05/09/2020, 11.01
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Moscow, Victory Day amid pandemic crisis

by Vladimir Rozanskij

No Victory Day parades to mark defeat of Nazism, due to the coronavirus. The only ex-Soviet country to celebrate solemnly is Belarus. President Lukashenko is dismissive of the epidemic. He is called "the suicidal president". The death of monks, bishops and deacons continues in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - May 9, marks Victory Day in Russia, the day when Soviet soldiers entered Berlin, one day after the Americans. Already under the Soviet regime the events of 1945 were solemnly remembered; but Putin’s Russia has exalted them as the foundation of national ideology.

One of the most important metropolitans who "survived" the epochal changes, the 90-year-old vicar for the Moscow province Juvenalij (Pojarkov) recalled: "Victories are the way we understand our history".

This year, the tragedy of the coronavirus prevented Russians from great displays of this national cult. There is not much beyond the virtual manifestations of the "Immortal Regiment" which shows photos of war veterans. Some underwater activists also brought the images to the bottom of the rivers and lakes of Russia. The total number of people infected with the virus is now almost 200,000, making Russia one of the first countries in the world affected by the pandemic, with a rate of 10,000 people infected and over 100 deaths a day, at least according to official reports.

The only ex-Soviet country where the military parade takes place today is Belarus. President Lukashenko continues to show total contempt for the danger of the pandemic, so much so that some call him the "suicidal president".

In truth, the Belarusians intend to show their strength right in front of Russia, in the face of the repeated political-diplomatic attempts of the last few years to "incorporate" the country, which the Russians consider their own "western territory". Lukashenko is also garnering support for his election campaign in this way. In the elections of August 9, he intends to surpass thirty years of domination of the country. The electoral committee, setting the date, promised "free and democratic" elections to which "western observers need not come".

Meanwhile in Russia the crisis of the Orthodox Church is getting deeper, grappling with continuous deaths due to the coronavirus. A physics student, Dmitrij Pelipenko, had left his studies in 2018 to devote himself to monastic life, entering the large Lavra of St. Sergius near Moscow, and the virus took him; hospitalized for the disease, he threw himself from the hospital window.

In the same Lavra, in the last few days four other ecclesiastics have died from the virus: the archimandrite Nikodim, the hygeneum Ignatij, the hierodeacon Kallist and the archimandrite Lavrentij (Postnikov), one of the oldest and most authoritative members of the monastic community, believed a "seer starets". The symptoms of the epidemic were found in 150 of the 170 monks residing in the Lavra. The monastery's chief physician who in turn became a monk also died on 5 May, and an Igumen Tikhon (Barsukov), 66 years old (photo 2). On May 7, Bishop Tikhon (Emeljanov) celebrated a funeral vigil of prayer for the dead on the territory of the monastery, buried without public participation (photo 1).

In Ivanovo, 300 km east of Moscow, the archimandrite Amvrosij died (Jurasov, photo 2). He served at the female convent of the Presentation, and was a very active priest in social communication for pastoral dissemination of Russian traditional spirituality and had been spiritual director of the Radonezh association, one of the most active Orthodox publishing groups, and among the first to open in the "religious revival" of the 1990s.

On May 7, the 55-year-old hierodeacon Dimitrij died in the patriarchal monastery of St. Daniel in Moscow; two other members of the monastery have been hospitalized for the virus, the monk Serafim and the hierodeacon Varakhiil, and two monks are in solitary confinement in their monastic cell. On May 8, three other well-known priests from Moscow were transferred to ICU, the protoierej Dmitry Smirnov (one of the most active in "denial" propaganda against the coronavirus), and the fathers Vladimir Sveshnikov and Nikolaj Krechetov. The loudest "denialist" preacher, protoierej Aleksandr Zakharov of the Tikhvinsk eparchy, has now deleted all his messages and videos on YouTube.

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