Monday, August 05, 2013

Russia's Dangerous Alliance Between Church and State

Russia officially celebrated Paratroopers Day on Friday. For more than 1.5 million men who serve or served as paratroopers, the day is a holiday, moreover one that is totally different than every other military holiday. On this day, paratrooper veterans have carte blanche to do strange things, which include getting drunk in the morning, fighting, and ritually bathing in the city fountains. On this day in provincial cities, careful mothers tend to lock their teenage daughters inside — and for good reason. Even Wikipedia warns that "the festivities are accompanied by fights, pogroms and public disorder."

But this year Paratroopers Day had a new twist. On all the billboards and posters in Moscow, the holiday had a dual title: "Paratroopers Day — ­Elijah's Day." The Orthodox Church does, in fact, commemorate the Prophet Elijah on Aug. 2. But it's hard to understand what the ascetic hermit Elijah — aka "the first virgin of the Old Testament," who certainly never jumped out of a plane in a parachute — has in common with paratroopers who, by definition, aren't what you'd call pacifists.

Nevertheless, this isn't the first attempt of the Russian Orthodox Church to interfere in the traditions of public and military holidays. Not long ago, the authorities in Voronezh region officially prohibited celebration of the ancient Slavic holiday of Ivan Kupala. A few days ago, the church pressured the Navy to drop several traditions from Navy Day. In the past, actors played Neptune, mermaids and other creatures who, in the words of an anonymous representative of the  Navy "were not on Noah's Ark during the Flood," as Interfax reported.

Declaring Neptune a persona non grata in the Navy may be comical, but it is indicative of the recent creep of clericalism into cultural and public life in Russia. Groups of aggressive Orthodox activists and Cossacks regularly attack art exhibitions showing "blasphemous" paintings and demand that theatrical performances be banned.
Read the rest here.


Norinna Palad said...
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Anonymous said...

I can just imagine a pagan Kievan newspaper in the days of St. Vladimir complaining of Christian clergy "interfering in the traditions of public and military holidays." Creeping clericalism indeed.

If memory serves, St. Boniface faced similar hostility in his attempts to eradicate paganism in Germany.

Personally, I think associating St. Elijah and paratroopers is rather clever.

Ordo Antiquus said...

"But it's hard to understand what the ascetic hermit Elijah — aka "the first virgin of the Old Testament," who certainly never jumped out of a plane in a parachute — has in common with paratroopers who, by definition, aren't what you'd call pacifists."

This passage says it all -- about the author. Elijah was a pacifist? Tell that to the prophets of Baal. Sure he didn't jump out of a plane, but he rode high to the heavens on a fiery chariot.

Having a theology department in a secular university is an affront to science? How many European and American universities will have to be closed, then? The crude jokes about the missile are so Soviet. It is also true that there are some Cossack extremists and "Orthodoxy or death" types but they have little sympathy from the Church. Few know that Patriarch Kirill once gave a sermon condemning these kinds of extremists.

The only thing to which the imperfect but growing symphonia in Russia is dangerous to, is Western-style secularism, which the rabidly pro-Western Moscow Times is such a champion of.

Andrei said...

In the USA you have more or less successfully eliminated the voice of the Church as a valid element in public discourse.

And it shows.

Why don't you clean up your own sewers instead of trying to export your filth and degeneracy,0,5308398.story

Chris Jones said...

The "dangerous alliance" is not a bug but a feature. We should be so lucky to have a credible voice of traditional Christianity commanding respect in the public square.

Fr. George said...

Western culture is in an intellectual free fall, and with it has gone morality. Frankly, the Russians bother me far less than what the US government is doing right now in terms of spying and using law to enforce immorality. I'm glad I am an American, but Russia is looking more and more like the way to go...

sjgmore said...

I'm glad to see the comments here are generally supportive of this "dangerous alliance".

They take civil holidays and try to sanctify them; we in the West, however, routinely profane and defile holy days (Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Easter to a lesser extent).

Yet many in our supposedly "Christian" nation see the former as wicked and the latter as perfectly tolerable. Strange times we live in.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

Paratroopers Day did not just happen to coincide with the feast of the Prophet Elijah. It was set for that day because the Prophet Elijah is the patron saint of paratroopers (because of his riding on a fiery chariot through the heavens). And so the Church hardly interfered.

Unknown said...

What would concern me, and I'm just an observer from afar, are the dangers resulting from the particular type of church/state relations that occurred during imperial times in Russia. Or even in my home country, Ethiopia.

I'll never forget what Father Arseny said when asked about the source of Soviet tyranny and antipathy to Orthodoxy. He blamed what he considered the prevalence of corruption and degradation in the Russian church, a lot of which was a result of close association to the imperial regime and the temptations that followed.

Anyway, I'm sure that those in the Russian church know of these dangers much better than me.