I will not assemble their assemblies of blood,

Nor will I make remembrance of their names through my lips.

Psalm 15.4.


     The Holy Church has decreed the public commemoration of all those who have died in the True Faith, and glorifies a number of them by enrolling them among the saints, specifying special days on which services are to be conducted in their honour. But she forbids the commemoration of those who have died outside the faith, and even anathematizes certain of them – the heretics and heresiarchs. In this way she has a selective memory, a memory that reflects the memory of God Himself, who gives everlasting life to those who love Him but blots out those who betray Him from the book of life.


     The false church, the “church of the evil-doers” (Psalm 21.16) also has a selective memory. She “forgets” the saints who have rebuked her, and casts out their name as evil. And she glorifies her own leaders, who have led her on the path to destruction. Sometimes, if the glory of the true saints cannot be hidden, she also “appropriates” them to herself – but carefully edits their words and deeds to ensure that their real message will not get through to the people. As for her own evil deeds and betrayals, these, too, are edited out…


Glasnost’ and Sergianism


     Much of the past fifteen years in the history of the Russian Church has been a struggle between true memory and false memory. Fifteen years ago, Russia was in the throes of glasnost’, when Russians were learning, often with astonishment and horror, the full depth of the fall of their people and their official “church” in the Soviet period. The creation of such societies as Pamyat’ and Memorial symbolized the process that was taking place – the recovery of the people’s memory. But then, in June, 1990, the first major attempt to turn the clock back and the people back to the amnesiac state of Sovietism took place. Metropolitan Alexis (Ridiger) was elected as the new “patriarch” of Moscow. At a time when past cooperation with the KGB was being denounced in the newspapers and on the television, it was “forgotten” that this Alexis was a KGB agent whom the Furov report of 1974 had called the most pro-Soviet of all the bishops, who had been prepared to report to the KGB even on his own patriarch!


      As if to confirm that, yes, he was that most pro-Soviet of all bishops, and therefore probably the least suitable person to lead the Russian Church into the new era, on July 4/17, 1990, the day of the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II, Alexis announced publicly that he was praying for the preservation of the communist party!


     But of course, “Patriarch” Alexis did not reach his lofty rank by being stupid. And so after this gaffe he quickly recovered his balance, his sense of which way the wind was blowing; and there was no further overt support of the communists. True, he did attach his signature, in December, 1990, to a letter by 53 well-known political, academic and literary figures who urged Gorbachev to take urgent measures to deal with the state of crisis in the country, speaking of “… the destructive dictatorship of people who are shameless in their striving to take ownership of territory, resources, the intellectual wealth and labour forces of the country whose name is the USSR”.[1] But the patriarch quickly disavowed his signature; and a few weeks later, after the deaths in Vilnius, he declared that the killings were “a great political mistake – in church language a sin”.


     Then, in May, 1991, he publicly disagreed with a prominent member of the hardline Soiuz bloc, who had said that the resources of the army and the clergy should be drawn on extensively to save the people and the homeland. In Alexis’ view, these words could be perceived as a statement of preparedness to use the Church for political purposes. The patriarch recalled his words of the previous autumn: the Church and the Faith should not be used as a truncheon.[2] By June, the patriarch had completed his remarkable transformation from dyed-in-the-wool communist to enthusiastic democrat, saying to Yeltsin: “May God help you win the election”.  


     Still more striking was his apparent rejection of Sergianism. Thus in an interview granted to Izvestia on June 6 he said: “This year has freed us from the state’s supervision. Now we have the moral right to say that the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius has disappeared into the past and no longer guides us… The metropolitan cooperated with criminal usurpers. This was his tragedy…. Today we can say that falsehood is interspersed in his Declaration, which stated as its goal ‘placing the Church in a proper relationship with the Soviet government’. But this relationship – and in the Declaration it is clearly defined as being the submission of the Church to the interests of governmental politics – is exactly that which is incorrect from the point of view of the Church… Of the people, then, to whom these compromises, silence, forced passivity or expressions of loyalty that were permitted by the Church leadership in those days, have caused pain – of these people, not only before God, but also before them, I ask forgiveness, understanding and prayers.”[3]


     And yet, in an interview given to Komsomolskaia Pravda only two months earlier, he had said: “The most important thing for the Church is to preserve itself for the people, so that they should be able to have access to the Chalice of Christ, to the Chalice of Communion… There is a rule when a Christian has to take on himself a sin in order to avoid a greater sin… There are situations in which a person, a Christian must sacrifice his personal purity, his personal perfection, so as to defend something greater… Thus in relation to Metropolitan Sergius and his successors in the leadership of the Church under Soviet power, they had to tell lies, they had to say that everything was normal with us. And yet the Church was being persecuted. Declarations of political loyalty were being made. The fullness of Christian life, charity, almsgiving, the Reigning icon of the Mother of God were also renounced. Compromises were made.” In other words, Sergianism, though sinful, was justified. It may have “disappeared into the past”, but if similar circumstances arise again, the “sacrifice” of personal purity can and should be made again!…[4]


     The patriarch showed that the poison of sergianism was in him still during the attempted coup of August, 1991. When the Russian vice-president, Alexander Rutskoy, approached him on the morning of the 19th, the patriarch, like several other leading political figures, pleaded “illness” and refused to see him. When he eventually did issue a declaration – on the evening of the 20th, and again in the early hours of the 21st – the impression made was, in Fr. Gleb Yakunin’s words, “rather weak”.[5] He called on all sides to avoid bloodshed, but did not specifically condemn the plotters.


     As Jane Ellis comments: “Though Patriarch Alexis II issued statements during the coup, they were bland and unspecific, and he was widely thought to have waited to see which way the wind was blowing before committing himself to issuing them. It was rather the priests in the White House – the Russian Parliament building – itself, such as the veteran campaigner for religious freedom, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, as well as the Christians among those manning the barricades outside, who helped to overthrow the Communist Party, the KGB and the Soviet system.”[6]


     (During the 1993 attack on parliament he showed a similar indecisiveness. “He promised to excommunicate the first person to fire a shot, but when shooting… thundered around the ‘White House’, he forgot about his promise.”[7])


     It was not until Wednesday morning that the patriarch sent his representative, Deacon Andrew Kurayev, to the Russian parliament building, by which time several dissident priests were already established there. And it was two priests of the Russian Church Abroad, Fr. Nicholas Artemov from Munich and Fr. Victor Usachev from Moscow, who celebrated the first supplicatory service to the New Martyrs of Russia on the balcony of the White House. Not to be outdone, the patriarchate immediately responded with its own prayer service, and at some time during the same day the patriarch anathematized all those who had taken part in organizing the coup.


     By these actions the patriarch appeared to have secured his position vis-à-vis Yeltsin’s government, and on August 27, Yeltsin attended a memorial service in the Assumption cathedral of the Kremlin, at which the patriarch hailed the failure of the coup, saying that “the wrath of God falls upon the children of disobedience”.[8] So in the space of thirteen months, the patriarch had passed from a pro-communist, anti-democratic to an anti-communist, pro-democratic stance. This lack of principle should have surprised nobody; for the essence of sergianism, the root heresy of the Moscow Patriarchate, is adaptation to the world, and to whatever the world believes and praises.


     But while he was now a democrat, the patriarch still remained a sergianist – only in a subtle way, appearing to distance himself from the sin of sergianism while still insisting that it had to be done. Thus in September, 1991, in an interview with 30 Dias, he said: “A church that has millions of faithful cannot go into the catacombs. The hierarchy of the church has taken the sin on their souls: the sin of silence and of lying for the good of the people in order that they not be completely removed from real life. In the government of the diocese and as head of the negotiations for the patriarchate of Moscow, I also had to cede one point in order to defend another. I ask pardon of God, I ask pardon, understanding and prayers of all those whom I harmed through the concessions, the silence, the forced passivity or the expressions of loyalty that the hierarchy may have manifested during that period”.[9]


     This is closer to self-justification than repentance. It is similar to the statement of Metropolitan Nicholas (Corneanu) of Banat of the Romanian Patriarchate, who confessed that he had collaborated with the Securitate and had defrocked the priest Fr. Calciu for false political reasons, but nevertheless declared that if he had not made such compromises he would have been forced to abandon his post, “which in the conditions of the time would not have been good for the Church”. In other words, as Vladimir Kozyrev writes: “It means: ‘I dishonoured the Church and my Episcopal responsibility, I betrayed those whom I had to protect, I scandalized my flock. But all this I had to do for the good of the Church!’”[10]


KGB Agents in Cassocks


     One of the biggest fruits of glasnost’ – which did not, however, lead to a real ecclesiastical perestroika – was the confirmation in January, 1992 by a Russian parliamentary commission investigating the activities of the KGB that for several decades at least the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate had been KGB agents. The records of the fourth, Church department of the KGB’s Fifth Directorate revealed that Metropolitans Juvenal of Krutitsa, Pitirim of Volokolamsk, Philaret of Kiev and Philaret of Minsk were all KGB agents, with the codenames “Adamant”, “Abbat”, “Antonov” and “Ostrovsky” respectively.


     This news was not, of course, unexpected. Konstantin Kharchev, Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs from 1984 to 1989, confirmed in 1989 that the Russian Orthodox Church was rigorously controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, especially its Ideological Department, and by the KGB.[11] Again, Victor Sheimov, a former KGB major with responsibilities for upgrading the KGB’s communications security system until his defection in 1980, described the Fifth Directorate as being “responsible for suppressing ideological dissent, running the Soviet Orthodox Church and laying the groundwork for the First Chief Directorate’s subversive promotion of favourable opinion about the country’s position and policy.”[12] One of Sheimov’s jobs was to draft agents to infiltrate the “Soviet Orthodox Church”. Again, in 1992 a former KGB agent, A. Shushpanov, described his experiences working in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Ecclesiastical Relations. He said that most of the people working there were in fact KGB agents.[13]


     But it was the revelations unearthed by the parliamentary commission that were the most shocking. They included:- (i) the words of the head of the KGB Yury Andropov to the Central Committee sometime in the 1970s: “The organs of state security keep the contacts of the Vatican with the Russian Orthodox Church under control…”; (ii) “At the 6th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, the religious delegation from the USSR contained 47 (!) agents of the KGB, including religious authorities, clergy and technical personnel” (July, 1983); (iii) “The most important were the journeys of agents ‘Antonov’, ‘Ostrovsky’ and ‘Adamant’ to Italy for conversations with the Pope of Rome on the question of further relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, and in particular regarding the problems of the uniates” (1989).[14]


     The parliamentary commission also discovered that Patriarch Alexis himself was an agent with the codename “Drozdov”. It is now known that Alexis was recruited by the Estonian KGB on February 28, 1958[15]; and in the 1974 Furov report to the Central Committee of the USSR he (together with his predecessor Patriarch Pimen) was placed in the category of those bishops who “affirm both in words and deeds not only loyalty but also patriotism towards the socialist society; strictly observe the laws on cults, and educate the parish clergy and believers in the same spirit; realistically understand that our state is not interested in proclaiming the role of religion and the church in society; and, realizing this, do not display any particular activeness in extending the influence of Orthodoxy among the population.”[16]


     Moreover, according to a KGB document of 1988, an order was drafted by the USSR KGB chairman to award an honorary citation to agent DROZDOV for unspecified services to state security.[17] But these facts were not made public because, according to Fen Montaigne, “members of the parliamentary commission had told the patriarch that they would not name him as an agent if he began cleaning house in the church and acknowledging the breadth of cooperation between the church and the KGB. ‘So far, we have kept the silence because we wanted to give the patriarch a chance,’ said Alexander Nezhny, a journalist who said his comparison of the archives and church bulletins convinced him that Alexis II is indeed ‘Drozdov’…”[18]


     The parliamentary commission was almost immediately closed down by the President of the Supreme Soviet, Ruslan Khasbalutov, at the insistence, according to Ponomarev, of Patriarch Alexis himself and the head of the KGB, E. Primakov.  One of the commission’s members, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, “was accused of betraying state secrets to the United States and threatened with a private persecution. Father Gleb remained defiant. He wrote to the Patriarch in 1994:


     “’If the Church is not cleansed of the taint of the spy and informer, it cannot be reborn. Unfortunately, only one archbishop – Archbishop Chrysostom of Lithuania – has had the courage publicly to acknowledge that in the past he worked as an agent, and has revealed his codename: RESTAVRATOR. No other Church hierarch has followed his example, however.


     “The most prominent agents of the past include DROZDOV – the only one of the churchmen to be officially honoured with an award by the KGB of the USSR, in 1988, for outstanding intelligence services – ADAMANT, OSTROVSKY, MIKHAILOV, TOPAZ AND ABBAT. It is obvious that none of these or the less exalted agents is preparing to repent. On the contrary, they deliver themselves of pastoral maxims on the allegedly neutral character of informing on the Church, and articles have appeared in the Church press justifying the role of the informer as essential for the survival of the Church in an anti-religious state.


     “The codenames I discovered in the archives of the KGB belong to the top hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate.”[19]


     Keston News Service reviewed all the available documentary evidence from the various activities of the KGB and concluded that long-standing allegations that the Patriarch and other senior bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church collaborated with the KGB were based on fact.[20] And, writing in 1995, John Dunlop concluded that “the overwhelming majority of the current one hundred and nineteen bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate were ordained to the episcopacy prior to August of 1991. This suggests that each of these bishops was carefully screened and vetted by both the ideological apparatus of the Communist Party and by the KGB.”[21]


     In 1992, Archbishop Chrysostom of Vilnius declared to the Council of Bishops of the MP: “In our Church there are genuine members of the KGB, who have made head-spinning careers; for example, Metropolitan Methodius of Voronezh. He is a KGB officer, an atheist, a liar, who is constantly advised by the KGB. The Synod was unanimously against such a bishop, but we had to take upon us such a sin. And then what a rise he had!”


Memory Loss


     At the same Council, a commission of eight MP bishops headed by Bishop Alexander of Kostroma was formed to investigate the charges of collaboration with the KGB. This commission has so far (12 years later) produced absolutely nothing![22] In view of the lack of a clear-out of KGB hierarchs, it remains true that, as the saying went, “the MP is the last surviving department of the KGB” or “the second administration of the Soviet state”.


     As the memory loss in church and society became greater and greater in the later 1990s, Patriarch Alexis felt ready to return to the theme of sergianism. In an interview in 1997 he, referring to the Church in the time of Patriarch Tikhon: “The Church could not, did not have the right, to go into the catacombs. She remained together with the people and drank to the dregs the cup of sufferings that fell to its lot.”[23]  Patriarch Alexis here forgot to mention that Patriarch Tikhon specifically blessed Michael Zhizhilenko, the future Hieromartyr Maximus of Serpukhov, to become a secret catacomb bishop if the pressure on the Church from the State became too great. As for his claim that the sergianists shared the cup of the people’s suffering, this must be counted as conscious hypocrisy. It is well known that the Soviet hierarchs lived a life of considerable luxury, while lifting not a finger for the Catacomb Christians and dissidents sent to torments and death in KGB prisons!


     On November 9, 2001, the patriarch threw off the mask of repentance completely, stating in defence of Sergius’ declaration: “This was a clever step by which Metropolitan Sergius tried to save the church and clergy. In declaring that the members of the Church want to see themselves as part of the motherland and want to share her joys and sorrows, he tried to show to those who were persecuting the church and who were destroying it that we, the children of the church, want to be loyal citizens so that the affiliation of people with the church would not place them outside the law. So this is a far-fetched accusation…’[24]


     But it is not enough to justify betrayal: the traitor himself has to be canonized. And it is the canonization of “Patriarch” Sergius, the author of the notorious declaration, that is the goal of the MP. For such an act would complete the selective loss of memory that has been taking place since 1990 and complete the justification of     the “Soviet” church and its cooperation with the KGB.


     However, such an act needs a lengthy preparation. The opponents – those whose memory is not completely gone – have to be neutralised. A first step was taken by the patriarch already in 1991, when he wrote: “I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us.”[25] Then, in 1993, he said: “Through the host of martyrs the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.”[26]


     It is as if he was contemplating a trade-off: if we recognize your martyrs, he is saying to the opponents of Sergius, then you must recognize ours – including Sergius himself.


     Of course, Alexis still regarded the Catacomb martyrs as “uncanonical”.[27] But he was prepared to canonize them, thus introducing the concept of “uncanonical martyrs” into the Church (!), so long as Sergius himself, their betrayer and persecutor, could also be canonized eventually. However, by the time of the MP’s hierarchical council in 2000, at which many Catacomb martyrs were canonized, the patriarchate still did not feel able to canonise Sergius – probably because it feared that it would prevent a union with the ROCOR. But neither did it canonise the leader of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. This suggested that a canonisation of the two leaders – the leader of the True Church, and the leader of the false - was in the offing, but depended on the success of the negotiations between the MP and the ROCOR.


     Those negotiations were officially launched in May, 2004, during the visit of the leader of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Lavr, to Russia. And the manner in which they were launched is extremely significant. On May 15, the anniversary of “Patriarch” Sergius’ death, Alexis demonstratively served a panikhida for Sergius, and then, during a liturgy at Butovo, where thousands of Catacomb Christians were martyred and sergianists killed in 1937, he had this to say to his foreign guests:


     “Today is the 60th anniversary since the death of the ever-memorable Patriarch Sergius. The time of the service of this archpastor coincided with the most terrible years of the struggle against God, when it was necessary to preserve the Russian Church. In those terrible years of repression and persecutions there were more sorrows. In 1937 both those who shared the position of Metropolitan Sergius and those who did not agree with him suffered for the faith of Christ, for belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. We pay a tribute of respect and thankful remembrance to his Holiness Patriarch Sergius for the fact that he, in the most terrible and difficult of conditions of the Church’s existence in the 1930s of the 20th century led the ship of the Church and preserved the Russian Church amidst the stormy waves of the sea of life.”[28]


     And yet only the year before, in a book dedicated to the glorification of Sergius (and Stalin), Sergius Fomin wrote: “If Metropolitan Sergius, in agreeing in his name to publish the Declaration of 1927 composed by the authorities, hoping to buy some relief for the Church and the clergy, then his hopes not only were not fulfilled, but the persecutions after 1927 became still fiercer, reaching truly hurricane-force in 1937-38”.[29]


     Clearly, Patriarch Alexis, “forgetting” historical facts and ignoring even the MP’s panegyrists of Sergius, is determined to justify even his most shameful acts, claiming that the “ever-memorable” Sergus indeed “saved the Church” by his agreements with the God-haters. There can be no doubt, therefore, that he remains a dyed-in-the-wool sergianist – that is, an adherent of the heresy that the Church of God, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3.15), can be saved by the lies of men. And there can similarly be no doubt that Metropolitan Lavr, in listening to this speech in respectful silence and without interjecting the slightest objection, is a sergianist, too.




     The phenomenon of the loss of memory in the Moscow Patriarchate is inseparable from the loss of historical memory in Russia as a whole.


     In a chapter entitled simply “Memory”, the American journalist and historian of the Soviet Gulag, Anne Applebaum, has written movingly and truthfully about this: “Ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, the country that has inherited the Soviet Union’s diplomatic and foreign policies, its embassies, its debts and its seat at the United Nations, continues to act as if it has not inherited the Soviet Union’s history. Russia does not have a national museum dedicated to the history of repression. Nor does Russia have a national place of mourning, a monument which officially recognizes the suffering of victims and their families. Throughout the 1980s, competitions were held to design such a monument, but they came to nothing. Memorial succeeded only in dragging a stone from the Solovetsky islands – where the Gulag began – and placing it in the centre of Dzerzhinsky Square, across from the Lubyanka.


     “More notable than the missing monuments, however, is the missing public awareness. Sometimes, it seems as if the enormous emotions and passions raised by the wide-ranging discussions of the Gorbachev era simply vanished, along with the Soviet Union itself. The bitter debate about justice for the victims disappeared just as abruptly. Although there was much talk about it at the end of the 1980s, the Russian government never did examine or try the perpetrators of torture or mass murder, even those who were identifiable. In the early 1990s, one of the men who carried out the Katyn massacres of Polish officers was still alive. Before he died, the KGB conducted an interview with him, asking him to explain – from a technical point of view – how the murders were carried out. As a gesture of goodwill, a tape of the interview was handed to the Polish cultural attaché in Moscow. No one suggested at any time that the man be put on trial, in Moscow, Warsaw, or anywhere else.


     “It is true, of course, that trials may not always be the best way to come to terms with the past. In the years after the Second World War, West Germany brought 85,000 Nazis to trial, but obtained fewer than 7,000 convictions. The tribunals were notoriously corrupt, and easily swayed by personal jealousies and disputes. The Nuremberg Trial itself was an example of ‘victors’ justice’ marred by dubious legality and oddities, not the least of which was the presence of Soviet judges who knew perfectly well that their own side was responsible for mass murder too.


     “But there are other methods, aside from trials, of doing public justice to the crimes of the past. There are truth commissions, for example, of the sort implemented in South Africa, which allow victims to tell their stories in an official, public place, and make the crimes of the past a part of the public debate. There are official investigations, like the British Parliament’s 2002 inquiry into the Northern Irish ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre, which had taken place thirty years earlier. There are government inquiries, government commission, public apologies – yet the Russian government has never considered any of these options. Other than the brief, inconclusive ‘trial’ of the Communist Party, there have in fact been no public truth-telling sessions in Russia, no parliamentary hearings, no official investigations of any kind into the murders or the massacres or the camps of the USSR.


     “The result: half a century after the war’s end, the Germans still conduct regular public disputes about victims’ compensation, about memorials, about new interpretations of Nazi history, even about whether a younger generation of Germans ought to go on shouldering the guilt about the crimes of the Nazis. Half a century after Stalin’s death, there were no equivalent arguments taking place in Russia, because the memory of the past was not a living part of public discourse.


     “The rehabilitation process did continue, very quietly, throughout the 1990s. By the end of 2001, about 4.5 million political prisoners had been rehabilitated in Russia, and the national rehabilitation commission reckoned it had a further half-million cases to examine. Those victims – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions more – who were never sentenced will of course be exempt from the process. But while the commission itself is serious and well-intentioned, and while it is composed of camp survivors as well as bureaucrats, no one associated with it really feels that the politicians who created it were motivated by a real drive for ‘truth and reconciliation’, in the words of the British historian Catherine Merridale. Rather, the goal has been to end discussion of the past, to pacify the victims by throwing them a few extra roubles and free bus tickets, and to avoid any deeper examination of the causes of Stalinism and its legacy.


     “There are some good, or at least some forgivable, explanations for this public silence. Most Russians really do spend all of their time coping with the complete transformation of their economy and society. The Stalinist era was a long time ago, and a great deal has happened since it ended. Post-communist Russia is not post-war Germany, where the memories of the worst atrocities were still fresh in people’s minds. In the twenty-first century, the events of the middle of the twentieth century seem like ancient history to much of the population.


     “Perhaps more to the point, many Russians also feel that they have had their discussion of the past already, and that it produced very little. When one asks older Russians, at least, why the subject of the Gulag is so rarely mentioned nowadays, they wave away the issue: ‘In 1990 that was all we could talk about, now we don’t need to talk about it any more.’ To further complicate things, talk of the Gulag and of Stalinist repression has become confused, in the minds of many, with the ‘democratic reformers’ who originally promoted the debate about the Soviet past. Because that generation of political leaders is now seen to have failed – their rule is remembered for corruption and chaos – all talk of the Gulag is somehow tainted by association.


     “The question of remembering or commemorating political repression is also confused…. by the presence of so many other victims of so many other Soviet tragedies. ‘To make matters more complicated,’ writes Catherine Merridale, ‘a great many people suffered repeatedly; they can describe themselves as war veterans, victims of repression, the children of the repressed and even as survivors of famine with equal facility. There are plenty of memorials to the wartime dead, some Russians seem to feel: Will that not suffice?


     “But there are other reasons, less forgivable, for the profound silence. Many Russians experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union as a profound blow to their personal pride. Perhaps the old system was bad, they now feel – but at least we were powerful. And now that we are not powerful, we do not want to hear that it was bad. It is too painful, like speaking ill of the dead.


     “Some – still – also fear what they might find out about the past, if they were to inquire too closely. In 1998, the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen described what it felt like to discover that one of her grandmothers, a nice old Jewish lady, had been a censor, responsible for altering the reports of foreign correspondents based in Moscow. She also discovered that her other grandmother, another nice old Jewish lady, had once applied for a job with the secret police. Both had made their choices out of desperation, not conviction. Now, she wrote, she knows why her generation had refrained from condemning their grandparents’ generation too harshly: ‘We did not expose them, we did not try them, we did not judge them… merely by asking such questions each one of us risks betraying someone we love.’


     “Aleksandr Yakovlev, chairman of the Russian rehabilitation commission, put this problem somewhat more bluntly. ‘Society is indifferent to the crimes of the past,’ he told me, ‘because so many people participated in them.’ The Soviet system dragged millions and millions of its citizens into many forms of collaboration and compromise. Although many willingly participated, otherwise decent people were also forced to do terrible things. They, their children, and their grandchildren do not always want to remember that now.


     “But the most important explanation for the lack of public debate does not involve the fears of the younger generation, or the inferiority complexes and leftover guilt of those now ruling not only Russia, but also most of the other ex-Soviet states and satellite states. In December 2001, on the tenth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, thirteen of the fifteen former Soviet republics were run by former communists, as were many of the former satellite states, including Poland, the country which supplied so many hundreds of thousands of prisoners for Soviet camps and exile villages. Even the Communist Party, former communists and their children or fellow travellers also continued to figure largely in the intellectual, media and business elites. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was a former KGB agent, who proudly identified himself as a ‘Chekist’. Earlier, when serving as the Russian Prime Minister, Putin had made a point of visiting the KGB headquarters at Lubyanka, on the anniversary of the Cheka’s founding, where he dedicated a plaque to the memory of Yuri Andropov.


     “The dominance of former communists and the insufficient discussion of the past in the post-communist world is not coincidental. To put it bluntly, former communists have a clear interest in concealing the past: it tarnishes them, undermines them, hurts their claims to be carrying out ‘reforms’, even when they personally had nothing to do with past crimes. In Hungary, the ex-Communist Party, renamed the Socialist Party, fought bitterly against opening the museum to the victims of terror. When the ex-Communist Party, renamed the Social Democrats, was elected to power in Poland in 2001, it immediately cut the budget of the Polish Institute of National Memory, set up by its centre-right predecessors. Many, many excuses have been given for Russia’s failure to build a national monument to its millions of victims, but Aleksandr Yakovlev, again, gave me the most sucking explanation, ‘The monument will be built,’ he said, ‘when we – the older generation – are all dead.’”[30]


     This quotation is long because every point it makes about the loss of memory and the corruption of memory in Russia as a whole can be paralleled in that microcosm of Russia today that is the Moscow Patriarchate.


     If the Russian state and people want to keep silent about the past, then so does the MP – and for very similar reasons. If Putin the Chekist places a plaque to the memory of Yuri Andropov at the Lubyanka, then Alexis the Chekist goes one better by building a church inside the Lubyanka for the spiritual needs of the KGB agents who work in it. If Putin now raises a toast to Stalin, then priests of the MP write articles glorifying him (and Ivan the Terrible and Rasputin!). If Lenin still lies in his mausoleum, an object of veneration as before, the same is true of the founder of the Moscow Patriarchate, “Patriarch” Sergius. If a true and adequate monument to the victims of the Gulag will not be built until the older generation is dead, then the same is probably true about the holy martyrs and confessors of the Catacomb Church: not until the present rulers of the Church and State in Russia are dead or removed will they be given a fitting memorial...


     A man is to a large extent constituted by his memory. If he forgets his past, he has to a large extent lost himself. The same applies to a nation. And to a Church. Therefore, lest the sleep of forgetfulness overtake us completely before that glorious day of the full restoration of memory comes, let us remember the words of the Lord: “Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deuteronomy 4.9). For the sin of forgetfulness - both of the great deeds of God and His saints, and of the great iniquities of the devil and his followers - is indeed the sin unto death. And the path to life for those sitting by the waters of the Babylon of this world is the path of constant vigilance and memory: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…


July 13 / August 13, 2004.

Forefeast of the Procession of the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross.

Hieromartyr Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd, and those with him.

[1] Keston News Service, ¹ 369, February 21, 1991, p. 6.

[2] Letter in Liternaturnaia Rossia, June 14, 1991 ®; Oxana Antic, "Patriarch Aleksii II: A Political Portrait", Report on the USSR, vol. 3, ¹ 45, November 8, 1991, p. 17.

[3] “Patriarch Alexis II: I take on myself responsibility for all that happened”, Izvestia, ¹ 137, June 10, 1991; Bishop Gregory Grabbe, "Dogmatizatsia Sergianstva", Pravoslavnaia Rus', ¹ 17 (1446), September 1/14, 1991, p. 5 ®.

[4] Grabbe, "Dogmatizatsia Sergianstva", op. cit., p. 5.

[5] Hieromonk Tikhon (Kazushin), personal communication; Natalya Babisyan, "Sviashchenniki na barrikadakh", Khristianskie Novosti, ¹ 38, August 22, 1991, p. 21 ®.

[6] Ellis, "The Russian Church: hopes and fears", Church Times, September 13, 1991.

[7] Sokolov, op. cit.

[8] He said that the Church had not supported the coup (although there is clear evidence that Metropolitans Philaret of Kiev and Pitirim of Volokolamsk supported it), but had "taken the side of law and liberty" (Report on the USSR, vol. 3, ¹ 36, September 6, 1991, p. 82).

[9] 30 Dias, Rome/Sao Paolo, August-September, 1991, p. 23.

[10] Kozyrev, “[orthodox-synod] Re: The Orthodox Episcopate of the Russian persecuted Church”, 28 November, 2002.

[11] Kharchev, Argumenty i Fakty, 1992, ¹ 8, p. 5 ®.

[12] Sheimov, Tower of Secrets, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1993, p. 418.

[13] Shushpanov, Moskovskie Novosti, 12 July, 1992, p. 20 ®.

[14] For more details of the parliamentary commission's revelations, see Praymoj Put', ¹¹ 1-2, January, 1992, p. 1; ¹ 3, February, 1992, p. 1; Spetsialnij vypusk, February, 1992; Alexander Nezhny, "Tret’e Imia", Ogonek, ¹ 4 (3366), January 25 - February 1, 1992; Iain Walker and Chester Stern, "Holy Agents of the KGB", The Mail on Sunday, March 29, 1992; John Dunlop, "KGB Subversion of Russian Orthodox Church", RFE/RL Research Report, vol. 1, ¹ 12, March 20, 1992, pp. 51-53; Protodeacon Herman Ivanov-Trinadtsaty, "A ne nachalo li eto kontsa?", Pravoslavnaia Rus', ¹ 9 (1462), May 1/14, 1992, pp. 609; "Ne bo vragom Tvoim povem...", Vestnik Germanskoj Eparkhii Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tservki za Granitsei, ¹ 1, 1992, pp. 16-22; Fr. Victor Potapov, "Molchaniem predaåtsa Bog", Moscow: Isikhia, 1992, pp. 36-39; Joseph Harriss, "The Gospel according to Marx", Reader's Digest, February, 1993, pp. 59-63.    

[15] Estonian State Archive, record group 131, file 393, pp. 125-126; James Meek, “File links church leader to KGB”, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 1999; Seamus Martin, “Russian Patriarch was (is?) a KGB agent, files say Patriarch Alexeij II received KGB ‘Certificate of Honour’”, Irish Times, September 23, 2000; Arnold Beichman, “Patriarch with a KGB Past”, The Washington Times, September 29, 2000.

[16] Andrew and Mitrokhin, op. cit., pp. 639-640.

[17] Andrew and Mitrokhin, op. cit., p. 650.

[18] The Philadelphia Inquirer on May 3, 1992; quoted in "The Church of the KGB", Living Orthodoxy, vol. XIV, ¹ 2, March-April, 1992, pp. 22-23.

[19] Andrew and Mitrokhin, op. cit., p. 661.

[20] Felix Corbey, “The Patriarch and the KGB”, Keston News Service, September 21, 2000.

[21] Dunlop, “The Moscow Patriarchate as an Empire-Saving Institution”, in Michael Bourdeaux, M.E. Sharp (eds.), The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, 1995, Armonk, NY, p. 29.

[22] M. Pozdnyaev and Archbishop Chrysostom, "Ya sotrudnichal s KGB... no ne byl stukachem", Russkaia Mysl', ¹ 3926, 24 April, 1992, translated in Religion, State & Society, vol. 21, ¹¹ 3 and 4, 1993, pp. 345-350; “Letter of Priest George Edelstein to President Putin, in Church News, June, 2003, vol. 14, ¹ 65 (#119), p. 2.

[23] Quoted by Anatoly Krasikov, "'Tretij Rim' i bolsheviki (bez grifa 'sovershenno sekretno')", in Filatov, S.B. (ed.), Religia i prava cheloveka, Moscow: Nauka, 1996, p. 198 ®.


[25] "In the Catacombs", Sovershenno Sekretno, ¹ 7, 1991; quoted by Fr. Peter Perekrestov, "Why Now?" Orthodox Life, vol. 44, ¹ 6, November-December, 1994, p. 44.

[26] Quoted by Fr. Peter Perekrestov, “The Schism in the Heart of Russia (Concerning Sergianism)”, Canadian Orthodox Herald, 1999, ¹ 4.

[27] “Equally uncanonical[that is, equally with the Russian Church Outside Russia] is the so-called ‘Catacomb’ Church.” (Nedelia, ¹ 2, 1, 1992; quoted by Fr. Peter Perekrestov, "Why Now?" Orthodox Life, vol. 44, ¹ 6, November-December, 1994, p. 44).

[28] Ridiger, in A. Soldatov, “Sergij premudrij nam put’ ozaril”, Vertograd, ¹ 461, 21 May, 2004, p. 4 ®.

[29] Fomin, Strazh Doma Gospodnia, Moscow, 2003, p. 262 ®.

[30] Applebaum, Gulag: A History, London: Penguin Books, 2003, pp. 506-509.