04/06/2024, 10.30
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The ecumenism of imperial Russia and the 'threats' from East and West

by Stefano Caprio

The reflections of the Moscow attack overshadow proclamations of victory in Ukraine. A text by the Sobordella of the Orthodox Church goes beyond the ideological motivations of the war and defends the 'purity' of the Russian people from 'invading migrants'. The fight against foreign 'ghettos' in the cities and the 'return' to the 'traditional' division between population and productive forces in the territory. 


The declaration of the 'Universal Russian People's Council', which proclaimed Russia's 'holy war' as a 'defence' against the onslaught of evil throughout the world, created quite a stir. The Russian term for the 'Defender', Uderživajušij, has been interpreted by many as the biblical kathekon, the last bulwark in the face of the Antichrist, although perhaps this was not the meaning of the solemn declaration.

Moreover, it was not an ecclesiastical Council, and did not claim to offer dogmatic declarations, albeit limited to the perimeter of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church: the Vserossijskij Sobor, 'universal council', is merely a theological-political association, founded in 1993 to revive patriotism after the end of the USSR on the initiative of the future patriarch, then Metropolitan Kirill (Gundjaev), and fuelled by numerous colourful 'ideologists', who have been prophesying the end of the world for over 30 years if Russia's universal mission is not allowed to be completed. 

This session of the Sobor was held on 27 March in the hall below the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, where the plenary assemblies of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church meet, and was presided over by Patriarch Kirill, supreme leader of the believers 'of all Russia', giving the impression of a great ecclesiastical assembly.

An official document was approved, the Nakaz (Slavic-ecclesiastical term for Ukaz, "decree", with a note of greater authority, more akin to "punishment") entitled "The Present and Future of the Russian World". A text drafted a few months ago, which offers the ideological justification for the religious justification of the 'special military operation' in Ukraine, but which today takes on an even more stringent and topical value.

In Russia, dates count for a lot and take on a sacred significance: the document was to be approved at the beginning of May, taking advantage of the succession of Workers' Day on 1 May, Orthodox Easter on 5 May and Victory Day on 9 May, offering a perfect 'calendar trinity' to express the great Russian idea, which in the document is defined as the 'tri-unity' that brings together peoples (Russia, Belarus and Ukraine) and times (past, present and future). The triad-trinity-tri-unity is the patriarch's favourite symbolic figure, reminiscent of the three guiding principles of tsarist Russia based on 'autocracy, orthodoxy and popularism', and represented by Rublev's sacred icon of the Trinity, snatched by Kirill from the Tretyakov Museum for the glory of Putin's war.

After the solemn coronation of the Tsar on 18 March (the date of the annexation of Crimea), one had to go through Lent to reach the final exaltation of Easter-Victory. Perhaps trusting in the new army offensive reinforced by the post-election mobilisations and the spring thaw, to help the tank advance against the increasingly derelict Ukraine, almost abandoned by its uncertain western allies.

Instead, the Council was hastily convened, immediately after the tragic attack by Central Asian terrorists on the Krokus City Hall on the outskirts of Moscow, which shocked the Russians and disoriented the supposed winners, prompting the babbling Putin and Patrušev (his covert director, head of the security services) to rail against the 'Ukrainian instigators', when it is clear that Russia is playing the role of 'stumbling block' to the political, military and religious plans of East and West.

The massacre took place on 22 March, and the Sobor was convened five days later to reaffirm the unity of the people against all enemies, especially foreign invaders. A long chapter on the 'new migration policy' was added to the prepared text, to defend against Tajik terrorists and any other form of threat to the purity of the universal Russian people.

As we read in the Nakaz, 'the unchecked mass flow of foreign labour leads to the impoverishment of Russia's native population', echoing a leitmotif of all sovereignisms from America to Europe, 'causing migrants to occupy entire sectors of the homeland economy'.

These 'invaders', even before becoming threatening terrorists, 'do not possess the Russian language and do not have a correct understanding of Russian history and its culture, and therefore are not suitable for integration into our society'.

In the main cities 'closed ethnic ghettos are formed and develop, organised by the underworld gangs that govern the illegal mechanisms', and therefore it seems inevitable that these realities become 'fertile ground for all forms of extremism and terrorism, and in any case become a source of colossal tensions in society'. New codes are needed to regulate the migration phenomenon, which "perfect the legislation on Russian citizenship, defending the rights and legitimate interests of our compatriots".

In particular, there is a need for 'the defence of Russian families', perhaps by preventing mixed marriages with foreigners, and above all 'the defence of Russia's civilising identity, in its legal, cultural and linguistic unity', by tightening controls on social life and 'creating the conditions for a mass return of our compatriots living abroad', allowing entry only to foreigners who are 'highly qualified, loyal to Russia and ready to integrate culturally and linguistically'. Confidence in victory is replaced by the terror of one's own demise.

Yet the main statement of the text, the concept of Russkij Mir, declaims that "the borders of the Russian World, as a spiritual and cultural-civilizing phenomenon, are wider than the state borders of both the current Russian Federation and the great historical Russia" .

We go so far as to exalt "the representatives of the Russian ecumene, dispersed throughout the world", explaining that "the Russian World includes all those for whom the Russian tradition, the sanctuaries of Russian civilization and the great Russian culture are the most important values, those who give meaning to life."

Therefore, if it is necessary to protect oneself from "invading" migrants, at the same time "the main meaning of the existence of Russia and the Russian World created by it, their common spiritual mission, is to be the universal Defender of the world from the evil one". Imperial and borderless ecumenism pushes us to "render ineffective all attempts to establish a universal hegemony in the world, subjecting all humanity to the sole power of evil".

The thousand-year mission was realized in the "reunion of Russian statehood in the highest forms of political creativity", uniting the tri-unity of the people in the "sub-ethnicities" of the Great Russians, the White Russians and the Malorossy, the "Little Russians" Ukrainians, as a model for the aggregation of all other peoples and all men who recognize the need for the Defender.

Every time the forces of evil try to "divide, weaken and disintegrate" the wonderful unity of Russia, and even in the 21st century the "restoration of its spiritual and vital potential" is necessary.

This includes the return to all "traditional moral values" starting with the family, the only institution capable of "helping man to understand the world around him" and "teaching love, goodness and compassion", thus illuminating the educational work of the entire society and eliminating "false values" on nature, sexuality, individual and collective orientation.

In addition to the war against the assault of the Evil One, and the safeguarding of the true values in the life of the people, the Nakaz indicates another objective to be achieved, overcoming the demographic crisis and resuming active fertility in the generation of the children of the new Russia: we need a "transformation of the vital spaces" of the country, a development of cities and places to be repopulated.

In the future, "mass urban agglomerations" will have to be reduced with all those immense condominiums of tiny apartments, a perverse legacy of the Soviet economy, in which the ghettos of the Tajiks and Kyrgyz are nestled which then go on to destroy the new temples of Russian civilization .

It is necessary to "return to the traditional division of the population and productive forces throughout the territory for Russia", therefore transferring masses of people from the metropolises into "well-organised villages at reasonable distances", in which each family has its own home, winter izba or summer dacha, as in the most ancient Russian fairy tales, the bilyne that tell of heroes capable of defending the small principalities of ancient Rus', the bogatyrs who alone, each as the true Defender, face the many peoples who threaten the Russians from the East and the West.

The fantasies of the patriarch and his 'ecumenical' advisors are very reminiscent of the excesses of the protagonists of Dostoevsky's novels, such as Prince Myškin in The Idiot, who in the grip of epileptic tremors (like those provoked by the Krokus massacre) imagines a new world to be built, shouting "show the Russians the Russian world!", the first citation of the current ideological myth.

Or the young Arkadij Dolgorukij in the Adolescent, whose surname evokes the mythical founder of Moscow and jealously guards in his heart a 'great idea' of revenge against all the wrongs suffered in childhood. The boy does not want to reveal to anyone what this idea really consists of, not least because he himself does not know what it really is: it is Russia, eternal adolescent, that wants to save everyone without ever being able to understand itself.


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