«SMO» and earthly kingdom: Do believers need Orthodox Empire?
According to the ROC, the war in Ukraine aims to build an Orthodox empire, and the Russians are on the side of good. But do the Orthodox need their earthly kingdom?
The believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church found themselves in a very difficult situation after the Russian attack. The Russian invasion launched an unprecedented wave of hatred and violence from the OCU and society. After all, Ukrainians have been convinced for many years that the UOC is the same Russian Church, and therefore its parishioners bear full responsibility for the actions of the Russian Federation and Putin. Fuel was added to the fire by the full support of the war by the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Sergei Dumenko takes advantage of the situation and seizes hundreds of churches of the UOC.
On the other hand, after the Council in Feofaniya, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church came in for criticism and attacks from certain forces in the Russian Church. The Council of the UOC is called schismatic, the UOC is now allegedly graceless and one cannot take communion there. Orthodox Ukrainians have not heard a single statement from the ROC expressing sympathy for their victims and losses. Moreover, some hierarchs even began to comment on the persecution of the UOC with outright gloating after the Council. Exarch of Africa Metropolitan Leonid supported the mayor of Kosiv, Ivano-Frankivsk region, who threatened to deport believers to the RF’s Far East or the Arctic. The bishop wrote that the Council of the UOC is “non-canonical and pointless”, the authorities wipe their feet on the bishops of the UOC, and the way out for believing Ukrainians is to emigrate to Russia.
Despite the persecution, the parishioners of the UOC love their homeland and are not going to leave anywhere. Sons and relatives of priests, tens of thousands of parishioners are fighting in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. What should Ukrainian believers do when, on the one hand, their brothers and sons are killed at the front, and, on the other hand, OCU members, Uniates and the authorities take away their churches?
The famous Moscow priest and blogger Andrei Tkachev, who has millions of fans in the Russian Orthodox Church, asks the question: “Well, really, what should an Orthodox Ukrainian do?” But then he answers: "Pray for the victory of Russian weapons."
It means the Russian Orthodox Church offers Ukrainians to turn a blind eye to the thousands of dead and wounded, to their destroyed homes, ruined families and become traitors to their homeland. But for what?
Ukrainians should become part of the Empire?
The Russian Orthodox Church says that Ukrainians are enemies that must be defeated.
Archpriest Andrei Tkachev: "We have decided to postpone metaphysical disputes about the primacy of spirit and matter until the enemy is defeated." The war in Ukraine for the Russian Orthodox Church turns out to be the Great Patriotic War.
Archpriest Andrei Tkachev: "The Great Patriotic Special Operation has budged a lot." But why does the Russian Church have such an attitude towards a war in which their co-religionists are killed? What is its greatness and value?
Moscow priest Artemy Vladimirov believes that in fact the goal of the Russian Federation is not only Ukraine, but all the countries of the former USSR: “This operation in Ukraine is of a global nature. Russia, as always, liberates the world from fascism. Let's hope that Moldova, Kazakhstan, unfortunate Ukraine will join us in the near future, Georgia is on the way, which refused to participate in the sanctions. Well, what will happen to the Baltic States – you can guess for yourselves.”
In turn, Tkachev explains Fr. Artemy’s idea: With the help of weapons, Russia is building a new empire in these territories, an Orthodox empire at that: “We are anticipating royal toponyms, the empire is being revived, guys, not a red empire, but a two-headed, eagle, Orthodox, real one.”
Father Andrei is sure that Orthodoxy should become an ideological core of this empire: “Since Christ reigns over all, and we believe in Him, if we allow this faith to enter into all the pores of our society, we will be a real monarchy. We need a monarchy, because our soul demands an Orthodox tsar. In this case everything will line up in a natural order. Because there is some bullshit going on with this democracy.”
Consequently, Fr. Andrei believes that the war in Ukraine is a step towards some higher metaphysical goal – the revival of the Orthodox empire, headed by an Orthodox monarch. Accordingly, the Russian Church in this empire should become a state-forming confession.
Therefore, a theological justification is subsumed under the war for the empire. It is simple, but understandable to everyone: Russian soldiers are fighting on the side of good, while their opponents, Ukrainians, are on the side of evil.
Father Alexander Poloznik, cleric of the main temple of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation: “The icons that will be handed over to our soldiers participating in the SMO will give them great strength in advancing and, of course, in the fight against this evil that we can witness.”
Visiting the wounded soldiers of the Russian Federation in Krasnogorsk, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church said that the struggle between good and evil also takes place along state borders, the soldiers of the Russian Federation in Ukraine are fighting on the side of good and therefore have Divine support. Moreover, the Patriarch calls these soldiers “ascetics, in a certain sense”: “I would like to thank you all for the fact that, while defending the Motherland, you were not afraid of being killed or wounded, but fulfilled your military duty. In a certain sense, you are all ascetics. You were not stricken by fear, you did not run away. May the Lord give you everything necessary for your life in response to this sacrifice of yours for the sake of saving His people.”
It is unlikely that the inhabitants of the destroyed cities and villages near Kyiv would agree with the Patriarch that Russian soldiers were saving their people there. However, that is not even the point. Is every soldier who kills for the interests of his state an ascetic who has Divine support? What if he is not Orthodox? What if he is not a Christian at all?
Do Russian Muslims want Orthodox Empire?
Magomed Daudov, head of the Chechen parliament (video from Lysychansk): “Our brothers, first of all, defend Islam, they defend values, they defend the greatness of the Almighty. Since the beginning of the SMO, true patriots of Russia from the Chechen Republic, at the call of the heart, like brothers, like real Mujahideen, like warriors of Allah, like patriots of Russia, met here. Akhmad is power, Allahu Akbar!”
Daudov says that for his soldiers, the massacre in Ukraine is jihad, i.e. a holy war against the infidels. Moreover, if Putin orders, they will reach Berlin. The Muslims of Russia are ready to build their own Russian empire, but obviously not Orthodox. And the usual facts say they have no less odds of success than the ROC.
There are more than 25 million Muslims in Russia and their number is growing dynamically due to the high birth rate. There are almost no so-called "believers in the soul" in Islam like in Orthodox, the overwhelming majority prays regularly and attends worship services.
In 2022, more than 260,000 Muslims came to Moscow mosques for the Eid al-Adha holiday. At the same time, only 150,000 believers of the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas in Moscow churches. Yet this is the capital of an Orthodox state! Statisticians say there are now more practicing Muslim believers in the Russian Federation than Orthodox Christians. And this gap will only increase over the years.
Grand Mufti of Russia Talgat Tadzhuddin, like Patriarch Kirill, also fully supports the war in Ukraine. Therefore, it is not necessarily the case that the authorities of the Russian Federation in the near future will bet on Orthodoxy, rather than Islam.
Nevertheless, is it worth it for the Orthodox Church to fight Muslims for the likes of the authorities? Is it necessary to look ingratiatingly into the eyes of the ruler?
After all, the massacre in Ukraine is not holy, not great and not patriotic; nor is it a battle between good and evil. This is an ordinary war of one state against another for the sake of state interests. The war, of which there have been hundreds and thousands in the history of humanity. Even if its goal is, in fact, an empire, is it worth supporting and promoting death and suffering in order to achieve it? Ukrainians definitely don't need any Russian empire. What about Orthodox Russians? Do they really need it?
After all, 2000 years ago, the Jews were also waiting for Christ, first and foremost, as an earthly king who would put them to reign over all the peoples of the world. The inhabitants of Jerusalem met the Savior precisely as the one who would deliver them from Roman captivity and exalt them above other nations. But when they realized this would not happen, they had him martyrized.
Could Christ build His kingdom on earth? Undoubtedly. But He clearly told us, "My kingdom is not of this world. … But now my kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36). So why don't we hear these words?
Christians do not need empires and monarchies – sooner or later they all collapse. Rome disappeared, so did Byzantium. Russia, Ukraine, the USA, and other countries will also disappear someday. Our true kingdom is not here. It is where our true King is, in Heavenly Jerusalem.
But here, on earth, the struggle is fought in our hearts between good and evil, not between states. In the Kingdom of Heaven there will be no tricolors and tridents, there will be no Nazis and orcs. There will be only one nation. A nation of those who have fulfilled the words of Christ: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Do we have this love?