Yakov Krotov



Russia is a country of a very rare type: army-country. For example, China is very different. Turkey was an army-country, and imperia of Aztecs�at least as it was depicted by some Europeans. The Golden Horde was an army-country, and Russia inherited this quality from her former master (Russia emerged on the ruins of Horde in the XV-XVI cc.)

To be an army-country doesn�t mean to be aimed mainly on conquest. Army is not so much about foreign affairs as about home affairs. One of the most striking features of such society is that it is based not on the rule of law, it is not even a police state. Police as still something connected with politics, and army is out of politics as a system of social collaboration. Army-country is only a weapon of destruction, not of politics. Modern Russia is mostly a weapon of self-destruction, and this is not the worst situation.

Army is based on the rule of battle-order. Now imagine that You must plow a field with the bomber. The result will be tragic for the field, for the bomber and for plowman. Army-country is a very bad society, but it is also a very bad army. �You cannot construct anything with the help of something invented for destruction.

Army can be justified as a tool of society. Such army can be used for conquest of for defense. But army as the only part of society, as the only structure of the state has no sense. Army-country has no citizens to defend. Every human in army-country is in the services, in the staff, on the front line or on the home front.

Russians (and Westerners) usually mystify the situation describing Russia as the �country of slaves� or �country of convicts.� This is a very dangerous mystification! Certainly, soldiers, prisoners and slaves have something in common. They are all deprived of freedom. The differences are more important, still. Slaves or prisoners strive for freedom. Soldier strive for power.

�ost Russian still are obsessed with the complex of imperialist. They still want to conquer other countries,� they don't want to wage a war with poverty in their own country, they want to wage war with other countries. They are paranoics and accuse small countries and people in "aggression," like Romans accused small Eastern kingdoms in aggressive impulses. Communism in Russia was only a new form for the old imperialism. The downfall of Communism didn't change a lot as concerns Russian imperialism. The first attempt to wage war against Chechnya was made by Yeltsin in September 1991. Russia struggled with fascism because she was the country of the alternative, Russian fascism. So we must not panic when we see modern Russian nazism and rasizm in all Russian society, but quietly work for freedom and common sense in Russia, They are possible. Russian are not slaves or imperialists by their nature--it would be a rasizm to think about Russian this way.� We must not seek excuses or allegations, we must not love Russia or hate, we (Russians) must be free, human, peaceful, creative, democratic Russians.


Early Middle Ages. Rus' as well as many others barbaric tribes didn't know death penalty because the tribe ethic preferred private vendetta. Then blood fead became replaced with the system of fines, which differed for people of different social rank.

What is important and what is usually unknown to modern Russian propagandist of death penalty: St. Vladimir, Prince of Kiiv, "Vladimir the Small Red Sun", the Enlightener of Rus' (he "baptized" Rus' in 988),disagreed with Byzantine bishops who asked him to introduce death penalty, given such an explanation: "I am afraid of sin!"

Grand-grandson of St. Vladimir, Vladimir Monomach, in his "Sermon to descendants" (beginning of XII �.) proclaimed: "Don't put to death nor innocent, nor guilty and don't order to put him to death. Even if someone merits death, don't ruin any Christian soul."

Late Middle Ages. First written law which mentions death penalty in Russia is the Charter for Dvina of 1398. This provincial document sets death penalty only for the third theft.

From Russian chronicles we know that princes and mobs used death penalty very freely and often in a very cruel way. In XIII c. one bishop was punished in accordance with the Byzantine law -- nearly quartered. In 14 c. in Pskov several heretics have been drawned. In XV c. in Novgorod several witches have been burned. It is important that I haven't met these examples in the popular literature about death penalty in Russia which I've looked through. Most writers stress that Russia was less cruel as concerns death penalty. Well, figures have been less than in Western Europe, really, but only because population was less numerous and information very fragmentary.

An interesting article of William Connel and Giles Constable about the execution of Antonio Rinaldeschi in Florence in 22 of July, 1501 (in Russian publication of articles concerning Middle Ages and law). This case was an abnormal happening, because Rinaldeschi was executed for a blasphemy. The political atmosphere in Florence this year was awful: in the struggle between "best people" and "common people" religious feelings became a fuel to hatred.

During Middle Ages blasphemy was looked upob the the most serious of all sins (Aquinas, Summa Th. 2.2, Qu. 13, art. 2 and 3). But their was "assumption that blasphemers would be punished by divine rather than human agency." (P. 113)

That is why in classical Middle Ages the cases of death penalty to blasphemers were quite rare. Jurists acknoledged the validity of Leviticus 24.16 ("He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die") but, as Giulio Claro put it in 16th c.: "This punishment is not customarily observed because if all plasphemers were punished with the penalty of death, few people would remain". There was a tendence to punish plasphemy by pecuniary rather than corporal punishment.

I guess the same logic was used by Russian elders when in the beginning of 16th c. they've argued with St. Joseph Volotsky, denying the necessity of death penalty for heretics. The crime is too grave, the Lord must punish a criminal Himself, if this is His will.

Modernity. From the Penal Code of 1649 death penalty became most widespread. Blasphemy and theft, treason and arson. Under Peter the Great 123 crimes were punished by death penalty. And them came an abrupt change of course -- Western European fashion of humanization reached Russia. Empress Elizaneth in her ukase (decree) from May 13, 1743 brought to a stop performance of death penalty. This ukase was repeated in 1753. In XVIII c. it was used only in the wars with revolted peasants, which a sort of non-judicial violence. The execution of 5 aristocratic conspirators in December 1825 was a sensation. mostly disapproved by the gentry.

The Penal Code of 1832 (inroduced in 1835) established death penalty only for three crimes: treason, army crimes, and crimes in the situation of quarantine (cholera etc.). There were few death penalties in XIX c., and most revolutionaries and terrorists escaped such revenge.

The level of death penalties raised during the revolution on 1905 and later: on 1906 - 574, in 1907 - 1139, in 1908 - 1340. Russian culture elite in general didn't approve such way of pacification.

After the February Revolution death penalty was abolished immideatly, on March 12, 1917, but on Juky 12, 1917 it was restored for soldiers on the front.

Bolshevistic Russia. November 26, 1917, next day after the Bolshevistic Revolution, new government prohibited death penalty. On February 21, 1918, when German troops attacked Russia, death penalty was restored for hooligans, spies etc. On June 21, 1918 admiral Schatniy was executed according to the new decree, which restored death penalty for the soldiers and officers. September, 1918 the Decree on Red Terror was issued, proclaiming death penalty for all "counter-revolutionaries." On January 17, 1920 death penalty was abolished according to the wish of Dzerzhinsky ("Russian Marat.") In 1922 death penalty was restored. In mid-1930-s the power to condemn to death penalty was given to "troyki"--three people, usually representatives of Soviet power, secret political police and Communist Party.

May 26, 1947 death penalty was abolished in the peace time, and replaced with 25 years of prison. But on January 12, 1950 death penalty was restored for treason and spying. In 1954 death penalty was restored for murder committed under specially grave circumstances.

Chkruschev at first liberalized the penal code and death penalty became quite a rare thing. But in 1961 Chkruschev was so indignant that several "valyutchiks" (people who dare to buy and sell dollars) were not accused to death penalty that he ordered to introduce death penalty for economic crimes as well. "Valyutchiki" were executed although the new law theoretically had no force in their case (they;ve been already condemned to 25 years of prison.)

On April 28, 1983 Council of Europe adopted Protocol #6 of the European Convention on Human rights, proclaiming prohibition of death penalty (officially Protocol was adopted on November 22, 1984.) It was ratified by 13 countries (the Council numbered 21 country at that time.)

On May 16, 1996 Russian president signed a decree, proclaiming prohibition of the death penalty because of the process of incorporating Russian into the Council of Europe.

Russian Constitution of 1993 declares that death penalty must be abolished in future and that anyone can be condemned to death penalty only by jury.

Statistics of death penalties. In 1985 - 404, 1990 - 76, 1992 - 1 (the lowest level.) 1995 - 86, 1996 - 53.

Metropolitan Cyrill Gundyaev spoke in Duma, making presentation of the Social Conception of the Patriarchate, and stressed that Russian Orthodox Church is not against death penalty, that "our society is not ready to abolish" it. Most Bolshevistic way of proparanda: I am good, kind and clever, but others ("society") are so bad, that...

Words of Gundyaev quoted in Izvestiya, 7th of July, 2001.


And one more supplement to the problem of death penalty. Poutine now is closing the Commission of Amnesty, composed from prominent public figures. The leader of Comission is an author Anatoly Pristavkin, among the members - Fr. Alexander Borisov and Vladimir lyushenko, both from the pupils of Fr. Menn. Yeltsin granted pardon to several thousands people, whose petitions were approved by this Comission. Putine stopped the procedure of pardoning at all. Pristavkin now wages company in media to defend the Comission and its activities. In "Moskovskiy Komsomolets" (9th of July, 2001) he mentions that he is disillusioned with Solzhenitsyn because of his support of death penalty. Members of Comission wrote to Pope and to Patriarch Alexy asking their opinion on death penalty. Pope answered with the letter stressing that he is against death penalty, and Patriarch Alexy is keeping silence.

My personal attutude

I've heard from Americans and Russians (and recently President Putine and Metr. Kyrill stateted this) that Bible is for the death penalty. I am "too Russian Orthodox" to use Old Testament as a sort of Penal Code. As a Jew (hm...) I know too well that it is hard to follow the Bible in all details--and what is the fun of separation the Word of God into what you decide to observe and what you decide to ignore?

But if we take the Bible so seriously, let us restore death penalty for blasphemy. I guess we'll need to execute about 30% of American polulation and about 70% of Russians. But the result -- blasphemy-free lands -- is worth efforts?


The idea of Moscow as the Third Rome was not popular among Russians at all. The official ideology thought about Moscow as the Second Rome, stating that Tsars are remnants of August Caesar. Most people haven't bothered at all about these conceptions. The first Tsar proclaimed to be antichrist was Alexey, father of Peter the Great. Alexey began the reform of rite which was opposed by Old-Believers.

Western tradition tends to look upon Russian disputes of XVII c. as a senseless discussions of people without any common sense and theological education. But such point of view is strongly inspired by ancient prejudeces of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism towards Eastern Christianity. There is no objective difference between Puritans blaiming English rulers and Old-Believers blaiming Russian rulers: in both cases Christian language, expecially the language of Revelation, had been used to express some political views, because there was no political language yet.


In 2002 the Kazan icon of Our Lady became famous for a short period of time: Pope presented it to Patriarch Alexy. For example, Catholic news-agency Zenit comments:

"The icon remained in the convent until it was stolen in 1903 or 1904. The image was one of the most venerated in Russia. Many copies of it exist. There are contradictory versions about the fate of the original. One account says it reappeared in Warsaw, where it was purchased by an English nobleman who then resold it. The icon passed through several hands before reappearing in the United States. There, a group of Catholics, who were perhaps ignorant of its origin, purchased it and gave it to the Fatima Shrine. Eventually, it was given to the Pope as a gift in 1993. Another version of the story now circulating in Russia says the icon was stolen in 1903 by a madman who burned it."

Actually, the truth is that in 1903 the icon was stolen by the robber: it was covered with dozens of diamonds and covered with gold. He burned the icon to hide his crime, but still he was condemned in 1904. The icon which is now in Vatican is only a late copy from the Borodino nunnery near Moscow. The icon was venerated mostly as a sign of war success, which I don't think is very pious to a Christian. The church of the Kazan icon is on the Red Square, it commemorates the liberation of Moscow in 1613 from Poles. Most famous is the cathedral of Kazan icon in Petersbourg on Nevsky prospekt, commemorating the victory over Napoleon in 1812.



There is a commonplace in the Russian Orthodox subculture of the XXth century to oppose "normal theologians" to "theologians with cigarettes". In the beginning of XX c. the more widespread title was "theologians in frock coats" ("syurtuchniye bogoslovy".) But after ordination of Sergiy Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, Georgiy Florovsky this lost sense.

Cigarettes are still a sign. Berdyaev died with a cigar lighten. Schmemann was a great smoker. Fr. Alexander Men smoke a lot. The difference is that in Russia it is still indecently for a priest to smoke. Drinking is nearly an obligatory feature of a "normal" Russian Orthodox priest in Russia, but not smoking.

I dare to suggest that smoking differs from drinking as individualism from collectivism. One cigarette can be smoked by one person only, and one bottle is calculated to satisfy at least two persons. "Smoking theologian" is the one who moves away from an academic milieu.

The real division in Russian Orthodox theology is not between schools, but between schools and individuals. That is why� Fedotov, Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Vl.Solovyov always were in conflict with the collectivistic theology. There was no "Parisian Russian Orthodoxy." There was a collectivistic theology of St-Serge Institute and personalism of Berdyaev, Fedotov, Bulgakov. The conflict became apparent in 1930-s as "theological" issue of Sofiology and a purely political issue of Fedotov's and Berdyaev's support of Spanish Anti-Fascists.

Schmemann's case seems to be a special one. As far as I know, St.Vladimir's Seminary or St-Serge Institute now have no articulate political agenda. Still, they are definitely collectivistic bodies, and Schmemann was integrated in this milieu. His diaries show that this integration made him suffer. At least this part of his writing sounds most burning in modern Russia, where Russian Orthodoxy becomes more and more like its pre-revolutionary grand-mother, Synodal Church.


The conference dedicated to the Holy Shroud was held in Moscow Kremlin. Grigoriy Telnov dedicated a large article to it in the newspaper "Zhisn" ("The Life"), #20, Febr. 4, 2002, pp. 8-9. What puzzled me in this article is an absolutelly new statement: "Roman Catholic Church for many years blocked the access of Russian researches to the Shroud and even refused to discuss such an idea. But now she turned her mind ... Russian researches during last years get a priority in this field."

Telnov stresses that now in Russia the "investigations" concerning the Shroud are led by the Institute of Criminology of FSB. This is a department of what everyone knows to be KGB.

I don't think that there is any sense to discuss the ideas of such a "scientists." The article is full of the long-forgotted smell of Russian nationalism and religious intolerance. The only new idea which I've found in the article is the observation of Yelena Vishnevskaya from the Kremlin museum: on the Old Russian pictures of Christ in the tomb there are only four fingers in each palm. She suggested that this is because the big finger was crushed during the crucifixation and turned inside.

Russian Orthodoxy & Protestant missions

Published: Moscovskiye novosty - Moscow News 16.05.93. 16.05.93. P.8B.

The Russian Orthodoxy has very complicated relations with Protestantism in past as well as in the present. Before the speech of Bill Graham during his visit to Moscow I was given a leaflet saying: "Endless stream of Protestant, roman catholic and other missionaries is fluing on the Russian soil to poison us". Some church and non-church publicists intimidate people with evil West trying "to cut people from the Russian Church".

It is difficult to say whether the invasion of different religious preachers to Russia is good or not. All faithful to Christ believers ought to be joyful about this because all preachers are speaking about faith. There is no great joy yet. There is a great malevolence.

It is very simple to explain the hostility of Russian orthodox people towards Protestants by our weakness. Sure, we are lazy, we are eager to swagger about our faith, we don't enjoy competition. Moreover, many ideologists of Russian orthodoxy speak first of all about Russia as a land of the thousand-years-old religious culture. This is a myth about ancient Christian experience of "people", of "land", of "country". The weak point of this myth is in its disdain to personality. But it is the alive heart of a person - not "land" - where the faith lives. The tragedy of modern Russians today is exactly in the weak conscience of private personality, which is higher than "nation". Those who demand in such situation for proscription of foreign preachers are like those who permit only one fire brigade to extinguish a fire.

Proscription of those who do want to help us is an ethical slovenliness. It is especially evident in the question of money. Representatives of Moscow Patriarchate repeat again and again: "Don't bother, just give money to us, we now better how to use money". Really, Protestant missionaries spend there money with very low effectiveness. But Protestants have very sad experience. In 1988 Scandinavian nominations presented Moscow Patriarchate several thousands excellent bibles. They were sold in Russia without the permission of donators and for very high prices. Later the representative of Patriarchy explained that we were in a deep need of money for restoration of the churches. But we didn't begged for pardon! After that nobody will give us even a penny! We can easily spend any donations on caviar and cars for bishops of for printing anti-Semitic pamphlets in the skin of theological treatises.

The style of polemics against Protestant missionaries is not the style of eastern-orthodox saints. It is the style of party functionaries. They address themselves to the material part of person. They submit the faith to the nationalism: "A man who is really Russian orthodox wouldn't sell his Motherland... That is why Russian Orthodoxy is so hatred by western wolfs". But hope in its real Russian Orthodox meaning is in the saying: "Bog nie vydast" - "In God we trust" (literally - " God won't betray"). God won't betray us neither to Protestants nor to the defenders of national isolationism.

Those who create a myth about rapacious West encourage spiritual laziness in those who really are oblige to preach Russian orthodox faith. Very strange logic of marginal intelligentsia is at work: "We have no money, so we can't do anything" - "If there will be money it will be of no use because people mustn't be bribed" - "Baptists are too strong rivals of Russian orthodoxy so we can't do anything" - "Russian orthodoxy is so strong that we can do nothing yet it will win" and so on and so forth...

All that we know about the laws of history, about the strength of tradition is really dictating faith in Russia as a country where Eastern Orthodoxy would dominate forever. Russian Orthodoxy is not just a temporary form of Christianity. It is Christianity which reached the very depth of personality. That is why we are not to be afraid of Protestants The land without a heart is nothing - but Russian heart believing in Christ will permanently reborn Russian land as Russian Orthodox country. Christ open a person as endless depth of being. The faith will grow in heart - and the heart will come to Christianity in all its plenitude. The thousand years of Russian orthodoxy guarantee that in it there was some selection. Everything accidental died, vital has preserved. Vital that is to say everything which helps to Christian to bring in the Kingdom of God not only his heart (this can be done in Protestantism as well), but also his brains and all other parts of personality. These always are Russian

We smile to Protestants with profound gratitude for help to Russia by alive Christian word and by the word of the Bible. But our sincere smile is always with taste of apology for the future of Russia which (as well as its past) is wittingly more favorable for eastern orthodoxy than for other nominations.