ARMY SOUL OF RUSSIA
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.
Ìost 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.
DEATH PENALTY IN RUSSIA
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 ñ.) 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
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,
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?
TSAR AS ANTICHRIST
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.
THE HISTORY OF A KAZAN ICON
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.
CLASH BETWEEN PERSONAL AND INSTITUTIONAL: RUSSIAN ORTHODOX THEOLOGY CASE
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.
KGB AND RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY
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.
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
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
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.