God is not on Russia’s side during the invasion
The Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, have adamantly defended President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and are urging Russians to support the war as well.
Kirill actively promoted Russian warmongering, bizarrely describing the nation’s compulsory military service as “an active manifestation of gospel love for neighbors”. He also appears to have fully embraced Russian government propaganda regarding a Ukrainian genocidal campaign aimed at eliminating separatists in the Donbass region.
The close connection between Putin’s government and the Russian Orthodox Church has flowed from the Kremlin to Ukraine, with horrific results.
Indeed, Kirill wholeheartedly agrees with Putin’s stated rationale for the invasion – that Ukraine is part of greater Russia. He claimed that Russians and Ukrainians “come from a baptismal font in kyiv…and share a common historical destiny”. Unsurprisingly, he blessed the war in the purest prose, proclaiming, “We have entered into a struggle which has no physical, but metaphysical significance”, a war which involves “eternal salvation”.
Kirill has also helped spread conspiracy theories, stating that pro-Russian factions in Donbass, Ukraine are being persecuted due to a “fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are proposed today by those who claim the world power”. He claims that this world power poses a “test for the loyalty” of other countries by demanding that they organize gay pride parades.
Putin, for his part, has also turned to religion to inflame the Russian people. He excitedly informed a crowd gathered for a pro-war rally at a Moscow stadium that the invasion of Ukraine had been launched on the birthday of the Russian saint Theodore Ushakov. He also quoted the Bible saying, “There is no greater love than when someone lays down his soul for his friends.
The alliance between Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church goes back many years. In 2009, Kirill blessed Russia’s nuclear arsenal by distributing religious images to the crew of a nuclear submarine and the commander of Russia’s strategic missile forces. These weapons, he said, could only be given to people “with a clear mind, an ardent love of country, responsible for their work before God and the people”.
Kirill then fully backed Putin during the 2011-12 protests against voter fraud. He even called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God” for the benefits it brought. The 2012 conviction of a feminist punk band, Pussy Riot, for staging a protest inside a Moscow cathedral to express opposition to both Kirill and Putin further cemented the union. Soon after, Putin passed a law, fervently supported by the church, banning the distribution of LGBTQ material to minors.
After his invasion of Crimea, Putin built a gargantuan monument called the Victory Church in Moscow’s Patriots Square, at a cost of $50 million. There are weapons displayed at the entrance and paintings inside extolling the achievements of Russian militarism. Around the same time, Putin installed a statue of Vladimir the Great – the person who is said to have made Russia Christian – near the Kremlin.
The close connection between Putin’s government and the Russian Orthodox Church has flowed from the Kremlin to Ukraine, with horrific results. It’s a bond that should be repudiated by believers – and those who don’t – everywhere.
This column was produced for Progressive Perspectiveswhich is led by The progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.