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MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE HAS YET TO CONFRONT ITS KGB PAST (RIPnet News: November 29, 2000)

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    *************************************** MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE HAS YET TO CONFRONT ITS KGB PAST by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service 30 October 2000 Nearly a
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2000
      ***************************************
      MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE HAS YET TO CONFRONT ITS KGB PAST
      by Geraldine Fagan,
      Keston News Service
      30 October 2000

      Nearly a decade after the collapse of the Soviet system, Russia has yet to
      undergo a process of lustration on anything like the scale of that embarked
      upon elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Many positions in social institutions are
      thus still occupied by those directly or indirectly responsible for the
      brutal crushing of dissent in the socialist period - and the Church is no
      exception. In 'National Protestantism and the Ecumenical Movement: Church
      Activities During the Cold War', published in late 1999, renowned German
      church historian Professor Gerhard Besier maintains that 'the Moscow
      Patriarchate does not seem to be interested in a genuine attempt at
      Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung (coming to terms with the past).' This
      conclusion
      would seem to be borne out by the Moscow Patriarchate's reaction to the
      book. In January their representative to the World Council of Churches
      (WCC)
      in Geneva Mikhail Gundyayev rejected as 'impossible to imagine' the work's
      assertion that Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Rostov collaborated
      with the KGB. Gundyayev countered that Nikodim had in fact undertaken
      'great
      work to preserve the Church from the influence of the atheist regime.'

      Using WCC archival material, Besier documented how Nikodim suddenly
      replaced
      Metropolitan Nikolai in July 1960 as head of the Department for External
      Church Relations (DECR) following the latter's forced resignation in the
      wake of a speech delivered by Patriarch Aleksi I in defence of the
      persecuted Church in the Soviet Union. On his appointment, Nikodim
      instituted an abrupt departure from the Church's policy towards the WCC
      which Metropolitan Nikolai had set in 1948: that of refusal to join a body
      'not in accord with the aims of the Church of Christ as they are understood
      by the Orthodox Church.'

      Nikodim's November 1960 announcement to then general secretary of the WCC
      Willem Visser 'T Hooft that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was willing
      to
      begin negotiations for membership, the book reveals, came just three weeks
      after general secretary of the Soviet Council for the Affairs of the
      Russian
      Orthodox Church (CAROC, which was later merged into the Council for
      Religious Affairs CRA), Vladimir Kuroyedov, had given an explanation of
      this
      U-turn in church policy to his Eastern European counterparts at a Berlin
      conference. It was necessary for the ROC to enter the WCC, Kuroyedov
      declared, in order 'to further the influence on believers abroad, to step
      up
      the fight against the Vatican, to weaken the position of the Ecumenical
      Patriarchate' and as 'a blow against the church of the white emigres ("Our
      ROCA").'

      In considering Nikodim's sudden ecumenical overtures, according to strictly
      confidential minutes of a February 1961 closed session of the WCC executive
      committee, there was 'distrust of the leadership of the Russian Orthodox
      Church as KGB puppets.' Once the Church was in the WCC, according to the
      book, 'all interpreters who accompanied delegations of the ROC to
      ecumenical
      conferences were selected for this purpose in advance by the KGB and were
      answerable to them. Their written reports of each conference day, of which
      they had to submit five copies every evening, were given to Metropolitan
      Nikodim as delegation leader. He passed these on to the CRA at the
      ministerial council of the USSR, keeping one copy for himself.'

      Speaking to Keston on 11 February, Fr Gleb Yakunin told Keston that 'the
      whole stance of being tolerant towards people of other confessions and
      ecumenism was an order from the KGB so as to gain information about them.'
      (Fr Yakunin was one of those who in 1991 had the opportunity to examine
      material in the KGB archives relating to KGB control of religion before the
      archives were again closed at the request of the Patriarch.) In an
      interview
      with Keston on 18 February, however, DECR press secretary Fr Vsevolod
      Chaplin maintained that the aims of the Soviet state were not a decisive
      factor in the Church's entry into the WCC, 'although Khrushchev was trying
      to be more open internationally at that time.' Fr Chaplin stressed that
      even
      after the ROC entered the WCC there were many hierarchs who thought that
      there was no need for ecumenism. 'There were really two different positions
      within the Church - each held sway at a different time and they were both
      right for their time.'

      As the book co-authored by Besier is so far available only in German, Fr
      Chaplin had heard about it but was not familiar with its contents. When
      Keston asked whether Metropolitan Nikodim worked as an agent intentionally,
      unwillingly or unknowingly, he commented that 'no one has seen any clear
      evidence' and pointed out that Metropolitan Nikodim 'was very open to a lot
      of his western colleagues as well.' In his view, it was not true that
      hierarchs such as Metropolitan Nikodim had acted more in the interests of
      the state than the Church; 'the Church came first. They were obliged to
      inform the authorities about their activities.' Fr Chaplin maintained that
      the majority of those that reported to the CRA did not do so in order to
      harm the church or each other: 'you cannot evaluate those hierarchs who
      were
      more or less active [in the service of the Soviet security services]
      positively: but there were rules: they had to give information to the CRA,
      who obviously passed it on to the KGB. But it was largely a purely formal
      relationship.'

      The so-called Furov report of 1981, a leaked document from the records of
      the Council for Religious Affairs to members of the Communist Party Central
      Committee, suggests otherwise. It notes that many years of observation
      'reaffirm the loyalty of the episcopate towards the Soviet state' and draws
      up three categories of Russian Orthodox hierarch: those who 'prove their
      loyalty: are fully aware of the state policy on not expanding religion ..
      and are thus not very anxious to expand the influence of Orthodoxy among
      the
      population' (including then Bishop Aleksi of Tallinn and Estonia), those
      who
      are loyal to the state 'but strive to promote activity for an advanced
      influence of the church in personal, family and social life' (including
      Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Novgorod) and those who 'are
      attempting to by-pass the laws, some of them being conservatives in their
      religious attitude.'

      Besier does not cite any document identifying Nikodim as a particular
      agent.
      His statement that 'it has been known from the KGB archives since 1992 that
      Nikodim was a KGB agent' is referenced by a January 1992 Izvestiya article
      by Vyacheslav Polosin entitled 'Eternal Slave of the Cheka', but this makes
      no mention of Nikodim. On 11 February Fr Gleb Yakunin explained to Keston
      how it was possible to identify agents in the ROC by comparing now
      inaccessible KGB reports containing their codenames with accounts of church
      activities in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate (JMP). This technique
      was famously used by Ogonyok journalist Aleksandr Nezhny in the 1992
      article
      in which he identified Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk, chairman of the
      Patriarchate's publishing department, as agent 'Abbat', Metropolitan
      Yuvenali of Krutitsy, a former chairman of the Department of External
      Church
      Relations, as agent 'Adamant' and Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev and Galicia,
      at that time Exarch of Ukraine, as agent 'Antonov'. In the case of the
      latter, KGB reports cited how various agents were sent to the Christian
      Peace Conference in Hungary in 1985 'with the task of orchestrating
      preparations: along lines acceptable to us', and to Italy for discussions
      with the Pope John Paul II in 1989. Metropolitan Filaret's was the only
      name
      common to reports of these two events published by the Moscow Patriarchate
      (JMP No 8 1985, Info Bulletin Nos 8-9 1989).

      With reference to this method of identification, Yakunin doubted the claim
      in Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin's 1999 book 'The Mitrokhin
      Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West', currently available only in
      English, that Metropolitan Nikodim had the codename 'Adamant'. A 1987
      report
      that Adamant - 'a member of the hierarchy of the ROC' - took part for the
      first time in a general session of UNESCO as a member of the Soviet
      delegation, he said, may be cross referenced with JMP reports which
      identify
      him as Metropolitan Yuvenali of Krutitsy and Kolomna. Metropolitan Yuvenali
      succeeded Nikodim, his cousin, as head of the DECR in 1975.

      Andrew's book is largely based on research into the personal archive built
      up by Mitrokhin, a former KGB officer who spent 12 years smuggling out
      copies of material from the KGB archives, and in whose estimation the files
      on church collaboration contained 'a whirlpool of filth.' In identifying
      Adamant as Metropolitan Nikodim, it refers to a report from August 1969,
      which states that 'agents Altar, Svyatoslav, Adamant, Magister, Roshchin
      and
      Zemnogorsky went to England to take part in the work of the WCC central
      committee.' The endnote to this extract - of which Fr Gleb had previously
      been unaware - states that 'Mitrokhin did not see the file on the 1961 WCC
      Central Committee meeting. Another file noted by him, however, identifies
      Adamant as Nikodim.' In Andrew's view, the fact that Yuvenali can be
      identified as Adamant indicates that the codename was passed on to him at
      some point after his death 'it was not unusual for KGB codenames to be
      recycled.'

      Keston believes 'Svyatoslav' to be a further possibility for Metropolitan
      Nikodim's codename. The JMP reported that Metropolitan Nikodim and then
      Archimandrite Kirill (Gundyayev) attended a session of the honorary
      committee of the WCC in Auckland, New Zealand from 8-12 February 1972,
      corresponding with a KGB report that agents 'Svyatoslav' and 'Mikhailov'
      were sent to a session of the WCC in New Zealand in February 1972. A 1973
      KGB report states that agents 'Magistr' and 'Mikhailov' were sent to
      Thailand and India in January to participate in the work of the WCC, while
      JMP reports that Archbishop Antoni of Minsk and Belarus and Archimandrite
      Kirill (Gundyayev) took part in the WCC's World Mission Conference in
      Bangkok from 29 December 1972 to 8 January 1973. If 'Mikhailov' can thus be
      identified as now Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad,
      'Svyatoslav' would appear to be Metropolitan Nikodim.

      When Keston related to Fr Yakunin on 11 February that the ROC
      representative
      in Geneva had rejected as inconceivable the allegations concerning
      Metropolitan Nikodim, he remarked: 'Why are they so surprised? The whole
      structure of the DECR was infiltrated by the KGB. It was impossible for the
      top brass not to be collaborators.' According to Yakunin, the relevant KGB
      archives were closed at the request of the Patriarch himself: 'As soon as
      he
      found out that I was looking in them he went to [chairman of the Supreme
      Soviet] Ruslan Khasbulatov and demanded that we be stopped.' In his view,
      Patriarch Aleksi and others had not admitted collaboration because 'if they
      admitted it they would have to repent, examine and step down. But they have
      defended what they did and said they somehow saved the Church.' In
      Yakunin's
      view, lustration had not taken place in Russia because 'no genuine
      democratisation occurred under Yeltsin - this would have been necessary in
      order to purge all social institutions.'

      Asked by Keston on 18 February why he thought there had been no examination
      of the past in Russia in the vein of the Gauck Authority in Germany or the
      Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Fr Chaplin explained
      that there had been no demand for examination on the part of society: 'I
      think the majority of people closely involved in building socialism thought
      that they were doing the right thing. With the years the number of people
      demanding lustration decreased - it was small to start off with.' One
      reason
      that there was no demand for the truth of what happened, he thought, was
      that 'there is disappointment in the system which replaced socialism - what
      they moved into was a wreckage of chaos, mafia, corruption. ' Although
      Soviet citizens had resented not being able to marry, divorce or travel
      abroad without the agreement of the authorities, he said, 'that did not
      lead
      them to condemn the whole system.'

      Neither is outright condemnation the position of the church, according to
      Fr
      Chaplin: 'The aims of the church and state were not always diametrically
      opposed in Soviet times. Of course, in the case of atheist work they were,
      but there were areas where they were not, such as concern for the role of
      the Church in the world and the greatness of the country - and these remain
      common concerns.' Fr Chaplin was not aware of the 15 February public
      appeal
      by Romanian Patriarch Teoctist for forgiveness for concessions made by the
      church to the socialist state: 'I personally ask for forgiveness and I am
      doing it now because I didn't have enough courage before: in my heart I am
      sad: because I made a great number of the faithful suffer.' Agreeing that
      there was a difference between the stance of the Moscow Patriarchate and
      that of the Romanian patriarch - 'we don't consider that everything which
      was done in that [the Soviet] period was incorrect' - he commented that the
      Romanian position had arisen 'from political pressure which tries to insist
      that everything in the past was bad while the present is progress.'

      Fr Chaplin pointed out to Keston that Patriarch Aleksi II had made a number
      of public statements of repentance during the past decade and added that
      although Archbishop Khrizostom of Vilnius and Lithuania had admitted
      collaboration, 'I don't think he maintained that it was completely
      incorrect.' (For an examination of the evidence of Patriarch Aleksi's
      identity as 'Drozdov', see KNS 21 September 2000, 'The Patriarch and the
      KGB
      '). When Patriarch Aleksi was challenged over the Furov report's
      description
      of him as one of the Soviet state's most loyal bishops in an interview in
      Izvestiya on 10 June 1991, he indeed conceded that he 'was sometimes forced
      to give way' to the authorities and apologised for 'such concessions, the
      failure to speak out, the forced passivity and expressions of loyalty of
      the
      church leadership.' By contrast, in 1992 Archbishop Khrizostom - who
      appears
      in the third, troublesome category of bishops in the Furov report -
      specifically admitted to deliberate collaboration with the KGB, but claimed
      to have denounced only 'those very KGB agents who had been infiltrated into
      the Church.' (The example he gave, Metropolitan Mefodi, whom he described
      as
      'a KGB officer, an atheist, a vicious man foisted upon us by the KGB', is
      still metropolitan of Voronezh.) In Chaplin's view, however, public
      apologies are not required: 'I don't think that you have to repent
      necessarily if you gave information to the state - although Yakunin might
      think so.'

      According to Fr Yakunin, the Commission for Investigation into the
      Activities of the Security Services within the Russian Orthodox Church,
      which was set up in 1992 and headed by Bishop Aleksandr of Kostroma was
      'not
      doing anything'. Fr Chaplin confirmed that the commission had not been
      active 'in recent years', having already completed its inquiry. A report
      containing the results of the investigation, he told Keston, had not been
      published. On asking for further details about publication and its
      contents,
      Keston was referred to Bishop Aleksandr. On several occasions Keston was
      told by staff at Kostroma diocesan administration that Bishop Aleksandr was
      not currently in the diocese, and diocesan secretary Fr Oleg Novikov
      stressed that only the bishop would be able to respond to Keston's enquiry
      about the commission. On asking to speak to the bishop once he had returned
      on 7 March, a staff member asked what questions Keston wished to pose, took
      Keston's telephone number and said that a diocesan representative would
      call
      back with the bishop's answers. To date Keston has not received any answer.

      In 1992 Archbishop Khrizostom said that at that year's April synod he had
      called for 'some kind of statement about the need to purify ourselves from
      all of this. I suggested that those who had acted unworthily take the
      necessary measures: the more access we have to information and documents,
      the more deeply and fully we should deal with these questions.' On 28
      February 2000 Professor Gerhard Besier explained to Keston that one reason
      why this had not taken place was because the Russian Orthodox Church has
      always had a close relationship with the state and allowed itself to be led
      by the principle of a symphony between church and state: 'It always saw
      itself as the church of the people and served successive popular
      governments
      even when these rejected or persecuted the people.' As a result, he
      maintained, collaboration with the state secret services was never viewed
      as
      discreditable as from the western perspective.

      Aleksandr Nezhny, however, certainly considers the idea of church hierarchs
      cooperating with a specifically antireligious totalitarian state as
      discreditable. On 21 October he commented to Keston that Metropolitan
      Nikodim was among those bishops 'of the Sergian mould, that is, those who
      have learnt to combine religion with the most inveterate servility. In the
      main they thought of the Church as a completely earthly institution,
      thereby
      casting aside its Founder.' Keston then put it to him that Fr Chaplin had
      argued that the aims of the Church and Soviet state were not always
      incompatible. 'You would have to be an utter cynic to speak, like Fr
      Chaplin, about some sort of common values of the Soviet militant atheist
      state and the Church,' he replied. 'Comrade Zyuganov may talk like that -
      and it is repulsive, but understandable. When an official representative of
      the Church comes out with such statements, then it only reminds us once
      again that Russian Orthodoxy is suffering from a serious illness.' With
      Archbishop Khrizostom's calls still unheeded, it certainly looks as if the
      Russian Orthodox Church has decided to leave to heal over the wounds
      inflicted upon it by the Soviet secret police without attempting to clean
      out any infection.

      Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.

      Source: Keston Institute
      http://www.keston.org
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