to make one phone call to his family.
He told them he had been arrested.
Father Ioann is believed to be the first priest imprisoned under laws introduced in Russia to punish those who spread information countering the Kremlin’s narrative of the war.
“I am a prisoner of conscience, suffering for my beliefs. I consider the charges against me and my detention to be illegal,” says Father Ioann now in a statement he dictated to his lawyer in St Petersburg’s Kresty Prison.
Father Ioann adds that he is a Christian pacifist whose moral views are entirely based on the commandments of the Gospel and canons of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God,” and “Thou shalt not kill,” are among the quotes he includes in his statement.
On 12 March, just over two weeks after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, Father Ioann uploaded an eight and a half minute video to YouTube.
In it he said that those who unleash aggression would not go to heaven, and that in this case it was not Ukraine that attacked Russia but the other way around.
“You are the aggressors who attacked and killed civilians. You will not be in any kind of heaven, you will be in hell,” he says of the Russian leadership.
In his video Father Ioann goes on to compare the Russian invasion with violent “jihad” suggesting that bloodthirsty leaders in Moscow should have converted to become “militant Islamists”, a theme that he kept returning to.
“We worried but we just didn’t expect that he would be arrested,” says his brother Alexander Kurmoyarov. He tells me that Father Ioann is currently serving an initial two month detention and is then likely to face trial.
“We thought maybe he would be given a warning by the police, but now we are worried that he will get 10 years in prison,” he says, referring to the maximum sentence Father Ioann could receive.
The only visitor to have seen Father Ioann in Kresty Prison is his lawyer Leonid Krikun who says his client appeared to be in good health and also defiant.
“I told Father Ioann that if he pleads guilty he will probably get a shorter sentence, but he refuses to say he has committed any crime,” Mr Krikun says.
“He says that he would rather serve a longer sentence than admit any wrongdoing and if that happens he will preach to fellow inmates.”
Father Ioann has shown before that he is unafraid of speaking out. He was suspended from the church in 2020 after calling the newly-built Church of the Russian Armed Forces a “pagan temple”.
The Cathedral in Moscow was the brainchild of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and was due to house frescos that featured President Putin and Josef Stalin as well as scenes that celebrated the Crimean occupation.
In a social media post, Father Ioann said Mr Shoigu should be arrested for offending religious sentiment.
But what makes Father Ioann’s story all the more unusual is that before he got in trouble with the Russian state, he also had a brush with the Ukrainian security service, the SBU.
Ioann Kurmayarov lived in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine for most of his life, his parents having moved there after his father retired from the Russian army.
“Even as a child he was always very outspoken, always searching for the truth,” says his brother Alexander who speaks to me from Vinnytsia.
“It was in the church that he found a place where that search for truth was satisfied,” says Alexander.
But in 2017, Father Ioann made the news in Ukraine for an act of defiance.
With Crimea annexed by Russia and parts of the east occupied by Russian-backed forces, Ukraine expanded laws banning Soviet symbols.
But Father Ioann posted pictures of one of the most controversial of them, the St George’s ribbon.
He was taken in by police for questioning and the SBU brought administrative charges against him.
“He was not radically pro-Russia, he was standing up for freedom of speech and simply believed the authorities were doing the wrong thing by banning displays of the ribbon,” says Alexander.
At the time Father Ioann said he was prepared to pay the fine, worth around $100 (£84.50), but said he would then openly wear the ribbon seeing as he had now paid for the privilege. The Ukrainian case against him was dropped.
He soon moved to Russia where he is already paying a much higher price for speaking out against curbs on freedom of expression.
In April he was defrocked by the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate, though members of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) say he has been accepted by them.
More pressing is that he remains behind bars at Detention Centre Number One in Kresty Prison with the prospect of staying there for years. His initial detention period ends on 6 August after which his trial date is due to be set.
“I want him to be found innocent, as a Christian who was talking about Christian values,” says Alexander.
“But I worry about what is going to happen now and I worry about his future.”
There are tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine in Russia. Some of them are trying to leave Russia for countries in Europe or the Transcaucasia, while others remain in temporary accommodation. Both groups are being helped by Russian volunteers. One of the informal leaders of this movement in Petersburg is Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko, a bishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church and a member of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council. Farida Kurbangaleyeva spoke with him about why he is not afraid of the Russian security forces, why Ukrainians are being taken to the Far East, and why the Russian Orthodox Church failed to oppose the war.
— How did you start dealing with the problem of Ukrainian refugees?
— In the very first days of the war, we thought about the Ukrainian nationals already living in Russia. According to various estimates, there were from eight hundred thousand to two million such people. We assumed they might have problems. I proposed to the Human Rights Council that we set up a hotline for Ukrainian nationals, and all my colleagues [on the council] supported me. Immediately, there was a large number of inquiries from people trying to leave Russia. In fact, if people’s papers were in order, there was nothing complicated abut the situation. But while we were figuring it out, refugees from Mariupol reached out to us. Som of them wanted to leave Russia, while others wanted to stay. But all of them were asking for legal assistance.
— Could you have imagined that Ukrainians would be brought to Russia?
— To be honest, no. Although it didn’t surprise me. I don’t want issue any judgements now—for this you need to be inside these events. But if you believe what the people directly involved have been saying, there was no possibility of organized evacuation anywhere except to Russia. At least, that’s what these people were told. And yet, when it is said that these people were taken to Russia by force, this is a somewhat inaccurate way of putting it.
— When I spoke with refugees from Mariupol, they said they had wanted to go to areas controlled by Ukraine, but that was tantamount to death—the humanitarian corridor was being shelled all the time.
— I don’t question what they said. I accept it as a fact. There was a humanitarian corridor to Russia, and, apparently, it was quite safe. I know that some people also left for Ukraine, but mostly at their own risk and mainly those who had vehicles. There was no way out on foot, as far as I know.
— But isn’t this violence on Russia’s part?
— When we talk about forcible removal, what I see in my mind’s eye are stills of German shepherds and people being struck in the back with rifle butts. There was no such thing [in this case], of course. But as far as I understand, people were not offered much choice. So, there was an element of there being no alternative. I personally am not ready to speculate about why it happened. I was not an eyewitness myself, and I have not seen any documents in this regard. I have only heard stories.
But it would be much worse if people who found themselves on Russian soil were legally subjected to forced detention, if the authorities prevented them from moving freely. According to my observations, they have not been prevented from doing this. Those who do not want to go to the proposed temporary accommodation facilities can safely go wherever they want.
It is another matter that these people have no money, that they have telecommunications problems, problems with paperwork. In this sense, the Russian state has not been providing them with anything. Ukrainian nationals could not cope without the volunteers who have been helping them obtain papers, board trains, and buy clothes and medicines, including prescription medicines, because there are people with chronic diseases among them.
— But why do the Russian authorities tell Ukrainian refugees to evacuate if they cannot provide for them? Is there no Pharisaism in this?
— I think there is an element of Pharisaism. But, again, now is not the time for making judgements. Now is the time for action. For example, I need to find a place for refugees to spend the night. Here we are talking, but at the same time I am corresponding on a chat, because another family is waiting for help.
The point is that what happened on February 24 is a crime—a crime against humanity, the unleashing of a war of aggression. Period. Everything else is a consequence of this crime.
We’ll figure out a bit later who is a hero and who is a scumbag. But now everyone should do what they can where they can do it. Journalists should write stories, human rights defenders should defend human rights, and caring people should make moral decisions by sharing their apartments, cars, or their own time. Not helping a refugee—even from the point of view of a book called the Bible—is a very grave sin. As the saying goes, “for you were strangers in a strange land.”
— How many Ukrainian refugees are currently in Russia? And how many camps are there?
— There are no official statistics. There are figures from different departments, and they radically contradict each other. The Russian authorities cite certain fantastic figures that are impossible to believe—860,000 people. I don’t understand where they came from, because there are much fewer people in Mariupol. Are they from the Donetsk region? But there seemingly hasn’t been a mass evacuation from there.
I think that these figures, as they pass along the chain through different departments, get zeros and ones added to them. I think that around one hundred thousand people have actually arrived in Russia from the war zone. Several thousand of them have already left, while a certain number of others are planning to leave.
We know of around five hundred temporary accommodation camps. That sounds scary, but you have to understand that there are places housing literally between fifty to seventy people. They’re like small boarding houses. There are probably only a few large camps, like the one near Petersburg, where 550 people have been accommodated. Or, for example, there are around three hundred people at the camp in Vladivostok.
— But why have refugees been taken so far away? Do you have an explanation?
— To be honest, I don’t see any special malicious intent in this. Apparently, somewhere in the presidential administration there was a request to all regions of the federation to ready sites for taking in refugees. And each region reported how many people it could take in. They are still trying to place these people in more or less normal conditions. These are not tent camps or barracks in the taiga.
The regions were also tasked with providing jobs and papers to the people who wanted them. It is clear that no region in the European part of Russia is ready to take in one hundred thousand people and give them jobs. Where would they find them? So, they began spreading people [around the country] as thinly as possible. Taking into account the size of the country, it turned out the way it turned out. We should be grateful that the most distant reception center is in Vladivostok, not Kamchatka.
— The buzz on social media is that this is another [mass] deportation.
— I don’t want to use words lightly. And, since the phrase “special operation” was introduced, words don’t function anymore, they’re finished. The safety of people has been ensured, and tickets from Vladivostok to Moscow, Petersburg, or Tokyo cost no more than money. Of course, this is all redundant. But what can be solved with money is not the problem.
— Can people who have no papers at all leave Russia—for example, if they burned up during bombing?
— Refugees can receive a temporary document called a “Certificate establishing the identity of a foreign national or a stateless person.” It’s a very valuable invention. It is issued at police stations, and features a photo, a seal, and three signatures. With this document, a refugee can leave Russia.
To apply for this paper, a person must confirm their identity in any way. They can even submit an electricity bill, or provide witnesses. For example, a family leaves [Ukraine]: five of them have their papers, but the sixth does not. Cases when an entire family does not have their papers are rare. Besides, there is an analogue of Russia’s Public Services Portal in Ukraine, so in ninety-nine percent of cases it won’t be difficult to confirm a person’s identity.
This document was introduced several years ago. As far as I understand, it was championed by the human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina and her Civic Assistance Committee—because there were a large number of migrant workers in Russia, and their cases were different. Some people had lost their papers. Or, a person, for example, worked in Tyumen, but their country’s consulate was in Yekaterinburg.
Clearly, the nearest Ukrainian consulate is located outside the Russian Federation. Fortunately, the Russian border service understands this, so [Ukrainian refugees] face no particular difficulties when leaving [Russia].
There are more complex dilemmas. For example, there are infants who were born in the now-infamous Mariupol maternity hospital and did not have time to receive any papers. I met a couple here: the dad and mom are legally married, they have plastic biometric cards, but the child’s only ID is the tag it had on its hand or foot.
— Have you baptized any refugee children?
— I was asked to baptize two children, but at that moment there was no room ready. When I asked for a room to be readied, the baptism was postponed. I think we’ll go there in a week. God willing, we will baptize them.
— Who are more numerous—the people who want to leave or the people who want to stay?
— The overwhelming majority (and among them there are people who are absolutely pro-Russian) say that their greatest desire is to get home. You ask, “But isn’t everything wrecked there?” They reply, “That’s okay, we’ll rebuild it.” We’ll set aside how they imagine reconstruction from a political point of view—it’s not about that. The point is that people want to return [to Ukraine]. And they will do so the first chance they get.
That’s why, by the way, the vast majority of refugees do not apply for the fast-track Russian citizenship they are offered. They get either a temporary residence permit or a residence permit. Even those who don’t want to go to Europe and say “We’ll stay here for a while” still regard returning home as their ultimate task.
— How ethical is the offer of Russian citizenship under such circumstances?
— If we set aside February 24, it is something that is done within the concept that the Russian authorities have proclaimed.
— But we cannot set aside February 24, can we?
— That is why it is an outrage. But within this outrage, there may be things that are completely beyond the pale, and there may be things that, from a humanitarian point of view, make it easier for a person to live at a particular moment.
— It seems to me that this is like torturing a person and serving them cake during the breaks.
— But it’s a slightly more complicated scheme if they are told, “Eat cake and we’ll let you go.” Purely practically, there are people who gave the orders to start shelling, others who set up a humanitarian corridor, and still others in the federal migration service who offer fast-track citizenship. All of them together constitute the state apparatus. But individually, they are different people—who, by the way, also have different judgementsd of what is happening.
A very great misfortune has come into our home. But now, I repeat, is not the time for judgements. Now is the time for action.
If a person asks you to give them underpants, a t-shirt, and a toothbrush, you don’t need to ask them who they voted for in the previous election. You have to give them what they ask.
— If martial law is imposed in Russia, will refugees become more vulnerable?
— Such a turn of events would affect everyone. It’s another matter that I have a rather low opinion of our government’s administrative willpower. In Russia, things are usually loudly announced, but come to naught.
I strongly doubt that the authorities would impose martial law. Most likely, they will again make do by adopting hybrid measures so as not to call things by name, because the level of support for this whole business is quite low. In 2014, all the cars were decked out with Saint George’s ribbons and everyone shouted joyfully, “Crimea is ours!” But now we see the letter Z only on Russian National Guard vehicles.
— What about the opinion polls?
— In an authoritarian country that is smoothly segueing to totalitarianism, the worth of such polls is quite low. People are well aware of what answers are expected from them. By the way, the latest poll by the Levada Center says that support for the war has decreased ten percent in a month. This is quite a serious drop, despite the fact that hysteria is being whipped up.
Yesterday, we sent abroad a [Ukrainian] family who had arrived from Astrakhan. They got to Petersburg by train without concealing from others who they were. They did not hide the fact that they were leaving our blessed country. People gave them food, and money, and toys. This is a very important indicator. All the people they met tried to make amends to them.
— Many volunteers also say that they do not go to protest rallies, but help Ukrainians because they feel guilty.
— Now is not a time when you can change the opinion of the authorities with a protest rally. Now there is a flesh and blood problem—the people who have ended up here [in Russia]. And a lot more problems will start to emerge, because the war does no one any good.
I have an appeal on my hands from two hundred families of conscript soldiers who, as you can guess, wound up in this war without any desire or legal grounds for it. But now the high command won’t issue them papers stating that they were involved in hostilities [and are thus owed veterans’ benefits].
Some of them were injured and need long-term rehabilitation and treatment.
It’s called a “ruined life.” A man goes into the army to serve the Motherland and comes home without legs. But he is told, “Actually, fellow, you’re nobody, and we didn’t send you there.” I’m not even talking about those who came back in zinc coffins. War benefits no one except the idiots at the very top.
— If we go back to the statistics, the Ukrainian authorities say that about 200,000 children have been taken to Russia. It turns out that these numbers also don’t jibe with yours?
— Unfortunately, the situation is so monstrous that I am not sure that there is even one agency that can responsibly cite exact figures about the refugees. Imagine: it is a war zone. Management at each individual site belongs to the operational command located there. From there, people are sent to a variety of pretrial detention camps in the Rostov and Belgorod regions, and so on. And from there they are sent further on.
How well are the records kept there? How systematic and accurate are they? Or do people cross the border and that’s the end of it? If I understand correctly, the Russian border service should, theoretically, have more or less accurate data. It should also be borne in mind that among the refugees there are people who managed to get DNR-LNR passports, and people who managed to get Russian citizenship. Some are even citizens of third countries. My data revolves around the number I cited. Perhaps it is already larger. But in any case, it is tens of thousands of people.
— And what is happening in Russia with Ukrainian children who have been left without parents?
— This is the most important issue we are trying to deal with. Fortunately, so far we have not found documentary evidence of such cases. We know that a few days before the war started, an orphanage was evacuated from the DPR. As for all the other children from Ukraine who are in Russia, if they are not with their parents, they are with legal guardians—meaning grandmothers, grandfathers and so on. So we’ve read a lot of stories about total orphans, but we haven’t encountered them yet.
— Do you know what to do if such children turn up?
— Theoretically, we do. In the interests of such a child, a lawyer would represent them with the consent of its legal guardians. This is a difficult job, because the Ukrainian side would have to be involved. I think we would solve the problem somehow.
— You now communicate a lot with children from Ukraine. They say that a child’s psyche is supple, but surely war leaves an irreparable mark on it?
— Of course it does. We can do a deep dive philosophically and discuss when and how to talk to a child about death—what to do if its hamster has died. But what to do if a loved one has died in front of the child? Today, we helped a family travel on to Estonia. The father and grandfather were killed [in Ukraine]. The grandfather died in the arms of his grandson. The boy was barely eighteen years old. And his two younger sisters saw it. Words and tears fail me. This is monstrous.
— How do you find the right words for them?
— I don’t try to find the right words. I try to behave in such a way that, perhaps, they themselves will feel like talking. Of course, post-traumatic syndrome is a very difficult situation. Very often people need to talk to a person who inspires confidence. But I’m not unique in this. All our volunteers are caring, empathetic people. And they all tell their own stories about the refugees.
A few days ago, we had a difficult case getting a family out of the country. The eldest son, who is seventeen years old, has a severe form of cancer. We carried out the evacuation along with the Ukrainian League of Oncologists, because the boy was scheduled for surgery in Switzerland. That was why the family was evacuated directly there, via Warsaw. One of the younger children, a three-year-old boy, has a shrapnel wound. That is, out of four children [in this family], two are in serious condition.
Naturally, this family communicated with our case managers. Our volunteer asked them a completely standard question in the chat: “Do you have pets? Do you need carriers?” And the mother of these children replied, “No, we don’t need anything: our parrot was incinerated along with our apartment.” Such details reveal the degree of horror that has been occurring there.
Yes, a child’s psyche is supple, but we know that young prisoners kept their memories of Auschwitz for life. Many of those who survived have lived thoughtful, fulfilling lives. But this does not mean that they [the Ukrainian children] will forget everything. A lot will depend on the environment and the circumstances in which they find themselves. This is supremely hard work for many years to come.
— I can’t help but ask you as an Orthodox priest: how do you feel about the ROC’s position on the war in Ukraine?
— I feel bad about it. This stance was the basis for my leaving the ROC clergy—because I’d been seeing this position since 2014. Let’s set aside all the theological chatter and just say it outright: the ROC is a public organization with members in two countries. Naturally, this public organization has all the levers it needs for getting involved in peacemaking and bringing people together. Instead, the organization a priori takes one side: these guys here are right, and those guys there are wrong.
This is no dialogue. This is the clerical habit of preaching from the pulpit, from the position of “I teach, and you listen.” This has facilitated only one thing—a decline in the ROC’s authority among the faithful both in Russia and Ukraine and around the world. Read what Pope Francis had to say about his conversation with [Patriarch] Kirill: [he called him] “Putin’s altar boy.”
— But why does Patriarch Kirill support this war?
— Kirill is a man of the system. He has his assignment, and he is carrying it out. His assignment is to support the party line. He is part of the Russian leadership. Recently, a friend told me that there is Rosneft [the Russian state oil corporation], and then there is Roschurch, the state corporation in charge of spirituality. Rosspirituality is probably the right name for it.
That’s the wrong way of doing things, guys. In any case, [Patriarch Kirill] is the head of a powerful organization. It has tens of thousands of regional branches—let’s call them that. It has tens of thousands of rank-and-file clergy. I’m not even talking about the millions of believers in Ukraine. And Ukraine is a much more religious country, a much more “observant” country than Russia. That is, they are people who don’t go to church only out of obligation. Many people in Ukraine now say, “Yes, we are parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Moscow Patriarchate. But, of course, it should stop communicating with Kirill. Of course, Kirill should no longer be our leader.”
I’m not even talking about the huge number of people in Russia who say, “That’s it, we’re not setting foot in that church.” [The ROC] doesn’t have to condemn or anathematize Putin. But it can and should clearly explain the difference between killing and peacemaking.
— Does this mean that Orthodoxy as a whole is losing its reputation?
— The reputation of religion generally will be greatly devalued by this war. Because religious leaders, unfortunately, do not have sufficient resources for peacekeeping missions. Yes, I know a number of clergymen in Ukraine—they are not necessarily Orthodox, many of them are Protestants—who are working in the war zone, evacuating civilians and helping the wounded. This is the Church’s business.
But the Church cannot make political decisions nowadays. Its word doesn’t have the weight it did in the Middle Ages, when wars were stopped and started because the Pope said so. It has no such resources. And there is no Sergius of Radonezh in Russia nowadays who could seal off the churches in Nizhny Novgorod.
One could, of course, do a performance. I could go to Red Square and seal the doors of St. Basil’s Cathedral. It would get written about, but it would be forgotten in five minutes, because [the Church] has now sway over minds. Society has long been de-Christianized.
— But the Pope has spoken out against the war, hasn’t he?
— I have a lot of sympathy for Pope Francis. But the Catholic Church is not just the Pope. There are also a huge number of people who should have worked even more vigorously. Now, unfortunately, what the Pope says is not heard by those to whom it is primarily addressed. Putin does not hear [the Pope], and Kirill does not tell him what the Pope says. We have reached a dead end. This is the trouble with ecclesiastical diplomacy and the Church’s influence.
— Do you cooperate with the Catholic charity organization Caritas?
— I don’t have any prejudices about anyone at all, especially when it comes to humanitarian cooperation. People can be atheists to the fourth degree or Catholics to the eighteenth power, but I say, “Lord, what a blessing that there are people who care.” Basically, we are willing to work with absolutely everyone—with the police, the border service, the Defense Ministry, the FSB. If it can be of real benefit to people, I say let’s cooperate, let’s look for a solution. If people are sitting and talking it’s always better than when they are looking at each other through the sight of a gun.
— Some of the volunteers helping the refugees have now become targets of harassment. Aren’t you afraid of this?
— I’m definitely not afraid of bullying. I didn’t experience it in 2014, when I supported Ukraine. Although I was asked a lot of puzzled questions. I think that the events that are happening now with the volunteers have to do with the fact that one of the heads of the regional special services isn’t quite up to his job. He misunderstands the state’s goals and objectives.
I talked to the big bosses in Petersburg and got their full agreement that everyone who wants to leave [Russia] should be sent away as soon as possible. This is in the public interest. Because otherwise we end up with an unmanageable number of socially disadvantaged people who still have personal ties to Ukraine and may have grievances against the Russian state.
Today, they say they want to live here, but tomorrow? Are we sure? Maybe we should get them out of her faster? And if the state does not have the material resources to keep them here and send them off, then thank God that there are volunteers who are willing to help these people go quietly and calmly wherever they want. [The officials] thought it over. They said, “This is an approach that suits the state.” I replied, “Well, you see.”
— Is it true that volunteers do not unite in one big movement and instead operate as discrete partisan detachments intentionally so that the authorities don’t harm them?
— We don’t have time to unite in one big movement. We would start spending time on organizational work, on electing a chair—on nonsense. Now there is a simple task: a man arrives at a train station [in Petersburg] and writes, “I have three bags and four kids.” He needs to be helped through simple efforts.
You can even just stand at the Moscow Station in Petersburg holding a sign that says, “I am driving refugees to Ivangorod.” That’s it. If you seem basically trustworthy, [the refugees] will approach you.
I am very happy (if I can say that at all nowadays) when I see thousands of volunteer chats. All my hopes rest on this.
People ask me, “Aren’t you afraid that half of [the people on the volunteer chats] are officers in the special services?” If that’s the case, then I’m doubly happy that they see and read everything. A person with the remnants of a healthy psyche cannot help but reach the right conclusions. It is a lot of fun to press a button and destroy an abstract opponent from afar. You listen to [pro-Putin TV talk show presenter Vladimir] Solovyov and go into battle for denazification. But when you come across people who have nothing to do with it at all—such as the dead grandfather [that Father Grigory mentioned, above] and the dad, who worked as an engineer at the Azovstal plant—you get a completely different picture.
— Aren’t you afraid of being named a “foreign agent”?
— I am a foreign agent by definition, because I abide by the the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. This does not mean that I would deliberately and maliciously violate the laws of the state. But there are primary laws and secondary laws. The primary laws are: do not kill, do not steal, and so on down the line. So it is shameful to be afraid.
I don’t believe that I am violating the law by doing what I do. I obey it scrupulously. The law does not stipulate that the phrase “no war” is a crime.
Nor do I think that these words discredit the armed forces. I believe that they are words that any sane person would say. War is something that should not be part of humanity in the twenty-first century.
— Now you are you refraining from judging what is happening. When can we make this judgement?
— First of all, the fighting must end. Secondly, all refugees must find a home. It is clear that everyone won’t be getting home anytime soon. And considering such dangers as the use of nuclear weapons, this whole business could drag on for a very long time.
But that day will come. Someday a peace treaty or an act of surrender will be signed. The guns will stop talking. Not only analysts, but also historians will start talking. Sooner or later, judges and prosecutors will have their say. It’s a very sad spectacle. Of course, I would have rather that Russia had avoided this shock. But that didn’t happen.
Source: Farida Kurbangaleyeva, “‘I am a foreign agent by definition, because I abide by the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven’: how a Petersburg priest who left the Russian Orthodox Church has been helping Ukrainian refugees,” Republic, 10 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Look what Friedrich Gorenstein wrote in Soviet Moscow in 1975 (a quotation from his novel Psalm, the scene in the Tretyakov Gallery): “The woman was looking at the ‘Appearance of Christ’ (Alexander Ivanov’s “The Appearance of Christ Before the People”—Radio Svoboda ed.). Andrei looked at her and thought: Here we have a religious Russian person. When people get together these days and argue about religion they talk a lot about how atheism has been defeated and a religious rebirth is underway. OK, let’s say atheism has been defeated, but has religion in Russia gained anything from this? Without having learned anything, it’s being reborn with its previous holy-foolery in place of feeling, with its hungover arguments about Christ, and its common people who don’t argue about Christ but pin their hopes on him in the same way they pin them on Stalin the Georgian, Razin the Turk, or some other Russian ataman. And if Russia is fated to try to save itself through the ethnic popular mindset, then it won’t be materialist or atheist. Russian salvational fascism will wear a ethno-religious guise. First, what was called ‘atheism’ really has compromised itself in Russia, it’s gotten old and boring. Second, it wasn’t flexible enough, too cumbersome as far ethnicity was concerned, while Orthodoxy at several points in the past demonstrated its freedom to openly glorify ethnic strength, and right now it’s also attractive to young people as a novelty.”
Gorenstein was a literary phenomenon, he was not a political writer, and it would be wrong to reduce his art to political views or prophecies. Nevertheless, he undoubtedly had the power of prophecy. Gorenstein loved both Ukraine, where he was born, and Russia, where he became a writer; he always cared deeply about the fate of these two Slavic peoples. In his novel Traveling Companions he wrote about Kyiv and Moscow: “The cupolas of Kyiv’s St. Sofia Cathedral, surrounded by ancient chestnut trees, glow clear gold. But in the same place, in the courtyard paved with old cobblestones, the sightseers are giggling, they’re bored. They gawk at the holy place that’s been turned into a state-run museum. And not far away the anti-Semite Bohdan Khmelnytsky, rigged up by the anti-Semitic sculptor [Mikhail] Mikeshin, gallops off toward Moscow. He brawled a bit with Poland, then a superpower, and surrendered Ukraine to Russia, then a novice superpower, swearing this in Moscow on the street that now bears his name, in a church that has now been turned into a military engineering bureau. Entering the church is thus prohibited by armed guards. From a distance, though the grate of a sturdy iron fence, one can only read the inscription on a commemorative plaque honoring this sale and purchase of a state that could have become a Slavic Germany or France. You read the inscription and recall the words of [Aleksei] Polishchuk, a Ukrainian satirist of the 1930s: ‘A person who has been enslaved can rise up; one who has been bought can only be re-sold.'”
Source: Yuri Veksler, Radio Svoboda, 18 March 2022. Translated by the Fabulous AM
Editor’s Note: Fr. Artemy Vladimirov is a prominent priest in Russia, especially popular among Moscow’s English-speaking population for his intelligence, wit, and perfect command of the English language. He has a strong internet presence, and has often traveled to the US to lecture. He has published many books, such as Bright Faith, and under his guidance, many foreigners converted to Orthodoxy. (You can see numerous articles we have published about him here.)
In this video, Fr. Artemy is speaking Russian, so we have added English subtitles. He provides an excellent assessment of Russia’s current military operation in Ukraine.
I congratulate you, brothers and sisters, on Thursday of Cheesefare week, or “Maslenitsa”, as people call it. We are approaching the beginning of Great Lent. On Saturday, we will honor the venerable fathers from the beginning of time, who have shone forth in the feats of repentance, fasting, and prayer. Let us seek their blessings, as we approach these holy forty days.
The following Sunday morning will begin with the remembrance of Adam being expelled from paradise. We are all the children of our forefathers, and though we ourselves have also sinned, we carry the cross of repentance together with them. We also rejoice, however, because the Redeemer has come into the world. He made the earth a gateway to paradise, offering us His grace to acquire eternal unity with Him, the Lord, to acquire salvation.
Forgiveness vespers will be this coming Sunday, and we will mutually forgive one another of any sins and offenses.
Those who attended the services on Cheesefare week could not fail to notice that on every day of this week, the Gospels are read about the suffering of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as if this were Passion Week, right before Pascha. Indeed, during Cheesefare week this prepares us for fasting, and for the Last Judgment, reminding us how much the Lord did, and how much work he undertook for us, accepting the torment and the Cross. He awakens gratitude and love in us, and if we acquire it, then we will joyfully labor in Great Lent.
It seems that the passion gospels are also read these days for another reason. More precisely, they correspond to these dramas and tragedies that we are all experiencing now. Unfortunately, not all of our Russian compatriots understand what is happening. Feeding on incorrect information sources — and I’m not referring to the youth — certain cultural forces are cooperating with fascism.
“No war!” proclaim Galkins, Palkins, and other popular figures. For some reason, for eight years, they have been arranging evenings of recreation and laughter, while here nearby, in the Donbass region, people were shot daily, killed, raped, and burned, and their homes were leveled to the ground by the Ukrainian-fascist snakes that are being fed by Europe.
Now Russia is at war, as it always has been, with the collective West. What does the West give birth to? ISIS and neo-fascism. Here are their children. Behold their offspring! Here is the fruit of their spirituality, and of their life aspirations. They can only turn the planet into chaos. They can only raise cannibals.
And it’s really a shame for those of our compatriots (we don’t have such parishioners here), who today, twisted within the virtual world, are in solidarity with Kolomoisky, Avakov, Yatsenyuk, “bloody pastor” Turchinov, with fascists, cannibals, monsters of the human race, who by God’s permission are there, in the midst of our brothers in Ukraine, exercising their tyranny.
“But Father, in Suma and Chernigov, the Ukrainian people swear by heaven and earth that Russian troops in Energodar are using people as human shields, trying to keep anyone from taking control of the nuclear power plant there.”
For eight years, and I must say not eight, but twenty-five years, inhabitants of Ukraine have been teaching their children this lesson: “Kill yourself a Russian.” For twenty-five years they would jump on one leg, saying, “Whoever doesn’t jump is from Moscow!”
How many of those languishing in cells in Kharkov and Kiev are Russian people who did not agree to sell their souls to fascism? Who can count the number of girls who were raped? How many of our fellow countrymen have had their organs cut out and sent to Europe? It goes without saying that all of this will come out into the open.
Russian peacekeeping troops are carrying out a special operation in order to apply the Nuremburg process to all of Europe. Those who closely follow politics notice when the modern leaders of Germany ask, “What genocide?” It is like they are laughing and mocking. Thus they show their solidarity with Hitler.
But what else would you expect from foolish Europe? What’s worse was when Orthodox people, almost two hundred priests, sent an appeal to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, asking him to help stop the war.
Is Russia really at war with civilians? Is Russia really bombing kindergartens and schools? The Fake News Factory – CNN – portrays such footage.
In fact, we are inflicting pinpoint strikes on military structures, on command centers where NATO puppets are coordinating this system of enslaving the Slavs. The next day, they pull corpses out of the morgues, laying them out in Kharkov around the building where the military command staff met, and they make fake news.
These people are lurking in deserted, dilapidated kindergartens and school buildings. They are Ukranian-Nazi drug addicts, as Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin calls them, knowing they are high on heavy narcotics.
These are people who have nearly lost their human appearance, like an animal, now showing its attitude towards Slavs and Ukrainians of Kharkov and Kiev, blocking their way out of the city, which is why the cleansing is being carried out so slowly. Russian peacekeepers are trying to avoid any casualties among the civilian population.
Meanwhile, the civilian population and the youth are being fed propaganda. For twenty-five years, they have been teaching the youth in Ukraine to pour Molotov cocktails in Odessa and Kharkov. They think this operation is a masquerade, a continuation of Maidan, even though it is eradicating fascism from Europe.
I repeat that what is being done now is not some kind of local, not a local operation. Today we are talking about cleansing Europe from any trace of fascism, which can give nothing to the world except ISIS and Bandera. They cover it up carefully. Lavrov demands that Europe be cleansed of nuclear weapons from the United States of America. This is what we are talking about.
We worked ahead of the curve, because if this operation had not begun, military operations would now be going on in the Voronezh, Belgorod, and Kursk provinces. And of course, if it is forgivable for Kharkovites and residents of the cities of Suma, Khitomir, Tiraspol, and Ternopil not to understand what is happening, it is because they caved in before fascism!
They ate and drank and prepared lard for winter, while next door in Novorossia, people were dying every day, and a genocide was being committed against baptized Russian people. Today, they are dissatisfied, finding themselves in bomb shelters, in the subway, leaving their big cities, and they are hindered by fascists, these non-humans, from whom Ukraine needs to be cleansed.
And today we must pray with special feeling and love for our army, commemorating the five hundred dead Russian soldiers, praying for the health of one thousand five hundred wounded Russian soldiers who suffered in the first days of this operation, sacrificing themselves for us.
We repeat once again that this operation in Ukraine is of a global nature. Russia, as always, is liberating the world from fascism, from a digital concentration camp. And a sign that Putin has messed up all the plans of the golden billion, which had almost triumphed in victory, turning the entire population of the earth into cattle, can be seen today in the abolition of QR-codes throughout our capital, and throughout Russia. This shows the exceptional merit of our President.
And this is evidence that the plans of Schwab, these globalists, and these Nazis will not come true — not in Russia, and not in any parts of the world that stand together with Russia, for which we thank the Lord.
Therefore, today, from all of us who cannot actively participate — Here in our congregation is a woman who signed up as a volunteer nurse. She will go to Ukraine as a qualified nurse, to help our wounded soldiers in field hospitals. Today, by deed and especially by prayer, we must unconditionally support Russians who are bringing liberation to the world.
Without delaying our reflection today, let’s say that this special operation in Ukraine was inevitable. This is the only way to force Europe and the Western world to partner with us. Diplomacy is good when diplomats have a revolver on the table. This is the only way for Russia to escape from the slavery in which, to a certain extent, we were bound for 30 years after the lawless collapse of our country.
All these sanctions are just a bunch of belching, proving the impotence of the West in the fight against Russia, which is regaining its sovereignty.
And one does not need to be a prophet to say that in six months, in a year, Russia will have all the conditions necessary for enormous economic, spiritual, and moral growth, because now all the bonds and chains are crumbling — those shackles which had been binding us, thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev and his own passivity in the nineties, which anyone can verify, if you know what materials to read, to analyze what is happening.
I want to congratulate everyone for having received the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
Let us rejoice at the fact that our capital is freed from digital control. Dear pensioners, rejoice! Now you can travel without restrictions.
We will prepare for the beginning of Lent, and for what we believe will be a special Pascha in 2022, when all Russian people from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus will be able to march from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad as a single immortal regiment. Let’s hope that in the near future we will be joined by Moldova, Kazakhstan, and unfortunate Ukraine. Georgia is on the way, refusing to participate in the sanctions.
But you can guess what will happen to the Baltic states. Today, they serve as a transfer shipping base, supplying weapons for the extermination of the Slavs.
Please accept my blessings. Now we can all go home for private prayers, for victory over the dark fascist horde.
Glory to Thee, O God. — Glory to Thee, O God. — Glory to Thee, O God.
Source: Russian Faith, 29 March 2022. Thanks to Tatiana Retivov for the link.
Patriarch Kirill: “We are a peace-loving country”
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia delivered a sermon during services at the main church of the Russian Armed Forces in Kubinka (Moscow Region), in which he stated that the Russian people have no desire for war or harm to others.
“We are a peace-loving country and a very long-suffering people who have suffered so much from war as few other European nations have suffered. We have no desire for war or to do something that could harm others. But we have been brought up by our history in such a way that we love our fatherland, and we will be ready to defend it as only Russians can defend their fatherland,” Kirill said.
Source: Alexei Sergeyev, Facebook, 3 April 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Metropolitan Varsofonius and his crew. Photo by Andrei Petrov. Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church and Fontanka.ru
“Above All, We Must Repent Our Sins”: Petersburg Metropolitan Flies over City with Icon and Prayer Against Coronavirus Fontanka.ru
March 31, 2020
Metropolitan Varsofonius of Saint Petersburg and Ladoga, following the example of his colleague in Leningrad Region, flew over the city in a helicopter. From the air, he prayed for an end to the epidemic.
“An aircraft containing the reigning archbishop and clergymen flew over the borders of the Northern Capital, crisscrossing its historical part, while a molieben and the akathist of the Intercession of the Theotokos were sung,” the metropolitan’s press service wrote of the devotional flyover.
The metropolitan emerged from the helicopter with the thought that the ubiquitous virus was a signal that “we [were] not living right.” Varsofonius advised us to take the quarantine as a time to reflect on our lives.
“Let’s not despair. All troubles pass—this too shall pass, and life will return to normal. Most importantly, we must repent of our sins and mend our ways, and the Lord will send deliverance,” Varsofonius concluded.
Six Activists and Journalists Detained After Refusing to Drink Coffee with Makhachkala’s Deputy Mayor Novoye Delo
January 4, 2019
On January 4, OurCity (GorodNash) activists went to inspect Makhachkala’s main square, Effendi Kapiyev Square, after its reconstruction.
They were met by Makhachkala Deputy Mayor Effendi Khaydakov and a spokesman for the contractor, as well as city hall staffers.
After an exchange of opinions about the quality of the renovation and the completion date, the deputy minister invited the activists to go have a coffee, but they declined his offer and went on inspecting the square.
When the deputy mayor left to drink coffee, two police patrol squads arrived, detaining six people, including Svetlana Anokhina, Arsen Magomedov, Caucasian Knot journalist Musa Musayev, and two cameramen, one of them from city hall’s press service.
Magomedov told Novoye Delo by telephone that they were being taken to the Soviet District Police Department in Makhachkala.
After the square was cleared of activists, Makhachkala Mayor Salman Dadayev came out to chat with the remaining city hall staffers and townspeople.
P.S. Magomedov reported by telephone that all the detainees were released immediately after being delivered to the police department, and they have returned to the square to continue their inspection. Contractors recently handed the square over to the city.
OurCity activists in Makhachkala. Photo courtesy of RIA Derbent
What Does Makhachkala Have in Common with Yekaterinburg? RIA Derbent
May 21, 2019
The people who gathered on Saturday, May 18, also recorded a video message in which they voiced support for Yekaterinburg residents and proclaimed their solidarity with them against construction in park areas. Lawyer Arsen Magomedov said in the video that the Makhachkala activists had likewise been fighting plans to construct a church in the city’s Ak Gel Park.
Local activists have opposed construction of a church in the park since 2017. In September of that year, a memorial cross was dedicated on the site of planned construction in a religious service involving the Russian ethnic communities of Makhachkala, Kizlyar, and the Kizlyar District, as well as the Terek Cossacks of Dagestan. The Lenin District Court was already then considering a suit filed by activists challenging the legality of leasing land in the park for construction of a cathedral, a suit the activists won in December 2017. In April 2018, however, the Russian Supreme Court overturned the ruling by the Lenin District Court.
[T]he planned cathedral in Ak Gel Park was not the first or last target of Makhachkala urban activists opposed to redevelopment of the city’s green oases. Activists united to form the grassroots movement OurCity in January 2017 after Ramazan Abdulatipov, the former head of Dagestan, spearheaded a campaign to build an interactive museum, Russia Is My History, in Lenin Komsomol Park. After residents of Makhachkala protested, and thousands of people signed a petition opposing the plan, Abdulatipov announced that construction had been postponed in the wake of a “wide-ranging public discussion.” The same year, the now-united urban activists campaigned against plans to redevelop the square opposite the monument to Effendi Kapiyev. In both cases, activists managed to persuade courts to annul decisions by city hall to lease the land.
In December 2017, lawyer and urban activist Arsen Magomedov filed a complaint with the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service about the Makhachkala City Property Committee’s tendering of a lease to a 520-square-meter plot in 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution Park (aka the Dog Park), a complaint that was upheld. Magomedov used a similar method to annul bidding to construct a residential building in the green belt on Ali Aliyev Street.
Comparing the situation in Yekaterinburg and Makhachkala, Magomedov complained that, over two years of grassroots confrontation and court proceedings, neither the Russian Orthodox diocese nor the municipal or republican governments had engaged in dialogue with activists to resolve the dispute. According to Magomedov, people in Yekaterinburg were able to attract the attention of the federal authorities and win concessions “because the issue turned into a shooting war, with clashes, confrontations, arrests, and fights.”
The protesters in Makhachkala and Yekaterinburg say they are not opposed to building churches, but to the redevelopment of parks. Activists in Makhachkala have suggested moving the construction site one hundred meters away from the park to wasteland near the lake.
We talked to human rights defender and OurCity activist Svetlana Anokhina about what the protests in Yekaterinburg have shown us and how we should think about them.
Svetlana, do you think what has happened in Yekaterinburg will become an example for the entire country?
I’m surprised that what happened here in Makhachkala hasn’t become an example for the entire country. After all, we were able to organize a pressure group of ethnic Russians to file a lawsuit and write a letter to Patriarch Kirill in order to protect the city’s Muslim activists from possible attacks. The authorities tried to politicize outrage over plans to build a church in Ak Gel Park, because everyone understands that if the subject were raised by Muslim activists, they would immediately be accused of extremism and belonging to a nonexistent pro-Islamic sleeper cell, of course.
It doesn’t occur to the authorities that people just want to live a normal city with parks and trees. They don’t notice how they’re destroying the city.
But to make themselves heard, people in Yekaterinburg had to tear down fences and battle the police.
I don’t believe the folks in Yekaterinburg are wrong, or that their actions have been too radical, but such risks are impossible for us. This shouldn’t become an example for the whole country, because it was a spontaneous protest by desperate people, driven to despair by the authorities themselves, who sicked riot cops and martial arts club fighters on them. In my opinion, the protest itself was spontaneous, something you cannot say about the crackdown against the protest, which involved oligarchs and fighters from a martial arts club owned by an oligarch, and the Orthodox Church, which is structured like a military organization, and the police and the authorities. In this light, it is total nonsense to say that the grassroots protests were organized by outside forces, and that the protesters were too radical.
So this is the price for getting the president’s attention and his suggestion to conduct a survey?
You did hear what Yekaterinburg’s mayor said, didn’t you? That there wouldn’t be a referendum on the issue because it required a lot of preparation (a year!), but there would be some kind of public opinion poll. Someone countered him by pointing out that the referendum in Crimea was organized in two weeks.
I don’t like the fact that residents need to get through to the president to solve local problems. Issues like this should be decided at the local level, and if local officials cannot come to an agreement with ordinary people, it means they are not doing their jobs and should be replaced.
Thanks to Marina Ken for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader