John & Carol Garrards; Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent: Faith and Power in the New Russia; Princeton University Press; Oxford (2008)
This is a truly remarkable book on the issue of post the-Soviet renaissance of the Russian Orthodox Church under the directive of the late Patriarch Alexis II. There are many provocative memes circulating around in the Russophobic circles that paint a picture of a totalitarian, nationalistic, intolerant, state-run agency presided over by former KGB operatives. While some of course hold water, they are employed by Russophobes to malign the image of Russia and the Russians and rarely provide any context or discussion needed to understand the issues surrounding the Church’s new found role after decades of being obscured by militant atheist policies of the Communist regime. This book provides just that while maintaining impartially and not lapsing into apologetics. The Garrards present eloquent accounts of Patriarch Alexis’ achievement in various fields.
The temples and shrines of Moscow have literally come out of the shadows since the days of perestroika, as my dad once said, and indeed the Holy Moscow experienced its own perestroika which involved teams of voluntaries, private donors and lobbying on the part of the Church hierarchy. It wasn’t just the physical side of the Church that suffered by the state oppression however, what was most affected by it was the morale.
Patriarch Alexis was faced with battling both home grown problems and those that lay outside of Russia. A quite interesting part of the book was the account of how he managed to canonise the Royal passionbearers (Tsar Nicholas and his family murdered by the Bolsheviks) and dissociate this action from those monarchists (a conservative faction within the Church) that would like blame this sad event and with it the entire October catastrophe on the Jews, the usual scapegoat. But what is even more interesting is the account of Alexis’ exceptional role in preventing the 1991 KGB coup against Yeltsin from succeeding. It is hardly comprehensible for any secular, Western historian that a Church could play such a role in what was atheist regime’s last stand; the Garrards nevertheless make their hypothesis quite plausible through their analysis. Even more exciting is the fact that a former KGB operative Alexis turned on his former masters and backed a democratically elected president.
The coming to terms with the past, especially on the issue of the involuntary cooperation of the Church with the Soviet state were one of the issues the Church Abroad (ROCOR), a Russian White emigration group, put on the table during reunion talks. The reunion of the Mother Church and most of its exiled flock eventually happened in 2007 after long talks and sincere willingness on both sides. Ecumenical overtures of the Vatican were on the other hand not met so warmly. I have spotted a meme on a website of odd American fanatics recently saying that the new Patriarch Kirill I might restart an ecumenical dialogue with the Latins which they believe will hasten the Second Coming of Our Lord. Whether anything like that will happen only God knows and time will tell. :-)
As with every book there is a slight problem here. Many, especially elderly academics like to use non-English expressions and words within the text. Some knowledge of Russian is expected of the reader here but German, French and Latin phrases and words are also used in the text. Unfortunately no glossary is to be found, at least in the edition I have. I bet some newer editions will solve this problem and anyway this should not be a turn off.
The real treasure is of spiritual nature anyway but of course Orthodoxy puts stress on beauty and that unfortunately in our fallen world requires money.
While some old men may be shaking their heads on the recent US-Russia deals to reduce nuclear arms, the talks have a simple rationale behind them. It’s about time to scrap these dirty World War II weapons. The two parties involved now have much cleaner and equally powerful means of mass devastation.
But it makes a clever PR stunt for Obama.
I would first like to thank my brother, who unlike me is a geek and who has helped the useless me in designing this blog. There is still some work to be done but majority of it is now finished. The banner illustration is taken from Ilya Glazunov’s ‘Destruction of the Church on Easter Eve’, a painting I liked for some time now.
Whether you followed the link with which I spammed your message boxes with or just wandered here from somewhere else, hear some necessary rules of conduct for the comments section!
The policy is relaxed to the point that personal attacks are tolerated. You can attack me, or each other with whatever you like. The ideas here are highly subjective to myself and would be inevitably offensive to some, therefore trolls are welcome. Might the blog ever become popular (which is doubtful), this policy could be reconsidered due to maintenance difficulties. You can also publicize your own and other peoples works, this is highly welcome.
What is not tolerated are posts such as ‘kjsdhlkjehoohsdkljh...’ or commercial advertisement. I am not yet interested in free Viagra.
Two odd news stories comming from the Western Muslim communities recently.
A Jewish doctor performs circumcision on a Palestinian child in Sweden.