Russian Church appeals to no-vaxes to trust science
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Many Russians refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 for religious reasons. The great influence of the “urkabo┼żniki” deniers. The Moscow Patriarchate launches a committee to encourage scientific and theological research from an Orthodox perspective.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Many Russians refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 for religious reasons. This is the sensational data that emerges as the country is hit by a new wave of infections. "Denialism" has been a problem in Russia since the outbreak of the pandemic. Resistance to mass vaccination, however, has prompted the authorities to issue decrees to force various categories of people to immunize.

On June 26, the director of the University of Moscow’s Laboratory of Destructology, Roman Silantev, gave an interview to the Interfax-Religija, outlining the religious roots of the anti-vaccine propaganda that rages on Russian social networks. Destructology is a branch of research born in Russia in recent years: it studies "destructive" behaviors marked by radicalism and fanaticism of various kinds.

Silantev says he has just finished a book, written with his colleague Jurij Ragozin from Novosibirsk, entitled "Para-Orthodox sects", in which he analyzes the different mythologies expressed by religious groups that also proliferate within the Russian Church. For example, in the medical field there are anti-AIDS dissidents, who do not believe in the existence of this virus; some even deny cancer, and propose a treatment of water and soda.

Among the most widespread denials in Russia, and in many other parts of the world, is the refusal of any kind of vaccine. Among the Orthodox the most heated no-vax are the so-called urkabo┼żniki (“extradivine”), the followers of an ex-policeman, Nikolaj Romanov, who became known during Covid as a very powerful Archimandrite Sergij of the Urals.

Romanov is now in prison. He was reduced to a lay state and his community was dispersed, starting with the large group of nuns from his monastery. However, the movement continues to have great influence throughout Russia. The myth of Romanov's followers is not original. It is based on conspiracy theories of dark state that want to control the will of people, to the point of forcing everyone into the "electronic concentration camp" widespread with microchips inserted in vaccines.

The mass of the Orthodox faithful, Silantev observes, has nothing to do with these radical theories, which are rather shared in other areas, from Wahhabi Muslims to militant atheists and other political-religious sects. Many of these mythologies originate in the West, and spread uncontrollably to all latitudes. Their aggression also leaves a strong mark on the mentality of ordinary people. Among believers, he has identified elements of weakness in the convictions of faith, also due to the poor spiritual and cultural formation, typical of the Russian religiosity that emerged from the atheism of the Soviet period.

These reasons have also compelled the patriarchate of Moscow to open new fronts to counter sectarian and "mythological" propaganda, by appealing to secular scientists. Three new advisory structures in the theological and lay sciences will be opened, under the guidance of a coordinating council of the patriarchate, to which various experts in the various branches of sciences, including medicine, will be invited to participate. The initiative was presented to the press on 25 June by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), head of the Department for External Relations of the patriarchate and director of the "Cyril and Methodius" Institute of high patriarchal specialization.

The Committee will encourage scientific and theological research from an orthodox perspective, in collaboration with academic institutions and state bodies. The simple repression of the faithful of a sect, as in the case of Romanov, risks producing the opposite effects. The Church feels the need to delve deeper into the correction and orientation of a vision of faith purified of all fanaticism, in order to the great challenges of contemporary reality and of society.