By Paul Goble
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.