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‘At the heart of Christianity is the rejection of violence’

02. November 2023

Jailed dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza on the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for the war

Vladimir Kara-Murza is one of Russia’s most well-known political prisoners. First arrested in April 2022, he was later sentenced to 25 years in prison on a range of charges related to his criticism of the Kremlin and its invasion of Ukraine. In a new article that his associates have shared with Meduza, Kara-Murza addresses the Russian Orthodox Church’s decision to support the war. “As an Orthodox Christian, this brings me only pain, grief, and deep sorrow,” he writes. At the heart of Christianity, the dissident continues, is the rejection of murder and violence, but the offical Church “places the authority of Caesar over the foundations of the Christian faith.” Still, there are some priests in Russia who have spoken out against the war, and Kara-Murza thanks them in his article. Meduza in English is sharing a translation of the text.

Russia has long been living in an Orwellian world, and this parallel reality became firmly solidified after February 2022. “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” It might seem like one shouldn’t be surprised by these insane distortions, the shameless exaggerations, the audacious attempts to say that black is white. And yet, even amid this deluge, a recent piece of news from the Tver region caught my eye. There, a priest named Ilya Gavryshkiv was forced to apologize publicly, on camera, for praying not for “victory” over Ukraine but for peace. And he was forced to do this not by the FSB, not by the Investigative Committee, and not by Kadyrov, but by his own ruling bishop.

“If he doesn’t repent, he’ll be defrocked. He’s free to choose,” declared Bishop Adrian (Ulyanov) of Rzhev and Toropets. And His Eminence’s words aren’t just empty threats: Moscow priest Ioann Koval was previously defrocked for a similar “offense,” and in Kostroma, the Diocesan Court banned priest Ioann Burdin from serving because of his anti-war stance. Now, the former rector of the Resurrection Church in the village of Karabanovo has been accused — I’m quoting directly — of “heretical pacifism.”

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Bild: Vladimir Kara-Murza 2017 (© Jindřich Nosek (NoJin), CC BY-SA 4.0)