10/28/2023, 19.16
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Putin's patriotic religious council

by Stefano Caprio

On 25 October, the supreme leader of "All the Russias" convened two groups to address and solve the problems of the entire world. The first meeting brought together military officials and nuclear weapons specialists. After this, he joined religious leaders, who had patiently waited for him in the most solemn halls of the Kremlin.

Russia's reaction to the tragic events in the Middle East is as ambiguous as ever since local and global factors are at stake, fuelling the clash of civilisations and religions already triggered by the invasion of Ukraine.

For this reason, in addition to appeals and diplomatic initiatives in which Moscow tries to show its key geopolitical role, President Vladimir Putin decided to rise above everyone else even in the religious domain by holding a grotesque sobor (council) in the Kremlin with the heads of "traditional religions" like right out of the Tale of the Antichrist imagined by the great Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov on the eve of the 20th century and the great world wars.

On Wednesday (25 October), the supreme leader of "All the Russias" convened two synods (assemblies, councils) to address and solve the problems of the entire world.

The first one brought together military and technical staff responsible for Russia’s ballistic and tactical missiles, to evaluate possible responses to a collective Western nuclear attack against Holy Russia.

Afterwards Putin went to meet religious leaders, who patiently waited for him in the most solemn halls of the Kremlin, where just over four centuries ago the Patriarch of Constantinople Ieremias II was held in golden captivity, forced eventually to sign the decree establishing the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Third Rome, which was entrusted with the universal mission of defending the true faith against every foe.

The group of clerical leaders included figures who have been very close to the Russian president for many years, starting, of course, with Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev), the prophet of Orthodox sovereignty and "metaphysical warfare," along with other metropolitans and senior hierarchs of the Moscow patriarchate.

Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, was next him. Known as "Putin's rabbi", he was much fêted for recovering after a serious accident performing the Torah Dancing during Simchat festivities, when another dancer crashed into him causing his head to hit the floor, on the very day that Hamas terrorists were attacking Israel.

It was feared that he might die, but after a few days in a coma, in spiritual harmony with his people subjected to harsh trials, Russia’s chief rabbi made it in time to embrace the father of religions and peoples in Russia, together with the faithful Aleksandr Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and a member of the Moscow Social Chamber.

The third religion represented was obviously Islam, actually the largest in terms of believers after Orthodoxy and the dominant one in the Ural-Caucasian region, with the historical duo of muftis. One of them is Ravil Gaynutdin, a Tatar who has headed the Administration of the Muslims of Russia for 30 years. Another prominent Muslim leader was Ismail Berdiev of Karachay-Cherkessia in the North Caucasus, a leading cleric since 1991.

The leaders of the "slightly less" traditional religions were also present, on the side tables: Siberian Buddhist lama Damba Ayusheev; Bishop Ezras (Nersisyan) of the Apostolic Church of the Armenians of Russia; and Metropolitan Korniliy (Titov), head of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church, so appreciated by Putin. Representing "Western" Christians (Protestants and Catholics) was Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky, unsinkable leader of Russia’s Pentecostals since Soviet times who managed to survive the persecutions of Brezhnev's last years. Other "synod fathers" of lower rank completed the assembly.

The president-pontiff (Putin) addressed the members of the Russian sobornost, thanking them, first of all, for “supporting the Armed Forces of Russia and reaching out to our fighters, standing with the soldiers on the ground and their family members, as well as all those who sacrifice themselves for our homeland within the framework of the special military operation...

"Everyone, especially those who are present here, must understand that we are in the same boat; no one can separate themselves from the state, and even if someone wanted to, may God save us," a possible reference to centrifugal forces among some of Russia’s ethnic minorities and regional communities.

Putin went on to explain the real reason for the "council". “We must talk about the events in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, because they concern us all. We experience them with sorrow in our hearts" (everyone sighed, thinking about the recent rumours about Putin’s alleged heart attack, obviously quickly denied).

The Kremlin's supreme pastor noted that "the Holy Land has a sacred significance for Christians, Muslims and Jews, for the faithful of the world's main traditional religions," so there is an ideal link between Jerusalem and Moscow.

Expressing "our condolences to the families of Israelis and citizens of other countries, who have lost their loved ones or suffered serious injuries," Putin avoided naming the Palestinians, and, in any case, he warned that "innocent people should not be held accountable for the crimes committed by the perpetrators” of the attack because "the fight against terrorism must not be conducted on the basis of the infamous principle of collective responsibility.” He obviously did not mention the situation in Ukraine. 

The president noted that Russia's official position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was that of "two states and two peoples" approved by the UN and "supported by the Soviet Union in 1948". Taking on the mantle of Stalin's heir, he concluded stressing that "our main task is to stop the violence and bloodshed".

Of course, there was no shortage of not-so-veiled claims about "attempts by some forces to further escalate the conflict, involving other states and peoples to be used for their own selfish interests, sparking a wave of chaos and mutual hatred to sustain their hegemony in the new world order."

All the members of the sobor argued that Russia must prevent a "war of religions" pitting "Muslims against Jews, Shias against Sunnis, Orthodox against Catholics", while "Europe turns a blind eye" to the war, allowing "vandalism and sacrilegious" actions against the symbols of the Islamic religion and "glorifying the Nazis and anti-Semites of Ukraine, whose hands are stained with the blood of the Shoah", where the suppression of the "canonical Orthodox Church" has even been consummated.

Patriarch Kirill praised the council, "very timely and necessary" in the context of the new conflict in the "Eastern Mediterranean", as he calls the Middle East, using the terminology from of the times of the Roman Empire. In this region, “the attention of all the Abrahamic religions has been concentrated over the centuries,” Kirill explained. This is the place of "communication between God and man".

Trying to avoid any explosive topics, he turned to “our difficult times,” saying that “some easy things become hard for some and hard things become easy for others”.

The other Grand Mufti, Talgat Tadzhuddin, had no qualms about explicitly speaking out against how "the foundations of this conflict go back to the injustice against the Palestinian people more than 70 years ago, which has never been resolved by anyone... It is not a problem of today, but the suffering has now crossed a line,” and this led to the crisis that began with the attacks on 7 October.

If the pro-Palestinian view of Russian Muslims was predictable, even more so was that of Rabbi Lazar, who spoke passionately, not so much to defend Israel’s cause, as to heap praise on the leader for his "wisdom”.

Born and raised in Milan (Italy), Berel Lazar moved to New York where he spent his youth. He arrived in Russia before the end of the USSR, and eventually, with Putin's rise to power, fully consecrated himself to the cause of the "new Russia”. In his address, he said that he "subscribes to every word, to be repeated everywhere," of what the president said.

The rabbi was the only one to note that "it is no coincidence that we gathered a few days before 4 November, the Day of National Unity" (not even Putin had mentioned it), explaining that "this is a symbolic moment, which exalts Russia’s uniqueness!"

As if that were not enough, Lazar also praised Putin's leadership because "it is a very good thing that no one goes out to demonstrate in the streets, which we all know ends in favouring extremism."

Putin smiled and warmly thanked him. With "Semitic" complicity, he said: “Thank you, Rebe,” thus showing that Russia’s true religion knows no ethnic, confessional or theological boundaries, that it is the true "sobornic” union that the peoples have always been waiting for, and, which, in the apocalypse of Russia, extends to the whole world, finding its fulfilment today.


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