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An unusual priest’s call for liberty

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zeldason in reply to guest-iilamia

A balancing comment from you would have helped, such as, "Better an article like this, than none at all".
As it is, your first words scream Putin Fanboy. So who now is "terribly structured"?
Being a novice on matters of the Russian Orthodox Church, I was grateful for the article's opening context. But I agree it lacks a precis of the pamphlet; and a weblink, if available in English, would have been even better. (I googled it, but not being a user of facebook, drew a blank).

ashbird in reply to B.C. - The Economist

Thank you, B.C. - The Economist.
Perhaps it could be noted as well that translating a book from one language to another, particularly on the subject of faith, liberty, religion and humanity involves a little more brain grease than a Tweet.
Illuminating report, as usual, thank you.

Enders Shadow in reply to Hippogriff

"There is no pre-ideological "Nature," and such a thing is incomprehensible."
This is, of course, itself an ideological statement, based on the theological belief that, contrary to the claims of Natural Theology, God cannot be known through nature. Romans 1 asserts the opposite. Neither side has an objective basis to develop the discussion further; however the claim is not 'incomprehensible', it is merely, like the statement 'There is no pre-ideological "Nature"', an a priori assertion which this generation of philosophy academics has made fashionable. History promises us that another set of a priori assertions will become fashionable in a few years...

RG White

What is the name of this book? Is it available in English. One would like to read it. Sounds wonderful.

Basia Puszkar

The title of the book is not mentioned, nor is it mentioned whether it is available in English. I suppose The Economist cannot be seen to be promoting anything, which makes sense. Perhaps some intrepid reader knows this information and could include it in comments? :)


Terribly structured article. Long waffley preamble, finally gets to subject, doesn’t discuss main themes or ideas (or even name) of book, diversion on Amsterdam, ends abruptly. I expected something interesting.


It’s an old, worn-out gimmick, this dichotomy of artifice versus Nature. According to Patriarch Kirill, gay marriage is ideological, an artificial construct, whereas heterosexual marriage, performed by the church, is natural and non-ideological: it arises from “the moral nature of human beings,” whatever that means. My position, unlike yours, has the sanction of Nature and Nature’s God—and how can you argue with Nature and Nature’s God? You can’t. If you dare to do so, you’re—gasp!—unnatural. Such a transparent ploy is embarrassing. It should be obvious that ideologies are omnipresent, since an ideology is a system of ideas and values. Try to comprehend a space in our social existence that is devoid of ideas and values. It’s impossible. Heterosexual marriage is ideological, as is gay marriage. Churches are ideological. Patriarch Kirill is ideological. "Nature" is ideological. Everything is ideological. Everything resonates with ideas and values, which are not handed down to us by “Nature,” whatever that means, but which are made, or artificed. There is no pre-ideological "Nature," and such a thing is incomprehensible.

Kotakis in reply to guest-aamiwlla

"What exactly did Sergei do to get imprisoned 'for propagandising the American way of life'?

What exactly do you want to find out other than some typical KGB-prescribed accusations that have been used thousands of times in the KGB prescribed trials ? For starters read "The Gulag Archipelago"

"where was he ordained, and by which church authority (official Russian Orthodox or .... ?"

Now you are targeting his status as a priest. First, you need to define your view of the "official" Russian Orthodox Patriarchate that till 1943 ( the peak of WWII ) operated under Stalin's regime without a Patriarch and in post-WWII r years with a Stalin approved patriarch subject to direct and strict NKVD-KGB supervision. And then, what exactly did you imply by your term "otherwise" ?


I stopped reading pretty early. How warped is your world view when the oppression of the Soviets is preferable? He's remembering some good old days that never existed much like a lot of conservatives. He is also ignoring the advice given by Jesus to judge not lest ye be judged and to treat thy neighbor as yourself.

Kotakis in reply to guest-aamiwlla

Further to my earlier post :
" "where was he ordained, and by which church authority (official Russian Orthodox or .... ?

I was able to confirm that this priest served under the Moscow Patriarchate. Obviously he must have had the blessing of the bishop of that Russian Orthodox Church.


1. '... Born in 1952, ... [he] dimly remembered a time when grown-ups were terrified to speak out about almost anything. Then a political "thaw" came under Nikita Khrushchev, and people felt a little freer'
The (intended?) inaccuracy here can go unnoticed only by readers ignorant about the history of Soviet Union. The era of Khrushchev's unrestrained power began in 1957 after he'd kicked his rivals (Molotov & Co) out the Party's Central Committee.
Hence my question:
Can you imagine a 4 or 5 year old kid so much aware of 'grown-ups terrified to speak out about almost anything'?
(Plus, speaking of the "thaw," one should never forget the Novocherkassk massacre, which occurred under Nikita in 1962.)
2. 'Then the atmosphere froze over again under Leonid Brezhnev, and people again stopped speaking'
This is another overstatement, to put it mildly. People never 'stopped speaking.' Here's my personal experience (I'm a Russian and have lived in Russia since my birth in 1953 to this day): in 1979 and 1980, I read Solzhenitsyn's Archipelago and The First Circle, a book of Sakharov's essays, and other books of this kind, which I got from my friends. To be sure, we were cautious. But we were never afraid of imprisonment because we knew that an admonition would be the most unpleasant thing we might expect from Andropov's KGB. What's more, I personally know people who publicly protested against Brezhnev's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and did not even lose their jobs. And like so many of us in the '70s and '80s, I was happy to sport American-made jeans and T-shirts (bought in black market), play American rock music, etc.
Hence another couple of questions:
What exactly did Sergei do to get imprisoned 'for propagandising the American way of life'? Why is the reader kept in the dark on details of his trial?
3. Most striking to the unbiased reader is the total lack of relation between the 'Russian-Western discord over the nature of freedom' alleged in the first half of the story and 'the sort of crushing of the spirit' supposedly illustrated by the life of Father Sergei.
Hence my final questions:
When and where was he ordained, and by which church authority (official Russian Orthodox or otherwise)? Was he even a practicing believer at the time he was sent to prison? How does 'propagandising the American way of life' by a young soldier have anything to do with the purported 'crushing of the spirit' of a latter-day priest whose career as a cleric is left in obscurity?

Thank you very much, B.C. It would be useful to note that in the article, as I am sure there will be others like me and Ms Puszkar who will immediately go looking for the book. I am perfectly happy to be patient, but I do need to be told that I have to be.