Moscow: Orthodox Patriarch Kirill convenes his “council”

Convened in Moscow in the two symbolic places par excellence – the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Kremlin’s Congress Hall – the “Sobor” became a celebration of a “multinational people,” which in every way opposes the disintegration of the state, and defends its greatness beyond all borders.

Share this Entry

Stefano Caprio

(ZENIT News – Mondo Rosso (Asia News) / Milan, 12.04.2023).- The solemn assembly of the Universal Russian People’s Council (Vsemirnyj Russkij Narodnyj Sobor) was held in Moscow, an organization founded by the current Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) in the 1990s, when he was still metropolitan of Smolensk and head of the foreign affairs department of the patriarchate of Moscow, to relaunch the role of the Church in post-Soviet society.

Since then the Sobor, which simultaneously indicates ecclesial communion and the unifying aspiration of Russia, has met in various forms and times at a federal and regional level, animated in particular by one of the most active supporters of the Orthodox-sovereignist ideology, the oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, founder of the Tsargrad television channel, the “imperial city” of Russian-Byzantine memory.

This time the meeting had to take on a global and decisive significance for the present and future of Russia, and for the second time in thirty years it was convened in Moscow in the places of greatest symbolic value, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (where the patriarch blessed the works) and the Congress Hall of the Kremlin, where the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU once met, the seat par excellence of the “state ideology”, in which the leaders of the People’s Council had to attend the intervention of the supreme leader himself.

However, President Putin disappointed expectations and only appeared on video, creating a rather grotesque situation: his image stood out between the two large icons hanging in the background, that of the Savior Nerukotvornyj (“not made by human hands”) and of the Mother of God Niečajannoj Radosti (“of sudden joy”) as the main hypostasis of the Sovereign Trinity, while under the screen a video of domes and golden crosses of the Moscow churches, the “forty forties” of medieval reference, was illuminated, with the inscription of the “XXV Council”.

The virtual Putin therefore presented himself as a transcendent being, and at the beginning of the assembly the patriarch invited all those present to sing the hymn to the Heavenly King (Tsarju Nebesnyj), bowing with deep devotion to the presidential iconostasis.

The merely “spiritual” presence of the Tsar, emerging from the bunker-refrigerator or from whatever arcane place revealed itself, nevertheless dampened the enthusiasm of the Council Politburo a little, and the applause at Putin’s speech was not accompanied by emotional standing ovations ovations that were obligatory at the time of Soviet congresses, when Pravda published the number of acclamations with more emphasis than the own words of Brezhnev or other party leaders.

The Council brings together various categories of people, from first-level officials of Russian politics to the high ecclesiastical hierarchies (there was an entire white forest of klobuk, headdresses of the Orthodox metropolitans), soldiers in full uniform and Cossacks in folklore uniforms, but also many young representatives of Russia’s future, mostly also dressed in various styles as fighters.

The room was nevertheless packed, and the speech of the Trinitarian Putin was expected as the true “ideological program” of the country, after a few days of debate on the opportunity of the official ideology of the State, denied by the Yeltsinian constitution, but now taken for granted in Putin’s Russia : the ideology of Russkij Mir, announced by Malofeev as “the framework of the Russian world after the victory in the special military operation”.

The president wanted to express the official lines of the incipient electoral campaign, repeating several times the fundamental concept that “being Russian is not limited to origin or nationality”.

The Russian world presents a “multinational people”, which in every way opposes the disintegration of the state, and defends its greatness beyond all borders. It is no coincidence that the Moscow Duma approved a further amendment to the constitution, which instead of “people of the Russian Federation” imposes the more direct definition of “Russian people”, distinguishing the russkye from the rossjane, “Russians” from the “ethnic Russians ”, a clarification impossible to grasp outside Russian linguistics.

As the Dagestani MP Sultan Khamzaev stated, the Rossjanes are “Yeltsyn’s”, while all citizens living on Russian territory are “men of the Russian world”, therefore “they are Russians”.

The theme of true Russianness which includes all ethnic groups became decisive starting from the invasion of Ukraine, even if it had remained pending since the end of the Soviet Union.

This is precisely the only justification for military aggression against a neighboring country, occupying it and annexing parts of its territory, trampling on all international norms in the name of a different conception of the “people’s identity”, Slavophile samobytnost.

In a meeting of the Security Council a few months ago, Putin himself declared that he felt “Russian, Dagestani, Chechen, Ingush, Tatar, Jew, Mordvino and Ossetine”, and Russian propagandists insist on the “uniqueness of the Russian people” which includes “the many populations that live in our territory, and also elsewhere”.

The Yeltsin constitution of 1993, in article 3, states that “the bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in the Russian Federation is its plurinational people”, without clarifying what this definition really means, as a consequence of the federation agreement signed in 1992 in the Kremlin by representatives of the 89 regions and federal subjects (which today are more than 100). On that occasion Yeltsyn pronounced the famous phrase “take all the sovereignty you can stomach”, while today we are at the opposite extreme, bringing all local sovereignty back to the universal Sobor.

Today, not only do the regions not have the right to elect their own governors, except in mechanisms totally controlled by the Kremlin, but the very denomination of “governors” of the regions and “presidents” of the federal republics has been abolished, everyone is simply called ” leaders” (golovy), a generic term subjected to the hierarchy of Putin’s “vertical of power”.

It should be noted that in 2016 there was an attempt to pass a law on the “Russian nation” which did not please the deputies of the various nationalities of the Federation, and the document was rewritten simply on “national state policy”. Russia is not simply a “nation”, and its ideology cannot be called “nationalism”, because its aspiration is broader and more comprehensive; as the Metropolitan of Crimea and “spiritual father of Putin”, Tikhon (Ševkunov), often repeats, “Russia can only be imperial”.

In fact, these definitions hark back to the era of official Soviet ideology, when the Brezhnevian constitution of 1977 declared that “a new union of people, the Soviet people, has been established in our country.” The main acronym of Soviet politics was therefore the družba narodov, “friendship of peoples”, which extended to all latitudes and continents.

In this way, the Soviet Union intended to counteract the narodov tjurma, the “prison of the people” with which the previous Russian empire was denounced, which suffocated all ethnic groups other than the Russian one.

Even Lenin denounced the “Great Russian chauvinism” which was holding back the building of communism and the universal revolution. But as Putin states today, “fortunately Stalin corrected this confusion” by bringing Russia back to lead the “brother peoples”, even if at the cost of the “inevitable sacrifices” of the gulag archipelago. In the current neo-Stalinist approach, the ierarkhija narodov, the “hierarchy of peoples” is very important, starting from the leading ethnic group of the Russians, to connect the most loyal ones up to the most foreign ones such as the Anglosaksy, while the Europeans are already more comparable to the universal Sobor.

Putin’s ideology poses a problem that cannot be circumvented by anyone: each nation can understand itself in different ways, and associate itself with supranational communities of a very varied nature, from the “United States” to the “European Union” which is preparing to assimilate parts of the world Russian like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, with all the further contradictions that this will entail, considering the still open problems with the Balkans and Turkey.

In some nations, cultural or religious unity counts, in others constitutional patriotism and the recognition of political institutions, or the basic principles of state building.

One of the most insistent expressions of the Russian Sobor, especially in its ecclesiastical dimension starting from the positions of Patriarch Kirill, is the capacity for “establishment of the State” (gosudarstvo-obrazujuščij) of the Russian people and of the Orthodox Church itself, which is not based on ethnicity, but on moral and spiritual “traditional values”, which transcend every limitation and frontier.

In his “heavenly” speech at the Moscow Sobor, Putin thanked the Orthodox Church in this sense for its support “in Donbass and Malorossiya” (Ukraine in the Russian denomination), because “our struggle has a character of national liberation and international”.

And precisely for this reason the Russian president is remembered in the prayer books distributed to soldiers as “the Archstrategist”, the title of Saint Michael the Archangel who leads the celestial armies in the apocalyptic war against the Evil One, to affirm the victory of the divine Kingdom.

Share this Entry

ZENIT Staff

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation