06/12/2024, 09.47
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The return of the 'orthodox masseur'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Konstantin Gološanov, former leader of the ‘Athos fraternity’ that brought together the oligarchs-VIPs, is back in vogue in Moscow. Having gone out of the scene with the start of the conflicts with Ukraine (and the explosion of some financial scandals), today he is once again trying to show through sacred art that Russia is the ‘true Europe’.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - After a period of exile due to obscure financial and personal affairs, Konstantin Gološanov, a particularly colourful character from President Vladimir Putin's inner circle of friends, has made a comeback in Moscow.

Former leader of the ‘Athos Fraternity’ that brought together the oligarchs-VIPs, later replaced by the Diveevo Monastery fraternity led by Defence Minister Andrej Belousov, he is now back to reveal Russia as the ‘real Europe’, not the deformed one of the EU and Western countries.

The 69-year-old Gološanov was known as ‘Putin's masseur’, and still demonstrates remarkable physical efficiency, combining his sporting qualities with the ‘orthodox oligarch’ activities that have linked him to Putin since well before he became president.

It was he who organised the new type of ‘top club’ in the ‘sports-monastic’ format, according to legends that describe him as the future tsar's companion in the activity to which he devoted himself from his youth, judo sessions and contests in Leningrad gyms.

The two would meet in the 1970s, and after an intense fight Gološanov, then a nurse, gave his first therapeutic massage to Putin, who had injured his back. Afterwards, the assistance became constant in a sauna where the deputy governor Putin regularly visited together with close friends.

The massage years were also those of Putin's and his comrades' conversion to Orthodoxy, in a link between faith and judo that is often hinted at in biographies of the president, without clarifying the hidden dimensions of this mystical union.

However, as soon as Putin took office in the Kremlin, Gološanov suddenly became the general director of Rostsentrproekt, an important part of the presidential administration structure, which was closed down after only a year for reasons that were never clarified, and the director was reclassified as ‘advisor for religious affairs’.

With this appointment, the doors of big business opened wide for Gološanov, in which he was accompanied by his brothers Arkadij and Boris Rotenberg, the leading Putin oligarchs.

A particular adventure was the attempt to buy the Bari football team in Italy, which also allowed him to organise pilgrimages of high society Russians to the shrine of St Nicholas, in a new union of sport and religion, even bringing fragments of the relics of Russia's patron saint to St Petersburg.

From Bari, the oligarchic-spiritual path reached the heights of the Holy Mountain, with Putin's first visit to Athos and the creation of the Russian Fraternity dedicated to it, of which Gološanov became the director along with other high-ranking officials from the Kremlin and the Russian business world.

The members of the Fraternity could be recognised by the black rosary wrapped in their left hand, and they all contributed to the restoration of the Russian monastery of St Panteleimon to its full splendour, an operation costing more than €30 million.

This began the period of the great ‘sanctification’ of Russia, which was rediscovering its monastic origins, thanks to the efforts of the president and his followers, even more so than those of the patriarch and his metropolitans, but which came to an abrupt end in 2014, with the beginning of the conflicts with Ukraine until 2018, the year of the Orthodox schism with Kiev and Constantinople.

The ‘holy oligarchs’ and Gološanov himself ended up under sanctions and prevented by the government in Athens from reaching Mount Athos, where a huge offshore trade was discovered, creating serious scandals that forced Gološanov to step aside.

After other attempts to restore the fraternity in Russia, he was involved in a rather heavy case of fictitious contracts from various companies in 2022, taking refuge in a villa on an Aegean island and taking Croatian citizenship.

At Easter this year he triumphantly returned to Moscow with the torch of the Holy Fire of Jerusalem, announcing grand plans to show the spiritual closeness between the sacred Orthodox icons and the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, whose unpublished works he promised to show.

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