By Paul Goble
In comments about the two Russian revolutions of 1917, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, says that the Russian liberals who carried out the February revolution were responsible for the terror that followed the October one, because their “rocking the boat” of the Russian state led ineluctably to disaster.
Such an interpretation, as the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta point out in a lead article today, is emblematic of the church’s position of condemning the terror that was visited upon the religious and everyone else by the Bolsheviks without denouncing the Soviet state that the latter produced (ng.ru/editorial/2017-02-20/2_6933_red.html).
“At first glance,” the paper says, denouncing the terror that followed October by blaming the overthrow of stardom carried out by the form would appear to be a fundamental contradiction. But a deeper consideration shows that it is consistent not only with how the church and its Kremlin allies view the past but also how they think about the present.
Kirill’s suggestion that “October is the logical continuation of February, and the victory of the Bolsheviks became possible thanks to the liberal opposition which ‘rocked the boat’” allows the powers that be in Moscow to have it both ways: to denounce liberals then and now while avoiding any serious criticism of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet system.
In recent times, the paper points out, “the Russian Orthodox Church has been very cautious about the theme of communist symbols.” One of its hierarchs recently declared that it was premature to think about burying Lenin, for example. And Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synod’s department for church-society ties, offered an even clearer denunciation of those who overthrew stardom.
“The state could have developed further if the revolutionary opposition had sought a compromise with the authorities,” he declared, words that could be extended to the Bolsheviks but that the churchman did not.
This treatment of “’liberal traitors’” in 1917, of course, “more closely corresponds to current political needs than to historical truth.” Kirill like Putin views liberals as the enemy then and now, and consequently, “the Russian Orthodox Church equates its critics to enemies of the state by asserting that political formations change but Orthodoxy remains constant.