ISSN 2330-717X

Epic Of Mediagenic Orthodox Fundamentalist Approaching Its Inevitable End – OpEd

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For the last four months, the saga of Shiigumen Sergey, the dissident Orthodox fundamentalist priest in the Urals who has denounced coronavirus restrictions and called for the ouster of Patriarch Kirill and Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been a staple of Russian television.

But now that saga is approaching “its inevitable end,” Aleksey Shaburov says, one in which the army of supporters Sergey routinely claims have turned out to be non-existent and with him left to flee even deeper into the hinterlands with a clutch of backers (politsovet.ru/67653-konec-vam-istoriya-shiigumena-sergiya-blizitsya-k-zaversheniyu.html).

The clearest signal of this comes from Father Sergey himself, the editor of Yekaterinburg’s Politsovet portal says.  In his latest press release, the former shiigumen addresses “the Orthodox warriors, the officers and soldiers of the army and fleet” whom he had asked to come to support him and asks plaintively “where the heck are you?”

Sergey has failed similarly to attract large numbers of lay people or the clergy to his side even though his fundamentalist positions undoubtedly are shared by many in both groups. Only once did he assemble as many as 1500 people, and his recent efforts involving picketing the bishopric headquarters attracted only about 50.

A few media figures perhaps equally interested in attracting attention spoke in his behalf as did some professional athletes. But those aren’t enough to make a movement, and even Sergey knows it now.  His “rising” is now condemned to defeat. He couldn’t even provoke the kind of crackdown that might have left him a martyr.

The only thing left to him is to eventually leave the women’s monastery where he has been operating and retire to some retreat far from civilization. Some people may make pilgrimages to him, but he will end his days as his predecessors have, as a former media celebrity with little or no impact on the ROC MP or Russia more generally.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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