Kateryna Shchotkina's column


11.05.2015, 09:21
Thus, “nationality” absorbed and substituted “orthodoxy” as easy (or even easier) as “Russian Orthodoxy” absorbed and substituted “Christianity.”

The issue of breakaway of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from the Russian one has taken shape, not because the war is said to be no obstacle to the unity of Orthodoxy (I do not understand it, but ready to take on faith quia absurdum), just because it seems that “Russian Orthodoxy” is coming to an end. At least at the official level – that is precisely the level at which the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches are linked.

Not that it was something strikingly new, as the elements of civil religion have never been unnatural for the ROC. It was allowed to exist for most of its history for the sake of a “social role”. Equally important was its symbolic function embodied in the popular triad of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality.” However, times are changing. Triunity becomes today a category too complicated for a recipient accustomed to media fast food. So, as in the Hollywood movie, “there can be only one.”

I hope someone is recording this. After all, everything that is happening in Russia’s spiritual life and media could be especially fascinating for linguists, sociologists and religionists, or maybe for the highly inspired theologians. They have a great opportunity to trace in detail the process of language deformation - particularly, of the sacred language, and the birth of a civil religion based on simple substitution of concepts. I hope the experts can explain how and why the term “Orthodoxy”, which, however, has long been used as almost an antinomy to “Christianity” as something heretical and ecumenical or rootless and cosmopolitan - gradually assumed the meaning as namely the Russian Orthodoxy. How it was infected with “missionary itching” and why it was the "Russian" Orthodoxy that acquired patronizing air towards all the rest of “orthodoxies” and claims superiority.

At the same time, how come that “Russian” and “Orthodox”merged? After all, when the Russian People's Council suggested considering anti-Russian speeches to be anti-orthodox and insulting the feelings of believers - it did not cause the slightest cognitive dissonance. Thus, “nationality” absorbed and substituted “orthodoxy” as easy (or even easier) as “Russian Orthodoxy” absorbed and substituted “Christianity.”

Then the turn of autocracy came. To substitute and replace a “nation” with one of its specific representatives – a spokesman, an impersonator, and a savior and just a real man – is as easy as wink, it is on the tip of one's tongue. The movie titled The Presidentwas released in the most relevant moment, telling about the head of state who fully merged and identified himself with “the people” in their hopes, victories, and, what is most important, in suffering. As some critics poignantly noted, all Putin’s tragedies were not called not the tragedies of Russia or those of the Russian / Chechen people or even mothers of Beslan– these were personal sufferings of Vladimir Putin, who accepted them and, you would not believe it, survived them.

Displacement of religion with a civil cult is not a new practice at all. The fascists and Nazis did the same in the last century. By the way, there are countless parallels between civil religions of fascism and the present-day spiritual metamorphoses in the Russian Federation. However, like any repetition of history, it includes high proportion of farce. Mention at least “a banner of blood”, the cult that Italian fascists passed to German associates as an ersatz of holy relics worship. The Russians, with their innate expansive delusion and passion for symbolism, even sent the “banner of victory” to the earth orbit in order to raise it all over the earth for the glory of Russia – the Savior, just as over the ruined Reichstag. It was funny.

Nevertheless, while the fascists along with the Nazis, eliminated Christianity as a competitor just like Bolsheviks did, presenting their own pantheon and a picture of a bright future, it was Patriarch Kirill of Moscow himself who had a hand in missing together of Orthodoxy and civil cult in Russia. The cult of “Holy Rus” is essentially the same cult of ancestors whom the Third Reich embodied in its Siegfrieds, thus replacing the humble figure of Christ the Savior. Characteristically enough, for example, that in the "victorious" haze Russia / USSR openly calls itself the “savior of the world.” The other attributes of worship also keep pace: the history that is not to be “reviewed” and is therefore sacred; “People of God”, the Russians, of course; a set of Judas’ (currently Kyiv is leading); the forces of evil (fascism, Nazism, State Department, the ‘Ukrs’); “Golgotha’ (now the Great Patriotic War) and the “Easter” (“Great Victory”). Instead of crosses and St. George’s ribbons are spread and blessed. The Holy Fire is substituted by the eternal fire, the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier (the analogue of the host of saints) substitutes the church. The list of blasphemer has also been specified: the Pussy Riot behind the bars (who had desecrated the Christ the Savior Cathedral) were replaced by the twerk dancers “who dishallowed” the lesser “holy land”. There is a direct relationship between these two detentions, and like nothing else, it demonstrates the metamorphosis of Russian Orthodoxy, which just in three years has evolved from a church into the memorial, from the religion of Christ to the worship of a geopolitical chimera.

Thus, the similarities between the “language of the Third Reich” and “language of the Third Rome” are numerous. As early as in 1942 the German newspapers wrote about “Prussia that developed the idea of ​​the state as a moral requirement, as a spiritual stance”, it was not Dugin who came up with the idea first. Thus, the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation” simply changed nationality, while everything else remained the same. I cannot but believe the tale, in which the winner of a dragon becomes a dragon himself.

The delusion of “German greatness” was stopped by defeat in WWII and Nuremberg trials. Now we can only regret that after the defeat in the “cold war” the USSR we have not enforced the revision of Bolshevism, and disclosure of the crimes of the regime has remained journalism and not the subject of legal proceedings, perhaps, in this case no one would ever mention the “geopolitical catastrophe”, and the former KGB officer (sorry, there are no former KGB officers) would not have won the presidential chair; and the patriarch would not have betrayed the martyrs of the Church by considerations about how “good” the USSR was.

The current stance of the ROC leadership as that of the priests of a purely civilian cult, who provide it with religious legitimacy, is triggering a lot of debate in Ukrainian perspective. What does the UOC have to do with the cult of Russia – well, it is part of the “Russian Orthodoxy” absorbed by the “Russian nation,” or may be “our” part has not been yet absorbed? That is, in the perspective of Russian liberal Christians, the UOC is an “improved” version of the ROC (similar to the judgments of Russian liberals on Ukraine as an improved version of Russia) where you can still worship Christ and not the Great Victory, while remaining within the Russian Orthodox traditions?

Here it is, the question “number one” for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - where is access to our "own" tradition? How can we possibly perform our own, internal “decommunization of the church without falling into the opposite extreme and replacing “Ukrainian Orthodoxy” with our own ‘nation”? Our sacred language betrays ourselves at every step. This year, for example, the Easter slogan “Christ is risen - Ukraine will rise too” became a trend again. A little bit more of such stereotypes - and we find ourselves in our own analogue of the “Holy Rus.” This is not surprising, as our traditions have so long been intertwined in “the single indivisible Russian Orthodoxy” that most likely we have the same weaknesses. What to tell about Orthodoxy, if even Greek Catholics have difficulties, although they have a traditionally better situation with Christian universalism.

Decommunization of Ukraine, which caused such a stir in the world, fully applies to the sphere of religion. It is even possible that it concerns religion in the first place, because de-communization in our case is not just about getting out from "alien historiography" and out of other people's ideological field. This is the breakaway with the sacred space that has become alienated and continues getting even more alienated. At this stage it is not just a “way out of the Soviet Union” or “Empire” – it is a way out of the “Holy Rus,” which was proclaimed a deity, and who is not with it is against it.

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