Thursday, October 16, 2014


Article by Igumen Andrei (Erastov), Melbourne
Editor’s note: These comments are Fr Andrei’s personal views and do not reflect an official position of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to the situation in the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian events of this year left only a few to remain indifferent. Many people lost their friends because of their position on the war in Ukraine. Such emotional impact of the Ukrainian crisis shows that this is a moral, and not only a political question.

We should try to understand what is going on from the spiritual perspective.

Almost 100 years ago, in 1917, the Russian people, the majority of them, accepted communism, and it was necessary that the Russian people would consciously and freely reject it. Otherwise no true repentance could be possible. When the Soviet Union fell apart 23 years ago, it was not a result of a revolution. Communist authorities changed their rhetoric; they left behind the ideology of Communism, but retained its nature.

ukrayna-map.jpgIn the countries, which were formed after the fall of the Soviet Union, in place of Communism, power was taken by corrupt dictators’ regimes. The Ukrainian revolution of 2014 overturned one of these regimes. It was a revolution of Dignity, as it is often called. Unfortunately, a similar movement for freedom in Russia 2 years ago was unsuccessful, having been defeated by Putin.

People of Maidan (the square in Kiev, where manifestations took place) fought for freedom and dignity of life, against corruption, tyranny, and crime. This was a revolution against that evil, satanic power, which took hold of Russia after the Bolshevik revolution. Thus the Kiev revolution of 2014 was opposite to the revolution of 1917. That’s why in many places, Ukrainian activists toppled Lenin’s monuments; monuments which are still standing in every city of Russia and Ukraine as symbols of the dark past.

Putin’s propaganda affirms that the Kiev revolution was a project of USA, which payed billions for it. Even if this may be true that USA sent financial help for Maidan, what does it change? Those who repeat this statement apparently believe that everything may be bought for money. But this is not the case. No money can buy love for freedom, courage and self-sacrifice, even readiness to put one’s life, - this is what we have observed in people of Ukraine.

Due to the amazing courage of the Maidan people, they won, and Ukraine started on the way to freedom. However the flight of Yanukovitch marked only the first victory. Putin immediately started his war against Ukraine, or more correctly, against the Ukrainian people’s aspiration for freedom. Apparently, he regards this aspiration as an insult and threat to himself.

This war is Putin’s revenge to the people of Ukraine. He realizes that if Ukraine becomes a modern, free country, it will cause Russia to change as well; and it will be the end of his power.

Putin is personally accountable for this war. He started this war through his agents in Ukraine; he armed local thugs; he covertly sends his soldiers to Ukraine, and supplies fighters with arms.

In order to justify Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, Russian TV denounced the whole people of Ukraine to be Nazis, who want to organize genocide of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. Putin’s propaganda is absolutely shameless; it exceeds even Soviet propaganda of the past. They lie endlessly telling tales about babies crucified by Ukrainian soldiers; they publish pictures of children, killed in Syria, and say they are killed by Ukrainians, etc.. The most ignoble is that the victim of Putin’s aggression is reviled as an aggressor. Incited by propaganda hundreds of Russian volunteers went to Ukraine to fight with “cruel Ukrainian Nazis” and defend people of Donbas.

Of course, in all countries there are right wing nationalists, Ukraine is not an exception. However we may estimate their influence in Ukrainian society by the fact that at the presidential election of 2014 the two most prominent nationalist leaders received less than 1% of votes.

Kiev revolution was not about Ukrainian nationalism. Just consider the fact that among the most popular Ukrainian patriots of these days are ethnic Russians: they speak Russian and have Russian surnames. The conflict in Ukraine is not between Ukrainians and Russians, but between the mentality of a free man on one side, and the Soviet mentality, sometimes in guise of Russian patriotism, on the other side.

No government would tolerate armed bandits, who occupy government buildings and establish their rule. The Ukrainian government sent troops to return control over its territories. It was its duty; any other government would act similarly. Thus the war started; a war which has already caused a loss of several thousand lives, and destruction of the whole region.

Who is at fault in this war? - Apparently, the one who started it - i.e. Putin. Also, he can easily put an end to this war. If he stops sending his troops to Ukraine, if he stops sending supplies to those fighting in Ukraine, the war will end very soon.

Let us remember that Russia according to treaties is a sponsor of Ukraine’s integrity, but instead it has become an aggressor. Putin covertly sent his troops to Crimea and to Donbas; he lied that there are no Russian troops; he dared to start a war against a brotherly nation.

But Russian people are overjoyed; they are excited about these immoral, unlawful, heinous actions. Russian soldiers fulfil illegal commands, they go to Ukraine and kill Ukrainian soldiers; the majority in Russia approve this war. Thus, Russian people approve baseness, treason, lie and crime. Those who approve criminal acts become to a certain extent accountable for them. Truly, this is an extreme moral fall of the Russian people.

On the other hand in these last months we observed an incredible rising of people in Ukraine, both Ukrainians and Russians. The people of Ukraine showed themselves free and courageous, ready to sacrifice even their life for their freedom and their country.

At the same time it is painful to admit, that people of Russia showed themselves awfully. This is a true tragedy of the Russian people. Tragedy is that they believe Putin’s propaganda. They believe propaganda, because they want to believe it and don’t want to know the truth, or they just don’t care.

Of course not all Russian people agree with Putin’s politics. There are millions of honest, conscious people, who suffer in their hearts and pray for Ukraine. But they are in the minority.

Russian fighters pretend they defend Donbas people, but in fact this is hypocrisy. If they really cared about local people, they would have put down arms and left, so that peace and order would return to this region. Nowhere else in Ukraine is blood shed except in the territories occupied by Russians.

Russian patriots claim that there is no such country as Ukraine, that this is an artificial formation, that most of Ukrainian territory is actually Russia. Well, in this case what will they do with 40 million Ukrainians, who love their country, want to live in an independent and free Ukraine and are ready to die for it? Maybe it would be better if Russian nationalists wake up from their imperial dreams and learn to live in peace with other countries and to respect integrity of their borders. What will happen if all countries decide to claim their historic borders? – Only war and bloodshed.

In Russia nationalists live under strict surveillance of FSB, and are strictly limited in their activities. Now in Donbas they are thrilled, having received a chance to organize their own state, according to their ideals. However, they imagine this Russian paradise differently. Some dream of social equality, others idealize Stalin’s Soviet state, some aspire for a monarchy. The dreamers don’t realize that they are only an instrument in Putin’s hands, and serve his goals as long as he needs them.

The move of Ukraine towards European Union they regard as betrayal of the Orthodox faith and a step forward to apostasy of the West. They dream of Novorossia (New Russia), a Russian Orthodox State, a stronghold which would resist apostasy of the modern world. Of course, the apostasy quickly moves forward and “the mystery of lawlessness is at work” (Thes. 2), preparing the kingdom of Antichrist. But let us not forget the teaching of St Ignatius Brianchaninov, that apostasy has been allowed by God, and we cannot stop it with our weak hand. What we can do is to preserve ourselves from the spirit of apostasy.

No fantastic Novorossia can resist the oncoming apostasy. We should resist it in our soul, through our faith. And faith is based on spiritual freedom.

What is the result of this wonderful experiment? - Thousands killed, destroyed cities, ruined economy of the region. Why don’t they decide to organise their New Russia somewhere in vast Russian territory, then they would not need to kill Ukrainian boys for the sake of their experiment? However, unfortunately, in Russia for similar actions they will immediately find themselves behind bars for many years.

People may endlessly argue on the questions of history and politics, but no one has a right to come to the territory of another state and take up arms. No ideology may justify bloodshed.

It is not surprising when those living in Russian distant provinces, where TV is the only source of information, believe it. But how can one explain the fact that Russians living in the West in great number believe the same Putin’s propaganda, though they are constantly exposed to western media, which more or less correctly cover the Ukrainian events?

Typically, people believe what fits into the frame of their ideas. Generations of Russian emigrants were raised on patriotism, on the love of the Russia we lost. Propaganda skilfully uses the concepts of Russian patriotism for its own goals. There is nothing in common between Russian Orthodox tsardom and Putin’s evil empire. Russia of old was based, at least in principle, on the ideal of Holy Russia, on the ideal of symphony between the Church and the state. The latter had as its goal to help its subjects in reaching the heavenly kingdom.

Putin’s regime, on the contrary, is based on lies, corruption, cruel force, injustice and hypocrisy.

It appears that even the Russian Church supports Putin’s war against Ukraine. Not to mention MP patriarch Kirill, who found the explanation: “this is the war of Ukrainian Uniates against Orthodoxy.” It goes without saying that he will always back up his “boss”. But it appears that many Russian priests and the faithful also justify this war.

Even many parishes of the true Orthodox Churches, of different synods, took Putin’s side against Ukraine.

Recently Vladyka Agafangel asked his clergy to pray for Ukrainian authorities and army, but some nationalist priests in Russia answered that they would rather pray for those Russian fighters who fight against Ukraine.

We should pray for Ukrainian soldiers, not because they are Ukrainian, but because the Ukrainian army represents the forces of order and law, while those who oppose them are armed bandits. Even if there are some sincere people among them, still their activity is criminal, whatever wonderful ideals they might cherish.

It appears that these Russian priests regard the very idea of independent Ukraine as wrong. They accuse Vladyka Agafangel, because they see in his recognition of Ukrainian state treason of the Russian Church.

What a strange position! One may have an impression that Russian nationalists live in a different world. Of course, 100 years ago nationalist movements in Russian Empire were regarded as evil by Russian hierarchs. Nationalists, for example in Poland and Georgia, fought alongside revolutionaries in the destruction of tsar’s Russia. One of the pillars of the ROCA, Vladyka Vitaly (Maximenko), as an archimandrite of Pochaev Lavra, struggled with nationalists in Ukraine.

But time has changed. There is no Russian Empire; instead there is an evil empire of Putin. People of Ukraine want to be free of it. Ukrainian people have a different language, history, customs. Why are they not allowed to have an independent state?

Finally, no Petlura (Ukrainian nationalist of early 20th century) made as much to turn Ukraine away from Russia, as did Putin and Russian nationalists.

A month ago about a thousand Ukrainian soldiers were surrounded in the town of Illovaisk. President Poroshenko negotiated with supreme Russian commanders that Ukrainians would be given a passage out. However when the Ukrainian convoy started its move on the designated road, it turned out to be an ambush, Russian tanks opened point-blank fire on them.

Russian TV tells tales about cruelty of Ukrainians, however atrocities of Russians in Ukraine is not a tale, but a well-documented fact. One young captive had his right hand cut off for a tattoo “Glory to Ukraine”. How many decades should pass before such manifestations of brotherly love are forgotten in Ukraine?

Our Church should make a strong statement about the Ukrainian events with no respect of persons. This is not politics. The Church should give spiritual and moral evaluation of these events. If we fail to do so we would become as “salt that lost its flavour”.

Hegumen Andrei. Melbourne


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