Moscow Patriarchate Wants Crimea to be ‘Precedent for Clericalization of Russia’

July 11, 2014
Russian Orthodox bishops in 2012. Photo by Alexander Nemenov

Staunton, July 9 – Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea has already had a number of impacts on Russia, but some in the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church hope it will have at least one more – that special treatment of the church on the peninsula will become “a precedent for the clericalization” of all of Russia.

That is the judgment of the editors of Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta in a lead article published yesterday, an article that not only speaks about an aspiration of the church that many Russians may not share but also highlights the reality that the state of religious freedom in Ukraine is much better than that in Russia.

Two weeks ago, the paper notes, Vsevolod Chaplin, a senior ally of Patriarch Kirill, declared that “if tomorrow they said in Kyiv that this country would include in its Constitution a provision declaring Christianity as the basis of social order and Christian values as the fundamental ones, then this country would become more important for me than Russia.”

Chaplin’s words are truly “surprising,” the paper continues, especially if one compares them with the statement of Mufti Said Ismagilov, the head of the “Umma” Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Ukraine, at about the same time.

Ismagilov said that Ukrainians “do not have Muslim pogroms like those in Moscow or murders of sheikhs, muftis or imams. There are no ethnic cleansings, no refugees, and no purges. We have built mosques or opened prayer houses practically in every population center and not once have any of them been torn down.

“We don’t have lists of banned Muslim literature…The Koran and its translations are not banned. We print our Muslim newspapers without censorship and publish in them everything that we think,” the Ukrainian mufti said.

Chaplin made his remarks on June 23, the very day when “the State Council of the Republic of Crimea considered and adopted on first reading a bill on the creation of new holiday days off,” including two Orthodox holidays and two Muslim ones. The Russian churchman clearly supports that idea and hopes it can be extended to all of Russia.

In fact, at the regional level, religious holidays are days off, with Muslim holidays being non-working days in the Muslim republics of the North Caucasus and Middle Volga and Orthodox ones being days off in some predominantly Russian ones. In the latter case, however, these church holidays overlap with state holidays, the paper points out.

What the occupation regime in Crimea has done is end any such linking by declaring that such holidays are solely religious. Not surprisingly, Chaplin very much approves of that step and, like others in the Moscow Patriarchate hierarchy, wants to see it extended across the Russian Federation, yet another step toward the “clericalization” such churchmen seek.