The following steps must be taken with deep efforts, seriously and effectively:
1) No more the twisted mirror image. To view Islam through Western inclusive pluralistic lenses means not only never understanding Islam but also it may produce disastrous results. What if the struggle is between two polar opposite cultural conceptions, between a society that aspires to modernity and progress, as against totalitarianism of thought, traditional tribal values and religious extremism?
What if Islamic approaches do not play by the Western rules of the game, by the Judeo-Christian morality? What if Islamic behavior is deeply rooted in the hearts of the Muslims as a norm of social behavior, as a cultural reflection of their society? What if Muslims are devoted to implementing their values out of profound hatred and hostility?
Psychologist Norman Dixon has defined the issue aptly: We are busy performing two things: first, denying reality, and second, when the catastrophe happens, rationalizing our mistaken behavior. This is the reason why the Free World is flattering, appeasing, and serving as useful idiots to Islam and Muslims. If we do not know why the Muslims hate us so deeply and they shamelessly continue pushing for concessions, is there any hope for us to prevail? One Jew of the Holocaust survivors, who was asked what he had learned from the Second World War, replied: “When somebody says he wants to kill you, you should believe him.” Everything is so clear and obvious, yet, we do not want to learn.
Let us take, for example, the issue of language, which represents Orwell’s 1984. There is a heated debate concerning the difference between Islam and Islamism. As if Islamism is a political ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is Jihad and conquests, while Islam is a peaceful religion. However, this is the Western debate, the Western language and a twisted formula to evade reality. There is absolutely nothing on that matter in the Islamic vocabulary.
Moreover, what if the terms ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ are totally opposite in Western and Arab-Islamic political culture? What if we all use the same terms — peace, political arrangements, negotiations, coexistence, etc. — while we translate them operationally and understand them conceptually totally differently? What if for Islam “good” is only whatever advances the cause of Islam to control the world, and “evil” is whatever resists the cause of Islam and enables the existence of the Kuffār? What if Islam teaches war in the name of peace, and hate in the name of love? What if, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are the moderate true believers, since they strictly follow the orders and commandments of the Sharī’ah, and those whom we relate to as moderates are in fact the extremists, even infidels, in the Islamic perspective?
There is another perspective, which is Theodor Adorno’s idea of the authoritarian personality. Scholars had determined that social conservatives suffer from ‘mental rigidity,’ ‘dogmatism,’ and ‘uncertainty avoidance,’ together with associated indicators for mental illness. This is a Machiavellian psychological command and control device. Its purpose is the imposition of uniformity in thought, speech, and behavior.
This is exactly the Arab-Islamic personality that leads to cultural terrorism. Obedience is the result of force. Force is the antithesis of humanizing actions. It is synonymous in human mind with savageness, lawlessness, brutality, and barbarism displayed in an inhuman attitude toward the other. Consequently, it rejects, for example, the first principles of the US Declaration of Independence of “unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is rejected by Islam as its uppermost characteristics is submission to Allah.
According to Ali Sina’s paraphrasing, there are three categories of Muslims residing in the Free World: the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, this division is not according to Western definitions. The good are in fact the bad; the bad are in fact the good and the ugly are in fact the good face of the Islamic propagators introduced to the Free World’s public opinion, in order to deceive and mislead. So, in fact, nothing in Islam is what it is because everything is what it is not. Each and every group has its role in the world game of Islam to occupy the world and subdue humanity to Islamic rule.
What if the terrorists are actually good Muslims, practicing the commandments of the Sharī’ah? Muhammad raided and butchered people merely because they were not his followers. The good Muslims do the same. Bombing and terrorism perpetrated by Muslims are replicas of Muhammad’s raids, Ghazawāt, for booty (Ghanā’im) sanctioned in the Qur’an. Muhammad ordered the assassination of his critics, killing the apostates, slaughtering the infidels and decapitating their heads, and imposing terror on them. It is all written in the Qur’an.
What if the bad Muslims are those who do not practice their religion and do not follow its ordinances? What if the ugly Muslims actually appear beautiful? They are eloquent, articulate, intelligent, attractive, and highly manipulative. They know what to say to gain the Muslim majority’s approval and applause. They are charming. Their words are reassuring and their faces are reliable and authentic. They act efficiently in diplomacy of deceit; they use propaganda in order to make you believe that Islam is not only peaceful and poses no threat to you, but in fact is cooperative and dialogue-oriented. These are wolves in sheep clothing proving that deception is as deadly as terror.
Muslims that practice and support the ideology and doctrine of Islam are all part of the problem. That is, they wish to occupy the world and to subdue humanity. Some use terrorism and violence; some use Da’wah and good words of propagation; and some, perhaps the majority, push forward, by charity money of Zakāt, by demography and birth-rate, and by being the silent majority, that is refraining from denouncing and alienating the terrorists. The result: Islam acts firmly and steadily to take over the world. This goal is rooted deep in every Muslim, the good, the bad and the ugly, each with its own strategy and tactics, but all with the same objective.
There are also good people, in Western terms, among the Muslims. But they are, unfortunately, a very small minority. They really wish to reform and democratize Islam, and to take away all Islamic signs of hatred and incitement to the other. However, the belief that Islam can be reformed from within is something impossible. The Qur’an is the heavenly book given by Allah. One cannot change the words of Allah, as it means blasphemy and it leads to punishment by death. There are verses in the Qur’an and Ahadīth that clearly state, he who changes even one word of the Qur’an must be killed. It is even forbidden to wonder or ask questions about it, let alone to criticize it. Islam is not adaptable with the times and cannot adapt itself to modernization. The gates of innovations (Ijtihād) have been closed since the 12th century. The mountain of Islam has not changed as what is written in the Qur’an cannot be changed.
In a revealing, perhaps surprising, analysis, the Jerusalem Post editorial, took a bold step by criticizing the media in the US:
The irony, of course, is that our postmodern media analysts, while preaching the gospel of cultural relativism, are themselves entirely blind to the moral values, cultural underpinnings and ethical standards of those who adhere to different sets of guiding principles. Rather, their search for answers are steeped in their own narrow mindsets, nurtured at the universities they attended and reinforced in the scholarly journals they read and in the social circles they embrace. The attempt by the media elites to paint a portrait of these men as alienated, disaffected youths is symptomatic of such a mindset. Their faux sophistication is belied by the narrow Western lens with which they view the motivations of these Islamists living in the West.
In essence, they are guilty of the analytic omission which they accuse others of: an honest attempt to understand events beyond the context of their own cultural biases and narrow frames of reference. If they did, they might find the anger and alienation of these young jihadists have nothing whatsoever to do with the familiar narrative of youthful rebelliousness depicted in iconic American cinematic and literary touchstones such as Rebel without a Cause or The Catcher in the Rye. Hence, the multiculturalist thinkers, plagued by Western guilt, seek conflict resolution through understanding and compromise. For the jihadist (lone wolf or otherwise) those are alien notions. They have already determined that there is no place in the worldwide caliphate to come for those who do not submit to the laws of Allah – Western commentators included.
2) No more ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘moral relativism.’ These are in fact names without any common sense, odd and alien notions without a logical definition, inventions that aim at destroying our existence as a free society. These also intend to confuse and to mislead, in fact leading to chaos and disruption.
‘Multiculturalism’ as opposed to ‘multi-ethnicity,’ dictates that groups of people with different cultures will live in one society and retain their culture, rather than trying to assimilate into the culture of the host nation. The all but inevitable consequence of this approach is that the law of the land will need to be altered so as to accommodate the culture of the new migrants. This could bring about a whole new set of laws that lead to the demise of the original culture. Multiculturalism was the myth, the keystone to the whole tyrannical mythology of political correctness.
Multiculturalists immediately attack anyone who seems to challenge their new religion called ‘multiculturalism,’ and brand him a racist and fascist. Studies and analyses which show any negative side to multiculturalism are silenced and consequently any dissent and criticism are paralyzed. We live no longer as a free society in our own political systems. The intimidating situation was that academia embraced this notion of multiculturalism in its entirety, while the media followed it with enthusiasm and the governments go along with it in intimidation. So, instead of an idea being debated whether it had any merit, the peoples were forced to accept this dubious lethal idea without being allowed to question it, even to understand its meaning and consequences.
Western universities are founded on the principle that each and every idea is up for critical thinking, according to the tradition of academic freedom. However, now the forces of evil coerce their societies to embrace destructive ideas without questioning, and if one resists, he is labeled by academia, with the assistance of the media, with a whole set of accusations based on racial prejudice. Yet, the truth is clear: This notion has never been part of the Western values of freedom of speech, expression and conscience and it contradicts the basic civil rights ideas. In fact it is clear that fundamental Western deep-rooted values are in a fast process of disappearing exactly as a result of this horrific notion called ‘multiculturalism.’
So currently, across the Western World, ideas are introduced which nobody is allowed to question; ideas that become the basis of new laws which nobody is allowed to criticize; laws that lead to disastrous consequences, and still nobody is allowed to question and to criticize. We live in an era in which our precious freedoms are in danger and no wonder that Western societies are degenerating.
Sweden, once known as one of the most peaceful and law abiding countries in the world, is now the rape capital of Europe, a state of havoc and disarray. It has become a symbol and framework to be a first third world country in Europe in the course of the next decade.
Formerly peaceful and homogenous France now has over seven hundred no-go zones for non-Muslims where the government has no control and no ability to enforce French law. Terror acts by Muslims are common and become a routine.
The UK has embraced legal provisions for Muslims who now have Sharī’ah courts all over the country, while many neighborhoods in London, Birmingham and several other English cities, have areas which are being declared no-go zones.
The situation in Germany is no less bad. Germany is now home to the largest number of immigrants in the EU, and also has the second-largest Muslim population. It continues to be the recipient of the largest number of asylum applications in the EU: more than 200,000 asylum-seekers in 2014, and more than a million at the end of 2015.
A report, produced by the police headquarters of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state with the largest Muslim population, warns that the government is losing control over problem neighborhoods and that the ability of police to maintain public order cannot be guaranteed. There are districts where immigrant gangs are taking over the entire social setting, where native residents and business people are being intimidated and silenced. According to a Duisburg City Councilman, “When I say that steps must be taken to ensure immigrants comply with rules and regulations, I am immediately branded as a far right extremist… But spiraling levels of violent crime perpetrated by immigrants cause areas of lawlessness, areas that are becoming de facto ‘no-go’ zones for police.”
Leaders of the major powers have expressed misgivings over multiculturalism. It has “failed, utterly failed,” according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This attitude has been the opinion of a former French president and of prime ministers of Spain and Australia. The most forceful denunciation of multiculturalism came from British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who also calls it a “failure.” However, nothing is done about it. It has not been a “failure,” but a lethal disaster to the Western way of life.
Unfortunately, even before Muslims have changed Europe, the Europeans themselves did so, as leading European states have trashed their national identities and labelled their national awareness as worthless. Since European nations are reluctant to stand for what nations traditionally stand for, religious and/or ethnic identity, it is no wonder that they are undergoing a deep identity crisis and are subdued by the Muslims’ desert reality.
Western liberal democratic civilization is falling apart and dismantles, not because of conquest from outside it, but because its leaders and cultural elites in the media and the academia have turned everything upside down, on their own free will. Right is wrong; good is bad; the ideology of evil is forgiven and understandable; and the forces of primitivism and savagery deserve a higher place in Western societies’ considerations. Cultural and moral relativism, political correctness and moral equivalency are the on the top, and it is even forbidden to call a spade, a spade, and all must stick to the New Emperor’s cloths.
These are the most dangerous time in the walks of our civilization. We have fought and won over tyrants, and dictators, and evil regimes. We have managed to do so as we could strictly and correctly define the situation, to separate between right and wrong, and to fight evil. Today everything has been turned over to the opposite. The horrendous forces of evil of Islam win, not because they are strong, or because they are correct, or because they have a new massage, a new development and innovations to humanity, but because Western civilization has a death wish. Western civilization has determined to commit suicide. The great prophet of our mired situation, George Orwell, is rolling in his grave. Indeed, he was strictly right: in our twisted atrocious new situation, peace is war; love is hatred; and truth is lie.
According to Pascal Bruckner, the West has no shortage of reasons for guilt. The West has no monopoly on evil, and though it has created monsters it also destroyed them: the abolition of slavery; the renouncing of colonialism; the building of peaceful and prosperous technological societies; and the establishing of law and order, of roles and institutions that are models for mankind. However, Western guilt has gone too far. It has become a pathology, an obsessive that has obscured Western understanding and distorted its behavior, even its balanced logic.
Today, there remain a few last bastions that keep Western civilization alive, because Europe has been attacking its own values and has raised generations of self-hating elites, and unfortunately the US academia and the media have aped their European models. It is time to find our own Judeo-Christian roots again, and to assert our values with pride and affection and without being afraid to speak out. The fact is that multiculturalism has become a clear code of submission to Islam, because it clearly leads to a new Dark Age, imposed by a medieval fascism of self-haters enabled by the collaboration of the leftists and the fanatical doctrine of Islam.
There is a disturbing situation. An alliance between Islam and Western left seems odd and grotesque. On the surface, Muslims with their single-minded dedication to the destruction of Western civilization, imposing worldwide Islamic rule according to the prescriptions of the Shari’ah, they are vehemently opposed to the left’s touted beliefs in the socialist utopia. However, a closer look makes understandable driving these strange bedfellows into each other’s arms. For the left there is just one overpowering consideration. After the collapse of communism, radical Islam appears to be the only power capable of defeating capitalism and the hated United States as the last obstacle on the road to Bolshevik ideas. One analogy stands clear: the Nazi ideology hatred to the Jews and its admiration of Islam.
For the Islamists, on the other hand, the rationale is fully congruent with their worldwide objectives. The leftists, though infidels who deserve death, are valuable as useful idiots to be exploited on the road of destruction of the Free World. The 1991 project of the US Muslim brotherhood indicates a “temporary cooperation” with movements opposed to colonialism and the Jewish state and working with “various influential institutions and using them in the service of Islam.” As both share “anti-American and anti-imperialist ideology,” this alliance ceases to be strange.
The result: the putative romance of the Left with Islam have become an affectionate embrace. An example to the “anti-imperialist coalition” is ANSWER. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Founded, not coincidentally, three days after 9/11 It was designed to serve the Islamic objective of preventing U.S. retaliation against Muslims. ANSWER called for a “partnership with the Arab-American and Muslim community,” and to oppose any American policy or legislation that could ban the activities of Islamic organizations. The case of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has become an unabashed defender and apologist for Islamic groups, mainly CAIR in instructive, and in fact its legal arm. Since then, the left-Islamic nexus has moved into the US establishment, the White House and all American branches.
It is again Daniel Greenfield to so aptly remarks: Islam is tribal. Tribes are nomadic and they raid each other. They mount coup on each other. They steal and humiliate each other’s women. They lash out and kill each other over insults. Islam incorporates the religious feelings and the tribal behavior. Terrorism also incorporates both the tribal and the religious. Islam sanctified the tribal raid as a religious act and turned the dead into martyrs. Islamic missionary activity in the West also targets dissatisfied minorities, potential fifth columns.
To the leftists, Islam is an inefficient sort of Socialism dependent on medieval superstition and lacking modern idea. To the Muslims, the left is an inefficient sort of Islam that’s missing the Shari’ah. It is all just a problem of explanations and textbooks.
In their confused world order, leftists believe that the terrorists are attacking “our values” and we in turn must attack “their values” with our superior “values.” While the left attempts to integrate the Muslims with “our values”, the Muslim immigrants show that Europeans have no honor on a tribal level.
However, no meaningful dialogue is possible between the Islamic “Allahu Akbar” and “Our values” Western religion. Both insist on absolute submission. The left’s demand for submission is based on the absolute moral superiority of “Our values,” while Islam’s demand literally means submission to its religion. To the Muslim mind, we are a series of fragile tribal associations. The “Our values” leftists think of the threat in terms of “radicalization”, but the real threat is “integration.” Indeed, if multicultural Westerners continue to ignore, deny, embrace, appease and nurture the truths of Islam’s objectives, they do so at their own existential peril.
The left’s multicultural vision made this mess possible. It’s also making it worse. The left despises tribal thinking and yet its entire political infrastructure is built on rewarding it. Our enemies are not states and they will not fight us as states but as tribes. To the extent that they are religious, they will attack us that way. But the real problem is that we are no longer states and we do not think and act like states. We are in the grip of a mystical deluded cult of multiculturalists that opened the gates to a cruel, backward enemy. And in doing so, they have brought a tribal war into our own homelands.
Multiculturalism is so disastrous that it is shown in the mass-rape plague in Europe. Dennis Prager draws our attention to the horrific fact: between protecting over the European girls from repeated gang rape and protecting Muslims from being identified as the rapists, British authorities chose to protect multiculturalism and “diversity.” That is, in the competition between multiculturalism and one of the most elementary obligations of civilization, the protection of women from sexual violence, civilization lost. The U.K. is not alone in taking precedence of the fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic over protecting women. This is also the situation in Germany and Scandinavian states.
Altogether, this is cultural Marxism disguised as multiculturalism. Western political leaders have sold out to the Marxist idea of multiculturalism and the result has been an emboldening the entire world to submit to the Shari’ah. In Europe, this sickening display now culminating in destruction of much of its cultural identity. Multiculturalism would be good if all sides were equally respected and mutually enriched. But, multiculturalism is one-sided, just a fake word that provides cover for its true meaning: the occupation of Islam. Multiculturalism has become code-name for submission to Islam.
Serious Drawbacks in Ukraine’s Adopted ‘Church’ Bill
On January 17, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) passed the bill No. 4128 on new amendments regarding the subordination (denomination) of religious organizations and the procedure of state registration of religious organizations with the status of legal entities. The relevant law No. 2673-VIII was signed by President Poroshenko on January 28 and came into force on January 31, 2019.
Though the bill was designed to simplify the process of changing the religious subordination of a religious community, it actually introduces a new, more complicated scheme of registration and reregistration for religious organizations of all confessions including Protestants.
So, reregistration becomes not just a long-lasting process full of red tape but also is rather expensive. Thus, according to Art. 15 of the Law of Ukraine “On State Registration of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs and Public Organizations”, the signature of every community member must be authenticated by a notary.
Moreover, the law No. 2673-VIII requires to submit a new charter of a religious community along with the list of the Assembly participants, which is an unjustified state interference in the internal affairs of religious organizations and infringes believers’ right on confidentiality of their religious views envisaged in Art. 4 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”.
It’s worth noting that a request to submit the community members’ signatures contradicts European standards, for example Point 25 of the Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities published in 2015 by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR):
Any procedure that provides religious or belief communities with access to legal personality status should not set burdensome requirements.68 Examples of burdensome requirements that are not justified under international law include, but are not limited to, the following: that the registration application be signed by all members of the religious organization and contain their full names, dates of birth and places of residence; that excessively detailed information be provided in the statute of the religious organization; that excessively high or unreasonable registration fees be paid; that the religious organization has an approved legal address; or that a religious association can only operate at the address identified in its registration documents. Such requirements would not appear to be necessary in a democratic society for the grounds enumerated in international human rights instruments. Also, religious or belief communities interested in obtaining legal personality status should not be confronted with unnecessary bureaucratic burdens or with lengthy or unpredictable waiting periods. Should the legal system for the acquisition of legal personality require certain registration-related documents, these documents should be issued by the authorities.
There is another unjustified burden for the religious activity of brotherhoods, missions, religious schools – they are required to submit documents confirming the right to own or use the property where they are registered. It is also impossible for newly formed religious communities to comply with the new demand (according to Art. 14 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”) to hand in a “properly authenticated copy of a document on the right of property or usage” since the community cannot obtain any property rights without becoming a legal entity first.
Another contradiction is that during reregistration, religious communities must produce “the original registration certificate of the religious organization’s charter” as such document is not determined by the Ukrainian legislation and cannot be issued or demanded.
As the adopted law No. 2673-VIII stipulates, one of the reasons for rejecting the documents for registration is “their non-compliance with the existing requirements”, but it is not stated by which acts these requirements are set. This enables the authorities to voluntary decide whether the submitted documents comply or not with the requirements and leads to corruption.
Moreover, according to the same law No. 2673-VIII, if the authorities decide to reject the registration documents without reviewing them or refuse to register the charter, they do not have to provide to the religious organization a written response with all remarks related to the papers and an explanation in what manner the legislation was not complied with.
Obviously, such an irresponsibility of the registration body paves the way for a biased revision of the submitted documents and increased corruption risks.
Shortly before the second reading in the Parliament, churches, religious and public organizations appealed to the deputies to correct the above-mentioned drawbacks but contrary to the Verkhovna Rada’s regulations, the lawmakers were not permitted to do so.
Patriarch Theophilus to decide whether to concelebrate Liturgy with the new Ukrainian Church hierarchs
On the Orthodox Christian feast of Theophany, the 19th of January, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko will visit Jerusalem. As part of this trip, a meeting with his Holiness Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem is planned.
The Ukrainian leader will be accompanied by several bishops of the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine, who are expected to serve with the hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. At least this scenario is persistently promoted by the Ukrainian side with the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Israeli authorities and American diplomats.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine was established as the merge of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) at the Unification Council on the 15th of December, 2018, and received a Tomos of autocephaly on the 6th of January this year. Currently, the new Ukrainian religious entity is in communion only with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is still to be recognized by other Autocephalous Churches.
As a source in the Jerusalem Patriarchate is quoted by the Orthochristian.com website, one of the two former hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) who joined the OCU at the Unification Council, Metropolitan Alexander Drabinko, is among Ukrainian bishops who may concelebrate with Theophilus III.
At the same time, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has not yet agreed to receive the OCU representatives and concelebrate with them: due to the unresolved status of the OCU, joint prayer with its hierarchs can seriously affect the reputation of Theophilus III. First of all, there is still no official decision by the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate on the new Ukrainian Church. Other Local Orthodox Christian Churches also consider it necessary to investigate the Apostolic succession of the OCU bishops thoroughly first, as well as to find a solution to the problem of the former UOC-KP parishes in the canonical territories of the four Autocephalous Churches.
Although Alexander Drabinko is portrayed as the most preferable representative of the OCU for the hierarchs of the Local Churches to meet with, questionable reputation of this defrocked UOC-MP bishop also plays an important role here.
Will Patriarch Theophilus III agree to take the risks entailed by the concelebration with the OCU hierarchs, including Metropolitan Drabinko? Will the external pressure prevail over the opinion of the hierarchs of the Jerusalem Patriarchate? Now it’s up to His Holiness Theophilus to decide.
The Evolving Orthodox Triangle Constantinople – Kiev – Moscow
Churches think in centuries and are not bound to short-term political mandates. On January 5, 2018 the Patriarch of Constantinople implemented his decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a move that upset Moscow. To understand the current developments, it is worth looking back at this centuries-long history of fluid relationship between Constantinople, Kiev and Moscow.
In 882, Oleg of Novgorod moved his capital to Kiev and continued the work of Rurik to unite Slavic tribes, setting the stage for the history of Kievan Rus. The prediction of Saint Andrew was unfolding. It is said that during the first century, when Andrew the Apostle traveled to what is now Kyiv, he climbed onto a hilltop overseeing the Dnepr River. There he planted a cross, prophesizing the future of the great Christian city and the role it would play.
The Slavs were a loose union of tribes, whilst Constantinople was flourishing. In 980, Vladimir the Great ruled in Kiev and endeavored to consolidate and expand further his territories. In 988, he conquered the city of Kherson, in Crimea, where a bishop see had been established since the fourth century. Although accounts vary on the conversion of Vladimir, what is clear is that the Byzantine emperor sent his sister Anna to marry Vladimir, uniting Kiev and Constantinople. When Anna arrived, Vladimir converted to Christianity, restored Kherson to Constantinople, and returned to Kiev with Crimean ecclesiastics. It is undeniable that economic and political reasons influenced his choice to convert as his agenda leaned toward the Christian world.
Although the Byzantine emperor appointed the head of the clergy in Kiev, he faced opposition from the Kievan princes who did not endorse a filiation of churches from Constantinople, nor did they submit to the emperor’s authority to make Kievan Rus a colony of the Byzantine Empire. Relations with the empire were complicated: Constantinople did not mingle directly in Kiev’s internal affairs but would not let the princes interfere in religious matters. In other words, the authority of Constantinople over Kiev was exerted through the clergy, who enjoyed considerable powers in Kievan Rus. As a consequence, the first inclination toward creating an independent church appeared. Yaroslav the Wise proclaimed Hilarion of Kiev the first non-Greek metropolitan in 1049. Nonetheless, Constantinople regained control over the appointment of the head of the church in Kiev. Constantinople never bestowed upon Kiev the right to appoint its own Slavic metropolitan, establishing a red line that would trigger immediate action from Constantinople. For centuries to come, the position would mostly be held by Greeks, who remained outside of internal Kievan politics. As Kiev had grown to be a major economic center, it was in Constantinople’s interest to stay on good terms with its Slavic neighbor, gaining importance on the international scene.
Yaroslav the Wise passed away in 1054, a key date as it is the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople.
Kiev choses Constantinople over Rome
Opinions on rites and theological elements diverged over time between Rome and Constantinople, in part because of linguistic differences. Latin became dominant in the West while Greek was the language of choice in the East. Because of the status of language as a major cultural vehicle, the use of different languages impacted religious rites. Gradually, Rome imposed the closure of churches following the rites as practiced in Constantinople and Constantinople did the same to churches following the practices of the Western Church. Eventually, the Roman pope Leo IX and Michael Cerularius of Constantinople excommunicated each other in 1054.
Humbert of Silva Candida, the papal legate who delivered the excommunication to Patriarch Michael Cerularius, decided to stop by in Kiev on his way back to Rome from Constantinople. The newly converted Kievan Rus represented an attractive potential ally for Rome, especially given that the young federation of Slavs was expanding in size and importance on the international scene. Since integrating with this new community of Christians would strengthen their hand against Byzantium, Rome’s envoy visited the Grand Prince of Kiev with the aim of convincing him to join Rome. Yet Yazislav, the new Grand Prince of Kiev, refused any allegiance to Rome. The clergy in Kiev would remain on the Orthodox side with Constantinople in the great East-West schism.
But rivalries amongst Slavs were fierce. In 1169, the pious Grand Prince of Vladimir-Suzdal Andrey Bogolyubsky sacked Kiev and took many religious pieces, including a highly revered Byzantine icon of the Mother of God of Odigitriya, one of the holiest in Russian Orthodoxy. He initiated the construction of many churches in Vladimir-Suzdal, near today’s Moscow and converted more Slavic tribes. He is also renowned for having made the first attempt to set up a new eparchy to compete with Kiev. Around the year 1170, he bypassed the Kiev Patriarchate and directly requested of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Luka Khrizovergus, that he established an eparchy in Vladimir. He also asked for the new metropolitan to have the same rank as the one in Kiev. The patriarch declined his request, but the competition with Kiev had begun.
Moscow enters the scene
The Mongol invasion spread quickly from east to west and reached Kiev in 1240. The city was destroyed and almost its entire population was dispersed. Kiev, the beautiful jewel of a city was shattered. Some sixty years after the destruction of Kiev, the city was still not recovering. So, the metropolitan Maksim moved his residence from Kiev further east to Vladimirin 1299. Nonetheless, he kept his title of Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus. The transfer of the religious center from Kiev was a major move, the consequences of which greatly affected the future of Orthodoxy and lay power as well. At that time, the Mongol dominated the region. The first union of Slavs, the Kievan Rus had disappeared and new states had not formed yet.
In a short span of three decades, major events shaped the face of the new power that emerged in Moscow, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscovy.
Under the relative religious tolerance of the Mongols, the church consolidated its power and the metropolitan Piotr moved to Moscow in 1325, giving the sign that the city was one of the leading politico-religious centers.
In the meantime, Constantinople was mired in its own problems and the Eastern Roman Empire was suffering through its last days. As the Vatican was entering the Renaissance era, it was eager to end the 1054 schism, especially to its own advantage. Thus the Catholic pope was well inclined to help Constantinople, which had asked for help and unity in resisting the Ottoman threat. At the Council of Florence in 1439, the Catholic Church and the Patriarch of Constantinople signed an agreement that should have put an end to the schism. At that time, Constantinople was still appointing the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, and it counted on the support of Moscow to endorse the agreement. But reality dictated otherwise as Russia had gained much distance from Constantinople and its issues. The Patriarch of Constantinople died soon afterward, and it was decided that his signature was nonbinding for the Orthodox churches. Only Constantinople still hoped that the union with Rome would save them from the Ottomans. But a decade later, in 1453, Constantinople fell under the control of the Ottomans.
Moscow-based bishops decided to emancipate themselves from Constantinople, which had compromised with the Catholics to save itself, yet was now under Muslim rule. For the first time, Moscow elected its own head of the church, independently from Constantinople. Although the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church was recognized only in 1589, the church became de facto independent in 1448, with Jonah as its first metropolitan. One of his first objectives was to maintain religious unity in territories over which his predecessors had authority. Eventually, in 1458, the canonical territories over which the metropolitan professed corresponded to those over which the Grand Prince of Moscow ruled. This transition was reflected in his title, which changed in 1461 to Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus. The Russian Church was now an actor of importance that saw itself as the guardian of Orthodoxy, the Third Rome.
The new Autocephalous Church asserts itself
The remaining element was the recognition of autocephaly by Constantinople. Without the approval of its peers, the self-proclaimed autocephaly has no validity in the Orthodox world.
The Ottomans imposed heavy tributes on patriarchates that fell under their territorial control. Economically weakened, the patriarchates lost considerable weight, especially Antioch, which had been weakened and forced into exile several times due to centuries under the dominion of Arabs and crusaders. In 1586–1587, the patriarch of Antioch, Joachim V, engaged in a journey to collect donations from other Orthodox churches. In Moscow, the future tsar Boris Godunov offered his support and seized this political moment to stir ambitions of an official autocephaly. Two years later, the patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremias II, traveled to Moscow with the same objective of collecting money. During his stay, he would have discussed with Boris Godunov the possibility of remaining the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch but being based in Russia. Finally, after lengthy negotiations, Jeremias II decided to give autocephaly to the Russian Orthodox Church and returned home. The recognition was made official in 1589 with the concurrence of the other three original patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
In 1589, the Russian Orthodox Church for the first time had a patriarch at its head, Job of Moscow. There were now five patriarchs: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Moscow. And the tsar was the guardian of Orthodoxy.
Kiev, the Tsarist Empire and the church
Peter the Great launched many reforms to modernize Russia, following European model. He replaced the patriarchate with a committee termed the Holy Synod, placing a bureaucrat, the Chief Procurator, as its de facto head and the tsar’s eyes and ears in the church. With authority over religious matters and control over the appointment of bishops, Peter succeeded in relegating the church to the status of a ministry or state department, with clerics placed in charge of spiritual matters.
Catherine the Great continued the policies of Peter the Great. She entertained the Austro-Russian idea of dissolving the Ottoman Empire. As part of this scheme, she nurtured plans to embark on a “Greek Project”: re-establishing a Greek Byzantine empire to replace the Muslim Ottoman Empire, which had gained ground in continental Europe. For instance, she supported the Daskalogiannis Rebellion in Crete in 1770, in which Cretans rose up against the Turks. In reality, she was rather indifferent to religion: she embraced the project, promoted by Prince Potemkin, for geopolitical rather than religious reasons. Yet it did not materialize, and no alliance with Austria came into being. In 1783, Catherine decided to annex Crimea, putting an end to the revolts occurring there and, most importantly, pushing the Ottoman Empire back across the Black Sea. Crimea became a Russian province and part of Novorossiya or “New Russia” in 1784.
Religion politics in Russo-Turkish Wars
Eventually, tensions between the Russian and Ottoman empires had reached a climax, and war broke out in 1787. The conflict lasted for five years but was decided to Russia’s advantage. Russia was therefore able to consolidate its positions around the Black Sea but never captured Constantinople, the gateway to the Mediterranean’s warm waters and an Achilles heel for Moscow to this day. Even though the Treaty of Jassy, signed at the end of the war on January 9, 1792, recognized the Russian territorial gains, relations with the Ottoman Empire remained tense. Russian expansion benefited from momentum on the world scene shaken by the French and American revolutions. Consequently, nobody really reacted to Russian expansion until the situation in France had stabilized. But Napoleon reaction was short-lived.
Alexander’s victory over Napoleon gave him a new sense of divine mission, and by 1814, the tsar had grown more religious and prone to messianism. His religious awakening triggered his initiation of the Holy Alliance between Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Signed in Paris in 1815, this alliance aimed to promote Christianity but was also a reaction to the Napoleonic Wars. The Great Powers wanted to ensure a balance of power in Europe and avoid revolutions. During the two hectic decades that followed, the Catholic Church remained strong and Napoleon III pursued a pro-Catholic agenda, as proven by his 1849 expedition to restore the pope. He posed as the champion of Catholicism in Europe, which in part explained his decision to engage in the Crimean War against Russia.
With its territorial gains and advances well into the Black Sea region, Russia represented a growing threat for the Ottoman Empire and its French and British allies. Paris, together with London, backed the Ottoman Empire, whose western territories in the Balkans saw many uprisings, such as those of the Orthodox Serbs and Orthodox Greeks.
The trigger of the Crimean War of 1853–1856 was religious, but the roots were indisputably linked to the fear of Russia’s growing influence in the weakened Ottoman Empire. At the beginning, quarrels between Catholic and Orthodox monks arose in Palestine about their prerogatives. As the matter had reached serious levels, Tsar Nicholas I intervened and asked the Sultan to recognize the right of Russia to protect the Christians of the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, signed after the war of 1774. This right gave the Russian Orthodox Church further predominance over the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The document also gave Russia access through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. This privilege was certainly not pleasing to France or England.
Catholic France declared that it wanted to have authority over the Eastern Christians, a decision contradicting a previous agreement that gave Russia the right to protect Christians. The French Catholic Emperor Napoleon III promised support to the Sultan if he were to resist this Russian “aggression.” Stung by the humiliating conditions of the treaty following the Ottoman defeat, the Sultan agreed. Consequently, a new war erupted between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. As promised, France, joined by England, intervened in support of the Sultan to preserve the territorial integrity of his empire.
The protection of holy places and Christians became the source of an international war with several fronts around the Black Sea, including in the Caucasus. The war was eventually lost by Russia, which was then forced to hand over several territories around the Black Sea. As a result, France gained influence in the Holy Lands.
Moscow – Constantinople Competition
World War 1 put an end to both Russian and Ottoman empires. Under the Soviet, religion was undermined, priests were killed and churches destroyed. So, the Russian church found itself in a state of confusion when the Soviet government collapsed. The church was divided and weak. During the final years of the twentieth century, the ROC stabilized and consolidated its power over its canonical territory thanks to the support of the Russian authorities. It also reasserted its stance within the Orthodox Church worldwide. By far the largest in terms of parishioners and with growing wealth, the Russian Orthodox Church overshadowed the patriarch of Constantinople.
The later did not enjoy much freedom under the new Turkish rule. In addition, it had lost jurisdiction in the Balkans in the nineteenth century. Turkish authorities imposed that the Patriarch should be a Turkish citizen, usually of Greek origin, and such candidates are rare. All in all, the Patriarch of Constantinople has been in an increasing difficult position for centuries, and Moscow has proved to be a strong challenger. In 2016, the ROC asked to convene the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete and not in Istanbul as Turkish authorities had downed a Russian jetfighter deployed for operations in Syria. Based on this security argument, the Council agreed to change location. Nonetheless, local Orthodox churches, namely the Bulgarian Church, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, and the Serbian and Georgian Orthodox churches refused to participate because of disagreements over the agenda. The ROC suggested solving those issues to guarantee full attendance, even if it meant postponing the Council. Eventually, the disputes were not resolved and the ROC decided to cancel its participation. By so doing, the ROC expressed a defiant message about the role and authority of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Tensions never resolved and the situation in Ukraine added insult to injury in the relation between Constantinople and Moscow.
Moscow – Kiev: rivals once more
Since the mid seventeenth century, Kiev remained largely under the rule of the Tsar and then Soviet Moscow. Ties binding Ukraine and Russia were strong especially in the field of alimentation, industry and energy.
After the end of the Soviet Union, the Western European World and Russia have tried to attract Kyiv into their respective spheres of influence, a game from which Kiyv benefitted. In 2014, the tables turned drastically with the Euromaidan revolution that toppled President Yanukovych. Incapable of averting Ukraine’s choice of the EU, Moscow was concerned that Ukraine might ally with NATO. Russian authorities treated the situation as a security matter and actively supported the separation of the autonomous region of Crimea and its attachment/annexation to Russia. The situation spiraled out of control and a kinetic conflict erupted in the Donbas, leading to serious readjustments in international affairs.
Against the backdrop of the complex international relations prevailing in the early twenty-first century, interests of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state have overlapped in Ukraine. The question of religion and allegiance to the Kyiv or Moscow patriarchate has become a matter of identity and call for resistance among some Ukrainians against Russia in 2014. This unfortunate confusion resulted in intra-Orthodox confrontation with the killing of orthodox priests and the destruction of orthodox churches. In a vicious circle, religious and political differences fueled each other.
Many critics have interpreted the positions of the Russian church and the Russian authorities as two sides of the same coin. Consequently, the Russian church became synonymous with Russian interference in Ukraine, and as such the separation as we see it unfolding was almost a fait accompli.
The creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is another turn in this fluid relationship between the three historic cities of Constantinople, Kyiv and Moscow. And it is hardly to be the last move…
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