"The KGB, as it existed, could not be termed a secret service. It was an organization formed to control and suppress everything and anything. It seemed to be created especially for organizing conspiracies and coups, and it possessed everything necessary to carry them out: its own specially trained armed forces, the capacity to track and control communications, its own people inside all essential organizations, a monopoly on information, and many other things." - Vadim Bakatin
One of the hallmarks of KGB-controlled Russian institutions, including political parties, media, and the Russian Orthodox Church, is the official opposition. While genuine opposition is silenced using means from harassment through assassination, certain other voices are given a platform to speak from. These voices are not a real opposition, but work within a controlled script to create an illusory veneer of real debate and, by staking out positions on either side of the official line, frame the official line – no matter how violent and corrupt – as the reasonable middle path.
Some of the official opposition are actually FSB (that is what the KGB is called today) agents and assets who take their orders from the Lubyanka. The rabble-rousing Dmitro Korchinsky is widely suspected of being such an FSB puppet. Long a member of Alexander Dugin’s Eurasia project, Korchinsky was a vocal public supporter of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine until about 2005, roughly the year when the FSB began laying groundwork for the dismemberment of the Ukrainian nation state, before suddenly and without explanation becoming its critic. Especially in the past two years, Dmitro Korchinsky has made loud calls for violent action against his longtime friends in the UOC(MP). Although such threats are condemned by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate and other churches in Ukraine, and never attracted more than a few dozen actors in a nation of 45 million people, they are quoted again and again on Russian and Russia-backed media.
Dmitro Korchinsky's fake opposition proved especially useful at the recent Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Churches, where Patriarch Kirill of Moscow directly quoted threats by Korchinsky to use hot irons ("clothes irons and soldering irons") on UOC(MP) leader Metropolitan Onufriy, without, of course, mentioning the source of those threats, or that Korchinsky has no position in or association with the Kyiv Patriarchate, or that the clergy Korchinsky is most commonly seen with, such as Fr. Georgiev Prigunov of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroard and a semi-anonymous "Fr. Volodymyr", in fact appear to have no connection to any major church in Ukraine, both serving as chaplains in the miniscule Korchinsky-backed "St. Mary Brigade", which has done little to defend Ukraine, but much to besmirch the reputation of the real defenders of Ukraine.
Most in the official opposition are not FSB agents, but are simple people, many who begin with honest intent. Some still firmly believe that they are real voices of the truth, while others recognize that they have sold out, but are able to convince themselves that this is the best they can do, that everyone does the same thing, or that if they are patient things will change. Many are in it just for the paycheck. They are all useful in their own way.
It is not yet clear whether the recent "dismissal" of certain voices of the Moscow Patriarchate, the former chairman of the Synodal Department for the Cooperation of Church and Society Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin, the former editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate Sergei Chapnin, and former UOC(MP) spokesperson George Kovalenko, was intended to remove them from their positions in the official opposition or to set them up as "independent" voices, but the most "liberal", Sergei Chapnin, continues to be valuable to his former bosses.
Since his dismissal, many in the west have circulated Sergei Chapnin's words, such as his apology "Orthodoxy Without Christ", as evidence of freedom of opinion within the Russian Orthodox Church, but Mr. Chapnin does not, in fact, speak for the true dissidents within the Moscow Patriarchate, or for the millions of Faithful who shun the church. His view of Ukraine is especially based on imperial assumptions and clouded with KGB imagery.
Mr. Chapnin, for example, repeats the Moscow misinformation that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (which should more properly be called the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine) is the "largest" church in Ukraine. The fact is that, other than briefly in 2010-11, during the darkest period of Viktor Yanukovych's repression of religious freedom and FSB-coordinated support of the Moscow Patriarchate, every independent poll has shown that more Orthodox faithful identify with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Patriarch of Kyiv. Even in those dark years, a solid 15 million Orthodox Ukrainians remained loyal to what they see as the real canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, that of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Today, with freedom of religion mostly restored, that number is closer to 20 million, about twice that of the dwindling Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. Just in presenting the question as a failure of understanding by Patriarch Kirill, Mr. Chapnin feeds the FSB storyline that the Moscow Patriarchate is independent of the Russian State. Mr. Chapnin, writing with either naive sincerity or crafty cynicism, begs Patriarch Kirill to understand that he has "…two options: wait until it all blows up, and the UOC becomes independent on its own. Or to take the lead and grant independence."
Why, oh why, can Patriarch Kirill not see this simple truth himself? Mr. Chapnin suggests that Patriarch Kirill lacks sufficient vision and is only "trying to balance between the interests of different groups", but the most direct explanation, which would not require casting His Holiness the Patriarch of Russia as an ignorant simpleton unable to see the truth in Ukraine, would simply be that Patriarch Kirill, a longtime associate of the KGB men who now run Russia, remains a KGB man and his overarching concern is not with the Orthodox Faithful of Ukraine or with the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, but only in preserving the Church in Ukraine as a tool for effecting the policies of the current Russian regime. Seen in that light, every action of Patriarch Kirill, including his willingness to endanger his soul by bearing false witness to his brother primates, makes sense.
The day when Mr. Chapnin or Fr. George or even Fr. Vsevolod are able to come out and clearly speak against the FSB control of their church is the day we can trust them as independent speakers of the truth. Until then, whether they have official titles or not, we must group them with other official, FSB-sanctioned opponents, and listen elsewhere - to the loud voices of the Ukrainian Maidan or the lonely voices of the Russian wilderness - to hear the truth. It is a sad necessity, but the truth is worth it, and, actually, not so hard to find.