Share |

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Russian Patriarch Kirill Patronizes Ukraine

When I say “pastoral visit,” I don’t load this term with any paternalism whatsoever, with any “looking down on” whatsoever. I came here as a pilgrim.

I learn constantly and it's not a cliche: I like hearing people's voices, conjugating this diverse choir of human thought. When I say “pastoral visit” — I came here as a pilgrim, to pray and ponder with the congregation.

—Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow on his visit to Ukraine

In other statements, Patriarch Kirill poses as a boss, not as a pilgrim or a preacher. After all, thanks to a twist of history, he runs Ukraine’s biggest church: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).

I took the liberty of dissecting some of his statements.

President Yushchenko: Naturally, the greatest aspiration of the Ukrainian people is to live in a unified, whole, local, first-apostolic church.

Naturally, President Yushchenko overstated his case. The church is hardly the #1 value in any secular industrial society: The quality of life is. Nevertheless, having a unified church that does not take orders from the Kremlin would be good for Ukraine’s independence.

And bad for the Kremlin.

Patriarch Kirill: This church, Mr. President, does exist. There is an local church in Ukraine. If there wasn’t, there would be no Ukraine today. There’s no imperialism here whatsoever, no domination of one over the other. There’s a clear Orthodox ecclesiology here: the Patriarch is the father — for everyone. Regardless of the color of the passport in your pocket, the state we live in — he is the father of all who belong to the Orthodox Church that falls under the single jurisdiction headed by the Patriarch.

Your Holiness, are you elaborating on Lenin’s famous quote “Есть такая партия!” (“There is a party like that!”)?

Speaking of history, I thought Christianity came to Moscow via Kyiv, not the other way around. Also, I thought the church in Moscow had been part of the Kyiv Metropoly until proclaiming itself autocephalous in 1448. Why do you think that Moscow’s efforts to secure independence from Constantinople are holier than Kyiv’s efforts to secure independence from Moscow?

On top of that, I thought Moscow was founded by the Prince of Kyiv, and not the other way around. Which brings us to the ultimate question: Are you here because of Christ or because of Caesar?

Some people think you're here because of Caesar.

President Yushchenko and Patriarch Kirill exchanged the above statements while attending the Holodomor Memorial on June 27 — each in their own way, as you can see. After all, the Holodomor is something that Russia rarely recognizes, much less claims any responsibility for.

No wonder, Patriarch Kirill, who presides over the pro-Russian branch of Ukraine’s Orthodoxy, said the following about the Holodomor:

A famine, a terrible famine wrought by concrete political causes and complicated by, also, natural cataclysms led to great numbers of people perishing — in Ukraine, Povolzhye, North Caucasus, Southern Urals, Western Siberia, Kazakhstan. It’s a common hardship of the entire people that lived, at that time, in one country.

Patriarch Kirill also expressed hope that “the tragic circumstances of our history will not foster the development of fraternal hate-mongering historiography.”

Your Holiness, sweeping genocide under the rug is not a brotherly thing to do.

Technically, the Jews who perished at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Buchenwald and Babyn Yar and the Germans who killed them had lived in one country: The Third Reich. Now, according to some historians, up to 150,000 Jews served in the Wehrmacht. Moreover, the Germans certainly killed more Slavs than Jews. Does that relegate the Holocaust to a non-event? Does that dilute Germany’s moral responsibility for the Holocaust? Did a million of Russians starve during the Blockade of Leningrad because of “natural cataclysms?” Bad weather? Crop failure?

According to your logic, probably yes. According to German law, definitely no.

Keeping in mind that Russia is the sole legal successor to the Soviet Union, how can we be sure it won’t happen again if we dilute responsibility?

As Patriarch Kirill basked in publicity, his bag of tricks grew all the more paternalistic, moralistic and apologetic. It exploded in a live-broadcast prime-time interview on Inter, Ukraine’s #1 television channel, on June 29.

Just a few quotes, gleaned from various sources (unfortunately, I didn’t watch the interview):

When nowadays I’m being told that in order to acquire the Ukrainian national self-identity, we need new names that divide Ukrainian believers — I’m not even talking about Russians and Ukrainians — but names that divide Ukraine itself, this logic eludes me.

I am deeply convinced that in Ukraine there should be no experimenting with names that divide the country itself.

Your Holiness, I don’t recall John Paul II being that judgmental and mentorial toward Ukrainians during his June 2001 visit here. That’s despite the fact that Poles and Ukrainians had fought each other bitterly throughout history and have different historical perspectives.

Or how about this one:

Recently, the Council of Europe adopted some resolution that places Nazism and Stalinism on an equal footing. I’m no proponent or defender of that Stalin era. But here’s what we should now perhaps think about. Both Nazism and Stalinism are repressions, including those against their own people, as is the case with many other regimes that existed. But how does Nazism differ from any other system? It differs by its hate-mongering.

Your Holiness, are you saying Stalinism involved less hate-mongering and perhaps more humanism? Based on what calculus? If we compare the number of Russians (alone) who died from Stalin’s repressions with the number of Germans who died from Hitler’s repressions, which number will be greater — much greater?

Moving on:

Stalinism is a repressive regime and, in a sense, a criminal regime because as a result of this regime’s actions innocent people were dying. That said, it was the Soviet Union that laid the biggest sacrifice on the altar of liberating both its own country and the entire world from what had posed a threat to the entire human civilization.

So, to prevent the 25 million lives lost by the Soviet Union in WW II from falling into oblivion, one should describe Stalinism as the lesser of two evils? And we can talk about the Soviet Union's liberation of Eastern Europe from Nazism without mentioning the strings attached by Stalin?

Can we remember our human sacrifice — unmatched by any Western or Eastern country — by repressing the facts of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?

Can we honor those millions of people by keeping mum on Stalin’s cannon-fodder warfare and post-WW II Gulag?




LEvko said...

Pope John Paul II's final mass in Lviv, during his visit to Ukraine in 2001, was attended by an estimated million worshippers.

It will be interesting to see the number of people greeting Russian Patriarch Kirill during his visit.

One [unscientific but large] internet opinion poll from 'Unian' has those approving Kirill's visit outnumbered by more than two-to-one by those not welcoming it..

'You can't fool all of the people all of the time..'

Ropi said...

Well, I don't really think that a religious dignity would have a great influence on Hungary. We aren't very religious.

Lingüista said...

It seems to me really incredible that anyone could really think Stalin anything other than a monster and Stalinism anything other than cruel tyranny -- history and the numbers of deaths are there to disprove anyone who thinks otherwise.

The argument has to be: Stalinism defeated Nazism, and Nazism is the nec plus ultra of evil. So Stalinism must be good. Or at least better than Nazism.

Indeed, it is possible to argue that Nazism was worse than Stalinism: after all, Stalinism was supposedly based on Communism, and Communism at least had a pretty ideal of universal equality and happiness ('from each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs', etc.). Communism as an ideal could capture the imagination of Western philosophers like Sartre, and many did appreciate the ideal. Nazism, on the other hand... what did it offer? Aryan supremacy? Orwell's old boot on the face of the enemy, for all eternity? About Nazism I remember having read that never before had so many brave and courageous soldiers died to defend so empty a vacuum, the emptiest ever to be granted the honor of being called an "ideology".

So, in some sense, I would even agree that Stalinism was better than Nazism. It's really, really hard to be worse than Nazism, actually.

But wait a minute. What the heck does it mean to say something is better than Nazism? The way Nazism is understood, pretty much anything is.
If Nazism is so very bad, than being better than it really means nothing. Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Unabomber, they were all better than Nazism. The Tatar Yoke was better than Nazism. The Huns were better than Nazism. The Beslan terrorists were better than Nazism. The Chernobyl disaster was better than Nazism.

Was Stalinism better than Nazism? It's arguable. If you look at the number of deaths, maybe it wasn't. If you look at the professed ideals, maybe it was. But so what? Maybe Patriarch Kirill would say Pol Pot and Kim Jong Il are better than Nazism too. Again, so what? Stalinism is still one of the most criminal regimes ever to grace the surface of our blood-soaked planet; it deserves all the contempt, all the outraged criticism it has had, and lots more.

Of course, the fact that Stalinism basically did win the war against Nazism -- and without the USSR, this victory would probably not have happened -- allows people to confuse the issues. Yes, it was necessary to let one snake eat the other. It may be that this snake was a little less evil than the snake it slayed; it is, nonetheless, still deadly poisonous. Slaying another tyrant does not magically change a tyrant into an angel.

Why is it that Stalin and Stalinism have to be good since they were of paramount importance in defeating Hitler? The logic really eludes me.

The best interpretation I can give to Patriarch Kirill's words is: yes, Stalin was indeed evil. But let us not forget that, amid all the evil, there was one thing we can all agree was good: the defeat of Nazism. (But he sure didn't word it like that.)

Even the Holodomor question... there is, still, some controversy as to the extent to which the Holodomor was a deliberate anti-Ukrainian decision, as opposed to being the result of the horrible anti-кулаки and anti-burgeois Soviet policy with terrible results for the harvest, plus really bad central planning, leading to famine and generalized starvation in many areas of the USSR. But what difference does that make? It was a crime against humanity, regardless of whether it was also a deliberately anti-Ukrainian crime, too, or not.

Anonymous said...

Naturally, Russian media will pick up on this and say "See we told you so. Look at those fascist nationalists from Banderist Lvov who are sharpening their tryzuby ready to skewer the cursed moskaly." And naturally, they will link UNA-UNSO with anyone in Ukraine who has a pro-Ukraine agenda even though they are a handful of the most radical.

On the other hand, UNA-UNSO are shooting themselves and their cause in the foot. They help fuel the ugliest stereotypes of "western Ukrainian nationalists" even though they are a handful and gain more attention than they deserve (what's with their quasi-Nazi salute anyway? It doesn't help at all...)

What a circus.

Taras said...


Thank you for the watch story! (For those of you not familiar with it, Patriarch Kirill wears a nice Breguet watch worth €28-36K. That model must be named Matthew 19:24!)

I attended John Paul’s mass at Chaika airfield on June 24, 2001. Had to get up at 3 a.m. to get there on time. We had Catholics from Poland, Belarus and Russia. I don’t remember a single political word.


You’re lucky to have no such sectarian and geopolitical issues in your country. If you had them, it would hurt your country's development.


When I think of Stalinism and Nazism, I can’t think of “the lesser of two evils.”

When I think of the Soviet Union’s victory in WW II, I think in different terms.

I think of what would have happened to Ukraine had Nazi Germany won. I think of what would have happened to Europe had the Soviet Union defeated both Nazi Germany and democratic Europe.

Both outcomes would have left the conquered countries worse off compared to the actual course of history.

The same scenario approach can be applied to the Atomic Age.

Had the U.S. maintained its atomic monopoly for a decade, it would have probably fried the Soviet Union. Conversely, had the Soviet Union built the bomb first, it would have probably fried the U.S.


I agree that anti-Kirill protests in Kyiv could have been more civil and less dependent on extremist organizations.

A bunch of angry young people screaming, throwing things, and Hitler-saluting is exactly what ORT, RTR and Russia Today need.

Still, by Donetsk-Sevastopol standards, the protests were quite civil.

elmer said...

Linguista, one can think of the old saying, in evaluating something:

"better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick"

The problem with stalinism, and everything else in Russia, is that it WAS a poke in the eye with a sharp stick - and worse.

There have been many books written about the Great Terror, the gulags, the executions, the tortures, etc, and it wasn't just limited to Stalin.

In the meantime, a hypocrite in an elaborate Halloween costume, with a $36,000 watch - Kirill - parades around Ukraine waving his arms and dispening all sorts of "advice," which mostly amounts to how people should bow down to him - and Putler and the Kremlin.

Taras is right - he's not serving God, he's serving himself.

What is especially ironic is that in a free country like Ukraine, church attendance is up, and is far greater, than in oily orhodox mother roosha.

An April 2009 issue of National Geographic points out that church attendance in roosha is only about 1 to 10 percent.

Despite the fact that Putler makes a big show of lighting candles with the Chief Wizard in Halloween Drag - Kirill.

And despite the fact that roosha does its utmost to keep out Protestants and Catholics and Jews - and Muslims.

Cyril, or Kirill, ought to take his Halloween costume back to the Kremlin and stay there, and maybe pass out candy with Putler to kids.

And he can adore and worship his $36,000 watch while he's there.

Cyril the Hypocrite in Halloween Costume.

You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

What a putz!

Taras said...

There's nothing wrong with the traditional Orthodox clergy costume — except for the watch. The watch is a major spoiler!

elmer said...

Taras, there is something wrong with that Halloween costume - the hypocrite who is wearing it, who is using it to promote political statements.

When he makes statements like "I am everyone's father" and "there should be no division," he reminds me of stalin, who also was portrayed as everyone's father.

So what's the difference?

How does one become a saint in this hypocrite's church?

Well, one kills a lot of people as a murderous tsar - you know what I'm talking about.

Or, more recently, one kills a lot of people as a commissar - stalin, whom Hypocrite Kirill is now glorifying.

He and his costume are hideous and odious, not Cyril and Methodius.

Lingüista said...

Taras, maybe the biggest problems is that Orthodox Christendom, ever since Byzantine times, has always been an instrument in the hands of the powers-that-be. The very attempt to separate the Ukrainian and Russian churches simply shows how this continues to be the case: a "foreign-based church" is seen as not sufficiently politically supportive (or reliable).

Just look at the Catholic church for comparison... Always very independent, and even when monarchs complained about "subservience to Rome and the Vatican," they usually couldn't do much about it.

But in the orthodox case... In an important sense, Kirill is not any different from any other Patriarch since Byzantium: always bowing to Caesar, always doing the bidding of the Lord of this world.

elmer said...

Linguista, you hit the nail on the head:

separation of church and state.

Europe went through it - Russia did not.

The Catholic church at one time was totally intertwined with governments and power in Europe.

Then, in some areas, it became the Protestants.

Caused many wars.

Separation of church and state, and freedom of religion, is something that Europe went through, to its great benefit.

In Ukraine, there is freedom of religion.

Kirill wants to change all of that.

In Russia, he is intertwined with the government, and Putler seeks POLITICAL support from him and his so-called "church."

So in Russian, there is no freedom religion, and there is a crackdown against Protestants and others:

It's pathetic - it's certainly not Christian.

Anonymous said...

I was in Ukraine when the true Patriach visited and all I can say is that thank good for the morality of the world that the Third Rome is rising!!