KGB ‘Christians’: Putin, Stalin, and the KGB’s History of Manipulating the Orthodox Church

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool

Anyone who grew up with the Eastern Orthodox Church (in my case, the Greek Orthodox Church in New York) will get a good laugh at Vladimir Putin pretending to be a Christian during his first Easter as Russian ruler.

As recounted by the great journalist Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006), the bravest of all the many Putin-critics to be systematically assassinated, in her book Putin’s Russia:

At the beginning of the Great Matins service there stood, shoulder to shoulder with Putin as if at a military parade, Prime Minister Fradkov and Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin’s new éminence grise, head of the president’s office, a man of diminutive stature with a large head. The three men clumsily and clownishly crossed themselves, Medvedev making his crosses by touching his hands to his forehead and then to his genitals. It was risible. Medvedev followed Putin in shaking the patriarch’s hand as if he were one of their comrades, rather than kissing it as prescribed by church ritual. The patriarch overlooked the error. The spin doctors in the Kremlin are effective but, of course, pretty illiterate in these matters and had not told the politicians what to do. Alongside Putin there stood the mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, who had been behind the rebuilding of the cathedral and who alone knew how to invoke the protection of the Cross in a competent manner. The patriarch addressed Putin as ‘Your Most High Excellency,’ which made even those not directly involved wince. Given the numerous ex-KGB officers occupying top government positions, the Easter Vigil has now taken over from the May Day parade as the major obligatory national ritual.

The beginning of the Great Matins service was even more comical than the handshakes with the patriarch. Both state television channels did a live broadcast of the procession around the cathedral that precedes the service. The patriarch participated in this, despite being ill. The television commentator, who was a believer and theologically knowledgeable, explained to viewers that in the Orthodox tradition, the doors of the church should be shut before midnight because they symbolize the entrance to the cave where Christ’s body was placed. After midnight the Orthodox faithful taking part in the procession await the opening of the church doors. The patriarch stands on the steps at their head and is the first to enter the empty temple where the Resurrection of Christ has already occurred.

When the patriarch had recited the first prayer at the doors of the temple, they were thrown open to reveal Putin, our modest president, shoulder to shoulder with Fradkov, Medvedev, and Luzhkov.

You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. An evening of comic entertainment on Holy Night. What is there to like about this individual? He profanes everything he touches.

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has been, since its reconstitution during WWII, an instrument of the state. The best illustration of this is probably the 1949 “Greetings from the clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church to the leader of the nations of the USSR, the Generalissimus Joseph Stalin on his 70th birthday.” It states, in part:

Witnessing at every step your noble efforts to make people’s lives peaceful and happy, we see in your person not only a great statesman and leader, guiding the lives of people in a new direction of history, but also a fatherly, caring trustee of all aspects of our human existence with all its various needs.

The Russian Orthodox patriarch at the time of Putin’s Easter show was patriarch Aleksi II, who died on December 5, 2008. Lt. Gen. (r) Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest Soviet bloc official to defect to the United States, writes of Aleksi II, “The KGB had carried him under the codename ‘DROZDOV’ and awarded him its Certificate of Honor, as was learned from a KGB archive accidentally left behind in Estonia.”

Additionally, we know more from “original KGB documents known as the Mitrokhin Archive (described by the FBI as the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source).” We also know more “from Politburo documents released by Father Gleb Yakunin, vice chairman of a Russian parliamentary commission that investigated the KGB’s manipulation of the church.”

And with those details in hand, the “election” of a new patriarch in 2009 was quite a sight to behold:

On January 27, 2009, the 700 Synod delegates assembling in Moscow were indeed presented with a slate listing three candidates. All, however, belonged to the secret KGB army: Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk worked for the KGB under the code name “MIKHAYLOV”; Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk has just been identified as having labored for the KGB under the codename “OSTROVSKY”; Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga was recently discovered to have been listed under the codename “TOPAZ”.

When the bells at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow announced that a new patriarch had been elected, Metropolitan Kirill, aka “MIKHAYLOV,” proved to be the winner. Presumably, the KGB/FSB considered him to be in a better position to carry out its tasks abroad, where he had directed his efforts during most of his professional life. In 1971, the KGB had sent him to Geneva (Switzerland) as a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches (WCC), the largest international ecumenical organization after the Vatican, representing some 550 million Christians of various denominations throughout 120 countries. His task was to use his position in the WCC to spread the doctrine of Liberation Theology—a Marxist religious movement born in the KGB—throughout Latin America. In 1975, the KGB had infiltrated “MIKHAYLOV” into the WCC’s central committee, and in 1989 the KGB had appointed him chairman of the Russian patriarchate’s foreign relations as well—positions he still held when he was “elected” patriarch. Indeed, in his acceptance speech “MIKHAYLOV” announced that he would establish religious television channels in Russia that would broadcast abroad.

Kirill/“MIKHAYLOV” recently attacked the “Godless” Ukrainians – though, according to one journalist (a recipient of the Blessed Karol Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II] prize for excellence in journalism dealing with religious themes), “25% of the population attends Easter services in Ukraine compared to 2% in Russia.”

In November, Kirill/“MIKHAYLOV” asked that Russians “remember positive achievements of the Soviet period”:

Moscow, November 5, Interfax – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia urges to sober evaluation of the Soviet period in the Russian history.

“There would not be modern Russia, if not heroism of the preceding generations, who in the 20s and the 30s not only turned up the soil, though it is also important, but founded industry, science and defense power of the country,” Patriarch Kirill said on Wednesday at Moscow Manege at the opening of the 14th forum-exhibition Orthodox Russia. My History. The 20th century. 1914-1945. From great perturbations to the Great Victory.

According to him, we should not doubt successes of certain state leaders, who stood at the commences of such revival, modernization of the country, even if these leaders committed crimes.

“Where there was will, strength, intellect, political decisiveness, we call it doubtless success as in case with the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, and where there was blood, injustice, and sufferings, we say that it is unacceptable for us, people of the 21st century,” the primate said.

“We do not identify ourselves with these bloody pages, we give these historical personages to God’s judgement, but these negative things should not give right to exclude all positive things that were done, at the same time, all positive things done by certain people should not exclude critical attitude to crimes committed by them,” he said.

The patriarch expressed hope that current exhibition would “help realize the beauty of our people’s heroism in the 20s, 30s and 40s, to see the hard pages and understand: in order to love our Motherland, we should not exclude any historical period from the historical memory, but we should take it with common sense and clear moral perception and then truth will be separated from lies, and the good from the evil.”

Kirill/“MIKHAYLOV” left the “certain state leaders” unidentified – but the only “state leaders” of the “20s, 30s and 40s” were Lenin and Stalin. The single most prominent theme of Stalinism is: “The leadership of Comrades Lenin and Stalin turned Russia from a backward nation into an industrialized power, which is why Russia – under the wise leadership of Generalissimus Stalin – was able to defeat Hitler.”

Not a word of it is true, and Stalin knew it. Putting aside Stalin’s 1939-1941 alliance with Hitler that started the war to begin with, Stalin’s 1941 decision to ignore intelligence about an impending invasion, and his amazing wartime leadership that resulted in 20 million Russians dead, let’s focus on industrialization. As recounted in No Left Turns by conservative icon Representative John M. Ashbrook of Ohio:

Let us take a look at a statement made by Stalin to Ambassador Averell Harriman.  This is what Harriman told the State Department that Stalin said to him: “About two-thirds of all the large industrial enterprises in the Soviet Union had been built with United States help or technical assistance.”

That is right.  In Stalin’s own words, two-thirds of the Soviet large industry was made with U.S. help.  By the way, today, Harriman is still in favor of trade with the Soviet Union.  Another interesting point is that the remaining third was built with considerable help from firms in Europe, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy.

It is also worthwhile to note that Lenin and Stalin were the masterminds behind the plot to eradicate Christianity in Russia and Ukraine. In 1996, Yale University Press’s Annals of Communism series published a collection of documents from Vladimir Lenin’s secret archive. On March 19, 1922, amid a mass famine in Russia and Ukraine, Lenin issued the following orders:

It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy, not stopping [short of] crushing any resistance.

This kicked into high gear under Stalin. On September 11, 1932, Stalin wrote to one of his henchmen:

At this point the question of Ukraine is the most important. The situation in Ukraine is very bad. If we don’t take steps now to improve the situation, we may lose Ukraine. The objective should be to transform Ukraine, in the shortest period of time, into a real fortress of the U.S.S.R.

A year later, Pavel Postyshev, another Stalin henchmen, told a meeting of the Central Committee in Ukraine, “Under the direct leadership and directions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and personally of comrade Stalin, we smashed the Ukrainian nationalist counterrevolution.”

Stalin’s method of destroying true Christianity in Ukraine was addressed in a 1953 speech by Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide” and dedicated his life to bringing the crime to an end. In this speech to the Ukrainian community of New York commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Soviet-orchestrated Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, which left somewhere between seven and twelve million dead, Lemkin explained:

Going along with this attack on the intelligentsia was an offensive against the churches, priests and hierarchy, the ‘soul’ of Ukraine. Between 1926 and 1932, the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church, its Metropolitan Lypkivsky and 10,000 clergy were liquidated. In 1945, when the Soviets established themselves in Western Ukraine, a similar fate was meted out to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. That Russification was the only issue involved is clearly demonstrated by the fact that before its liquidation, the Church was offered the opportunity to join the Russian Patriarch at Moscow, the Kremlin’s political tool.

Only two weeks before the San Francisco conference, on 11 April 1945, a detachment of NKVD troops surrounded the St. George Cathedral in Lviv and arrested Metropolitan Slipyj, two bishops, two prelates and several priests. All the students in the city’s theological seminary were driven from the school, while their professors were told that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had ceased to exist, that its Metropolitan was arrested and his place was to be taken by a Soviet-appointed bishop. These acts were repeated all over Western Ukraine and across the Curzon Line in Poland. At least seven bishops were arrested or were never heard from again. There is no Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church still free in the area. Five hundred clergy who met to protest the action of the Soviets, were shot or arrested.

Throughout the entire region, clergy and laity were killed by hundreds, while the number sent to forced labour camps ran into the thousands. Whole villages were depopulated. In the deportation, families were deliberately separated, fathers to Siberia, mothers to the brickworks of Turkestan and the children to Communist homes to be ‘educated’. For the crime of being Ukrainian, the Church itself was declared a society detrimental to the welfare of the Soviet state, its members were marked down in the Soviet police files as potential ‘enemies of the people’. As a matter of fact, with the exception of 150,000 members in Slovakia, the Ukrainian Catholic Church has been officially liquidated, its hierarchy imprisoned, its clergy dispersed and deported.

These attacks on the Soul have also had and will continue to have a serious effect on the Brain of Ukraine, for it is the families of the clergy that have traditionally supplied a large part of the intellectuals, while the priests themselves have been the leaders of the villages, their wives the heads of the charitable organizations. The religious orders ran schools, and took care of much of the organized charities.

That the Russian Orthodox patriarch, Kirill/“MIKHAYLOV,” would praise the two men responsible for all this tells all you need to know about the state religion of Putin’s Russia. It also says a lot about what kind of fate awaits any true Christians who would fall under Russian domination.

Hope for the besieged Christians of the world belongs not in the hands of Vladimir Putin, but in a new American president who will defend them from both the Islamic State and the KGB.


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